Sunday, November 30, 2014

Quick Note: When Christianity Becomes Nothing More Than a Business

Walter F. Houston and his church in Houston, Texas

Olivia Blair was a member of Fourth Missionary Baptist Church in Texas for over 50 years. The 93 year old stopped attending her church two years ago when declining health forced her to move into a nursing home.  On November 11, after spending several months in a coma, she passed away at a local hospital. 

Her daughter, Barbara Day, contacted the pastor of her mother's church to arrange a funeral service.  Pastor Walter F. Houston refused Ms. Day's request, telling her that her mother hadn't tithed properly over the past years. Ms. Day explained that her mother had been in declining health and reminded him of her long record of membership.  Pastor Houston still refused.

Tyrone Jacques, of, a website dedicated to exposing just such un-Christian behavior, asked Mr. Houston to reconsider.  Mr. Houston replied "I am not changing my bylaws for someone who was not active...If the family cared so much then why didn't one of them at least send a dollar over here to reserve her membership?"

Mr. Jacques offered to pay the cost of Ms. Blair's funeral, suggesting that it could be held on a Friday since the church is normally closed on that day.  

"Pastor" Houston's final words on the subject: "Membership has its privileges."
I would like to say to Mr. Houston: "And being a pastor has its responsibilities." 
Where was Mr. Houston when Ms. Blair became ill? What is the going rate for a pastoral visit at Mr. Houston's church?
Whether Olivia Blair stopped tithing two years ago, ten years ago, or even twenty years ago isn't the point here.  Ms. Blair attended that church for 50 years.  Church membership is not a business arrangement.
Walter F. Houston has no right to call himself "Pastor." He is nothing more than a corporate shark, hiding behind a pulpit, counting his profits. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Republicans Say the Darndest Things: Gay Discrimination is Good

Retired Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R)
Newly Elected 
Colorado State Representative

Mr. Klingenschmitt ordained by the Episcopal church, served as a Navy chaplain where he was a vocal opponent of repealing "Don't Ask. Don't Tell."  He refused a Navy directive that he treat gays civilly, calling the order a violation of his First Amendment rights.  To give credit to the U.S. Navy, Mr. Klingenschmitt was drummed out in 2006.  

This newly elected state legislator says that gay citizens "want your soul.  They want you to disobey God so that you go to Hell with them." 

He believes that the government has every right to discriminate against gay citizens.  "If your heart is full of corruption or sin or immorality--in this case, homosexuality--then you should be discriminated against."  In his world, gays cannot go to heaven and only those who can aspire to heaven are deserving of equal treatment by the government. "If they're not going to get eternal benefits in Heaven, why should we give them government rewards here on this earth?"

He once wrote that President Obama is possessed by demons and that he had attempted an unsuccessful exorcism-in-absentia on the President.

During his campaign, he decried the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as a "bathroom bill" that would permit men to use women's restrooms where they would "violate your wives' and daughters' privacy in every public restaurant in America."

Colorado elected him with nearly 70% of the vote.
I don't know what I find more unbelievable, that any mainstream, organized church would ordain him in the first place, especially the Episcopal church--one of the most liberal Christian sects--or that there were that many voters in Colorado who thought that rewarding his hate-filled brand of "Christianity" with a seat in their state legislature was a good idea. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Eye Recommend --- GOP Demands Pound of Flesh in Tax Deal

This is what we have to look forward to in January. (Any underlines are mine.)
"House Republicans haven't had much success this Congress passing actual legislation into law, but they've nevertheless invested quite a bit of time focusing on one of their favorite pastimes: cutting taxes without paying for it."
(As opposed to refusing to pass any Democrat-backed bill unless a social program was cut to offset the cost.)
 "The Democratic-run Senate has largely ignored the bills from the lower chamber, but in recent weeks, House Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) have been negotiating a deal on tax breaks set to expire at the end of 2014, and (Tuesday), a deal took shape.  Before we get to the substantive details, it's important to note how GOP lawmakers approached the talks.

Left off were the two tax breaks valued most by liberal Democrats: a permanently expanded earned-income credit and a child tax credit for the working poor.  Friday night, Republican negotiators announced they would exclude those measures as payback for the president's executive order on immigration...

...We really have reached a farcical level of policymaking.  Republicans aren't just obsessed with tax cuts, they're deliberately scrapping breaks that go to working families.  Why?  Largely because GOP officials aren't done with their tantrum over immigration policy--right-wing hissy fits rarely produce sound public policy--and Republicans feel as if they're entitled to a pound of flesh because the Big Bad President hurt their feelings.

The result is a tax deal that treats the working poor as collateral damage in a political war. Sorry, struggling families, Americans elected a far-right Congress, and your loss is their 'payback'.

And as important as this is, it's not even the most offensive part of the agreement...

...At issue is a package of 55 tax breaks with $440 billion over the next decade, nearly all of which benefit corporations, which are already enjoying record profits...

...Indeed, perhaps the single most striking aspect of this is that Republicans intend to pay for the tax breaks entirely through deficit financing.  After all the talk from GOP lawmakers about killing our grandchildren with mountains of debt, all the rhetoric about how 'broke' the United States is, all the claims that we can't invest in job creation or even jobless benefits unless every penny is offset, we've received another reminder that Republican talk about fiscal policy is a rather pathetic and insincere joke.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published a fairly detailed, albeit understated analysis of the tax deal, calling it 'a significant step backward on several key issues facing the nation: long-term budget deficits, high levels of poverty (especially among children), and widening inequality.'

And what about the provision in the deal that's bad for the environment?  At Republicans' request, the package does not extend the wind-power tax credit--GOP lawmakers said it wasn't fair to the oil and gas industry, so it had to go."
Tax credits for big oil and gas will, however, be permitted to continue. Really, can the GOP be any more obvious in their pro big oil/big money bias? These congressional Republicans give sycophants a bad name.
"Given all of this, President Obama has vowed to veto the agreement.  I talked to a handful of
Democratic aides on Capitol Hill, ...and each said the package would enjoy very little Dem support in its current form.

The obvious question, aside from why Republicans are so incredibly reckless and irresponsible when it comes to tax breaks for corporations that don't need them, is why Harry Reid's office would agree to such a far-right agreement.  The Nevada Democrat and his team...know their way around a negotiating table, so why accept such a ridiculous deal?

Reid's office hasn't said much publicly--and with an Obama veto now inevitable, it may be a moot point--but apparently House Republicans were quite inflexible during the talks and this was the best result Democratic aides thought they could get before the GOP takeover of Congress is complete.
I'm trying to find the logic here.  Democrats seem to be saying 'Well, we lost the Senate so there's really no point in fighting anymore. We'll just roll over and play dead early.'  What can possibly be gained by this?
What's more, some of the existing 55 tax breaks, sometimes called 'tax extenders,' actually have merit and progressive support.  For Republican negotiators, the message was, in effect, 'The only way to keep these breaks is to give us more of what we want.'"
Congressional Democrats apparently learned nothing from their failure to act when they had the chance in 2008-10 or from their timidly run 2014 campaign.  And so, once again, we return to the pattern of Republicans bullying and Democrats acquiescing followed by Republicans running to their money-men for a pat on the head, a cash infusion and a new set of orders to follow while Democrats retire to lick their wounds and wonder why everyone doesn't love them.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Quick Note: Boehner Proves Einstein's Theory of Insanity

U.S. Representative Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina)

Last Friday, the House Intelligence Committee released details from its two-year investigation into Benghazi.  The committee conducted what they called an "intensive investigation."  After holding a number of hearings, after looking at thousands of pages of materials, after conducting extensive interviews, the Republican-led committee could find no wrong doing by the White House or anyone else.

"The report is therefore meant to serve as the definitive House statement on the Intelligence Community's activities before, during and after the tragic events that caused the deaths of four brave Americans."

On Monday, just three days later, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced he is re-appointing Representative Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina) as chairman of the Select Committee to investigate Benghazi.

"On September 11, 2012, four Americans were killed in a brutal terrorist attack in Libya.  Two years later, the American people still have far too many questions about what happened that night--and why."
To quote Albert Einstein, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Quick Note: Short and sweet...

...and true.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson: Revisited

The grand jury chose not to indict Darren Wilson.  Ferguson has erupted again.  

what eye thynk:   In August, I wrote a blog post I titled "Another Teenager is Dead.  Let's Go Get Stuff!"  In it I questioned why looting and burning were seen as an acceptable responses to Michael Brown's death and how they were supposed to solve anything.   You can read the post here.

As a result of that post, I was called, among other things, an idiot, a b**ch, a white pig, a privileged a**hole, a white princess and a f**king racist.  My posting privileges on the Democratic Underground site were revoked and my blog was blocked.  At first, I was angry that what I saw as an honest question was viewed as an attack and I wanted to defend myself.  I was a child of the 60s!  After several sleepless nights, I realized the futility of worrying about a few names and I moved on.  I found other sites where dissenting opinions were welcomed and uncomfortable questions were not censored.

So, today I hesitated to address the same subject again, but the question still hangs in my head:  Why destroy your own?

Talking to my husband this morning, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a black friend back in the 1960s while the Civil Rights riots were going on in our city.  I don't remember the particulars--it was a long time ago--but I do remember that she called the riots in Cleveland's Hough neighborhood a "war that needed to be fought." As a teenager, I doubt I had anything particularly earth-shattering to offer as a response. I may have even agreed with her war analogy; I was, after all a vocal, if naive, supporter of the Civil Rights movement.  I do remember wondering what these warriors hoped to accomplish by destroying their own neighborhood, but I doubt I was brave enough then to ask that question out loud.  

Years have passed, but iteration after iteration of that "war" continue to appear in the news--outrage gives way to destructive battles fought in similar neighborhoods, scrabbles that accomplish nothing.  And no matter how hard I try, I still do not understand the need to destroy or to take personal gain from whatever is the current offense.  Genuine equality will not be found in a box of looted Air Jordans.  The secret of advancement is not coded in the latest big screen TV.  Destroying the grocery store your family depends on is not going to make your life better.

If only we could retain the innocence of childhood.  Children look at each other and see, not race, but simply another child.  Adults look at each other, tally up their differences, conclude there is menace in our "otherness," and retreat into their own corners to feed each other on the distrust of "them."                      

I don't have any answers to offer; I am beginning to wonder if there are any.  I still cringe at blatant unfairness and I still believe in universal equality; but I don't see how that goal can ever be realized if violence and the willful destruction of your own is the favored strategy.  By that logic, Nazi Germany would have chosen to bomb Berlin instead of London and concentration camps would have been filled with Aryans.

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24 - Monday Quote

There have been plenty of quotable moments following last week's announcement from President Obama explaining the executive action he is taking regarding immigration reform, but none of them said as much as these three short words...

monday quote:  Pass a bill. (President Barack Obama, 1961-      )

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tea Party Signs - The Joke's On Them

Installment #9 of:
Dictionaries are a Liberal Plot
(and Grammar is Not My Cup of Tea Either)

 But if you ask nicely, we'll give you back your dictionary.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Governing is More Than Saying "No"

 GOP leaders Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky)

Last night, President Obama spoke to the nation and outlined the executive action he is taking to move forward on immigration reform.  

what eye thynk:   In the countdown to the President's expected speech, before the details were known, Republicans were outraged. Now that the details have been made public, Republicans are outraged...and furious, and incensed and nearly spitting with apoplectic anger.

What they aren't, is prepared with an opposing policy suggestion of their own.  It's not like they haven't had time to write one.  The Senate's bi-partisan immigration bill landed on John Boehner's desk a year and a half ago.  This obvious lack of preparation, their inability to look forward, to complete, to move in any sense toward the presentation of a finished proposal, has been the modus operandi of the Republican party for the past six years. 

For 72 months, they have gotten away with standing before America empty-handed, offering nothing more than a sense of their own offended egos as policy. No more.  

As Ezra Klein pointed out last night: 

"Republicans aren't just the opposition party anymore.  They are, arguably, the governing party--they will soon control the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, most state legislatures, and more governorships.  And the governing party needs to solve--or at least propose solutions--to the nation's problems.  And that means the Republican policy on immigration needs to be something more than opposing Obama;s immigration policies.  It needs to be something more than vague noises about border security.

"There are 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the country right now.  Congress allocates enough money to deport roughly 400,000 of the annually. Our policy towards the 10.6 million unauthorized immigrants we're not deporting is that we don't have a policy.  Democrats support a path to citizenship.  Republicans don't support anything...

...Even if you think (the President) is going too far, he at least wants to solve the problem.  Republicans don't seem to want to do anything except stop Obama from solving the problem." 

Instead of demonstrating a preparedness to take on the task of governing, Republican leadership is seriously considering, as Steve Benen wrote, "whether to shut down the government until the White House makes the GOP feel better. If that falls short, Republicans might weigh impeachment."

Quite simply, the GOP seems to have lost sight of the fact that governing means more than just saying "No."   They now have two months to cure their communal myopia, or risk being exposed as a party with no blueprint--empty suits animated only by hatred for the man American voters elected to the White House...twice.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Obstruct-ican Party is Back in Washington

This title in yesterday's New York Times caught my attention:  "In Immigration Fight, Republicans Explore Alternatives to a Shutdown."  

what eye thynk:   While many of those in the Republican Tea Party block are still rallying for shutting the government down over immigration reform, the NY Times article explained the convoluted approaches being considered by others in the GOP that would preserve the immigration status quo by throwing a roadblock up that would halt any executive order by the President.  One option being explored is passing a new spending bill in December, but defunding parts of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization service.  Another is to pass the spending bill but include language that essentially strips the President of his right to use executive action.  

If this is how Republicans expect to win the Hispanic vote in 2016, Democrats can begin planning their inaugural balls right now.

Evidence that a convoluted plan will prevail over another Ted Cruz/Marco Rubio sponsored shutdown can be seen in the presence of the Koch brothers, whose representatives have been in Washington all week talking to GOP leadership and saying they think a shutdown is a bad idea. (If the Koch brothers don't want something to happen, the GOP is going to make sure it doesn't.)

But here is what I found so upsetting about that newspaper headline:  It has apparently never entered their little hate-filled minds that, if they don't want the President to take executive action, all they have to do is take action themselves.  It's as though the GOP has completely lost its ability to move forward.  All this drama, all this posturing, all this time and energy and resources consumed over an issue that is entirely within their ability to solve in one afternoon on the floor of the House.

The Senate passed a bi-partisan immigration reform bill over a year ago.  Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) refused to allow the House to vote on it.  The President has been threatening executive action for months in response to the lack of action by the House.  Now, suddenly, faced with a deadline announced by the White House, the GOP is in crisis mode, chasing their own tails while trying to appear as though they are not about to get trampled by their own elephant.

If this is the way they intend to govern for the next two years, when it comes to ugly, we ain't seen nothin' yet.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Quick Note: Conservative Lawyers to GOP--You Have No Case

First the ACA:  Speaker John Boehner has found a third lawyer, (the first two Washington law firms backed out), to take on his still un-filed lawsuit against President Obama and his implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  The suit, if it ever sees the light of day, is supposed to argue that the President had no right to delay the small business requirement for one year--despite the fact that small business owners said they needed more time to fully comply with the law and Republicans in the House and Senate, in light of the business owners' request, lobbied the President to do exactly that.

How Mr. Boehner and his fellow GOP obstructionists hope to prevail in a lawsuit that contends the President did what they asked him to do and now they're mad about it, is a question for another time.

And then immigration:  But now, Mr. Boehner has decided to throw another piece of raw meat to the far-right.  The Speaker has announced that, if the President goes ahead and moves on immigration as he has promised, the House will add the immigration issue to their phantom lawsuit. 

Word from the annual Federalist Society's national convention seems to indicate that Mr. Boehner's latest "cause" is not all that outrage-worthy.

The Federalist Society is a legal group made up of conservative lawyers and jurists.  As Steve Benen, MSNBC writer, put it, "If you're looking for a room full of powerful Republican lawyers eager to take on President Obama in the courts, you'd be wise to start at a Federalist Society gathering."

During a panel discussion of the President's plans on immigration, Christopher Schroeder, law and public policy professor at Duke Law School said, "The practice is long and robust.  The case law is robust.  Let me put it this way.  Suppose some president came to me and asked me in the office of legal counsel, 'Is it okay for me to go ahead and defer the deportation proceedings of childhood arrival?'  Under the present state of the law, I think that would be an easy opinion to write. Yes."

He went on, "I don't know where in the Constitution there is a rule that if the president's enactment affects too many people, he's violating the Constitution... I agree this can make us very uncomfortable.  I just don't see the argument for unconstitutionality at this juncture."

It was reported that the panel was in agreement and that during the following discussion period no one in the audience expressed an opposite opinion.
When two law firms turn down a high profile case like the one the House offered them and when the nation's leading conservative lawyers and jurists tell you case law is not in your favor and "We don't like you" is not a constitutional argument for a lawsuit or impeachment, any intelligent legislator would listen.
The smart thing would be to first admit that the ACA lawsuit is not winnable, and then take up the bi-partisan immigration bill that the Senate passed a year ago.  Debate it, vote on it, act like the legislators you were elected to be! 
Unfortunately, John Boehner and his Republican buddies seem to prefer life at the bottom of the grading curve--somewhere between doltish and brain-dead--where $500/ hour seems a reasonable price to pay to keep the party rabble in a frenzy, and actually passing a bill is seen as a cop-out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Quick Note: The Jobs That Just Won't Die

Since 2010, when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, the GOP has claimed that the law was a "jobs killer."  

  • Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)- "Obamacare is a disaster for jobs."
  • Representative Randy Forbes (R-Virginia) - Obamacare" creates incentives to not hire new workers."
  • Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) - "Obamacare is a job killing disaster."
  • Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) - "Obamacare is the most destructive, failed law in modern times.  It's the biggest job killer in this country."
  • Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) - "Obamacare has been one of the single biggest drags on job creation since early 2010."
(Note to Mitch:  Manoj Shanker, an economist in your state's Office of Employment and Training recently pointed out that, since the ACA was passed, Kentucky's unemployment rate has fallen from 10.5 to 7.1.  Mr. Shanker, who actually uses facts, expressed the opinion that the ACA "is expected to be a net gain for the economy.")

  • And finally, we get back to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) who spoke on November 5 about the midterm election results - "It also means renewing our commitment to repeal Obamacare, which is hurting the job market."

Between 2010, when President Obama signed the ACA into law, and 2014, the nation's private sector has added 10.2 million new jobs.  The national unemployment rate has fallen from 10% in 2010 to just under 5.8% today.  (per U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

So, GOP, it's time to find a new horse to beat.  This one is dead...unlike those jobs.

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 17 - Monday Quote

More than a hundred years later and there still is no reliable answer...

monday quote:  Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it. (Mark Twain, American writer and humorist, 1835-1910)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Republicans Say the Darndest Things: When Phil Speaks, I Hear God!

Texas Lieutenant Governor-elect
Dan Patrick (R)

Taken from Dan Patrick's Facebook page:

"This is an exciting time for Christians. God is speaking to us from the most unlikely voice, Phil Robertson, about God's Word.  God is using pop culture and a highly successful cable TV show to remind us about His teaching."
Yay, God!  Let's all give thanks that cable TV was finally invented so God could use some nut-case with delusions of grandeur to preach bigotry and hatred because, you know, that's the way God rolls.  
Apparently Mr. Patrick's  brand of Christianity thinks Jesus misspoke when he said that God loves everyone.  How exciting to have that cleared up! 
Good grief. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

President Obama: "Nobody's Stopping Them."

Congress is back in Washington and the lame-duck session is in full swing.  Served up this week: A Dare and a Dodge.

The Dare:  Climate Change (and the Keystone Jobs Myth)

Yesterday, it took the Republican led House one hour to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.  The Senate is scheduled to vote on the same measure on Tuesday.

It's like the GOP is daring the President to veto the bill; and recent comments by President Obama indicate that he will do exactly that if it ever reaches his desk.

"Understand what this project is:  It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their own oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else.  It doesn't have an impact on U.S. gas prices.  If my Republican friends really want to focus on what's good for the American people in terms of job creation and lower energy costs, we should be engaging in a conversation about what are we doing to produce even more homegrown energy."

what eye thynk:    That is the perfect explanation of the pipeline. American real estate would become Canada's tanker truck.  The environmental risk would be completely a U.S. problem; and, considering the record of Canada oil companies and spills, the threat of real environmental disaster is a real possibility. 

The GOP is selling this as a great opportunity to create American jobs, but the number of jobs created would actually be only a few thousand and those would be temporary.  Once the pipeline is completed, the jobs are gone.   The only Americans who will see any long-term gain with the Keystone's completion are the Koch brothers who are major owners in Canada oil.

If Republicans were really interested in putting Americans to work, instead of building Keystone, they would spend that money on rebuilding our know, jobs that would be long term and actually benefit Americans who aren't the Kochs.

The Dodge:  Immigration Reform

Pre-midterm election, House Republicans said they wouldn't pass immigration reform because they didn't trust the President to enforce it.  Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) refused to allow a vote on the bi-partisan immigration bill passed by the Senate.  

This week, Mr. Boehner, introduced his new argument for dodging the immigration issue:  We can't because the President says he will.  The Speaker is diametrically opposed to executive action on immigration, making it clear that he believes any reform must come from Congress.

"When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself.  And he's going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path...I've made clear to the president that if he acts unilaterally on his own, outside of his authority, he will poison the well and there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress.  It's as simple as that."

Mr. Boehner seems unable to explain why it was okay for former presidents (Republicans Reagan and Bush #1 and Democrat Bill Clinton) to take executive action on immigration, but it is not okay for this president.  He also seems unable to explain why, if he believes immigration reform must come from Congress, he just doesn't hold a vote on the Senate's bill since it appears to have enough votes to pass.

President Obama, in an appearance on Face the Nation, had this to say about Speaker
Boehner's apoplexy over the thought of his moving forward on his own:  "So, they have the ability, the authority, the control to supercede anything I do through my authority by carrying out their functions over there.  And if, in fact, it's true that they want to pass a bill, they've got good ideas, nobody's stopping them, and the minute they do it, the minute I sign that bill, what I've done goes away."

what eye thynk:   This pretty much sums up the truth about every argument John Boehner and his party have with the President and executive action.  If they don't want the President acting alone, then they should do their job in Congress so he wouldn't have to it for them. 

As President Obama made clear, "Nobody's stopping them"--not from creating jobs, not from passing immigration reform, not from any number of bills supported by Democrats over the past six years.

The Republican elephant in the room, (pun intended), is one of their own creation.   Its name is "Obstructionism," and they seem incapable of turning it out of the stable.

Friday, November 14, 2014

If Only...

Over the past nine days, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, along with other GOP winners in Congress, have been eager and proud to say that the country has spoken and the country supports GOP ideas.
---> RANDOM THOUGHT: If only they'd listened to the country in 2008 and 2012.  Imagine the progress we could have made.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tea Party Signs - The Joke's On Them

Installment #8 of:
Dictionaries are a Liberal Plot
(and Grammar is Not My Cup of Tea Either)

Well, technically he is right; but I doubt that's the message he was going for.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The First Amendment -- For Sale to the Highest Bidder?

Last Thursday, just days after the midterm election, Ira Glasser, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union, spoke to New York Times columnist Joe Nocera.  As the former head of the ACLU, Mr. Glasser has strong opinions about the First Amendment; but his take on big money and its influence on our political system surprised me--a lot.

what eye thynk:  The Center for Responsive Politics reported that nearly $4 billion was spent on last week's elections; and Mr. Glasser thinks that is just fine.  In fact, he believes that any campaign finance law that limits campaign donations would violate the First Amendment.

Mr. Nocera reported that he asked, "So money equals speech?'  And Mr. Glasser replied, No, "but nobody speaks very effectively without money.  If you limit how much you spend on speech, you are also limiting speech."

I cannot help but be appalled at the lack of regard Mr. Glasser demonstrates for the average American who cannot afford to spend millions on campaign donations.  Should the middle class just accept that their voices will never be heard "effectively" over the billion dollar cacophony raised by people like the Kochs?

Mr. Glasser admitted that big money is corrupting our political system.  "Of course there is undue influence of money."  But he is apparently fine with that because he believes that a "remedy does more harm than good and violates the constitution."

I sincerely hope that current leadership at the ACLU sees this issue differently, because Ira Glasser is just plain wrong on this.  Our First Amendment should not be for sale to the highest bidder.

That being said, I wonder how much it costs to buy a former head of the ACLU?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Today is Veteran's Day

Thank you.

Eye Recommend --- Pregnant and No Civil Rights

PREGNANT AND NO CIVIL RIGHTS, by Lynn M. Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin --
If this doesn't incense and frighten every supporter of a woman's right to choose, then nothing will. (Any underlines are mine.)
"With the success of Republicans in the midterm elections and the passage of Tennessee's anti-abortion amendment, we can expect ongoing efforts to ban abortion and advance the 'personhood' rights of fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses...

...Anti-abortion measures pose a risk to all pregnant women, including those who want to be pregnant.

Such laws are increasingly being used as the basis for arresting women who have no intention of ending a pregnancy and for preventing women from making their own decisions about how they will give birth.

How does this play out?  Based on the belief that he had an obligation to give a fetus a chance for life, a judge in Washington, D.C., ordered a critically ill 27-year-old woman who was 26 weeks pregnant to undergo a cesarean section, which he understood might kill her.  Neither the woman nor her baby survived."
This judge's narrow interpretation of the law ruled that attempting to save a barely viable fetus took precedence over the health and life of this young woman.  In the end, by denying her the abortion she requested, he killed both of them.  
"In Iowa, a pregnant woman who fell down a flight of stairs was reported to the police after seeking help at a hospital.  She was arrested for 'attempted fetal homicide.' 

In Utah, a woman gave birth to twins; one was stillborn.  Health care providers believed that the stillbirth was the result of the woman's decision to delay having a cesarean.  She was arrested on charges of fetal homicide.

In Louisiana, a woman who went to the hospital for unexplained vaginal bleeding was locked up for over a year on charges of second-degree murder before medical records revealed she had suffered a miscarriage at 11 to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Florida has had a number of such cases.  In one, a woman was held prisoner at a hospital to prevent her from going home while she appeared to be experiencing a miscarriage.  She was forced to undergo a cesarean.  Neither the detention nor the surgery prevented the pregnancy loss, but they did keep this mother from caring for her two small children at home.  While a state court later found the detention unlawful, the opinion suggested that if the hospital had taken her prisoner later in her pregnancy, its actions might have been permissible.

In another case, a woman who had been in labor at home was picked up by a sheriff, strapped down in the back of an ambulance, taken to a hospital, and forced to have a cesarean she did not want.  When this mother later protested what had happened, a court concluded that the woman's personal constitutional rights 'clearly did not outweigh the interests of the State of Florida in preserving the life of the unborn child.'...

...These are not isolated or rare cases.  Last year, we published documenting 413 arrests or equivalent actions depriving pregnant women of their physical liberty during the 32 years between 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, and 2005...

...Since 2005, we have identified an additional 380 cases, with more arrests occurring every week.  This significant increase coincides with what the Guttmacher Institute describes as a 'seismic shift' in the number of states with laws hostile to abortion rights.

The principle at the heart of contemporary efforts to end legal abortion is that fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses are persons or at least have separate rights that must be protected by the state.  In each of the cases we identified, this same rationale provided the justification for the deprivation of pregnant women's physical liberty, as well as of the right to medical decision making, medical privacy, bodily integrity and, in one case, the woman's right to life."
Effectively, what they are saying is that the mother's freedom--even her life--should be viewed simply as collateral damage in the fight to save the fetus.  The fact that pro-life supporters are blind to the paradox they have created is unfathomable to me.
"Many of the pregnant women subjected to this mistreatment are themselves profoundly opposed to abortion.  Yet it was precisely the legal arguments for recriminalizing abortion that were used to strip them of their rights to dignity and liberty in the context of labor and delivery...

...If we want to end these unjust and inhumane arrests and forced interventions on pregnant women, we need to stop focusing only on the abortion issue and start working to protect the personhood of pregnant women.

We should be able to work across the spectrum of opinion about abortion to unite in the defense of one basic principle:  that at no point in her pregnancy should a woman lose her civil and human rights."
As laws continue to pass restricting a woman's right to abortion, even a woman's freedom to give birth as she chooses is becoming secondary to hospitals and judges as they try to out-conservative each other with their narrow interpretation of those laws.   
And now, Mitch McConnell has announced that, under his control, the Senate will take up the question of banning abortion after 20 weeks.  This is despite the fact that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that a fetus is not viable until 24 weeks.  One ACOG study says that "the vast majority of infants born prior to 24 completed weeks...died prior to or during birth.  In this study, 93% of infants at 22 weeks died, 66% at 23 weeks and 40% at 24 weeks."
When a woman cannot go to a hospital to seek help for fear that she will be detained or arrested, we have taken the argument for fetal rights too far.  When a judge, rather than a licensed medical doctor, is given the power to choose between fetus and mother, we have gone too far. 
Anti-abortion laws have, in increasing cases, crossed to the wrong side of the chasm of common sense.  Now how do we get back? 

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 10 - Monday Quote

One of the media quotes to come out of last week's election.  The smile in the quote only partially masks the true threat to a woman's right to decide.

monday quote:  In light of tonight's Republican rout, it might be a good idea for every woman in America to register her uterus as a corporation.  (Connie Schultz, journalist and syndicated columnist, 1957-     )

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Quick Note: Only 2 Years 'Til the 2016 Presidential Election! Let the Cheating Begin!

Presidential Wanna-be, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky)

The state of Kentucky has some fairly restrictive election laws.  One of them directs that "no candidate's name shall appear on any voting machine or absentee ballot more than once."  This leaves Rand Paul with a choice:  he can run for re-election to his seat in the Senate or he can run for President.  He can't do both.

Not wanting to miss an opportunity to rig a system if it will protect a one of their own, Steve Robertson, chairman of Kentucky's state GOP, spoke at length to Mitch McConnell at his victory party, (let's not waste any time, you know), regarding this conundrum.  Mr. Robertson's suggestion, which (big surprise!) reportedly has the support of Mr. Paul himself, is that the Kentucky GOP change their presidential primary from a ballot system to a caucus system.  Since a caucus would not necessarily need a printed ballot...problem solved!

Under this new idea, the caucus would be held prior to the statewide primary vote.  Mr. Paul could present himself for president at the GOP caucus, and, should he lose that vote, his name would still be on the state primary ballot for U.S. Senator.
Because, really, it's all about jobs.  The GOP, keeping America employed, one Republican at a time.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Republicans Say the Darndest Things: Proud to Outsource, Still Gets Elected

Meet your new Congressman:
Senator-Elect David Perdue (R-Georgia)

Nunn, Perdue face off in first U.S. Senate forum photo

During a deposition Mr. Perdue gave at a 2005 Pillowtex bankruptcy hearing, he was asked about jobs at that company that had been moved to other countries during his tenure as CEO in 2002 and 2003. He told the hearing that he had  "spent most of my career" outsourcing. 

When Pillowtex closed, 7,600 jobs were lost, 4,800 of them in Georgia.  At the time, it was the largest single layoff in Georgia history.

At a campaign stop shortly before last Tuesday's midterm election, and in light of the GOP's claim that one of the most important issues facing the U.S. today is the creation of American jobs, he was asked to defend that comment.  His response: "Defend it?  I'm proud of it.  This is a part of American business, part of any business...People do that all day."
Vote for me!  My party says we'll create jobs!  Unless I'm CEO; then all bets are off. 
David Perdue, embracing paradox...and "proud of it." 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Quick Note: A Sad Day at the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals

After a long string of victories for the marriage equality movement, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit dropped the ball yesterday in Cincinnati.

In a 2-1 ruling, the panel decreed that bans on same-sex marriage could stand in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Judges Jeffrey Sutton speaking for himself and Deborah Cook, (a fellow-GOP appointee), wrote, "When the courts do not let people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers.  Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way."
This sounds like some idea they lifted from a really bad Harlequin romance novel, or maybe one of those saccharine, high school Civics film strips from the 1950s.
Ignoring the fact that the cases before them involved issues like whether same-sex marriages performed elsewhere should be recognized, whether same-sex couples should be able to adopt children and whether same-sex couples should have their names on their spouse's death certificate, the decision instead focused solely on whether LGBT couples have the right to marry at all.  Their ruling maintained that states "got into the business of defining marriage, and remain in the business of defining marriage, not to regulate love but to regulate sex, most especially the intended and unintended effects of male-female intercourse." 
I've said this before, but it apparently needs to be repeated: this procreation argument is senseless.  If breeding is considered the sole reason for marrying, why don't states require fertility tests before issuing a marriage license?  And what about couples who pass the big "F" test, but remain childless?  Does the state revoke their license if they don't produce 2.5 children within a certain time frame?   
Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, the sole Democratic appointee on the panel, wrote a blistering 22-page dissent.  Addressing the other judges' reasoning that courts and judges should not decide this issue, she wrote, "If we in the judiciary do not have the authority, and indeed the responsibility, to right fundamental wrongs left excused by a majority of the electorate, our whole intricate, constitutional system of checks and balances, as well as the oaths to which we swore, prove to be nothing but shams."
The only positive I can take away from the 6th Circuit Court's decision is that, now the Supreme Court is faced with divergent rulings at the Appeals Court level and will be more likely to agree to hear a case or cases.  With thirty-two states plus the District of Columbia allowing same-sex marriage, I don't see how SCOTUS can allow same-sex couples in these four states to live under a label of second-class citizenship. They can't dodge the issue any longer.
But why, oh why, did it have to happen in my state? Isn't being home to John Boehner burden enough for Ohio to bear?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

21st Century Democrats Need to Grow a Pair

On Tuesday, the Republican Party expanded its hold on the House and took control of the Senate.  States with long traditions of Democratic governors woke on Wednesday to find a Republican in the top job.  

what eye thynk:  The Democrats lost this election cycle because they're wimps.  There, I said it. 

For six years, this country has been inundated with conservative-bred, hate-filled rhetoric aimed at the black man in the White House.  And the Democrats never fought back--not in 2009, not in 2012 and definitely not in 2014.  

Shortly after the 2008 election, when Mitch McConnell announced that his party's main agenda would be to make sure Obama was a "one term president," nobody on the blue side of the aisle blinked.  When Democrats had control of both the House and the Senate, they were too afraid of Mitch and his empty boast to push through legislation important to those of us who supported Barack Obama for President in the first place; and a major opportunity for refocusing this country was lost.

Environmental legislation?  No, Dems let the GOP sideline that.  Immigration reform?  Nope, the GOP doesn't want to talk about that right now.  Women's rights?  Gay rights?  Oh, we can't jump into that; we might anger the conservatives.  Even after it became clear that Republicans were not going to compromise, no matter how far the Democrats bent, the party of the President would not fight.  If Republicans wouldn't co-operate, then Democrats just dropped the subject and moved on.  

And don't get me started on all those open judgeships.  The opportunity was there in 2009 and 2010 to fill many of the openings, but Democrats sat back, afraid of looking too pushy, too unwilling to hear the other side of the story.  Well, Republicans couldn't care less about any side of the story except their own--period.  Pushiness is their strong suit.

I have wondered for the past three or four years, how productive would Congress have been if, when faced with the our-way-or-nothing attitude from Republicans, Democrats had just gone ahead and passed legislation they believed in during those first potent years.  When Republicans saw they couldn't stall environmental reform and they could either get on the Compromise Bus or be left at the station, would they have been more open to talk about equal pay for women when it was presented? Or immigration reform?  Or--now here's a thought--the federal budget?  Once Democrats demonstrated their lack of backbone, Republicans were only too happy to take the lead in stopping progress that did not fit any ideal except their own.

If McCain and (shudder) Palin had won by Obama/Biden's margin and held both houses of the legislature in 2009, do you think they would have hesitated to exploit their obvious popular support?  Hell, no!  They would have been ramming their promised agenda through our legislative branch so fast it would have made Democratic heads spin.

And now we have the Democratic debacle of 2014.  Despite Republican obstructionism, we have a president who has some amazing accomplishments to brag about.  But, again, Democrats wimped out.  

1.  Jobs - Taking over a nation on the brink of a modern depression, President Obama brought our economy back. The president has created over 10 million jobs. Where were the Democratic candidates pointing out the record stock market levels as evidence of our improving economy?  When did they crow about those millions of new workers?  Did you hear a Democrat singing the praises of a record number of consecutive months of job growth?  A record number!  Republicans bemoaned joblessness; Democrats stood silent.

2.  Terrorism - Republicans in Washington focused on closing our borders and on calling the President weak on terrorism. Did the Democrats go on the campaign trail and point out that it was Barack Obama who killed Osama bin Laden?  Did your Democrat candidate point out that it was the Republican dominated House that refused to come back to Washington to vote on Syria?  Mine didn't.

3.  Immigration - Over a year ago, the Senate passed a massive, bi-partisan immigration bill.  The House, under John Boehner's "leadership" refused to even consider it.  The President waited and waited and waited, and then announced he was going to push through as much of that bill as he could without Congress' approval.  Democrats, in an attempt to pacify the GOP, asked the President to hold off on that until after the election.  A preeminent issue for millions of Hispanic voters--an issue on which they were promised action in 2008--and Democrats choose instead to pacify the GOP!  How was this ever thought of as a good idea?  How many votes were lost?

4.  The Deficit - Washington Republicans never miss an opportunity to call for more cuts to social programs saying they are needed to reduce what they claim is an ever-growing federal deficit.  The truth is that President Obama has overseen a $1 trillion reduction in our deficit; but the GOP's blatant falsehood was allowed to sit on the floor in full view of voters across the country. The GOP has been saying it for 6 years, it must be true!  Maybe Democrats are just too polite to brag?  Well, let me tell you, Dems, this is politics and politics without bragging doesn't win anything. 

5. "Obamacare" -- We can't forget this one.  Beyond Mitch McConnell's plain out lying that he would rip out Obamacare "root and branch" and promising to keep Kynect going in Kentucky (a legal impossibility) while forgetting to mention that, if he had had his way, there would be neither Obamacare nor Kynect, I have to wonder about the way Democrats all over the country hid from this issue.  Instead of distancing themselves from the President and his healthcare law; they should have been pointing fingers at Republicans who promised voters that they were going to repeal it.  "Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Mississippi voter.  Does your family feel safer with their new healthcare?  Well guess who wants to take it away again?  Hey, Ms. Texas minimum wage worker, do you know that there are millions of poor workers in other states who are now covered by Medicaid? Do you know that the only reason you're not benefiting from the same government paid program is that your Governor refused to let Texas join in?"  Instead of an honest discussion of the roll out, "Yes, it was a mess; but it's working now," and "Wow, let me tell you about some very happy people," Democrats just seemed to hope no one would bring healthcare up.

Republicans on their way to Washington later this month will be crowing about the conservative tsunami that gave them control of both houses of Congress; but the conservative part of that equation isn't necessarily true.  The country may look more red than blue this week; but underneath the election results, the people are more a blue-ish shade of purple.

Yes, Republicans made gains in Washington and in state legislatures and in governor races; but look more closely.  When you examine the results on specific issues that were decided without red/blue personality conflicts, you see that the people voted for liberal answers to everyday issues that touch them personally.  1.  The state of Washington handily passed legislation to require background checks for all gun sales--an issue to which Republicans are vocally opposed.  2.  Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, all ruby red states, each passed legislation to raise the minimum wage--another issue congressional Republicans oppose.  3.  North Dakota, still another red state, soundly defeated a personhood amendment, joining several Southern red states where similar state constitutional amendments went down in flames last year. 4.  And how about Denton, Texas--TEXAS!--where voters banned fracking?

And why, if people from all parts of the nation support liberal ideas, did they vote so overwhelmingly for conservative candidates?  One word:  hate--Republican ignited, Republican fed--hate. 

The GOP--especially in congressional races--ran a mostly agenda-less campaign.  They didn't really come out in support of anything, (other than repealing the ACA, but that's like saying the sun rises in the East.) What they did was run against the President.  And the people fell for it.  The same people who, in October, gave Congress an approval rating of 12.7%, returned incumbent after incumbent to Washington, (what is wrong with us?!), then added a few extra from the same basket. After six years of ever-escalating anti-Obama talk, too many people just accept as fact the GOP's assessment of the president as evil-incarnate.  It's the old adage, "If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth." (That quote, or a variation of it, is often attributed to Goebbels, which is fitting somehow.)

Bloated on Republican jaundiced rhetoric, conservative voters were only too happy to let GOP candidates just stand there and be the un-Obama.  It didn't matter if they were running for the U.S. Congress, governor or state legislator; as long as they didn't ride a blue donkey, they were seen as "better."  

The Democratic Party's decision to distance themselves from the President and his accomplishments--one of the stupidest examples of political strategy I have ever witnessed--just fed into the Republican agenda.   But then, as I said, modern Democrats are wimps.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Post Election, Day 1

what eye thynk:  I'm still processing yesterday's election.  

The numbers may not be completely accurate, but this pretty much sums up where I am this morning:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Today is Election Day! VOTE!

Eye Recommend --- Flood of Late Campaign Spending Coming from Murky Sources

The actions of the Supreme Court are coming home to roost, corrupting our entire election system.  Unregulated spending is bringing about a second Robber Baron era. (Any underlines are mine.)
"A stealthy coterie of difficult-to-trace outside groups is slipping tens of millions of dollars of attacks ads and negative automated telephone calls into the final days of the midterm campaign, helping fuel an unprecedented surge of last-minute spending on Senate races. 

Much of the advertising is being timed to ensure that no voter will know who is paying for it until after (today's) election.  Some of the groups are 'super PACs' that did not exist before Labor Day but have since spent heavily on political advertising, adding to the volatility of close Senate and House races.

Others formed earlier in the year but remained dormant until recently, reporting few or no contributions in recent filings with the Federal Election Commission, only to unleash six- and seven-figure advertising campaigns as Election Day draws near.  Yet more spending is coming from nonprofit organizations with bland names that have popped up in recent weeks but appear to have no life beyond being a conduit for ads."...

..."One late-spending group, known only as B-PAC, registered with a Washington address in September and has spent at least $2.2 million on election advertising in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan and New Hampshire--hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the group has reported raising so far...

...In Kansas, a group called the Alliance for a Free Society has dumped almost half a million dollars into the Senate race there, attacking the independent candidate Greg Orman...

The alliance, registered in Delaware as a nonprofit corporation, was formed in July, and until recently did not even have a website.  Documents filed with the Federal Election Commission indicated that the group was connected to a former executive of Koch Industries...

Yet another new super PAC, American Future Fund Political Action, reported having just $56,000 in mid-October...But on Tuesday, the group announced that it would spend more than $300,000 on behalf of Representative Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The group has also purchased thousands of dollars in radio ads attacking Representative Bruce Braley, Democrat of Iowa, who is running for the Senate.

'It's yet another way to hide money from the public,' said Kathy Kiely, managing editor for the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates more transparent campaign spending... 'And, because of the timing, it looks like people are deliberately trying to mask the source of the money until after Election Day. If money is free speech, why are you standing on a soap box in a burqa?'...

...A network of five super PACs, all registered in Virginia but with names like Alaska Priorities, Colorado Priorities and Iowa Priorities, was formed in early October, each listing as treasurer a former aide to Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-highest-ranking Republican in the Senate.

According to the Sunlight Foundation, some of the groups appear to be making automated phone calls targeting Democratic Senate candidates in their states.  One call reportedly attacked Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina as an 'extreme liberal,' while another accused Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana of 'printing money like there's not tomorrow and making everything cost more for average people like me.'

Kansas did not even have a competitive Senate race until September, when the Democratic candidate pulled out as polls showed that Mr. Orman, the independent, had a chance (of winning)...Now the race features a suite of competing super PACs and political nonprofits...Nearly all of the money traceable to specific donors has come from out of state...

...Another PAC, Kansans Support Problem Solvers, has spent at least $628,000, almost all of it after the date on which super PACs make their final pre-election donor disclosures. (Earlier disclosures suggest that Kansans Support Problem Solvers does not include any actual Kansans: Funding came from hedge fund executives in Houston and Charlotte, N.C.)
This non-resident, non-limited political spending bothers me the most.  I find it particularly offensive that some rich guy living in Texas or Virginia or North Carolina or wherever is permitted to spend any amount in order to influence the outcome of the election in states where he has no personal stake.   
These billionaires don't care two figs about my life in Ohio. They know nothing about living here or what issues are important to those of us who do live here.  Their entire purpose for sticking their billion dollar noses where they aren't wanted is to protect or improve their own status quo. What actual residents want or care about is secondary to their lust for power.
Campaign financing reform is sorely needed.  Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has only made the situation worse by handing control of our political system and our politicians over to the wealthy. 
When the opinions of voters seem to indicate that they are at odds with the wishes of the wealthy, the wealthy are only too happy to step in and twist the campaign dialogue to their own purposes.  Money is no object.   
Twenty-first century Robber Barons indeed.