Sunday, May 31, 2015

Christian Right Re-interprets "the Least Among Us" - Decides It's Them


Matthew 25:40  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

This is one verse that anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Christian Bible will recognize.  The obvious lesson is that caring for the poor, the disenfranchised, the "least" among us is a way of showing your love of God.

On Thursday, Glenn Beck's conservative website, The Blaze, shared a different interpretation of that same verse written by Professor Denny Burk of the Biblical Studies Department at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky.

Professor Burk contends that the verse has nothing to do with caring for the poor, but is meant to warn against the persecution of florists who are forced to provide bouquets for gay weddings. 
"This text is not about poor people generally.  It's about Christians getting the door slammed in their face while sharing the gospel with a neighbor.  It's about the baker'/florist/photographer who is being mistreated for bearing faithful witness to Christ.  It's about disciples of Jesus having their heads cut off by Islamic radicals...In other words, it's about any disciple of Jesus who was ever mistreated in the name of Jesus.  This text shows us that Jesus will judge those who show contempt for the gospel by mistreating gospel-bearers."
what eye thynk:  Only a member of the new Christian right could take a Bible verse as simple and straight forward as Matthew 25:40 and twist it so far as to strangle all love out of it.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Republicans Say the Darndest Things: Man With No College Degree Calls Ultrasounds "Lovely" and "Cool"

Wisconsin Governor
and Unofficial Candidate for
President of the United States
Scott Walker (R)


Last week, Governor Scott Walker bragged to conservative radio host Dana Loesch about his record on women's choice issues.  He was particularly proud of his recent decision to sign a bill making medically unnecessary ultrasounds mandatory for any woman choosing to have an abortion in his state.
"The thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea...I find people all the time that (sic) pull out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids' ultrasound and how excited they are so that's a lovely thing...We still have (our sons') first ultrasounds.  It's just a cool thing out there."
what eye thynk:  I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that he's never actually asked a woman how "lovely" she thinks it is to have a six inch rod stuck up her vagina for no reason other than some politician says she must--especially a woman who has already decided that she wants an abortion and whose doctor, (you know, someone with an actual M.D. after their name) believes the procedure is not necessary.

Of course, it may be that Mr, Walker thinks an appointment with his proctologist is something "lovely" to look forward to.  That might explain the dopey look he always seems to have on his face.

As for keeping and sharing the resulting sonogram, if you WANT a baby, and WANT an ultrasound, then certainly you should be able to CHOOSE to keep the picture.   But I doubt there are very many victims of rape or incest--or very many women who simply do not want a baby for whatever reason--who will want to take home a keepsake, no matter how "cool."

And saying otherwise IS a "crazy idea."

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Eye Recommend --- Polluted Political Games

Detail from Corrupt Legislation (1896) by Elihu Vedder

POLLUTED POLITICAL GAMES, by Nicholas Kristof -- 
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/28/opinion/nicholas-kristof-polluted-political-games.html?_r=0
what eye thynk:   Mr. Kristof offers a sad expose of the rampant corruption in our political campaign finance system.
"I've admired the Clintons' foundation for years for its fine work on AIDS and global poverty, and I've moderated many panels at the annual Clinton Global Initiative.  Yet with each revelation of failed disclosures or the appearance of a conflict of interest from speaking fees of $500,00 for the former president, I have wondered: What were they thinking?

But the problem is not precisely the Clintons.  It's our entire disgraceful money-based political system.  Look around:

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey accepted flights and playoff tickets from the Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, who has business interests Christie can affect.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has received financial assistance from a billionaire, Norman Braman, and has channeled public money to Braman's causes.

Jeb Bush likely has delayed his formal candidacy because then he would have to stop coordinating with his 'super PAC' and raising money for it.  He is breaching at least the spirit of the law."
At least?!  He is blatantly ignoring what few constraints we have on political money while coyly saying he "hasn't decided" whether he is going to run, knowing that no one is going to hold him accountable.  It's like an amusing game to him where those irritating little rules are for the lesser people and certainly can't be intended to apply to a "Bush."  He has become the Leona Helmsley of national politics.
"When problems are this widespread, the problem is not crooked individuals but perverse incentives from a rotten structure.

'There is a systemic corruption here,' says Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign money.  'It's kind of baked in.'...

...Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's labor secretary and now chairman of the national governing board of Common Cause, a nonpartisan watchdog group, notes that inequality has hugely exacerbated the problem.  Billionaires adopt presidential candidates as if they were prize racehorses.  Yet for them it's only a hobby expense.

For example, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson donated $92 million to super PACs in the 2012 election cycle; as a share of their net worth, that was equivalent to $300 from the median American family.  So a multibillionaire can influence a national election for the same sacrifices an average family bears in, say, a weekend driving getaway."
Kinda puts it in perspective, doesn't it?
"(But) the real bargain is lobbying.  That's why corporations spend 13 times as much lobbying as they do contributing to campaigns...

...The health care industry hires about five times as many lobbyists as there are members of Congress.  That's a shrewd investment.  Drug company lobbyists have prevented Medicare from getting bulk discounts, amounting to perhaps $50 billion a year in extra profits for the sector.

Likewise, lobbying has carved out the egregious carried interest tax loophole, allowing many financiers to pay vastly reduced tax rates.  In that respect, money in politics both reflects inequality and amplifies it.

Lobbyists exert influence because they bring a potent combination of expertise and money to the game...and, for a member of Congress, you think twice before biting the hand that feeds you."
Which is another argument for term limits.  Maybe our corporations (and billionaires) would be more economical with their  bribes  donations, if they knew they weren't getting a life-time of fidelity to their cause--that they'd have to start afresh every four or six years.
"The Supreme Court is partly to blame for the present money game, for its misguided rulings that struck down limits in campaign spending by corporations and unions and the overall political donation cap for individuals."
Stand up if you think your $300 political donation will make as much noise when it lands in your favorite politician's pocket as Adelson's $92 billion. (Thank you Mr. Roberts, Mr. Alito, Mr. Scalia, Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Thomas.  You may sit back down now.)
"Still, President Obama could take one step that would help: an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose all political contributions.

'President Obama could bring the dark money into the sunlight in time for the 2016 election,' notes Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.  'It's the single most tangible thing anyone could do to expose the dark money that is now polluting politics.'"
Imagine the screaming, the hair pulling, the gnashing of teeth over THAT executive order. 
"I've covered corrupt regimes all over the world, and I find it ineffably sad to come home and behold institutionalized sleaze in the United States.

Reich told me that for meaningful change to arrive, 'voters need to reach a point of revulsion.'  Hey, folks that time has come." 
Unfortunately, we are entangled in a campaign-finance catch-22.  We need to replace the people currently in charge before we can begin the job of cleaning up our corrupted system; but it is the corrupted system that protects those who should be the first to go. 
The first order of business should be to put another Democrat in the White House...though that executive order thing sounds pretty good too. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Republicans Say the Darndest Things: Jeb--If You Want to Marry, Adopt or Be Successful, First Be Heterosexual

Jeb Bush (R)
(sort of) Candidate 
for President of the United States

Recently, Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody asked Jeb Bush if he thought businesses should be able to deny service to gays or lesbians.

Jeb's reply: 
"Yes, absolutely if its based on a religious belief."

Mr. Bush went on to say that, no matter how the Supreme Court rules next month, he does not believe the U.S. Constitution gives same-sex couples the right to marry.  He did not say whether he, as president, would follow the Court's ruling or whether he would encourage states to ignore the ruling as some Republicans are doing. 

what eye thynk:  Does this remind anyone else of George Wallace and the integration battles of the 1960s--another battle fought by Bible toting bigots?

Mr. Bush also said he did not think gay couples should be permitted to adopt.  

I guess when you grow up rich like Jeb, you reach adulthood so completely out of touch with a parentless child's need for love and security that you can say a child is better off being passed around the foster care system for eighteen years than living with two loving albeit same-sex parents--and say it with a straight face.  Jeb might consider asking some nine-year-old, facing his third or fourth or fifth foster home, another new school and another set of friends whether he'd prefer to continue that way or take a shot at a secure home with forever parents who just happen to be named Joe and John. 

Mr. Bush seemed to try to explain his anti-adoption prejudice away by saying that children born into poverty need two opposite-sex parents to succeed.  

Because same-sex couples can't be affluent or raise successful children? On what information did he base this belief?

When I hear comments like this, (and let's face it, we hear some variation of them every day), I want someone to replace "gay" with "black" or "Muslim" or (let's pretend it's 1850) "Irish" and ask the same question so I can watch people like Jeb Bush hang themselves trying to explain the difference.  Bigotry is bigotry...period.

I owned a retail business for 17 years.  Sometimes I wish I still owned it so I could put up a sign that says "We don't serve Republicans."

Monday, May 25, 2015

May 25 - Monday Quote

Especially on Memorial Day, it is important to remember...

monday quote:
"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." 
(Jose Narosky, Argentinian writer, 1930-     )
(Photo by Mimiluvsbray)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Great Day to Be Irish!


Eye Recommend --- Rush to Judgment



RUSH TO JUDGMENT, by Gail Collins -- http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/23/opinion/gail-collins-rush-to-judgment.html?_r=0
what eye thynk:  Some light (and snarky) reading for a sunny Sunday...
"Time flies when you're having fun.  Memorial Day weekend, the Fourth of July and then, the next thing you know, it will be Aug. 6, the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and the date of the first Republican presidential debate.

Less than 11 weeks away!  True, 11 weeks is nearly twice the length of the entire national election schedule in the United Kingdom.  But this is why we had the Revolutionary War."
Am I the only one who thinks that six-week UK campaign schedule is something we should have held onto after 1776?
"Fox News, which is hosting the debate, doesn't want more than 10 people on stage, and that's a challenge because the number of Republican hopefuls is somewhere between 15 and 2,376.

There are two ways to think about this.  One is that having 10 debaters is still ridiculous.  It'll be like a playground fight conducted entirely by middle-aged people in suits.

The other is the howls from the potentially excluded.  Fox's idea is to take the candidates who score highest in the polls.  When you get down below the top seven or eight, you're talking about people who have failed to break 2 percent.  But they all believe that's just because they have yet to blossom.

'The idea that a national poll has any relationship to the viability of a candidate--ask Rudy Giuliani that, ask Phil Gramm that,' sniped Rick Santorum, one of the likely excludees.

Have you noticed that whenever anybody wants to bring up disastrous presidential candidates of the past, the first name that pops up is Rudy Giuliani?  Do you think he minds being a walking embodiment of Failure to Meet Expectations?

But about Rick Santorum. He's nowhere in the polls now, but he did win a couple of primaries in 2012.  We have not seen much of him since then, except for his spirited and successful battle to block ratification of the United Nations Treaty on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.

How many of you are willing to give up Rick Santorum?  Fine.  But you're going to have to tell him."
Personally, I'm all for including Rick.  Sure, he can be irritating, but it's the kind of irritation that makes him amusing--sort of like Michele Bachmann.  And I'm kinda missing her.
"At this point, presidential polls are mainly about name recognition--or, in the case of Donald Trump, the fact that some Republican voters have a dark sense of humor.  Carly Fiorina, who's trailing, isn't exactly an average-American-household name, despite her spectacular crash-landing as C.E.O. of Hewlett-Packard.  But she expressed confidence--via her 'super Pac'--that her 'growing momentum' would get her into the Top 10.

At the Iowa G.O.P. Lincoln Day Dinner last weekend, where 11 hopeful Republicans gave speeches, Fiorina went out of her way to show her foreign policy chops. 'I know King Abdullah of Jordan...'  'I can remember as well sitting in Bibi Netanyahu's office...'"
My dad worked all his adult life in a bank and knew a lot of bank officers; but I doubt he felt his acquaintances made him ready to run the Fed.
Perhaps you're wondering how the other candidates fared as dinner speakers.  Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin revealed that he not only lived in Iowa as a child, he spent part of that childhood wandering around the neighborhood with an empty mayonnaise jar raising money to buy a state flag for the city hall.  'Stories like that are what's great about Iowa, what's great about the Midwest, what's great about America.' he said modestly."
Reading this with tears in your eyes?  It was the mayonnaisse jar image that did it, right?
"Jeb Bush won a lot of support when he avoided saying anything weird.  "First and foremost, I'm the husband of Columba Bush,' he told the gathering, reminding them that he had at least one member of the family who has not yet involved the nation in a war in the Middle East."
Well, that is one point in his favor, I suppose, though I can't help hearing a whispered "yet."
"Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina veered between corny jokes and foreigh policy, which created a strange effect,  It's not every day you'll find a candidate who can giggle while saying, 'I'm going to call a drone and we will kill you,'

I say keep Lindsey Graham. And, what the heck, Carly Fiorina.  And Rick Perry, who was a veritable sunbeam in Iowa, burbling on about the corn crop while the other speakers were so down on the Barack Obama era that they sounded virtually suicidal.  Plus, we know that Perry is the kind of guy who can really perk up a debate.

Fox News says that if it bumps some candidates, they'll get 'additional coverage and airtime' the same day.  It's not clear whether this would be an interview or a second Clash of the Losers debate.  We definitely want the debate.  Maybe featuring Gov. Chris Christie, Donald Trump and Rick Santorum, together again for the first time."
Perfect! Christie can explain how he'll raid the federal employees' pension fund to find the money to purchase a hair transplant for Trump, Trump can promise to build a chapel in all his buildings  where conservatives can meet to pray away the gay and Santorum can explain how God has personally told him he is Jesus' candidate of choice.  I can't wait.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

GOP Has Allergic Reaction to Minnesota's Economic Success



Earlier this month, I wrote a short post about Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D) who raised the minimum wage as well as taxes on the wealthy.  Instead of the disaster state Republicans predicted, Minnesota's unemployment is at a historic low, median income is rising and the budget has a newly estimated $1.87 billion excess. 

Governor Dayton wants to use the surplus for education, especially the establishment of state-wide kindergarten for 4 year-olds, and for the rebuilding of Minnesota's infrastructure.  State Republican legislators, who hold the majority in the House, have other ideas.  They want to cut estate taxes for the wealthy and cut property taxes for large corporations. The Minnesota Management and Budget Office estimates that these cuts will total $2 billion,   

Acknowledging that their proposed tax cuts are more than the state's excess, Republican lawmakers say they would keep the budget in balance by making cuts to health and human services (the figure they have proposed is below what is dictated by state law), reducing funding for the state's environmental agencies and restricting the number of school districts scheduled to get funding for the governor's kindergarten program.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (D) had this to say, "The Republicans were given a $2 billion budget surplus on a silver platter, and now they want to give it all back to corporate special interests with a silver spoon."

what eye thynk:  What is it with the GOP?  They see economic success and they start itching to find ways to screw it up.  If "wealthy/tax cuts" and "poor/service cuts" are not part of the plan, they all break out in hives.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Hypocrite-in-Chief Bobby Jindal Kisses the Hem of the "Christian" Right

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal unveiling his portrait, which for some reason depicts him as white.

Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal has had a busy week.  First, he launched a presidential exploratory committee.  As that committee begins the job of gauging the support Mr. Jindal can expect, the man himself decided that the best way to make himself stand-out in the already crowded Republican field is to stand tall and alone at the furthest point to the right on the anti-gay bigotry scale.  

To that effect, Mr. Jindal announced an executive order giving any agency or employee of Louisiana the right to deny service to their state's gay citizens.

what eye thynk:  Obviously hoping to become the darling of all those who worship at the Church of the Holy Bigot, Mr. Jindal ignored the common sense demonstrated by Louisiana's legislature this week when they failed to move the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act forward by announcing he would single handedly settle the contentious issue of gay rights for his state.

This is the same man who, when President Obama issued an executive order on immigration after the U.S. Congress failed to act, said, "If the President wants to make the case that the law should be changed, he should go make the case to Congress and our people.  This is an arrogant, cynical political move by he President."  

If Mr. Jindal were running for Secretary of Hypocrisy, he'd get my vote.

The backlash over a similar bill effectively ended the dark-horse presidential hopes of Indiana's Governor Mike Pence (R) earlier this year, but that didn't deter Bobby!  He can now move on with his presidential dreams, proudly proclaiming that he is the only Republican governor in the anti-gay rights fight who has proven himself brave enough, strong enough, committed enough to turn his back on his own legislature, his state's Chamber of Congress, his state's Department of Tourism, national corporations like WalMart, IBM and Apple, and major sports leagues who decide where big-money championships are played, and decide entirely on his own to issue an executive order creating an anti-gay law expressly for the drooling "Christian" right.  

My "catty genes" (those immature little devils) have me picturing him in his office, his white portrait hanging behind him, pointing his finger to the skies, crying: "Take that, Ted Cruz, et al.  Who is the most conservative, anti-gay Republican now, huh? Who?!"

New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Stephen Perry said the bill could cost the state--which is already facing a $1.6 billion budget deficit--an additional $65 million/year.  But  Bobby Jindal made it clear that he doesn't think his state's economy is as important as pandering to the Duck Dynasty crowd when he wrote: "As the fight for religious liberty moves to Louisiana, I have a clear message for any corporation that contemplates bullying our state: Save your breath."

Better that Mr. Jindal should tell his exploratory committee to save their time and effort.  America's not interested.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

W. - Clueless in Las Vegas


Late last month, George W. was in Las Vegas to attend a closed-door meeting  with the Republican Jewish Coalition.  His remarks to the 700 potential donors to his brother's presidential campaign were, to say the least, interesting.

W. said he believed lifting the sanctions against Iran as part of a nuclear arms agreement is a bad idea and that the framework of the international agreement would be bad in the long-term.  "You think the Middle East is chaotic now?  Imagine what it looks like for our grandchildren.  That's how Americans should view the deal."

Mr. Middle East "Expert" went on to say he believed that "pulling out of Iraq was a strategic blunder." 

As MSNBC's Steve Benen pointed out:

"1.  Presidents who launch two massive wars that destabilized the entire Middle East probably shouldn't warn about his successor making the region 'chaotic.'"
what eye thynk:  That was exactly my reaction...though I wouldn't have put it so politely.
"2.  When U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq, it was under the terms of a Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by George W. Bush."
I realize that W. is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but you'd think he'd be at least vaguely aware that he put his signature on an exit agreement with the country he had invaded.
"3.  Bush may not like the idea of a nuclear agreement with Iran, but President Obama is now making up for the fact that Bush could have struck a better deal but failed to even try, and Iran's nuclear capabilities grew far more serious--without consequence--on Bush's watch."
And this is the man Jeb told his supporters he looked to for advice on foreign policy.  Good grief.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Oil Tycoon Tries to Fire University Scientists Over Fracking Study


Billionaire oil tycoon Harold Hamm, owner of Continental Resources, has spent millions of dollars on campaigns that deny the environmental dangers of fracking while remaining silent when earthquake after earthquake coincidentally occurs near his fracking sites.  Bad publicity aside, if his company's drilling actions are found to be responsible for the increased seismic activity near his sites, Mr. Hamm could be forced to pay restitution to those whose homes and businesses were damaged.

After the University of Oklahoma's Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy published a report saying that evidence pointed to fracking being responsible for the sharp increase in the number and severity of earthquakes in Oklahoma, Mr. Hamm asked for a meeting with the Dean of the College, Larry Grillot.  Mr. Grillot told Bloomberg News that Mr. Hamm made it very clear that he wanted the scientists responsible for the report fired and put himself forward as an ideal candidate to join the committee to select a new director for the Geological Survey.

Mr. Hamm, who is a large donor to the University, also told Dean Grillot that he would be having a meeting with Governor Mary Fallin (R) to discuss moving the Oklahoma Geological Survey from under the auspices of the University of Oklahoma and Mewbourne College.

After the College's Geological Survey released a second in-depth report in which they concluded it is "very likely" that waste water wells used in fracking are behind the "majority" of the state's earthquakes, historically oil-friendly Governor Fallin said their reports had convinced her that fracking activity is responsible for the spike in earthquakes in Oklahoma and she would be taking action on the issue.

what eye thynk:  Governor Fallin's announcement gives me the feeling that Mr. Hamm's meeting with her didn't go too well.  His attempt to rid the University of Oklahoma of its earth scientists and to put himself in a position to choose their replacements also failed when Dean Grillot refused to yield to Mr. Hamm's threat to have the Geological Survey department moved elsewhere.

Harold Hamm's threats masquerading as "meetings" are typical of what is becoming an all too common Republican ploy.  When faced with facts they don't like, they attempt to use money and influence to silence the voice of the fact finder.

As Jameson Parker of AddictingInfo.org reminded us earlier this week:
  • Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) forbid scientists working in his administration to utter the words "climate change."
  • Wyoming Governor Matt Mead (R) signed a new law that makes it illegal to collect data, take a sample, photograph or preserve information of pollution on public, private or federal land and submit it to any agency of the state or federal government, (Reporting an oil spill there ought to be fun.)
  • In Washington, congressional Republicans slashed NASA's earth sciences budget in order to slow the study of global warming.
It's as if the entire Republican Party has been taken over by a race of humanoid-shaped ostriches whose sole diet is oil-tainted money and whose exclusive by-product is arrogance.  (Did the Koch brothers really think the Pope would bow to their minions?) 

One day, the grandchildren of today's GOP will look back and wonder how their ancestors could have been so stupid and so greedy.  I just hope they are looking back from a world that still has breathable air and where trees still grow toward a blue sky.

"Facts are facts and will not disappear on account of your likes."  
(Jawahaqrial Nehru, First Prime Minister of India)

Monday, May 18, 2015

May 18 - Monday Quote

Scott Walker likes to call himself a product of the Reagan Revolution; he says Ronald Reagan is "a key part of who I am today." He likes brag that he uses Ronald Reagan's presidency as a template for his own brand of leadership, including the way he took on unions as governor of Wisconsin.  

Maybe Mr. Walker, and all the Reagan idolizing GOP governors where right to work laws have been put in place, should take a more careful look at Mr. Reagan's words on the subject.

monday quote: 
"Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost."
(Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, 1911-2004)



Sunday, May 17, 2015

You Can Teach Children to Love or Teach Them to Hate.

Just something  eye'm thynkin' about on this Sunday in May:


The choice should be simple. Really what about this is confusing?

I Corinthians 1: If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

I Corinthians 13: And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

Maybe if the pseudo-Christian far right would stop waving the Bible and sit down and read it...?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Tea Party Signs - the Joke's On Them

Installment #24 of:
Dictionaries are a Liberal Plot
(and Grammar is Not My Cup of Tea Either)

Go back to sleep and try to dream that you own a copy of Merriam-Webster,
then get back to us.  We'll wait.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Seven-Year-Old Railroad Safety System in Place in Philadelphia, but...


what eye thynk:  Congress voting to cut Amtrak's budget by $100M the day after the deadly crash in Philadelphia was bad.  Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) yelling at a reporter who asked about the cuts was worse.   
The first four paragraphs of today's New York Times (copied below) takes bad and worse to a whole new level.  If they don't make you mad, nothing will.  (The underlines are mine.) 
"The Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night was equipped with an automatic speed control system that officials say could have prevented the wreck, which killed eight passengers and injured hundreds.  But the system, which was tantalizingly close to being operational, was delayed by budgetary shortfalls, technical hurdles and bureaucratic rules, officials said Thursday.

In 2008, Congress ordered the installation of what are known as positive train control systems, which can detect an out-of-control, speeding train and automatically slow it down. But because lawmakers failed to provide the railroads access to the wireless frequencies required to make the system work, Amtrak was forced to negotiate for airwaves owned by private companies that are often used in mobile broadband.
It really doesn't get any more dysfunctional than mandating a system and then withholding the key to making it work. Or maybe Congress was just too busy working on their number one priority: repealing "Obamacare" to be bothered with finishing the rail safety job. 
Officials said Amtrak had made installation of the congressionally mandated safety system a priority and was ahead of most other railroads around the country.

But the railroad struggled for four years to buy the rights to airwaves in the Northeast Corridor that would have allowed them to turn the system on."
The article goes on to explain that the FCC just approved Amtrak's purchase of wireless spectrum from the Skybridge Spectrum Foundation clearing the way for final testing on the seven year old system.  You can read the whole article here.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Arkansas Town Defies State, Votes to Keep LGBT Non-Discrimination Law

eye'm thynkin':  Because sometimes we just need some good news...
When the city council of tiny Eureka Falls, Arkansas heard the state legislature was debating a bill that would forbid local communities from extending LGBT protections not offered by the state, the council made a preemptive strike and adopted their own LGBT non-discrimination ordinance designed to protect LGBT residents and visitors in the areas of housing and employment. The ordinance went an extra step, requiring that all vendors doing business with the town have a non-discrimination policy in place that includes protection for their LGBT employees. 

When the bigots in Little Rock actually passed their no-non-discrimination law, the town's city council put their standing ordinance up to a popular vote.  The citizens of Eureka Springs defied the state and voted 579-231 in favor of keeping their protections in place.

State officials have not responded to the town's act of rebellion; but State Senator Bart Hester (R) said, "Eureka Springs, well they are what they are.  They're a case study for how to destroy a city."
Yeah, that democracy/popular vote thing is a real community killer.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Eye Recommend --- Shell's Record Adds to the Anger of Those Opposing Arctic Drilling

SHELL'S RECORD ADDS TO THE ANGER OF THOSE OPPOSING ARCTIC DRILLING, by John Schwartz and Clifford Kraus --
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/13/us/shells-record-adds-to-the-anger-of-those-opposing-arctic-drilling.html?_r=0
The rig Shell hopes to use in the Arctic this year.
what eye thynk:  President Obama got this one wrong--really, really wrong.
(Any underlines are mine.) 
"When the Obama administration announced on Monday that it would let Shell drill for oil off the Alaskan coast this year if it met certain conditions, environmentalists were outraged--not just by the administration's decision to allow drilling, but by its decision to give shell, in particular, the green light. 

They said that the company's track record in the Arctic should rule out another chance for it.  Shell tried to drill in the Arctic in 2012, and the company's multibillion-dollar drilling rig, the Kulluk, ran aground.  The operator of a drill ship hired by Shell also pleaded guilty to eight felony offenses and agreed to pay $12.2 million over shoddy record-keeping that covered up hazardous conditions and jury-rigged equipment that discharged polluted water.
All those violations occurred at shallow water drilling sites.  At that time, Shell was prohibited from drilling in deep water after a containment dome that was supposed to cap a runaway well was destroyed in testing.
'Shell has already proven itself not up to the challenge of development in the Arctic Ocean.' said Franz Matzner, the director of the Beyond Oil Initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council. 'But it's not just Shell.  The fact is, there's no safe way to pursue oil exploration in the frozen wastes of the Arctic Ocean.'"
Even other oil companies agree that this is a bad idea.
"'It's too complicated,' Claudio Descalzi, the chief executive of the Italian oil company Eni, said in a recent interview.  The company allowed its lease in Alaska's Chukchi Sea to expire without drilling,

'Everything that is too complicated is too expensive and too risky--and my job is to reduce risk.'...

...After Shell's problems, ConocoPhillips and the Norwegian oil giant Statoil suspended their Alaskan Arctic drilling plans...

...Experts warn that Arctic Ocean oil exploration involves high costs and enormous risks.  An Arctic oil spill would have none of the conditions that helped mitigate effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, including warm water, sunlight, relatively calm weather and ready access to cleanup and rescue equipment."

"(Mr. Matzner) added, 'This is an inexplicable decision to do something that is dirty, dangerous and unnecessary.'"
Exactly.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Want to Be President? First Be a Victim.









From "The Unassailable Virtue of Victims, written by Joseph Epstein and published on TheWeeklyStandard.com:
  
"If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in 2016 she will not only be the nation's first woman president but our second affirmative-action president.  By affirmative-action president I mean that she, like Barack Obama, will have got into office partly for reasons extraneous to her political philosophy or to her merits, which, though fully tested while holding some of the highest offices in the land, have not been notably distinguished.  In his election, Obama was aided by the far from  enticing Republican  candidates who opposed him, but a substantial portion of the electorate voted for him because having a biracial president seemed a way of redressing old injustices...

...Have we come to the point where we elect presidents of the United States not on their intrinsic qualities but because of the accidents of their birth; because they are black, or women, or, one day doubtless, gay, or disabled--not, in other words, for themselves but for the causes they seem to embody to represent, for their status of members of a victim group?"

what eye thynk:  There is much more of this drivel.  It's Republican, white male, political cluelessness.  Affirmative action had zero to do with my choice.  I feel bad about slavery, but I don't feel guilty. I have nothing to "redress." My ancestors didn't arrive here from Czechoslovakia until the 1900s.  I saw no victims needing saving.

I cast my vote to elect Barack Obama to the office of President of the United States  because I supported his policies and admired his character--his "intrinsic values."  Period.  While I can agree with Mr. Epstein that Barack Obama may have benefited from the overwhelming support of one segment of the population in his first election, he fails to explain why, in 2012, after the country had four years to see Mr. Obama in action and after white voters had assuaged their supposed guilt over his victimhood, we overwhelmingly elected him again.  It's the Republican belief that since they dislike him, no one else could possibly like him and so must have other motives for returning him to the White House.

Mr. Epstein seems to be looking for an excuse for Republican presidential failure in the last two elections and a balm for a future loss in 2016.  Blaming affirmative action is to completely ignore the fact that recent years have seen his party do everything in their power to denigrate women and the poor, to accelerate the decline of the middle class, to disenfranchise immigrants, to discriminate against gays, to dismiss any religion that isn't conservative Christianity, to ignore the overwhelming percentage of citizens who favor common sense gun laws--in short, to look down on anyone who isn't white, male, Christian, wealthy, and armed.  It is easier, I guess, to say women, the poor, the middle class, immigrants, gays and gun law advocates are possessed with shallow political thinking than to admit that his party has nothing to offer the vast majority of Americans.

Honestly, Hillary Clinton is not my first choice for the Democratic nomination; but I doubt her policies will be anywhere near as repugnant to me as those of the candidates the GOP is currently parading around the country.

My brand of "affirmative action" has nothing to do with guilt or "redressing old injustices."  It means voting for the candidate who affirms my values and whose actions give credence to the fact they will fight for the same.  

Oh, and Mr. Epstein, we've already had a "disabled" president.  Maybe you dismissed him because he was a Democrat; so, to remind you, his name was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and he saw us safely through World War II. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

May 11 - Monday Quote

So many politicians under indictment or being investigated, or resigning under pressure.  Sometimes fiction can be so true.

monday quote: 
"It is not that power corrupts, but that it is a magnet to the corruptible."
(taken from DUNE by Frank Herbert, science fiction author, 1920-1986) 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Prepare Ye! Kentucky Derby Proves End Days Are Nigh!


what eye thynk:  Sometimes conspiracy theories can be really funny.  When the Christian right gets involved, they can be downright hysterical.
Mena Lee Grebin
On Thursday, five days after American Pharaoh won the Kentucky Derby, self-proclaimed prophetess Mena Lee Grebin appeared on Rick Wiles' Trunews radio program to talk about angelic visitations and visions she has been experiencing that warn her of the coming Last Days.   
I think she probably fell asleep in front of the TV listening to Michele Bachmann, but that's just my opinion.
Grebin stated that she didn't believe President Obama was the actual Antichrist, but called him "our Antichrist."  Wiles ran with her statement, saying President Obama is a forerunner for the Antichrist.
John the OBaptismacan?  Obama/Baptist/American--look how the names fit together! More validation!
The proof, he said, could be found in Saturday's Kentucky Derby. "He has a spirit of the Antichrist operating in him, he is America's pharaoh.  Interestingly, the horse American Pharaoh won the horse race Saturday, another little sign to America."

Mr. Wiles continued, "This man--he has stoked the coals, the fires of war, (apparently W's wars were all caused by spontaneous combustion), it seems like the whole world is on fire.  Even House Speaker John Boehner said it a month or two ago, he said 'the world is on fire.'  Yes, Speaker Boehner, it is on fire and the man who is stoking the fires is in the White House.  This is a man with a demonic spirit operating in him."
Mr. Wiles almost had me with that horse racing/pharaoh thing, but when he started quoting John Boehner as evidence, well...  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Tea Party Signs - The Joke's On Them

Installment #23 of:
Dictionaries are a Liberal Plot
(and Grammar is Not My Cup of Tea Either)

I'm not sure whether they mean "schoolers" (which isn't really a word) or "scholars."  Either way it's a good argument for funding public education.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Republicans Say the Darndest Things: Let Them Sell Cookies!

U.S. Senator and 
Republican Presidential Nominee Hopeful
Ted Cruz (R-Texas)


Speaking at a campaign event in Iowa on Wednesday, an Iraq War veteran, who identified himself as "Dan," stood on his prosthetic leg and asked Mr. Cruz how the tax cuts he is proposing would affect the Department of Veterans Affairs and what plans he had for helping veterans.

Mr. Cruz responded:
"We need to be innovative if we want to help veterans.  We need to be practical and pragmatic.  But we also need to remain vigilant with our government's out-of-control spending, and find ways of mitigating expenses wherever possible.  So we need a president who is willing to tackle the hard issues, and come up with innovative solutions to these problems head-on.
We need to make spending cuts that not everyone will be happy with, but we need to come up with solutions that make up for those cuts too.  For instance--and I'm just thinking out loud here--but the Girl Scouts make a lot of money selling cookies each year, and it brings attention to their cause.  We're talking billions and billions of dollars here.  That's an innovative idea right there, and I just came up with it on the spot.  That's what I want to bring to the White House."
what eye thynk:  If this is the kind of idea he comes up with "on the spot," I shudder to think what he would suggest given time to ponder on it. 

And, for the record, the Girl Scouts raise approximately $700 million each year from their cookie sales.  75% of that goes to local councils, 25% goes to the bakeries.

Mr. Cruz continued: 
"Something like that, selling cookies, would generate billions of dollars for veterans while also connecting them with their friends and neighbors in a new and innovative way.  Think about the opportunities these veterans would be exposed to. Think about the potential of meeting a new employer, for instance.  This idea would raise billions of dollars for vets each year, gives veterans the sort of public attention they deserve, and could open new doors for our nation's bravest fighting men and women.  this would be a golden opportunity for veterans, and for America."
The smugness, the out and out condescension this arrogant ass demonstrates in this statement is breath-taking.  These men and women put their lives on the line, many of them return home maimed like Dan, and Ted Cruz thinks handing them a begging bowl along with their discharge papers is a "golden opportunity?!!!"  This is the sort of attention Senator Cruz thinks "they deserve?!!!"

Any member of our military--past or present--who voices a preference for Senator Cruz for president should be summarily admitted for a mental evaluation.  

I have heard a lot of outrageous political ideas in my lifetime, but none have disgusted me as much as this.  

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Eye Recommend --- Senate Passes Cost Cutting Budget Plan

SENATE PASSES COST-CUTTING BUDGET PLAN, by Jonathan Weisman -- 
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/06/us/politics/senate-along-party-lines-passes-cost-cutting-budget-blueprint.html
what eye thynk:  The GOP wants to balance the budget on the backs of the 99 percent.  Nothing new here. 
 (Any underlines are mine.)
"The Senate gave final approval Tuesday to the first joint congressional budget plan in six years, ratifying a 10-year blueprint that would cut spending by $5.3 trillion, overhaul programs for the poor, repeal President Obama's health care law and ostensibly produce a balanced budget in less than a decade.

Along party lines, the Senate passed the nonbinding blueprint 51-48, with only two Republicans voting no, Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.  Both are candidates for the Republican presidential nomination who say the budget plan does not go far enough to shrink the government and cut spending.

Despite the broad aspirations of this budget plan, it appeared moribund even before its final passage.  For the plan to take effect, Republican committee chairmen would have to draft legislation that would impose the prescribed cuts. But they have made little effort to do so, and committee leaders in both parties are already calling for new negotiations on a more bipartisan approach."
Which raises the question, why not try a bipartisan approach in the first place instead of wasting time on this non-starter plan?  But then, wasting time is a Republican strong point as we have seen over the past six years, especially if it gives them an opportunity to toss a couple of ounces of red meat to the one percenters.
"...Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (said) 'We'll see what comes of it.'  His committee is now supposed to draft legislation to repeal the health care law, turn Medicaid into block grants to the states and begin converting Medicare into a program that offers the elderly assistance to buy private health insurance...

...(Lawmakers expect many of the appropriation bills) to fail...forcing budget talks to resume again, this time with Mr. Obama at the table.

'With the numbers we're having to appropriate to, I'm not sure we can pass these bills.' said Representative Harold Rogers of Kentucky, the House Appropriations Committee chairman."
So what congressional Republicans are saying is, "We've spent a lot of time and money putting together a budget proposal that we know we can't actually get passed and we acknowledge that we're going to have to start over; but look how hard we're working!"
"The budget calls for $4.2 trillion in cuts to benefit programs like Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps over 10 years.  Domestic programs at Congress' annual discretion would be cut by $496 billion below the already tight limits imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011...

...Even with the plan's cuts, the deficit disappears only because of faster economic growth that Republicans assume would be produced by the austerity."
Here we go again with that same ol' GOP pipe dream: Giving people less money to spend will make them spend more and grow the economy!  Really, reducing a family's food stamp allowance is not going to make them spend more at the grocery store; and raising the cost of Medicare for seniors already living on fixed incomes is not going to result in a grey-haired rush at the mall.
"'Today, not only will Congress pass a budget for the first time in six years, it will pass a balanced budget for the first time in recent memory,' Senate (sic) Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, proclaimed."
My "recent memory" must be a lot better than Mitch's because I not only remember Bill Clinton's balanced budget, I remember the budget excess he left for W to squander. 
"Democrats called attention to the cost reductions required to get to a balanced budget without raising taxes.  They include cutting Pell Grant scholarships, (because who needs an education?); cutting off health insurance to as many as 27 million people covered by either the president's health care law or Medicaid, (because we still hate "Obamacare" and only poor people are on Medicaid and poor people don't count); and slicing $600 billion from 'income security' programs like school lunches, food stamps, tax credits for the working poor and nutritional assistance to poor mothers, (because people who use those programs are poor and obviously lazy).

Democrats dared the new Republican majority to pass the bills that would put those policies into effect.

'Bring it to the floor, let's vote on it,' said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber. 'Let's see if the 23, 24 Republican senators up for re-election this time really want to run on this platform.'
Unlike Mr. Durbin, I fear those Senators up for re-election just might be looking to follow the examples of Mr. Cruz and Mr. Paul who believe this platform is not austere enough. 
"Mr. Obama has already promised to veto spending bills that stick to the spending caps in the 2011 budget legislation.  And in the coming weeks, leaders of the appropriations committees plan to push spending bills that pay for health care, education, criminal justice and housing programs to show that they cannot muster the votes to even get those bills to the president's desk."
Thus wasting even more time; though some good may come of this:
"By forcing a spending stalemate well before the end of the fiscal year in October, appropriators hope to compel Republican leaders and the White House to enter negotiations that could head off another funding crisis...

...'I'm always open to bipartisan approaches and fresh ideas, but these ideas are way out of the mainstream,' said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and a frequent collaborator with Republicans on health care and tax proposals.  'I just find it hard to see how you would move forward with them."
What I see is a Republican Party that likes campaign slogans like "We Care About Income Inequality" and "We Heart the Poor;" but loves programs that do nothing for either.
If the GOP were bound by truth in advertising laws, all their 2016 bumper stickers would say  "If You're Not Rich, We're Not Interested."

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Indiana Takes Hatchet to Middle Class Incomes

Indiana construction workers protesting at the State House.

A bill to repeal an 80-year-old Indiana law is on Governor Mike Pence's desk. He has promised to sign the bill into law.
what eye thynk:  Supporting a poverty level minimum wage is no longer enough for the Republicans of Indiana.  Now they want to reduce some middle class incomes. 
The law now facing repeal sets a base for rate of pay for all contractors bidding on public construction projects valued at more than $350,000.  Opponents argued that repealing the law will allow non-union contractors to pay wages below union scale and open the opportunity for low-paying, out-of-state contractors to take jobs away from Indiana workers.  The original "common wage" law was passed in 1930 specifically to prevent this from happening.

Union contractors said the repeal would force many of them to close, which would leave their workers unemployed.

Governor Pence claimed that the state board charged with setting the common wage rate, set the standard "artificially high." Listening to Mr. Pence would make you think Indiana's construction workers are robbing the state blind; but the truth is that the average yearly wage in the industry is $60,000. 

State Representative Chuck Moseley (D) argued, "If you really believe lowering wages in your community is what people sent you here to do, then vote for this bill." 

Supporters of the repeal quoted Governor Pence who said allowing contractors to pay reduce wages could lower the cost of public building projects by as much as 20 percent. State contractors answered that their labor costs generally run between 17 and 23 percent.  In order to reduce their bids by 20 percent, they would need employees willing to work for free.  Republican lawmakers admitted the savings would probably be less, but that any savings was good for the state budget.

Not surprisingly, the repeal was supported by out of state groups.  The Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity, (I note the irony), bought radio ads in support of repealing the law.

The editorial board at The Times of Northwest Indiana wrote: "Maintaining the common wage is common sense.  Keep jobs here, and keep wages high enough to stimulate the economy."
But common sense is not part of the Republican DNA.  Lower wages will see Indiana collect less in income tax.  Contractors closing will see more people unemployed.  Ex-workers will no longer have money to spend at local small businesses; those businesses, facing reduced income, will look to lay off their own employees, creating even more unemployed who will spend less at their own local small businesses, and on and on and on...  It's a shining example of GOP-branded trickle down poverty.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) had hoped the repeal would be written to allow cities and counties to protect their economies by continuing to use the common wage for local building projects.  That amendment was voted down in the state Senate.
The entire Republican philosophy here seems to be that the middle class must give back to the state by relinquishing their living wage job. Once again, there is no sign that wealthy business owners who collect large personal profits on the backs of minimum wage workers will be asked to make the same sacrifice.
"I'm very disappointed," said Senator John Broden (D).  "Indiana is now 38th out of the 50 states in per capita income.  This change in law just expedites the race to the bottom."
The GOP talks about helping the middle class and being concerned about income inequality; but there is little evidence that their real agenda goes beyond worshiping the wealthy and despising the poor.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Republican War on Women: Texas Rep. Wants Women to Carry Dead Fetus to Term

I wrote an article for this series just a day or two ago, but this news was just too much to allow to go un-noted.  I'll make it short.
This is the twenty-eighth 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.”

Texas State Representative Matt Schaefer (R)

The Battle in Texas 

the facts and commentary:  Texas State Representative Matt Schaefer (R) has proposed an amendment that would force a woman to carry a fetus to full term even if her doctor has found the fetus to be non-viable due to "a severe and irreversible abnormality," and that the fetus will certainly die at birth if not before, even if her doctor advises that the pregnancy be terminated to prevent the very real possibility of the mother dying from sepsis.
A person possessed of even an ounce of compassion, not to mention common sense, (really, how is this supposed to "protect women?"), must wonder why he would want to put a grieving mother and family through more emotional trauma with his amendment.
Not unsurprisingly, Mr. Schaefer has a Christian-based explanation: "(Suffering is) part of the human condition, since sin entered the world."
So once again we have some conservative Christian Republican lawmaker using God as an excuse for reducing the rights of women.
Last month, Michele Bachmann told Jan Markell, host of the radio program "End Times" that the Second Coming is imminent. "We need to realize how close this clock is getting to the midnight hour...We in our lifetimes...could see Jesus Christ returning to earth and the rapture of the church."
Imagine the look at these hateful Republican faces when this time, instead of Jesus Christ, God sends Jeannie Christine.
The Republican War on Women is "fiction?"

WHAT YOU DO SPEAKS SO LOUDLY
THAT I CANNOT HEAR WHAT YOU SAY.

Addendum:  Mr. Schaefer's amendment passed, but was tabled after Trey Martinez Fischer (D) filed a legislative point of order.