Monday, September 30, 2013

September 30 - Monday Quote

I came across this quote in Time magazine this week, and my head wanted to explode.

Wayne LaPierre, who, as spokesman and CEO of the National Rifle Association, has single-mindedly fought any and every attempt to regulate guns in this country, demonstrated untoward chutzpah with this statement, issued after this month's Navy Yard shooting.  

monday quote:   Let's fix this broken system right now which nobody wants to fix.  (Wayne LaPierre, author and gun activist, 1948 -    )

Sunday, September 29, 2013

How Would God Judge?

It's Sunday, traditional day of worship for those of the Christian faith.

what eye thynk:    What a great question!

Quick Fact: New Jersey Judge Rules That Same-Sex Couples Should Be Allowed to Marry

In 2012, the Democratic led legislature in New Jersey passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in their state.  Governor Chris Christie (R) vetoed it.

Since 2006, New Jersey's constitution has guaranteed equal protection under the law for same-sex couples, including the right to join in a civil union, but not to marry.  Back in 2006, all federal benefits were denied to same-sex couples under DOMA, so giving same-sex civil union couples and married opposite sex couples equal state benefits was judged to comply with the equal protection guarantee.  

On Friday, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled that, based on the Supreme Court's June DOMA ruling and the subsequent extension of federal benefits to same-sex couples in states with marriage equality laws, that by New Jersey denying same-sex couples the right to marry, the state is in turn denying them federal rights now available to legally married couples--and thus is no longer in compliance with the constitution's equal protection guarantee.  (Not all federal benefits are available to civil union partners, including those dealing with immigration, health care and tax issues.)

"Under these circumstances, the current inequality visited upon same-sex civil union couples offends the New Jersey Constitution, creates an incomplete set of rights...and is not compatible with a reasonable conception of basic human dignity."

She ruled that New Jersey could begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses on October 21, 2013.

Governor Christie plans to appeal Judge Jacobson's decision to the New Jersey State Supreme Court.
Give it up, Mr. Christie.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Eye Recommend --- A Republican Ransom Note

A REPUBLICAN RANSOM NOTE, by The New York Times Editorial Board --
The House is willing to put millions of American lives in jeopardy and to threaten world-wide economic catastrophe.  It's as though they have become this giant mindless marauding beast, deaf to everything but their own roar of defiance.  We have reached the point where the President may have to do the unthinkable in order to make the Republican mob hear "Enough!"    
As our budget deadline looms and the debt ceiling crisis rises just over its shoulder, this New York Times editorial sums up the situation. (Any underlines are mine.  My comments are indented and printed in italics.)
"On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew sent the House a very serious warning that, for the first time, the United States would be unable to pay its bills beginning on Oct. 17 if the debt ceiling is not lifted.  House leaders responded on Thursday with one of the least serious negotiating proposals in modern Congressional history:  a jaw-dropping list of ransom demands containing more than a dozen discredited Republican policy fantasies.

We'll refrain from deliberately sabotaging the global economy, Speaker John Boehner and the other leaders said, if President Obama allows more oil drilling on federal lands.  And drops regulations on greenhouse gases.   And builds the Keystone XL oil pipeline.  And stops paying for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.   And makes it harder to sue for medical malpractice. And, of course, halts health care reform for a year."
Some Republican members of the House were quoted this past week as saying they were forced to make their demands because the President will not negotiate with their leadership. They have conveniently forgotten that the last time President Obama and Speaker Boehner negotiated and reached a budget agreement, House membership rejected it out of hand. Their idea of negotiation seems to be give-me-exactly-what-I-want-and-then-I'll-ask-for-more.  
"The list would be laughable if the threat were not so serious.  A failure to raise the debt ceiling would cause a default on government debt, shattering the world's faith in Treasury bonds as an investment vehicle and almost certainly bringing on another economic downturn.  Unlike a government shutdown, a default could leave the Treasury without enough money to pay Social Security benefits or the paychecks of troops.

The full effects remain unknown because no Congress has ever allowed the government to go over the brink before."
But then, no Congress has ever been in the hands of this specialized species of Representative--a childish, tone-deaf, unable to see beyond their own ego breed that has cowed a weak Speaker into, not only following their fantasy parade, but into encouraging their one-minded demonstration of stupidity in order to preserve his own seat at the head of the table.
"Any sober-minded lawmaker should realize that the danger of trifling with the debt limit is far too high.  But Mr. Boehner has been encouraging his members to toss their pet projects...onto the towering list of demands...

...The absurdity of the list shows just how important it is that Mr. Obama ignore every demand and force the House extremists to decide whether they really want to be responsible for an economic catastrophe.  He made a mistake by negotiating in 2011, hoping to reach a grand bargain; that produced the corrosive sequester cuts.

To prevent the House from making every debt-ceiling increase an opportunity to issue extortionist demands for rejected policies they can achieve in no other way, the president has to put an end to the routine creation of emergencies once and for all by simply saying no."
The possible consequences are terrifying; but Tea Party conservative Republicans have got to be shown that the word "no" can be applied to them.  Only then will there be any chance that they will take a step away from conservative lobbyists like the Koch brothers and realize that there are other voices in this country, and we aren't singing "Hallelujah!"

Friday, September 27, 2013

Public Carry Gun Permit for the Blind? No Problem in Iowa.

In Iowa, a blind person can get a gun license and even a permit to carry that gun in public.  County licensing agents report that they have issued public carry permits to persons who could not legally drive a car and who could not see to fill out the application form.   No one is legally challenging the issuing of public carry permits to the blind.  Iowa state law does not permit their sheriffs to deny a person the right to carry a weapon based solely on physical ability.  Jane Hudson, executive director of Disability Rights Iowa claims that to deny a gun license to a blind person would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

what eye thynk:  Look, I'm all for giving the other guy a fair chance. I'm for wheelchair ramps, automatic doors in public buildings and assistance to visually or audibly impaired people in the classroom and in life.  I'll write a nasty note and leave it on the windshield of a car without a handicapped permit  when I see one in a specially marked parking space.  I am open to changes in my daily life that make things easier for those who don't have the luxury of my physical capabilities.  But, really, there has got to be a point when common sense comes into play. 

Other states require those applying for gun permits to prove proficiency by taking a field test to demonstrate they can hit a target.  Some states require a vision test.  To date, there have been no challenges to the Americans with Disabilities Act that would prohibit these requirements.

I did some more looking into the issue of guns and the blind when I first read about Iowa and found that there are skeet shooting clubs for the blind where they use specially designed clays that give off a sound that the blind shooter uses to track his target. That makes sense to me and I admire that this can be done.  

A gun permit for the blind so they can participate in shooting sports specially designed for them? Absolutely.  But giving a person who cannot see well enough to get a drivers license or to fill out a paper application a license to carry a loaded gun into a public place is a tragic error just waiting to happen.

What next, blind airline pilots trying to land a plane by listening to a pinging runway?  Public accommodations for the physically handicapped?  Yes! But not at the cost of public safety.  Once more: common sense, Iowa, common sense.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ted Cruz and My (Poor) Attempt at Channeling Dr. Seuss

On Tuesday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) stood in the Senate chamber and gave a long rambling "speech" in which he quoted, among other literary works, Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham.  This was Ted Cruz' attempt to persuade his fellow Republicans to vote against the spending bill passed by the House--the same bill that Mr. Cruz has been loudly supporting for months both in his home state and in Washington.  His end objective, of course, was the defunding of the ACA.

what eye thynk:   It would appear that Dr. Seuss' children's book was too long or too complicated for this Texas Republican to understand.  He tried to use the book to say that people don't like the ACA and will not "eat it" just like the creatures in the Seuss classic did not like green eggs and ham.  But Mr. Cruz missed the whole point of the book--that, in the end, when these creatures tried green eggs and ham, they found they loved them.  It is a children's lesson in being open minded--something that is beyond the ken of most Republicans these days, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that Mr. Cruz missed the point.

There was one Republican surprise this week, however, and that came from the voice of Senator John McCain (R-Arizona).  On Wednesday, Mr. McCain rebuked Ted Cruz and the far right spectrum of his party for their obsession with the ACA to the exclusion of other important issues. 
"Many of those who are in opposition right now were not here at the time, and did not take part in the debate and I respect that.  But I'd like to remind them that the record is very clear of one of the most hard-fought, fair--in my view--debates that has taken place on the floor of the Senate in the time that I've been here. 
And then I'd remind my colleagues that in the 2012 election, 'Obamacare,' as it's called--and I'll be more polite, the ACA--was a subject that was a major issue in the campaign.  I campaigned all over America for two months, everywhere I could, and in every single campaign rally I said, 'And we have to repeal and replace Obamacare.' 
Well, the people spoke.  They spoke, much to my dismay, but they spoke and they re-elected the president of the United States."
Lost in Ted Cruz' Senate tantrum this week were comments about how Republicans have to stand up for the principles of democracy, namely responding to the will of the people.  This has been a theme of the Republican Party since 2008--a theme that contradicts everything they have tried to do--or rather undo--in Congress for the past five years.  

Mr. Cruz, the country had an election.  Your party lost.  That means the majority of the people did not vote for your ideas; they chose the other guy's instead.  Continuing to fight the same fight while insisting that you are fighting for the will of the people is nothing but egotistical self-delusion.  To put it another way:

We had an election, you lost.
Now let me tell you the cost.
It means that the guy who now sits up high
Has ideas that we don't want tossed. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Quick Fact: Salvation Army Says Gays and Their Parents Should Die

Earlier this Summer, Salvation Army Media Relations Director Major Andrew Craibe appeared on a public radio show hosted by Serena Ryan to discuss a proposed boycott of the Salvation Army by LGBT parents in protest of that organization's anti-gay stand.

Ms. Ryan asked Mr. Craibe about the Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine, the manual used by the Salvation Army to train their members.  There are several references to homosexuality, including one section that cites Romans 1:18-32 which they believe is an admonition from God that homosexuals and those who support them deserve to die.   

From that interview:

Ryan:  According to the Salvation Army gay parents deserve death.  How do you respond to that as part of your doctrine?  

Craibe:  Well that's part of our belief system.

Ryan:  So they should die.

Craibe:  You know, we have an alignment to the Scriptures, but that's our belief.

Ryan:  You're proposing in your doctrine that because these parents are gay, that they must die.

Craibe:  Well, well, because that is part of our Christian doctrine.

Ryan:  But how is that Christian?  Shouldn't it be about love?

Craibe:  Well, the love that we would show is about that, consideration for all human beings to come to know salvation.

Ryan:  Or die.

Craibe:  Well, yes.
Guess who won't be getting any of my spare dollars this holiday season...or ever again.

An interpretation of the same verses from a different Christian viewpoint, can be read here:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Quick Fact(s): Two Church Leaders - Two Views on Homosexuality

These two quotes, from church leaders, caught my eye this past week...

1.  Kevin Swanson, host of the Generations with Vision radio show and Pastor of the Reformation Church OPC in Colorado, after seeing a photo of Colorado's House Majority Leader Mark Ferranchino (D) kissing his same sex partner on the front page of the Denver Post:

Mr. Swanson blamed the catastrophic flooding in that state on state "legislators (who) committed homosexual acts on the front page of the Denver Post, do you remember that?...So here we have the very worst year in Colorado...let's kill as many babies as possible, let's make sure we encourage as much decadent homosexual activity as possible, let's break God's law with impudence at every single level, at every single level let's make sure that we offend whoever wrote the Bible, so we have the worst year possible politically in the state of Colorado and it happens to be the worst year ever in terms of flood and fire damage in Colorado's history."
I'd point out that there are states that have Democratic led legislatures, marriage equality laws and follow the Supreme Court's ruling on abortion that have been visited by neither flood nor fire; but I doubt this bigot would hear me. And where in his Bible does he find the verse about hating thy neighbor as thyself?
2.  Pope Francis, when asked to explain his position on homosexuality--specifically, he was asked if he "approved" of it:

"Tell me: When God looks at a gay person, does He endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?  We must always consider the person."
No matter what religion you follow, or even if you don't follow a religion at all, you have to respect a church leader who keeps an open mind, who doesn't claim to have all the answers. Personally, I wish this man a long and healthy life.  The world needs him.

Monday, September 23, 2013

September 23 - Monday Quote

Recently, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) arrived late to Georgetown University for a speech by Warren Buffet.  She was delayed by a vote in the House that she described this way:

monday quote:   I am sorry I'm late.  We were busy taking food out of the mouths of babies. (Nancy Pelosi, politician, 1940-     )

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Republicans and the ACA...Obsession or Fear?

 ---> RANDOM THOUGHT:   What if the Republican obsession with defunding the ACA isn't so much because they believe it will be a "train wreck" and will "hurt jobs"; but because they secretly fear that it will be a smashing success and they are all going to end up looking like fools?

Friday, September 20, 2013

At Last, a Pope Who "Gets It"

On Thursday, Jesuit journals around the world published an interview with Pope Francis.  In it, the pope called for a church that would be a "home for all."

As an answer to critics who have called for him to talk more about the church's stand on birth control, gay marriage and abortion, the pope explained his reticence this way:   "It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.  The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.  The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude 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."

 "I see the church as a field hospital after battle.  It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars.  You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else."

Father Spadaro, who conducted the interview in the spartan Vatican guest house where Pope Francis has chosen to live rather than in the isolated opulence of the Papal Palace, had this to add:  "We have a great pope.  There is a big vision...His big vision is to see the church in the middle of the persons...It is the middle of the world."

Of course, there are those priests who aren't entirely in step with the new leader of the Catholic church.  Also on Thursday, Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, spoke at a Vatican conference about what he called the "priority of the abortion issue."   "Nobody should try to use the words of the pope to minimize the urgent need to preach and teach about abortion.

what eye thynk:   At last, a pope who "gets it".  One who sees that a church is more than rules and ceremony, who remembers that Jesus taught love and acceptance above all else.

While Pope Francis' remarks do not change church doctrine, they certainly give it a new focus, a new softness, a new hope for acceptance for those who have felt disenfranchised by the two previous pope's focus on strict adherence to church doctrine.

As for Rev. Pavone, he needs to re-read the papal interview, because minimizing the "urgent need to preach and teach about abortion" and stopping the constant high octane focus on doctrine over all else is EXACTLY what Pope Francis is talking about. 

I don't expect the Catholic church to start performing same sex marriages or to begin condoning the use of birth control any time soon;  but the pope's interview does give me hope that, at last, there is someone at the top who acknowledges that Catholics don't all come in the same shape and size.

Love first--doctrine second.   Jesus would be proud.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Eye Recommend --- The March to Anarchy

THE MARCH TO ANARCHY, by the New York Times Editorial Board --

I want to share some quotes from the New York Times Editorial Board's scathing analysis of our latest budget crisis and the way John Boehner, instead of leading, is being lead by the far right members of his caucus. (My comments appear indented and in italics.)


"On Wednesday...the full Republican caucus, leadership and all, joined the anarchy movement, announcing plans to demand the defunding of health care reform as the price for keeping the government open past Sept. 30."
The House has tried to defund the ACA 41 times--each time knowing that the Senate was not even going to consider it.  And now, only days from the scheduled opening of ACA insurance marketplaces, they have come up with a "final offer"--defund the ACA and they'll agree to fund the government through December.  (No mention of what they'll want in order to continue government funding in January.)
"By choosing this as their live-or-die issue, Republicans are driving straight toward the brink and removing the brake pedal.

What is worse, the House leadership also announced plans to make a series of demands of the White House in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in mid-October, threatening a government default if they don't get their way."  
Their demands read like a list of everything they wanted but didn't get over the past five years, including, of course, defunding the ACA, the immediate approval of the Keystone pipeline and changes to our tax code that will benefit corporations and those wealthy enough to profit from them.
"As a strategy, the House plan makes little sense.  After the House takes its vote this week...the measure will go to the Senate...The Senate will almost certainly approve the resolution minus the defunding language, sending the bill right back to the House.  Nothing will have changed, except that there will be only a day or two left before the government's financing runs out.

As a political statement, this plan illuminates the chaotic state of the Republican Party.  Speaker John Boehner (has) lost control of his chamber to hard-liners obsessed with repealing (the ACA.)  Many on the right, who came to Washington with the radical agenda of ending as many government programs as they could, practically welcome the prospect of a shutdown or even a default."
Their tactics will not work, but they don't really care.  It's not about what's best for the country to them.  Its about feeding their own egos, about their insatiable need to prove themselves better than those who came before them. It's about beating their own puffed up conservative breasts and screaming into the wind "I'm King of the Hill!" Teenagers go through growing pains just like these where they believe all parents are stupid.  Most of them grown out of it. Those who don't, apparently become Republican politicians. 
"Mr. Boehner is playing the dangerous game of trying to placate the extremists for a few days."
He is also trying to protect his own butt.  Tea Party members of the House have made it clear that, if he doesn't go along with their agenda, there will be a new Speaker after the 2014 elections.
"But, in the end, the burden will be squarely on his shoulders.  If he allows the entire House, including Democrats, to vote on straight forward measures to pay for the government and raise the debt limit, the double crisis will instantly end. "
This is a point that keeps getting shoved under the rug. Mr. Boehner's "leadership" style has been to refuse to offer any measure up for a vote unless it will pass with Republican votes alone.  He knows that all it would take to pass a temporary budget measure--one that would not require the defunding of the ACA--is for a few moderate Republicans to switch sides and vote with House Democrats; and so he refuses to allow such a vote to take place.  And then, next month, allowing a vote to raise the debt ceiling without first assuring that the majority of Republicans are on board would eliminate that looming debt ceiling crisis in the same way and without all the theatrics of last minute midnight sessions we've been treated to in the recent past.
Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) was asked what he thought the House would do when the Senate rejects their ACA defunding plan as it is sure to do.  "Even the best coaches in the NFL only script out the first two series of play.  They don't script the whole game.  We have got to play the game. We have got to see how it all shakes out."
If these selfish, ego driven juveniles want to think of the "Art of Governing" as a "game", would it be too much to ask that no one be permitted to play until they've reached the age of reason?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Republicans - No Plan, No Progress, No Leadership

The United States fiscal year ends on September 30...and we have no budget, no spending bill, no way forward.

what eye thynk:   Once again, we are facing a government shutdown because House Republicans refuse to acknowledge that anyone should be in charge but them.  They refuse to even meet with Senate Democrats to work out a compromise budget, in essence saying pass our budget "as is" or we will shut down the country. They refuse to accept that the ACA is the law of the land; and, with time running out, instead of looking for ways to avoid a spending crisis, they will be spending precious time taking a 42nd vote to defund the law--fooling themselves into believing that THIS time the Senate and the President will acquiesce in order to keep the country running.

Congressional Republicans have been without strong leadership since John Boehner (R-Ohio) was elected Speaker of the House five years ago, and the situation further deteriorated after the last mid-term elections when moderate Republicans were forced out of office by fantasy promising, far right Tea Party candidates.  Mr. Boehner has absolutely no idea how to corral his splintering party, and so children like Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) continue to run amok like a political version of Lord of the Flies.

Even The Wall Street Journal has had enough of Republican theatrics, comparing their brand of non-governing to WWII Kamikaze pilots.  The Republican goal seems to be to damage the country with their antics, and they may very well succeed; but, in the end, they're going to kill off their own party.

As U.S. Representative Charlie Dent (R-Pennsylvania) said this week, "It's important that Republicans stop pretending that McConnell is the Senate Majority Leader and Mitt Romney is President."

If only it were that easy.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Quick Fact(s): Raping Away the Gay in Iowa and "Don't Call Us" Letter to Gay Bar Owner in Ohio

Two LGBT news stories caught my eye this past week.

1.  Council Bluffs, Iowa --  Victory Fellowship Church's former youth pastor Brent Girouex confessed to police that he had sex with at least four young men in his congregation.  Eight more have since come forward to say they were also violated by Mr. Girouex.

This warped sexual predator justified his actions by saying he was keeping them "sexually pure" for God.  He said he was helping to get rid of "homosexual urges by praying while he had sexual contact with (them)...When they would ejaculate, they would be getting rid of the evil thoughts in their mind."

The facts of this case along with his confession of guilt should have guaranteed that this man spend the rest of his life in jail; but no.  The judge sentenced Girouex to 17 years and then suspended the entire sentence, instead giving him five years probation and instructing him to complete sex offender counseling.

The church had no comment.  The victims and their families are justifiably outraged.  Mr. Girouex's wife has filed for divorce and has asked the court to deny him any contact with their four children.
I am beyond disgusted.  Where did Mr. Girouex learn this hate?  At the worst, Victory Fellowship taught Mr. Girouex and is complicit in his actions.  At the very least, VF harbored a social terrorist who used the Bible to condone hate crimes.  And the judge's sentencing decision has nothing to do with justice.

2.  Cleveland, Ohio -- In the year ending September 2, 2013, Cocktails, a bar friendly to the LGBT community in this city made nine 911 calls for everything from teenagers throwing rocks at patrons entering or leaving the bar to the assault by 20 people on one patron as he left the bar in the Fall of  2012.

And how has the Cleveland Police Department handled these problems?  By sending Cocktails owner, Brian Lyons, a letter signed by Safety Director Martin Flask warning him for excessive 911 calls. "Repeated calls to the same property place an undue and inappropriate burden on the taxpayers and City of Cleveland and our Safety forces...Failure to address these issues, resulting in future calls for police service, will be scrutinized for appropriate administrative and law enforcement action."

After local news stories began circulating about the letter, Mayor Frank Jackson told Mr. Flask to rescind it and to meet with the Police District Commander and Mr. Lyons to work together on the safety issue at Cocktails.  The city claims to be committed to fully investigating any crimes against Cocktails' patrons and to working to make the city safer for everyone.
This bar is in my neighborhood.  It is not loud.  It doesn't attract large crowds.  It doesn't even have a sign outside.  It is a quiet, neighborhood establishment whose patrons just happen to be gay.  They shouldn't need media attention to become part of the "everyone" the city wants to keep safe and the owner shouldn't be threatened for asking for protection.

Monday, September 16, 2013

September 16 - Monday Quote

The end of our fiscal year quickly approaches and Republicans are still calling for more spending on military and business-friendly programs while insisting that, in order to reduce our national deficit, spending on social programs including food stamps, education and health care must be cut or eliminated.

monday quote:   I don’t know of any family in America that would use their children’s lunch money to pay down their credit card.  (Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington, 1936-      )

Friday, September 13, 2013

Quick Fact: The U.S. House - Where Accomplishing Nothing Earns You An Extra Day Off

This is an addendum to yesterday's post -- Deja Vu Governing: Another Fiscal Year Ends, Another Budget Crisis Looms --

As expected, House Republicans rejected Speaker Boehner's proposal to send a two part spending bill to the Senate. The first part, aimed at reducing the deficit, would have continued funding the country at current sequester levels, a proposal that may or may not have passed the Senate.  The second part was yet another attempt to repeal the ACA, which the Senate would have assuredly rejected.  The Speaker's proposal was a back door chance to keep the country running without requiring Republicans to actually work with Democrats on a real budget.  But Tea Party conservative members of the House refused to approve any spending bill--no matter its origin--if defunding the ACA was not part of the main bill.  An amendment that could be considered separately, as Mr. Boehner proposed, was deemed a compromise and thus totally unacceptable.  

We are seeing a Republican party divided against itself.   One faction refuses to consider anything but the complete elimination of the ACA while the other insists that any budget must focus on deficit reduction. No one will acknowledge that the deficit has already dropped from $1.1 trillion in September 2012 to its current level of $755.8 billion.  No one will acknowledge that any bill defunding the ACA has zero chance of passing in the Senate.

So, after having just returned to Washington following a four week hiatus, with time running out and no solution in sight, the House decided they needed a break and adjourned early today. Those four and a half post-vacation work days must have been exhausting.  And did I mention that they have scheduled another entire week off beginning September 23rd?  This leaves five days to get our budget conundrum worked out...or less depending on how tired the House is next Friday afternoon.

Mr. Boehner, giving no indication that he knows what to do next and unable to rally his troops into any kind of cohesiveness, decided to blame the problem on the White House.  "It's time for the president's party to show the courage to work with us to solve this problem."
Only a coward, when he finds himself sinking in a quagmire of his own creation, would blame it on someone else.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Deja Vu Governing: Another Fiscal Year Ends, Another Budget Crisis Looms

Two weeks from now, the U.S. fiscal year will end.  On October 1, without a new budget, there will be no official way to pay for any government program.  Another shutdown crisis looms.

what eye thynk:   Early this year, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called on the Senate to pass a budget and blamed past government money problems on their inability to do so.  The Senate called his bluff and passed a budget in March, their first in four years.  The President presented his 2014 budget proposal in April.  The House then spent the next few months passing its own budget with details finally beginning to be being revealed in June. 

So far, this is the way things are supposed to work.  The next step would be for members of the House and members of the Senate to meet in committee to work out a compromise budget made up of pieces of all three budgets.  This final fiscal plan would then be presented to both chambers of Congress, and the business of funding the country would go on. However, House Republicans, being allergic to the word "compromise," have spent the past 3 1/2 months refusing to meet with Senate Democrats, essentially stating that the country will run on their budget or it won't run at all.

Now, House Republican leadership--if you can call what John Boehner does "leadership"--thinks it has found a way to avoid another government budget showdown while at the same time recording yet another attempt to defund the ACA. 

The proposal is to have the House pass a resolution that would continue funding the government at current sequester levels. (Thus avoiding the need to meet in committee with Democratic Senators and do something govern.)  They would add an amendment to that bill that would defund the ACA.  One House vote, two pieces of business taken care of.  The Senate would then take two votes; the first, of course, would vote down the ACA amendment. With the second, they could vote for the budget resolution thus keeping the country limping along, though at sequestration levels which even Republicans claim to hate.
John Boehner: "None of us like" the sequestration policy.
Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) House Majority Leader: The sequester "is not the best way to go about spending reductions." 
Hal Rogers (R-Kentucky) House Appropriations Committee Chairman:  The sequester is "unrealistic," "ill-conceived," and "must be brought to an end."
You have to wonder, if they believe the sequester is so awful, (and on that they are correct), why they just don't meet with members of the Senate and work out a better plan.  Oh, wait, that would involve compromising.  Never mind.

Speaker Boehner's plan avoids a government shutdown that would most assuredly be blamed on Republicans, (a recent poll shows 51% of Americans think that the Republican Party would be at fault if we run out of money at the end of the month, 27% would blame the Democrats, 22% don't have a clue); but it is not a step forward, only another piece of theater, a way to make members of the House feel good about themselves because, hey, they tried and whatever happens now is out of their hands.

It is a coward's way to save Republican "face".  And it's not working.  Uber-conservative, new-age Republicans have indicated that they find this plan unacceptable.  As one political pundit put it "These folks don't want a symbolic, feel-good gesture; these folks actually want to force a budget crisis in the hopes of denying millions of Americans access to affordable health care.  Republican leaders are afraid of the fallout of a government shutdown, but rank-and-file Republicans don't give a darn."

Speaker Boehner, whose weak leadership is more about begging than leading, is essentially telling hard line conservatives that he can't give them the shutdown they want but he can extend the destructive sequestration so they can continue to campaign on how much they hate it, and at the same time they get to tell everyone how they voted to defund the ACA--again.

And this is where we stand, months after competing budgets were passed then left to molder, and weeks before another government shutdown looms. In our current toxic political climate, Republicans could refuse to go along with the Speaker's proposal or Senate Democrats could refuse to go along with continuing the sequester.  Or a miracle could happen and Congress could grow up and act like the adults we thought we elected and get down to doing the job we pay them to do.

But they better hurry up and do something.  After all, they have to clear time on their busy calendars for the next debit-ceiling crisis--coming sometime in November.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11, 2001

Florida: Political Fundraiser and Execution Collide. Guess Which One Was Canceled.

Twenty five years ago, in 1988, Marshall Lee Gore raped, strangled and stabbed a young woman before dumping her body in a Miami-Dade county trash heap.  It was later discovered that she was not his first victim.  He was sentenced to death for the Miami murder and the execution was scheduled for yesterday, Tuesday, September 10, 2013.

Governor Rick Scott (R) postponed the execution at the behest of Attorney General Pam Bondi (R), not because of any new evidence but because it coincided with the kick-off of her re-election campaign.

what eye thynk:   First, let me say that I am against capital punishment.  My solution is a life sentence that means "life", not until the parole board says so.  I would put the prisoner in a cell, weld the cell door shut and leave him there.  He wouldn't get out to socialize in the yard with the other prisoners, he wouldn't get re-hab, a free education or learn a new skill. If he wants exercise, he would be free to do all the jumping jacks he wants in his cell. Meals would be slid through a slot in the door and if the prisoner wanted entertainment, he would get a book, not TV and video games.  Visitation would consist of talking to the clergyman of his choice through the cell door.  Destroy the cell and he would live within the destruction or pass the time rebuilding what he had torn apart.  Health care would be minimal and only what could be accomplished through the welded door.  Get sick?  Live, (or die), with it. Harsh, yes; but so is the crime that got him there.   And, if later developments prove a prisoner who has already been executed to have really been innocent--which has happened--there would be no "whoops!"

But this post isn't about deciding yea or nay on capital punishment.  It is about Florida and Atty. Gen. Bondi's request.  This would be the same Atty. Gen. Bondi who fought for the Florida legislature to pass the Timely Justice Act aimed at speeding up executions in her state.  

You have to wonder why Ms. Bondi just didn't change the date of her fundraising event.  After all, political campaigns for Florida Attorney General only come once every four years.  I would think there were lots of other available dates on her calendar.  And, being the State Attorney General, you have to believe that she had plenty of advanced warning about the exact date and time of the coming execution.

Though her campaign event went on as scheduled, Ms. Bondi did acknowledge that her request was not one of her best moments.  "We absolutely should not have requested that the date of the execution be moved."  I guess the "we" means she is passing equal responsibility onto Gov. Scott for granting her request.

No matter what side of the capital punishment question you stand on, you have to acknowledge that postponing a scheduled execution for the convenience of a political fundraising event is crassness personified. 

I'm sure the families of Marshall Gore's victims are questioning Republican priorities this morning.  I know I am.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Eye Recommend --- Same War, Different Country

SAME WAR, DIFFERENT COUNTRY, by Thomas L. Friedman --
Mr. Friedman's column brings up many of the doubts I have about our involvement in Syria. His arguments are carefully thought out, intelligently presented and, in them, I believe I've found my answer to the Syria question.   
But, more importantly for me, he has managed to make me think about where world power will reside in the next century. In his Arab world arguments, I see a warning for America.
"I keep reading about how Iraq was the bad war and Libya was the good war and Afghanistan was the necessary war and Bosnia was the moral war and Syria is now another necessary war.  Guess what! They are all the same war.

They are all the story of what happens when multisectarian societies, most of them Muslim or Arab, are held together for decades by dictators ruling vertically, from the top down, with iron fists and then have their dictators toppled, either by internal or external forces.  And they are all the story of how the people in these countries respond to the fact that with the dictator gone they can only be governed horizontally--by the constituent communities themselves writing their own social contracts for how to live together as equal citizens, without an iron fist from above.  And, as I've said before, they are all the story of how difficult it is to go from Saddam to Jefferson--from vertical rule to horizontal rule--without falling into Hobbes or Khomeini."
I had to look this up:  Hobbes was a 17th century English philosopher who believed people are essentially selfish and democracies could easily degenerate into chaos and civil war.  He believed people were better governed by monarchies, benevolent dictators or enlightened despots.  
Khomeini is--well, you know. 
"In Bosnia, after much ethnic cleansing between warring communities, NATO came in and stabilized and codified what is in effect a partition.  We acted on the ground as 'the army of the center.'  In Iraq, we toppled the dictator and then, after making every mistake in the book, we got the parties to write a new social contract.  To make that possible, we policed the lines between sects and eliminated a lot of the worst jihadists in the Shiite and Sunni ranks.  We acted on the ground as the 'army of the center.'  But then we left before anything could take root.  Ditto Afghanistan."
And tribal warfare and jihdaism are back in vogue, highlighting the waste of American lives and resources.
"The Obama team wanted to be smarter in Libya:  No boots on the ground, so we decapitated that dictator from the air.  But then our ambassador got murdered, because, without boots on the ground to referee, and act as the army of the center, Hobbes took over before Jefferson.

If we were to decapitate the Syrian regime from the air, the same thing would likely happen there. For any chance of a multisectarian democratic outcome in Syria, you need to win two wars on the ground:  one against the ruling Assad-Allawite-Iranian-Hezbollah-Shiite alliance; and, once that one is over, you'd have to defeat the Sunni Islamists and pro-Al Qaeda jihadists. Without an army of the center (which no one will provide) to back up the few decent Free Syrian Army units, both will be uphill fights.

The center exists in these countries, but it is weak and unorganized.  It's because these are pluralistic societies--mixtures of tribes and religious sects...(and) they lack any sense of citizenship or deep ethic pluralism.  That is, tolerance, cooperation and compromise."
At this point, I started to think of that old axiom about advanced civilizations peaking at 200 years and then beginning the long slide into dissolution and I began wondering if maybe Mr. Hobbes was right. After all, our modern American government is the poster child for intolerance, lack of cooperation and rejection of compromise.   
But back to Syria and the Middle East...
"They could hold together as long as there was a dictator to 'protect' (and divide) everyone from everyone else.  But when the dictator goes, and you are a pluralistic society but lack pluralism, you can't build anything because there is never enough trust for one community to cede power to another--not without an army of the center to protect everyone from everyone.  In short, the problem now across the Arab East is not just poison gas, but poisoned hearts.  Each tribe or sect believes it is in a rule-or-die struggle against the next, and when everyone believes this, it becomes self-fulfilling.

That means Syria and Iraq will both likely devolve into self-governing, largely homogeneous, ethnic and religious units, like Kurdistan.  And, if we are lucky, these units will find a modus vivendi, as happend in Lebanon after 14 years of civil war.  And then maybe, over time, these smaller units will voluntarily come together into larger, more functional states."
And will their coming together coincide with weakened or failing Western democracies like the one in this country?  Will the Arab world be the center of world power in the next century? Of course, it won't effect me; but my ego likes to picture America going on as before, ad infinitum.
"(And) please do spare me the lecture that America's credibility is at stake here.  Really? Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting since the 7th century over who is the rightful heir to the Prophet Muhammad's spiritual and political leadership, and our credibility is on the line?...Their civilization has missed every big modern global trend--religious Reformation, democratization, feminism and entrepreneurial and innovative capitalism--and our credibility is on the line?  I don't think so.

We've struggled for a long time, and still are, learning to tolerate 'the other.'  That struggle has to happen in the Arab/Muslim world, otherwise nothing we do matters.  What is the difference between the Arab awakening in 2011 and South Africa's transition to democracy in the 1990s?America?  No.  The quality of local leadership and the degree of tolerance."
Mr. Friedman's last paragraph finally gave me the answer to where I stand on the Syrian do-we-or-don't-we question.  We don't   
But it is his last sentence that really reverberated for me.  It should serve as a warning.  It's not the name "United States of America" that makes us great, it is our leadership--and BOTH American parties need to agree to reverse the ebb of tolerance if we are to disprove the 200 year axiom. 
Dear Republican Party:  A new interest in the art of compromise wouldn't hurt either.

Monday, September 9, 2013

September 9 - Monday Quote

Let's hear it for the "imaginists", the ones who go beyond thinking outside the box--who refuse to acknowledge that a box might even exist.

monday quote: 
(Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist, 1879-1955)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Quick Fact: The Results of the Florida Investigation into Voter Fraud are Released.

Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) and his Republican legislature insisted there was a huge need to clean up the voter rolls in their state because of rampant voter fraud.  So, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement compared driving licenses and voter rolls and they sent letters to registered voters who they believed to be ineligible to vote, telling them they had been removed from the registered voting list and they would have to prove their eligibility and re-register if they wanted to vote in the future.  Basically, they spent eight months and untold money looking at every vote cast in the state of Florida during the 2012 election.  All this was to justify what the Governor said was the urgent need for new voter registration restrictions--because Mr. Scott and his Republican buddies knew that Mitt would have won Florida if all those illegal Democratic votes had been excluded.

Well, the results are in.  The Florida Department of Law Enforcement found, (drum roll, please), TWO cases of voter fraud.  Yes, TWO whole cases!  And both were registration forms fraudulently filled out by a man who worked for the Republican Party.  He used, (stole), the identity of a former girlfriend's ex-husband and filled out forms in his name...twice.

The Governor and his legislature have had no comment.
I am expecting a call for an investigation of the investigation to be announced any day now.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hurricane Katrina -- How Did We Get to Be This Stupid?

A recent poll by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic leaning organization, found some attention getting statistics when they asked people in Louisiana who was most responsible for the government's deplorable response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

28% said President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was most responsible.
29% said President Obama, who was a freshman U.S.Senator at the time, was most responsible.
44% said they didn't know who to blame.
Are they really this stupid, or is it simple hatred for President Obama--hatred so pervasive that people will blame him for everything and anything--facts be damned and no matter how impossible.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Quick Fact: How Many Ways Can Republicans Find to Stop People From Getting Health Insurance?

Republicans continue their fight against the ACA.  Georgia, another red state that has refused to set up its own insurance marketplace, has introduced a new brand of venom into the process.  Georgia is now requiring that navigators, (who have been specifically trained by the federal government to assist people in signing up for health insurance in states with federally designed exchanges), must now pass the state insurance agent test before they can begin to help uninsured Georgians negotiate the profusion of insurance plans offered by the federal marketplace.

Georgia joins Missouri where state law now forbids state and local officials from providing "assistance or resources of any kind" to federal navigators and Ohio, where new regulations prohibit navigators from offering comparisons of different insurance plans, a key element in choosing the right plan for yourself or your family.
Republican - just another word for ugly.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Texas and Mississippi National Guard -- Court-martial Material?

After the Supreme Court struck down DOMA earlier this year, the Defense Department announced that it would extend full benefits to all legally married same sex spouses beginning in September.  In August, the Pentagon said that same sex couples would also get full veterans' benefits.  

National Guard offices in two states decided not to comply with the new directives. On Tuesday, the day the new regulations took effect, the Texas National Guard refused to process any requests from same sex couples and Mississippi said it will not issue applications for benefits from offices if they state-owned.  In an attempt to explain their decision to ignore military orders, both cited their state's prohibition against same sex marriage.

Alicia Butler married her same sex partner--an Iraq war veteran--in California in 2009.  The couple now lives in Texas with their 5 month old child.  Ms. Butler went to the Texas Military Forces headquarters in Austin on Tuesday and was turned away.  She was advised to get her military spouse ID card at Fort Hood, a  U.S. Army post 90 miles distant.

Eligible same sex partners can apply for benefits at any federal military office or post.

what eye thynk:   Since when did following orders or regulations become an option in our U.S. military? 

According to the United Code of Military Justice, Article 92, failure to obey an order could result in being court-martialed.

Any person subject to this chapter who--

  1. violates or fails to obey any lawful general order or regulation
  2. having knowledge of any other lawful order issued by any member of the armed forces, which it is his duty to obey, fails to obey the order, or
  3. is derelict in the performance of his duties
shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
 It will be interesting to see what happens next. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Quick Fact: Ohio and the ACA -- Another Example of Republican Pettiness

My home state of Ohio has refused to set up a marketplace where Ohio's uninsured can shop for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, opting instead to let the federal government run the ACA marketplace there beginning on October 1.  

Ohio will not be staying out of the ACA business completely however.  The Republican dominated legislature has approved a bill that will give them regulatory authority over the federal workers, (known as navigators), who will be in Ohio to fill in the void left by Republican Governor John Kasich's anti-ACA decision. The navigators are trained to assist people having difficulty understanding the available programs and to help them decide which plan is best for themselves or their family.  Part of Ohio's new law forbids federal navigators from offering comparisons between different insurance plans.
So Ohio has decided it won't help its own citizens and now wants to make sure nobody else helps them either.  It's pettiness on steroids--a Republican specialty.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

September 3 - Monday Quote (on Tuesday)

My nephew became a father for the first time a few months ago.  Thinking of baby MacKenna today reminded me of my favorite quote from Peter Pan...

monday quote (on tuesday):    When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies. (J.M. Barrie, author, 1860-1937)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Congress Asked, the President Gave and Now They're Really Unhappy

Instead of my usual Monday Quote I want to say...

On Saturday, President Obama announced that he would be seeking "authorization" from Congress before committing to a military strike against Syria.

what eye thynk:   Members of Congress, particularly Republican members who spent much of last week complaining that the President doesn't take Congress seriously enough, are now caught with egg on their faces.  

Recently, a letter was circulated among members of Congress demanding that the President seek Congressional approval before any action on Syria was taken.  It is not clear where the letter originated or who signed it.  But, for the past week or so, members of Congress have voiced a variety of opinions on what the U.S. should do about Syria, yet there seemed to be near universal agreement that, before anything was decided, they wanted the President to give them a voice in the decision. 

Technically, this is supposed to be how our democratic system works.  W. and his guide dog, Cheney never bothered with the niceties of democratic protocol in issues of military force and now that President Obama has demonstrated his willingness to actually work within the confines of government as defined by our constitution, Congress is stunned into stupidness.

Representative Peter King (R-New York), a member of the House Intelligence Committee: "President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as Commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents."  (I'm assuming he means future Republican presidents.)

John McCain (R-Arizona) who has been advocating that Congress step up and force the issue of using American military force in Syria for months, seems particular conflicted...or confused, take your pick:

On Thursday he was pushing for the President to take action:   "I think it was proven that (Assad) used (chemical weapons) before, so it shouldn't surprise us when it is used again, and he will use it again if he can, if he feels there's not going to be any retaliation."

On Sunday morning, Mr. McCain seemed to distance himself from the majority of Congress and claimed that the President's eleventh hour decision to seek endorsement from Congress shows his weakness to Arab nations and that Congress doesn't have "the information I think they need to make a decision of this magnitude."  So on Thursday he was willing to push for military action based on what he knew about Syria's President Assad using chemical weapons, but now that he is being asked to actually vote yea or nay, he's no longer in possession of enough information? If this about-face happened during a campaign, I'd be raising the flip-flop banner.

Mr. McCain also said that, since the President is now seeking Congressional support, Congress must act as soon as possible.  Of course, Congress is in the midst of a month long vacation, and don't expect them to return to work early to take up what was, until Saturday, seen as a pressing issue.  House Republican leadership has announced they will "consider a measure the week of September 9th".  Senate Democrats say they may act sooner, but there has been no formal announcement.

What we have is a double contretemps of We-demand-to-be-consulted vs. You're-a-wimp-for-consulting-us.  As one political writer pointed out, this situation points to a "larger problem:  for far too many lawmakers, it's so much easier to criticize than govern."

The President has made his argument.  Now its time for the children in Congress to put up, grow up or shut up.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Republican War on Women -- The Battle in Kansas Continues

This is the thirteenth 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 Kansas Front
the facts and commentary:  Currently, Kansas law bans abortion after the 22nd week, even in cases of rape or incest.  New abortion prohibitions passed earlier this Summer and signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback (R) do not address or specifically attempt to change that marker.  

Parts of the new Kansas anti-abortion bill have been temporarily blocked by County District Judge Rebecca Crotty.  Judge Crotty stated that she was unable to block the entire bill because the suits filed by various parties were specific only to certain provisions.

The provision requiring abortion providers to tell women that Kansas' Health Department's information on abortions is accurate and objective.
  • Part of the Health Department's information claims as fact that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, a claim that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says is false based on the fact that the brain is not developed at that stage. 
The provision that women be told of a link between abortion and breast cancer.
  • The National Cancer Institute says studies have shown there is no such link.  The Kansas Cancer Center has spent the last seven years working to earn a coveted designation as a national cancer center from the National Cancer Institute, a designation that would bring research dollars to the state.  This false and politically tainted claim has stalled that process by raising the question whether the law would prohibit the center from performing any useful research.
The provision that attempted to redefine a medical emergency and would eliminate mental health as a reason for a woman to obtain an emergency abortion and would enforce a 24 hour waiting period even if the woman's life is in danger.
  • Redefine a medical emergency?  Because politicians think they can recognize one better than a licensed physician?  State Representative Lance Kinzer, author of the mental health exception clause, asserts it is needed because otherwise a woman would use her mental health as an excuse to get out of having children.  Apparently Mr. Kinzer wants us all to believe that having children is a requirement, not a choice.  Doctors argued that this provision impacted "their ability to treat (emergency) patients."
A one year exemption was granted on a provision that would have prohibited medical residents at Kansas' only teaching hospital from performing abortions.  The court granted permission for the residents to perform abortions off-site and on their own time. 
  • The University of Kansas Medical Center has asked for a permanent exemption pointing out that, if they do not provide medical students with abortion training, they could lose their accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.  The Council issued a statement saying that under its standards, an institution that objects to abortion must make arrangements for training elsewhere...and, in Kansas, there is no "elsewhere".

Allowed to stand:
A provision stating that "life begins at fertilization",  but does not attempt an outright ban on all abortion.  Proponents say it is simply a statement of principle and that any rights suggested by the language are limited by decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Well, at least there is that.  But what about next year?  How long will it be before some rabid social conservative points to that provision and interprets it as an outright ban on all abortions?
A provision requiring that a second physician be consulted before an abortion be performed if a fetus is found to be "non-viable" or if the life of the mother is in danger.
  • Because, in an emergency situation and when the life of the mother is in danger, there is plenty of time to get a second opinion?
A provision that denies taxpayers the right to claim the cost of an abortion as a medical expense deduction on their income tax and a provision that denies abortion providers an exemption from paying sales tax on purchases of supplies.  State Representative John Rubin (R) says these provisions "ensure that no taxpayer funds are used, either directly or indirectly, to fund abortions, abortion providers, or abortion training."
  • Mr. Rubin and his fellow conservatives contend that the new abortion law is needed to protect women's health.  I don't see how raising a barricade on the road to abortion training is going to accomplish that goal. 


Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life said of the new law:  "It is very much a law that's pro-women being able to make more of a real choice."

In what universe?

So far, Kansas has spent $769,000 on private attorneys to defend anti-abortion laws enacted since Gov. Brownback took office in January of 2011.  Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) predicts that defending this new law will cost the state an additional $500,000 over the next two years.

I guess fiscal conservatism doesn't count when the words "women's rights" or "abortion" enter the conversation.
 The Republican War on Women is "fiction"?


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