Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Church Sues NC Over Same-Sex Marriage Ban

The United Church of Christ is suing the state of North Carolina over its ban on same-sex marriage.  

In 2012, North Carolina conservatives passed a referendum against same-sex marriage. Republicans supported the referendum on the grounds that it protected freedom of religion. 

what eye thynk:   The United Church of Christ's case has turned the state's anti-gay marriage argument on its ear, claiming that the bill does not, in fact, protect the freedom to practice their faith but "represents an unlawful government intervention into the internal structure and practice of plaintiffs' religion."

Donald C. Clark Jr., general counsel for the Church explained, "We didn't bring this lawsuit to make others conform to our beliefs, but to vindicate the right of all faiths to freely exercise their religious practices."

The UCC ordained its first openly-gay pastor in 1972, and has recognized and supported same-sex marriage since 2005.  By requiring a state approved marriage license (and denying such licenses to same-sex couples), the church claims that the state is obstructing its right to practice its beliefs and the ban should be declared unconstitutional.

Earlier this year, North Carolina Republican legislators, led by Representatives Carl Ford (R) and Harry Warren (R), proposed the creation of an official state religion.  The proposed bill declared that North Carolina was exempt from the U.S. Constitution on this issue.  This is the same state whose state constitution makes it illegal for anyone who does not believe in God to hold public office. (The Supreme Court overturned this in a 1961 ruling, but North Carolina never removed the provision.)

Roy Cooper (D), North Carolina's Attorney General will argue against the UCC albeit reluctantly.  Mr. Cooper said that, by virtue of the office he has held since 2001, he must defend all state laws, even those he believes should be lifted.  "In their zeal (to deny) the freedom to marry, North Carolina...put in place a measure that assaulted the religious freedom that they profess to support."

Finally, someone is willing to stand up and say that freedom of religion is the right of ALL denominations--that conservative churches do not hold exclusive title to the First Amendment.  

This will be one very interesting case to follow.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An Admittedly Uncomfortable Thought re: Yesterday's Tornadoes

Having lived through a major tornado when I was a child--an experience that has resulted in a life-long unease with and respect for wind--I feel for those who have been hurt by recent severe weather. 

---> RANDOM THOUGHT:  But--at the risk of being called callous--may I point out the obvious absence of any far-right, Christian blame-barrage? 

If this had happened in Ohio or Massachusetts or New York or Connecticut, we'd be hearing Pat Robertson and every other Bible waving conservative saying it was God's retribution for our support of gay rights, or abortion rights for women, or whatever liberal issue they deem sinful.   Since the suffering has been mainly confined to states where much of their conservative Christian base is located, the God's Punishment Pundits have been conspicuously silent.  

Thank God.

Or maybe they're all home working on how to admit they were wrong, and Monday's weather is actually proof that God is punishing THEM for using His name to justify hateful treatment toward some of His people. 

Nice dream, huh?

Monday, April 28, 2014

April 28 - Monday Quote

I love this...

monday quote:  Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you’re alive, it isn’t.  (Richard Bach, writer, 1936 -     )

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Republicans Say the Darndest Things - No Job? Not My Problem

U.S. Senate Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell

The Beattyville Enterprise, a local home-state newspaper, asked Mr. McConnell, who is campaigning to keep his seat in the U.S. Senate, what he was going to do to bring jobs to Lee County, Kentucky.

Mitch responded, "Economic development is a Frankfort (the state capital) issue.  That is not my job.  It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet."
So much for the Republican hue and cry about job creation being their number one priority, (right after repealing the ACA.)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Quick Note: Boehner Says Republican On-Again, Off- Again ACA Fight is Off-Again...Until It's On-Again

Shortly after the 2012 election, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declared, "It's pretty clear that the President was re-elected.  Obamacare is the law of the land."  He then apparently forgot his pronouncement and allowed the House to continue their anti-ACA crusade, eventually calling for 40+ votes to repeal the "law of the land."

While the repeal attempts continued, Republican leadership announced they were developing an alternative health care plan. (First it was being developed in committee, then it was nearing completion--just a few more details, then they promised a vote on it in the near future.  Soon after that, they did a complete about-face and announced they were beginning meetings to discuss the possibility of an alternative.  There has been no further word on these "meetings.")

Just three weeks ago, when the media asked if, given the apparent success of the ACA, would Republicans finally move on, Mr. Boehner had a simple answer:  "House Republicans will continue to work to repeal this law."

Yesterday, the Speaker flipped (or is it flopped) again.  This time he told an Ohio Rotary Club meeting that repealing the ACA "isn't the answer."  He went on to explain that the law needed to be replaced.  (Bringing us back to the Republican ghost-plan that may or may not be in committee/nearly finished/under preliminary discussion.)
Given Mr. Boehner's track record, anybody want to lay odds on when the next repeal vote will be scheduled?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Quick Note: Georgia, the Guns-for-God State

On Wednesday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (R) and his pro-gun cronies donned their best "happy-we" grins as the Governor signed their state's new gun bill into law.  While the provision to allow guns on college campuses was removed, in Georgia it is now legal to carry a gun into an airport (in the unrestricted areas), some government buildings (but not the State Capitol--have to protect the legislators even if the clerk at the license bureau is on her own), in K-12 public schools (employees only), and in bars and churches.  

More on the bill here:

After the signing, State Representative Mickey Stephens (D) had this to say: "I want to know what kind of religion these guys practice that they have to carry a gun to church."
What kind of religion indeed.  The Saint Wayne LaPierre, Church of NRA Money perhaps?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Quick Note: Supreme Court Makes "THEIR" Money More Important Than "MY" Vote

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens served on the Supreme Court for nearly 35 years before retiring in 2010.  He recently spoke out against the Court's most recent campaign finance decision.  In his remarks, he pointed out that the first line of Chief Justice John Roberts' majority opinion says exactly the opposite of what the decision really does.

The document begins:  "There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders."  The decision then goes on to make it possible for any one person to give the maximum amount to an unlimited number of candidates, with no restriction as to whether those candidates are actually in the district or state in which the donor lives.  

Justice Stevens pointed out that, by allowing one person to support candidates outside his own district or state, the Court's decision doesn't protect the democratic right to elect YOUR OWN leaders, but gives those with lots of money the right to elect SOMEONE ELSE'S leaders.  He said, "The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate.  It is really wrong.:"

Justice Stevens would like to see a constitutional amendment to address what he sees as the harm big money is doing to our American democracy.  
There are a lot of us who agree with him.  Unfortunately, thanks to the Supreme Court, those with big money are now in a position to make any changes extremely unlikely.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Says it all...


what eye thynk:  5 1/2 years of pouting and stamping your feet and refusing to participate in any forward movement is getting old.  W. isn't coming back.  Cheney and Rumsfeld aren't coming back.  Romney isn't coming back.  Jesus may be coming back, but I doubt he'll be impressed with your attitude toward anyone who isn't "you."

So grow up, Republicans...and I mean the ones in Congress and the ones in office in our states as well as that moocher making a living on my land in Nevada.

Really, history isn't going to mark you as principled or veracious; it is simply going to see you as elitist and childish...and not a little foolish.

Monday, April 21, 2014

April 21 - Monday Quote

A thought for all our fact-adverse politicians and those who believe them. (The rest of us are not smiling.)

monday quote:  Wit is educated insolence. (Aristotle, philosopher, 384 BC-322 BC)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Eye Recommend --- South Carolina Mayor Fires Town's First Female Police Chief Because She's Gay

Republicans argue that there is no need to enact anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT people.  They claim current law already offers enough protection.  If there ever was a situation that argued against that opinion, this story from South Carolina is it.
(Any underlines are mine.) 
"...Latta (South Carolina) is about to be on the national map for all the wrong reasons.

The town's mayor, newly elected Earl Bullard, just fired the town's first female police chief because she is openly gay.

That police chief is Crystal Moore, who has been with the force in Latta for more than 20 years.  She rose to the rank of police chief by posting exemplary service records.  In fact, she never received an official reprimand in all of her time on the force, until Tuesday when Bullard presented her with seven reprimands and a pink slip.

A public spat between the two has been ongoing.  Moore questioned the mayor's decision to give the keys to a city-owned town car to a director of the Parks Department, who was known to have a suspended license at the time.  Moore investigated the matter and arrested the director...

...But closer examination reveals that perhaps the mayor's retaliation has to do with something a little bit different.  Before the original arrest took place, Bullard was recorded by a city council member (talking about) Moore:

'I would rather have..and I will say this to anybody's face...somebody who drank and drank too much taking care of my child than I had somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children.

Because that ain't the damn way it's supposed to be.  You got people out there--I'm telling you, buddy--I don't agree with some of the lifestyles that I see portrayed and I don't say anything because that is the way they want to live, but I am not going to let my child be around.

I'm not going to let two women stand up there and hold hands and let my child be aware of it.  And I'm not going to see them do it with two men neither.  I'm not going to do it. Because that ain't the way the world works.

No, all these people...saying 'Oh, it's a different lifestyle they can have it.'  Okay, fine and dandy, but I don't have to look at it and I don't want my child around it.'

Find and dandy, indeed.  It's not a far leap to conclude that this mayor just fired the town's well-respected police chief because he gets real nervous around openly gay women.  You know, so much so that he'd rather pass his (kids) off to a bunch of drunks--probably with suspended licenses--than to the local police chief.

To the town's credit, its people have been surprisingly supportive of Moore in the wake of this incident.

Crystal Moore shortly after she was fired by Mayor Bullard

The article continues and offers the opinion that ex-chief Moore could own the town if she decided to sue; but given the lack of protection current law gives LGBT people, I wonder if that is true.  
My grandmother used to tell me that the things you dislike about another person are really things you're afraid to recognize in yourself.  My grandmother never lied to me; so, if I were a citizen of Latta, South Carolina, I'd be keeping a close eye on Mayor Bullard.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Quick Note: Oklahoma, Moving Backward Two Steps at a Time

Oklahoma Governer Mary Fallin (R)

1. Oklahoma: Minimum Wage - Keep it Low
With legislation to increase the federal minimum wage stuck in Congress, several states and cities have taken steps on their own to ensure their citizens are paid a living wage.   Activists in Oklahoma City were in the process of gathering signatures to put a new minimum wage rate on the local ballot when the Republican dominated Oklahoma legislature preempted that attempt and, instead, chose state-sponsored stagnation over progress.

On Monday, Governor Mary Fallin (R) signed a measure that bars localities from increasing the minimum wage or from requiring that employers provide benefits like sick or vacation days.  At the signing, Ms. Fallin said the law "protects our economy from bad public policy that would destroy Oklahoma jobs."  
These conservatives must all work from the same Handbook of Excuses for Which We Offer No Evidence.
2. Oklahoma: Alternative Energy - Make it High
Also on Monday, the state legislature caught everyone off guard by tacking an anti-alternative energy amendment onto an unrelated bill.  

If Governor Fallin signs the bill, as she expected to do, Oklahoma residents who install solar panels or wind turbines on their property will be required to pay a monthly surcharge to their local utility company.  Not unsurprisingly, the bill was strongly supported by Oklahoma's major utilities. 

Kathleen O'Shea of Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. said, "We're not anti-solar or anti-wind or trying to slow this down, we're just trying to keep it fair.  We've been studying this trend.   We know it's coming, and we want to get ahead of it."
Sub-text:  If people generate their own electricity, they won't be paying us as much so we have to find a way to keep billing them...even if we provide no service.
As solar energy advocates point out, solar generates during peak hours.  Solar panels that feed excess energy back to the general grid help alleviate the demand during that peak use.  Wear and tear on utility lines is also lessened because less energy is being transmitted to solar panel or turbine owners.
Let's hear it for Oklahoma Republicans, guardians of profits over people and champions of the 20th Century.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Republicans Say the Darndest Things - Women Love Being Treated As Second Class

Phyllis Schlafly,
Republican activist 
and leader in the religious right movement

The Christian Post recently published an article by Phyllis Schlafly in which she explains why the gender wage gap is a good thing...and why increasing it would be even better:

"While women prefer to HAVE a higher-earning partner, men generally prefer to BE the higher-earning partner in a relationship.  This simple but profound difference between the sexes has powerful consequences for the so-called pay gap.

Suppose the pay gap between men and women were magically eliminated.  If that happened, simple arithmetic suggests that half of women would be unable to find what they regard as a suitable mate...

...If a higher-earning man is not available, many women are more likely not to marry at all."
This is a woman who has built a successful career lecturing about why women should not have a successful career.  
The dichotomy of her message and her actual life is not lost on those who think--no matter their gender.  But, I'll give her a break.  Being stuck in the 1950s would confuse me too. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nevada Rancher Solves (My) Housing Problem

Rancher Cliven Bundy grazes his cattle, a herd estimated at 500 head, on federal land in the Gold Butte area of Nevada. Mr. Bundy's family has operated a ranch on the same land since the late 1800s.  

There is nothing wrong with this; the Bureau of Land Management administers 18,000 grazing permits covering 157 million acres of federal land across the country.  These legal grazing rights come with a price that is determined by and paid to the federal government by ranchers on a yearly basis.

In 1993, the BLM changed the grazing rules in the Gold Butte area to protect an endangered desert tortoise. Mr. Bundy objected to the change and has refused to pay for the use of that land since the new rules were enacted. He has ignored several court rulings ordering him to pay up or move out.  He now owes the U.S. government a past due amount of approximately $1.1 million for grazing rights. 

This past week, the BLM decided they'd had enough and arrived in Nevada and began to confiscate Mr. Bundy's cattle.  Well-armed, anti-government conservatives from all over the country descended on Nevada and Mr. Bundy's ranch to stop the BLM's actions.

what eye thynk:  This is not a private property issue as Mr. Bundy's supporters seem to be arguing.   Cliven Bundy has been using federal land to generate personal profit for 21 years without paying one penny.  And he has been doing it on land that technically belongs to you and me.  

Along with their firearms, Mr. Bundy's supporters brought signs with slogans like "We the People", "This Land is Our Land" and "Big Government Take-over."   The irony is that these signs are absolutely right...but for reasons that Mr. Bundy's supporters don't seem to grasp.  The land that Mr. Bundy's family uses has technically been confiscated from the public wealth--wealth that belongs to "We the People".  Mr. Bundy's family is grazing cattle on "This Land (which is) Our Land."  In attempting to force Mr. Bundy to pay for the use of our land, the "Big Government Take-over" is protecting my rights as a landowner and "taking over" the job of collecting past-due rent that is owed to me.

In an interview, Mr. Bundy claimed that he abides by all local and state laws; but he believes that the federal government has no sovereignty over individual states and so he will not abide by federal regulations.  I note that, in a textbook example of self-serving reasoning, he is willing to claim authority to use federal land by right of his U.S. citizenship, while at the same time saying he doesn't need to abide by the laws that govern the rights of that citizenship.  

Charles C.W. Cooke, columnist for the conservative National Review pointed out the problem with Mr. Bundy's cherry-picking attitude toward authority "...This is a republic, dammit--and those who hope to keep it cannot pick and choose the provisions with which they are willing to deign to comply."

Mr. Cooke seems to be talking into a conservative vacuum.  The lack of any type of response from right-wing lawmakers in Washington is notable. Where are the voices raised in outrage over non-payment of money that belongs in federal coffers?

On the other side of the political spectrum, Kevin Drum, blogger for the liberal Mother Jones website, wrote: "Mainstream conservatives have pandered to this stuff for years because it was convenient, and that's brought them to where they are today:  too scared to stand up to the vigilantes they created and speak the simple truth.  They complain endlessly about President Obama's 'lawlessness,' but this is lawlessness."

In response to Glenn Beck's and Fox News' support of the Bundy side of the argument, Jamelle Bouie, writer for The Nation, asked a poignant question:  "Finally, I can't help but wonder how conservatives would react if these were black farmers...defending 'their' land against federal officials.  Would Fox News applaud black militiamen aiming their guns on white bureaucrats?"

Yes, imagine if, instead of Mr. Bundy, a liberal organization or individual (of any color) was claiming their right to use public land without paying.  Imagine if that organization or individual withheld $1.1 million over 21 years that was owed to the federal government because they objected to certain government regulations.  Republican outrage would be loud, long and strident.  Congressional committees to investigate this outrage would be the stuff of legend. And those gun-toting, sign carrying supporters would be standing on the other side of the street.

Of course, we non-conservatives can turn this whole thing to our advantage with a little outside-the-box thinking.  If Republicans won't raise any objection over free-use of public lands, this might be be a good time to build that nice retirement home I've always wanted.  After all, the land is apparently free as long as I can find some regulations I don't like.  I hear Mr. Bundy's north pasture has a nice view.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Quick Note: Ohio Forced to Defend Its Stand Against Same-Sex Marriage

On Monday, Judge Timothy Black, a member of the United States District Court for Southern Ohio called Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional and unenforceable and ruled that the state must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.  His ruling addresses only those marriages and does not effect Ohio's 2004 ban on same-sex marriage.

He criticized the state's stand as an example of "ongoing arbitrary discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

Ohio will appeal his decision and Judge Black issued a stay while attorneys for both sides prepare for further arguments.
One step step

Monday, April 14, 2014

April 14 - Monday Quote

Considering the state of politics in the U.S. today, I'm not sure whether this exchange is funny or sad...

monday quote:  At a campaign rally during Adlai Stevenson's 1956 presidential campaign, one woman shouted "Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person in America."

Mr. Stevenson (D) replied, "That's not enough madam.  We need a majority."

(Adlai Stevenson, 1900-1965, American politician and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hypocrisy is Not a Christian Tenet

On this Palm Sunday...

Just a thought as we wait for the Supreme Court to decide the case brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties against the Affordable Care Act requirement that all women should have access to free contraception services:

More information on the case here:  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Quick Note(s): ACA and Medicaid Expansion, States That Won't vs. the State That Did

States That Won't...
Jonathan Gruber is an MIT economist who worked with Mitt Romney helping to create Massachusett's universal state health care system and also with President Obama on blueprint for the Affordable Care Act.  He spoke with Harold Pollack, Faculty Chair of the Center for Health Administration Studies at the University of Chicago recently and had some harsh words for the Republican Party and their anti-ACA fight, particularly their reluctance to support Medicaid expansion, despite the fact that the federal government has budgeted money to pay 100% of the expansion in the first years and 90% after that.  (Any underlines are mine.)

"I'm offended on two levels here.  I'm offended because I believe we can help poor people get health insurance, but I'm almost more offended (that) a principle of political economy (is being ignored.)...When the Supreme Court decision (left it up to the states whether or not to expand Medicaid), I said, 'It's not a big deal. What state would turn down free money from the federal government to cover their poorest citizens?'  The fact that half the states are, is such a massive rejection of any sensible model of political economy, it's sort of offensive to me as an academic.  And I think it's nothing short of political malpractice that we are seeing in these states...

..."(Conservative policy makers in these states) are not just not interested in covering poor people, they are willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of injections into their economy in order to punish poor people.  It really is almost awesome in its evilness."

Most of the states that have refused to expand Medicaid are completely in Republican hands--both legislature and governor.  But one fight is different.  Virginia's Governor Terry McAuliffe (D), is trying to expand Medicaid for 400,000 poor Virginians who fall into the ACA coverage gap--people who cannot afford the ACA but are not quite poor enough to qualify for Medicaid as it currently stands in Virginia.  Mr. McAuliffe  is facing Republicans in Virginia's House of Delegates who say they are willing to shut down the entire state government in order avoid the expansion.  The Governor even proposed a two-year trial expansion--the period when the federal government would pick up 100% of the cost--which could be canceled if it was unsuccessful.  The Republican led House Appropriations Committee killed it in committee.

New York magazine's Dahlia Lithwick call the display in Richmond "sheer nihilism."

vs.  The State That Did 
Governor Mike Beebe (D) of Arkansas first made sure his state had its own health care exchange.  He then approached Arkansas' Medicaid expansion from an new angle.  He applied and got permission from Washington, to use the federal expansion money to purchase private insurance through the ACA for those who fell in the gap. 

Republicans, determined to undermine anything with the President's name on it,  fought against the expansion and, led by House Speaker Davy Carter (R) and Representative Nate Bell (R) continue to fight to have it repealed even after it has become clear that the expansion is working.

Governor Beebe pointed out the positive fiscal effect Arkansas has realized from the expansion: the state has, so far, saved its health care providers $86 million in previously uncompensated care.

But the announcement that came this week from 9th Street Ministries, a free clinic that has been providing free health care to the poor in Representative Bell's home district since 1998, is undeniably the best demonstration of the program's success on a personal level.  The clinic, which is sponsored by the First Baptist Church in Mena, serves only those people with no insurance. 

Nurse Stacey Bowser who has acted as clinical director said, "Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act...our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore.  We've gone from seeing around 300 people in a month on a regular 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three March.  Our services won't be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission."
I understand that the Republican Party stands for fiscal conservatism, but turning their backs on millions of federal dollars--dollars that are already allocated and continue to sit, wasted really--seems an odd way to "conserve."  And how do these same Republicans, who claim for the most part to be Bible following, church going Christians, justify their complete disdain for the "least among (us)."   
Can it really be so important to them to defy anything "Obama" that they will turn their back on a basic Republican Party principle while selectively dismissing a core axiom of their faith?
Sadly, the evidence says "yes." 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Republicans Say the Darndest Things - Women Have Teeny Brains, So Do Minorities

Charles Murray,  
advisor to Greg Abbott (R), candidate for Governor of Texas

1.  On women:  Mr. Murray believes there is no "evidence" that any "woman has been a significant original thinker," and "men's brains are larger than women's."

2.  On education:  Mr. Abbott presented a plan to put Texas at the top of education results that he said was based on Mr. Murray's work.  Mr. Murray believes that a "mediocre" K-12 education at "a mediocre school" is "not that bad."  In his book The Bell Curve, he claims that whites are genetically superior to blacks and Latinos and possess higher IQs.  

Taking his cue from Mr. Murray's book, gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott told the media that universal pre-K education is a "waste" and state money would be better spent on programs whose success can be measured.

3.  On equal pay for women:  The "gender wage gap" is a "myth" that "once education, marital status and occupations are considered...all but disappears." Completely ignoring the salient point of equal pay for equal work he claims the real reason there is a gap is "many women prefer to stay home with their children."  
To protect my sanity, I choose to think that these people don't really believe this stuff--that they are only pandering to those conservatives who boast of possessing an entire wardrobe of aluminum hats.  Mr. Abbott must believe there are a lot of those in Texas.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Republican We-Heart-Women Campaign Hits Another Snag

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate used the filibuster rule to block debate and a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Act would have made it illegal to punish employees who discuss their salaries and would have required that employers share salary information with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  

Not one Republican Senator voted in support of advancing the bill.

what eye thynk:  I cannot fathom what Republicans are thinking.  Or maybe I just have to accept that, if the idea doesn't come from the GOP, it will simply be rejected out of habit.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) spoke against the bill and blamed the Obama administration for the plight of women workers, saying that, under his presidency, women have seen declining wages and growing poverty. How this is supposed to explain his choice to vote against a discussion of equal pay for equal work is beyond me.  And, of course, no mention of that pesky little recession brought about by W. and the fiscal policies espoused by his fellow GOP-ers or that it might, in any way, be to blame for falling pay or soaring unemployment.

The Senate Republican Conference called the bill "the latest ploy in the Democrats' election-year playbook."  Do they really believe that "we-don't-like-your-agenda" is a convincing argument for voting to block a bill designed to improve the lives of women--the same women their party is attempting to attract?

Republicans claim that existing anti-discrimination laws make any new legislation redundant.  But, one has to wonder, if existing laws are working so well, why are women consistently paid at a rate below their male counterparts?  Again, their reasoning has no basis in logic.

Fox News personality Melissa Francis offered her own interesting argument against equal pay for women: "Men lost jobs at two and a half times the rate of women in this last recession.  I know plenty of families where the man is now out of work and the woman is the one who's working full time.  Probably because she makes a little less, so she was able to keep her job."   (Would that be the job that Mr. McConnell says has resulted in lower wages and growing poverty?)

If Republicans can come up with a logical and fact-based argument against equal pay, I wish they'd share it.  I want them to explain why they are against know, as would have happened had they permitted debate on the issue.  And by explaining, I don't mean saying  1. equal pay is a bad thing because pay fell under President Obama, or 2. they don't like equal pay because Democrats do, or even 3. they don't like equal pay because there are more unemployed men than women.  These are not arguments--they're excuses.  And women are tired of excuses.

While Republicans were rallying around the status quo, President Obama signed executive measures that impose requirements similar to those in the Paycheck Fairness Act on any company working under a government contract. At least some American women will have a fighting chance at true workplace equality.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Update(s): Unemployment, Minimum Wage, and Free Speech

Update:  Senate Passes Unemployment Extension, Boehner Still Balking 

Late last month I wrote about the Senate's decision to advance an extension of unemployment benefits.

On Monday, the full Senate voted on the extension, passing it by a vote of 59 to 38.  Fifty-one Democrats, six Republicans and two Independents voted in favor.  The bill would restore benefits retroactively to 2.7 million jobless Americans.  

A group of Senate Republicans are calling for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to put aside partisan objections and "at least have that discussion."

Five House Republicans seem to agree with their Senate counterparts.   Led by Peter King (R-New York) and Frank LoBiondo (R-New Jersey) they have sent a letter urging Speaker Boehner to allow a vote on the bill as it stands.  

Other GOP Representatives have indicated that they would be in favor of allowing a vote, if they could add amendments.  Amendments that have been put forward include those to cut taxes, curb EPA regulations, undo the ACA personal mandate requirement, (never miss a chance at another anti-ACA vote!) and force the building of the XL Keystone pipeline.  All the suggestions are non-starters with Democrats and would have no chance in the Senate, so one has to wonder just how serious these Republicans are about a vote. 

Update:  Another State Votes to Raise the Minimum Wage
Also in the post linked in the above update, I wrote about Connecticut voting to raise the minimum wage and Paul Ryan's concern that this was a bad thing for the economy.

The Maryland General Assembly and the Minnesota State Legislature have both joined Connecticut in ignoring Mr. Ryan and his fellow Republicans' dire predictions of economic catastrophe if businesses are forced to pay their workers a living wage.

The Maryland General Assembly voted to raise the minimum wage in their state by increments that would top off at $10.10 in 2018.  Republicans in the Assembly called the rate extreme and "socialistic."

The Minnesota legislature reported that they had reach an agreement to raise their minimum wage from its current rate of $6.15/hour to $9.50/hour by 2016.

Update:  Court Tells Bobby Jindal, Freedom of Speech is for Everyone

In a post about Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal last month, I wrote of his fight to have billboards exposing his refusal to expand Medicaid for 242,000 of his state's poor taken down.

Mr. Jindal, self-proclaimed protector of the First Amendment, supported Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson in December when he was suspended by A&E over his anti-gay rant. Mr. Jindal told the media  "The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with.  This is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views."

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick sent a message to Mr. Jindal:  Judge Dick said was exercising their rights guaranteed under the First Amendment.  "The State has failed to demonstrate a compelling reason to curtail's political speech." A reminder for Mr. Jindal that intolerance can come back to bite you in the butt.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Quick Note: Wisconsin Adds New Voter Intimidation Law

Remember when Wisconsin bragged about the rate at which their citizens voted?  Remember when Milwaukee, in particular, claimed one of the highest percentages of registered voters actually voting in an election when compared to other urban areas nationwide?  

I'm talking about (way back) in 2012, when Wisconsin voters ignored home boy Paul Ryan (R)'s presence on the presidential ballot and gave the state to President Obama instead. That was when Wisconsin could boast of generous early voting rules and same day registration...all things of the past now.  Since November 2012, Wisconsin Republicans have sent several restrictive voter bills to the governor's office for his signature.  They have reduced the number of hours state offices are open per week for early voting, eradicated weekend early voting hours completely and eliminated evening voting after 7:00 PM and same day registration--all in an effort to keep elections fraud free, of course. The GOP offered no actual evidence of voter fraud, so it seems they have managed to solve a problem that didn't actually exist. 

And still their work continues:  Last week, the Republican dominated legislature went a step further and sent yet another new voter-centric law to the Governor's desk.  Following the negative response to their previous voting bills, this time, the Governor signed the bill into law in private.  

The new law allows election "observers" to stand three feet from the desk where people register to vote and, on election day, to stand three feet from the table where voters announce their names and addresses and receive their ballot.   

Governor Walker's office said the law was necessary to "safeguard the fairness of elections by ensuring observers can see how they are being conducted." 
When some self-important stranger is standing barely outside what I consider my personal space in order to "observe" me exercise my constitutional right to vote, it doesn't look like "safeguarding" to me.  It does, however, reek of intimidation.
But I can see how calling them "Election Intimidators" might not play well in Milwaukee.

Monday, April 7, 2014

April 7 - Monday Quote

In response to what seems like daily news about faith-based political agendas...

monday quote:  I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. 

Susan B. Anthony -- abolitionist, suffragist, 1820-1906

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stupid Congressman Tricks: Republican Senator Blocks Nomination He Recommended

When Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rule, it looked like the backlog of appointees for judgeships would finally be relieved, and that did seem to be happening for a few weeks.  

But one roadblock that Democrats did not eliminate was the "blue slip", a tradition that has been around since about 1917.  This rather undemocratic tradition allows a Senator from a nominee's home state to withhold a piece of blue paper that is used to indicate he or she agrees to the judicial nomination.  If this "blue slip" is not sent on to the committee chairman, then the nominee will not get a Senate committee hearing and so will never be presented to the Senate for a vote, even with the change in the filibuster rule.   No explanation, no evidence, no reasoning is required.  

There are currently eleven nominees whose appointments have been stalled by blue slips.

The obvious use for this tradition would be for a conservative Senator to deny a vote on a liberal leaning judge or vice versa. 

Then there are cases like that of  federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker.  Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) recommended her to fill a seat on the East District of North Carolina bench--a seat that has been vacant for eight years.

Senator Richard Burr 

Last June, President Obama accepted Senator Burr's suggestion and nominated Ms. May-Parker for the open seat.  Then, in what I call a STUPID CONGRESSMAN TRICK, Senator Burr--the same Senator who recommended Ms. May-Parker to the President in the first place--used the blue slip to deny her a committee hearing.

While Mr. Burr's blue slip defies logic, he is not the only one to blame here.  Senator Patrick Leahy, (D-Vermont), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee could end the bottle-neck tomorrow.  There is nothing in the Constitution or in the Senate rules regarding the use of the blue slip.  When Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was chairman of the Senate committee, he would overrule a blue slip objection, even if both home state Senators objected, as long as the President "consulted" with them first.

Clearly, Senator Leahy could do the same thing.  What isn't clear is why he has chosen to be Mr. Burr's straight man.  Maybe stupid is catching after all.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Quick Note: If You're Rich Enough, Lady Justice's Blindfold is for Sale

This news item literally made me sick to my stomach.
In 2009, Robert H. Richards IV, one of the heirs to the du Pont fortune, was convicted of raping his 3 year-old daughter...and received NO JAIL TIME.  Mr. Richards admitted that he went into his daughter's room on multiple occasions and penetrated her with his fingers while he masturbated. 

The unemployed Mr. Richards lives on a trust fund, a fund generous enough for him to be able to hire one of Delaware's top law firms for his defense.  He was indicted on two counts of second-degree child rape for the abuse against his daughter.  Each case carried a mandatory sentence of 10 years; but Delaware prosecutors offered him a plea deal allowing him to plead guilty to fourth-degree rape--a charge normally reserved only for statutory rape cases.

While the fact that the prosecutor would offer such a cushy deal in this case is upsetting enough, the Judge's actions are far worse.

At his sentencing, Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden fined Mr. Richards $4395.00 and sentenced him to eight years in prison--then SUSPENDED THE SENTENCE and put him on probation instead, where he was ordered to attend a sex offender rehabilitation program.  In her decision, Judge Jurden wrote "Defendent would not fare well in Level 5 setting."
And I should feel bad about that?  He penetrated a BABY!  Whatever would or would not happen to him in prison is not something anyone should weep over.  If this case had been brought against Mr. John Doe from Main St. U.S.A., he would have been wearing prison underwear before the ink was even dry on the fact, there probably wouldn't have even been a deal.
This miscarriage of justice is back in the news because of a recent suit filed by Mrs. Richards. 
Her suit alleges that, while he was on probation, he admitted to additional abuse against his 19 month-old son.  The suit cites reports from two different probation offices who notified the Courts in 2010 and again in 2012 about that suspected abuse.
And his probation wasn't rescinded?! 
Mr. Richards was asked to take a polygraph.  During that test, he told the examiner he was concerned that "something" had happened to his son but that he had repressed the memories. "Whatever I did to my son, I will never do it again." 
I'm sick all over again.  And angry...really, really, really angry.

Quick Note: Federal Judge Nudges Ohio Toward the 21st Century

Yesterday, Judge Timothy Black of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio announced that Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.  His decision does not effect Ohio's 2004 law banning same-sex marriage nor will it require Ohio to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses.  Judge Black is expected to release his ruling in writing in the next ten days.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) said the state will appeal Judge Black's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
One more brick in the wall begins to teeter.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Quick Note: With the Governor's Blessing, Mississippi Legalizes Discrimination

In February, so called refusal-of-service bills were being considered in Kansas:  and in Arizona:

The Kansas attempt to legalize discrimination was pulled by state Senate President Susan Wagle and never received a vote.  The Arizona bill passed both chambers of the state legislature and was eventually vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer (R).  

The obvious discriminatory nature of these bills and the actions taken in Kansas and Arizona should have been a caution for any other state considering similar legislation.  Unfortunately, that has proven not to be the case.  Yesterday, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) signed SB 2681, known as the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, into law.  

Under the new law, any individual or business will now be protected from a charge of discrimination if they refuse to serve or assist a person or group they believe lives a life style contrary to their personally or "corporately" held religious beliefs.
Everything about this law is offensive, beginning with its name.  I mean, why use the word "Restoration?"  Was there any evidence of religious freedoms being denied conservative believers?  What needed to be restored exactly?
State Senator Gary Jackson (R) answered charges of using religion to justify discrimination: "There is nothing in this bill that authorizes discrimination against anybody.  This protects the Buddhist, the Christian, the Muslim against government interference."
I have to wonder, what government interference is he talking about?  It would seem to me that, prior to the passage of this new law, everyone was guaranteed equal treatment and equal access under Mississippi law.  It's the new law that creates "government interference" in the lives of members of one segment of society, a segment that can now legally be denied service at any business or by any individual. Where is their protection against discrimination?
In Georgia, two similar bills appeared to be DOA after businesses like Delta and Coca-Cola spoke out against them; but, late in March, on the last day of the first 2014 legislative session, the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act was tacked onto the backside of two labor bills that will be wending their way through the General Assembly later this year.
This fight is not over. 

So, you love America? How much money do you have? It's for sale.

As an addendum to yesterday's post regarding the Supreme Court's decision to sell America to the rich:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Change of Address: To Occupant, Koch Brothers Ave., United States of Adelson

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court announced their decision to eliminate the cap on individual contributions in any two-year, federal election cycle.  The vote was 5-4, with five Republican appointed judges voting to eliminate the spending cap and four Democrat appointed judges voting to keep it.

The Republican appointed judges saw this as a freedom of speech issue. In the decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote, "There is no right in our democracy more basic than the right to participate in electing our political leaders."  

what eye thynk:   What the decision fails to acknowledge is that, by allowing unlimited spending, those with more will be exercising their basic right to participate in our election process outfitted with the power of the latest and loudest microphone, while those with less will be sharing a communal cardboard funnel.

The majority decision voiced the opinion that leveling the playing field, giving everyone an equal voice, is not an "acceptable interest for the government."   If the Court truly believes it is unacceptable for a democratic government--a government supposedly based on "All men are created equal" and the concept of one man-one vote--to have an interest in protecting that constitutionally guaranteed equality, how does this Court define democracy? 

The Court's decision echoes their 2010 Citizens United decision, with a majority of the Justices still blindly believing "the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner 'influence over or access to' elected officials or political parties is unjustified." You have to wonder where these five men were during the last four years.  Did they not notice the out-sized influence people like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson garnered simply because they are in possession of large personal fortunes?

So far, in the current mid-term election, the Koch brothers have spent $7 million in North Carolina on ads against Senator Kay Hagan (D)--and the Republicans haven't even chosen their candidate yet! 

During the last presidential election, Sheldon Adelson famously said he would "do whatever it takes" to defeat President Obama, eventually spending close to $100 million in that fight.  Yes, he failed, but that cannot be construed as proof of fairness.  His efforts may have been controlled somewhat by the then existing spending limits.  After all, it must have been time consuming figuring out how to filter all those millions anonymously through "social service" Super PACs.   

With the Supreme Court's elimination of that irritating little barrier, with Mr. Adelson free to put a billion, two billion, ad infinitum billions into any one election cycle, with the Koch brothers allowed to funnel hundreds of millions more into false anti-anything Democrat ads, what chance do you or I have of being heard?  When the Congressman representing my district receives a note from the Koch brothers saying, "You know, we really don't like environmental protection rules, oh, and by the way, here's a mega-million dollar check for your campaign" do you think your $100, please stop fracking request will get the same respect?  

The five Republican appointed Justice's gross misunderstanding of--or purposeful indifference to--the conjunction of money and political influence has effectively sold this country to the 1%.  The rest of us are welcome to stay, as long as we're quiet and don't ask to share in the bounty.  They might even allow some of us to vote...maybe.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Portable Fact Line Reveals the New Republican Word of the Day

Last October, when the Affordable Care Act website went live and promptly crashed, when few people were signing up for health care, Republicans looked at the numbers being released and screamed, "Look at the numbers!  They clearly show what a miserable failure Obamacare is!"

Today, with the numbers showing 7 million people signed up, the same Republicans are looking at the numbers being released and screaming, "Look at the numbers!  They clearly show that the White House is cooking the books on Obamacare!" 

what eye thynk:   The double standard here raises an obvious question:  if the White House was going to cook the books, why didn't they do it in October when everything was so dire?  Maybe the problem is that Republicans have such a transitory acquaintance with the truth that they can't recognize or understand it when someone actually uses verity as proof.

Facing the fact that the ACA is not the miserable failure they had hoped for, that it may not be the potent anti-Democrat weapon they had planned on going into the mid-term election, Republicans are now scrambling to find new talking points  They apparently have decided--after 51 repeal votes in the House--to drop the word "repeal" and go instead with "replace."

In North Carolina, Karl Rove's Crossroads PAC has begun a new ad campaign for their anointed Senate candidate that talks about his willingness to "replace" the ACA. (No need to upset all those newly insured North Carolinians.) House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has jumped on the new word bandwagon, telling reporters that Congress must continue their work to "replace" the ACA.  Again, the absence of the word "repeal" is obvious.  We are left to suppose that they will be replacing it with something better, though what that would be exactly remains elusive.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) appeared on Fox News a few days ago to talk about how the new ACA numbers were nothing but an elaborate fraud perpetrated by liberals.  When asked what ideas he had to "replace" (Fox got the new word memo too!) the current law, he answered,  "Let's start with the idea that pre-existing illnesses should not deny you coverage, that means you're gonna have to have pools for the really sick, but why would you want to deny somebody insurance because they got sick? Allowing children to stay on the policies up to they're 26 makes sense given this economy and buying policies across state lines makes a lot of sense to me."

All three of his new(?) ideas are already part of the ACA, so one is left to wonder if Mr. Graham has actually ever bothered to read the law he hates so much.

Fox News pundits got in the game by introducing their own brand new anti-ACA arguments this week.  They now claim that, even with the new enrollment figures, there are still too many people left uninsured.  Old argument:  Repeal Obamacare, those uninsured are fine the way they are.  New argument:  Replace Obamacare.  It doesn't do enough for the uninsured.  This argument falls apart, (not that I expect anyone at Fox to admit this), when you look at the fact that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, a large number of those still without health insurance live in states where Republican leadership has refused to expand Medicaid.

Beyond all the contradictory arguments and the new talking points, the truly salient question remains:  Where is the alternative plan Republicans have been promising for the past five years? They have been meeting in secret for 60 months working on a - 1. new, better, more efficient, more fair, less costly plan that would - 2. cover more, sicker, older, younger people while keeping the insurance industry - 3. better funded, more profitable, less hampered by regulations.  As of two weeks ago, their work hadn't yielded much beyond a vague outline of some of the things they would like to keep from Obamacare,  though they did come up with a snappy new title:  "A Stronger Health Care System:  The GOP Plan for Freedom, Flexibility & Peace of Mind."

May I suggest an alternative?  How about, "ACA, the Plan We Could Have Made Better Five Years Ago If We Hadn't Been So Consumed With Animus Over a Democrat Winning the White House"?   Verity, you know.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Republicans Say the Darndest Things - God Was Here in 1787!

Ex-Senator Tom DeLay (R-Texas)...

...who was forced to resign his U.S. Senate seat in 2006 and was subsequently convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to violate election law, (his conviction was overturned), told San Antonio Pastor Matt Hagee in a Global Evangelism Television interview that he knows what's wrong with America: 

"We stopped realizing that God created this nation, that he wrote the Constitution."
Was that on the eighth day?