Nel's New Day

July 6, 2020

PAIR – Put America in Reverse

Once upon a time, Fourth of July celebrations were redolent of picnics; people got together with friends and waited for dark for local fireworks. This year was very different and not only because of the COVID-19 threat. In the new normal, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) gave racist, divisive speeches to bolster his small base of voters who want to keep the revisionist history of a white nation where not even the Indigenous people belong. Anyone who disagrees belongs to the “angry mob” who wants to “trample on our freedoms.”

In the past week, DDT has lied about his ignoring the Russians’ paying Talibans to kill U.S. troops while he now accuses protesters for social justice of being “un-American.” This came after he called on military police to attack lawful peaceful protesters although he has no objection to people dying of COVID-19. His biggest fight at this time, however, is to protect the myth of the Confederate “lost cause” and keep school children from being “brainwashed” by teachers of history.

Frida Ghitis wrote that DDT has dropped his “MAGA” motto for “Hate One Another,” a strategy going back the 1960s. The appeal to white supremacists continued today when he attacked Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only full-time Black driver, who said a noose-like rope hanging in his garage looked like a noose. DDT also had a meltdown over the organization’s banning of the Confederate flag. Even DDT’s lapdog Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) broke ranks with DDT when he said, “The Confederate flag is not a good way to grow your business.”

Ten military bases named for Confederate leaders honor people who fought to keep slavery and declared war on the United States. By supporting these leaders, the man who has the position of President of the United States opposes its own citizens to protect people who committed treason. Three-fourths of the people in the U.S. agree racism and discrimination are a “big problem” in the nation, and DDT’s appointed military Joint Chiefs of Staff want to ban Confederate flags on all military bases.

DDT cares only about getting reelected, and his new strategy is to ignore anything making him uncomfortable—just call them hoaxes. No Russian bounties on the heads of U.S. soldiers. No deaths from coronavirus. New White House messaging will tell people to accept all the illnesses and the deaths from COVID-19. Meanwhile he appears to be the second president of the Confederacy.

But DDT supports his supporters who fight for the “lost cause” of the Confederacy and oppose the other three-fourths of people he promised to protect. Mark Sumner’s take

“Confederate statues are killing people right now. You don’t need me to tell you this—just ask any Black American. People are still suffering from the attacks of the ‘brilliant’ Jackson. They are still being crushed by the ‘gallant’ Lee. The Lost Cause is in everything from the low wages at the nearest coffee shop, to the excess of Black people dying from COVID-19. This is not an argument about remembering something that happened in the 19th century, or even the 20th. This is about defining who we are now.

“The Southern cause is, and was, only ever about slavery. And slavery was only ever about greed. Even white supremacy is just a sideshow to that cause—a salve to excuse raw cruelty, abuse, and inhumanity toward fellow humans. Slavery didn’t happen because white men thought themselves superior. It happened because slavery was profitable. The myth of white supremacy was always there, always an excuse to repress and reject; to steal the effort and ideas of people of color. The convenience of that myth was that it justified the worst horrors and enabled the most profit. And after the war, the Southern cause became just … the cause. America’s cause. Because white Americans decided it was easier to compromise with slavery than eradicate it. Easier, and far more profitable.

“The connection between Donald Trump’s defense of 150-year-old traitors and the police murder of George Floyd isn’t a one-way street. It’s a gyre, one that spins around the settlement America made once it had ticked the moral high ground box by ‘defeating slavery.’ That settlement came in the form of a permanent Black underclass; in an agreement that gave every white person a small share of the advantage slave-owning southerners enjoyed during antebellum.

“Before the war, one Southern family in three owned slaves. The other two accepted that, and fought for that, because they wanted to own slaves. Owning slaves wasn’t just a symbol of wealth; it was an engine of wealth. It was wealth. People who lived alongside slave owners accepted and aspired to slave ownership the same way that people admire billionaires today. We forgive them whatever ludicrously unfair breaks government provides, we ignore their odious behavior, we accept their mistreatment of workers and callous disregard for those without a ten-figure stock portfolio. We accept them, because we want to be them.

“The idea that many of the memorialized Confederates did not actually support slavery is, and always has been, unpolished bullshit. The two hundred slaves owned by Robert E. Lee were a major corporation that swept great riches into Lee’s pocket. Lee never for a moment made any calculation other than the best way to protect that engine of wealth. The whole idea that Lee, or Longstreet, or other Southern generals sat around bemoaning the idea that they should have surrendered slavery to preserve the purity of “the cause” is pure revisionism. It’s not just putting words in their mouths; it’s placing completely alien thoughts in their heads. The cause was slavery. The open, stated, straightforward cause was conversion of human misery into profit. The Southern states wrote this proudly into their articles of succession. Spoke it loudly in their organizing speeches. Every other “cause” was a post-facto fabrication. ‘

“Stately, soft-talking, “Marse Robert’ Lee, portrayed in endless films and books, professing his love for his state, is also a man who regularly ordered the dispensation of 50 lashes to one of  the prisoners in his cruelty engine ‘for the education of the race.’ He loved Black people so much, he was willing to torture them until they were quiet cogs in his factory. Marse, Lee’s oft-used nickname, is a slang version of master.

“It’s not that ‘kindly master’ propaganda wasn’t in evidence decades before the war. There was. Uncle Tom’s Cabin had not been out a year before the market was flooded with rapid-response replies like Aunt Phillis’s Cabin, populated by slaves who were Just so thrilled with their lives. Songs, poems, essays, and pamphlets were all deployed in the effort to preserve the Southern profit center. That same effort—from minstrel shows to cotton songs to Birth of a Nation—was revived after the war to paper over both the real reason for the conflict and add a patina of false nobility to the most ignoble of causes.

“After the war was in the rear view, the Lost Cause mythology did not remain the Southern story. It became the national story. It was taught in schools on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. It pervaded culture. Americans, North and South, bought into the lionization of men like Lee, and the romance of ‘the last cavaliers.’ They erected Confederate statues in places where every soldier had been pro-Union, and they did it for the same base reason that drove slavery in the first place: profit.

“By buying into the idea that men like Lee were in some sense heroes, and that ‘state’s rights’ was the source of conflict, the nation avoided looking at what slavery was really about. If the war was over state’s rights and not slavery, then … was the question of slavery really settled? Were the justifications for slavery not acceptable after all? Didn’t Robert E. Lee look very fine up there mounted on Traveler?

“After the war, the profit from slavery was ground down fine, spread thin, and applied across the nation in the form of white privilege. Confederate revisionism made that possible, and it accomplished two things. First, it assured that even the lowliest white person would still have someone they could always look down upon. But even more importantly, it ensured the nation that there would always be cheap labor, poorly protected labor, labor whose safety, health, and intrinsic humanity could be disregarded. Black labor.

“That settlement with slavery is what’s really memorialized in statues of Confederate figures. They’re not about actual history, they’re about the agreement the nation made to transform that history into something that was worth celebrating, for the purposes of profit. That’s the compromise. That agreement is the reason that Black Americans are dying at such a high rate from COVID-19. It’s the reason that Black Americans are in “essential” roles but receive negligible pay and benefits. It’s the reason that George Floyd and so many others were treated as disposable men. It’s why American corporations can treat workers in ways that other nations find completely unacceptable, because we made a compromise that said the worst possible thing you can do to people isn’t so bad … as long as there’s money in it. 

“When Donald Trump champions the preservation of Confederate statues, it has nothing to do with distant events. It has to do with a deal that’s very much still in effect. ‘The past is not even past,’ and never will be so long as that compromise is maintained.”

This is the system that DDT protects on July 6 for his campaign strategy while he ignores the 132,979 deaths and 3,040,833 infections from COVID-19 in the U.S.

October 25, 2015

Offensive Religion Positions

The Duggars (19 Kids and Counting) just seem to stay in the news. Now a lawsuit has accused The Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), the homeschooling program used by the Duggar family, of covering up sexual assault against underage girls. Founder, former director, and Josh Duggar counselor, Bill Gothard, left IBLP on “indefinite administrative leave” because of sexually harassing and abusing employees. He wasn’t named in the suit but is accused of abusive actions against the plaintiffs. IBLP’s homeschooling teachings were depicted on the Duggar reality program.

The series notorious for using plots “ripped from the headlines,” Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, will use the Duggars’ story in its November 4 episode. In this segment, “Patrimonial Burde,” a 13-year-old daughter of a famous television family of ten children discovers that she is pregnant. The plotline also has a few allusions to Sarah Palin’s unwed daughter Bristol, now pregnant with her second child as she follows her abstinence-only program.

GOP leaders continue to focus on the Christian bible to promote their conservative beliefs. For example, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used the Good Book as his authority in requiring nonviolent criminals to “pay back” their crimes in a form of enslavement. Answering radio host Jan Mickelson about paying restitution in embezzlement, Huckabee wants forced repayment to be “twofold, fourfold,” through labor if necessary.

The Constitution actually allows this involuntary slave labor through the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery except in prison. Corporations owning private prisons generate a great deal of profit because the wages go to them and not to the prisoners. For example, up to 40 percent of the forest firefighters in California are prisoners; the state opposes an early prison-release program to minimum custody inmates because they would lose the cheap labor for fighting fires. Huckabee’s philosophy of imprisonment of people who can’t “pay back” is illegal, however, because of several Supreme Court cases that prevent imprisonment for the inability to pay court fines, fees, and restitution. Yet many conservatives want a return to the days of Charles Dickens.

Thanks to the Maine governor, Paul LePage, a creationist is the state’s new “acting educational commissioner,” meaning that the appointment cannot be challenged by the state for six months. Bill Beardsley ran against LePage on a single issue platform, that only creationism should be taught in schools. Like most creationists, the new official also believes that worrying about climate change is foolish because it “[hasn’t] been proved in science.” LePage tries to control government by threatening to veto every bill on his desk unless he is permitted to pass anything he wants without complaint. Even his own party is concerned about his mental health.

Another Maine scandal is LePage’s threat to cut off state funding to a charter school unless it fired state House Speaker Mark Eves (D) for a top position. The school reluctantly let Eves go. LePage hasn’t denied the blackmail and even compared what he did in a domestic violence dispute. “It’s just like one time when I stepped in … when a man was beating his wife,” the governor said. “Should have I stepped in? Legally, No. But I did. And I’m not embarrassed about doing it.”

Eves filed a federal civil lawsuit, and the state Government Oversight Committee is investigating the situation with subpoenas for two members of LePage’s administration who refused to cooperate. The governor is unsuccessfully trying to force the committee’s Republican chair to recuse himself. The chair of the charter school’s board of directors agreed that the governor had cut off funding after the school hired Eves, but LePage said that he had the discretion to withhold funding under his control of the budget.

Known for campaigning by demonizing the Arabs, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now blaming the Palestinians for the Holocaust. In a public speech, Netanyahu said that Hitler’s elimination of the Jews in Europe was the idea of Haj Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who told Hitler to burn the Jews rather than deport them. History shows this to be a lie because Hitler put forth the “Final Solution” two years before the mufti met with Hitler. The Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, has come forward to protest Netanyahu’s claims, remarking that “history clearly shows that Hitler initiated” the Holocaust.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Netanyahu was wrong, that the German people were “very clear in our minds” about where the responsibility for the Holocaust falls. Despite reports from historians, Netanyahu continues with his propaganda to block a two-state agreement in a portrayal of the Palestinians as committee to the extermination of Jews.

Today’s Meet the Press addressed Jeb Bush’s statement that he doesn’t want to participate in the election if the gridlock can’t be solved:

 “If this election is about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, then I don’t want anything, I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want to be elected president to sit around and see gridlock just become so dominant that people literally are in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation. I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.”

Rumors of Bush’s failing campaign has caused reporters to asked about whether it is falling apart. Bush’s only response was one that smacks of entitlement. “Blah blah blah, Blah,” he said. “That’s my answer.”

http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/meet-press-october-25-2015-n451121  A panel member of today’s Meet the Press, biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin addressed Bush’s behavior:

“Compare that with how McCain handled himself in a similar situation in ’07. He was cutting staff as Mr. Bush has, his poll numbers had gone down, he was in a bad place. And he said, ‘It’s how you face a challenge politically and physically that determines your character and your courage.’ And he said I’m going to be going on a bus, I’m going to be lean and mean, and he said I’m going to go out among the people. And eventually, Mac was back.

“I mean you have to take these moments of adversity, and you have to show strength and courage and forward optimism. You can’t blame the process. You’re it– you’re in it.”

Later she quoted Adlai Stevenson, “The challenge is not how to win an election, but how you win without proving yourself unworthy to win?”

If there’s one commonality among all the GOP presidential candidates, it’s that they have shown themselves “worthy to win.”  Carson is another example. Preening after the Iowa polls show himself on top, he said that he didn’t need experience to be the president, that all it takes is common sense. His solution is to surround himself with advisors—something that George W. Bush did during his failed presidency. Carson’s other excuse is that the U.S. Constitution is easy to read because it’s written at an eighth-grade level. According to the well-respected Flesch-Kincaid readability test, the Constitution is scored at a 17.8 grade level.

Almost any mention of religion by politics causes “religion rage.” Ben Carson wants Donald Trump to apologize for his statement that Trump doesn’t know anything about Seventh-day Adventists, Carson’s religious following. Trump didn’t denigrate the religion, but the Internet flows with demands for apologies from Trump. It may have seemed offensive, but Carson has been far more offensive, comparing women who have abortions to Nazis, saying that homosexuality is chosen because straight people become gay in prison, accusing Planned Parenthood of deliberately killing black babies, etc. Trump’s statement about Carson’s religion is very mild compared to Carson’s attacks on people who don’t following his religion.

April 13, 2014

Religion & Ignorance: The Chicken or the Egg

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:08 PM
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Collecting articles about the ignorant statements from religious fundamentalists, I wonder which came first–ignorance or a belief in religious fundamentalism. When I talked to a friend about this question, he said that these people are likely not stupid, just uneducated. A few statements from conservative  leaders during the past few days back up this theory:

Once an elected senator from South Carolina, Jim DeMint heads up the Heritage Foundation. The name of the group almost sounds as if it has something to do with our country’s history, but DeMint demonstrated a woeful lack of knowledge in his appearance on a Christian radio station:

“Well, the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government.”

He goes on for a while in the same vein, saying that “no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves” and gives credit to the “Republican” Abraham Lincoln because of “a love in his heart that comes from God.”

The phrase “all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights” does not appear in the Constitution although some of this sentiment is in the Declaration of Independence. Before the Civil War, the U.S. Constitution stated that runaway slaves had to be returned:

 “No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

The U.S. Constitution also prevented Congress from banning slave importation until 1808. DeMint is right “that the slaves were eventually freed” because of the constitution, but it was the Thirteenth Amendment that did by providing that “[n]either slavery nor involuntary servitude. . . shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Even that document didn’t pass until the end of 1865, eight months after the end of the Civil War and the assassination of Lincoln.

Despite the U.S. Constitution, state laws in the South continued the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws that maintained the inferiority of former slaves and their descendants until big government passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, now largely eradicated.

As for Lincoln the Republican, the GOP party of the 19th century held liberal views while the Democrats were comparable to the Republicans today. The Republicans love to claim Lincoln as one of their own when it serves them, but they reject all of his policies.

Rick Wiles, host of TruNews, demonstrated ignorance when he claimed that Adolf Hitler and all the top Nazi leadership were “creating a homosexual special race.” He continued by accusing LGBT rights advocates of being “homofascist” in a radical movement just like Nazi Germany.

“It wasn’t this thing about an Aryan race of white people, blue-eyed, blonde-haired, white people, Hitler was trying to create a race of super gay male soldiers … It will end up in America just like it was in Germany, but it won’t be the Jews that will be slaughtered. It will be the Christians.”

AFA’s Bryan Fischer called LGBT rights advocates “Nazi stormtroopers” who are “totalitarian and repressive.” Pastor Jeff Allen wrote in an op-ed for Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Barber’s website Barbwire:

“Many [LGBT rights advocates] really do console themselves with fantasies of their own Kristallnacht, in which Christians are euphemistically ‘taken out of the way’ as part of the ‘gay’-stapo’s ‘final solution’ to the ‘Christian problem.'”

Last week Wiles called on Jesus Christ for help in overthrowing President Obama out of office with a military coup.

Last Sunday, I wrote about Mississippi’s so-called “sex education” that compares a girl who has premarital sex to a dirty piece of candy. A student is told to unwrap a piece of candy which is then handed to all the other students, one by one. The teacher draws the analogy that girls who have sex with different boys are just like that candy: they get dirty just like the candy because they’re handed from one boy to another.

The mandated Mississippi curriculum allows teachers to instruct students that homosexual activity is illegal under the “unnatural intercourse” statute. Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas invalidated all laws against homosexuality, some states such as Alabama, Louisiana, and Utah have kept their anti-sodomy laws on the books. Mississippi teachers don’t have to teach anti-LGBT positions, but they cannot contradict them. The state also has a law allowing anyone to discriminate against anyone else on religious bases.

An argument from religious fundamentalists is the belief in “geocentrism,” the theory that the sun revolves around the Earth, in opposition of the heliocentric model with Earth and other planets that make up a solar system in which planets circle the sun. To support geocentrism, ultra-conservative Roman Catholic Robert Sungenis has made a film, The Principle, narrated by Kate Mulgrew and including statements from noted scientists.

Mulgrew, a progressive Democrat, says she was duped, and several scientists have said that they never agreed to be in the film. Lawrence Kraus wrote:

“I have no recollection of being interviewed for such a film, and of course had I known of its premise I would have refused. So, either the producers used clips of me that were in the public domain, or they bought them from other production companies that I may have given some rights to distribute my interviews to, or they may have interviewed me under false pretenses, in which case I probably signed some release. I simply don’t know.”

Many ignorant religious fundamentalists have been elected to Congress. In its congressional report card for 2013, the Secular Coalition for America has given 315 of the members, 58 percent, an F grade for supporting bills such as granting special rights to religious organizations, discriminating against rights for women and LGBT people, and promoting issues like prayer in federal environments.  Five of the 315 congressional members receiving F grades:

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA): At 5 percent, he has opposed taking care of the poor and maintained that abortion causes cancer, although he later retracted this false statement. He also opposes marriage equality because he claims, wrongly, that churches would be forced to perform same-sex marriages.

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI): Another 5-percenter, the former minister insists on Christian prayer in any setting and has voted against every bill calling for separation of church and state. In opposing bills such as the ACA, he said:

“I don’t normally quote from Joseph Stalin, but today he said something appropriate, about liberty. He said America is a like a healthy body, and it’s resistance is three-fold, it’s patriotism, it’s morality, it’s spiritual life. If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within. I would encourage our church, I would encourage Congress, I would encourage our administration to fight back strongly against what Stalin understood.”  [Huh?]

Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC): A quote from this 5-percenter’s website:

“America was built upon Judeo-Christian values, and these values should be protected. During my years in Congress I have been a steadfast supporter of traditional marriage, the unborn, and the free exercise of religion. I am an active senior member of both the Values Action Team (VAT) and the Pro-Life Caucus.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): The presidential candidate wannabe frequently says that he thinks about the bible first when governing which includes pro-life and anti-climate change issues.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): Also trying for the presidency, he believes life begins at contraception, employing his philosophy of libertarianism only when it pleases him. He claims that this philosophy has no moral compass and needs Christianity for direction—unless, of course, when Christianity supports helping others and ending poverty.

Check on your own representatives and senators here.

These images from a fourth-grade science test in a religious school  shows why fundamentalist religious people are ignorant.

science test

 

 

science 2

November 16, 2013

Progressives Decide to Move Forward

While House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) sits on all potential legislation such as immigration reform, non-discrimination, etc., the rest of the world is moving forward to make life better for people. Here are some recent actions:

The Sacramento Superior Court defended California’s clean energy economy by upholding California’s cap-and-trade program. Business interests opposed the law, but the court supported the state’s position that auctioning carbon permits holds polluters accountable for making an adverse impact on the climate. The first four “auctions” raised $395 million for the state, and the fifth one is due this coming week.

In two different cases, Mutual Pharmaceuticals v. Bartlett (2011) and Pliva v. Mensing  (2013), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that makers of generic drugs could not warn people of the dangers associated with their drugs because they had to copy the brand-name drug label, per FDA mandates. The FDA policy and Supreme Court decisions eliminated any incentive for generic drug makers to investigate and report safety problems related to their products, about 84 percent of the medication market, by giving them total immunity.

Recently, differences between generics and brand-names, such as Wellbutrin and its generics, resulted in several generics being pulled from the market because the generics are not equivalent to the brand-name drugs. For example, stories about problems surrounding Wellbutrin generics were in the media for at least six years before the FDA ruled that the generic was not equivalent.

The good news: After extensive petitioning, the FDA proposes revising its 1992 ruling to requiring changes in generic drug labels listing dangers not provided in labels for brand-name drugs. If generic drug makers present a valid case for changes in the labeling, the FDA may permit this information on the labels. Generic drug manufacturers could also distribute “Dear Health Care Provider” letters. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce expressed concern that the change would create new liability standards for generic drug manufacturers under the same failure-to-warn standards that have resulted in huge fines for many branded drug manufacturers. The FDA is providing 60 days for public and industry input regarding the changes in the rules before they could go into effect.

Public Citizen, which worked to petition the FDA regarding labeling rules, has also issued a report about the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Oklahoma and Texas just weeks before the 485-mile-long pipeline is supposed to have 700,000 barrels of diluted bitumen pumped through it daily. Members of Public Citizen who walked a 250-mile stretch documented and photographed engineering code violations and approximately 125 “anomalies” of dents, sags, peeling patches, and other problems.

 multipatch2_1292 (2)

Public Citizen has called for a U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) investigation into its findings. The organization has also requested that Congress and the White House delay any pipeline use until a government investigation is complete.

Martin Bashir has called out Sarah Palin about her comparison between slavery and the national debt. Although right-wingers accuse Bashir of being a misogynist, I think he’s a hero for his history lesson, using the diary of plantation overseer Thomas Thistlewood to describe the brutality and inhumanity of slavery in Colonial America.  

In 1756, Thistlewood recorded that a slave named Darby “catched eating kanes had him well flogged and pickled, then made Hector, another slave, s-h-i-t in his mouth.” The overseer’s punishment became known as “Darby’s Dose.” The diary also described treatment for a man he called Punch. “Flogged punch well, and then washed and rubbed salt pickle, lime juice and bird pepper, made Negro Joe piss in his eyes and mouth.”

The liberal wing of the Senate is moving forward while GOP senators filibuster the three women nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit: Nina Pillard, Patricia Millett, and Caitlin Halligan. GOP senators accused the women accused of “militant feminism” because of their work for women’s rights. (Misogyny?)

Democratic senators have introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013 that would prevent states from passing TRAP laws. Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers attempt to stop abortion access in 45 states by creating frivolous regulations such as specific dimensions for clinic restrooms and mandates that doctors performing abortions have privileges at nearby hospitals. These state laws, some of them overturned by courts, have closed 54 women’s clinics, 12 of them in Texas. That state’s reduction in funding closed another 50 family planning clinics.

Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Barbara Boxer (CA), Tammy Baldwin (WI) introduced the bill in the upper chamber. Reps. Judy Chu (CA), Marcia Fudge (OH), and Lois Frankel (FL) brought the bill to the House. The last time that Congress passed proactive legislation protecting abortion access was the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in 1994.

Another Senate bill extends the life of Social Security and improves its benefits. Democrats Sherrod Brown (OH),Tom Harkin (IA), Brian Schatz (HI), and Mark Begich (AK) are sponsoring the Strengthen Social Security Act of 2013:

Strengthen Benefits by Reforming the Social Security Benefit Formula:  By changing the way that SS benefits are calculated, the average increase per person would by about $70 per month with those in low- and middle-income levels targeted.

Ensure that Cost of Living Adjustments Adequately Reflect the Living Expenses of Retirees: A change in the calculation of Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) would also create an increase in SS benefits. At this time, the COLA is tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation, using items that do not correctly reflect purchases that seniors make, such as medical care. The bill bases future COLAs on the CPI for the Elderly (CPI-E), an experimental index that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been keeping since 1982.

Improve the Long Term Financial Condition of the Trust Fund: According to the most recent Social Security Trustees report, the Trust Fund can pay full benefits through 2033, another 20 years. The proposed change is phasing out the current taxable cap of $113,700 so that the wealthiest Americans contribute to the program the same share of their income as the middle class.

Republicans may not vote for these bills, but they’ll be forced to show that they vote against women and senior citizens.

 

February 18, 2013

Thoughts about the Presidents

Today is Washington’s Birthday, a federal holiday created in 1880. Technically George Washington’s birthday isn’t until Friday, but in 1968 Congress moved all federal holidays to Mondays. Back when I was in school, we celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12 and Washington’s birthday on the 22nd. Now people call the Monday before the 22nd “President’s Day” and ignore Lincoln’s birthday, but Congress never changed the name.

It’s a quiet day today. Congress has disappeared for ten days and can’t do any damage except for the stupid comments that keep coming out of their mouths. Because there’s the feeling that all presidents are commemorated on this day, here are a few facts about past presidents, sort of a mini-history/trivia lesson.

Although history books teach that George Washington was the first president of the United States, he was actually the eighth. The “Presidents under the Articles of Confederation” had the official title of “President of the United States in Congress Assembled.” Before these seven presidents there were 16 Presidents of the Continental Congress, but John Hanson was the ninth of these and the first to hold the title “President of the United States.” Hanson’s Birthday would postpone the federal holiday almost two months to April 14.

Although the Constitution requires that presidents be born U.S. citizens, the first seven presidents were not “natural-born citizens” of the United States, as the Constitution requires. Of course, that was because they were all born before there was a United States. Since then, however, controversies have arisen from time to time about this constitutional requirement.

Because the Constitution does not define “natural born,” the law has had to create a definition. The first one came from the Naturalization Act of 1790: “The children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens.” Later Title Eight of the U.S. Code filled in some gaps.

The argument about presidential citizenship flared up after “birthers” declared that Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii and thus ineligible for the presidency. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) sent a memo, dated April 3, 2009, to Congress echoing the Naturalization Act and claiming that the definition of “natural born” would “include a person born abroad to parents who are United States citizens.”

President Obama was not the first president whose citizenship was questioned. The one other president who had only one U.S.-citizen parent, Chester A. Arthur, was rumored to have been born in Canada. Arthur became president after President Garfield was shot and killed.

If the place of birth were at issue, eligibility could have been questioned for Vice-President Al Gore, born outside of the United States in Washington, D.C. and for candidates Barry Goldwater, born in Arizona Territory, and George Romney, born in Mexico. The birthers never questioned the eligibility of John McCain to become president, who was born either at the Coco Solo Naval Air Station or in a civilian hospital in Colon City, Panama, according to his birth certificate. Neither place was identified as United States territory at the time although a 1937 law retroactively conferred citizenship on people born in the Canal Zone after February 26, 1904 and in the Republic of Panama after that date who had at least one U.S. citizen parent employed by the U.S. government or the Panama Railway Company.

One president was not even a U.S. citizen when he died. John Tyler, the 10th president, died in Virginia on January 8, 1862, as a citizen of the Southern Confederacy.

Over two dozen federal legislators have proposed constitutional amendments to change the requirement of natural-born citizenship for the presidency, usually because of a preference for a candidate. Rep. Jonathan Bingham (R-NY) introduced one in 1974 to allow Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to become eligible, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) presented the Equal Opportunity to Govern Amendment in 2003 to make then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) eligible for the office.

By the 21st century, people expected the president to have college degrees, but ten presidents have not earned one, the most recent being Harry S. Truman. While in office, eight presidents owned slaves before it became illegal, and another four others also owned slaves while they were not sitting presidents. The last president to own slaves while in office, Zachary Taylor, had 100 on a Mississippi plantation. Ulysses S. Grant, freed his slave, William Jones, in 1859.

Only one president, James Buchanan, was never married. He was described as nearly inseparable from Alabama senator William T. King, who was known as “his wife.” Documents show that Buchanan was undeniably “the first gay president,” not Barack Obama as a sensationalist Newsweek cover proclaimed.

Four presidents became president after they lost the popular vote, the most recent being George W. Bush. The others were John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Benjamin Harrison—all in the 19th century. Two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were impeached and acquitted, and a third, Richard Nixon, resigned before the impeachment process moved to trial.

In this case, history is stranger than fiction when one considers the frenzied impeachment of Bill Clinton during the last few years of the 20th century.

In honor of my left-handed partner, I want to add that eight presidents, including President Obama, have also been left-handed.

As of 2013, not one woman has served as U.S. president, unless you include the powerful wives of Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Reagan. In the rest of the world, women have been elected president in Argentina, Finland, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Liberia, Malawi, Malta, Nicaragua, Philippines, South Korea, and Sri Lanka. Another 50 countries have had women heads of state. Another 13 countries have had women representatives of heads of state. Six Muslim countries have elected women heads of state. 

Yellow: Female head of government; Blue: Female head of state; Light Green: Female head of state/government (combined); Dark Green: Female head of state and female head of government

Yellow: Female head of government; Blue: Female head of state; Light Green: Female head of state/government (combined); Dark Green: Female head of state and female head of government

Rumors proliferate, however, that former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with an approval rating of over 70 percent, may be a 2016 presidential candidate. Would she run against Ryan? Or Rubio? Or Christie? Or another Bush? Or another Paul? Or, or, or?

January 28, 2012

Buchanan, Other Republicans Exhibit Racism

Sixteen years ago, Pat Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary for presidential candidate; now he may be fired from MSNBC. Three months ago, the activist group Color of Change started a petition against his employment at the television network after a number of racist insults, including calling President Obama “your boy” on Al Sharpton’s show.

Buchanan hasn’t appeared on the network since he headed out on his book tour. Suicide of a Superpower includes chapters  with titles such as “The End of  White America” and “The Death of Christian America” for chapters, and he stated that the country is in the “Indian summer of our civilization.” An MSNBC’s top executive has said that Buchanan will be allowed back on the network.

Buchanan gave two scenarios for what happened. On Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, he said that he had medical issues, that there was nothing permanent about the separation. Two days later he told Sean Hannity that the problem came from the gays and the people of color. He also blamed the Jews because of his position that the United States shouldn’t go to war with Iran to protect Israel.

MSNBC President Phil Griffin hasn’t come right out and stated that Buchanan is suspended, but thus far he hasn’t appeared on the network.

The Republicans have had a history of racial prejudice in the past decades, and people like Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman tried in the past to overcome this image. Almost seven years ago, he apologized to the NAACP, saying that Republicans had pushed racial strife to get white voters, especially in the South. Since then the racial divide has only worsened.

In Tennessee Tea Party groups are demanding that the state legislature remove references to slavery in school textbooks. Their goal is to erase any negative portrayals of the rich white men who wrote the Constitution: “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.” Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.”

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, the 800-square-mile Wake County School District in Raleigh wants to segregate its schools, stating that concentrating poor children—usually minorities—in a few schools has merit. John Tedesco, one of the new Republican-majority board, said, “This is Raleigh in 2010, not Selma,Alabama, in the 1960s–my life is integrated.” The NAACP has filed a civil rights complaint arguing that 700 initial student transfers the new board approved have already increased racial segregation, violating laws that prohibit the use of federal funding for discriminatory purposes.

Concern about the Republican presidential candidates’ racist pandering to the white base has also been growing throughout the past few months. Rick Santorum said, “I don’t want to make Black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.” Criticized for this statement, he tried excuse himself by saying that he listened to the tape and must have same something like “bla…” Doesn’t work.

Ron Paul wants to overturn the Civil Rights Act because he thinks white private business owners should have the “freedom” not to serve minorities. His virulently racist newsletters from the 1990s have also found more and more publicity. Despite Paul’s denials stating that he knew nothing about the newsletters’ content, associates declare differently, saying that they watched him proof and sign off on what was said.

Newt Gingrich criticized Paul for the newsletters and accused him of knowing about the content. That was right after Gingrich offered to talk to the NAACP to urge African-Americans to “demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.” When Juan Williams, a moderator for the South Carolinadebate from Fox News, asked Gingrich if his use of such language was “intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities,” the white audience booed Williams. Gingrich evidently doesn’t know that fewer than one quarter of food stamp recipients are African-American.

Mitt Romney wants to “keep America America.” Whatever he means by this statement, it’s far too close to the Ku Klux Clan motto, “keep America American.”

Fortunately Michelle Bachmann is gone, but many of her statements remain embedded in our memory. One of these is that the black family was stronger during slavery than in freedom. She probably read the proposed Tennessee textbooks because of her belief that the white men who wrote the Constitution in the 1700s were abolitionists who “fought tirelessly to eliminate slavery” and that the slaveholding Christian whites “loved their slaves.”

The candidates were asked in one debate to address the grossly disparate impact of the Great Recession on black and brown communities. The unemployment rate for African-Americans is two to three times higher than the 9 percent for whites; the middle-class minorities have had their income, assets, and wealth gutted so thoroughly that whites have almost 20 times the average net worth of African-Americans. The candidates had no response other than people should work harder because the opportunities to succeed are all through the country.

It appears that the Republicans think that they can be elected with just the white vote. From what minorities are saying, they’ve lost anyone else’s vote, At a Martin Luther King Day concert in South Carolina just five days before the Republican primary, Kathy Edwards said, “It’s all about this with the Republicans,” she says pinching her own black skin. “I’m 58 now. It’s better than it was, but with the Republicans it’s all about race even if they don’t say it.”

Four years ago, less than 2% of those voting in the South Carolina Republican primary were from racial minority groups whereas more than half of those who participated in the Democratic primary were black.

“White folks around here talk about taking the country back when it hasn’t been anywhere,” Edwards said. “The fact is they don’t like a black man as president. They think he has taken something that belongs to them.”

Lottie Gibson, one of only two African American members of the Greenville county council and a former teacher with a long history of working with the poor, said that the Republican message has been racially divisive by persuading poor white people, who overwhelmingly vote Republican in South Carolina, that a large part of the cause of their economic problems is poor black people.

Edward echoed Gibson’s position. “To me the Republicans just don’t include African Americans. They don’t connect to us. They seem mean spirited people,” she said. “This election is not about black and white, it’s about rich and poor. But whenever the Republicans talk about poor, then they start talking about welfare and single mothers. They always associate single mothers with black women and welfare. I was a single mother for a long time before I married. I never took welfare in my life.”

Shelly Roehrs, chair of the Spartanburg County Democratic Party, said, “The Republicans are blind. They don’t see any disparity between rich and poor. White voters vote based on their religion and out of fear. They can barely afford the rent, but they vote Republican because whenever poverty is mentioned, the very first thing that comes up is that black people are milking the welfare system.”

Many African Americans in South Carolina voted Republican until the 1960s because the Democratic party held power and strongly supported segregation.  In the early 1960s, leading segregationists such as Senator Strom Thurmond, protested civil rights legislation by changing to the Republican party in protest at national civil rights legislation. The Republicans have kept the anti-civil rights policy for the past half century.

The civil war memorial in Greenville, next to the sprawling cemetery with a separate section for black people, is marked with an inscription observing that history will prove the Confederate slave states to have been “in the right.” The statehouse still flies the Confederate flag.

The more the Republicans talk, the more minority votes they lose—perhaps enough to guarantee their losing the election in 2012 if the country doesn’t lose 5 million voters because of Republican laws restricting voting.

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