Friday, October 31, 2014

Only 4 Days Until Election Day!

Quick Note: A True Texas Voting Tragedy

Olester McGriff lives in Dallas where he has voted previously.

Mr. McGriff has had a kidney transplant and is no longer able to drive.  His license to drive expired in 2008. 

Mr. McGriff, fully aware of the new law, did not want to wait until the last minute to get the a new identification card since he has difficulty getting around and is dependent on others to get him where he needs to be.  He began his attempt back in May.  That month, he was visiting in Grand Prairie and his host took him to the proper office, but he was told he was outside his home county and they could not issue him an ID.  In July, he got a ride to an office within Dallas County, but was told they were out of IDs and he would have to come back another day.
This is almost unbelievable.  The state knows there are hundreds of thousands of people in Texas who will need new state IDs and they don't print enough?  If I were in a truly cynical state of mind, I would be tempted to call that a purposeful error.
This past week, Susan McMinn, an election volunteer, gave him a ride to the polls.  He brought his expired driver's license (which includes his photo to prove he is, in fact, Olester McGriff), his birth certificate, (which is required to get a non-driver state ID), his voter registration card, (to show that he had registered and voted previously), and other documentation, (just in case).  He hoped, since he had no luck getting an non-driver ID, that he was carrying enough proof of his identity that he could cast his vote.  The poll workers told Mr. McGriff that they did not issue IDs and none of his paperwork was sufficient to allow them to give him a ballot.
Here is a man who has made multiple attempts to follow a ridiculous, statistically unnecessary and obstructive law that requires a photo ID to be able to vote.  The man obviously has a photo ID on his driver's license and a driver's license is one of the acceptable IDs under the new law; but his is not good enough because it's expired.  That doesn't make the photo any less valid, it just keeps people like Mr. McGriff from voting--which, since he is black--is the real point of the law in the first place.  
GOP, does this make you proud? And shame on you, Supreme Court, for your complicity in this American tragedy.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Only 5 Days Until Election Day!

Quick Note: Instead of Jail Time, Embezzler Wants State Senate Seat

This story has no true value as political argument.  I'm only sharing it because it makes me wonder how low a person call fall and still expect to be rewarded with a leadership role in our society.
New York State Senator John L. Sampson

New York State Senator John L. Sampson (D) won his primary earlier this year, despite the fact that he is under indictment for embezzling funds from the sales of two foreclosed Brooklyn properties, sales that he was overseeing as a court appointed administrator.  He is also charged with obstruction of justice, witness tampering, evidence tampering and making false statements.

The charge of embezzlement was taken up in Judge Irizarry's courtroom last week,   During that session, his lawyers didn't bother arguing against the charge of embezzlement.  They acknowledged that Mr. Sampson had, in fact, put some of the funds he collected into escrow accounts over which he alone had control.  Instead, they argued that the charges should be dismissed because the embezzlement happened over five years ago and the statute of limitations has expired.

Alexander Solomon, prosecutor on the case, argued that the embezzlement was "not complete until the defendant used the funds in the escrow accounts".  Mr. Solomon said it was not clear that a crime had been committed until Mr. Sampson began cutting checks in his own name, and that had happened within the five year window.

Judge Irizarry said that the failure of Mr. Sampson to return the money to the state "shows some intention," but asked what would happen if someone embezzles money but never uses it.  He told the prosecutor that "By your reasoning, a referee who does that could never be prosecuted.

The case has not been decided.  
Still shaking my head.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Only 6 Days Until Election Day!

Quick Note: Pope Francis, Environmentalist and Debunk-er of the 7-Day Creation Myth

Pope Francis waving during a general audience in Saint Peter's Square in September.

Pope Francis spoke at an assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences this week warning that it is a "grave sin against God the creator" to destroy the environment and saying that scientists have a special responsibility to protect what God has created.

Quoting from the Book of Genesis, the Pope said when God commanded Adam "to name everything and to go ahead through history," it made man "responsible for creation, so that he might steward it in order to develop it until the end of time," that humans have the responsibility of caring for the earth and all its inhabitants.

"Therefore the scientist, and above all the Christian scientist, must adopt the approach of posing questions regarding the future of humanity and of the earth and of being free and responsible, helping to prepare it and preserve it, to eliminate risks to the environment of both a natural and human nature."

The Pope also told the gathering that the theory of evolution did not contradict the Bible as creationists claim.  "God is not a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life.  Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that creation continued for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until it became which we know today."

The scientific Big Bang theory, he said, is consistent with biblical teachings and essential to our understanding of God. 

"When we read about the Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician with a magic wand able to do everything--but that is not so.  He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.  He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time at which he assured them of his continuous presence."  
First the Pope disparaged the Republican principle of trickle-down economics.  Then he addressed the gay question by asking "Who am I to judge?"  Recently he personally performed marriage ceremonies for couples who were already living together (one of the brides already has a child) and others who were previously divorced.  Now he says creationism is consistent with biblical teachings and he advocates listening to scientists and protecting the environment.
Republican Catholics like Rick Santorum and Paul Ryan--who have insisted that their anti-poor, anti-gay, anti-evolution, anti-environment principles are based on and backed by their Catholic faith--are not having a good year.  I wonder what the penance is for confessing that you don't support the Pope?
Afterthought:  Will Catholic Match be re-designing their advertising?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Only 7 Days Until Election Day!

Two Major Kentucky Endorsements Denied to McConnell

Over the past weekend, Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign was dealt a hefty blow when Kentucky's two largest newspapers chose to endorse Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) for the U.S. Senate.  Neither newspaper pulled any punches in their assessment of Mr. McConnell's time in Washington.

The Lexington Herald-Leader pretty much summed up Mitch's time as minority leader as a failed tenure: 
"McConnell does have power.  He commands a perpetual-motion money machine; dollars flow in, favors flow out. 
The problem is how McConnell uses his power.  He has repeatedly hurt the country to advance his political strategy. 
McConnell has sabotaged jobs and transportation bills, even as Kentucky's unemployment exceeds the nation's and an Interstate 75 bridge crumbles over the Ohio River.  He blocked tax credits for companies that move jobs back to this country while preserving breaks for those that move jobs overseas.  He opposed extending unemployment benefits, while bemoaning the 'jobless' recovery.  He brags about resolving crises that he helped create. 
The Senate may never recover from the bitter paralysis McConnell has inflicted through record filibusters that allow his minority to rule by obstruction. 
Kentuckians can send a powerful message on Nov. 4 and carve out a better future by retiring McConnell and making Grimes their senator."
The Courier-Journal (Louisville) endorsement focused more on Mr. McConnell's naked lust for power and platform-less campaign. 
"More discouraging--and most important to voters--is that he appears lacking a vision for Kentucky or the country as a whole.  Rather, his decades-long drive to increase his power and political standing has resulted in this campaign based on his boast that if he is re-elected and Republicans win a Senate majority, he would become Senate majority leader.  Some voters believe Kentucky will benefit from keeping Mr. McConnell in such a national leadership position, but we believe that alone is not a reason for giving him another term... 
...Ms. Grimes has laid out positions on a number of issues that matter to voters, ones that separate her from her opponent. 
Kentucky needs a U.S. senator who sees a higher calling than personal ambition and a greater goal than self-aggrandizement.  For those reasons and for her evident potential, we endorse Ms. Grimes for election on Nov. 4."
what eye thynk:   Mitch McConnell's lack of respect for the people he is supposed to represent is awe inspiring.  He has blatantly lied to Kentucky voters and refused to expose his position on issues of importance, expecting them to believe "When I am Senate majority leader," (his favorite conversation starter of late), everything will be sunshine and roses in Kentucky.  He seems to believe that the opportunity to help him write his name large in Washington should be enough to earn their love and support--substance or truth are secondary.

Re: the Affordable Care Act, he continues to say he will eradicate it "root and branch" without eliminating the healthcare that 527,000 of Kentuckians now enjoy under it--a blatant lie that didn't even raise the slightest blush of embarrassment to his cheeks during last week's televised debate.  Even when he was called out on the impossibility of his statement by both his opponent and by moderator Bill Goodman, he insisted Kentucky's state exchange would be spared.

Re: the minimum wage, he was recorded telling a private meeting of big money donors that, under his leadership, the Senate would never take up the issue.  A few days later, he stood before voters at a campaign stop and promised that, under his leadership, he would definitely allow the Senate to vote on raising the minimum wage.  He is obviously lying to someone, and it's probably not the guys with big bank accounts.  

When asked by a member of the media which of his opposing minimum wage statements was the truth, he told the reporter that he wasn't going to get into that "until after the election."

What?! He's not going to say where he stands until after Kentuckians vote? The whole point of a campaign is so candidates can state their positions and the rationale behind them, and so voters can decide who to vote for based on those opinions.  Without this information, we may just as well choose Senators based on their smile...or because we like way their name is spelled on the ballot...or by pulling names from a hat! 

And considering that Mitch McConnell has done nothing in the past six years except stand in the middle of a proverbial Progress Blvd. holding a Road Closed sign, his "Make me more powerful" calling card is not an intelligent rationale for returning him to the Senate.  

These two Kentucky newspapers got it right.  Let's hope Kentuckians do the same on November 4.

Monday, October 27, 2014

October 27 - Monday Quote

In light of Mitch McConnell losing the endorsements of Kentucky's two major newspapers to Alison Lundergan Grimes yesterday, (more on that later), I think this week's quote is appropriate.

monday quote:  A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in. (H.L. Mencken, writer, 1880-1956)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Education Matters

Fact, Faith and Education

The Middle East:  Schools in ISIS controlled cities are being forced to change their curriculums.   Art, music, history and literature are "permanently annulled." Philosophy and chemistry have been eliminated.  Pictures deemed un-Islamic have been torn from textbooks. 

In the name of "eliminating ignorance," ISIS has made it clear that the teaching of modern biology and evolution is banned.   They are to be replaced with "religious sciences."

Our Conservative States:  Money taken from education budgets has resulted in art and music being eliminated in many schools.  In literature classes, recent months have seen conservative states move to ban classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath, The Call of the Wild, Of Mice and Men and The Color Purple from high school classrooms. 

In states like Texas, conservative leaning school boards, with the support of Republican legislators are attempting to re-write history texts to reflect their own brand of patriotism--a brand that discourages dissent, emphasizes Republican leaders, skims over historical moments in the civil rights era, largely ignores Hispanic contributions and calls the U.S. a "Constitutional Republic" rather than a "Democratic society." It also calls for more focus on the Biblical and Christian traditions of the first Europeans to settle in America.

School boards, especially in the Bible belt, are testing the constitutional limits of prayer in school. They have argued for the teaching of creationism while presenting evolution--the basis of all modern biological sciences, including geology, genetics, paleontology--as an unproven hypothesis. 

what eye thynk:  I can't help but see the similarities in ISIS' and American conservatives' education goals.  History is fact.  You can't ignore it like ISIS, or change it like Texas.  Eliminating literature that does not fit your narrow vision of acceptable will only result in students with no whole-world experience, a populace of followers in a world in need of leaders who can think and relate to those beyond their personal clique.  

But it is the coerced emphasis on religion over science that demonstrates how close our conservative Christians are to the core ideology of conservative Islamists.  One culture is  attempting to legislate faith by eliminating access to secular knowledge.  The other is attempting to emphasize faith by discrediting the entire chronicle of science on which the modern world is based. 

Fact and faith can and must co-exist; denying the reality of either is senseless. The world continues to advance, no matter the restrictions placed on education by religious radicals; and only those who tame the extremists--believer and non-believer alike--are going to move forward with it.   

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tea Party Signs - The Joke's on Them

Installment #7 of:
Dictionaries are a Liberal Plot
(and Grammar is Not My Cup of Tea Either)

Is there any doubt that these two are a couple?  And that they deserve each other?  And that they serve as each other's Spell Check?  

And does it frighten you to think that they could breed?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Quick Note: Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), Mentally Ill or Just Uber-Rude?

Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) seems to be on a campaign to offend everyone.  I'm trying to decide if he is genuinely mentally ill or just pathologically rude.

1.  On July 31 of this year, a young staffer stood outside a House Republican meeting room.  The staffer's job that day was to stop anyone from entering the meeting through that particular door and to direct them to the correct entrance.  This unfortunate staffer encountered Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) who objected to being stopped by twisting the young man's arm and asking him "Do you know who I am?"  He then proceeded to enter through the blocked doorway.  The whole episode was caught on camera.

Representative Young (right) with Republican staffer on July 31 as recorded by NBC News

He later explained that he is a trained military veteran, (he served during the Korean War--55 years ago). "Don't touch me unexpectedly.  Don't do that.  He did.  He won't again."

2.  Earlier this year, he sat next to Representative Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina) as Mr. Meadows proposed re-naming a post office building for a soldier recently killed in Afghanistan. During Mr. Meadows' speech, Mr. Young was once again caught on camera, this time making funny faces and sticking his fingers in his ears.  (I guess that's what he believes trained military veterans do when a soldier dies.)

3.  In an interview last year, he referred to Mexican farm workers using the racial slur "wetbacks."  When his use of the slur was questioned, he said he didn't know "this term is not used in the same way nowadays."

4.  Earlier this month, Mr. Young debated his Democratic challenger Forrest Dunbar.  Backstage he told Mr. Dunbar, (who was born in Alaska's interior, moved to Cordova, Alaska with his family when he was a child and currently resides in Anchorage), that he wasn't really from Cordova. "I had you looked up."

A witness to the confrontation said, Mr. Dunbar appeared confused and placed his hand on the Mr. Young's elbow and asked "What are you talking about?"  Mr. Young responded angrily, "Don't you ever touch me.  Don't ever touch me.  The last guy who touched me ended up on the ground dead."

5.  In these last days before the election, Mr. Young continues to offend. 

On Tuesday, Mr. Young visited Wasilla High School in his home state. During his profanity laden address he told a story about flying to Paris to get drunk and compared marriage equality to bull sex. "You can't have marriage with two men.  What do you get with two bulls?"

Referring to a student at the school who had recently committed suicide, he said the boy must have lacked support from his friends and family.

A friend of the victim responded that he had both friends and support and that "it's depression--you know, a mental illness."  To which Mr. Young said, "Well, what do you just go to the doctor and get diagnosed with suicide?"

Principal Amy Spargo was appalled.  "We really spend a lot of time at our school talking about how we treat each other.  We just don't talk to people that way...All of us first hand have been sitting with crying kids and we've been talking to these families and we know how much these students are loved and supported and it just felt cruel to imply that there's more the people who are left could have done.  The comments certainly took our breath away."

Mr. Young had the gall to complain to Ms. Spargo that he thought the student who had spoken to him was disrespectful.

6.  On Wednesday, he spoke to a group at the Palmer Senior Center and, when asked about his "lack of support" comment, dug himself a bit deeper. He told the group that suicide didn't exist in Alaska before "government largesse" gave residents an entitlement mentality.  (Alaska has the highest suicide rate among the fifty states.) 

"When people had to work and had to provide and had to keep warm by putting participation in cutting wood and catching the fish and killing the animals, we didn't have the suicide problem."

Matt Shuckerow, a spokesman for Mr. Young, attempted to quiet the controversy in an e-mail to the Alaska Dispatch News saying that the congressman did not "mean to upset anyone with his well-intentioned message."
If that is Representative Young's idea of "well-intentioned," then I'm putting my check mark next to "Mentally Ill" with a secondary diagnosis of extreme tastelessness exacerbated by a total lack of empathy and fed by an over-active ego.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Eye Recommend --- Mitch McConnell Admits Obamacare is a Success

Last week, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) debated his Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, and lied...again...regarding the Affordable Care Act.
"Essentially, McConnell reiterated that he wants a full repeal of the law on every level--except in Kentucky.  

No, that's not a joke.

'I think it's fine to have a website.  Yeah,' he said when asked if he wants to keep Kentucky's state exchange known as Kynect. 'The website can continue but in my view the best interests of the country would be achieved by pulling out Obamacare root and branch,' McConnell continued. 

He also suggested the Kynect is a 'state exchange' and should be handled by 'the state.'"
And when he's done "pulling out Obamacare root and branch," what is this wonderful state run exchange going to "Kynect" to?  That state exchange is, in fact, a branch of the Affordable Care Act.  No Affordable Care Act, no Kynect.
"This is how stupid McConnell and his fellow Republicans know conservative voters are.  He literally sat on that stage and praised the success of Obamacare in his own state, while simultaneously calling for its repeal nationwide...

...By the way, fellow Republican Senator Rand Paul has also supported keeping the law in Kentucky while pushing for its repeal nationally.  So this hypocrisy isn't limited to McConnell."
Kentucky's state-run healthcare exchange and Kentucky's Medicaid expansion are in place and successful only because Governor Steve Beshear (D) insisted on them. Both Mitch and Rand, (and just about every other Republican leader in the country), did everything in their power to see that state exchanges and Medicaid expansion did not happen in their states.  
"Honestly, let (this) sink in for a moment.  McConnell is essentially praising the success of a law he hoped would not exist and still currently wants to repeal.

It's just laughable.

Mitch McConnell is literally trying to campaign both for and against Obamacare at the same time...

...To her credit, Grimes hit back at McConnell's absurdity, saying that when it comes to Obamacare she's not sure what 'fictional fantasy land that Mitch McConnell is in.'...

...This is what I don't get about conservative voters.  Republicans blatantly treat them like idiots.  McConnell can't honestly believe his constituents are intelligent, while trying to peddle nonsense such as this.  Because it makes absolutely no sense." 
The sad thing is, to may conservative voters, it does make sense.  Last year there were multiple stories about people in Kentucky picking up information about Kynect and saying they'd happily sign up for this because "it's so much better than Obamacare."
And this happened not just in Kentucky.  Conservative voters, groomed to hate anything "Obama," were only too happy to sign up for "state healthcare plans," but could find nothing good to say about "that Obama plan."
"Yet despite the fact that McConnell is clearly relying on the ignorance of conservative voters not to question a statement that makes absolutely no sense, he knows they'll eat it right up--without question--and still vote for him."
"Without question," may be the two most important words in this whole article.  In an age when information is as close as the phone in our pockets, too many Americans no longer question.
Republicans told their constituents, "Obamacare is bad!" And they believed.  No one seems to have asked politicians like Mitch McConnell to explain how it was bad. Or why. How many voters bothered to find out how the federal law relates to state exchanges? How many bothered to wonder why their state had a state-run exchange?  Or why it didn't? How many bothered to question the possible benefits or impediments for them personally?  How many questioned at all?
And that is the plain and simple reason why politicians get away with lying.  They can, and will, continue to spout any falsehood that supports their party-speak because their jobs are never in jeopardy because we don't question.
 It's time to WAKE UP, AMERICA!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Republicans Say the Darndest Things - Female Candidate Too Ugly to Win

State Representative 
Steve Vaillancourt (R-New Hampshire)

U.S. Representative Ann McLane Kuster (D- New Hampshire) is running for re-election in New Hampshire.  She is being challenged by Marilinda Garcia (R).  Last week, state representative Steve Vaillancourt wrote a lengthy blog post explaining why Ms. Kuster was likely to lose her re-election bid, explaining that "looks matter in politics."

"Let's be honest, does anyone not believe that Congressman Annie Kuster is as ugly as sin?  And I hope I haven't offended sin...Sad to say, but the drag queens are more atrractive(sic) than Annie Kuster."

Ms. Garcia condemned Mr. Vaillancourt's comments as sexist, adding that they have "absolutely no place in political discourse."
I have to wonder if "Stevie" has looked in the mirror lately.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Political Debates Need a Candidate-Shaming Feature

Candidate for the U.S. Senate, Tom Cotton (R)

Under our old student loan system, the government gave money to the banks.  The banks made the loans and kept the interest, essentially making profits on federal money that was gifted to them.  If a student defaulted on their loan, the federal government paid that amount back to the bank, replenishing their supply of risk free money.

In 2010, the Obama administration removed the middle man.  The federal government now makes student loans directly and the interest goes into federal government coffers.

Last week during a televised debate, U.S. Representative Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) who is currently running for the U.S. Senate claimed that  "Obamacare nationalized the student loan industry.  That's right, Obamacare grabbed money to pay for its own programs and took that choice away from you."

Washington Post's fact-checker noted that the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act that was passed alongside the Affordable Care Act was a money saving measure and the money saved was spread over several programs, only one of which was the ACA.  

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that eliminating the banks will save $58 billion over ten years.  Only $8.7 billion of that is scheduled to fund ACA programs. $36 billion is budgeted for Pell grants to lower-income students, $3 billion goes to minority-serving colleges and $10.3 billion is to be used to reduce the national deficit.

what eye thynk:  Tom Cotton isn't exactly a poster child for the truth. 

  1. He told supporters that Arkansas is in danger of being invaded by Mexican drug cartels who have joined forces with ISIS though the only evidence of this exists in his own imagination.   
  2. He claims that healthcare costs in Arkansas are expected to climb 138% thanks to "Obamacare." Independent analysis says they will probably decline slightly.  
  3. He said that he voted against the farm bill because President Obama  had hijacked it and "turned it into a food stamp bill" apparently willing to ignore the historical truth: that farm aide and nutritional assistance have been linked in one bill since the 1930s. 
The problem with Mr. Cotton is that, when confronted with the truth, he simply shrugs and goes his merry way perpetuating lies. He knows he is lying, but as long as it plays to the fears and prejudices of his audience, he just doesn't care.  If it is what his supporters want to hear, he'll say it for them, no matter how outrageous or untrue.

Really, this is no way to run a campaign...or a country.  There are so many voters who will not check facts, who will believe whatever they hear--if their pet politician says it, then it must be the truth, period.  If the other party cites opposing facts, then they must be lying. And this is not a completely Republican problem, though I have to say, members of the GOP seem to be better at the art of lying with a straight face than any other modern-day organization I can think of.

Debates could be greatly improved by the introduction of immediate fact checking. After each exchange, we should pause for an organization like Politi-Fact or the Washington Post to check what each speaker has said and then post the number of lies and truths on the front of each candidate's podium.

I would call this process "Candidate Shaming." Afterwards, we could hang signs around the loser's neck and post their picture on Facebook.  At least it would be entertaining.

Monday, October 20, 2014

October 20 - Monday Quote

Let's be honest, all politicians stretch the truth; but modern Republicans have gone beyond stretching into complete fabrication.  Some, like Representative Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) candidate for the U.S. Senate, have acknowledged their untruths with a shrug, as though truth has no value.  

Unfortunately, we have an entire segment of our population who are too lazy or too incompetent to check the veracity of their political representatives.  Present them with facts and they will repeat the lie back to you.  Present them with concrete proof and they will see it as a conspiracy.

Today's quote is for them and those who continue to try to reach them.

monday quote:  To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.  (Thomas Paine, writer, pamphleteer, political activist, 1737-1809)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ted Cruz Sees a World Where Conservative Pastors Are Jailed

Ted Cruz, speaking at a Houston church last week

In Houston, it is illegal to discriminate against any person based on sexual orientation. (Yeah, I know, that surprised me too.)  Far-right, social conservatives are attempting to repeal the anti-discrimination law.

In a textbook example of over-stepping, lawyers defending the ordinance subpoenaed sermons from local pastors in an attempt to ascertain if they were preaching against the law. The city criticized the move which is a clear violation of the First Amendment.

Ted Cruz appeared on The Brody File with host David Brody, a political reporter for Pat Robertson's cable network, and cited the already condemned subpoenas, saying  that conservative pastors are in "real risk" of being jailed for speaking out against homosexuality.

"Some in the media ridicule that threat saying there is no danger of the government coming after pastors.  That is the usual response.  The specter of government trying to determine if what pastors preach from the pulpit meets the policy views or political correctness of the governing authorities, that prospect is real and happening now."

Asked if he meant we could "soon go through a period where pastors are hauled off to jail for a hate crime because they are speaking for traditional marriage?"  Mr. Cruz replied, "I think that is a real risk."

what eye thynk:  The misstep by Houston's city lawyers, (and it is a huge misstep), is seen as a rallying cry for the religious right, and politicians like Ted Cruz are only too happy to feed their anti-gay frenzy, calling it proof that supporters of LGBT rights will do anything to silence conservative Christians.

MSNBC writer, Steve Benen, called any scenario where conservative pastors are hauled off to jail "dystopian," a position that "might appeal to Pat Robertson's viewers, but it's certainly not 'happening now,' and under the American system, it never will."

I do not agree in any way with Houston laywers' decision to subpoena church sermons--the First Amendment doesn't stop at the chancel--but the response by Ted Cruz and the Pat Robertson school of Christianity is ridiculous, and not just for its fantasy elements.  

Claiming you are being discriminated against while preaching discrimination is just plain wrong--no matter in which reality you live. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Republicans Say the Darndest Things - Behind in the Polls? Blame It On Single Women!

Jeff Bell (R)
New Jersey Candidate for U.S. Senate

Jeff Bell is challenging Cory Booker (D) for his Senate seat.  Currently, New Jersey voters favor Mr. Booker 53% to 38%.  Mr. Bell's deficit is 5% among men, but a whopping 32% among women voters.  He claims it has nothing to do with his stand against women issues including his anti-abortion position.

"I've done a lot of thinking about this... I think it has more to do with the rise of single women. Single mothers, particularly, are automatically Democratic because of the the benefits.  They need benefits to survive, and so that kind of weds them to the Democratic party."
Yep, that ought to bring women voters flocking to his side.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The EPA is "Friendly" with Environmental Groups! Don't Worry, Issa is On the Case!

The House Oversight Committee, chaired by Darrell Issa (R-California), has a new investigation under way.

what eye thynk:    The Republican scandal hunt continues.  The IRS thing has been wrung of all its juiciness potential and the Benghazi question has been answered...and answered...and...  What is a Republican to do? 

Representative Darrell Issa to the rescue! Mr. Issa has joined forces with Louisiana Senator David Vitter, ranking Republican member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, for what they see as an investigation double-header--they can target President Obama AND the Environmental Protection Agency. Republican nirvana!

This time they are investigating whether the Obama administration "improperly colluded" with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy organization, when drafting new carbon emissions regulations.

My first thought when I read that was, "Well, who did you expect them to meet with?  Oil and coal producers?"  Turns out, that's exactly Mr. Issa's complaint.  "The E.P.A. appears to have a far cozier relationship with N.R.D.C. lobbyists on carbon emission rule-making than with any other stakeholders."  

Why hide behind a euphemism like "other stakeholders?"  If you mean oil and coal producers, which is undoubtedly the case, then say so.  Why try to be cute about it?

While they Obama administration met with several environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council was the only one to present a detailed plan to the White House.  The GOP doesn't accuse the president of copying that plan--it is similar, but nowhere near identical--but Mr. Issa says they have uncovered "friendly emails" between Gina McCarthy, the EPA head and allies in the environmental movement which raises some questions. 

"Friendly emails" between the head of the EPA and environmentalists!  Oh, the horror! 

In 2005, W received a major report written by environmental scientists regarding global warming.  He gave it to his chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Philip Cooney, who was a former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, to edit before making the report public.  Environmental groups , excuse me, "other stakeholders" were not offered the same opportunity; neither were the scientists whose work had been edited permitted to defend their conclusions.  Mr. Issa, who was chairman of the House's Oversight Subcommittee on Energy and Resources at the time, did not see that obviously biased move as worthy of investigation; but the Obama administration meets with environmental groups on environmental issues and he's all in a dither.

This whole pseudo-scandal is beyond ridiculous.  As one pundit wrote, "There are multiple 'stakeholders' in the debate, and the administration worked closer with those who want to address the problem, and less with those who want to make it worse."

Political writer Rebecca Leber said "Nobody denies that NRDC might have helped shape the rule.  Obama Administration officials speak with advocacy groups when making policy, just like their predecessors and their counterparts on Capitol Hill.  That's called governing."

The EPA responded to the Issa and Vitter investigation: "The Clean Power Plan was developed through an extensive public outreach process--one that engaged tens of thousands of people across the country.  EPA consulted with states, power companies, local communities, environmental groups, associations, labor groups, tribes and any more.  This process was a critical component in developing the proposed rule because it helped focus our attention on what was going on, on the ground, in states and communities across the country.  It generated public discussion and ideas from numerous groups and individuals that helped inform our thinking.  To imply that one group had any undue influence on the proposal's development is ridiculous and absurd.

And finally, Mr. Issa, remember in 2011 when you sent letters to more than 150 oil companies, drug manufacturers and corporate lobbyists asking them to tell you which Obama administration regulations they would like to see eliminated?  We do, but we don't recall you asking any environmental groups which of those regulations they supported.

 Now go away.  You're making a fool of yourself.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Republicans Say the Darndest Things - Minimum Wage Law Serves No Purpose

Wisconsin Governor
Scott Walker (R)

On Friday, Governor Walker debated Mary Burke, his Democratic challenger.  

One of the questions asked was about the minimum wage, specifically if they thought it was possible for a full-time worker to live on $7.25/hour.  Mary Burke acknowledged that the current minimum wage is too low and voiced strong support for raising it.  Governor Walker did not address the current rate, but instead dodged the question by saying he wanted workers in Wisconsin to have jobs that "pay two or three times the minimum wage.  The way that you do that is not by an arbitrary level of a state."

Yesterday, in a follow-up interview, Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel talked to Mr. Walker about his response, questioning whether Mr. Walker believes there should be a minimum wage law at all.

Governor Walker replied, "Well, I'm not going to repeal it, but I don't think it's, I don't think it serves a purpose.
Mr. Walker, let me help you.  A minimum wage is supposed to ensure that someone working 40 hours a week can afford a place to live and food to eat.   
Clearly, $7.25/hour is incapable of providing either in 2014; but it is still a good law designed to protect American workers.  It serves a purpose similar to that of unions and collective bargaining.  Oh, wait, you don't believe in those either.  
Governor Scott Walker, every Wisconsin worker's worst nightmare. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Quick Note: Ebola and the GOP -- an Inconvenient Truth

  • The Center for Disease Control was forced to slow down research and development on an Ebola vaccine when their budget was cut by over a billion dollars after the GOP forced a government shutdown.  A spokesman for the CDC told media that the budget cut had a huge effect on the work they were doing against Ebola.
  • Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) is calling for the President to appoint an Ebola czar--a position that would logically be filled by our Surgeon General.  But, a year after President Obama named a nominee, that office is still unfilled because Senate Republicans refuse to allow a vote on the appointment of Dr. Murth--who they admit is highly qualified for the job--after he had the temerity to say that guns can kill people. This instantly made him a leper in the eyes of the NRA; and we all know how the GOP loves that NRA $$$.
  • Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) who joins his fellow Republicans in blaming the President for not doing more to stop the spread of Ebola, has urged his colleagues to vote against the President's request for funds to fight the spread because, as he explained, "it focuses on Africa."
And, somehow, the entire Ebola crisis is the President's fault.  

I give you the modern GOP, star pupil at the Ostrich School of Responsibility.

Monday, October 13, 2014

October 13 - Monday Quote

Best response ever!

This past August, Judge David F. Hamilton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit heard arguments from Indiana and Wisconsin defending their states' bans on same-sex marriage.  

Solicitor General Thomas Fisher of Indiana argued that "Men and women make babies, same-sex couples do not...we have to have a mechanism to regulate that, and marriage is that mechanism."   Wisconsin assistant attorney general Timothy Samuelson echoed that argument saying regulating marriage--including by encouraging men and women to marry--is part of a concerted Wisconsin policy to reduce the number of babies born out of wedlock.

Judge Hamilton replied:

monday quote:  I assume you know how that has been working out in practice?

Judge Hamilton then noted that between 1990 and 2009 births to single mothers had risen 53% in Wisconsin and 68% in Indiana.

Give the win to the judge.  (The Appeals Court later ruled against both states.)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Quick Note: Taxpayer Money--Christian Creationists Only Need Apply

A Bible theme park called the Ark Encounter is being built in Kentucky.  Owned by parent company Answers in Genesis, the park is scheduled to open in 2016 and will feature a 510 foot representation of Noah's Ark.  Ark Encounter is scheduled to receive $18 million in tax incentives from the state.

The park is now in danger of losing that money over its hiring practices. Ownership has said all employees will be required to sign a "statement of faith" swearing that they believe in creationism, that the biblical flood was real and that the earth is only 6,000 years old.   State officials have warned Ark Encounter's lawyers that their tax incentives will be rescinded if they continue with their discriminatory hiring practices.

What puts an extra twist to this story is that the park's executive president, Mike Zovath, told the media that if the state withdraws the incentives, they will be guilty of violating the organization's right to free speech under the First Amendment and that the parent company is prepared to sue the state in order to protect the $18 million Kentucky officials originally agreed to.

I notice that Answers in Genesis doesn't seem to have a problem taking money in from non-Christian taxpayers--they'll take it from anyone.  It's when the money is going out that they suddenly start waving the First Amendment banner around and insist on signed pledges of conservative Christian purity.

I can't imagine any court would side with the Ark's owners.  There is no constitutional guarantee of taxpayer money to fund a private business, and it is not unreasonable for the state that agrees to provide financial assistance to insist that all their citizens have the opportunity to gain from that aid. 

As one reporter wrote, If Answers in Genesis "has a problem with that policy, it doesn't have to take Kentucky's $18 million and it can build the ark itself.  Really, it should have been that way all along."
I agree.  If I'm not good enough to work for you, then my tax money shouldn't be helping you build your business.   
Free speech is not a one-way street.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Republicans Say the Darndest Things - Executive, Legislative, Judicial and... ?

U.S. Representative 
Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma)

Trying to explain that his party was not responsible for last October's government shutdown:

"This country isn't ran by just one individual. It's ran by four branches, but three branches are in control of this."
I think it's fair to assume that Mr. Mullin does not hold a degree in English.  But looking beyond his cringe worthy confusion of verb tenses, shouldn't someone who is a member of the U.S. Congress have at least a passing acquaintance with how our government is structured?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tea Party Signs - The Joke's On Them

Installment #6 of:
Dictionaries are a Liberal Plot
(and Grammar is Not My Cup of Tea Either)

Whether you agree with him or not, shouldn't you at least know how to spell the name of the President of the United States?

And, Ma'am, you might want to take time out next week between hair appointments to schedule a private meeting with God to ask how He feels about those apostrophes.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Eye Recommend --- The Secret Service and the Political Class

I have been trying to write a post about the trickle-down effect of congressional dysfunction for a few weeks now.  Mr. Friedman has done my work for me.
"I'm sure there are many technical explanations for the recent breakdowns in Secret Service protection that allowed an armed intruder to run right through the front door of the White House and an armed felon to ride on an elevator with President Obama.  But I'd also put some blame on the nation's political class.

Just look at Washington these days and listen to what politicians are saying and watch how they spend their time.  You can't help but ask:  Do these people care a whit about the country anymore?  Is there anybody here on a quest for excellence, for making America great?

Yes, yes, I know.  They're all here to do 'public service.'  But that is not what it looks like.  It actually looks as if they came to Washington to get elected so they could raise more money to get re-elected.  That is, until they don't get re-elected.  Then, like the former House Majority leader, Eric Cantor, they can raise even more money by cashing in their time on Capitol Hill for a job and a multimillion-dollar payday from a Wall Street investment bank they used to regulate. 

We're at war in the Middle East, with American military lives on the line, but Congress could not stir itself to return from a pre-election recess to either debate the wisdom of this war or give the president proper legal authorization, let alone take some responsibility.  When everyone is so busy running, is it any surprise that no one is running the federal government?...

...What does this have to do with the Secret Service lapses?  It certainly doesn't excuse them, but if you're a federal worker today and you look up at the 'adults' who are supposed to be supervising you, what do you see?  You see too many self-interested, self-indulgent politicians who are only there to grandstand, spend most of their time raising money to win elections and then, when you, as a federal worker, make a mistake, be the first to rush to the microphones with feigned concern to investigate your competence--as long as the cameras are running.

Tell me that doesn't filter down to every department, including the Secret Service.  When so many above you are just cynically out for themselves, it saps morale, focus and discipline...

...I can't put my finger on it exactly, but you feel today in Washington a certain laxness, that anything goes and that too few people working for the federal government take pride in their work because everything is just cobbled together by Congress and the White House at the 11th hour anyway.  It's been years since anyone summoned us for a moonshot, for something great.  So just show up and punch the clock...

...Again, I'm not excusing the Secret Sevice, but the recent breakdowns don't surprise me when so much of the political class that oversees the service is so self-absorbed, risk-averse and shortsighted.  When the people governing us become this cynical, polarized and dysfunctional, it surely seeps down into the bureaucracy.  As above, so below.
Governing is hard work; and obstructionism should not be mistaken for governing. Neither should sitting passively by and being satisfied to watch dust accumulate on America's greatness.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Quick Fact: Idaho Refuses to Bend to Court of Appeals, Insists on Moving On to Supreme Court

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from five states after federal Appeals Courts had ruled against their bans on same-sex marriage, effectively forcing Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma, Indiana and Wisconsin to abide by their Circuit Courts' decisions that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying was unconstitutional. 

Common sense said that other states under the jurisdiction of the same Circuit Courts would stop wasting money on cases that were still pending since there was no chance that the Courts would decide their cases differently.

Apparently common sense is a controlled commodity in Idaho, though state officials put no limit on pig-headedness. 

Indeed, on Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the bans against same-sex marriage in Idaho and Nevada were unconstitutional.  In their decision, the judges wrote,  "The lessons of our constitutional history are clear: inclusion strengthens, rather than weakens, our most important institutions.  When same-sex couples are married, just as when opposite-sex couples are married, they serve as models of loving commitment to all."  They mandated that same-sex unions "shall issue forthwith."

Same-sex couples were lined up outside Ada County Courthouse in Boise this morning where clerks were preparing to issue same-sex marriage licenses beginning at 8:00AM, when Justice Anthony Kennedy responded to an emergency motion filed by Governor Butch Otter (R)'s office just three hours earlier and issued a temporary stay on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals order.

Idaho claims that their case should be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court because it is "different" from others heard by the 9th Circuit Court, though the state declined to say what that difference is.  
Bigotry carries a red flag and rides across Idaho on an elephant.
Nevada recognized the futility of continuing to fight this losing battle and did not request a stay.  County clerks will beginning issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples at 2:00PM local time. 

Eye Recommend --- Black Teen Pepper-Sprayed by Cops After Entering His White Foster Parents' Home

This brought tears to my eyes.
"Eighteen-year-old DeShawn Currie was walking into his foster parents' unlocked side door after school Monday afternoon, when a neighbor called 911 to report what they perceived to be a burglary on the residential block in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina.  When cops arrived, they walked inside the house and ordered Currie to put his hands up, as Currie, confused, questioned what he had done wrong.  Cops responded by pointing to a picture on the wall that showed several white children together, implying that Currie, black, did not belong.

By the time Currie's foster mother Stacy Tyler came home, EMTs were treating Currie in the driveway for having been pepper sprayed in the face by the offices, WTVD reports.  Police said in a statement they pepper-sprayed Currie because he would not follow orders."
Another article reported that officers said Currie did show them an I.D., but that it had a different address on it.  The Tylers said their family including Mr. Currie had just moved into this house in July.
Stacey and Ricky Tyler had been fostering Currie for about a year, and have done all they can to show Currie that he is just as much a member of their family as the other three children.

'Everything that we've worked so hard for in the past year was stripped away yesterday in just a matter of moments,' Ricky Tyler told WTVD."
The kid was IN HIS OWN HOME!   After they saw his I.D., did they let him explain that he had moved in with his foster family only a few months ago or just assume that a kid like him didn't belong?  Did they bother to ask for a phone number of one of his foster parents who could confirm that he did, indeed, live there?  Or did these officers simply listen to some bigoted neighbor who saw "black" and thought "thief" and just barge in looking for a confrontation? 
I suppose we should be grateful they didn't decide to just shoot him, which demonstrates how far we still have to go in this country.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

October 7 - Monday Quote (on Tuesday)

When evidence of climate change is staring a politician in the face, but he won't admit it because it might cost him votes, he claims "I am not a scientist."  Another way to look at this phenomenon...

monday quote:   It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. (Upton Sinclair, novelist, journalist, political activist, 1878-1968)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Quick Note: Supreme Court Rejects Anti-Gay Marriage Cases

I know this is supposed to be "Monday Quote" day; but THIS.....!!!

The Supreme Court has decided it will not hear gay marriage cases advanced from Federal Appeals courts by the states of Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma, Indiana and Wisconsin.  This announcement leaves the Circuit Courts' decisions--all of which ruled in favor of gay couples who wanted to marry or wanted to have marriages performed elsewhere recognized by their home states--in place, forcing those states to immediately extend equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. 

In Utah, Governor Gary Herbert said he was "disappointed" but that his state would comply with Monday's order.  "Regardless of your personal beliefs, please treat each other with respect and with kindness as we transition through this new law."  Same-sex marriage licenses were already being issued as he spoke.

Wisconsin began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples when their offices opened this morning at 8:00AM; Virginia complied at 1:00PM this afternoon.  Indiana began issuing licenses today, but civil ceremonies will not begin until tomorrow to give the court time to set up for what they expect will be a rush.  In Oklahoma, County Clerk Tim Rhodes said he would consult with the District Attorney and the District Attorney said he would consult with the Attorney General.  While all that consulting was going on, the Oklahoma County Courthouse had already begun issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

The Supreme Court usually prefers to have conflicting decisions presented to them before they sit to resolve an issue. That could still happen in the current session.  The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals located in Cincinnati, Ohio, heard arguments in August and there was some indication that that panel could buck the trend and decide in favor of states who want to continue to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples.  If that proves true, then the Supreme Court may decide to take on the issue.

For now, the Supreme Court's decision will have an immediate effect, not just on these five states, but also on other states that have filed cases with the same Circuit Courts. (Logically, it has to be expected that if a Federal Appeals Court decides in favor of same-sex couples for one state, they would also decide for same-sex couples if a different state in its jurisdiction was brought before it.) 

This means that an additional 11 states--Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin--will join the ranks of states where same-sex marriage is legal.

For the first time, states where same-sex marriage is legal will be in the majority:  30 states, plus the District of Columbia. 
 I like those numbers!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Antonin Scalia Re-defines "Separate" for the Religious

On Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke to an audience of 400 people at Colorado Christian University.  His speech focused on his interpretation of our constitutional right to the separation of church and state, telling his audience that "separation" doesn't really mean separate at all. 

what eye thynk:   Justice Scalia is a dangerous man in a position to do real harm.  

Apparently believing that every constitutional scholar for the past 200+ years has been wrong, he told his audience that the writers of our Constitution did not actually mean that church and state should be kept separate.  Calling himself a constitutional "originalist," he claimed that our founders' intent had nothing to do with keeping religion out of government.  They only meant to ensure that one religion was not favored over another.  

So Christians, Jews, Buddhists and even Wicans are cool, but agnostics get the back of the bus?  And when a Muslim wants to ride...?   

Calling qualms about religion in government "utterly absurd," (and completely ignoring how well legislating faith has worked historically in the Middle East), he said we need to "fight" the "secularists," explaining that the Constitution only obligates us to protect freedom of religion, not freedom from it.   

This argument turns every non-believer into a second class citizen. And if you wonder how this equality between religions would work in real life, you only need look at the case of Greece, NY here

Of the Supreme Court's "latest take on the subject...that the state must be neutral, not only between religions, but between religion and non-religion," he said,  "That's just a lie."  

He criticized his fellow Justices who see the Constitution as a "living" document, calling that a judicial philosophy only an "idiot" could believe.  (This guy must be a real joy to work with on a daily basis.)

The obvious weakness in his "originalist" dogma is that, if the maiden Constitution was so perfect and immutable, then why did our founding fathers feel the need to add the Bill of Rights just a few years later?  He claims that "the First Amendment explicitly favors religion;" but if we adhere strictly to the original Constitution, that protection would not even exist.  And don't even get me started on the 19th Amendment.

In Justice Scalia we have a man whose view of our Constitution goes beyond a conservative interpretation to become a narrow-minded re-invention--in short: a dangerous man in a position of great power.