Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Eye Recommend --- Members of Jewish Student Group Test Permissible Discussion on Israel

MEMBERS OF JEWISH STUDENT GROUP TEST PERMISSIBLE DISCUSSION ON ISRAEL, by Laurie Goodstein --
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/29/us/members-of-jewish-student-group-test-permissible-discussion-on-israel.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
The U.S. and the world has spent so much time, so much money on trying to bring peace between Israel and Palestinians with no real progress to show for their efforts. Maybe these Jewish student groups are the hope for peace in the future--if only the old guard will get out of the way.
"At Harvard, the Jewish student group Hillel was barred from co-sponsoring a discussion with a Palestinian student group.  At Binghamton University, a Hillel student leader was forced to resign his position after showing a film about Palestinians and inviting the filmmaker's brother to speak. And on many other campuses, Hillel chapters have been instructed to reject collaboration with left-leaning Jewish groups.

At American colleges, few values are as sacred as open debate and few issues as contested as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  But Hillel, whose core mission is to keep the next generation of Jews in the fold, says that under its auspices one thing is not open to debate:  Those who reject or repudiate Israel have no place.


This month, the students at Swarthmore Hillel rebelled, declaring themselves the first 'Open Hillel' in the nation.  They will not abide by Hillel guidelines that prohibit chapters from collaborating with speakers or groups that...'apply a double standard' to Israel."

I can't help but applaud the Hillel members at Swarthmore.
"The Hillel dispute has amplified an increasingly bitter intra-Jewish debate over what is permissible discussion and activisim about Israel on college campuses...

...Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor at Harvard Law School who was once a faculty adviser for the Harvard hillel, said in an interview: 'I don't think this is a free-speech issue.  The people who want divestment and boycotts have plenty of opportunity to speak on campus.  The question is a branding one.  You can see why Hillel does not want its brand to be diluted.'"

Sorry, but I fail to see how learning more about the people you share a geographic location with is diluting your brand.  Knowledge is strength.
"In interviews, some students said that college should be a place for no-holds-barred discussions about Israel and that Hillel should host those discussions, since Hillel emphasizes inclusion and takes its name from a rabbinical sage who welcomed intellectual challenge.

'Hillel does a fantastic job of bringing together Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, secular students, and respecting everyone's different religious practice,' said Rachel Sandalow-Ash, a student active in the Hillel at Harvard.  'But in the political realm, that sort of pluralism just doesn't exist, and students who have more dissident views on Israel are excluded in many ways.'


Joshua Wolfsun, a student on the Swarthmore Hillel board, said, 'There are a lot of really smart people across the political spectrum on Israel that we want to talk to, and we feel that Hillel should not have a political litmus test on who is allowed and who is not.'"

Benjamin Sheridan, a student at Binghamton University was forced from his Hillel position and stripped of a paid internship after arranging a showing of the Academy Award nominated film "5 Broken Cameras" and asking the brother of the Palestinian who created the film to speak.
"'The second I question Israel--Israeli policies, not its existence--all of a sudden I'm a pariah?' he asked.  'If Hillel is going to be the group that represents all Jews, how can it say, 'On Israel we have one policy only?'"
When two people see themselves as enemies, the first step in ending that enmity is to talk, to begin to know each other.  Only then can there be understanding.
By refusing to talk to or to listen to anyone but your own insular group, you are not only isolating yourself from the rest of the world and its diverse opinions, but you are denying the rest of the world the chance to know yours.  The students at Swarthmore have taken the first steps to being heard by deciding they will listen.  Hopefully we are seeing the first steps to understanding.

Monday, December 30, 2013

December 30 - Monday Quote

Start the New Year with a smile; and this takes a lot of pressure off...

monday quote:  Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people.  so overweight people are now average.  Which means you've met your New Year's resolution.  (Jay Leno, comedian, 1950-     )

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Phil Robertson is Back. Hate be Praised!

A&E has re-instated Phil Robertson.  He will re-join his Duck Dynasty family in the Spring when taping begins for next season's episodes.

what eye thynk:   On Friday, I wrote about Duck Dynasty's patriarch being suspended from the A&E program because of his vitriolic interview in GQ.  This is the article where he compared homosexuality with bestiality and declared that black people were happy in slavery.  According to Mr. Robertson, the Bible revealed these truths to him as a faithful Christian. The point of my article was that, finally, with his suspension, someone was showing this kind of hate filled rhetoric had a price.  

Well, it appears that the price is cheap; as a matter of fact, it is beyond cheap.  Phil Robertson and his family, along with A&E, reaped a week's worth of publicity with an added serving of hatred validation from their fellow far right partisans.

Loud and proud right wing religious bigots everywhere are celebrating.  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal praised A&E's decision.  "I am glad to hear that the folks at A&E came to their senses and recognized that tolerance of religious views is more important than political correctness.  Today is a good day for the freedoms of speech and religious liberty.  The left is going to have to get accustomed to the fact that it does not have a monopoly on free speech and is not the only group who is permitted to voice its opinion in the public square.  The left may control Hollywood, but they don't control the hearts and minds of a majority of Americans."

I don't know when "Praise Jesus!" was replaced with "Praise hate!" in the hearts and minds of Mr. Jindal's "majority"; but I weep for their children.

How much better our world would be if these people had read a little further, perhaps to 1 John 4:8 - Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Keystone XL - Canadians Don't Want It Either

Canada oil companies, tired of waiting for the U.S. to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, have applied for and received preliminary approval from the Canadian government for an oil pipeline to run through British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean.  Not surprisingly, the people of British Columbia are fighting it and for all the same reasons the people in the United States have been fighting--inherent danger to the aquifer, danger to wildlife, failed record of oil companies in protecting the environment, danger of spill at port location, concern that this type of oil sands is heavier and more difficult to clean up.  Reading British Columbia's objections is like looking at a carbon copy of the concerns voiced by U.S. environmentalists.

Canada is surrounded by oceans just like we are.  If they need to carry their crude oil sands to the coast, why should we be the conduit?  If a Canadian company reaps the profits, then Canada should bear the risk.

---> RANDOM THOUGHT Why not continue to transport their oil the same way they have been transporting it? They certainly aren't losing money with their current rail and truck system.  Who ever heard of an oil company losing money?  Should we risk causing harm to man, beast and terra firma simply to provide additional profit for privately held companies?  When did greed become more important than life?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Regarding Religious Quacks

Sarah Palin, self appointed defender of all things "ducky", was interviewed this past week by Fox News' Greta Van Susteren.  Ms. Van Susteren asked Ms. Palin if the language Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson used in the controversial GQ article had, perhaps, been too graphic and offensive.  She wondered if his over-the-top words were, at least in part, responsible for the resulting firestorm.

Ms. Palin, who has been at the forefront of the far-right's defense of Mr. Robertson, said, "I haven't read the article.  I don't know exactly how he said it."  But she did continue to defend Mr. Robertson by saying that he "was quoting the Gospel, so people who are so insulted and offended by what he said evidently are offended by what he was quoting in the Gospel."


what eye thynk:  I find this hilarious.  Sarah admits she hasn't actually read the article, (flashback to that Katie Couric interview during Ms. Palin's failed attempt to gain the Vice Presidency--the one where she was asked what magazines she read and couldn't name one); but she knows that he quoted the Gospel, (she knows he did this correctly, of course), so anyone who disagrees with him must be an atheistic Bible-hater.

This is so representative of the conservative, far-right, Christianity-or-bust movement right now.  They don't know the facts and can't be bothered to spend 10 minutes checking the facts; but they will jump right on the I-Love-God-Better-Than-You-Do bandwagon and shout out the latest sound byte at every opportunity in order to prove they are: 1. the biggest defender of all things biblical,  2. discriminated against,  3. fighting to save the country, 4. the only ones who know what God wants because He speaks directly to them and no one else.  (Take your pick.)

We live in a country that defends freedom of speech at the constitutional level. This is a wonderful thing.  But the First Amendment does not guarantee there will be no consequences.  You can say just about anything you want, but your employer, in this case A&E, has the right to distance itself from your opinions. What seems to be overlooked by uninformed nutcases like Sarah Palin is that no one at A&E tried to stop Mr. Robertson from speaking his mind.  They never asked him to apologize.  They simply said that, as his employer, they preferred not to be associated with him. 

I came across this Letter to the Editor in yesterday's New York Times just after I read about Ms. Palin's Fox interview.  The letter is one of the best responses to this ridiculous show-biz blow-up that I have seen.  I am sharing it in its entirety.
"The defense offered of racist and homophobic remarks by a 'Duck Dynasty' television personality has been that they come from someone steeped in biblical teaching.  When I was a child, this nonsense could have been (and was) said out loud without fear of contradiction. Likewise, the Fox television personality who declared that 'Santa is white' no doubt thought that she was simply stating accepted fact.  In both cases the speakers were surprised by the criticism that their thoughtless comments engendered.
Something has definitely changed since I was young, and I think that change is at the heart of so much conservative aggrievement.  Racist and homophobic opinions are still allowed, but they are no longer automatically accepted.  Now, bigoted nonsense is challenged when uttered, and the folks doing the uttering can't understand why.  There is no refuge in the excuse that 'the Bible says so' or 'that's what everyone says.'  American citizens are still entitled to express their opinions, but now they are also expected to be able to defend them.  This is a good thing."  
from Richard W. Poeton, Bennington, Vermont.
So, say what you want, it's your right, but don't be surprised when someone questions your opinion or asks for the facts you used to reach it.   This is, after all, the 21st Century and  "that's the way it has always been" is no longer an acceptable argument.

It's about time.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Same Sex Marriage - Indiana Republicans Lost on Paleozoic Parkway

In order to amend the state constitution in Indiana, two separately elected state congresses must pass the amendment and then it must be put on a statewide ballot for the people to decide.

Prior to 2011, Democrats held the majority in the state House for a few years and were successful in defeating any anti-same sex marriage amendment effort.  In 2011, Republicans regained their majority in both chambers and quickly passed a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage in Indiana.  The proposed Indiana amendment goes beyond defining marriage as between one man and one woman, banning civil unions too.  "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriages for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized." 

what eye thynk:   Now, two years later and with the necessary separately elected congress in place, Republicans find themselves in an uncomfortable situation.  They must pass the identical proposed amendment for the second time in order to get it on the November ballot; but public perception of same sex marriage has changed dramatically over the past two years.  Representative Scott Pelath (D) House Minority Leader: "The tables have turned on this issue, and the Republicans are at a loss about what to do about it."

Hawaii and Illinois recently approved same sex marriage.  Just a week ago, courts in New Mexico declared that denying same sex couples the right to marry was unconstitutional.  Similar cases are currently being fought in Utah and Ohio. Megan Robertson, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, a group that supports marriage equality: "It's not a very positive reflection on our state that we are considering this while everyone else is moving toward equality."

Indiana conservatives continue to support the amendment; but businesses that normally bankroll Republican causes are worried that passing the amendment will make it hard for them to attract people to Indiana.  It is difficult to predict what voters would do.  A recent statewide poll showed that 58% of voters were opposed to the amendment; but when asked how they felt about same sex marriage, the results were nearly 50:50. 

Ultimately, the Supreme Court will have the final say on same sex marriage in this country, but their decision will come too late for Indiana politicians.  They must decide now if they are to get the amendment on the November ballot.  Postponing or changing the amendment in any way would force them to start the two year/two separately elected congresses/state ballot process all over again.  

The wording in the amendment that bans same sex civil unions has come under close scrutiny recently with some Republicans wanting to drop that restriction.  That may be the smartest way for them to handle their damned if we do-damned if we don't problem.  The resulting two year postponement would allow Indiana conservatives to hide behind the Supreme Court's skirts since the Justices will surely have decided on this issue by then, saving Indiana Republicans the humility of being publicly identified as social Neanderthals.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Quick Fact: In Utah It's a Merry Christmas Indeed!

On Friday, federal Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled on a case brought by several Utah same sex couples who were challenging Utah's ban on same sex marriage.  Judge Shelby ruled the state's ban was unconstitutional.  Same sex weddings followed within hours.

On Monday, Judge Shelby denied the state an emergency stay to stop the marriages while they fought the case in court.  The state said they would continue with their attempt to stop the marriages and would take their case to the 10th Circuit Court.

Late on Tuesday night, the 10th Circuit Court also denied the state's request for a stay.  The Court said that the state had not shown that they were suffering "irreparable harm" and also failed to demonstrate that it had a "significant' likelihood" of winning their case at the appellate level.

The state's next step will be to seek a stay from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who oversees the 10th Circuit Court's cases.  If Justice Sotomayor declines the stay, the state can seek an emergency stay from the entire U.S. Supreme Court bench, which, at best, would be a long shot.

Currently, four Utah counties are ignoring Judge Shelby's ruling and are refusing to issue same sex marriage licenses; but, given that they stated they were waiting for word from the 10th Circuit Court, look for that to change quickly.
Merry Christmas, indeed, Utah!  Merry Christmas, indeed!

y   s  !

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas!



*Actually, this picture was taken from our front door a few years ago after an Easter Sunday snow storm, but it sure looks like a white Christmas!  *

Quick Fact(s): Utah and Ohio - Same Sex Marriage Back in the Courts

Utah
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby refused the state's request for an emergency stay on his decision to allow same sex marriages in the state of Utah.  His original decision, which he voiced last Friday, said that denying same sex couples the right to marry was unconstitutional under Utah law.  Judge Shelby told state attorneys on Monday that they had offered no new evidence and were only repeating the same arguments they had used during the original trial.  The state's attorneys will now take their case to the U.S 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
There are 20 justices serving on the 10th Circuit.  Eleven were appointed by Republican presidents, (five of those eleven by Ronald Reagan, one by George Bush and five more by W).  Nine were appointed by Democratic presidents, (one by Johnson, two by Carter, three by Clinton and the last three by Obama.)  It's an interesting mix.
While hundreds of same sex marriages are going forward in Utah, there won't be any same sex marriage licenses issued in Cache County.  As a matter of fact, there won't be any marriage licenses issued there--period.  The Cache County clerk's office closed its doors completely in order to avoid abiding by Judge Shelby's ruling.  Expect Jill N. Zollinger (R), Clerk of Courts for Cache County, to be in court herself soon.  Federal court rulings are not optional.  By closing her office and refusing to issue same sex marriage licenses, she is breaking federal law.


Ohio
In July of this year, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black ruled on a case brought in Cincinnati against the state of Ohio by a same sex married couple who had been legally married in Maryland. One of the men was dying and wanted his spouse listed as such on his death certificate.  At that time, Judge Black ruled in favor of the couple, but stated that his decision was very narrow and only applied to this one specific case.

This month, a similar case is before Judge Black.  This one has been brought by two widowed, same sex men who want the Judge's earlier ruling applied to them.  There is more at stake here than a name on a piece of paper.  A legally recognized surviving spouse can be eligible for state survivor benefits and life insurance payouts that could otherwise be denied.

State Attorney Bridget Coontz argued that the U.S. Supreme Court left it to individual states to decide whether they would recognize same sex marriages.  She argued that in 2004 the people of Ohio voted in favor of a state constitutional amendment banning such unions. 
So much has changed in nine years that I cannot help but wonder what the outcome would be if that same issue were put before Ohio voters today.   
Though Judge Black's decision is not due for another two weeks, indications are that he will once again rule against my home state of Ohio.  In examining the state's case, Judge Black asked Ms. Coontz:  "If the United States Supreme Court said the federal government cannot fail to recognize valid same-sex marriages, why can the states?"

It is important to note that this case still has a narrow focus.  Judge Black is only being asked to decide whether a same sex couple, legally married in another state, has the right to have a surviving spouse listed as such on a death certificate.  But Judge Blacked noted that "in the real world out there, the stakes are larger."
And every brick that gets removed from Ohio's anti-same sex marriage amendment brings us one brick closer to seeing that amendment crumble completely.  That day can't come fast enough.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

December 23 - Monday Quote(s)

For this Monday before Christmas: a little culture, a little comedy...

At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.

 (from Love's Labour Lost by William Shakespeare, playwright, 1564-1616)


Dear Lord, I've been asked, nay commanded, to thank Thee for the Christmas turkey before us...a turkey which was no doubt a lively, intelligent bird...a social being...capable of actual affection...nuzzling its young with almost human-like compassion.  Anyway, it's dead and we're gonna eat it.  Please give our respects to its family.

(from Bloom County by Guy Berkeley, writing as "Berke" Breathed, cartoonist, 1957 -    )

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Eye Recommend: Defrocking of Minister Widens Split Over Gays

DEFROCKING OF MINISTER WIDENS SPLIT OVER GAYS, by Laurie Goodstein --
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/20/us/methodist-pastor-defrocked-over-gay-marriage-service.html?_r=0
An excellent, if sad, article on the continuing fight for marriage equality in our Christian churches.  (Any underlines are mine.)
"The Rev. Frank Schaefer, a Methodist minister, was stripped of his clerical credentials on Thursday for violating church law by presiding at his son's same-sex wedding.  The punishment, imposed by the United Methodist Church in Pennsylvania, was requested by the church prosecutor to deter other ministers from blessing same-sex marriages.

But far from intimidating others, the trial and defrocking of Mr. Schaefer have galvanized a wave of Methodist ministers to step forward to disobey church prohibitions against marrying and ordaining openly gay people.

Members of the United Methodist Church, the nation's third-largest Christian denomination, have been battling bitterly over homosexuality for four decades.  The church now faces an increasingly determined uprising by clergy members and laypeople who have refused to cede, even after losing the most recent votes, at the Methodist convention last year, on proposals to change church teaching...

...In Philadelphia last month, 36 Methodish ministers recited the Declaration of Marriage on the steps of a Methodist church for two gay men in a 25-year relationship.  In New York, Methodist clergy members have been triumphantly posting accounts on a blog of the same-sex marriages they have been performing.

And in what is considered a brazen act of church boundary-crossing, a retired San Francisco bishop, Melvin Talbert, flew in October to Birmingham, Ala., where same-sex marriage is not legal, to conduct a church ceremony for two gay men against the will of the local bishop.  Bishops are considering bringing ecclesiastical charges against him.

Church conservatives, however, say they have the momentum.  About a half-dozen more ministers are facing church trials, and the defrocking of Mr. Schaefer proves to them that church juries have the courage of their convictions.

John Lomperis, the United Metodist director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a conservative religious think tank, said the same-sex weddings performed by Methodist clergy were 'publicity stunts'...

...Mr. Schaefer is hardly the first Methodist minister to be defrocked for disobeying church teachings on homosexuality.  Jimmy Creech was stripped of his credentials in 1999 for performing a same-sex ceremony.  Irene Elizabeth Stroud, a lesbian living with her partner, was defrocked in 2005...

...(Mr. Schaefer said) 'The church needs to recognize that things have changed and times are changing and people are changing.'...

...He performed the wedding for his son, Tim, in Massachusetts in 2007 after same-sex marriage was legalized there.

Mr. Schaefer...had been serving as the pastor of a small church in Lebanon, Pa., for 11 years when charges were brought against him this year, weeks before the church's statute of limitations was set to expire.  The man who brought the complaint was the son of a choir director whom Mr. Schaefer had removed..."
So, apparently gay marriage is against church doctrine, but ruining a man's life out of spite is a perfectly acceptable Christian act.
..."Efforts to amend the Book of Discipline have been defeated by increasingly wide margins at the church's quadrennial conferences as delegates representing the church's growing branch in Africa have bolstered the votes of conservative Methodists in the United States..."
I think it's sad that modern and lovingly inclusive American Methodists are being held captive by conservative Methodists from another country--one with a completely different culture.  It's even more sad that conservative American Methodists refuse to recognize that American thinking on marriage equality is evolving and is no longer stuck in a backward ideology, choosing instead to use Africa's social norm as justification for their own out of date closed mindedness. 
..."(Mr. Schaefer) said he would not consider leaving the Methodist Church for a denomination that has changed its teaching on homosexuality.

'It's not that easy when a church is your spiritual home,'  he said.  'All my children have been baptized in the United Methodist Church.  I don't know how to be a minister out of the United Methodist Church.'..."
Part of me applauds him for staying and fighting church hierarchy from the inside; but part of me wants him to take his family, his three gay children, his one straight child and his wife and move to a church that would welcome them all.  Ministering "out of the United Methodist Church" is possible.  The liturgy may be different, but God is the same.
..."Those watching the trial were stunned when Bishop Peggy Johnson, who leads nearly 900 United Methodist churches in Pennsylvania and who is Mr. Schaefer's superior, posted a note on her blog this week, saying that she believes the prohibitions on gay ordination and marriage in the Book of Discipline were 'discriminatory.' 

The prohibitions, Bishop Johnson continued, taken together with the church's message of inclusion, 'has led to confusion by many from...outside the church wondering how we can talk out of two sides of our mouth.'"
As hard as this country's Bible toting bigots--whether they be Methodist, Evangelical, Catholic, or a Duck Dynasty proselytizer--try, they will not find a clause in the Good Book that says we are all God's children "except for".  Jesus did not teach exclusivity.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Quick Fact: Utah - Marriage Equality State #17 1/2?

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby issued a 53 page ruling saying the constitutional amendment passed by Utah voters in 2004 violates gay and lesbian couples' rights to equal protection under the U.S. Constitution's 14th amendment.  He said that the state had failed to show that opposite sex marriage would be affected in any way by allowing same sex marriages.

In his ruling, he said, "In the absence of such evidence, the State's unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify the State's refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens."

Many county clerks immediately began issuing same sex marriage licenses and weddings were taking place even as Utah's Governor Gary Herbert began working with the Attorney General's office on an emergency stay.  

"I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah.  I am working with my legal counsel and the acting attorney general to determine the best course to defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah," the Governor said.

The county clerk's office in Provo refused to issue same sex marriage licenses, saying they were waiting for word from the Attorney General's office. A spokesman there said it would take a couple of days for a request for an emergency stay to be reviewed.
Watching these states' prejudiced stands on same sex marriage being overturned one after the other makes me so happy!  


Friday, December 20, 2013

Quick Fact(s): New Mexico Becomes Marriage Equality State #17, and the Fight in Indiana Heats Up

New Mexico:
On Thursday, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled 5-0 that to deny same sex couple the right to marry in that state violates the equal protection clause in their state constitution.

New Mexico becomes the 17th state to legalize marriage equality, joining California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.
Welcome to the club!

Indiana:
The deep red state of Indiana is one of four states that bans same sex marriage by statute only. There has been recent movement among conservatives to add the ban of same sex marriage to the state's constitution  The constitutional change would also ban civil unions and disallow benefits to same sex couples.  

But proponents of marriage equality are fighting back.  The fledgling group Freedom Indiana is contacting big money donors and running nightly phone banks; and they report that support is growing.  The word seems to be that the ban-marriage-equality fight has gone too far by proposing a constitutional amendment that includes banning civil unions and benefits.  Indiana is definitely a Republican state; but some, including business owners there, are beginning to see the writing on the wall.  They worry that the ban will hurt their efforts to recruit the best employees.

Several conservative Republican law makers who voted for the statute ban previously have weighed in saying they would not support a constitutional ban.  Republicans all over the state are feeling the pressure.  If the constitutional amendment fails to pass, incumbent Republicans will have to face challenges by more conservative members of their party during the state's May primaries.  If they put the issue on the state ballot, that could increase Democratic turn out in the November elections.
This could be the fight to watch in 2014.  Looking forward to victory!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Budget Passed, but Ryan Continues to Play Republican Fiscal Games

On Tuesday, the Senate passed the two year budget deal previously passed by the House.  It now goes to the President for his signature.  Financial brinkmanship over?  Think again.  

Sometime in March, the government will once again need to raise the debt ceiling in order to continue to pay our bills.   Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) is floating the idea that Republicans should make approval of the Keystone XL pipeline part of any debt ceiling agreement. The President has already said he will not consider any debt ceiling deal that is tied to an unrelated condition.

 ----> RANDOM THOUGHT:  Is there some sort of lobotomy requirement in the Republican oath of office?  Do they really not remember the outcome of their last attempt to blackmail the White House into agreeing to their terms? 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

(Not So) Quick Fact: There's a New Pontiff in Town

Pope Francis removed Cardinal Raymond L. Burke from the Congregation of Bishops this week. The Congregation of Bishops, a highly influential body within the Vatican, is responsible for vetting priests who are in line to be appointed Bishop.  

It is clear that Cardinal Burke, with his outspoken preference for the rites and traditions favored by Pope Benedict XVI, is not a good match with Pope Francis, who demonstrates a more modest and welcoming style.  Cardinal Burke, a favorite among conservative Catholics, is known for appearing publicly in the flowing, red silk cappa magna complete with long train, while Pope Francis prefers simple robes with little adornment. 

When faced with the question of where gay Catholics fit within the church, Pope Francis has been widely quoted as saying "Who am I to judge?".  

The Pope has also made clear his feelings about strict adherence and focus on church doctrine: "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.  This is not possible. (The church) cannot be obsessed with the transmission...of doctrines to be imposed insistently...We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel."

Cardinal Burke voiced his disagreement in a TV interview this month:  "One gets the impression...that he (Pope Francis) thinks we are talking too much about abortion, too much about the integrity of marriage as between one man and one woman.  But we can never talk enough about that."  
Publicly contradicting your boss is not exactly the way to keep your job within the Vatican.
Cardinal Burke, who is from St. Louis, has repeatedly attempted to bar American Catholic politicians who support abortion rights from taking communion.  Reverend Thomas Reese, a Jesuit, recently told reporters:  "That certainly is not in line with the Pope, who has said that communion is not a reward for being good.  It is a sacrament of healing to help people."

Cardinal Burke was replaced by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, who the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said has "a national reputation for zero tolerance of priests who molest minors." He fought to have several priests removed from the priesthood during his time as Bishop of Pittsburgh, once successfully fighting to laicize a priest in his diocese who was accused of sexual misconduct and who the Vatican, under Pope Benedict XVI, initially attempted to protect.  

Cardinal Wuerl is an ideological moderate with vast knowledge of the Vatican and its politics, but also a man who comes with a long history of pastoral experience.  His leanings on church doctrine are considered conservative; but his style seems to be more in line with Pope Francis' tone of inclusiveness, mercy and compassion.
I for one welcome a church where what you do and how you minister to people--ALL people--matters more than what you wear and how soundly you punish those you perceive as having strayed

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Christmas Giving Story

Just in time for the giving season of Christmas...

On December 9, the Drouot auction house in Paris went ahead with an auction of more than 100 American Indian artifacts including 24 masks sacred to the Hopi Indians in Arizona, despite legal attempts by the tribe to halt the sale.  Also included in the disputed sale were three items considered sacred by the San Carlos Apaches.  Paris lawyer Pierre Servan-Schreiber had represented the Hopis pro bono in the French courts claiming that, despite modern provenance attached to the masks, these items had originally been stolen from the tribe over a century ago.

The Annenberg Foundation, headquartered in Los Angeles, was founded in 1989 by publisher, ambassador and philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg.  Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, Vice President and Director of the Foundation lives in Paris and followed the auction case closely.  After the court ruled that the sale could proceed,  he decided that his foundation would attempt to purchase as many of the items as possible in order to return them to the Hopis.  "These are not trophies to have on one's mantel.  They are truly sacred works for the Native Americans.  They do not belong in auction houses or private collections."

Their plans were kept secret, in part because they did not want to disappoint the Hopi tribe if their plan failed and in part because they feared their involvement would raise the auction prices.  The Foundation budgeted $500,000-1M from a discretionary fund set aside for individual projects for the sale.  

The actual sale was a co-ordinated effort between the Foundation's Los Angeles office where a French speaking member bid over the phone and Pierre Servan-Schreiber who served as lookout in the auction room.

Hopi Indians believe that the masks, which they call Katsinams are living entities with divine spirits.  Sam Tenakhongva, cultural director of the Hopi, watched the auction until 2:00 AM.  As each mask was sold, he said he felt that he was saying goodbye to the spirits embodied in the headdresses.  

In the end, the Annenberg Foundation spent $530,695 and purchased 21 of the 24 Hopi masks and all three of the Apache items.  One additional Hopi mask was purchased by Marshall W. and Veronique Parke who plan to return it to the tribe.

The Hopis of Arizona and the San Carlos Apaches were told of the Foundation's efforts only after the sales were paid and ownership was officially transferred to the Foundation. The Annenberg Foundation is now working with the tribe to arrange safe shipping of the masks to the U.S..  Bubble wrap cannot be used to protect the masks during the move as that is seen as suffocating the divine spirits.

The masks, surreal faces constructed of wood, leather, horsehair and feathers and painted in bright colors are traditionally used in spiritual ceremonies. A Katsina male dancer will wear a Katsinam that represents a unique, non-human spirit believed to have supernatural powers. The Katsina spirit dancers are believed to help the Hopis prosper and to help them raise their children.  They are entrusted with teaching the young about Hopi traditions and religion through their dances.

The Hopis have not said what they plan to do with the masks when they arrive, but tribe members do not see them as art objects to be housed in a museum.   Traditionally, when a mask is retired, it is left to disintegrate naturally.

Mr. Tenakhongva:  "No one should have to buy back their sacred property.  But now at least, they will be at home with us and they will go to rest."

what eye thynk:  I cannot help but compare the Annenberg Foundation's principles with organizations like those funded by the Koch brothers.   Where one uses great wealth to help perfect strangers for no personal profit; the other uses their wealth to hurt anyone they see as different in order to protect their personal fortune. 

How glorious and how sad...in that order.

Monday, December 16, 2013

December 16 - Monday Quote

I love everything about this.


monday quote:  And those who were not seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. (Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher, 1844-1900)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Women Are People Too

In an effort to win the female vote in next year's midterm elections, the National Republican Congressional Committee has begun holding seminars to teach their members how to speak to women.  When reporters at John Boehner's (R-Ohio) weekly media update meeting questioned him about the idea, he had this to say: "We're trying to get them to be a little more sensitive, you know?  You look around the Congress, there are a lot more females in the Democratic caucus than there are in the Republican caucus.  And some of our members just aren't as sensitive as they ought to be."

what eye thynk:   I considered making this another post on my Republican War on Women series, but this situation is not so much a part of their war on women as it is a total disregard for women as full-fledged people. Conversation need not be sensitized for us to follow it.   We can speak and comprehend human speech as well as any man.  Mr. Boehner really needs to look no further than his Party's policies to understand why, out of 232 Republican members of the House of Representatives, only 19 are women.

There are plenty of conservative women out there--my sister is one of them (shudder)--but the majority of women, even those who may be fiscally conservative, hesitate to fully embrace the Republican Party when they see the way the Party continues to treat them like emptied headed, slightly incompetent juveniles, in need of a caring Republican uncle to help guide them through the maze of modern social issues.

If Republicans really want to appeal to female voters, may I suggest they stop treating us with condescension.  Forget about holding "sensitivity seminars" and instead consider:
  • Staying out our bedrooms.  We are fully capable of making our own family planning decisions. Remember last year's all male panel on birth control? That was insulting.
  • Supporting women's equality issues, like equal pay for equal work.  Voting against the Lilly Ledbetter Act was a huge turn off.
  • Demonstrating that you are willing to accept us as equals within your Party.   After being called out for having appointed no female chairpersons on House committees, crowing that you finally appointed a woman--to chair the committee responsible for purchasing office supplies and overseeing the cafeteria--did not make us stand up and cheer.
Republican sensitivity training is nothing more than a band-aid slapped on a self-inflicted wound caused by an entrenched and out-dated sociopolitical ideology.  

We don't need sensitive.  We would prefer your respect.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Petty Is As Petty Does

The Senate is working overtime this week.  Majority Leader Harry Reid (D- Nevada) is working through the backlog of presidential nominees, calling for votes at all hours and forcing Senators from both parties to stay close to the Senate chamber long past their normal schedule.

Republican Senators are complaining that the Senate is wasting time on mid-level nominees when they should be working on substantive issues.

what eye thynk:  Maybe Republican Senators should have thought about those "substantive issues" when they were filibustering everything in sight for the past five years.  The majority of the nominees now being considered would already have been voted on months, if not years, ago.  Even now, in the midst of their complaints about wasting time, they continue, in fact, to waste time.  

Many of the nominees now being considered by the Senate have the support of both parties and it is acknowledged by both that these nominees will easily win confirmation.  In those cases, the Senate's unanimous consent rule would allow a vote without debate. Instead, in order to show their displeasure with the way the Democrats eliminated the filibuster for judicial and top level presidential nominees, Republicans are insisting on using the allotted 30 hours of debate time--not to talk about the nominees, but to whine about the filibuster change.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) told Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper that he didn't believe anything would be approved by unanimous consent "until hell freezes over," adding, "Let's be really frank.  Senate Democrats have for petty partisan reasons taken away the power of Congress, taken away one of the checks and balances on a rogue presidency." 

If Mr. Paul wants to throw around the petty epithet, he need look no further than his own party.  

  • Petty is filibustering in order to hold up President Obama's nominees to fill his Cabinet.  
  • Petty is refusing--for five years--to confirm nominees to the D.C. Circuit in order to maintain your conservative majority on that bench. 
  • Petty is, once your bluff was called and your delaying tactics where taken out of the Senate toy box, continuing to insist on 30 hours of debate, even on nominees that you agree are going to be easily confirmed, in order to give your fellow party members time to stand at the front of the Senate chamber and complain that Democrats have hidden your remote controlled filibuster truck...and then complain that the Senate is wasting time!

"I can't imagine what folks think," said Senator Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska).

Well, I can tell you what I think:  I think you created this problem and should acknowledge that some members of your Party should have been restrained a long time ago--long before Democrats saw that the only way to return the Senate to a functioning part of our federal government was to change one of its basic rules.

It's time your party realized that governing is a team sport and it doesn't work unless both teams get to play.   It's time to suck in your bottom lip, unfold your arms and govern.  Pouting is petty.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Republican War on Women - The Battle in Michigan

This is the seventeenth in a series of articles on the subject of women, abortion rights and the Republican Party. 

Republicans continue to say they don’t have to change their core principles, they only have to change the language they use to get their message out.  One perception they want to alter is the idea that they are running a “war on women”.  Looking at the news over the past few years, I’d say the Republican Party has a long way to go on this subject.

  • Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky): “Talk about a manufactured issue.  There is no issue.” 
  •  RNC Chairman Reince Priebus:  “It’s a fiction.”
The Michigan Front 

the facts and commentary:  On Wednesday, the Michigan legislature passed the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act.  This act removes abortion coverage from all private health insurance policies sold in the state of Michigan. 
 I don't see how they can call this an "opt-out" bill since there is no option offered--it is simply "out" no matter what a woman or her family would prefer. 
The act makes no exception for rape or incest.   Any woman who wants abortion coverage will have to purchase an additional rider at her own expense.  Currently, 80% of private health insurance policies cover abortion services.

The legislature passed a similar bill last year, but it was vetoed by Governor Rick Snyder (R) who said he did not "believe it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage." 
While I applaud his opinion on pregnancy resulting from rape, I wish he had gone further by saying it is inappropriate to tell a woman facing any unwanted pregnancy, no matter its origin, that she should have purchased coverage "just in case."
This year, the anti-abortion group Right to Life of Michigan collected enough signatures to force another look at the bill.  Once again, the bill passed both chambers and, because it was a voter initiative, it does not require the governor's signature and he cannot veto it.  The Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act will become law in Michigan next year.

Opponents of the new law call the requirement to purchase an abortion rider "rape insurance", saying that women will now have to plan ahead for the possibility of being raped in order to have coverage for a resulting pregnancy.

"This tells women who were raped...that they should have thought ahead and planned for it.  Make no mistake, this is anything but a citizens' initiative.  It's a special interest group's perverted dream come true," said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D).

Right to Life of Michigan was able to force the legislative vote by gathering 300,000 voter signatures.  That seems like a lot until you consider that there are approximately 6.8 million registered voters in that state.  

Because the legislature had passed a similar bill last year, the outcome of a legislative vote was a foregone conclusion once the required signatures were collected.  Had the legislature opted to put the measure to a state ballot vote, (which they could have done), the outcome was not so clear cut. A recent poll showed 47% of Michigan voters opposed the restriction, 41% approved and 12% were undecided.
So basically, a legislature with a slim Republican majority and where 80% of the members are men, have done the bidding of a small but vocal group of social conservatives, without allowing the rest of the state's electorate to voice their approval or dissent.  
By choosing not to present the bill to all Michigan voters, the legislature, following the lead of this small percentage of citizens, has decided on its own to tell every Michigan woman that when it comes to make what should be a completely personal and private decision, they, the Republican led legislature will be in the room with her.  They have decided that what, under federal law, is a woman's right of choice, will now, in Michigan, become a privilege that must be purchased. 

The Republican War on Women is "fiction"?

WHAT YOU DO SPEAKS SO LOUDLY
THAT I CANNOT HEAR WHAT YOU SAY. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Are Republicans Finally Facing ACA Reality?

As state run Affordable Care Act marketplaces continue to work efficiently, and as the federal exchange has been improved and is working better, more and more people are signing up for health care.  Without an alternative plan of their own, some Republicans have begun to see that by continuing their anti-ACA fight, they are essentially telling people that they want to take away that protection...a losing argument to carry into next year's mid-term election.

Even House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been reluctant to schedule any more votes to repeal the law in the House' chamber.  

what eye thynk:   Are we finally seeing the end of this wasteful fight? Some Republicans seem to be acknowledging that to continue is not in their best interest.

  • Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Georgia) who is running for the U.S. Senate, while not supporting the ACA,  seems to agree that continuing the overt fight is a waste of time: "A lot of conservatives say, 'Nah, let's just step back and let this thing fall to pieces on its own.'"
  • Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), who won election in 2010 on an anti-ACA platform: "We've got to start talking about transitioning...Am I opposed to state based exchanges? No.  It may be that they can be usuable...I'm all for repeal, but...we've got to start talking about the reality of the situation."
  • Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Virginia) admitted that "some Americans'  lives have gotten better" and to ignore this fact is to "deny reality."
  • Jon Chait, New York magazine writer pointed out "that conservatives deeply miscalculated" in their anti-ACA fight.  Even Ted Cruz's speechwriter, Amanda Carpenter was recently quoted as saying "I don't want to be uninsured."

In the early months of their three year fight to repeal "Obamacare", Republicans claimed to have ideas for a better plan.  If this were true, why not make them public?  If they thought they could do better, why didn't they? Because that "better plan" didn't exist.  Their claim was good rhetoric, but in reality it was nothing more than a sound byte created out of wishful thinking and sour grapes.

Imagine where we, as a country, would be right now if the Republican Party had focused the same energy they expended on fighting the ACA on instead creating a simpler, more efficient plan of their own.  A single payer alternative maybe? The budget savings in managing a single payer system over the complicated and convoluted law we have would undoubtedly be substantial. And isn't saving money what the Republican Party is supposed to be all about?  By putting all their energy into dismantling what already existed instead of creating what could have been, they repudiated one of their own core political principles--reduce government spending.

I can't help but wonder, had the Republican Party worked for their own version of universal health care instead of simply against the existing health care law, would we have seen more "Yes, we can" and less "No, we won't"--more progress instead of three years of political inertia? 

And, here's a really pleasant thought:  The only Tea Party in our history just might have been the one in Boston in 1773.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Eye Recommend --- A Bridge Too Far

A BRIDGE TOO FAR, by Steve Benen -- http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/bridge-too-far-0

(Any underlines are mine.)

"Did Gov. Chris Christie's (R) administration cripple a New Jersey community with a deliberate, brutal traffic jam, purely out of petty and partisan spite?  The question is not as outlandish as it may appear...

...Fort Lee, New Jersey, was effectively turned into a giant parking lot on the first day of school in September, after the Port Authority closed two of the three lanes leading from the community to the George Washington Bridge.  The Christie administration later defended the move, saying it was part of a 'traffic study,' though we now know there was no study.

So why cause the massive congestion on purpose?  New Jersey Democrats allege the Christie administration was punishing Fort Lee's Democratic mayor for refusing to endorse the governor's re-election campaign.  And while that seems hard to believe...the burgeoning controversy is increasingly difficult to dismiss...

...Testifying under subpoena in Trenton on Monday, bridge workers described Mr. Christie's associates' ordering the closings, and called the different maneuvers 'unprecedented', 'odd' and 'wrong.'  There was, they said, no study.

Mr. Christie's associates at the Port Authority, they said, ordered bridge workers to shut down the lanes with three days' notice despite warnings that it would cause havoc, and that changes of this magnitude typically took years of planning.  They were instructed not to tell anyone--not the news media, not Fort Lee, not even the Port Authority's executive director, who is an appointee of Gov. Andrew W. Cuomo (D) of New York, they said.  They protested, but went along, they said, because they feared retribution."
The associate who appears to be the primary source for the shutdown order is David Wildstein who was a high school buddy of Governor Christie and who was appointed by the Governor to serve as the director of interstate capital projects at the Port Authority.
"I keep thinking there must be some reasonable explanation for this, but (a) no one can come up with one; and (b) the Christie administration hasn't offered one.  Relevant officials keep sticking to the 'traffic study' excuse, but there's literally zero evidence the study ever existed, and the director of the bridge, Robert Durando, testified (on Monday) 'that in 35 years at the Port Authority, he had never heard of lanes being closed down for a traffic study.'"
The whole idea of creating a massive traffic jam out of political spite sounds like some ridiculous conspiracy theory; but Mr. Benen points out that Mr. Christie is known to micro-manage and Mr. Wildstein is known to be extremely loyal to the Governor, making it doubtful he would have acted on his own. 
If Monday's testimony is true, is this a man you would want to have access to that metaphorical red phone?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Quick Fact: GED--Dumb It Down!

The General Education Development test, or GED, designed for high school dropouts who want to earn a high school diploma is getting a makeover. It is about to be brought in line with the national core curriculum, including more advanced reading, writing and algebra and will assess critical thinking skills.  Any student attending high school and who is working to obtain a traditional diploma must prove proficiency in these exact same elements by passing a test prior to graduation.

GED instructors are fighting the changes.  They say that making the test more difficult will make it too hard for some people to pass.  One GED student who dropped out of school after the 9th grade because she found academics too difficult said she thought the math requirement was already too hard.   "I don't understand anything about it."
If we expect an employer to accept a GED as equal to a traditional high school diploma, then they have to, in fact, be equal.  And if you don't understand basic high school math, then you shouldn't possess a high school diploma in any form.  A diploma is a merit award you earn for academic accomplishment, it is not a right.  If you can't do the work, then you don't earn the award.  
Life is not one of those Peewee sports leagues where every kid who plays gets a trophy so no one goes home with hurt feelings.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Today is Pearl Harbor Day


December 7, 1941

what eye thynk:  Lest we forget.

Eye Recommend: Large Companies Prepared to Pay Price on Carbon

LARGE COMPANIES PREPARED TO PAY PRICE ON CARBON, by Coral Davenport --
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/05/business/energy-environment/large-companies-prepared-to-pay-price-on-carbon.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Faced with the inevitable, Big Oil is preparing to move forward on the issue of carbon emissions.  The Koch brothers are refusing to budge from their anti-science position.  These different stands will pit pro-business establishment Republicans against we-don't-listen-to-anyone-but-ourselves Tea Party Republicans.
"More than two dozen of the nation's biggest corporations, including the five major oil companies, are planning their future growth on the expectation that the government will force them to pay a price for carbon pollution as a way to control global warming.

The development is a striking departure from conservative orthodoxy and a reflection of growing divisions between the Republican Party and its business supporters...

...Supporters and opponents of action to fight global warming say the development is significant because businesses that chart a financial course to make money in a carbon-constrained future could be more inclined to support policies that address climate change.

But unlike the five big oil companies--ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP and Shell, all major contributors to the Republican party, Koch Industries, a conglomerate that has played a major role in pushing Republicans away from action on climate change, is ramping up an already-aggressive campaign against climate policy--specifically against any tax or price on carbon...

...The divide, between conservative groups that are fighting against government regulation and oil companies that are planning for it as a practical business decision, echoes a deeper rift in the party, as business-friendly establishment Republicans clash with the Tea Party...

...Tom Carnac, North American president of (Carbon Disclosure Project) said 'Companies see that the trend is inevitable.  What you see here is a hardening of that understanding.'...

...During the 2012 election every Republican presidential candidate but one, Jon Huntsman, questioned or denied the science of climate change...

...Mainstream economists have long agreed that putting a price on carbon pollution is the most effective way to fight global warming.  The idea is fairly simple: if industry must pay to spew the carbon pollution that scientists say is the chief cause of global warming, the costs will be passed on to consumers in higher prices for gasoline and electricity.  Those high prices are expected to drive the market away from fossil fuels like oil and coal, and toward low-carbon renewable sources of energy.

Past efforts to enact a carbon price in Washington have failed largely because powerful fossil-fuel groups financed campaigns against lawmakers who supported a carbon tax...

...In 2009, President Obama urged House Democrats to vote for a cap-and-trade bill that would have required companies whose carbon-dioxide emissions exceeded set levels to buy emissions rights from those who emitted less.  The next year, Tea Party groups spent millions to successfully unseat members who voted for the bill...

...A decade ago, (ExxonMobil) was known for contributing to research organizations that questioned the science of climate change...Today, ExxonMobil openly acknowledges that carbon pollution from fossil fuels contributes to climate change....

...'ExxonMobil and many other large companies understand that climate change poses a direct economic threat to their businesses,' said Dan Weiss, director for climate policy at the Center for American Progress...'They need to convince their political allies to act before it's too late.'

Koch Industries maintains ties to the Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity, which last year campaigned against Republicans who acknowledged the science of climate change.  The company also contributes money to the American Energy Alliance, a Washington-based advocacy group that...says it has spent about $1.2 million in ads and campaign activities attacking candidates who it says support a carbon price.

Robert Murphy, (of) the American Energy Alliance, said his group was not concerned that it had taken a different position from the major oil companies. 'We're not taking marching orders from Big Oil,' he said."
This should be an interesting fight, and one that has been a long time coming.

Friday, December 6, 2013

R.I.P. Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013




"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."  
                                                                       From his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Quick Fact(s): 1. Just When You Thought Republicans Couldn't Play Any Dirtier, and 2. Humor as ACA Honey

ACA News --  the Discourage vs. Encourage Strategies

1.  The news from California regarding the Affordable Care Act and their state run insurance exchange has been nothing but good.  Rates are reported to be even lower than original estimates, people are signing up at a rate that puts the state well on its way to its goals and those who have signed up are giving the whole experience positive reviews.

Well, Republicans couldn't have that.  Under the guise of creating an additional "resource" for those Californians seeking information on the health care law, the state Assembly's GOP caucus created a website.  Mailers were sent out to voters highlighting the site as a location to access information regarding "Obamacare". Using a web address very similar to the official state marketplace website, a choice made in an obvious attempt to confuse people and to keep them from accessing the official site, the GOP's site includes these tidbits of Republican propaganda and lies:

  • The Affordable Care Act increases the federal budget deficit. (Independent economists have roundly invalidated this claim and further proven that it actually helps to lower the deficit.)
  • The IRS will be able to use the law to target conservatives. (It's not clear to what purpose this targeting will be used; but still it's a great scare tactic.)
  • The law will discourage private-sector hiring. (Same old argument that small businesses that have to provide health care for their employees will refuse to hire anyone.  This is an argument with multiple sides; but seems obvious that you can't run a business without employees, and, if you're the owner, you'd want to attract and keep the best.  And the best are going to choose to work for a business that provides health care over one that does not, so those who refuse would be seen at a disadvantage.  If all businesses provide equal access to health care, the playing field is leveled for everyone.)
  • The "Young Adult" section states that those in their 20s and 30s will pay higher premiums under Obamacare than they would in a free marketplace. (The higher rates than in a free marketplace claim has no basis in fact; but the truth is far less inflammatory: that the premiums paid by young adults who use their insurance less often than older adults will help balance the cost of health insurance for everyone.) 
  • The site voices veiled warnings of health care "rationing" for the elderly. (Beware those death-panels!)
All these "facts" are presented as objective and non-partisan--the Republican caucus was very careful to leave no hint that they are the site's creators.    Originally, there was no mention of, nor links to, the real Covered California site.  However, after a recent media tongue-lashing, (how can you call this an information "resource" while withholding the address of the official site?), a link to the official Covered California site has been added.  
Propaganda and lies presented to the uninsured as helpful facts.  How low can they go?
2.  On another note, the White House has released new ads designed to encourage young adults to sign up for health insurance. Presented as a series of e-cards, my favorite is fashioned to look like it came from Mom:  "As a reward for signing up, I will de-friend you on FB".
 What a nice change of pace from the Sturm und Drang being tossed around by the Republican Party.  When you're telling the truth, you can smile about it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Quick Fact: No Time! We Have No Time!

Last year, the 112th Congress passed fewer laws than any Congress in history.  It looks like the 113th is going to be even worse. 

We are nine days away from the December 13 deadline for the House and Senate to reach a deal on spending and taxes if we are to avoid another shutdown threat in January.  No budget committee meetings are scheduled for this week.  The House does, however, have four separate hearings on the Affordable Care Act for four separate committees on this week's calendar.  

And while major pieces of legislation like the Farm Bill, immigration reform, a sales tax ruling for on-line sellers and workplace protection for the LGBT community are on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)'s desk, he has said he will not bring them to the floor this year citing time constraints, (can't take time off from those important anti-ACA meetings, you know).  

The annual Defense Authorization Bill which approves funding for the military has passed easily for the past 52 straight years.  This year, the House attached an amendment to repeal the ACA, the Senate removed the amendment and sent it back to the House where it joined other legislation languishing on the Speaker's desk. A Waterways Infrastructure Bill, which has no spending attached to it, is also waiting in limbo.  It passed both Houses easily; but, after some minor tweaking, will not get a final House vote this year despite the fact that Republicans and Democrats say it will easily be approved.  

But, fear not.  The House has scheduled one vote this week--on a bill that will mandate that all loose change left at airport security checkpoints be collected and used for "places of rest and recuperation" for members of the military.
I don't know about you, but I'll rest easier knowing that important piece of legislation was dealt with in a timely manner.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Republican Catholics Decry Vatican Embassy Move, Are Silent When Limbaugh Calls Pope a Marxist

Last week Pope Francis issued the first apostolic exhortation of his papacy.  Speaking in defense of the poor and working classes of the world he said: "Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.  This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power...Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed."

In addressing society's ills, Pope Francis referenced Exodus 32: 1-35.  "The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.   The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings...How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"

what eye thynk:  While Republicans had much to say about President Obama's relocating the American Embassy to the Vatican:
 http://whateyethynk-politics.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-us-embassy-to-vatican-is-moving-ws.html, they were stultifyingly mute in response to the Papal slap down of their basic economic principles.  

Where were prominent Catholics like John Boehner, Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum,  Republican politicians who never fail to cite their Catholic faith as the foundation of their political agenda?   When the Pope told the world their conservative economic policies are on the wrong side of church doctrine, unlike their usual rush to register a daily sound byte, they were remarkably silent.  In fact, they had no defense whatsoever.

Instead, they let Rush Limbaugh speak for them.  In a segment Mr. Limbaugh aired on Wednesday and which is now available on-line under the title It's Sad How Wrong Pope Francis Is (Unless It's a Deliberate Mistranslation By Leftists, he called the pope's message "dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong...This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope."

The only things "dramatically" or "embarrassingly" wrong are the two disparate responses to the two big news items coming from the Vatican in recent days.  The public gnashing of teeth over a non-issue like moving the Vatican Embassy and the silence over a large issue like being called out by the Pope for the basic premise of their economic agenda indicates how false is their claim to faith-based politics.