Nel's New Day

April 11, 2015

A Saturday Roundup

A few stories from the alternative press:

What do you do if you hold a protest and no one shows up? The Tea Party of Miami hires protesters—in this case a demonstration against restoring 46,000 acres used for sugar land back into the Everglades. The up to 40 actors pretending to be demonstrators got paid $75 per hour, five times what Tea Partiers refused to allow for a minimum wage. The job description:

“Details: Basically to stand behind fence, holding banners or signs that will be provided. Clothing is almost anything!! Use common sense and don’t wear ‘club’ outfits or gym clothes. Just wardrobe for a Political Rally…We will pay CASH of $75 at end of shoot.”

Not bad work if you can get it. The actors ended their gig by lighting fake money on fire in a barbeque.

Republicans commonly preen themselves as the party of Abraham Lincoln, but the conservative Washington Post disagrees. According to Harold Meyerson, the GOP is closer to the party of Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, than Lincoln:

“After the [Civil War] ended, the South held on to a general animosity and hatred of African-Americans. No longer able to enslave them, southerners found other ways to oppress them.

“Indeed, today’s Republican Party support voter suppression efforts that are primarily aimed at minority voters to keep themselves in power. And with the backing of many corporations, the GOP has fought relentlessly to kill minimum wage laws and regulations that protect workers, while strangling labor unions that stand up for workers’ rights….

“Even today, one of America’s most fundamental problems is that the alliance between the current form of Southern labor and the current form of New York finance is with us still. The five states that have no minimum wage laws of their own are in the South: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. Southern-based corporations such as Wal-Mart are among the leading opponents of workers’ right to organize, and as Wal-Mart has expanded into the North and West, so have the “right-to-work” statutes of Southern states been enacted by Republican governments in the Midwest….

“Fueled by the mega-donations of the mega-rich, today’s Republican Party is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white. It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it.”

Sounds like the Grand Old Party of Republicans to me.

What’s the easiest way to kill a bill that might help people? Declare it Sharia law, like the Republicans have done in Idaho. That’s how GOP legislatures voted down a child support collection bill to bring the state in line with federal child support enforcement rules by using the federal government’s system for tracking and enforcing child support payments. The bill failed in committee by 9-8 because two Republicans “feared the bill could force Idaho to enforce child-support rulings made under Islamic law or foreign tribunals.” One of the Republicans admitted that nothing in the law had any religious language that would make it Islamic but falsely claimed that both France and Belgium recognized Sharia law. Thanks to GOP idiocy, Idaho loses $46 million in federal child support aid and parents lose child support.

All the Republicans and too many Democrats in Congress are considering a war against Iran and again ignoring the U.S. public. Over half registered voters in the country want a nuclear deal with Iran with only 34 percent opposing the tentative deal that has been struck. The 65 percent of the country that wants no congressional action until the deal is finalized have a lot more sense than the legislators. Another survey from the Huffington Post shows that 57 percent versus 38 percent of participants agree with supporting the Iran nuclear deal.

Has hell frozen over? Or is this a joke? Former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) wants Hillary Clinton as president because of her experience. He continues to heap more praise on her:

 “She was a good senator. She worked across the aisle. She kept her word. She became knowledgeable about a lot of issues while she was a senator. So she did that job well.”

Maybe he’s one Republican who’s tired of being in the party of Jefferson Davis.

What might make an anti-vaxxer change her mind? Tara and Gavin Hills (Kanata, Canada) reversed their opinion after their seven children ages ten years to ten months got sick—really sick. Tara had thought of whooping cough as an “historical oddity” until both her kids got the disease. Before vaccines were available, up to 10,000 people died in the United States of whooping cough every year. The number went down to 30 before recently starting to rise again. All seven of the Hills’ children are currently quarantined.

One reason you might not want to see a Time Warner merger with Comcast if you subscribe to Time Warner. A Comcast customer tried to cancel his cable after his house burned down, but Comcast refused for week. Someone might say that Comcast through the customer was just saying something crazy to get cable cancelled. Not true. In desperation, Jimmy Ware’s daughter finally said, “Your choice, disconnect the service or send someone out to fix the cable, because it’s not working.” She reported that the Comcast guy said, . “That doesn’t make sense because the house burned down.” Unfortunately, Time Warner’s scores on customer service are as bad as Comcast’s.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) plans to kick off his campaign for president by sell a chance to win tickets to his campaign kickoff for $3.05. We’ll see how his first week goes.

U.S. Senator Paul speaks with Fox News Channel host Hannity during interview after he confirmed his candidacy for president in Louisville

I’ll finish with a Rand Paul story. [Photo by Reuters/John Sommers Ii] Because of his negative treatment of Kelly Evans and Samantha Guthrie, I wondered if he had problems with only women. Not so. In an interview for The Guardian, Paul Lewis asked him how he planned to appeal to both center and right-wing voters because Paul’s political positions change so frequently. The presidential candidate replied, “Your premise is incorrect. I’m sure I could walk into a white evangelical church in Iowa and give the exact same speech and get the exact same response.” Lewis brought up a Washington Post poll and asked Paul about the specifics. Paul walked out, and Lewis said:

“So we got our interview cut off. Maybe it was because I was about to push him on the specifics…all the lights are off in fact. We’re being told to go.”

In an attempt at damage control, the Paul campaign tweeted later that Paul didn’t “walk out” because the interview was over. Washington Post claimed that Paul didn’t “walk out” because he had agreed to just one more question and Lewis asked a second “last question.” Paul’s campaign team had agreed to an interview lasting between six and eight minutes; Paul ended the exchange after four minutes and 50 seconds. No matter which answer is right, Paul still fails to look “presidential.”

Note: The Rand Paul Flip-flops, for sale for $20, have been renamed the Rand Paul Sandals. No joke!

May 21, 2013

Humanity Missing for Oklahoma

The first stories out of a disaster—nature, evil, human stupidity, etc.—after expressing how horrible it is, are about the wonderful way that people step up to the plate, the way that they help those in need. That’s what makes America, people are proud of saying.

Headlines today are filled with the tragic devastation of yesterday’s tornado in Oklahoma. But the numbers of deaths and photos of destroyed buildings are not the real story. The news that should be sent out in every newspaper is the one about the group that doesn’t want help the victims, the group that rejects the philosophy of “humanity first.” That group is the U.S. Congress GOP.

For decades, federal disaster relief was automatic, with bipartisan support after disasters in communities across the nation. But recently, especially after the Tea Party gained their current status in Congress, many conservatives consider emergency resources only after Democrats cut the same amount from another part of the budget. The demand is ideological, not economic, but that doesn’t change their minds.

Thirty-six senators, including Oklahoma Republicans Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, voted against providing relief in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy that killed 161 people and destroyed billions of dollars of property in 24 states less than seven months ago.

Yesterday, a tornado in an Oklahoma City suburb, two days ago killed 24 people and injured at least 240 people, 60 of them children following deadly tornadoes last weekend. These tornadoes are just the beginning of the season: 53 million people can be at risk because of these weather patterns.

Oklahoma currently ranks third in the nation after Texas and California in terms of total federal disaster and fire declarations. The population of Oklahoma is just over 3.8 million, whereas Texas has over 26 million and California, over 38 million.

President Obama signed a disaster declaration for Oklahoma following severe snowstorms this year in late February. In January of 2007, Coburn urged federal officials to speed disaster relief aid after the state faced a major ice storm, and the next year Inhofe praised the emergency relief given to 24 Oklahoma counties after severe weather.

Now Coburn is again demanding the callous “offsets,” cuts to the budget before tornado victims can receive FEMA funding for disaster relief. This is a pattern for him: he pushed for offsets after a terrorist blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring over 680 others.

At the same time that he refuses any relief without offsets, Coburn issued this statement: “As the ranking member of Senate committee that oversees FEMA, I can assure Oklahomans that any and all available aid will be delivered without delay.” He also said that it was “insensitive to even talk about” budgeting for relief funding now. “It just shows the crassness of Washington versus the sensitivity that we need to have,” he added.

Inhofe is cagier than Coburn. Although he hasn’t declared his intentions regarding a vote on help for the victims of his state, he did say that the Oklahoma situation was “totally different”—maybe because it was in his home state. Yet nowhere has he declared support for the Oklahoma victims. One of Inhofe’s big objections during debate on Sandy’s relief was the fact that it included $28 billion for future disasters. Coburn objected to the same funding.

Two of Oklahoma’s five House members, all Republicans, voted against assistance to people following Sandy. Rep. Tom Cole was smarter: he said he supported Sandy relief because of potential tornadoes in his home state. This morning, he said on MSNBC, in referencing the catastrophic 2011 tornado in Joplin (MO), “Frankly, one of the reasons that we try to be sympathetic to people in other parts of the country” is that “we’re always one tornado away from being Joplin. I didn’t think it was going to be quite this soon.”

“Coburn is taking his own constituents hostage as budget-cutting human shields,” AMERICABlog’s John Aravosis wrote, adding: “We wouldn’t need to be holding a bake sale every time Mother Nature hiccuped … if the Republicans would stop spending a trillion on this war and another trillion on that tax cut.”

Especially in the wake of the sequester cuts, the notion that the federal budget is larded with easily eliminated spending is ludicrous. Would Coburn like to see more kids thrown out of Head Start? More seniors losing Meals on Wheels? The federal deficit is shrinking faster than at any time since just after World War II, but Coburn insists that someone, somewhere, must lose their federal help so Oklahoma can get it instead.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita left one in 50 children without homes; the financial crisis increased this to one in 45 children—a total of 1.6 million in 2010 without a permanent place to live. Forty percent of these children are under the age of 6. The Southern states have the worst access to homeless shelters.

This tragedy of children without homes didn’t appear in the United States until the early 1980s, when it exploded. In the early 1980s, only one percent of people in homeless shelters were children and families; in 2011 children and families made up 41 percent of people sleeping in shelters.

A report from the Family Housing Fund shows that President Reagan initiated the rapid increase. Ralph da Costa-Núñez, who worked in New York Mayor Ed Koch’s administration, said:

“It was the gutting of the safety net. Reagan cut every social program that helped the poor. Then there’s inflation so their aid checks are shrinking. Where are they going? Into the streets, into the shelters.”

Rather than provide low-income housing, Reagan believed that the market would take care of the problem. By 1985, the number of low-cost units had fallen to 5.6 million, and the low-income renter households had grown to 8.9 million.

President Clinton’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Act, which decreased welfare from 12.3 million per month in 1996 to 4.4 million June 2011, was hardest on women and children. Conservatives find this a success story, but children and families are living on the streets. Caseloads stayed static through record joblessness, and women and children make do by scavenging the trash and returning to abusive relationships.

The result is an increase of psychological disorders for both children and their mothers. “Half of school-age homeless children experience anxiety, depression, or withdrawal compared to 18 percent of non-homeless children,” according to the Traumatic Stress network. Male homeless children are more aggressive and females, more withdrawn. All of them are prone to more chronic illnesses, endocrine dysfunction, and stunted growth. School is a disaster not only because of these problems but also because of the instability caused by constantly moving from one place to another.

Conservatives who blame the problems on laziness and “hustling the system” decrease benefits and increase the homelessness. And Coburn wants to make the problem worse by insisting on “offsets.”

States are also gutting their budgets to give money to the wealthy, and people in North Carolina are fighting back with their protests on “Moral Mondays.” One recently arrested woman is 80-year-old former educator Barbara Parramore who is fighting for the return of funds for education. The photo on the right is Parramore with her daughter, Lynn Stuart Parramore. The left one is her mug shot.

barbara parramoremug shot

 

 

 

 

 

 

People are taking action!

July 21, 2012

GOP Too Cheap to Give Firefighters Any Insurance

How cheap, selfish, and uncaring are Republicans? When President Obama gave health care insurance to federal firefighters, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) questioned his action. Coburn has asked the Office of Personal Management (OPM) to defend the decision with a legal analysis and several cost assessments including the regulation’s economic impact, its impact on federal worker premiums, and the estimated 10-year cost to taxpayers.

When the president visited Colorado because of the recent fires, he discovered that, as seasonal government workers, thousands of firefighters were ineligible for insurance under the federal employee health plan. Because of  the president’s action, firefighters will be eligible to buy into the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program for themselves and their families by the end of the month, and other temporary disaster-relief workers may qualify in the future.

Rep. Diana DeGette, (D-CO) introduced legislation to provide health insurance for firefighters and their families on the same day that the president issued his directive. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) supported her. According to the Denver Post, the Republican representative delegation from Colorado has stayed “mostly silent.”

Coburn said that the firefighters “are to be commended for their service.” Mitt Romney’s campaign has no comment about the president’s directive. Neither one of them has to worry about health insurance; Coburn gets his free from the government.

June 24, 2012

Norquist Ties to Keep Pledgers in Line

For a brief time, the Congressional Republicans seemed to be regaining a piece of their sanity. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told ABC News that Republicans should eliminate loopholes in the tax code even if they aren’t replaced by additional tax cuts. “When you eliminate a deduction, it’s OK with me to use some of that money to get us out of debt. That’s where I disagree with the pledge,” he said. He went so far as to say that Republicans should be flexible. Maybe he had been listening to former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), co-chair of President Obama’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010, who said, “You can’t cut spending your way out of this hole.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) argued so forcefully that Republicans must abandon that pledge if they are serious about tackling the spiraling national debt that he persuaded 34 Senate Republicans to cancel billions of dollars in annual tax credits for ethanol blenders. “Grover, you’re stupid, forget it, we’re going to vote the right way,” Coburn said.

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) proposed a 5-percent surtax on all income over $1 million annually. And there’s more.

“I’m not saying I’m even committed now to a tax increase, but I think anybody who doesn’t indicate their willingness to look at revenues–expiration of tax loopholes, tax credits, increase in contribution to Social Security, which is a tax, and otherwise–would be disingenuous and irresponsible.” – Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL) who claimed he didn’t sign the pledge but actually did

“I have learned, never sign a damn pledge.” – Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN)

“Grover Norquist has no credibility, so I don’t respond to him. He doesn’t deserve being responded to.” – Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

“Have we really reached the point where one person’s demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?” – Rep. Frank Wolff (R-VA)

“I informed the organization I don’t consider [the earlier pledge] binding. I don’t care to be associated with it. It’s too constraining.” – Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)

“The only pledge I take anymore is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. That’s the pledge every member takes when he gets sworn in and that’s the pledge you ougtta be concerned about.” – Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) noting that he signed the pledge only once when he first ran for Congress in 1998

“Grover Norquist is not in my district. I represent the state of Wyoming and its people.” – Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)

“I’m no longer signing any pledges to anybody. I’m not going to sign it next year.” – Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI)

“My driver’s license expires, the milk in my refrigerator expires, the only thing that doesn’t expire is Grover Norquist’s pledge–and that’s nuts.” – Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH)

“I’m married to Camille Andrews, not Grover Norquist. I promised her to be faithful until death do us part, and I mean it. I did not promise him to oppose tax increases until death do us part.” – Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ)

“We shouldn’t be bound by something that could be interpreted different ways if what we’re trying to accomplish is broad-based tax reform.” – Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

All these rejections of Norquist’s pledge looked hopeful until he had a private audience with his minions last Wednesday. After visiting Graham, he said, “Graham will never vote for a tax increase.” About Coburn, Norquist said, “He had a moment of weakness where he thought you had to raise taxes to get spending restraint. He now knows that’s not true.” Norquist has lost Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), the only Democrat Senator to sign the pledge, but he probably doesn’t much care. Nelson is not running for re-election.

Norquist went to the Hill to “educate” Congressmen. “We believe that if you make the taxes simpler and can actually lower the taxes, the government takes in more money,” freshman Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) said after the meeting. I guess that’s “Grover-speak.”

Signing the Norquist pledge smacks of treason. All members of Congress sign an oath to protect the Constitution. Article I, Section 8 states:

“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”

The Norquist pledge states:

I, ____, pledge to the taxpayers of the (____ district of the) state of _____ and to the American people that I will: ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

Instead of providing for the “general welfare” as required by the Constitution, conservatives sign a pledge resulting in a policy of “sink or swim” for everyone in the country—except the wealthy. As any parent knows, two-year-olds say “No!” to everything no matter what it is. Multi-dimensional adults use a thoughtful approach.

Both taxes and government spending are the lowest they have been in 60 years. Yet Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are determined to raise taxes on the poor and middle class while drastically cutting taxes for the top 1% of income earners with each plan adding trillions to the nation’s debt. The Norquist Pledge of “No!” means protecting the corporate interest. That’s the summer’s fight—right after the Supreme Court ruling on health care.

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