Sunday, July 29, 2012

An Open Rant to Those Who Insist on Conflating Both Parties as the Same

Democrats are imperfect; no one ever said their weren't. In fact, is there a single party or organization or individual that you know of that is perfect? That meets your standards of ideological purity and orthodoxy without fail? ANYONE? Hands? And yes, NDAA, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, and drones--not good, and I am against them all. But to conflate the two based on these issues is really an act of aggressive cognitive dissonance. Because I don't know if you've noticed, but the Tea Party is slowly taking over. They're winning primaries. They've taken over the House of Representatives and they've got the Senate in their sights. And they're not completely batshit insane. The tea party elected a NAZI white supremacist in Pennsylvania. Their House leader, Michele Bachmann, thinks there's a muslim conspiracy in the State Department. Their last vice president candidate thinks that seeing Russia from her "doorstep" counts as foreign policy experience. They voted to eliminate critical thinking from education in Texas. Rush Limbaugh--an openly racist pig who thought it was amazing that Ice-T knows what the word "tyranny" means--is their moral compass. They are taking--state by state--the basic reproductive rights away from women and are defunding healthcare for women and eliminating funding for programs for children. They are systematically disenfranchising people from voting in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio through bullshit voter ID laws that are, ironically enough, *are* in fact, voter fraud. The GOP leaders in Pennsylvania admitted the other day that the voter ID laws there are simply intended to get Romney elected. Based on your logic, there's no difference between Bernie Sanders and Mitch McConnell. REALLY?  If the plan for those who hate both parties to send the country to the next ring down of hell by letting the rightists take over the country completely, then you're well on your way. But good luck if any of you or your family members gets kicked off of your health insurance, then develops a illness and gets turned down. Obamacare prevents that. Oh, and your granny didn't fill out the application correctly? Oops, too friggin' bad, no health insurance for you. And oops, you and girlfriend got pregnant in Arizona? Too bad! Jan Brewer doesn't care and neither do any of the War on Women rightists.  

So, yeah, go read another Chris Hedges article, mkay? Because even though I agree that the left in this country is far from where it needs to be, there's real work and real legislation and real policy that affects real lives at stake--especially, but not only, if you're a) a woman, b) poor, c) without healthcare, d) without a job. But hey, it's easier just to ignore the details and conflate everything down to a few issues...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi on Guns and Conflict Resolution

Quote: Youtube Interview
Data: Source
Words of wisdom from the East.

Aung San Suu Kyi entered politics to work for democratization in her native Burma in the 1980s and founded the National League for Democracy in September 1988. She was placed under house arrest on July 1989 where she remained--for 15 of the next 21 years--until she was released in November 2010 after intense international pressure. She is influenced by both Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence and by Buddhism, in general. In july 2012, she attended the Parliament for the first time as an elected lawmaker. The Nobel Laureate is a symbol of resilience and decency to millions around the world. Learn more about her here.

What amazes me is that her struggle--she is a freedom fighter in the truest, most noble sense of that word--is not that well known in the United States. In fact, before she took office as a member of Parliament, she gave an address not to the United States Congress, but to the Parliament in the United Kingdom. (She did testify before a House Committee via remote video once, however). She was also the first woman who was not the Queen to address both Houses of Parliament.

According to The Guardian last month:
In a historic speech within the 11th-century walls of Westminster Hall, Aung San Suu Kyi has implored Britain and "the world beyond" to reach out to help Burma at "the moment of our greatest need." 
The Burmese pro-democracy leader, the first woman apart from the Queen to address both houses of parliament, appealed for practical help to support reforms to bring "better lives, greater opportunities, to the people of Burma who have been for so long deprived of their rights to their place in the world". 
The Nobel laureate received a standing ovation for her 30-minute address, an honour previously accorded only to the French president Charles de Gaulle, the South African president Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Pope Benedict XVI and the Queen.
During a day that was to prove the climax of her first UK visit in 24 years, politicians competed in laudatory praise of the Lady, as she is known, as she met parliamentarians, and royalty. 
David Cameron saluted "Daw Suu" as a "symbol of courage". The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, introduced her as "a leader and a stateswoman", the "conscience of a country" and a "heroine for humanity".

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

So, if there's been no evidence of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, why have republicans passed Voter ID laws?

In Pennsylvania, a new law requires voters to present photo ID, whereas previously they simply needed to offer a utility bill or bank statement with their name and address on it. So, the republican controlled state must have had a reason to do this, right? Um, not right. According to the International Business Times there's no evidence of voter fraud at all in the Keystone State:

In response to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, Pennsylvania acknowledged that there has been no evidence of voter fraud. 
There "have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania, and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states," a stipulation agreement signed by the state said.
So, why the voter ID if there's no evidence of fraud in the state? One GOP Leader has the honest answer. At a Republican State Committee meeting, Mike Turzai told his clappy audience truth about why Republicans are so insistent on voter identification efforts:
Source: Think Progress
Apparently Pennsylvanians aren't having any of it. According to TribLive:
Rally in Harrisburg PA
Source: TribLive
Supporters and opponents of Pennsylvania’s voter ID law agree on one thing: Politics drive the battle over whether to keep the law that heads to court on Wednesday.
Opponents rallied at the Capitol on Tuesday, saying the Republican-controlled Legislature approved Act 18 to suppress voting in the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia and keep President Obama from carrying the state in the November election. 
Several speakers pointed to a June 23 comment by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai of Bradford Woods to the Republican State Committee: “Voter ID, which is going to allow Gov. (Mitt) Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania — done.”
“Mike Turzai confirmed it,” said Rep. Ron Waters, D-Philadelphia, chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. 
But Allegheny County Republican Committee Chairman Jim Roddey called a U.S. Justice Department investigation of Pennsylvania’s law “an attempt by the Obama White House to get voter ID overturned.”

What's going on here??
Everyone knows what's going on here. Republicans are clearly trying, state by state, to tip the scales in their favor come election day. And in addition to voter roll purges, republican officials are attempting to use voter ID laws to eliminate  peoples' eligibility. Voter fraud is not something that has been a major problem in many years, and recent elections are no exception. So why are they doing this now? International Business Times explains:
Legislatures across the country, nearly all of them controlled by Republicans, have passed laws that require voter ID, roll back early voting and impose new limits on voter registration. Sponsors of the laws say they are trying to ensure elections are legitimate, but opponents warn that minority, elderly and low-income voters will face unwarranted obstacles en route to the voting booth. 
Critics of voter ID laws note that minorities and elderly voters are disproportionately likely to lack photo identification, raising fears that members of traditionally Democratic-leaning constituencies will be turned away on Election Day.
Pennsylvania is typically one of a handful of heavily contested states on which presidential elections pivot, so the stakes are high. The Republican majority leader of Pennsylvania's House of Representatives gave ammunition to the voter ID law's critics, when he suggested that it could help presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney win the state. 
Obama Administration Acts. The Obama administration has sent a a letter to Pennsylvania's top election official, Thomas Perez, invoking a provision in the Voting Rights Act that bars racial discrimination in voting laws to request more information about the state's voter ID law. The Obama campaign is going after Ohio for similar infractions.

Unless you've been consciously ignoring the news--or just watching the mainstream news, or reading the mainstream news, basically news--you might not know about the Tea Party republican's efforts to disenfranchise voters. And by that I mean prevent voters from voting at all, because they don't have the proper "ID." Republicans say this is essential to prevent voter fraud. But voter fraud isn't a problem in this country at all. I take that back. It IS a problem, but not from voters who commit fraud, but from elected Tea Partiers who are disenfranchising them, because most of the voters who are being targeted are likely to vote democratic. More on this in a moment.

Back-Story: Voter Purge in Florida Florida: Home of the Big Win for Bush in 2000. It's well known American history that the fate of the election in 2000 hinged on the outcome in Florida. Back then, Katherine Harris was Secretary of State and Jeb Bush, George Bush's brother, was Governor. And between the two of them, they successfully eliminated thousands of eligible voters from Florida's voting rolls. Gore lost by less than 600 votes. In one front of this "war on voters," Florida's Tea Party, Governor Rick Scott, has tried to "purge" voter rolls of "unqualified" or "fraudulent" voters. He was unsuccessful, as the county election supervisors refused to do this on several grounds, including illegality, faulty and inaccurate data, and the fact that they'd already done this the year before (they do it on odd, non-election years). One election supervisor in Florida--all of whom are against Rick Scott on the issue--stated that "you're more likely to get hit by lightning that to find a case of voting fraud in Florida." The Obama administration has rightly warned them against this practice, and is concerned that Rick Scott is trying to undermine the Voting Rights Act.You can read the specifics about it HERE.

Find out Even More
Voting is the purest expression of our fundamental, democratic right. The insane--and ironically named--"right" clearly don't get this. (Or, if they do, they simply don't care.)  The map below from the ACLU outlines the states where voter suppression measures have been or are being considered. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

List of Republicans Rebuking Bachmann Grows

Michele Bachmann, head of the House of Representatives Tea Party Caucus, is has accused Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's top aide, Huma Abedin, of having ties to the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood. Just another day in the life of professional crazy politician Michelle "Joe McCarthy" Bachmann. Her meritless accusations on Abedin (who is married to a Jewish former member of congress from New York City--all part of the plan, see!?) have recently come under attack by....fellow republicans?

Republican Senator and former Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain took to the Senate Floor to defend Abedin, whom he knows personally, and rebuked Bachmann for making scurrilous, unfounded attacks on this high-level aide. As McCain stated:
"These allegations about Huma and the report from which they are drawn are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant...The letter alleges that three members of Huma’s family are 'connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations. Never mind that one of those individuals, Huma’s father, passed away two decades ago. The letter and the report offer not one instance of an action, a decision or a public position that Huma has taken while at the State Department that would lend credence to the charge that she is promoting anti-American activities within our government. 
These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit," McCain added. "And they need to stop now."

Bachmann got her "evidence" from the extreme-right Center for Security Policy, which is run by Frank Gaffney.
Yesterday, Think Progress uncovered another republican who refuted Bachmann's claims as baseless, conservative member of Congress Sensenbrenner, from Wisconsin:
During a town hall held by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) on Sunday, a constituent lauded Bachmann’s anti-Muslim witchhunt about a supposed Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. government and called on her congressman to support her efforts. Sensenbrenner instead used the opportunity not only to defend Abedin, but to advocate for the larger notion of religious pluralism in America and a separation between church and state. 
SENSENBRENNER: Let me say that I do know Huma Abedin and I think that the comments that were made about her in that letter, whether or not they were taken out of context, were the wrong thing to do… I think the Constitution in saying that there shall never be a religious test for any office of trust and profit under the United States meant that people should not be judged on the basis of their religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs. That was Thomas Jefferson that put that in the Constitution — I think he was right. 
Video of Sensenbrenner rejoinder to constituent at townhall meeting:

Other republican members of Congress have weighed in as well. From Politico:
And Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, was described by several sources as incredibly angry when he heard of the incident.
The Republican backlash against Bachmann started with Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) statement on the Senate floor Wednesday, saying she had made “sinister accusations.” 
Rep. Jeff Flake, a conservative Arizona lawmaker running for Senate, tweeted “Kudos to @SenJohnMcCain for his statement on Senate floor yesterday defending Clinton aide. Well said.” 
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) added: “Rep. Bachmann’s accusations about Sec. Clinton aide Huma Abedin are out-of-line. This kind of rhetoric has no place in our public discourse.”
This can't possibly help the credibility of the already not popular House leadership, whose popularity ratings remain at a historically low of 16%
Boehner declined to entertain a reporter’s question about whether he would toss Bachmann off the Intelligence Committee, where she’s privy to highly classified information. Behind the scenes, leadership aides said they were shaken by the comments from someone as prominent as Bachmann.

People for the American Way have started a petition to remove Bachmann from the House Intelligence Committee (an oxymoron if ever there was one. Sign the petition here.  

People For the American Way is calling on House Speaker John Boehner to remove Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and two other members from their seats on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence after a series of irresponsible allegations against U.S. government employees. 
Intelligence Committee members Bachmann, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland and Rep. Thomas Rooney were among the five Republican representatives to sign a letter to federal agencies baselessly alleging that a number of public servants, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin, have ties to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. The letter relied largely on phony information peddled by anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

People are Patriots--not Parties...

John is a firefighter and a patriot. But unlike the people who run the republican party these days, he doesn't go on and on about it. And he doesn't buy into fear mongering, either; he just quietly does the work that makes this country great. Oh, and he's a democrat.

Don't believe that the right wing thinks this way? Check out this quote from Mitt Romney:

"[Obama] says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.” ~ Mitt Romney 

And just in case you enjoy Mr. Tea Party himself, Rush Limbaugh, here's what he thinks of everyday American heroes

"teaching jobs, firemen, policemen — they are all paid for with money out of the private sector. They are paid for with tax revenue from citizens. They cut into the amount of money left for private sector. They don’t grow the number of private sector jobs, they reduce them." ~ Rush Limbaugh

So, for any folks who want to rumble over this, please do your homework to find out where the republican party stands. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why are Americans Okay with the Equivalent of a 9/11 Every Six Weeks?

Gun Violence Source:
One definition of madness is to repeat the same thing over and over and expect a different result. If that's true, then our inability to regulate guns in this country is barking mad crazy. Every time someone gets shot--Trayvon Martin in Florida, Gabby Giffords in Arizona, the High Schoolers in Columbine, and now movie goers in Aurora--there is understandable outrage and...nothing. Nothing really changes and the statistics are clear: Tens of thousands of Americans are killed in this country every year from gunshot wounds. And guns are at the heart of the problem. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:
  • An estimated 41% of gun-related homicides and 94% of gun-related suicides would not occur under the same circumstances had no guns been present (Wiebe, p. 780).
  • Keeping a firearm in the home increases the risk of suicide by a factor of 3 to 5 and increases the risk of suicide with a firearm by a factor of 17 (Kellermann, 1992, p. 467; Wiebe, p. 771).
  • Keeping a firearm in the home increases the risk of homicide by a factor of 3 (Kellermann, 1993, p. 1084).
We're from the NRA and we're here to make you safe. Fear is what fuels the NRA. Fear that big government will somehow abrogate your second amendment rights; fear that the Muslims are coming to institute Sharia law; and fear of the other, like those who are simply different from you. The NRA prays on that fear, and uses it to ensure that gun regulations aren't put in place. But they hide behind a smokescreen The argument from the NRA members is that guns make us safer.  NRA head, Wayne LaPierre has said as much:
"I wouldn't stand before you today if I didn't believe, and I couldn't prove, that our common-sense policies can have a more immediate impact on violence, and make more citizens safer, than anything that anyone else is proposing." 
Sure. Right. I trust Wayne. If this is safe, I'd hate to see what being truly in danger looks like. The truth is that we have the highest gun mortality rates in the "civilized" western world by (depending on your definition of "western," the rate of deaths in the US range anywhere from 10x to 20x those of our decidedly more civilized neighbors). Americans are being terrorized by...Americans. At this point, it's pretty clear that the biggest threat to our well-being isn't from "foreigners" or "extremist Muslims," it's from us, right here in the good 'ol US. And somehow, for some reason, we're okay with it. The number of people killed every six weeks in this country is the rough equivalent to the number of people killed in 9/11. Let that sink in for a moment: Every six weeks there is another 9/11 in body-count from gun violence here in the United States. So, why not regulate guns better? In fact, the Constitution specifically calls for that (as Homer Simpson might say, "Stupid socialist founding fathers"). 
Another in a never-ending series. The latest massacre in Aurora is just that, sadly--the latest. It will happen again, in another state. Or perhaps in Colorado itself. Years after the Columbine  massacre (Aurora is just a short drive from the scene of carnage that spawned a Michael Moore documentary), not much has changed in terms of gun control. According to the New York Times:
“The guy basically had normal guns,” said Eugene Volokh, an expert in constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles. Unless some new evidence of documented psychiatric disturbance emerges, Mr. Volokh added, “there’s no indication that, from his record, he is someone whom more restrictive screening procedures would have caught.”
Despite the changes over the past 13 years, Colorado law still prohibits local governments from restricting gun rights in several significant ways. Moreover, gun rights organizations have successfully fought other efforts to restrict access to guns, including blocking a University of Colorado rule prohibiting concealed weapons on campus.
But hey, it's okay to buy 6,000 rounds of ammo because, you know, you never know when you'll need it to fend off a British invasion.
Quote: ABC News
Eagle/NRA Graphic: NRA Web Site
Do something now. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is asking people to sign a petition to demand that Congress address the problem of availability of guns by ensuring that convicted felons and those convicted of domestic abuse, terrorists, and the dangerous mentally ill not have access to guns. Check out the petition here.
Do something in November. Until people hold their representatives accountable for lax gun laws (and their president too, for that matter), nothing will change. If we continue to elect republicans (and conservative democrats) and their more virulent strain, tea party members, to office, nothing will change. And unless our gun fetish and cowing to the right-wing in this country abates, we'll continue to be periodically sickened and surprised by preventable, real-life horror movies like the one in Aurora. And that? That truly is the definition of madness.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Priorities and the New Republitarians

First, what the strict constitutionalists and nouveau republitarians don't understand is that it's not about right and left, it's about exalting the individual vs. the common weal, and ultimately, it's about deciding how to use and distribute resources. Second, if today's Tea Party republicans had been in charge in the 1960s, we might not have the Internet today, which was based on government packet switching research? Wasteful socialism.

Just Impeachy! The Tea Party Rally 
in April 2009 in Hartford, CT
The neo conservatives in this country--currently represented by the hard right wing of the Tea Party--believe in a pure market capitalist system where government is diminished (and in some cases, eliminated altogether). What's ironic about this (and the right really was never all that big on the whole irony thing), is that deregulation and zero oversight is what led to the meltdown of 2008 in the first place. As Paul Krugman, that liberal pinata for the right wrote so eloquently today:
"What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens. 
Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families."
But ultimately, it's about choices and priorities. Some countries believe in the greater good over the needs of the individual. Countries like Finland, for example. 

Finland: A Successful Capitalist Country
that Chose its Priorities: Housing as a Basic Right.
In Finland, they Decided to Eliminate Homelessness. That was a prioritized policy decision: it wasn't wild eyed marxism, it was a choice. They're a capitalist society. They're successful. People aren't lazy and haven't been destroyed by intrusive government. They made a choice and it appears to be working for them. Unlike the rightists in this country, who exalt the individual over the greater good, many countries support their populations. They don't call them entitlements--that's an American construct. Finland? They strive mightily to ensure that their people--whoever they are--have shelter. Are they run by marxists denying freedoms? Um, no, they're very economically successful. They are however, one of the most educated countries on the planet. (source: the liberal rag WSJ).  According to the European Federation of National Organizations Working with the Homeless:

Perhaps the most concerted and successful effort to deal with homelessness is in Finland where, after the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless in 1987, the Government devised a multifaceted response to the problem. It included building of social housing, the creation of social welfare and health care services, and setting a target to provide a dwelling of minimum standards for every homeless person. The number of single homeless persons at that time was approximately 18 000. In just 10 years, the number of homeless in Finland was cut in half.

But the Finnish must be miserable, right? Wrong. They're consistently some of the happiest people on the planet, according to the international "happiness index." They just defined what is a basic right and applied that definition to public policy.

Shock and Awe: A Collective Decision to March to Madness
 to the tune of $1 Trillion and Countless Lives Lost
In the United States, we Make Choices Too! (Just not very Good Ones.) Other countries, are less united about social policies and their national priorities. So, political right leaders United States, believe that all people start at the same point, and if you're unemployed or otherwise struggling, that it must be a personal defect. The left disagrees with this.

Instead of focusing on social programs, we focused on fear of the non-existent variety. We decided, for example, to invade a country that didn't attack us based on lies and insidious fear mongering. It cost the country $1 trillion dollars (half of the national debt from WWII to 1980), tens of thousands of lives, and pariah status in much of the world.

Opportunity Cost? We don't need no Stinkin' Opportunity Cost. The Iraq war was our choice as a country. We could have spent that money on improving education, or to provide housing, or to make healthcare more affordable, but no. Instead? We went to war based on lies and allowed its architects not only to remain free, but to make lots of money. What I don't understand is where the outrage was while the Bush administration was destroying the country. The end of the Bush administration saw the rise of the Tea Party which was, at the outset, mostly an anti-Government, anti-Obama movement--in spite of protestations to the contrary. 

Like the Interwebs? Who doesn't? But remember
it's brought to you by Gummint Socialistics!
Government Off our Backs? Okay, Shut Off the Computer, Please. The free market isn't the end all solution, and in fact, it's precisely because of an unfettered free market and a decided lack of limits on Wall Street that the economy melted down in the first place. Who is responsible for that?

As for those who revile the evils of interventionist government I say... 

...If you don't speak German as a native language, ach! It's the result of government intervention that took over the economy and helped save the world from fascism. If Ron Paul had been president, our national anthem would probably be "Deutschland Uber Alles.

...if you drive a car on the highway, please stop doing that! It's the result of socialist government intervention!

...If you are using the Internet, please stop now! DARPA, a federally funded entity, invented it and that's socialism that you're supporting--cease and desist!

...if your parents or grandparents get a social security check--go quickly, and take it away from them! That's socialism!! Those people are bloodsuckers!!

Project Steve: Scientists Named Steve who Acknowledge Evolution!

For all the crazy, anti-evolution, fact-free "intelligent designers" out there, the professional geeks who support rationality have a quietly amusing rejoinder:

As of 7.11.2011, over 1,100 scientists named Steve support the theory of evolution. Here's a summary by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) about the project.

NCSE's "Project Steve" is a tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of "scientists who doubt evolution" or "scientists who dissent from Darwinism."
Creationists draw up these lists to try to convince the public that evolution is somehow being rejected by scientists, that it is a "theory in crisis." Not everyone realizes that this claim is unfounded. NCSE has been asked numerous times to compile a list of thousands of scientists affirming the validity of the theory of evolution. Although we easily could have done so, we have resisted. We did not wish to mislead the public into thinking that scientific issues are decided by who has the longer list of scientists!
Project Steve pokes fun at this practice and, because "Steves" are only about 1% of scientists, it also makes the point that tens of thousands of scientists support evolution. And it honors the late Stephen Jay Gould, evolutionary biologist, NCSE supporter, and friend.
Here's the statement that the Scientists Named Steve (SNS) have supported that sums it up quite nicely:
Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Chart Explodes Myth that Lower Taxes Lead to Growth

The thing about lies and myths in politics? If you repeat them enough times, people start to believe them. So, when the right wing says over and over that more tax cuts are needed to fuel the economy, and the media doesn't call them on it (mainstream media), people believe it's true. And unless enough people on TV and online explain that it's NOT true (Paul Krugman, Robert Reich), it remains an accepted "fact" of modern life. But here's the thing about that specific assertion: it's not true. In fact--whaddya know--just the opposite is true! From World War II on, tax rates have steadily fallen--and so has GDP growth, over time. Today, tax rates are the lowest they've been in 30 years, yet the economy remains sluggish, and unemployment is high. There are obviously other factors at work, but lower taxes DO NOT lead to more growth. As Marketplace's Kai Ryssdahl would say, "Let's do the numbers." 

Insane in the Email Chain: Do you have relatives or friends who constantly forward rightwing propaganda?

If Archie Bunker existed in the Internet age, he'd be forwarding right-wing crazy nonstop.
Unfortunately, his modern day equivalents are doing him proud.
Do you have crazy rightist family members or friends? Are you the recipient of your uncle's or mom's weekly online chain email campaigns that accuse Obama of giving up our sovereignty to the UN or that he is secretly stealing our weapons and giving them to terrorists? I know I am, and bless their hearts: They don't know how to find a file that they downloaded, but they sure as hell know where the "Forward" button is in Outlook or Gmail. Here, then, is your one-stop resource for derailing the right-wing nutjob crazy train! It's called Viral Spiral at and it takes apart the lies that pass for polemic on the right these days. Check it out Viral Spiral here.

Some embarrassing examples below. Good lord, no wonder we have to work twice as hard as the other guys...

Does the Obama administration intend to “force gun control and a complete ban on all weapons for U.S. citizens” through a United Nations treaty?

No. The administration plans to negotiate a treaty to regulate the international export and import of weapons. It says that it won’t support any treaty that regulates the domestic transfer or ownership of weapons, or that infringes on the Second Amendment.
June 27, 2012

Did President Obama secretly sign a law that makes it a crime to protest against him or ask him a question he doesn’t like?
No. He openly announced the signing of a bill overwhelmingly passed by Congress that slightly revises a 1971 law against trespassing into areas under Secret Service protection.
May 7, 2012

Is “Obama’s finance team” recommending a 1 percent tax on all bank transactions, as a chain e-mail claims?
No. This idea was first floated in 2004 by one House member, who says it would replace the federal income tax and eliminate the national debt. So far it has gone nowhere.
Sept. 8, 2010; Updated: June 5, 2012

Does Obama plan to deny emergency brain surgery for patients over 70?
No. A man claiming on a radio talk show to be a brain surgeon lied about that, and about a meeting of two associations of neurological surgeons, those associations say.
Jan. 5, 2012

Return fire! So, load up your copy and paste gun, and return email fire at your nutcase friends and relatives who, rather than do the "hard work" of actually reading details of policy and sorting innuendo from fact, prefer outrageous pre-fab claims to undermine the president.

~ Groobiecat

PS. The following fear-mongering nonsense landed in my inbox the other day and it occurred to me that someone--other than do something about this. Turns out, someone has. Here's how it works: scare the shit out of older people that Obama is coming for 'em! The republican party blog actually stokes these flames, and you can check that here.

Something we were not aware of. Makes you wonder what else is buried in the "Health Care Bill"  
Subject: Home Sales Tax

When does your home become part of your health care? After 2012!

Your vote counts big time in 2012, make sure you and all your friends and family know about this!

Fred A. Mullis

I thought you might find this interesting, -- maybe even SICKENING!
The National Association of Realtors is all over this and working to get it repealed, -- before it takes effect. But, I am very pleased we aren't the only ones who know about this ploy to steal billions from unsuspecting homeowners. How many realtors do you think will vote Democratic in 2012?
Did you know that if you sell your house after 2012 you will pay a 3.8% sales tax on it? That's $3,800 on a $100,000 home, etc. When did this happen? It's in the health care bill, -- and it goes into effect in 2013. Why 2013? Could it be so that it doesn't come to light until after the 2012 elections? So, this is change you can believe in?

Under the new health care bill all real estate transactions will be subject to a 3.8% sales tax.

If you sell a $400,000 home, there will be a $15,200 tax. This bill is set to screw the retiring generation, -- who often downsize their homes. Does this make your November, 2012 vote more important?
Oh, you weren't aware that this was in the ObamaCare bill? Guess what; you aren't alone! There are more than a few members of Congress that weren't aware of it either.
You can check this out for yourself at:
hope you forward this to every single person in your address book. VOTERS NEED TO KNOW.
The truth about both knuckleheaded fear-mongering lies here:

Is the National Association of Realtors lobbying to repeal a 3.8 percent “sales tax” on homes before it takes effect in 2013?
No. There’s no such “sales tax” in the new health care law. And Medicare premiums aren’t going to $247 either. But these virulent falsehoods keep going around.
April 30, 2012
Does the new health care law impose a 3.8 percent tax on profits from selling your home?
No, with very few exceptions. The first $250,000 in profit from the sale of a personal residence won’t be taxed, or the first $500,000 in the case of a married couple. The tax falls on relatively few — those with high incomes from other sources.
April 22, 2010

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What is it about far right republican women and their hatred of...


In the ongoing war on women, the Tea Party Governor, Nikki Haley, of South Carolina, recently agreed to cut funding for rape crisis centers. According to
Late last week, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) vetoed nearly half a million dollars that was slated to go toward domestic violence and sexual assault prevention.  Haley defended her decision to veto by saying that rape and sexual assault prevention programs “distract from” the Department of Health’s mission, and that sexual assault victims are “only a small portion” of South Carolinians who need help: 
Each of these lines attempts to serve a portion of our population for which we extend our sympathy and encouragement, but nevertheless, it is only a small portion of South Carolina’s chronically ill or abused. Overall, these special add-on lines distract from the agency’s broader mission of protecting South Carolina’s public health.
" is only a small portion of South Carolina’s chronically ill or abused. Overall, these special add-on lines distract from the agency’s broader mission of protecting South Carolina’s public health." ~ Tea Party Governor Nikki Haley

This reminded me of another Tea Party republican woman, Sara Palin. When she was mayor of Wasilla, AK, her town charged for rape kits, which back then cost between $300 and $1200. As Think Progress explains:
...charging sexual assault victims for their rape kits (which cost $300 to $1,200 at the time) is exactly what happened while [Palin] was mayor of Wasilla. In a budget-cutting move, Palin’s administration began charging rape victims for exams and the kits containing the medical supplies. (Her signature is on the budget.) USA Today reported: 
It is not known how many rape victims in Wasilla were required to pay for some or all of the medical exams, but a legislative staffer who worked on the bill for [state legislator Eric] Croft said it happened. “It was more than a couple of cases, and it was standard practice in Wasilla,” Peggy Wilcox said, who now works for the Alaska Public Employees Association. “If you were raped in Wasilla, this was going to happen to you.”.
The practice of charging rape victims got the attention of state lawmakers in 2000, who passed a bill to stop the practice. 

The more I become familiar with everything the far right does, the more I realize that we have to continue to work to ensure that they don't have access to the levers of power. They hate government, so why would we think they would be good at running it? Think about it: Why hire someone for a job in a company that they hate?

Sadly, this is nothing new, really. From the Idaho republican state senator who insisted that women only claim to be raped because they want a free abortion, to an emergency room hospital in Oklahoma that denies raped women emergency contraception based on their "beliefs." Women need to gather their forces and ensure that people like Nikki Haley and Sarah Palin don't have access to policy-making tools or machinery. Period. End of story.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Why religion is important to the progressive cause...

Our churches and temples have been the fountain, the rock, the mother source of our movement from the very beginning. Progressives of faith have always played a central role in our political victories in the past. It's time to stop imagining that somehow, we're going to take the country back without them now. Alternet Editor, Sara Robinson

I'm an atheist, but believe that the teachings of Christ coincide very closely to my own when it comes to helping the poor; the sick; the most vulnerable in society. I have been saying that the left should point out the contradictions promulgated by the right and their "Christian" beliefs with memes, such as the one at the end of this post.  Alternet codified it in a post today on six reasons why the religious are natural allies of the left, quoted in italics and with comments by yours truly:

A community of like-minded people, bound by similar beliefs that bridges many divides
1. there's nothing like it if you want to bond a bunch of very diverse people into a tight community of shared meaning and value.  A religious congregation brings together people of all ages, backgrounds, educational levels, professional rank, and life circumstances, and melds them into an enduring tribe that's centered around a shared commitment to mutual trust and care, and (most importantly) has a clear and vivid shared vision of the future they're trying to create. 
Helping the most vulnerable, the poor, the sick, focusing on love and building peace--these are the key tenets of Jesus Christ's teaching, and they are shared by the progressive left and the christian communities in this country. They're SHARED beliefs, and we should build communities that SHARE these beliefs to further them, not only for this election, but for all elections going forward...

Religious narratives
2. religious narratives center people in the long arc of history, telling them where they came from, who they are, what they are capable of, and what kind of future is possible. History does this, too; but religion does it at a deeper, mythic level that gives these stories extra emotional and cognitive resonance. 
A sense of shared destiny and ability to build our future--together--makes sense in including the religious. To digress a bit, I admit that I used to poke fun at religious people and their lack of syllogistic reasoning, but I think this is because the far right hijacked their narrative. A Christian friend of mine said recently, "I think a lot of Christians are appalled by what's happened to their religious beliefs and how they've been taken over by the republican party. However, I think a lot of them are afraid to speak out against extremists who say that they speak for them." We need to draw on our shared interests and help them find their voice.

Inculcating values into our young
3 over the course of American history, liberal religious faiths have been the primary promoter of progressive values throughout the culture -- and also the leading institution when it came time to inculcate our progressive sensibilities into the next generation. Many, if not most, progressives in America are progressive specifically because they believe that this is what their faith demands of them. 
I've said many times that if he were alive today, the teachings of Christ would be considered socialistic, anti-American in the eyes of the so-called faithful of the far right. This schism--and hypocrisy--must be pointed out to the young people in this country who are disaffected by all parties. Policy is important, and the policies of those who believe in Paul Ryan budget cuts for programs to the poor and Mitt Romney "Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that" promises need to know that this is not "What Jesus Would Do."

There is no market machinery for doing good when faith guides your humanity
4. progressive religion has always been America's most credible and aggressive front-line defender of non-market-based values against the onslaught of capitalism and greed. In recent years, as the “free-market” fetishists took over (and gulled American Evangelicals into shilling for their hellish utilitarianism), our liberal faith communities -- mainline Protestants and liberal Catholics, Jews and Quakers, Unitarian Universalists and the rising wave of reformist Muslims -- are the strongest remaining cultural forces left with the moral authority to insist that we have a duty to the poor, that democracy cannot survive without a commitment to justice, and that compassion is always a better survival strategy than competition. 
This is absolutely critical: the republicans have evolved into some sort of libertarian hybrid--republitarians--in which they have, bizarrely, "stolen" christianity as their own, while adhering increasingly to the tenets of the atheistic and anti-charity, hyper selfish views of Ayn Rand. Truly an unholy breed of republican that repulses many lefty christians. (For more, see Nuns on the Bus, activist nuns who traveled the country to protest the Paul Ryan budget against that targets the poor;  The Christian Left on Facebook, with over 80,000 followers.) 

The vast majority of the people in the United States believe in God
5. in a nation where over 90% of everybody has some kind of God-belief -- and the overwhelming majority of them ground their political decisions in that belief -- abandoning the entire landscape of faith to the right wing amounts to political malpractice. 
If we're truly a representative democracy, we need to align and coordinate with, the majority, not just atheistic syllogistic thinkers. We must also point out, early and often, how Jesus' views actually align with the views of those on the left--not with the views of this latest, most virulently selfish form of conservatives: republitarianism.

Inherent community building
6. progressive faiths, across the board, promote the essential belief that human communities are, in themselves, inherently and intrinsically sacred. 
This is key for the left, which is currently balkanized and splintered--many of whom care less about policy details than about having been "deceived" by Obama's center left foreign and defense policies.

What are your thoughts? Do you know of any Christian progressive organizations on Facebook or elsewhere? Please share in the comments. Thanks for reading.