Thursday, April 30, 2015

Florida Voters Say "Yes" on Environment - Legislature Says "No"

Last November, Florida voters sent a resounding message to their lawmakers: take care of our state's land and water.  Seventy-five percent of voters approved Florida Constitutional Amendment No. 1, which set aside a $750 million pool of money from increased property taxes to buy, conserve, and restore land and water resources.  This was to be a 20-year, dedicated stream of funding intended for a popular conservation program called Florida Forever which had seen its operating money decimated under Governor Rick Scott's budget cuts and a legislature often seen as catering to business.

Supporters of the Amendment say that $300 million was expected to go to long-term projects like restoring the Everglades, specifically acquiring land from the U.S. Sugar Corporation for the purpose of increasing the flow of water into Florida's famous swamp.  $10.5 million of the amendment's funding was to be dedicated to Florida Forever's conservation and restoration priority list.  The sale of $90 million in bonds was planned to fund buying land for the protection of springs and restoring the Kissimmee River.  

As Will Abberger, director of The Trust for Public Land's Conservation Finance Service and chairman of the Amendment 1 sponsoring committee said, "The word 'land' appears 18 times in the text of the ballot amendment.  We thought the voters sent a pretty loud and clear message."

Florida's Republican dominated legislature, however, isn't listening.  Instead of using the bulk of the money to safeguard land from development, the legislature is shifting it to other programs.  Because the money was designated for resources management, the legislature says this give them the discretion to use it to pay for day-to-day operations of state agencies that deal with management.

State Senator Alan Hays (R), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that is allocating Amendment 1 money claims that Florida already has plenty of public land, "We don't need to be known as the hoarding-land state."  The Senate originally approved only $2 million for Florida Forever and, after a torrent of public outrage, changed the figure to $17 million and $20 for springs.  Mr. Hays and his committee have taken the purchase of U.S. Sugar Corporation land in the Everglades off the table completely.

A large piece of Amendment money--more than $230 million-- is scheduled to go to state agency operations and expenses, including paying for state employee salaries which would normally be budgeted from the general pool of appropriations, not a special real estate tax that was approved by the state's voters for another--and very specific--purpose.

"The legislature is showing how out of sync they are with voters and how much they hate the amendment,  If they can find a way to pay for paper towels in the washroom with Amendment 1 money, they would do it," said Eric Draper, executive director of the Audubon Society of Florida.

what eye thynk:  I have two messages.  The first is for Florida lawmakers who seem to be unaware of the way government by popular vote, otherwise known as Democracy, works:

  1. You tell me what you believe during the campaign. Take all the time you want to make your opinion clear.
  2. I will listen carefully to you and also the opinion from your opponent.
  3. I will then decide whose opinion I agree with and cast my vote.
  4. Whichever opinion gets the most votes is the winner.
  5. The winner's opinion is the only one that counts.
Legislators like you, Mr. Hays, don't seem to understand that when 75% of Florida's people choose the other side, you have lost the battle of the opinions--your anti-environment, pro-business opinion is no longer valid.   Serving the people, something you and your buddies have all vowed to do, means serving the people's opinion, not your own.

My second message is for the voters of Florida: 
 If you don't vote lawmakers like Rick Scott, Alan Hays and the rest of these deaf-to-the-people Republicans out of office in the next election, you're all idiots and there is nothing anyone can do to help you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tea Party Signs - The Joke's On Them

Installment #22 of:
Dictionaries are a Liberal Plot
(and Grammar is Not My Cup of Tea Either)

Eight words, one grammatical error, two misspellings.  We have a new winner!

Monday, April 27, 2015

April 27 - Monday Quote

The Republican Party has become the party of "go back."  They want to go back to the time before universal health care; they want to go back to the time before women had abortion rights.  They would be happy to see an end to social programs and Republican run states seem to be doing everything in their power to see their states go back to the time before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  

FDR recognized this tendency 76 years ago. From an October 26, 1939 radio address...

monday quote:  
"A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward." 
(Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, 1882-1945) 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Eye Recommend -- The Apparently Immoral Shoulders of My Five-Year-Old Daughter

This is a picture of a little girl wearing a favorite dress that covers her from ankles to armpits.  
Her Houston school sees her as a miniature temptress.

what eye thynk:  This article, written by a Texas dad, makes me both sad and angry. 
The weather is warming up and Jef Rouner's five-year-old daughter wanted to wear her ankle-length sundress to kindergarten.  When Daddy came to pick her up at the end of the day, she was wearing a t-shirt over the top of the dress and a pair of jeans underneath. The school made her cover up because she was showing too much (female) skin. 
Upset that her school would sexualize and shame his daughter, Mr. Rouner asked to see the school dress code.  He reported:
"There are literally no male-specific guidelines anywhere on that list. I mean prohibitions against exposing the chest or torso could hypothetically apply to boys except that they don't.  Not really.  They don't sell boys clothes that do that.  There's nothing that is marketed to boys that is in anyway comparable to a skirt or a sun dress.  Essentially, a school dress code exists to prevent girls from displaying too much of their bodies because reasons...

I didn't pick up my daughter's dress at My First Stripperwear.  It's not repurposed fetish gear from a store for very short people...She's worn it to church...

...You know what really grills my cheese about it?  It's not even the shirt they made her put on over her top, it's the pants they made her wear underneath...because the top part of her dress apparently exposed the immoral sinfulness of her bare shoulders she also had to pull on part of her punishment."
And make no mistake, that's what this was: a punishment.  A five-year-old child went to school happy and innocent, wearing a dress she loved.  She came home carrying the burden that she should feel ashamed of her body.
"This is still going on in 2015.  It really is.  We still live in a country where someone can decide the shoulders of, and I can't stress this enough, a five-year-old girl are so distracting that they must be sent away and decently hidden...

...Now I have this child, the one (who) argues scientific points about everything from the top speed of land animals in Africa to the classification of the planets with me endlessly, wordlessly accepting that a dress with spaghetti straps, something sold in every Walmart in America right now, is somehow bad.  Wrong.  Naughty. And most importantly that the answer is to cover up."
Body-shaming a five-year-old; these Houston school authorities must be so proud.  Who are they protecting, little girls or themselves? And what does that say about how they think of girls--and women?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

University to Pre-School, the Republican Disdain for Education

In Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal (R) balanced his state's budget by including $372 million in tax credit rollbacks that the legislature warned him they would not pass.  When the legislature did as they had warned, Governor Jindal was faced with a problem that he solved by cutting university funding to make up the shortfall.

The Times-Picayune reported that, under Mr. Jindal's new university budget figures, state funding at Louisiana State University would drop from $3,500 per undergraduate to $660 per undergraduate.

Faced with those sobering figures, LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander announced that his administration had begun the process of declaring financial exigency--essentiall an academic bankruptcy.

Higher education officials in Louisiana say that 16-20 more campuses are considering following LSU's example.  
what eye thynk:  I'm guessing that Bobby is no longer opposed to Republicans being known as the party of stupid.

In Kansas, Republican Governor Sam Brownback's experiment in trickle-down economics continues to devastate his state's economy.

In 2014, Kansas' Supreme Court ruled that cuts Governor Brownback had approved in school funding were unconstitutional.  They said the cuts reduced educational spending to a level so low it violated adequacy requirements in Kansas' constitution. In order to satisfy that decision, Governor Brownback passed a $129 million education bill, which was quickly dismissed as an "accounting gimmick."  Legislative members said the governor was simply removing funds from one district and giving them to other districts.

While many public schools remained underfunded, Mr. Brownback approved a tax break for corporations who donated scholarship money to private schools.

This year, in an attempt to cover state budget shortfalls that are even larger than expected, the governor informed school districts that some of the money that had been allocated would not be released to them.  Then, just a few short weeks ago, he signed another bill that cut school funds by another $51 million.

So how bad are things in Kansas?  In March, two school districts announced they would be closing weeks early this year because they have run out of funds to continue operating. Shortly after Mr. Brownback signed the additional cuts, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported that four more districts said they would also have to shorten their school year due to lack of funds.
Early school closings are preferable to reinstating higher taxes on Kansas' corporations and/or the wealthy because, as any good Republican knows, corporations and the wealthy are the ones keeping the economy going.  May I offer the opinion that, if the present situation in Kansas is any indication, they are doing an incredibly crappy job.

In Michigan, it's preschool and daycare funding that is in question.

State Representative Todd Courser (R) is urging his fellow Republicans not support a budget bill currently being considered because it funds childcare and public education and he believes those places are nothing more than locations where the U.S. government "re-engineers" America's children.

He voiced his outrage on his Facebook page:  "Calling all true pro-lifers!  Lots of reasons to vote against this coming of course for gubmint (sic) child's care (sic) centers (government re-engineering centers)...more for education..."

Mr. Courser, whose own children are home-schooled, also used Facebook to complain about several bills proposed in the Michigan Senate that he said would create regulations for families who home-school.  (The bills do not, in fact, regulate anything.  They are designed as a way for home-school students to earn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) endorsements through on the job type training.  It is a sort of home-school "extra credit" offer, not a requirement.
When you're a Republican, you just can't start dumbing them down early enough.  Get 'em young, keep 'em stupid, feed the GOP machine!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Minnesota's GOP Votes to Reduce Minimum Wage

On Wednesday, the GOP-controlled House in Minnesota passed a new bill that would REDUCE the pay of people working in the hospitality industry who rely on tips for part of their income.

There was reason for Minnesota's restaurant servers and bartenders to rejoice last year when the legislature passed a law raising the minimum wage to $9.00/hour effective this August and $9.50/hour next year with no exceptions for tipped employees.  At the time that law passed, Democrats held the majority in both chambers of the legislature.  Not one Republican voted for the increase.

Minnesota State Representative
Pat Garofalo (R)
Now that Republicans have taken over control of the House, they are trying to nullify that raise before it becomes effective. Under the bill passed on Wednesday, restaurant owners would be able to pay their employees less if they make more than $4 an hour in tips. 

Representative Pat Garofalo (R), who sponsored the bill, said it was unfair for restaurant employees to get the raise and still be allowed to keep their tips. 

The bill also bans local municipalities and airports from raising the minimum wage above the state mandated minimum. 

eye'm thynkin':  Still believe Republicans care about income inequality? 

Thankfully, Minnesota's Senate and office of Governor are still in the hands of Democrats. 

Read more at:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Republican War on Women: NC Wants to Prohibit Doctor Training, TN Thinks Rape Not Verifiable

This is the twenty-sixth in a series of articles on the subjects of women, abortion rights and the Republican Party. 

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

  • Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky): “Talk about a manufactured issue.  There is no issue.” 
  •  RNC Chairman Reince Priebus:  “It’s a fiction.” 
The Battle in North Carolina  
the facts and commentary: Abortion opponents in North
Carolina's legislature have a new tactic. They want to prohibit anyone at East Carolina University or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, (the two state universities that have doctor training programs) from teaching, performing, or supervising abortion procedures.

Elizabeth Nash, of the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that closely follows abortion issues, said, "We hear abortion opponents argue that they want to protect women's health. The last thing in the world you want to do, then, is restrict opportunities to provide training for safe abortion."  

Opponents of the law, (and, not incidentally, those with actual medical degrees), have said that curtailing this training will threaten the type of safe emergency care a woman would receive after suffering a miscarriage since "miscarriage management" procedures are no different from abortion procedures.
In their rush to create as many roadblocks as possible between a woman and her legal right to a safe abortion, these Republican dominated legislators have overlooked a vital need for abortion training in aspects of a woman's health that go beyond the emergency care noted by Elizabeth Nash.
Doctors frequently use a common surgical procedure known as a D&C, a procedure not unlike an abortion, to diagnose and/or treat conditions like uterine polyps, fibroid tumors, endometriosis, and uterine cancer. If North Carolina's doctors are not permitted to train in abortion procedures, how "safe" are women going to be when faced with one of these conditions? Would any of these legislators want their wives, daughters, sisters, to under go what, though common is still a surgical procedure, at the hands of a doctor with no training or experience?  I have to assume that North Carolina has some female legislators.  Would they want this for themselves?
These rabid legislators seem completely unaware that "accreditation bodies for OB-GYN programs stipulate that abortion training must be included in residency education, except among religiously-affiliated schools with moral objections to the procedure." UNC, home to one of the top five OB-GYN residency programs in the country, would lose its accreditation if this bill is passed and all because North Carolina's lawmakers can't think beyond the moment.

Dr. David Grimes, a faculty member at UNC may have said it best: "Some religious groups are also opposed to blood transfusions.  So should the state legislature in North Carolina pass a law that would close down the blood bank at the university hospital?"

The Battle in Tennessee

This week, the Tennessee House of Representatives debated a bill that would inflict a mandatory in-person counseling session followed by a 48 hour waiting period on any woman wanting an abortion in the state of Tennessee.

Supporters of the bill contend that it is meant to ensure women are making "informed decisions."
Because a woman hasn't already thought long and hard about this before making an appointment? How condescending and paternalistic can you get?
Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D) proposed an amendment that would at least exempt women who became pregnant through rape or incest.

Representative Sheila Butt (R)--she of the "We need an NAAWP (National Association for the Advancement of White People) brouhaha a few weeks ago--asked that the amendment be tabled because, in her assessment Mr. Fitzhugh's amendment was simply a political ploy because rape and incest are "not verifiable." 

Ms. Butt's exact words were: "This amend appears political because we understand that in most instances this is not verifiable.  Let's make sure that these women have the information and understanding to act.  Madame Speaker, I move this amendment to the table."
Ms. Butt calls the amendment "political?" I guess we're supposed to believe that the hundreds of abortion restrictions proposed by Republican lawmakers and passed by Republican led states have nothing--absolutely nothing--to do with playing to the conservative Republican political base.
"We understand (rape and incest) is not verifiable?!!"  Who is "we?"  Did "we" ask a medical doctor if they can recognize the physical and emotional trauma a rape or incest victim has suffered?  And pity poor Ms. Butts, who apparently is so busy being a woman for Christ (you have to see her website) that she is totally unaware that incest can be verified with a simple mouth swab and DNA test.
"Let's make sure these women have the information and understanding to act." When did Ms. Butt become every Tenneessee woman's new mommy?  What makes her think she, as a woman, is capable of making informed decisions on her own, but the rest of Tennessee women are not?  Her condescension is nauseating; and hiding behind a claim of helping women in order to shove her own personal religious beliefs down the throat of every person in Tennessee born with a vagina is infuriating.
Representative Sherry Jones (D)--who I assume is one of the women Ms. Butts believes incapable of making an informed medical decision on her own--called Ms. Butt's comments "dangerous and insulting." 

Following the removal of Mr. Fitzhugh's amendment, the bill passed by a vote of 79-18. Governor Bill Haslam (R) has said he intends to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

The Republican War on Women is "fiction?"


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day 2015

Republicans Say the Darndest Things: 21st Century Jim Crow Era Envisioned for Wisconsin?

Wisconsin State Legislators
Representative Jesse Kremer (R)
and Senator Steve Nass (R)

Representative Jesse Kremer (right) and Senator Steve Nass

Representative Jesse Kremer has found a new way to shame those who need public assistance to feed their families. He is being assisted in his efforts by Senator Steve Nass who is sponsoring Mr. Kremer's proposal in the Senate.

In Wisconsin, the food assistance program is called FoodShare.  Mr. Kremer's bill would require Wisconsin's Department of Health Services to petition the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval to make photo IDs mandatory on all FoodShare cards. Current law says food stamps can be used by any member of the household, not just the person whose name is on the card, so the logistics of Mr. Kremer's proposal are a little murky. 

Federal law also prohibits food stamp recipients from being treated any differently than other grocery store customers, so carding someone for buying milk and bread would seem to be a flagrant violation of this prohibition.

In an interview with The Cap Times, Mr. Kremer said: 
"Realistically, I think it could be a bipartisan bill."
what eye thynk:  Really, Jesse?

Mr. Kremer would like to go even further in his game of Shame the Poor.  Though it is not included in his current bill, he said: 
"I would love to see government oversite of privately run food pantries that would be the only places to use the (FoodShare) cards... No junk food, no liquor, no cigarettes, etc.  Yes, it may be humbling to go into the pantry to purchase 'needed items,' but as I mentioned earlier, most people understand that this is meant to be a crutch, not a lifestyle."
Think about this idea for a second:  Representative Kremer, a member of the gung-ho for small government Republican Party wants the government to establish and run grocery stores stocked only with items on a government-approved grocery list.  Then he would require that food stamp recipients be segregated from "real" grocery shoppers by forcing them to shop only at these segregated, government-run stores.  

Do you think Mr. Kremer dreams about a day when a he can hang a "No Poor Allowed" sign at his neighborhood IGA? 

Scott Ross, director of One Wisconsin Now said Mr. Kremer's ideas make "it clear that it's seething contempt, not legitimate public policy concern driving Kremer and supporters."

That and some kind a repressed admiration for the shameful policies of the Jim Crow era.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In Kansas- No Lingerie, No Cookies for Poor, but Guns are Fine

Last Thursday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R) signed a sweeping new welfare bill into law.

At the signing, he re-iterated the same old, tired Republican mantra on the poor: "Too often, while well-intentioned, our poverty programs fail the poor. They fail them by keeping them in cycles of dependency.  This legislation helps break that destructive cycle." 

Phyliss Gilmore, secretary of the Kansas Department of Children and Families added, "We are very, very happy to be able to be here and to have this celebration."

what eye thynk:  Governor Brownback's proud use of Republican trickle-down economic principals has put Kansas on the road to bankruptcy.  His low-to-no corporate tax policies and $1 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy have created record budget shortfalls. State money due to Kansas school districts has not been paid and funding for homeless shelters has been so reduced that shelters across the state are being forced to close.  Rather than consider raising taxes in order to put funds back into state coffers, Mr. Brownback is instead looking to save money on the backs of the poor with new welfare restrictions.

Some of the new regulations seem to come from a place of common sense: no cruise ships, tattoos, liquor, tobacco, or visits to strip clubs for example; or requiring that recipients work 20 hours a week or enroll in job training, I'm all for that.  But others are so punitive that they can only be interpreted as an attempt to shame. 

Under the new regulations, families receiving public assistance will be prohibited from purchasing certain types of food like steak, seafood or cookies.  (Poor children don't deserve treats!) Families will not be able to use their welfare debit cards for movies, swimming pools, or--and, yes, this really is in the bill--lingerie(I'm picturing moms who rely on public assistance walking around bra-less but saving money on laundry soap since nobody in the family will own any underwear.)

But the most egregious new restriction was introduced via an amendment written by Senator Caryn Tyson (R) that limits recipients to $25 per day in debit card cash withdrawals from their welfare funds. It is a fact that many poor families don't have checking accounts, so if there is a large bill--like rent or utilities--that they normally pay in cash, how is that going to work exactly? If families have to set their daily cash "allowance" aside for rent, what about cash needs for other uses, like bus fare or school fees?   Hidden in this new $25/day rule is another slap in the face to those in need: the state of Kansas charges a fee of $1.00 for every ATM debit card withdrawal, so this law has the potential to lower poor people's funds by $30 a month; more if the bank charges an additional fee. 

The new law also requires drug testing for those suspected of drug use, (who decides?); and reduces the life-time limit for public assistance from 48 months to 36 months.  

Rest assured, however, one place the poor are not banned from using their state debit card is at their local gun shop.

Phew, for a minute there I thought Kansas had lost track of what was important.

Monday, April 20, 2015

April 20 - Monday Quote

 I am so sick of America's conservative Christians telling non-believers that they need to be "saved." Saved from what?  I believe there is a God; it's the Bible that I question, a document written by the most fallible of beings: man.

I'm sick of them acting as though--because I admire Jesus as an historical figure, a great teacher and philosopher, because I regard him as my primary moral guide but do not worship him as the son of God--I am incapable of distinguishing good from evil, or of leading a virtuous life, or of comprehending the essence of kindness or righteousness.

And I am sick of conservative Republican "Christian" lawmakers who persist in passing statutes that would force the rest of us to live by their interpretation of "goodness," by their exegesis of the Bible and it's Jesus.

You can't legislate faith.  If you want proof of that, you only need look to the Middle East.

monday quote:  
"You don’t need religion to have morals.  If you can’t determine right from wrong, you lack empathy not religion." 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Climate Change Denialist Dies and Goes to Hell, or The Tale of Joe (in 3 parts)

what eye thynk:  Part 1 - Unfortunately for Joe, he received his "education" in one of those states where the people in charge believe the earth is only 6000 years old and dinosaurs lived beside man.  In Joe's home state, nobody bothered to study for their science tests because Pat Robertson told them science was evil, so Joe cheated in order to keep his GPA as high as possible because he wanted to get into a good school like Liberty University where he could be trained to be a "Champion for Christ."  

When Joe graduated, he returned to his home state and got himself elected to the State Board of Education where he continued the good work of discouraging more young people from studying science and where he helped re-write science textbooks to make them more Bible-centric. (That Darwin evolution stuff has to go!  Pat Robertson, looking a little worse for wear, is still around and he KNOWS Darwin was wrong!)   

Then Joe's state had a terrible storm and lots of people died.  Pat said it was all the fault of homosexuals, and explained that evil scientists--who blamed the disruption in normal climate patterns on man-influenced climate change and who said we needed to do something about it right now--were lying because they loved homosexuals and wanted gay people to run the world and kill all the Christians.

So Joe became a member of his state's legislature where he wrote new religious freedom laws that denied homosexuals services and housing and other stuff in order to make them so unhappy they would voluntarily move into one of Pat's Protection-from-Perverts camps, which Pat said would have high walls to keep the homos in and Christians safe.  (Send your tax-deductible offering to the address on your screen and your official PPP booklet explaining how you can own your very own PPP franchise will be in the mail!  Pat accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express, PayPal and Bitcoins! No personal checks please.) 

Part 2The fight still wasn't over when Joe reached the new official retirement age of 85 in a time when there was no more Social Security.  He was forced to live on the street after his fellow Republicans closed all the shelters and told him he needed to take responsibility for himself.

Still, Joe was thankful that he didn't need a blanket now that the average year-round temperature was 106 degrees, and he was especially thankful that he could watch free broadcasts of Pat Robertson's 700 Club from his cardboard box on the bank of the Gulf of Mexico in Northern Louisiana.  Pat Robertson, (now preserved by the Rick Santorum School of Christian Taxidermy and animated by Michelle Bachmann's New Westboro Evangelical Baptist Puppet Ministry), promises that once all the money is in and all the homosexuals are hidden away, Jesus will come down and recreate America circa 1954 where all the women will wear high-heels while they clean the oven and serve Jello salad on Sunday to men who all have jobs in middle management. Pat says God spoke to him personally and told him that He will even be bringing back the dinosaurs and they will all turn out to be cuddly and purple like Barney.

Part 3 - So Joe sent Pat his last 54 cents, starved to death, and met the devil--who, it turned out, looks a lot like Pat Robertson.  And all because he didn't study his science book in third grade. 

The End.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Florida Governor to Sue Obama Administration Over Medicaid Expansion

In 2010, Rick Scott (R) made refusing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act a cornerstone of his campaign for governor of Florida.

In 2013, Governor Scott announced he had changed his mind and was now in favor of the Medicaid expansion, explaining that it wasn't in the best interests of the people of his state to be denied access to healthcare.

Now, in April of 2015, Mr. Scott has once again switched positions and Florida's Medicaid expansion is off. Instead, the Governor announced he is going to sue the Obama administration over the ending of a $2.l billion federal grant designed to help Florida's hospitals care for the uninsured which is scheduled to end on June 30. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has made it clear that the grant will not be renewed. The logic is obvious (that is, except for those Republican governors who are still balking at expanding Medicaid in their states): the uninsured should be covered by the ACA's expanded Medicaid program; hospitals will receive payment through Medicaid; ergo, the grant program is no longer needed. 

In announcing his lawsuit, Governor Scott said, "It is appalling that President Obama would cut off federal health care dollars to Florida in an effort to force our state further into Obamacare."

eye'm thynkin':   Not as appalling as a Governor who seems to be playing a political game of Will-He/Won't-He with the health of the citizens of Florida who he is supposed to be serving.  The money is there for your state's use, Mr. Scott.  Only the name has changed; all you have to do is man-up and take it.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Republicans Say the Darndest Things: Chris Christie's Mitt Romney Moment

New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie

There has been Bridgegate, an $800 million budget shortfall, the pension payment shortage, and the fact that New Jersey's credit rating has been reduced more times since Chris Christie became governor in 2010 than under any other NJ governor. New Jersey ranks 32nd in the U.S. in unemployment and New Jersey residents give Governor Christie only a 37 percent approval rating.  It's no wonder that Mr. Christie, once a Republican star, has pretty much dropped off the GOP's presidential contender radar.

But Mr. Christie seems to be unaware of his waning importance.  He has been in New Hampshire this week, talking about his plans for the White House.  One of the items on his agenda: simplification of our income tax code. On Monday, he held his thumb and forefinger several inches apart as he told the Manchester Union-Leader editorial board:
"The fact that my wife and I, who are not wealthy by current standards, that we have to file a tax return that's that thick is insane.  We don't have nearly that much money."
For the record, in 2013 Governor Chris Christie reported an income of $698,838. 

what eye thynk:  No further comment is necessary.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Appeals Court: Sen. Ron Johnson's Reputation Unsullied by "Obamacare"

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson 

Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) hates "Obamacare."  He hates it so much, that in January 2014, he filed his own lawsuit against it.  At the time, 38 other Republican Senators signed a legal brief urging the court to side with Mr. Johnson.

Last July, U.S. District Judge William Griesbach dismissed the lawsuit.

On Tuesday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its own ruling.

what eye thynk:   In order to challenge a law in court, you can't just say "I don't like it," you have to show that you are hurt by it, and Ron Johnson's legal team came up with a truly creative way to demonstrate the Senator's torment:  They asked the court to deny healthcare subsidies to anyone working on Capitol Hill.  Yes, that's right.  Not only members of Congress, but their clerks, secretaries and go-fers, whether they could afford it or not, should be forced to pay the full price of their health insurance, because (here's the creative part) by allowing staffers to take advantage of the subsidies, Senator Johnson would suffer "reputational and electoral injury."  In other words, allowing Capitol Hill employees the opportunity to take advantage of the subsidies available to the rest of America could be interpreted as support of the law Senator Johnson loves to hate.

On Tuesday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago decided against Mr. Johnson, affirming the lower court's ruling. The decision was unanimous.  

Writing for the panel, Judge Joel Flaum said, "Respectfully, we do not see how Senator Johnson's reputation could be sullied or his electability diminished by being offered, against his will, a benefit that he then decided to refuse.  He could not be accused of participating...if he declined to participate."

Mr. Johnson replied to the ruling, "My legal team and I will carefully review the decision before determining our next step in this important constitutional dispute.  We've lost a battle in court, but we will continue to move forward in our effort to return sanity, fairness and balance to government on behalf of the American people."

I'm sure his staff are especially appreciative of his efforts, because, really, who wouldn't be willing to pay more for the honor of working for such a man?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Eye Recommend --- It Takes a Party

IT TAKES A PARTY, by Paul Krugman --
what eye thynk:  In this op-ed piece, Paul Krugman offers an excellent distillation of the issues sure to be argued during the 2016 election.
"So Hillary Clinton is officially running, to nobody's surprise.  And you know what's coming:  endless attempts to psychoanalyze the candidate, endless attempts to read significance into what she says or doesn't say about President Obama, endless thumb-sucking about her 'positioning' on this or that issue.

Please pay no attention...

...There has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less... The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.

For example, any Democrat would, if elected, seek to maintain the basic U.S. social insurance programs--Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid--in essentially their current form, while also preserving and extending the Affordable Care Act.  Any Republican would seek to destroy Obamacare, make deep cuts in Medicaid, and probably try to convert Medicare into a voucher system.

Any Democrat would retain the tax hikes on high-income Americans that went into effect in 2013, and possibly seek more.  Any Republican would try to cut taxes on the wealthy--House Republicans plan to vote next week to repeal the estate tax-while slashing programs that aid low-income families.

Any Democrat would try to preserve the 2010 financial reform, which as recently been looking much more effective than critics suggested.  Any Republican would seek to roll it back, eliminating both consumer protection and the extra regulation applied to large, "systemically important" financial institutions.

And any Democrat would try to move forward on climate policy, through executive action if necessary, while any Republican--whether or not he is an outright climate-science denialist--would block efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

How did the parties get this far apart?  Political scientists suggest that it has a lot to do with income inequality.  As the wealthy grow richer compared with everyone else, their policy preferences have moved to the right--and they have pulled the Republican Party ever further in their direction.  Meanwhile, the influence of big money on Democrats has at least eroded a bit, now that Wall Street, furious over regulations and modest tax hikes, has deserted the party en masse.  The result is a level of political polarization not seen since the Civil War."

Mr. Krugman then discusses personalities and perceived sincerity before returning to his most salient point.
"The differences between the parties are so clear and dramatic that it's hard to see how any one who has been paying attention could be undecided even now, or be induced to change his or her mind between now and the election.

One thing is for sure: American voters will be getting a real choice."

I have to agree.  The choices are hard-lined and clear.  You either support social programs and you don't.  You're either rich or you're not.  You either endorse financial regulations or you don't.  You either believe in science or you don't. 
The one unknown factor that could make all the difference is religion.  I have never understood the wierd corollary between votes and demographics in our Southern states.  Study after study has shown that people in the South are poorer than those in the North.  They are more likely to depend on social programs and yet they consistently vote for representatives who publicly vow to eliminate those same programs.  All a candidate need do is wave a Bible and Southern voters will happily follow that candidate to their own financial ruin as long as he promises to take away their neighbor's right to an abortion or their co-worker's right to marry the person he loves--all in the name of a book that mentions neither abortion nor same-sex marriage.
We are a country built on the separation of church and state, whose founders decreed that no religion should be given supremacy over any other, in fact religion should have no part in government at all.  Yet here we are, 240 years later facing the possibility that the religious--specifically modern, conservative Southern Christians--could well be the wild card in 2016.  And that should frighten the bejeezus out of the rest of us.

Monday, April 13, 2015

April 13 - Monday Quote(s)

what eye thynk:  A Republican's response to the religious right that is even more meaningful today...

monday quote(s): 
"I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in "A," "B," "C," and "D."  Just who do they think they are?  And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?... I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism."' 
(Taken from his speech before the U.S. Senate on September 16, 1981, Senator Barry Goldwater 1909-1998)

"Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the Republican Party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem.  Frankly, these people frighten me.  Politics and governing demand compromise.  But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise."   
(This second quote, from November 1994, was reported in John Dean's "Conservatives Without Conscience.")

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lawmakers Want to Make Bible Tennessee's Official State Book -- No Non-Believers Need Apply

Tennessee lawmakers are poised to make the Holy Bible the official state book.

This past week, a proposal introduced by Senator Steve Southerland (R) naming the Bible Tennessee's official state book was approved in Senate committee by a vote of 7-0 with 2 abstentions.  A similar bill, this one proposed by freshman Representative Jerry Sexton (R), was passed in House committee by voice vote shortly afterwards.  The proposals now move to the House and Senate calendar committees, the last step before presenting the measures to the full legislature for a final vote.

Mr. Southerland, who also serves as the Republican Caucus Chaplain, said he believes it will pass in the full Senate. "It's got 19 co-signers on it; it takes 17 people to vote for the bill."

Both Mr. Southerland and Mr. Sexton contend they mean to recognize the Bible's historical value only and claim they don't mean to promote Christianity above other religions. 

what eye thynk:  In cause you're wondering, it is the Christian version of the Bible that they are proposing, not the Hebrew scriptures used by those of the Jewish faith.  But it's all good, 'cause they don't mean to promote Christianity above other religions.  And, yes, they said that with a straight face.

David Fowler, former Republican Tennessee Senator and current president of the conservative Family Action Council of Tennessee spoke in favor of the legislation during the Senate committee meeting.  In an interview with The Associated Press, Mr. Fowler said the legislation is not in any way meant to be belittling, but simply to highlight "there is no book that has played the role in the history of Tennessee equal to that of the Bible.  This book has had more practical use, more historical use, and more economic impact in our state than any other book."

Representative William Lamberth (R) defended his support of the measure by saying, "It doesn't in any way, shape, form or fashion say that anyone has to read this book.  It doesn't mean anyone has to believe in the tenets of this book."

No, you don't have to believe--unless you want to hold public office in Tennessee.  Article IX, Section 2 of the Tennessee State Constitution reads: "No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments shall hold any office in the civil department of this state."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled such laws unconstitutional way back in 1961.  Just this past fall, the Tennessee legislature drafted and passed some amendments to their constitution.  Deleting Article IX, Section 2 was not one of the changes approved.

The no non-believer law is unenforceable, but leaving it there is an acknowledgement that those Tennessee lawmakers who do believe, would prefer that those who don't refrain from seeking public office,  Oh, and don't forget, they want to honor the Christian Holy Bible only for its historical value.  No religious prejudice intended...honest...hand to  God  er, Jesus.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Judge M. Mark Kelly: Child Rapist Didn't Mean It

Convicted child rapist, Kevin Jonas Rojano-Nieto

In December 2014, Kevin Jonas Rojano-Nieto was found guilty of two felonies including sodomizing a three year old girl.

The toddler wandered into Mr. Rojano-Nieto's garage while he was playing a video game.  Mr. Rojano-Nieto, who is also a relative of the little girl, abandoned his game, sodomized this child, forced her to touch his penis, and, according to court transcripts, when he heard her mother calling for her, covered her mouth with his hand so she could not cry out.

In California, the mandatory minimum sentence for sexually assaulting a child under the age of ten is 25 years to life.  This past week, Orange County Superior Court Judge M. Marc Kelly sentenced this pervert to just ten years.

what eye thynk:  This sort of news literally makes me nauseous; and
Judge Kelly's outrageous explanation for handing down a lenient sentence does nothing to alleviate my disgust.

In his ruling, Judge Kelly wrote, "...In looking at the facts of Mr. Rojano's case, the manner in which this offense was committed is not typical of a predatory, violent brutal sodomy of a child case.  Mr. Rojano did not seek out or stalk (the victim).  He was playing video games and she wandered into the garage.  He inexplicably became sexually aroused but did not appear to consciously intend to harm (the victim) when he sexually assaulted her."  The Judge continued,  (Mr. Rojano) "almost immediately" stopped and "realized the wrongfulness of his act.  Although serious and despicable, this does not compare to a situation where a pedophilic child predator preys on an innocent child. There was no violence or callous disregard for (the victim's) well-being."

An innocent, three-year-old baby is sodomized and this sad excuse for a judge decrees that there was "No violence or callous disregard for (her) well-being?!!"  How far would a child rapist have had to go to reach Marc Kelly's definition of violence or callous disregard?

Judge Kelly decreed that 20 year-old Rojano-Neito "did not intend to harm" the tiny girl and that a longer sentence would be "cruel and unusual punishment."

God forbid a child rapist should suffer any cruel or unusual punishment, especially--as Mr. Kelly sees it--he didn't really "intend to harm" her.

Reading between the lines, it seems that Judge Kelly believes that Rojano-Nieto could not be expected to control himself in the presence of such an obvious female temptress. She wandered into his garage and the sight of her tiny body pushed him beyond the limits of male self-control. This is the same stupid, blame-the-victim logic espoused by conservative Islam.  A woman must wear a burqa in public lest a man be unable to control his lust.  This is such utter bullshit! And, when the victim is a child, it is bullshit squared. If a man can't control his own sexual urges, then maybe HE should be the one constrained.  Let's start here, and constrain Mr. Rohano-Neito for the full sentence as mandated by California law.

Rape--ANY rape--is an act of violence, no matter what the misogynist, misinformed and callous Judge Kelly espouses.

Todd Spitzer, Lisa Bartlett and Shawn Nelson, three of the five Orange County supervisors have announced they will seek a recall election of Mr. Kelly. A fourth supervisor, Michelle Steel, called for Mr. Kelly to step down immediately.

A petition begun by calling for Mr. Kelly's
 immediate resignation has already garnered over 70,000 names. You can add yours here.  

You can also join your voice with 17,000 others who support Mr. Kelly's removal from the bench at this Facebook page. 

California Superior Court Judge M. Marc Kelly

Friday, April 10, 2015

Texas Joins the GOP's Religious Freedom Frenzy

what eye thynk:   What is it with the GOP and its current, rabid campaign to "Save the Christians!"?  Red state after red state is either considering or has passed some form of religious freedom legislation--bills that are "not meant to be discriminatory," blah, blah, blah, but are "only to protect the faithful,"  blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  
Last week it was Indiana and Arkansas.  This week it's Texas where State Representative Matt Krause (R) has refiled a proposal to amend Texas' constitution to prohibit "the state...or any political subdivision of the state (from) burdening in any way a person's free exercise of religion."  HJR 125 interprets "person" to include homeowners' associations, essentially opening the gates for discrimination in housing opportunities.  This new filing is identical to the one Mr. Krause proposed previously but which was pulled from the House agenda after strenuous objections were voiced by the Texas Association of Business.

When asked why he refiled his proposal over the Association's objections, Mr. Krause said, "I honestly don't see how it hurts the business community." 
Mr. Krause is apparently the only person in America unable to see the damage a bill like this can cause.
Mr. Krause believes his proposal is needed because religious liberty is "the bedrock of what Texas, and even America, was founded on...I've yet to talk to somebody who thinks the protection of religious liberty is a bad idea."  
Considering the Republican Party's habit of conversing only with those in their own closed-off echo chamber, this does not surprise me. 
In an interview on KVUE-TV, he said he had not found "one instance in the last 16 years where (the state's current religious freedom law) hurt business."  
So why, if they already have a working religious freedom law, does Texas need a new one?  Unless, of course, the current law doesn't specifically spell out religious protection for straight people who don't like gay people?
"A lot of people are saying this is a license to discriminate, people are just going to quit serving gay individuals or gay couples.  I'm not aware of one business that says, 'We don't serve gay couples.'
Well, not yet.  First they need the power of a constitutional amendment like the one that Mr. Krause proposes.
Mr. Krause explained that adding his amendment to the Texas' constitution, "elevates (religious freedom) in level of importance."  He acknowledged that his amendment "could" lead to discrimination, but said it probably wouldn't.
Phew! I'm sure glad he cleared that up.  
A similar bill has been proposed in the Texas Senate by Donna Campbell (R).  SJR 10 goes beyond Mr. Krause' proposed amendment by defining "burden" as including "withholding benefits, assessing penalties, and denying access to facilities or programs." 
So will LGBT Texans who dare to live life outside the closet find that company-paid benefits are for straight employees only?  Will they be told the lunch room is off limits to them?  Should gay men in Dallas expect to see "Straights Only" signs on the gym equipment?  Will Houston's lesbians be told they are no longer welcome in their gym's yoga classes?
I can come up with only one reason to explain why people like Texas lawmakers Mr. Krause and Ms. Campbell insist on ignoring the negative effect these bills have on their states' reputations and economies and that is that they are taking a chapter out of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner's playbook.  I am referring to the chapter where Mr. Boehner explains that he called for votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act at the beginning of each new Congress because there were newly elected Representatives who had not had the opportunity to record their dislike of the ACA into the annals of legislative history.  Or maybe it's the chapter where he explains that he kept calling for even more repeal votes because yet another Republican had written yet another anti-"Obamacare" bill, that needed to be paraded before his constituents. 
It's as if the GOP has developed some strange cultural fixation with "If he has one, I have to have one too."  If he gets to vote on "Obamacare," I have to get a chance to vote too!  If he writes a bill, I have to write another one!  If their state defends conservative cake bakers, so must we! Anything less would make me/us less-Republican.
Because nothing says "Republican" like having your name inscribed in both the GOP's official "We Hate Health Care" AND the official "We Heart (Conservative) Christians" tomes.
I wonder if they get a certificate (Personally Signed by Reince Priebus! Perfect for Framing!) if they provide proof they were quoted in their hometown newspaper saying "We don't discriminate?" 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Eye Recommend --- Congress' Fickle, Selective Interest in Foreign Policy

what eye thynk:  Yesterday I wrote about John Boehner calling President Obama anti-war. (As if that were a bad thing.)   Today's shared post points out how Congress is all for war, sort of, unless ignoring one plays better, but then again, if they could cause one, particularly one with nuclear weapons...
(Any underlines are mine.) 
"It's been eight months since President Obama launched a military offensive against ISIS targets in the Middle East.  It's been four months since the president publicly called on Congress to authorize the ongoing mission.  It's been three months since Obama used part of his State of the Union address to urge lawmakers to take action.  It's been two months since the White House, at Congress' insistence, sent a draft resolution to Capitol Hill for consideration.

But as of now, Congress intends to do literally nothing.  Lawmakers can't agree on the scope of a resolution authorizing the conflict, so they're prepared to simply take a pass."

I'd like to mention here that, in another part of the statement I referenced yesterday, Mr. Boehner said, "Where's the robust strategy to take on the terrorist threat?  And if there's a robust strategy, then we can have our robust authorization to use the tools at his command to actually fight and end this war."
The "robust strategy" has been in place for eight months.  Congress refused to act--and I believe rightfully so--without a written resolution from the White House. Though delayed, that written draft has been in Congress' hands for eight weeks.  It's time for Mr. Boehner to stop lying about the President's lack of strategy.  Playing the poor-us-we-really-really-want-to-do-something-but-we-can't-'cause-the-President-is-a-bully-who-won't-play-nice card is getting old.
"That does not mean, of course, that the mission against ISIS must cease.  On the contrary, Obama continues to launch airstrikes on ISIS targets... He's just doing so without any real limits or legal authorization.  Congress has effectively told the administration, 'Go ahead and wage war.  We're staying out of it.'"
But let the President make a move on immigration or health care without Congress' blessing and watch the GOP lawsuits fly!
"But while Obama uses force against ISIS, the president is also working with an international coalition to prevent a war with Iran.  Indeed, the White House has had considerable success helping create a diplomatic framework embraced by most U.S. allies, that would block Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

And wouldn't you know it, all of a sudden, Congress has decided to leap to action, reasserting its foreign-policy role in such a way as to possibly kill the international agreement.  Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told Greg Sargent he's concerned about the obvious double-standard...

...'There's clearly a double-standard,' Murphy argues.  'Congress wants to be all over his diplomatic engagement, while appearing stand aside when he intervenes militarily.'

This is such an important and frequently overlooked point."

In Republican-land, if you ignore military intervention like that which the President has launched against ISIS, then you can pretend that military intervention doesn't exist.  And if it doesn't exist, you can call the President "anti-war," which is a sound-byte perfect for keeping the eager-to-hate-everything-Obama masses in a state of perpetual excitement.
"If lawmakers want to take an institutional stand in support of Congress' legitimate role in matters of national security, great.  The system is designed to have checks and balances for a reason, and if the legislative branch wants to share the burden of responsibility on matters of life and death, it'd be a welcome development.

But what the Connecticut Democrat (said) is exactly right--Congress can't be fickle about it, taking an interest to block diplomacy, but looking away when it's time to authorize an ongoing military offensive abroad.

'Congress should be spending its time debating an (Authorization of Use of Military Force),' Murphy added.  'We have a war going on in Iraq and Syria that is unauthorized and extra-Constitutional.  We should be voting on an AUMF, which is required by the Constitution, rather than debating an Iran nuclear (deal) which hasn't even been signed.'

If anyone, in either party or either chamber, can present a coherent counter-argument to this, I'm eager to hear it."

Me too.