Nel's New Day

January 13, 2018

DDT: Good, Bad & Weird

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:50 PM
Tags: ,

After excoriating his predecessor for how little he worked, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has a rapidly shrinking schedule from about 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, with hours of “Executive Time,”—watching television—before he retires to the residence for more television and tweeting. Months ago, he admitted that the presidency is “more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.” Now he’s working much less than earlier and holding fewer meetings because he “didn’t like the longer official schedule.” Last week DDT had no public events on his schedule. His total work schedule seems to average 1.75 hours of work each day. Yet he (with the GOP) still manages to put his mark on the nation. Here are a few from last week:

The Good:

For the first time, a court has ruled that states cannot draw legislative districts to benefit one party. North Carolina is required to redraw its 13 unconstitutionally-partisan congressional districts within three weeks. Other gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland are pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. In the 2016 general election, Republicans in North Carolina had a less than two percent majority of the votes for U.S. House of Representatives but gained ten of the thirteen positions. The U.S. Supreme Court will also hear two Texas cases about the GOP oppressing minority voting.

This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, regarding the Ohio law that purges voters from the roles if they have not voted in two federal elections and not responded to responded to a notice from state officials. Federal law “says you can’t use failure to vote as the reason for purging somebody from the rolls,” but Ohio claims that the justification is that they don’t respond to the notice. The 2016 election showed that people may not respond but still want to vote, as in the case of 7,500 voters after the 6th Circuit Court blocked the law. DDT’s Solicitor General Noel Francisco, a former member of the religious conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, vaguely responded to his support of disenfranchisement when Justice Sonia Sotomayor said:

“There’s a 24-year history of solicitor generals of both political parties under . . . presidents of both political parties who have taken a position contrary to yours. [It] seems quite unusual that your office would change its position so dramatically.”

Ohio is the only state that initiates a voter purge immediately after a person fails to vote in one election.

Anti-choice activist Teresa Manning who doesn’t believe in the efficacy of popular contraception has resigned her position as director of the HHS family planning program that includes providing Title X family-funding for four million poor people in the U.S. Security officials escorted from the building. [Bad News: Abstinence education advocate Valerie Huber is still acting deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Population Affairs.]

Federal Judge James Boasberg, skeptical about why the DOJ won’t release former FBI director James Comey’s memos about DDT, ordered DOJ to give him the memos so that he can decide whether they should be released.

DDT’s again waived sanctions against Iran after claiming that he will stop the U.S. deal with Iran.

Claiming that President Obama sold the U.S. embassy in the UK and moved its location, DDT is canceling his trip to London. The change was initiated during the second George W. Bush term, and the U.S. didn’t own the embassy. Massive protests had already been promised for his visit. [Bad News: Media such as the AP didn’t correct DDT’s lies.]

After building into an ultra-conservative website since Andrew Breitbart’s death in 2012, Steve Bannon lost his positions as executive chairman and host of a daily show on SiriusXM Radio. Since his breakup with DDT and financial supporters Robert and Rebekah Mercer, Bannon has also hired Bill Burck of Quinn Emanuel to prepare for his interview with the House Intelligence committee next week and will “fully cooperate” with Robert Mueller’s investigation.

A White House court filing admitted DDT’s voting “integrity” commission found no voter fraud in 2016  and will destroy the group’s confidential voter data. Former leader Kris Kobach was caught in a lie when DHS said that he would not be advising an investigation of the commission findings. [Bad News: Until DDT, the Department of Homeland Security was responsible for catching terrorists; now it has been assigned to search for non-existent voter fraud.]

Four GOP House members—Carlos Curbelo (FL), Mia Love (UT), Erik Paulsen (MN), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL)—denounced DDT for his shithole comments. [Bad News: The other 233 GOP members of the House supported DDT or stayed complicitly silent.]

The Bad:

Last June, DDT said that he would be willing to answer questions about any Russian collusion under oath. Last week he avoided the topic. DDT’s lawyers are considering a tactic of DDT’s signing an affidavit that he has committed no wrongdoing and knows nothing about any collusion instead of meeting with prosecutors. Much more will be heard about the interaction between Robert Mueller and DDT’s lawyers in the coming weeks.

Russian oligarch and Putin ally Oleg Deripaska is using Mueller’s indictment as part of his evidence in suing Paul Manafort and Rick Gates for misappropriation of $18.9 million. Manafort supposedly offered the oligarch private briefings on the DDT campaign in July 2016. In late 2017, a $26 million loan to Manafort brought the amount of loans from Deripaska to approximately $60 million in the past decade.

Rep. Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, is blocking witnesses from testifying about Russia and DDT, even those who know about the July 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer. Nunes has also blocked requests for documents.

DDT’s plan “Buy American,” putting guns into the hands of drug cartels and terrorists, uses U.S. attachés and diplomats as arms dealers and expands weapons sales to countries with poor human rights records. Embassy staffers will be responsible for promoting weapons sales and helping finalize pending arms deals. Authors of “Buy American” are connected to the arms manufacturing industry. The State Department is also eliminating registration of manufacturers, small gunsmiths, and exporters to sell firearms overseas by transferring the licensing of gun exports to the Commerce Department.

Promising to reduce the trade deficit, DDT now oversees the largest trade deficit in almost six years. In November, exporters rose .2 percent less imports, resulting in a $50.5 billion trade deficit that signifies declining economic growth.

Under DDT, the IRS decided—for the third time—to use private collection companies to recover almost $500 billion in unpaid taxes. Like the past two times, the attempt was a failure: taxpayers spent $20 million to recover $6.7 million through abusive and underhanded collection methods. Almost half the taxpayers on the contracts suffer from economic hardships, and contractors got commissions for work that they didn’t do. The IRS doesn’t plan to change its new system.

The same Russian-based organization, Pawn Storm, that hacked the DNC in 2016 started targeting the U.S. Senate when Russian Olympic players were banned for life in 2017.

Today a false warning of missile attacks on Hawaii drove the population into a panic. It appears that North Korea is four years ahead of U.S. guesstimates on its missile developments. A senior official said that the past year has been a “humbling lesson.”

DDT has given five-year waivers to five megabanks with affiliates convicted and fined for manipulating global interest rates. He owes at least $130 million to one of them, the Deutsche Bank, which has also been fined for $10 billion Russian money laundering. BuzzFeed has released information about DDT’s possibly money-laundering profit from selling condos.

The Weird:

Asked about accusations of his instability, DDT compared himself with Ronald Reagan—the president who suffered from mental instability while he was in the White House. If you think that DDT is a “stable genius,” read the unedited transcript of his interview with the Wall Street Journal. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) is proposing a bill requiring all presidential candidates to publicly disclose the results of a medical examination before the election. It is called the Standardizing Testing and Accountability Before Large Elections Giving Electors Necessary Information for Unobstructed Selection Act—the Stable Genius Act.

The federal government says that the tool used for withholding tax under the new tax law “may” not be accurate. Wage earners are responsible for using a new tool available in February to see if the employers are right about the amount of withholding. Hmm.

DDT said he would “absolutely” be willing to talk on the phone to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and that he hopes a positive development results from talks between North Korea and South Korea. He also announced that the U.S. has sold F-52 fighter jets to Norway. The fictional F-52 was created in the 2014 video game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, a first-person shooter about young people shouting racial slurs. And he said he may change his mind about dropping out of the Paris agreement. But nobody knows what that means.

The White House released a message purportedly from the doctor who performed DDT’s physical exam yesterday:

“The president’s physical exam today at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center went exceptionally well. The president is in excellent health and I look forward to briefing some of the details on Tuesday. Dr. Ronnie Jackson”

Two problems: doctors’ signatures don’t use “Dr.” but instead put initials such as M.D. after the name, and “Ronnie” is misspelled. The doctor’s name is “Ronny Jackson.”

More about the DDT saga tomorrow.


October 2, 2016

Trump Needs Evangelical Votes

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 9:10 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Donald Trump has long known that Christian fundamentalists could provide him the path to the presidency. That decision led him to curry the favor of religious right leaders who claimed for a short time that he had become a “born again Christian.” Since then, he is working to destroy the freedom of religion part of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

As Trump does with all his campaigning, he is now going over the edge in trying to woo conservative Christians. At a rally last week, he asked people in the crowd to raise their hands if they aren’t Christians. After a few brave people put their hands in the air, he said, “That’s alright. I think we’ll keep them, right? Shall we keep them in the room? I think so.” Trump’s method of identifying and shaming non-Christians wasn’t a one-time practice. He did it at another rally that day.

Trump may be winning with the evangelicals, but he lacks popularity with Roman Catholics. Hillary Clinton is ahead by 23 points with this demographic group at 55 percent to 32 percent. The last three GOP presidential candidates received over 40 percent of the Catholic vote.

Political scientist Michael J. New wrote in the conservative National Review that Trump lost support because of his attacks on Latino immigrants, considered the future of the Catholic church, and his attacks on Pope Francis. Christopher Hale, the executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, called the Trump-Pence ticket the “most anti-Catholic GOP presidential ticket in modern history.” In addition to Trump’s anti-immigration position, his running mate, Mike Pence, has a strong record of blocking the Catholic Church’s efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in Indiana.

Trump’s ratings with the Mormons are also so low that he could lose Utah, a state that hasn’t voted Democratic since Goldwater’s debacle in 1964. Trump is still seven points ahead of Hillary Clinton, but an independent run by Evan McMullin is gaining momentum. In addition to Trump’s immigration problem, Mormon Mitt Romney is a staunch Never Trumper, and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), whose Mormon pioneer ancestors settled in northern Arizona, refuses to vote for the GOP presidential candidate. Utah’s GOP Sen. Mike Lee has refused to support Trump because of his “religiously intolerant” statements in banning Muslims from the U.S. Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz (a convert to Mormonism at Brigham Young University) told a group of 50 Utah Muslims that Trump’s call to ban Muslims is un-American, immoral, and does not represent “who we are as a people.”

Last May, former Sen. Bob Bennett, dying from a stroke, asked:

“Are there any Muslims in the hospital? I’d love to go up to every single one of them to thank them for being in this country and to apologize to them on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump.”

Utah’s GOP governor, Gary Herbert, declared that Trump lacks “Utah values” because of his “bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics,” as Mitt Romney describes Trump. Herbert pointed out that Trump’s campaign is based almost exclusively on creating “scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants”—something that Mormons have faced all their lives through violence and state-sponsored persecution. Mormonism, like Catholicism, is also dependant on Latinos for its growth. With close to 1,400,000 church members, Mexico is second only to the U.S. as the nation with the largest Mormon population.

Mormons on the political left ask GOP Mormons to pray for anyone except Trump to become president. On the popular Mormon blog By Common Consent, Russell Fox, a political science professor at Friends University, wrote about how Trump, as president, “would apparently be comfortable with trashing the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 14th amendments.” He stated that it was up to the Mormons to save the country.

Recent polls show that 80 percent of white evangelicals intend to vote for Trump. It’s not because he’s a born-again; it shows how much their desire for political power has overcome their Christian principles. Trump has promised that he will allow non-profit, tax-exempt religious groups to endorse political candidates, destroying the separation of church and state. He has enflamed the religious right by falsely claiming that their religious institutions would lose their tax-exempt status “if they openly advocate their political views.” By spreading this lie, Trump hopes to get the votes of conservative Christians. He is the first presidential zealot who has advocated for overturning the law that was signed by GOP President Eisenhower.

After declaring his campaign, Trump used Christianity as an excuse for his decisions. In refusing to release his tax returns, he claimed that the IRS was persecuting him for his “strong Christian” beliefs. Christian leaders endorsing him had trouble justifying their position about a man who has bragged about his extramarital affairs. When Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson personally endorsed Trump, he said that his conversion had made him “born again.” Trump has never made this claim, and Dobson shifted his statement to saying, “Only the Lord knows the condition of a person’s heart. I can only tell you what I’ve heard.”)

Evangelicals are a fertile field for an authoritarian candidate who praises the anti-LGBT leader of Russia who wants a “Christian civilization.” For example, Bryan Fischer called Vladimir Putin a “lion of Christianity” and called on legislators to eliminate free speech. Others have called Putin “the moral leader of the world” and champion of “traditional marriage and Christian values.” Franklin Graham, son of the great Billy Graham, puts Putin above President Obama and praised Russia’s actions in Syria, called a “holy battle” by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Trump’s other voting base comes from the white supremacy movement that believes in eliminating all except “the right kind of people.” Some of the “wrong kind of people” are non-Christians, including Jews.  The candidate shows himself in accord with these groups such as the Alt-Right led by Jared Taylor. As shown in the Frontline documentary, “The Choice,” Trump’s father taught his son that success is genetic. Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio said:

“The family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development. They believe that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring.”

Like other Trump ideas, this philosophy matches that of Adolf Hitler who murdered over six million people because they lacked the right genes, because they weren’t “the right kind of people.”

A religious conversion may work for Trump if it fits into his business value of fleecing people with his scams. Last summer he selected televangelist Paula White, his “spiritual leader” as his evangelical outreach leader. White has a resurrection seed that will bring the dead back to life—for only $1,144. Russell Moore, leader of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, called White  a “charlatan” and a “heretic” who preaches a “prosperity gospel” that falsely claims that “God’s favor is seen in increasing wealth and freedom from sickness.” [Below: White and other prosperity preachers lay hands on Donald Trump and pray for him at Trump Tower, from a video made September 2015.]


White’s advice complements Trump’s goal: “Find your passion in life and figure out a way to make money.” Before her divorce from her second husband, Congress investigated them for an abuse of the tax-exempt status of their church. Trump and White are a matched set: religion is a scam for both of them.

April 28, 2016

I’m Voting for Hillary Clinton

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 9:27 PM
Tags: , ,

Oregon is unique in its system of voting: everyone votes by mail without long lines, inaccessibility to the polls, discriminatory mandatory IDs, poll workers who turn people away, shortened hours for voting that may not mesh with voters working schedules, etc. Sometime before May 17, I will mark my ballot and put it in a convenient drop box. This year I’m marking the box beside Hillary Clinton’s name for president.

Bernie Sanders has many commendable attributes. He was 100 percent right when he said that Clinton needed competition, and he has changed the conversation surrounding what it means to be a Democrat and a progressive. For too many years, the Democratic party has moved to the right, largely from fear of failure at the polls. The Supreme Court’s support of big business, blatantly shown in Citizens United, has warped the campaign process and twisted politics into working for corporations instead of the people who elect lawmakers.

People who plan to vote for Sanders want what he offers—big business out of politics, free college tuition, single-payer insurance, $15 minimum wage, return of the middle class, carbon tax to slow down climate change, etc. I want the same thing, but I’m voting for Clinton because I think she has a better chance moving toward progressive success.

Sanders shows rigidity in his policy of “my way or the highway.” When George W. Bush had this approach, we hated it. Sanders focuses on one solution; Clinton looks for alternatives. He pushed her to support his one position on Social Security and then ridiculed her because she provided alternatives. Clinton looks for compromises; Sanders has said that compromise is important, but he refuses the middle ground.

Clinton knows that passing a $15 minimum wage for the entire country when the federal wage is currently $7.25 is impossible without increments, but Sanders ridicules her when she says that $12, a 40 percent increase, could be a beginning. Oregon, for example, discovered that even with a Democratic legislature and governor, the importance of a compromise to put the minimum wage at a sliding scale from $14.75 in the largest urban area to $12.50 in rural areas. We hate Congress because it won’t compromise; we need to accept it in a president.

Every speech that Sanders makes incorporates his complaint that Clinton takes money from Wall Street, but he never explains how she has supported Wall Street. As far back as 2007 Clinton introduced the American Home Ownership Preservation Act to try to save people from the housing bubble that most politicians refused to recognize. At the same time, she warned about the danger of derivatives and issued calls to eliminate the so-called carried interest loophole, roll back the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, and place limits on chief executives’ compensation. She still has plans to regulate Wall Street, but they are complicated. The slogan of “takes money from Wall Street” is easier as a sound bite.

Sanders has no plans on how to carry out his visionary, grandiose plans. In every Clinton town hall, she addresses questions from the audience in how to accomplish her plans, but Sanders has no suggestions beyond how important his ideas are. Yes, they are vital to the survival of 90 percent of people in the United States, but the problem is how to achieve them.

Sanders doesn’t do his homework. The Washington Post ran the headline “Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president,” but she didn’t say that. Yet Sanders leaped on the media’s translation of Clinton’s carefully parsed answer on The Morning Joe Show and accused Clinton of being unqualified—useful fodder for the GOP if Clinton should become the Democratic presidential candidate. Her conclusion was that “I think he hadn’t done his homework,” and Sanders proved this with his response. Clinton’s actual statements are here.     

Most recently, Sanders accused Clinton of an illegal fundraising scheme, using “proof” from a Washington Post article from two years earlier than doesn’t list any specific misdeeds. Yet he didn’t take his complaints to the FEC, the appropriate agency to investigate election wrongdoings, but instead contacted the DNC. Thirty minutes after his accusations, his campaign used the allegations in a new fundraising message. Now the issue has disappeared.

Early in the campaign, Sanders appeared reasonable, and the two were able to discuss issues in their debates. The more votes that Sanders got, the angrier he became. In the most recent debate, he consistently interrupted her after waving his hand in the air and failed to let her answer questions directed to her while ridiculing her, and repeating his standard one-issue position that she takes money from Wall Street. The Washington Post described Sanders with such terms as “caustic, angry and bitter” and “dripping sarcasm and ironic snark.” Unfortunately, it lowered the debate to the level of the Republicans’ cage fights.

Sanders admits that he is a one-issue candidate—income inequality. (Actually, two issues when one considers his positions with his concern about climate change.) He made that obvious after Donald Trump’s far-right statement about punishing women for having abortions by criticizing Trump’s comments as a distraction from the “serious issues” facing the country. Sanders didn’t address concerns from minorities until he was pushed into doing so, and, despite his high record in voting for women’s rights, has not shown himself a leader in this area. he also demonstrates ignorance about foreign affairs, something about which Clinton is well versed.

Someone else is always to blame for Sanders’ losing votes—the media ignores him, blacks support Clinton, closed primaries, the poor don’t vote, etc. He was highly critical about Clinton collecting super delegates early in the race, a technique that she learned after Barack Obama did the same thing in 2008. More recently, however, Sanders’ campaign said that he would try to get these delegates even if Clinton won the popular vote and the assigned delegates.

Sanders has a big problem with his “passionate” followers trolling women journalists who support Clinton and call them sexist terms. They also harass delegates, threatening them if they don’t vote for Sanders. A speaker at Sanders’ Manhattan rally lambasted “corporate Democratic whores.” Sanders isn’t responsible for his followers, but he also doesn’t criticize them.

The “political revolution” can’t happen without support at the polls, and some of his followers aren’t helping him there. In Wisconsin, he warned against electing a far-right state supreme court justice who applies her religious views to her judicial rulings and protects Gov. Scott Walker from any judicial problems, but 15 percent of voters for Sanders ignored everyone else on the ballot. Young people promised a revolution in 2008, and they allowed the Tea Party to take over two years later. These Sanders’ supporters couldn’t even be bothered to help with the revolution when they had their ballots in their hands.

While Sanders and others decry Clinton’s “honesty,” Politifact judges Clinton higher on the Truth-O-Meter. In True or Mostly True, Clinton has 95 ratings, and Sanders has 49.  Although more of Clinton’s statements have been rated than those from Sanders, she still comes out with higher ratings.

When I told a young woman I was voting for Clinton, she said, “But Clinton voted for DOMA (Defense of Marriage).” I pointed out that she was First Lady, not senator, when that passed and that women should not be blamed for what their husbands do. The woman said that it was still Clinton’s fault because she had a great deal of influence over her husband. During the Clinton administration, however, the First Lady was constantly criticized for being too liberal, a socialist when compared to her husband’s centrist agenda. She and her aides were known as “the Bolsheviks” by economists.

One problem I have with Clinton is her strong support of Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Yet Sanders has been very neutral until his supporters gave him the go-ahead to support Palestine. He was praised for not speaking at the AIPAC meeting, but he requested that he address the meeting via video link. AIPAC President Robert Cohen refused. As Nicholas Sawaya pointed out, “[Sanders] record on key issues in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice falls well short.”

When my ballot arrives, I’m marking it for Hillary Clinton. She’s careful, doesn’t jump to conclusions, and has a wealth of information to use in making decisions. She considers alternatives and doesn’t lose her temper. Her diplomacy is known throughout the world. She also stands for the same things that Sanders does, but she will be better at accomplishing these tasks. Forty-one senators have endorsed Clinton, showing her potential for working with Congress. Only one senator has endorsed Sanders. (A list of Clinton endorsements are here.) More of my reasons for voting for Clinton.


October 12, 2015

Time for Native American Day

Today is Columbus Day. The federal holiday has caused millions and millions of children to be taught myths as truth because President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the Knights of Columbus a gift of a federal holiday honoring a Catholic man. Evidence shows that Leif Eriksson led a band of Vikings to North American five centuries before 1492 and established a settlement before the indigenous peoples drove them off. It is also thought that Irish monks, the Chinese, Africans, and others “discovered” the continent before Columbus—a place already discovered by the people who had moved to the New World across the Bering Land Bridge 10,000 to 15,000 years earlier. Even when Columbus died, 16 years after he landed on the island, he thought he had found a path to Asia, his original purpose. But still, the United States celebrates Christopher Columbus.

The first Columbus Day celebration in the United States was in New York in 1792 to honor Oct. 12, 1492, the day that Columbus and his ships first made landfall on an island in the Caribbean Sea. It was to honor Italian-Americans because people believed Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy, instead of Spain’s Catalonia region. One-hundred years later, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation asking people to celebrate the day with patriotic festivities to mark the 400th anniversary of the voyage. In 1971, the national holiday established in 1937 was moved to the second Monday in October as the U.S. decided three-day weekends are important.

About the Taino people who Columbus encountered, he wrote, “With 50 men they could all be subjected and made to do all that one might wish. [They were] fit to be ordered about, to sow, and do everything else that may be needed.” A former slave trader, Columbus captured “seven head of women, young ones and adults, and three small children” to take back to Spain.

Columbus’ journals of his voyages document graphic acts of rape and brutality. He and his men chopped off the hands of Taino slaves who failed to get a daily quota of gold, and female slaves were forced to leave their babies on the road sides. Spanish conquistadors bet who could chop a Taino body in half with just one blow. In 1499, Columbus was arrested, chained up, and brought back to Spain.

History has described Columbus as “self-centered, ruthless, avaricious, and racist,” and he left a legacy of death, pillage, and rape of the land filled with colonialism, enslavement, discrimination, and land grabs. Thanks to people who followed Columbus, one-third of Native Americans died of disease—chicken pox, measles, cholera, malaria, typhoid, bubonic plague, etc.

People who think that the indigenous people in the United States no longer suffer as they have in the past need to consider what the government is doing to them in the 21st century. Native Americans didn’t get the right to vote in 1924 because the Fourteenth Amendment excluded Indians. Yet states found ways to keep Indians from voting for most of the 20th century through methods such as literacy tests. Despite lawsuits, some states refuse to recognize tribal IDs for voting and will not set up satellite polling locations on reservations, forcing Indians to drive as far as 163 miles or even to fly to a polling place. No access to early voting makes the process even more difficult.

White men are still allowed to abuse Indian youth. Last year, 57 Lakota students between 8 and 13 were rewarded for academic achievements by attending a hockey match in Rapid City (SD). At the game, a group of men in an executive suite poured beer over their heads and shouted, “Go back to the Rez!” Only one perpetrator faced criminal charges, and he was acquitted when a judge declared that the beer was just sprayed in excitement over a goal. The children are afraid to leave the reservation now.

Until last April, South Dakota’s Department of Social Services routinely placed Native children in white foster homes while denying Indian parents and guardians any due process rights in the hearing process. Parents were not allowed to examine evidence or cross-examine witnesses in hearings that sometimes lasted less than one minute, on average less than five minutes. One judge, Jeff Davis, ruled against Indian parents every time. Judges also told parents that their jurisdictions could ignore the law. An average of 740 Indian children was taken from their homes each year, some of them sexually abused in their foster homes.

Years ago, Indian children were taken from reservations and sent to “schools” where they were forced away from their culture. Putting children into white foster homes serves and same purpose, and white entitlement in the United States supports this “assimilation.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), currently a GOP presidential candidate, said that if Native Americans were “assimilated,” that it would take only a decade for them to “probably be doing as well as the rest of us.” That’s his excuse for taking all the reservation lands and forget the way that white people refused to “assimilate” to the native culture of the country where they committed genocide.

Governments are still taking land away from Native Americans. For example, a section in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act transferred the San Carlos Apache tribe’s sacred area of Oak Flat in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest to mining company Resolution Copper. The land had been protected since 1955 when President Eisenhower declared it closed to mining because of its cultural and natural value, and President Nixon’s administration renewed the decree in 1971. Mining will destroy the area, but Arizona GOP Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake supported the land grab after they received contributions from Rio Tinto, mining company’s parent corporation. Flake was also a paid lobbyist for Rio Tinto Rössing Uranium in Namibia before being elected to Congress.

When Phil Stago of the White Mountain Apache Tribe protested the removal of his tribe’s land, Arizona’s 4th District Rep. Paul Gosar told him, “You’re still wards of the federal government.” Gosar was repeating the position that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall took in the 1830s. Although Congress controls Indian affairs, tribes are known as sovereign nations. The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ website describes the federal government as trustee of Indian property, not the guardian of all American Indians and Alaska Natives.

McCain has a history of taking Indian land. In 1974, Senator John McCain wrote the 1974 Relocation Act which moved over 14,000 Navajo and 100 Hopi from their homelands to the site of a uranium mining accident in Chambers (AZ) where they developed lung cancer and their babies were born with birth defects. The excuse was to settle a land dispute between the two tribes, but the real purpose was to exploit mineral resources by creating two of the biggest coal strip mines in the nation. Ceasing operations in 2005, the mine left a 273-mile abandoned coal-slurry pipeline and 325 million tons of climate pollution in the atmosphere.

The state of Michigan wants to give 13,000 acres (about 20 square miles) of Native American treaty land to a Canadian company to develop a limestone mine. The state will get $4.53 million. It’s not a done deal yet, but Native Americans must fight for their land.

Like other minorities, Native Americans are victimized by the U.S. justice system with an incarceration rate 38 percent higher than the national average and four times the rate of white men. Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than any other racial group and fall victim to violent crime at more than double all other citizens. While Native American women are incarcerated at six times the rate of white women, 88 percent of violent crime committed against Native American women is by non-Native perpetrators. Native American youths are 30 percent more likely than whites to be referred to juvenile court than have charges dropped.

A movement to honor Native Americans on October 12 has been growing in the past decades. Both Hawaii and the Bahamas call October 12, “Discovery Day,” and South Dakota began to use the term Native American Day in 1989. In 1992, Berkeley (CA) changed the name to Indigenous Peoples Day. Nine cities—including Albuquerque, Portland (OR), and Olympia (WA)—have followed suit. It’s not much, but it’s a start to recognize white entitlement, the belief that nothing has value or exists unless a white man is in charge. That’s a belief that may become more predominant in states such as South Dakota, which not longer requires Native American history to be taught in the public schools. Schools that do teach Indian history treat the subject as if Native Americans are gone—that they no longer exist. But that’s what many white people want.

July 28, 2015

Oregon, Model for State Legislatures

After the Oregon legislature finished five months of work earlier this year, the conservative Oregonian published an editorial titled “2015 Legislative Session Will be Remembered More for Failures.” The writer lamented what was not accomplished–the lack of raising the gas tax, inability to increase the minimum wage, and allowing “rural communities exceptions to land-use policies in certain circumstances.”

The sometimes more liberal Register-Guard followed with the same moaning a few weeks later, repeating the failure of a plan to pay for repair of the state’s infrastructure. Both papers are correct in the frustration of not advancing this one issue although the fault came from Republicans, upset because a low-carbon fuels program due to sunset this year was extended to reduce carbon content of fuels by ten percent in the next ten years.

The gas tax is important, but both editorials ignored the fact that the 2015 Oregon legislature passed, and Gov. Kate Brown signed, 689 progressive laws in five months while the U.S. Congress managed only 40 percent that number in all of 2014. This happened at the same time that many other states passed a majority of regressive laws. These states should use Oregon as a model for ways to benefit women and children.


Schools: Without raising taxes, the legislature increased the K-12 budget by 25 percent since 2011 and provided funding for all-day kindergarten for all Oregon children. State community colleges got a 20-percent increase, and universities did better at 30-percent increase. Knowing that the suspension and expulsion can lead to prison, new laws limit school suspension in grades 5 and lower and stops expulsion being used for truancy. Hunger keeps students from learning so all students eligible for reduced-price lunches will now receive their meals free, and students may count time for getting their free breakfasts as instructional time. Students can attend community colleges free if they meet certain criteria, and students brought into the state who pay in-state tuition are eligible for grants.

Youth: The Oregon Health Authority is required to establish and maintain a list of chemicals of concern for children’s health used in children’s products.

Gun Sense: While other states make their laws more lax, Oregon passed laws to keep the possession of guns from domestic violence offenders and people subject to domestic abuse restraining orders. Federal background checks are required for all private gun sales except between family members.

Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence/Stalking/Other Sex Crimes: A number of laws should make life safer for victims of these crimes. Release orders for defendants charged with sex crimes or domestic violence must prohibit attempted contact with victim and third-party contact with victim while defendant is in custody. Personal support workers and home care workers are added to the list of mandatory reporters of abuse of children, elderly persons and other vulnerable persons, and short term, emergency protection orders for victims are available on a 24 hour, 7-day a week basis.

Stalking victims no longer have to pay fees to get a protective restraining order. Rape charges can be made for 12 years after the alleged crime. The posting of naked photos of lovers or partners on the Internet without their permission with the intent to humiliate or ruin reputations is prohibited. Upskirting—intentionally photographing a person’s “intimate areas”–is prohibited in all cases as is setting up hidden cameras in places where privacy is presumed—a crime now a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

Victims are now free to access support and advocacy without fear of disclosure. Conversations between sexual-assault survivors and specially trained advocates are private. Patients can redirect their explanation of benefit documents away from the policyholder to keep medical information private from others such as parents and abusive or estranged spouses. Oregon universities, colleges and community colleges must give sexual-assault victims written information on their rights, legal options, campus services, confidentiality policies, school disciplinary procedures and off-campus resources.

Low-Income Relief: Tax credits for low-income families have been expanded for another six years. Seniors and other Oregonians surviving on Social Security Housing and other income exempt from collections will not be subject to collection of unpaid state income taxes. In another law that helps low-income people, unclaimed damage awards from class-action lawsuits will be directed to the Oregon State Bar’s legal-aid fund. Community Services Department may use moneys in Housing Development and Guarantee Account for housing for persons with low or very low income, and a new law provides $40 million to build hundreds of affordable housing units for low-income people and $25 million to build housing focused on people with mental illness.

LGBTQ Issues: Oregon became the third state to ban mental health therapy to change sexual orientation or gender identity for anyone younger than 18 and the first state to provide help to veterans discharged because of their sexual orientation. A coordinator will help LGBT veterans change their discharge status and access benefits since the repeal of illegal status because of sexual orientation as well as providing outreach and assistance to spouses and dependents of these veterans. The Oregon no longer uses the word “husband and wife.” All these references have been changed to “spouses in a legal marriage” in the state code.

Employment: A significant win in Oregon is paid sick leave for all state and private employers with ten or more employees. Each person will receive one hour per 30 hours of work up to 56 hours of annual paid sick leave. Employers cannot punish employees who ask or give information about wage information. In another important law called “Ban the Box,” employers are forbidden to ask about criminal history on a job application. Workplace rights for domestic workers have been extended to overtime pay, rest periods, and paid personal time off. Employees on family leave must receive the continuation of group health insurance coverage.

Health & Safety Issues: All people with ongoing medical prescriptions can get a 90-day supply, and insurers must pay for a 12-month supply of contraceptives to qualifying women. Hospitals who rely on certified nurse midwives will have to give them admitting privileges. Homes and schools have a 60-foot, no-spray buffer from herbicide spraying. In an attempt to fight the result of “bomb trains” carrying volatile fuel, the Oregon State Fire Marshal will be in charge of and receive funding for coordinating outreach, developing a spill response plan, and conducting exercises, training, and support in the area of train safety. (HB 3225)

Law Enforcement: The Department of Corrections will continue the Family Preservation Project for parent inmates at Coffee Creek for ongoing contact with children and extend the program at other prisons. This program has been highly successful in keeping parents from returning to prison after they are released. Some non-violent custodial parent offenders may have the alternative of intense supervised probation so that they can keep their children. Police cannot target suspects based on age, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, language, gender, sex, political affiliation, religion or other identifying factors–unless the officer is acting on precise information from a report.

Voting: Another first for the nation is the “Motor Voter” law that automatically registers Oregon (with an opt-out window) for voting with the data on driver’s license records.

gomberg 2Everyone in Oregon should be proud of living in a state where the legislature protects and serves the residents. At the end of the five-month session, my representative, David Gomberg, described the session as “one of the more challenging and productive in recent memory.” Challenging, I don’t know, but productive, certainly. In addition to the laws that were passed, the Oregon legislation rejected laws that would overturn Jackson County’s ban on GMOS and several laws that would make the gun laws more lax in the state, including a reciprocity agreement with other states that do not do careful background checks on gun sales.

Thank you, Oregon!

More information about laws in the 2015 Oregon Legislature here and here.

November 3, 2014

Election 2014 Results Announced Tomorrow

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 7:25 PM
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The NRA claims that it just wants to keep guns in the hands of people for hunting and an occasional protection from house break-ins. In the organization’s most recent issue of America’s 1st Freedom publication, Wayne LaPierre has gone over the edge in trying to terrify NRA members. He claims that people in the United States face these terrors:

  • An electromagnetic pulse attack (EMP) that can kill “as much as 90 percent of the population of the U.S.” through the reemergence of “Third World” diseases such as “amoebic dysentery, typhoid, [and] cholera–killing our youngest and frailest family members.”
  • A cyber attack that can put “our economy into a tailspin” and become “deadly” if hackers take over a dam or oil processing facility.
  • An attack “along the lines of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, where terrorists launched a dozen coordinated attacks, gunning down innocent victims at hotels, a bar, a train station, a hospital and a movie theater,” killing 164 people.
  • An incident similar to a 2013 terrorist attack on a mall in Kenya where “[f]our armed terrorists linked to al Qaeda were able–thanks to Kenya’s strict anti-gun laws–to spend four days torturing, mutilating and gunning down shoppers with almost no fear of reprisal.”

Every proposed disaster—meteor strike, meteor strike, a solar flare, mall terrorists, crop failures, roving Mexican drug gangs—ends with the chance to kill people. The NRA wants gun-friendly candidates, not to have guns for hunting but to have weapons that give everyone the chance to kill people without government interference.

New Hampshire State GOP chairman Jennifer Horn calls for more GOP violence in describing its campaigning against Democrats:

 “This is our time. We need to crush it. We need to grab it, run with it, push their heads under over and over again until they cannot breathe anymore, until the elections are over Tuesday night.”

Sen. Rand Paul believes in voter suppression but wants the GOP candidates to stop talking about how they want to suppress minority and low-income voters’ input to their elected representatives:

 “It doesn’t mean that I think [photo ID is] unreasonable, I just think it’s a dumb idea for Republicans to emphasize this and say ‘this is how we are going to win the elections.”

On Face the Nation, Paul told Bob Schieffer, “I’m not really opposed to [voter ID laws]. I am opposed to it as a campaign theme.”

On the accuracy of the candidate polling for tomorrow’s election:

According to the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the two major political parties are almost neck-and-neck in which party should control Congress: 46 percent want the GOP to have the control, and 45 percent prefer the Democrats. Yet a poll of registered voters, Democrat control is four points ahead of the GOP: 46 percent to 42 percent. State-wide polling shows the same schism between likely and registered voters. In Iowa, Democrat Bruce Braley leads six points in the senate race against Joni Ernst but trails for two points among likely voters. Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan leads by two points with likely voters but by six points with registered voters.

For the Election Day poll-watching junkies, here are the closing times of polls across the United States:


There are some of the races that I’m watching:

6 PM ET: Kentucky – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pitched against Alison Lundergan Grimes.

7 PM ET: Florida – incumbent Gov. Rick Scott against former GOP (now Democrat) Charlie Crist.

Georgia – Jimmy Carter’s grandson, Jason Carter, opposing incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal; Michelle Nunn trying to change one senate member to a Democrat over red, send-jobs-out-of-the-country David Perdue. A runoff is required if not one gets over 50 percent in these races.

New Hampshire – carpet-bagger and former MA senator, Scott Brown, trying to take out Democrat incumbent Jeanne Shaheen.

South Carolina- question of whether GOP incumbent Gov. Nikki Haley keeps her job.

7:30 PM ET: North Carolina – Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan working to keep her lead against Thom Tillis.

8 PM ET: Kansas – possibly the biggest upset in the nation if Democrats win against Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Pat Robertson. Part of the state won’t finish voting until an hour later.

Maine – A Democrat and moderate independent against incumbent GOP Gov. Paul LePage.

Massachusetts – Democrat Martha Coakley fighting to be the governor, a position that she’s lost before.

Michigan – GOP Gov. Rick Snyder, famous for putting dictators into cities and other municipalities, trying to keep his job, and GOP Terri Lynn Land trying to buy a seat in the senate.

Pennsylvania – Democrat Tom Wolf likely to beat out Gov. Tom Corbett (fingers crossed!).

8:30 pm ET: Arkansas – Sen. Mark Pryor classified the most vulnerable Democratic senator in the country up against the Koch brothers Tom Cotton.

9 PM ET: Arizona – Rep. Ron Barber, aide to Rep. Gabby Gifford when she was shot, fighting GOP Martha McSally for a second term.

Colorado – Sen. Mark Udall struggling to keep his blue seat against a personhood candidate.

Louisiana – Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu likely to face a runoff when neither candidates get more than 50 percent.

Wisconsin – GOP Gov. Scott Walker in another tight race against Mary Burke.

10 PM ET: Iowa – the question about whether the pig castrating, shoot-people-who-disagree-with-her GOP senate Joni Ernst can win.

11 PM ET: Washington & Oregon – more questions about initiatives than candidates.

12/1 am ET: Alaska – the struggle with Sen. Mark Begich keeping his seat.

I’m lucky: I dropped my ballot off today with no stress—no photo ID and no standing in lines. When Oregon started this voting process, I worried about coercion from spouses and churches in completing ballots. Watching the rest of the country—for example, the way that North Carolina computers are changing Democrat votes to Republican—I’m grateful that I’m living in a state that believes in citizen representation in elections.

January 19, 2014

Fight for Separation of Church, State Continues

Bryan Fischer (American Family Association) is always good for news although I wonder if he believes what he says. this year’s “novel” idea is to limit voting to property owners, just as the Founding Fathers planned. Renters, according to Fischer, aren’t vested in the community. To quote Fisher, “they’ve got no skin in the game.” (Skin is a very popular topic with conservatives these days.)

This week Fischer also declaimed that trans people are “anti-science” because gender identity is decided by a “creator God who doesn’t make … mistakes.” He was agreeing with Keith Albow, Fox network’s resident “doctor,” who is also “not convinced by any science I can find that people with definitively male DNA and definitively male anatomy can actually be locked in a cruel joke of nature because they are actually female.”

 Fellowship Baptist Church Pastor Mike Lewis may have found a use for Fischer’s unvested people. The Vacaville (CA) went to jail for getting three homeless people under his church’s care to firebomb his ex-girlfriend’s parents’ house with a Molotov cocktail. Sarah Nottingham has also accused Lewis of vandalizing her car and setting fire to her shrubbery. Lewis is claiming his innocence, but the police aren’t buying it. Maybe it was the illegal firearms, methamphetamine, and evidence implicating Lewis in the crime. The day after the police released Lewis, he was back in church, preaching the gospel.

Another preacher has popped up at the University of Connecticut. Recently hired Ernest T. Jones, a position coach for the football team, plans to put Jesus Christ “in the center of our huddle.” He continued:  

“If you want to be successful and you want to win, get championships, then you better understand that this didn’t happen because of you. This happened because of our Lord and Savior. That’s going to be something said by [Head Coach] Bob Diaco. That’s something that’s going to be said by Ernest Jones. That’s who we are.”

If Diaco doesn’t give Jones the bad news, the school administration will. Because the school is publicly funded, it has to abide by the First Amendment—separation of church and state. President Susan Herbst issued a statement that school employees are forbidden from endorsing religion and that all students should feel welcome at the school.

As head coach at his alma mater, Alcorn State University (MS), Jones was fired in 2008 for “malfeasance and contumacious conduct” after just one season. It seems that “contumacious” is a fancy word for stubbornly refusing to obey authority, in this case opening a bank account in which he deposited fund-raising money without any authority. And buying Russell Athletic shoes for the team that had an exclusive deal with Nike and then failed to clean up the $11,000 mess the way he was told. Even with Jesus, Alcorn finished his season 2-8.

Fortunately, the courts are still not 100 percent behind the conservatives. U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton decided that the Oklahoma license plate with the famous artwork of a young Apache warrior shooting an arrow skyward is just fine for the state. Bethany pastor Keith Cressman had protested that the image was an affront to his Christian beliefs and his First Amendment rights against compelled speech were violated by being forced to display the (probably heathen) artwork on his vehicle. Heaton said he didn’t see anything religious about the artwork.

 Individuals are also fighting back at the religious bigotry of the far right. A member of the United Methodist Church in Alexandria (IN) for six years, Adam Fraley was also its choir director. He and his male partner were accepted by most of the church members. New minister David Mantor forced Fraley out of the church and then asked David Steele, intermediary between minister and church membership, to resign after Steele asked Mantor to reconsider. Steele refused, and the district superintendent forcefully removed him from is position. As a result, 80 percent of the congregation left the church.

The United Methodist Church still hasn’t learned its lesson that LGBT people deserve rights. After firing  Frank Schaefer for marrying his son in a same-sex wedding, the Methodists have formally charged another pastor, the Rev. Thomas Ogletree, for officiating at his son’s same-sex unions.  Ogletree, 80, is a theologian, a former Yale Divinity School dean and a retired elder in the church’s New York district, or Annual Conference. His trial will be on March 10, 2014 at First United Methodist Church in Stamford (CN).

Ten sex/love/relationship/marriage/dating suggestions from the same religious people who bring us the egregiously gridlocked Congress:

1. Girls: shut up. Justin Lookadoo, faith-based dating coach, motivational speaker, former juvenile probation officer, and author of Dateable: Are You? Are They?, The Dateable Rules and The Dirt on Sex, says, “Dateable girls know how to shut up.”

2. Boys: be wild, but godly, and cover up your ladies. Lookadoo says “men of God are wild, not domesticated. Dateable guys aren’t tamed.” But he’s against porn so guys “keep women covered up.”

3. Share an eating disorder. The Christian Broadcast Network has 101 ideas for “creative dates,” including “Eat creatively one whole day for $1.18.”

4. Engage in strange, antisocial and alienating behavior. More of CBN’s coupling ideas are “kidnap a friend for breakfast … visit the library and ask the librarian a bizarre question … develop a new laugh together … survey the neighborhood with a self-made, bizarre questionnaire.”

5. Pretend to be senior citizens. Also CBN: “Date like you’re from the generation older or younger than you actually are. Eat ice cream cones and rollerblade in the park for a date fit for teenagers. If you prefer senior-style fun, eat applesauce, play bingo and watch a black-and-white movie.”

6. Transcribe the Bible together. Focus on the Family suggests: “Find a flat piece of scrap wood and use a permanent marker to write out your favorite Bible verses. Take it to a nearby beach, river or lake and toss it in the water. This may be of great encouragement to whoever finds it later on.”

7. Wives: keep the devil out by submitting. Karen Blake, the author of Do You Hear the Battle Cry? An Essential Handbook for the Wives of Christian Men, says, “Satan is out to kill your marriage and destroy your ministry.” You can defeat Satan through submission: “Wives, be subject—be submissive and adapt yourselves—to your own husbands” (Eph. 5:22, Amplified).”

8. Put out so your husband behaves. In her book No More Headaches: Enjoying Sex & Intimacy in Marriage, Julianna Slattery tells the story of Sheila and Mark and concludes: “You’re the only woman in the world whom your husband can look at sexually without compromising his integrity!”

9. Dump your Muslim girlfriend. Pat Robertson advised one of his viewers who asked if he should marry his Muslim girlfriend of three years: “No way…. She wants to do her Muslim thing….Walk away.” What’s the Christian thing to do? Robertson explains, Christ is “not gentle Jesus, meek and mild, he really isn’t.”

10. Stay married to your husband who sexually abuses your kids.In her book, Created To Be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious, Debi Pearl literally tells women to stay with their abusive husbands:

“But if your husband has sexually molested the children, you should approach him with it. If he is truly repentant (not just exposed) and is willing to seek counseling, you may feel comfortable giving him an opportunity to prove himself…. Stick by him, but testify against him in court. Have him do about 10 to 20 years, and by the time he gets out, you will have raised the kids, and you can be waiting for him with open arms of forgiveness and restitution. Will this glorify God? Forever. You ask, ‘What if he doesn’t repent even then?’ Then you will be rewarded in heaven equal to the martyrs, and God will have something to rub in the Devil’s face. God hates divorce — always, forever, regardless, without exception.”

That’s life in the United States if the Tea Party fundamentalists take over.


November 4, 2012

Genetics Shape Religious Beliefs

Why are some people religious and others non-believers? A special report in Scientific American earlier this year addresses the question: “Why does God exists for some of us but not for others?” A study of of people’s religious beliefs shows “that certain personality types are predisposed to land on different spots of the religiosity spectrum.” According to this study, “genetic factors account for more than half of the variability among people on the core dimensions of their character, which implies that a person’s feelings regarding religion also contain a genetic component.”

This study uses the same personality characteristics that have been used to determine the level of conservatism in personality: extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness. These remain stable through a person’s life and are independent of each other.

“Extroverts are dynamic, gregarious and socially warm, whereas introverts are timid and reserved.

“Neuroticism refers to a person’s tendency to be anxious, depressed, and generally emotionally vulnerable, as opposed to emotionally stable and positive.

“A third facet is agreeableness, which captures whether a person is empathetic, helpful and trusting of others, as opposed to mean, individualistic and arrogant.

“Conscientiousness individuals are methodical, self-controlled, and willing to establish goals and work toward achieving them, whereas those low in conscientiousness tend to be impulsive and disorganized.

“Finally we can differ in openness: whether we like novel, challenging and complex ideas, experiences and feelings. Less open individuals prefer to stay within their comfort zone.”

An analysis of studies shows that religious people score higher on agreeableness and conscientious. They end to volunteer more and show more self-control in areas such as low alcohol, drug, and tobacco use. People who  assume that these traits come from their religious beliefs need to understand that personality traits are present in early childhood and then heavily shape social attitudes, values, and identities in later life.

Scholars have long suggested that religion fosters social bonds within large groups of people. Agreeableness and conscientiousness indicate preference for social harmony and personal order—a type of stability.

Another characteristic of religious people is that they are less likely to use humor. They are also more likely to be in education, medical services, health, and humanities fields whereas nonbelievers go into engineering, science, and mathematics.

Individuals low on openness tend to be drawn to fundamental religions. When presented with choices, people in these religions are willing to help familiar people but not strangers. Other tests show the highly religious people are not willing to help people who they perceive as threatening to their personal values. In other words, “those viewed as outsiders were least likely to receive a helping hand from more conservative beliefs.”

Shared environment may play a great role in childhood and adolescence, but the genetic influence kicks in between ages 18 to 25. For adolescents, genetics counts for only 12 percent of religious identity with the environment counting for 56 percent of the outcome. The remainder of the percentage comes from unique characteristics that shape adolescents. In adults, genetics determine 44 percent toward religiosity and 18 percent, environment. The farther they go from the influence of early years, the more idiosyncratic factors determine attitudes.

The report concludes: “Does God call us? For some of us, the answer is yes: through our genes, parents, acquaintances, and life events.

The far-right, religious people tend to accuse the “liberal education” in universities of turning their children away from the church. According to these studies, the young people are just turning to their genetic makeup to make decisions.

The studies also show why more religious people are unwilling to give rights to people who they don’t know, such as marriage equality, and are less likely to care about people in poverty who have starving children. Unless they know the people who need help, they don’t want to provide assistance.

Another interesting part of religion comes from a new poll revealing that more than 68 percent of registered Republican voters believe that people can be possessed by demons. Only 48 percent of self-identified Republicans believe in climate change. The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling, described by NPR as “one of the most prolific polling outfits in the country.” Yet only 37 percent of registered voters–both Democrat and Republican–believe in ghosts. According to the poll, zombies are considered to be the scariest monster, another issue that has not been raised at all on the campaign trail.

Asides:  Newt Gingrich’s newsletter, Human Events, included the following last week: The truth is, the next election has already been decided. Obama is going to win. It’s nearly impossible to beat an incumbent president. What’s actually at stake right now is whether or not he will have a third-term. Once again, politicians prey on the ignorant. According to the 22nd Amendment, ratified in 1951, presidents cannot run for more than two terms.

Mitt Romney has spent much of his campaigning trying to convince listeners that people are worse off since President Obama was inaugurated. Gallup’s “U.S. Economic Confidence Index” keeps refuting Romney’s claim. At -22 almost five years ago during George W. Bush’s last year, it has climbed to -8 this past week, up 12 points in the past month.

My praises to the sturdy people who are willing to stand in long lines to vote, lines that would be shorter if Republicans were willing to extend early voting. An example is Florida, where one man stood in line for eight hours. Other people lasted until 1:00 am after the lines were cut off at 8:00: that’s another five hours.

What I liked best about today was the extra hour that I gained from ending Daylight Savings Time. And VP Joe Biden’s comment: “It’s Mitt Romney’s favorite time of the year because he gets to turn the clock back.”

November 3, 2012

Voter Problems, Prediction

In Ohio, Secretary of State Jon Husted is still creating new ways to keep people from voting. Yesterday he issued a directive to reject provisional ballots when ID information on a particular part of the ballot form is incomplete, contrary to a court decision on provisional ballots a week ago. The case now goes back to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, making it more likely that Ohio results won’t be in until after November 17.

Husted’s directive is contrary to state law which requires the poll worker to complete the provisional ballot:

Ohio Rev. Code § 3505.181(B)(6) provides that, once a voter casting a provisional ballot proffers identification, “the appropriate local election official shall record the type of identification provided, the social security number information, the fact that the affirmation was executed, or the fact that the individual declined to execute such an affirmation and include that information with the transmission of the ballot . . . .”

Another Husted tactic is secretly installing unauthorized “experimental” software in 39 counties’ tabulators, again contrary to state law. The Ohio-based Free Press editor-in-chief Robert Fitrakis planned to file a lawsuit seeking an immediate injunction against this installation and has referred the case to the Cincinnati FBI for criminal investigation.

In Florida, a bomb scare in Orange County, which went for Obama 59% to 40% in 2008, stopped early voting for hours on the last day of voting until Tuesday, thanks to Gov. Rick Scott’s directive.

In largely Democratic King County (WA), GOP party members are going door-to-door trying to pick up ballots, saying that they will drop them off. The state has mandatory vote-by-mail. While there is no law against asking for ballots, the situation smells a bit fishy.

Even more fishier is the temporary election office worker in Clackamas County (OR) who was caught filling in votes for Republicans, primarily county commissioners, if voters had not voted for anyone.  The county clerk has filed complaints against all the county commissioners, and the attempt of the Tea Party to take over the county’s elected officials has created a great deal of bitterness in that area.

After wondering about the plight of people affected by Superstorm Sandy, many of us are asking how voters in the affected states will be able to vote. In this area roughly the size of Europe, officials are working hard to create access to voting, unlike those in Florida and Ohio.  From Philadelphia to New York City, officials relaxed deadlines for voting by absentee ballot allowing people to get applications until the end of business hours on Friday.

Early voting has continued this weekend in hard-hit states with New Jersey and Virginia extending hours. In hardest hit areas of New York City and Long Island, preparations are being made for alternative voting sites, including the provision of power, lights and ballot-counting scanners. New York’s electronic vote-counting scanners have back-up batteries, but  paper ballots can also be taken from field voting sites to more central locations to be counted.  New York has also inspected every polling place for water damage and power to determine if polling places can be moved or consolidated.

Tom Connelly, New York State Board of Elections Deputy Director of Public Information, said, “Generators could be used for lighting and for the machines inside the buildings and in parking lots.” If polling places are moved, Connelly said that every county the Board of Elections (BOE) has a communications plan to inform voters. He added that law permits jurisdictions to add a day of voting if turnout on Tuesday fell below 25 percent of their registered voters.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered county clerks to open their offices on Saturday and Sunday. He also said paper ballots would be made available on Election Day, allowing people to vote “old school” at polling stations that still do not have power. Lt. Gov. Kim Gaudagno said that the state will deputize an “authorized messenger” to go to “State-supported shelters” to help people vote there if they wish. It also suspended other technicalities that would allow the state to create temporary polls near previously designated locations.

Christie’s best idea is that registered voters in New Jersey can vote electronically by email or fax. After residents submit applications to the county clerk, ballots will be sent back and then returned to the state no later than 8:00 pm on Election Day. This option is already open to New Jersey voters overseas and in the military.

Election officials in Philadelphia said that power has been mostly restored, and voting should not be impacted by Tuesday. Maryland and Connecticut extended early voting deadlines.

Now the only question is who will win. The Denver Post has a fascinating article showing nine methods of prediction—all with maps and all showing that President Obama will gain the necessary electoral votes for four more years.

The New York Times is even more enterprising in its interactive approach. Their “512 Paths to the White House” shows that the president has 436 ways to win with Mitt Romney getting the other 76. The article shows five possible ties. The process gives the selection of nine swing states (Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire) and allows the reader to make assumptions about winning and losing different states. For example, assuming that President Obama wins Nevada and Romney takes North Carolina gives the president 103 ways to win, one chance for a tie, and 24 possibilities for Romney. If the president takes Florida, he has 255 possibilities of winning, one tie, and a loss only if Romney takes the other eight swing states. Etc., etc.

With the extensive analysis of how President Obama will get the electoral votes, the Republicans have declared war on the major predictor, Nate Silver.  They are outraged at Silver for “predicting” an Obama victory, and nonpartisan (but fiercely ideological) political press elites are ridiculing the theory that math can be used to determine the election’s result.

Four years ago, almost no one knew anything about Nate Silver. I didn’t until a good friend clued me in to his blog, named after the number of electoral votes. Four years ago, Silver accurately predicted the presidential wins in 49 out of the 50 states, missing Indiana by just a hair, and gradually became a household name, appearing on many talk shows, including Jon Stewart.

Silver’s approach toward predicting the election is to crunch the numbers from public polls, using assumptions from past elections about weighing and interpreting these figures. Joe Scarborough, Republican on that infamous “blue” MSNBC, declared on his television program, “Anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue, they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days, because they’re jokes.” Scarborough agrees that President Obama will win but doesn’t give a reason.

Last night on The Rachel Maddow Show, Silver said that of the nineteen polls on swing states during the last two weeks, Romney has lost all of them. According to Silver there’s no momentum toward the Romney side. He did add that the polls could have a bad year like 1980, but most of the time it’s wishful thinking for the losing side of the polls to say that they’re wrong.

The GOP has two reasons for declaring their victory three days before the election. People like to vote for winners; if they believe their candidate may lose, they are more likely to stay away from the polls on Election Day. The Romney campaign is afraid that projecting a possible loss for their candidate creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Also, research suggests that political conservatives are obsessive about believing their own theories, much more so than liberals. Throughout Barack Obama’s presidency, the right has visualized him not only as a failure and an incompetent but also as a dangerous—the Muslim with dictatorial, socialist tendencies who is probably not an U.S. citizen. They are so horrified that such a person could be accepted by over half the voters in the country that they refuse to even consider such a terrible idea.

The Republicans will be more riled today than yesterday. According to Silver, President Obama has gone up another percent in probability of getting elected to 83.7 percent.

Some Republicans, however, may be a bit more realistic. They’re trying to guess what job Paul Ryan will have starting January if he loses his House seat or decides that it’s a bit too hot for him.

September 25, 2012

Last Two Weeks – Part One

For the past two weeks, I haven’t had the opportunity to receive any news except through the CNN and Fox filters.  Watching these stations makes me realize how fortunate I am in having the variety of news from the Internet and other cable stations. They concentrated purely on the discovery that Mitt Romney called 47 percent of the people in the United States “freeloaders,” people that he doesn’t represent, and then accused President Obama of being a notorious income redistributer because of a vague 14-year-old speech. The two stations also continued to make great hay out of the tragedy in Libya as Fox reporters tried to convince the public that throwing gas on a fire is the best way to control it.

Now they’re probably skipping more news, concentrating on the sports crisis of substitute referees, employed because of the three-week-old labor dispute between the NFL and the regular officials, that caused, in the opinion of many fans, the Seattle Seahawks’ defeat of the San Francisco Packers last night after what some people determined as a bad call. (Probably not the Seahawks’ fans!)  It was enough to make Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) believe in unions–at least for referees. 

Update: Yes, it’s the Green Bay Packers! Mea culpa. I know more about unions than I do sports–which was my point here!

But now I have great sources such as Addicting Information, Alternet, and Care. Therefore during the next few days, I’ll recap some of the news that I’ve missed. There’s not room for much detail so I’ll provide links to more information.


Rupert Murdoch, owner of far-right media such as Fox and Wall Street Journal, was so convinced in the errors of the polls showing President Obama ahead of Romney that he paid for his own polls. The Fox polls showed President Obama leading Romney by seven points in both Ohio (49 to 42 percent) and Virginia (50 to 43 percent). President Obama leads by five points (49 to 44 percent) in Florida. Fox News either ignored the polls’ results or explained that they had no validity.

Rush Limbaugh saw an Italian study showing that penises are now “10% smaller.” He blames the shrinking on “feminazis.”


Last week House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) adjourned the House of Representatives until after the November election, having accomplished only a six-month extension of the nation’s budget. It is the earliest adjournment by the House of Representatives in a general election year in fifty years!

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has won “Most Corrupt Award” from the non-partisan watchdog group CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington). He has used his unlimited subpoena power to persecute Attorney General Eric Holder for almost a year. Holder’s release 7,600 pages from 46 separate dumps and his testimony to the House on seven separate  situations have not satisfied Issa. At the same time Issa refused to comply with subpoenas in the Roger Clemens’ steroids and Duke Cunningham bribery cases. CREW also cited Issa for illegally revealing confidential information from a sealed wiretap in the Congressional Record and then shielding himself from reproach and censure by claiming that, as a member of Congress, he had constitutional protections for his unethical actions. The watchdog group concluded “that the committee was seeking fodder for a political agenda to embarrass the attorney general and, through him, President Barack Obama.” The New Yorker has far more information about Issa in a January 2011 article.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MI), notorious for his statement that women who are really raped can’t get pregnant, was caught on tape in May at a Fair Tax Kansas City Meeting saying that he will sell favors to people who contribute to his current senate campaign. “I’m in a three way primary for the U.S. Senate. I’ve gone to people and asked for their support, their help, or their endorsement and some people say yes. They write me a decent check. I remember that… You remember who’s helping you. That’s one way that people get to know Congressmen and Senators.” Today was Akin’s last day to remove himself from the senate campaign, something he won’t do although such Republican luminaries as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have consistently asked for him to do this.


Thirty states will have started early voting by the end of September, with one-third of all ballots being cast this way before the actual Election Day on November 6.

New voting laws in 23 of the 50 states could keep more than 10 million Hispanic U.S. citizens from registering and voting, a new study said on Sunday, a number so large it could affect the outcome of the November 6 election.

Melissa Harris-Perry said that 34 million women in Pennsylvania may have trouble voting because they changed their names after they married. The voter ID law requires all these women to present two forms of identification: the state voter ID issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and a separate government-issued ID or driver’s license.  “There’s officially a tax on being a woman in Pennsylvania if you want to vote,” Harris-Perry said. Each of the state’s 31,000 individual poll-workers can enforce the law at their discretion.

A week ago, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered a district court judge to look again at his decision saying the voter ID law passed muster. The judge must determine whether it is realistic to expect state’s Department of Transportation to be able to issue photo ID cards to people who do not currently have them in time for the November 6 election, a number estimated from 100,000 to 1.6 million. If the lower court decides that getting the required photo-ID will be subject to back-ups and other problems that results in disenfranchisement, the high court says the judge must block the law from going forward. At the very least, that would put it off until the next election. Two justices dissented, arguing that the evidence is already clear that the law presents onerous problems for obtaining IDs within the time-frame available. 

Romney’s Campaign:

“We use Ann [Romney] sparingly now, so that people don’t get tired of her–-or start attacking.” This quote came from the same private fund-raiser event when Mitt Romney said that he wasn’t interested in 47 percent of the people in the United States. Evidently Romney’s wife is just a prop to make him look better.

On the Diane Rehm Show (9/24/12), Bay Buchanan, a Romney campaign advisor, told guest host Susan Gage that the campaign needs to “pick off” women from Barack Obama supporters to increase support for Romney. Like Ann Romney, other women are objects, not humans.

Tim Pawlenty resigned last week as co-chair of the Romney presidential campaign to become CEO of The Financial Services Roundtable, a banking lobby that represents Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan, and other financial companies that represent over $92 trillion dollars in assets. Part of his new job is to get rid of the Dodd-Franks rules to protect the U.S. economy from banks and take the country back to the time of George W. Bush.

In Romney’s infamous May 17 speech when he described the elderly, veterans, disabled, and others who don’t pay taxes as moochers, he had other noteworthy statements to his private audience. Referencing a possible pre-election disaster such as the Carter hostage situation, “I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity.” About Mideast peace, “And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way.” Romney talked about when he traveled with Bain Capital to buy a factory in China that employed “about 20,000” young women.

About Latino voters and Elizabeth Warren, Romney said, “And had [my dad] been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot of winning this… [Donor: “Pull an Elizabeth Warren!”]…That’s right I could go out and say—for those who don’t know Elizabeth Warren, she is the woman who’s running for US Senate in Massachusetts who says that she is Cherokee…”

Mitt Romney Gaffes:

The presidential candidate is upset because airplane windows don’t open.

Romney appeared to be several shades darker when he appeared on Univision, a media company serving Hispanic America.  He also threatened not to attend the Hispanic interview unless he was allowed to pack the audience with his local supporters. He allegedly “threw a tantrum” after an introduction that he was allotted 35 minutes and the president would have a full hour the next night. He came out on stage after a new introduction was taped.

Anti-Obama Propaganda:

An anti-Obama film falsely claiming, among other things, that President Obama’s biological father is Frank Marshall Davis, an African-American communist, has been mailed across the country to millions of voters, including 1.5 million in Ohio. The film’s director and producer, Joel Gilbert, did not say how the company is funded to distribute so many free disks.

Good News:

California has passed a bill that will “authorize a registered nurse to dispense specified drugs or devices upon an order issued by a certified nurse-midwife, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant if the nurse is functioning within a specified clinic. The bill would also authorize a registered nurse to dispense or administer hormonal contraceptives in strict adherence to specified standardized procedures.”

“We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.”—Rick Santorum

More tomorrow!

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