Wednesday, July 30, 2014

U.S. Military Spending Abroad Must Be Brought Under Control

Slide Grab from The Daily Show (July 28, 2014) Segment is Here

The Slide Explains Itself

Over $18 Billion has been provided to the following ME countries. FYI: we spent $166 Billion in the ME and Africa in 2012 alone.

  1. $1.3 Billion to Egypt: (e.g., F-16, Abrams tanks, Apache helicopters).
  2. $6.8 Billion to Saudi Arabia (including bunker busters bombs).
  3. $4 Billion to the UAE.
  4. $2.1 Billion to Oman.
  5. $4.2 Billion to Kuwait.
That totals: $18.4 Billion.

Plus, to Iraq, where we were for 8 years and spent $2 Trillion, we still spend untold billions in equipment and supplies (weapons, ammo, etc.) that ironically a lot of that is now in the hands the ISIS (the former al-Qaeda splinter bloodthirsty radical group who is now on the verge of taking total control of Iraq).

And, of course, we are still in Afghanistan. 

Ironically re: Qatar. They returned a favor to us and bought $11 Billion in U.S. military hardware from various sources and then as noted in several sources and over the years and noted below) provided $100 million to various Taliban-linked sources.

Finally, U.S. aid to our closest ally, Israel, totals some $3 Billion annually and comes in various kinds of hardware.  

Qatar aids Al-Qaeda and Hamas in Gaza

December 2, 2013

In order to obtain “billions of dollars” from Qatar, Hamas has agreed to ease restrictions in Gaza on its rival Al Qaeda.  Dozens of Al Qaeda fighters have already been released from prison by Hamas officials to meet Doha’s demands. Qatar is probably emboldened by the influence and traction it has gained by backing Islamist fighters in Mali, Syria, and the Arab Spring countries.  Its monarchy senses that this is the perfect time to expand their influence in the Palestinian territories where old guard terrorist groups are short on cash.  Judging by the relative lack of media coverage of this development, they’re getting away with it.

Source World Tribune

The $64,000 question: Is all that money, aid, equipment, arms, and munitions working to get peace in that region? Short answer: Nope.

Image even half of that money put to use here at home in American cities, for our roads, bridges, schools, and other societal needs.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Savvy & Petty GOP: Push Impeachment and Blame DEMS for Pushing

So, is the GOP the Squirrel or the Nut???

I have to admit and give the GOP lots of credit on this one for so damn slick and clever, yet continually nasty and ugly with their awful stunts at political grandstanding. 

The latest GOP stunt: They are trying to turn the tables on the DEMS by making it look like the DEMS are the ones taking the lead and the ones to be held responsible for the GOP placing the impeachment noose around Mr. Obama's neck.

Of course, that strategy position was presented on FOX news Sunday. So, surprise, surprise, surprise!!!

The third ranking Republican official in the House refused to rule out a drive to impeach President Obama during an interview with Fox News Sunday and Chris Wallace:

Part of the show (about 9 minutes) of the exchange between GOP Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Chris Wallace can be seen below (on Youtube) – with parts of the transcript following.

Wallace: “Will you consider impeaching the president?”

Scalise:This might be the first White House in history that’s trying to start the narrative of impeaching their own president. Ultimately, what we want to do is see the president follow the laws. But the president took an oath to faithfully execute the laws of this land, and he’s not. In fact, the Supreme Court, unanimously, more than 12 times, unanimously said, the president overreached, and actually did things he doesn’t have the authority to do.”

Wallace: “So if he overreaches again on executive action to defer more deportations, what will the House do?”

Scalise: “We made it clear we’re going to put options on the table to allow the House take legal action against the president when he overreaches his authority. Others have already done that, cases have gone to the Supreme Court. Like I said, more than a dozen times, the Supreme Court unanimously, I’m not talking about a 5-4 decision, nine to zero, unanimously said the president overreached. So we’re gonna continue to be a check and a balance against this administration.”

I note that Rep. Scalise in that clip comes across like most in the GOP on the FOX circuit and elsewhere. He comes across as smart, articulate, and even rational in his words and appearance. But, folks that is what pros like him do. They come across as savvy, smart, and well-connected, like a pitch man for a new product they are hawking like the Flim-flam man. 

But their nice flowery words and smiles and gestures do not come anywhere near matching the nasty, awful, ugly deeds and tactics they use and attempt to use to discredit, shame, and slam Mr. Obama and for what reason? Simple: Political gain to get the black guy out of what they perceive as their “White House.” That is painfully obvious to me and millions of Americans.

The lame excuse of the President overreaching his authority. Give me a break. Wait, ah yes, that word: Overreaching his duties as the Chief Executive of the United States and for doing what? Yeah, doing his job. All the while this 7% rated Congress sits with both hands under their asses not doing their job. So, which past President never overreached on an issue they felt was important to the country? 

Wait, how about Congress not fulfilling their duty like officially declaring war. They haven’t done that since 1941, yet I can quickly name a few wars (Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq). Congress easily goes to war and ducks their sworn oath of office, but the President cannot?

Let's call this another Rick Perry oops moment and make it even shall we?

Friday, July 25, 2014

GOP Credibility on the Economy: None, Zero, Nada, Nil, Zilch, M.I.A.

It is the Economy. GOP in Full Denial

We Would If You Offered Anything Worthwhile

Very good segment follows from the ED SHOW (about 18 minutes). It captures many GOPers spouting their own words about not seeing any progress. 

It appears most of them do not trust hard facts, evidence as it were. They would rather jockey for political points on sour notes and stale opinion while blaming Mr. Obama for any success – how ironic is that?

It also seems they don't think cameras and sound equipment exit, or that people actually pay attention to what they say. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Gee Old Poops, it is the economy and boy are you guys still stuck on stupid. 

If I were any of them (and, thank goodness I am not) I'd be praising the results, but wait, how can they praise success when they have resisted nearly all of President Obama's plans and ideas and proposals about how to recover from the near total economic meltdown of 2008, especially since they have been so harsh so long about so much all the time. Short answer: The word praise is not on their vocab list.

Enjoy the segment. 

Thanks for stopping by - come again sometime.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ladies & Gentlemen: Welcome to the Pit of Hell — No Guns; No Seat

Your Choice. We've Been Expecting You
(Entrance Hell)

Our NRA Host Will Seat You and Then Enlighten You

Have we reached the utter depth of insanity about the love affair with guns and the “right to carry openly and flaunt our guns” anywhere, anytime, and for any reason? Have we reached an absolute low in America? Are the inmates in charge?

When will the majority of the public say: Enough is enough. Stop this insanity.

From this article at Media Matters: The NRA Commentator asks: “What if instead of Gun-Free Zones we had "Gun-Required Zones?”

Johnson even enlightens us with his 3-minute video presentation - get a bucket handy, you might feel the urge to retch, vomit, or hell, even puke.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Serious Religious Sicarii (L) Outbreak: Dufus Maximus Extremus

100% Correct Justice Ginsburg -- well stated

RNC Convention T-Shirt Proposal for 2016
(see how far that goes)

Women Know and the Message is Clear
(wait and see)

For Bible Experts and Zealots in Waiting
(go ahead check them out)

Hobby-Lobby opponents started saying from day-one that the 5-4 decision would spread and Justice Ginsburg said "the court stepped into a minefield."

This update takes us back in time (actually it was only two weeks ago):

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court backed companies like Hobby Lobby with religious owners who were seeking to avoid providing their employees with health insurance plans that cover contraception, as required by the Affordable Care Act. Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the high court ruled that the government had to accommodate the religious beliefs of “closely held” companies regarding contraception, a description that applies to potentially half the private sector employees in the United States.

The decision came down in the midst of a fierce argument already taking place over the appropriate breadth of religious exemptions from state and federal laws, with conservative lawmakers all over the country proposing measures that women’s and LGBT rights supporters claimed would sanction discrimination in the name of religion. Supporters of such laws will likely take the Hobby Lobby decision as a sign that the Supreme Court has their back.

The Hobby Lobby decision is already spurring changes.

The part that resonates with me is how the religious right just a few months ago (and for decades before) were always defending themselves and their religious freedom and beliefs against that nasty, evil "left/DEM/Obama" as they claim their freedoms were lost or being taken away just like their guns (which BTW still has not happened, but more "open-carry" laws have sure popped up in RED-land) as they continue to ramp up in their fight for broader religious exemptions. Hobby-Lobby proves the point and now things no longer look that simple - they are complex and I'd argue a big more dangerous.

The graphs above illustrate what I mean. I strongly believe that we have reach the edge of the cliff where insanity is about to kick us over the edge. Religious freedom absolutely, 100% — and that means for everyone, and not just for the pick and choose crowd using it as a shield or excuse or reason to discriminate that see more and more cropping up.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Right to Vote Still Under GOP Assault: Help On the Way May Help

The Battle Field Map 

The Elephant in the Room

AG Eric Holder

First this Good News Update (July 15, 2014): This update comes from here and builds on the two stories posted below.

From that story: AG Eric Holder called the right to vote “…the most basic of all our rights. I will use every power that I have and every ability I have as Attorney General to defend that right to vote.”

Earlier this year, the Ohio Republican legislature passed laws that cut six days from the early voting period and ended same-day registration, among other restrictions. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted then announced that there would be no early voting on Sundays or on week-day evenings. Here's the deal from my perspective about all this.

Suppose: A young person turns 18 on election day. Under this new rule in Ohio, they could not register to vote on the same day of the election even if it were their birthday. Then early voting and week-day evenings benefits are being cut. Those times, I suspect, benefit the working man and woman who have a hard time getting off work to vote, and who probably in most cases are hourly and blue-collar workers and who more than likely vote Democratic.

I see a pattern here in simple terms, not just in Ohio but across RED-run states. That is to make it harder to vote, more restrictive, and more of a burden, rather than easy, quick, and trouble free. 

More on this subject continues below.

The First Story: You have to love this fine lady and her story seen in the following segment. She is still fighting for her right to vote and has been ever since she first voted 70 years ago. Now she is now 93 years old and still fighting for that guaranteed right to vote (in NC).

Watch her in this fine interview ... if you want to be pissed about this bogus (pink bunny) GOP ploy to suppress or stymie the vote, this sheds light on them, light which they hate ... and the recent turn around in Ohio:

I am glad we get to see and hear her story, but at the same time, it's a crying shame that she has to relive the days she thought were and in her own words, "It's worse today than back then." If the changes we are seeing, slow but sure, will have any impact at all, we're apt to see the results this November and then again in November 2016. 

The Second Story: Good news that turned crappy.

First the Good News  (segment below from MSNBC) has some good news in the battle to overturn or completely toss harsh voter ID laws regarding voting rights.

Then this crappy news story from Media Matters to pour water on our desert tray:

Then ask yourself this question: Do GOP-RED state voter ID laws, that most of us call voter suppression laws work in the worst possible way? Short answer: Yes they do. Then imagine that Mr. Willie Mims were your father, brother, grandfather, neighbor, or hell, even you. How would you feel?

Mr. Mims, age 93, showed up to vote at his polling place in Escambia County, Alabama recently to vote in the primary election.  He is Africa-American and no longer drives or doesn't have a license, and has no other form of ID. As a result, he was turned away without being able to vote, or not even offered the chance to cast a provisional ballot as the law requires in that situation. 

Jenny McCarren of Empower Alabama, a progressive group that gave Mr. Mims a ride to the polls recounted the story for MSNBC, adding that Mr. Mims's voter file showed he has voted in every election since 2000, as far back as the records go for that area.

So, how many Alabamans lack the proper photo/ID card to vote isn't known, in part because the state made no effort to find out before the ID law. However, nationwide, most studies put the figure at around 11%, and as high as 25% for African Americans, and I would note: guess which party they mostly vote for?

Mr. Mims said in an interview, in part, that he tired to vote, could not, was turned away, got mad, and just went home and laid down and took a nap ... you gotta luv this old guy.

Got it figured out now?

Back to the original post with this from Wisconsin that comes on top of this news re: Arkansas Voter ID Law Struck Down (April 24, 2014):  An Arkansas law requiring voters to present government-approved forms of ID was struck down by a state circuit court judge today for being unconstitutional. Last April, the Arkansas legislature overrode its own governor's veto to pass the law, which still allowed voters without ID to cast a provisional vote that would only count if they were later able to provide ID to an official or demonstrate that they were too poor to obtain one. No provisions were included in the law to provide transportation for the people who were too poor to afford an ID. While student IDs from out of state schools were not considered acceptable forms of ID, concealed handgun carry licenses were.

Updated (April 18, 2014): Recent quote from President Obama in a speech:

“Americans did not stand up and did not march and did not sacrifice to gain the right to vote, for themselves and for others, only to see it denied to their kids and their grandkids.”

Background from this Update: Last year alone (2013), at least 93 restrictive voting bills were introduced in 33 states, according to a Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, which builds on an earlier wave of voter suppression laws advanced in 2011 and 2012.

The vast majority of these harsh measure were pushed by Republicans bent on making voting harder, not easier, and many of roadblocks disproportionately affect minority, low-income, seniors, and students away from home.

The most restrictive are like Texas’s voter ID law and North Carolina’s sweeping voting law. However, they are being challenged in court. But that process may not move fast enough for Democrats (where most of the voters impacted normally vote), as they prepare for several critical midterm races that could determine control of the Senate for the rest of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Two Segments in this prior update:

First Segment from Politics Nation 

Second Segment from HARDBALL 

Major update and review of this topic as well as this introduction from the article:

One of the enduring mysteries of Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion striking down part of the Voting Rights Act is which part of the Constitution the landmark civil rights law actually violated. The Chief Justice argued that the Voting Rights Act violated the “tradition of equal sovereignty” of the states.

That concept is far more dubious than it might seem at first glance, according to a legal paper published by two longtime voting rights experts: one from UC Davis (CA) and one from the Loyola Law School (Los Angeles). They say in part: (my emphasis):

"Equal sovereignty was the basis of the longstanding argument, going all the way back to the founding of the United States, between the slave states and the free states. The slave states claimed that they were equally sovereign with the other states to decide whether to have slavery or not to have slavery. The equal sovereignty doctrine that Chief Justice Roberts relied on last year is rooted in the jurisprudence of slavery."

With that in mind, ask yourself: Do you believe that there is not need to protect minority rights in voting? Do you believe that the voter ID laws in some 20 states (many have been over turned) are fair and do not hamper the right to vote? Do you believe as I do that nothing should interfere with our right to vote as long as we are eligible, qualified, and registered to vote, and that the right to vote should be easy, open, and free in order for us to choose the kind of government we want and not the kind someone tells us is the kind they want us to have. Voting is the most-fundamental of our rights – it speaks to the kind of government we want that will set the rules we all must live under. That must not be suppressed or infringed on in any way.

Please continue from here and thanks for stopping by.
Review of this subject posted July 19, 2013 follows here: A good look back in history here. The highlights: “Section 2 is a ripe target,” stated Christopher Elmendorf, a law professor at the University of California Davis. His point was dealing with a forthcoming USSC hearing on the ACA, with this concern expressed by many:

If the Roberts court were to strike down or substantially weaken Section 2, then the Voting Rights Act (VRA) would technically still exist and would retain a few historically important functions  like the ban on poll taxes and literacy tests, for instance. But, on top of the demise of Section 5, the most successful civil rights law in the nation’s history would be all but a dead letter.  “There’s no question that Section 2 and 5 together are really the heart of the law,” said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School.

What would a suspected 5-4 Roberts court do? Naturally no one knows for sure in advance, but not for their lack of trying and that is based on the recent 5-4 ruling that triggered me to start this tracking the subject on this Blog. A very good analysis of where we are and how we got here is in order.

From the same author is seen here, and the most-important aspect is this: Less than one year after Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act stymied voter suppression efforts in the 2012 election in Florida,  Texas and South Carolina, Chief Justice John Roberts in his opinion in Shelby County v. Holder (above link) heralded that the “reat strides the nation has made in combating such suppression and the fact that blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare.” But, not so rare. Even before the sun set that day, June 25th, officials in Texas and North Carolina had moved forward with restrictive voting measures that had been blocked by the federal law.
Quite frankly Andrew Cohen's two pieces are excellent sources on the topic for anyone interested in this subject, and also as frank: we should all be interested and greatly concerned. To suppress the vote, or employ anything makes voting more difficult or registration more of a burden is in a word: un-American. It is the greatest single most-important right we have: the right to vote easily and choose the kind of government we want. Apparently, 5-4 decisions like this one take away from that premise, at least in my view.

That June 25, 2013 Supreme Court (5-4) decision to roll back an important and critical part of the law, cited here in part that was overturned is reported on by NBC News and from USA TODAY this way:

The Voting Rights Act requires nine states with a history of discrimination at the polls, mostly in the South, to get approval from the Justice Department or a special panel of judges before they change their voting laws. The rule also applies to 12 cities and 57 counties elsewhere.  The law was renewed most recently in 2006, but the coverage map still uses election data from 1972 to determine who is covered. Some jurisdictions, including a county in Alabama brought the case, complained that they were being punished for the sins of many decades ago. 

Chief Justice Roberts cited census data showing that black voter turnout now exceeds white turnout in five of the six states originally covered by the law and he wrote in part: “Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

Another excellent source for information on voting and voters rights is the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. Their statement on that 5-4 ruling follows (the emphasis is mine): 

The Brennan Center for Justice released the following statement:  “The Supreme Court’s decision is at odds with recent history. The Voting Rights Act was vital in 2012, not just 1965. For nearly five decades, it has been the nation’s most effective tool to eradicate racial discrimination in voting. And it is still critical today. Last year, Section 5 helped block laws making it harder to vote. There is a path forward. Section 5 stands. Congress now has the duty to upgrade this key protection and ensure our elections remain free, fair, and accessible for all Americans.”

I hope we all can agree on this part of statement: “... to ensure our elections remain free, fair, and accessible for all Americans.” I strongly believe nothing should ever hamper that right. 

What or how will Congress update the law quickly as to not cause any disruption for the 2014 midterms and beyond? That is questionable considering the stalemate and gridlock attitude down in DC with this harm-everything and be anti-everything Congress.

I draw their attention to this quote from Chief Justice Earl Warren in the Reynolds v. Sims (1964) case: “Legislators represent people, not trees or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests.” That still has strong merit today and unless people can freely, openly, and not hampered in that vote then nothing will have changed for the good and the ugliness of all those past decades and the "good old days (that some still want)" will stick up that ugly head and we will be no better than a third rate nation moving backwards.

Finally, I wonder if any member of the GOP side of Congress or at the state levels knows what it means for all the grand daughters and grand sons in the future not to have the right to vote freely and openly. What is means to the future of our country for everyone? That is the question.

More on this subject follows in posts below. Enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Equal Justice Under Law for Women Except: Boss Cites Mea Religione

Who in America Cannot Rationalize With This
(Excluding the five men shown next)

From Marble Mountain Re: Birth Control
(Women: Your Employer's Prayers are Answered)

The 5-4 Who Back Your Employer's Desires
(But, Won't Back a Woman's Health Care Needs)

Wheaton College Order: Exemption on the ACA Birth Control Mandate
(Part of Full Case, but Not Resolved to Date)

First Major Update which is actually two updates from Scotus blog here, in part:

UPDATED 9:22 p.m.  Over the dissents of two Justices, the Supreme Court on Monday evening (June 30, 2014) temporarily barred enforcement of the birth-control mandate against Wheaton College, a non-profit religious institution in Illinois.  The college faced a midnight deadline to comply with the mandate or face heavy financial penalties.  The Court’s order will remain in place at least through Wednesday afternoon.  The federal government is to file a response by 10 a.m. Wednesday, with the college’s reply due at 5 p.m. that day.   Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor would have denied that postponement; neither they nor the Court gave reasons.

UPDATED 2:14 p.m.  Acting swiftly in the wake of the Court’s ruling on Monday, and relying directly upon that decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on Monday blocked all enforcement of the mandate against an Alabama Catholic TV network, a non-profit entity.   The concurring opinion of the court of appeals, written by Circuit Judge William H. Pryor, Jr., argued that the accommodation, discussed in the following post, is itself likely to be struck down.

Second Major Update (July 13, 2014), which also related to the above and the segment posted below, and yes, this is a fast-moving topic - Hobby-Lobby - as many of us predicted and that the 5-4 said would not happen that the original cases was "narrow" — well, it is happening and now at a very fast clip.

We all know the old tried and worn out political clichés such as this (whatever) will “… be the camel's nose under the tent, or it’s the first shoe to drop, or only the first step, a drip, drip, drip before the floodgates open,” etc.

Well in the Hobby-Lobby case the 5-4 said in essence that “this ruling is narrow and for the specific birth controls methods in question (4 of them) and only in this case and no other” (paraphrased). The further implied strongly that it does not affect or will not have an effect on anything or anyone else regarding the issue of birth control. My short retort to that is simple: büllshït ...

And, this very good explanation which follows says it better than I can. Listen closely to the facts that have followed since that 5-4 lousy decision, and yes, it was a lousy ruling. This segment is very short (about 8 minutes), but it hits the points. Enjoy:

Originally posted are the specifics of this case, Hobby-Lobby ruling that I see:

1.  The court ruled in part that: “…certain closely held for-profit businesses can cite religious objections in order to opt out of a requirement in Obama-care that says their health care plans must offer free contraceptive coverage for their female employees.” 

(Hence, I guess if your boss says it's against his or her religion, then no dice, get birth control on your own – how about stuff, I wonder)?

2.  Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion in the case, finding “… the contraceptive mandate in its current form was unlawful.”

(But, I wonder, is there another form, not current form, might be acceptable, so that door left open)?

3.  The Obama administration says it will try to find a way accommodate for-profit businesses like Hobby-Lobby, et al that claim religious objections while also extending contraceptive coverage to female workers to continue.

(I note that the ACA-Obama-care has always been about lowering costs and getting equal coverage in plans for everyone – this shoots a hole in the basic concept).

4.  Most employers already view health insurance as a tool to attract and retain employees (both men and women). Women employees want access to contraceptive coverage and most employers don't have a problem providing that coverage, and besides all data show it is typically not a high-cost item.

(Praise the Lord (My weak attempt) at humor based on this case and my freedom of religion).

5.  The high court stressed that its ruling applies only to corporations that are under the control of just a few people in which there is no essential difference between the business and its owners. 

(This is the part that I find exceptionally troublesome, for example: Say you don't agree with or pray or worship with your boss or when say so, can they fire you if you don't. Say pray during your coffee break that they start require? Sounds far fetched, but not really if you think about other possibilities down the road).


6. The court had never before recognized a for-profit corporation's religious rights under federal law or the Constitution. The companies in this case, and their backers, argued that a 1993 federal law on religious freedom extends to businesses. 

(I wonder: how can a business exercise its religious freedom, its religious views, and its religious mandates for worship that it strictly follow)?

7.  The Obama administration had argued that a victory for the companies would prevent women who work for them from making decisions about birth control based on what's best for their health, not whether they can afford it.

(I totally agree with that valid assumption and conclusion).

As I said, “Equal Justice Under Law” except when your boss says otherwise.

I have a novel idea: Why won’t Hobby-Lobby or others who think and want to act and operate that very same way, just hire only women (like in this case) who follow the letter of their religious beliefs? Then it follows quite literally that employers and their employees would all be signing the same hymn from the same scripture. Hallelujah.

These are a few things I considered about this ruling. Things I think are rational thoughts about this lousy deal for women in similar cases … [and] be assured, more is coming. Conservatives are now like a dog with a bone looking for a place to bury it, and along the way, bury you and your rights, too. They want their rights, but don't give a damn about yours. 

Phew … I'm done now.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pop Quiz: Is the GOP On a Roll or On a Rotisserie

GOP Starting in 2009

GOP Since 2010

The Face of GOP Today

Quite a long post, but needs to be said.

All this talk about DEMS “are going to lose the Senate” or worse I think, about “the GOP retaking the Senate” is a bit troubling for a lot or reasons.

Then I read this fine article and it got me thinking deeper on the prospect of a GOP-run congress during the last two years of Mr. Obama’s time in office and this short intro from that article to set the scene for my post that follows – that is for anyone with their eyes and mind both open to reality — from the article:

“As advanced societies are depoliticized, the changes are both subtle and spectacular. In everyday discourse, political language is turned on its head, as Orwell prophesied in 1984: "Democracy is now a rhetorical device. Peace is perpetual warGlobal is imperial. Reform means regression or destruction. Austerity is the imposition of extreme capitalism on the poor and the gift of socialism for the rich, which is an ingenious system under which the majority service the debts of the few."

About the GOP taking over totally after November – a few considerations:

1. It is not unusual for the House or Senate to change hands during a midterm.
2. Reelected, 2nd term presidents usually get the blame with their lame duck label – which I think in most cases is unfair and especially when the other side, like now, constantly block and tackle everything put before them even with a Congress rated with a 7% approval.

But, the question is and should always be: why change anyway? Is it just for political gain – okay fair enough. But, then what agenda would we see and policies would follow? With this current crop of GOPers biting at the bit to regain total control of Congress we must ask: What positive things would they do then that they haven't tried to do now?

I don't see much positive change offered up by the GOP – hopefully the voters will see and remember, too. Assuming they even get a chance to vote ... that appears now to be the #1 issue: planned and on purpose low voter turnout by careful design to suppress the vote. And, yes it is real and ongoing even with many courts reversing the rule changes.

Change in politics can be good, but should always be for more positive change than the side who loses … it has to be more than just a word in a campaign slogan. After all with change we could see bad results, even worse than now, if that's even possible in my estimation.

How about this historical fact:  As is happens Mr. Obama is rated #1 of all our Presidents who reached across party lines to nominate and make high level appointments. To date, he has made a total of 15 nominations of Republicans to high office. One withdrew before his Senate hearing (Sen. Judd Gregg for Secretary of Commerce), thus he ended up appointing 14 Republicans to these positions: Two for Secretary of Defense: Robert Gates and Chuck Hagel, then John McHugh for Secretary of the Army and Ray LaHood as Secretary of Transportation. One FBI director, one CIA director, one at the Federal Reserve, and three as U.S. Ambassadors. Mr. Obama is followed by #2 in this category by George W. Bush with a total of 12. Then at #3 is Ronald Reagan with 11. Then there is a tie for 4th between FDR and Bill Clinton with 8 each.

On top of all that is the GOP’s dream hit list, but it does not jibe with Mr. Obama’s actual record outlined below.

Background:  Even as he took the oath of office, the GOP started opposing everything President Obama stood for and talked about doing. They since have blamed him for everything under the Sun and probably for Sunrise and Sunset itself.  It wasn’t even a few weeks into his first term and as we faced the worst economic woes since the Great Depression that the GOP started their blame game, including the economic mess itself.

We saw just last month (June 2014) more very good job numbers, and a 6.1% unemployment rate, thus indicators of brighter days ahead. So, what does the GOP do? They again search wider and deeper for something to hold all their crap in that they proudly sling at Mr. Obama hoping it sticks. If so, great for them (they hope). If not, they just keep on slinging no matter the issue or quantity of stuff being slung.

Here is a short list of things the GOP will not under any circumstance give Mr. Obama any credit for:   

  1. His policies cut job losses by more than 50% within his first 4 months in office.
  2. He basically saved a huge chunk of the American auto industry.
  3. Has cut the deficit by more than half and it still is going down.
  4. He got Osama bin-Laden.
  5. He got Syria to give up their chemical weapons without firing a single shot.
  6. His policies have enabled record stock levels with the Dow that closed over 17,000 for the first time in its 118-year history.
  7. His policies reduced unemployment from 10% to now 6.1%.
  8. We just saw the fastest first quarter of job growth in the United States since 1999.
  9. We have had the quickest drop in unemployment in 30 years.
  10. We have had 52 straight months of private sector job growth.
  11. We have seen some 9.7 million private sector jobs created.
  12. Over 8 million people signed up for health care thanks to the Affordable Care Act even after a lousy launch.
  13. Also, millions of Americans have gained, or kept, health care coverage thanks to Medicaid expansions, and for kids to age 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance longer as they established things on their own.
  14. He hasn’t started a single war.
  15. He has not come for or confiscated one single gun or Bible or first-born son.
At the same time, the GOP clings to hearings and more and sometimes the same old committee witch hunt sessions while maintaining their job approval at a blazing 7 percent. Issues like the IRS mess and yes, it is a mess; the killing of our personnel at the consulate in Benghazi, the Syrian mess, issues still hovering around Iran, crappy relations Russia over the Ukraine, Pakistan where bin-Laden was hiding for 4 years, and the attitude and threats from North Korea. 

None of this stuck to him; why not? Simple, he is not to blame directly. He is responsible, yes for sure, but not directly to blame as the GOP implies in every press release and sound bite. Lately and has we move closer to November midterms the GOP drum now calls out “impeach the bastard.” 

We have all heard it over and over: He is ruining us all. He is killing America. He wants our guns. He hates the Bible. He is against our values and way of life. He has to go, just like in the empty words of Sen. Mitch McConnell, “Our #1 priority is to make Barack Obama a one-term president.” So, how’s that working out??

Historical facts matter, and I would note: Mr. Obama has accomplished a lot – and yes, there have been a lot of rocky places and starts (the ACA is a prime example), but most good things do have rocky starts and start-up problems, even going to the Moon. However, Mr. Obama has done most if not all of it without any help from congressional Republicans and certainly in the face of their constant flak. They have in short tried to railroad all of his efforts and good ideas while not even listening and yet he has survived and is doing a darn good job in spite of their best efforts to obstruct him at every turn almost in every policy area known to mankind.

Finally, I and many others believe that if Mr. Obama were white and Republican, the GOP would worship him like Ronald Reagan. No one likes to interject race into anything, certainly I do not. However, the actions, words, and deeds from the GOP side leave little room for what this is all about, and that’s a shame.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Big Money Competing Goals for Congress: Do a Lot vs. Do Nothing

GOP's View of "Wheels of Progress"
The Public's View and Opinion
(June Approval: From 10% to 7%)
Maybe "They" Will Return in November
and Take "Them" Away
(one very smart Duck)

Two neat articles are the basis for this post: (1) This fine article from the Washington Post was written by by David R. Mayhew, Sterling professor of political science at Yale University, and Matthew I. Bettinger, a PhD student in political science at Yale University, and (2) from the National Journal, a few tidbits that I rearranged to fit this post theme. Both of them are very fine sources of good info - check them out.

The Washington Post article examines the last century and six presidents all who served full eight year terms, after taking the White House from the other party. This record is pre-Obama, who hasn’t finished yet. These six presidents were Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt (who went beyond the eight years), Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Three were Democrats, three were Republicans. Story continues at the link.

From the National Journal I pieced together this which is my take on the current midterm cycle:

I detect a huge disconnect from candidates running for Congress with their standard flare of: “I will go to Congress and do this or that and stop this or start that, yada yada, etc.” While in reality of what we see right now in the current Congress, whose JAR just dropped from 10 percent to 7 percent in June, the opposite – a pretty much “do-nothing” which many of them are proud of.

Since a lot of them take pride in doing nothing or stopping anything from getting done, how much more ironic can that get? I mean, scaling back government sounds good, but not in all cases I would argue.

Rep. Hoyer (D-MD) said that “… making government less effective and less helpful to the general public, or less trusted and respected at home and abroad is not so hot,” and I would add like the recent increased reporting about more spying on the German government.

Shutting down government, putting the credit worthiness of the country at risk, and flat out refusing to fix things and resist positive reform like immigration that is more and more out of control and seemingly totally broken don’t seem to be a priority for them – they thrive on it by constantly bashing Mr. Obama, whom they have resisted from day-one.

Most Republicans these days in office seem unfazed by any criticism about them not only being on the wrong path, let alone not even being able to recognize any path. There is a huge disconnect as a heck of a lot of them seem to take pride in saying that’s why they came to Congress in the first place: To do nothing, stop or block anything and everything.

It is beyond my comprehension to see how anyone can offer to run for elected office at any level, local, state, or national and win and be sworn in to do nothing, and worse, to brag about that. Doesn’t that seem like fraud to you, too, since they earn big money for being ineffective and non-productive? Honestly, I just do not get it. Watch and see how many incumbents are returned to office in November, or if any new faces immolate the old ones down there in DC now. I think we all will be both sickened and surprised (if that’s possible to be both).

Sunday, July 6, 2014

NSA Snooping: Warrantless Illegal, Violates Privacy, Far Worse

                                The NSA Domestic Snooping Needs to Be Reined in Now 

NSA's Reach is Massive. Their Fingers Are On Everything

First this reminder about what follows that a lot of people have been monitoring closely like the this from the ACULU here, in part:

The ACLU has had an opportunity to review the documents (Greenwald released) and to write a short analysis of them, which you can read here. In part the ACLU writes and BTW that was in June 2013:
"Newly released documents confirm what critics have long suspected—that the National Security Agency, a component of the Defense Department, is engaged in unconstitutional surveillance of Americans' communications, including their telephone calls and emails. The documents show that the NSA is conducting sweeping surveillance of Americans' international communications, that it is acquiring many purely domestic communications as well, and that the rules that supposedly protect Americans' privacy are weak and riddled with exceptions."
Now a Major Update (July 6, 2014)  |  When the US National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted the online accounts of legally targeted foreigners over a four-year period it also collected the conversations of nine times as many ordinary internet users, both Americans and non-Americans, according to an investigation by the Washington Post.

Nearly half of those surveillance files contained names, email addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to US citizens or residentsthe Post reported in a story posted on its website.

While the federal agency tried to protect their privacy by masking more than 65,000 such references to individuals, the newspaper said it found nearly 900 additional email addresses that could be strongly linked to US citizens or residents.

The intercepted messages contained material of considerable intelligence value, the Post reported, such as information about a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power and the identities of aggressive intruders into US computer networks.

Continues at the link above, and much more below follows this update.

Updated (February 14, 2014) with this introduction from the article: “Governments at the local, state, and federal level increasingly collect troves of sensitive information about where we go, what we read, who we know, what we buy, and more. Some people say they don't care about this silent and ever present surveillance.”

They say they have nothing to hide. Maybe true, but they have plenty to protect.

Now look at that with this in mind: But acquiescing to losing control over information about you is effectively rolling over and accepting the fact that untold numbers of people and institutions, not you, control your life. Information is power. When people behind closed doors possess information about your private life, usually unbeknownst to you, they have the ability to wield substantial power to control and manipulate you, often without your knowledge.

Here is the key point of this exercise: If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide? Well, here is a very, very incomplete list - take a look - not hiding, just not protecting (either, I would say):

  1. Sexual text messages (aka sexts) you send to lovers, partners, and spouses;
  2. Emails to lawyers containing information about ongoing litigation against any part of the government, or emails describing any impropriety like an affair or something as simple as playing hooky from work and calling in sick;
  3. Phone calls and visits to abortion clinics, sexual health centers, gun stores, LGBT community centers, union shops, domestic violence organizations, suicide hot lines, and journalists;
  4. Banking or credit card records showing that you purchased sex toys, gonorrhea medication, and four hundred dollars worth of stuff from a Furry website, or donated to non-profit organizations like the ACLU or Planned Parenthood;
  5. Internet metadata revealing your porn viewing habits and search terms, for example "herpes symptoms", "what to do if you think your boyfriend is cheating on you", "how to cheat on your boyfriend and get away with it", or "I wish I had never had kids."
Got it now? As you can see, there's plenty of information floating around in the ether, held by private corporations and collected by government agencies (often without warrants!), that you want to remain private. You aren't breaking the law and you don't deserve to be violated, but this information is not under your control.

Continue at the link and speak out whenever you can on this ... privacy is a serious matter for all of us even those who pry and spy on us ... just ask them about their privacy. You may not like their answer, however.

Updated (January 27, 2014): Three articles make up this update.

From Reuters (Jan 26, 2014): The U.S. National Security Agency is involved in industrial espionage and will grab any intelligence it can get its hands on regardless of its value to national security, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden told a German TV network. 

In a text released ahead of a lengthy interview to be broadcast on Sunday, ARD TV quoted Snowden saying the NSA does not limit its espionage to issues of national security and he cited German engineering firm, Siemens as one target. "If there's information at Siemens that's beneficial to U.S. national interests - even if it doesn't have anything to do with national security - then they'll take that information nevertheless," Snowden said, according to ARD, which recorded the interview in Russia where he has claimed asylum.

This from the NY Times (Jan 27, 2014): In their globe-spanning surveillance for terrorism suspects and other targets, the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have been trying to exploit a basic byproduct of modern telecommunications: With each new generation of mobile phone technology, ever greater amounts of personal data pour onto networks where spies can pick it up.

From Washington, DC (The AP) (Jan 27, 2014): The government and leading Internet companies announced a compromise that will allow those companies to reveal more information about how often they are ordered to turn over customer information to the government in national security investigations. Combined , these are sorely needed small steps forward to reform and rein in the NSA at home. Why?? As reported last week in the USA Today and MSNBC stories below, this domestic snooping by NSA has been determined to be illegal, ineffective, and a violation of our most-basic right to privacy

Original Post Starts From Here:

Updated (January 23, 2014): Key point from this article and MSNBC  includes:

The National Security Agency’s telephone metadata program is illegal, a majority of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has concluded.

“The Section 215 bulk telephone records program lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value. As a result, the Board recommends that the government end the program.”

Updated (January 17, 2014):  From USA Today, in part: "Significantly, he also called on the NSA going to forward to seek permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before querying the metadata. And effective immediately, Obama also narrowed the standard of phone records the NSA could pursue to two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of the current standard of three. For privacy and civil liberty advocates who wanted to see the metadata program scrapped all together, however, the president's actions will be seen as falling short of real reform."

Updated (January 13, 2014) from MSNBC: Key points:

1.  According to a study just released by the nonprofit New America Foundation, which analyzed 225 terrorism cases since 9/11, the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of communications records has had “no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.”
2.  Furthermore, the report calls out government claims that the program has thwarted over 50 potential terrorist attacks as “overblown and even misleading.” In zero instances has the NSA’s database of telephone metadata expedited “the investigative process,” contrary to what some government officials have said.
3.  “The overall problem for U.S. counter-terrorism officials is not that they need vaster amounts of information from the bulk surveillance programs, but that they don’t sufficiently understand or widely share the information they already possess that was derived from conventional law enforcement and intelligence techniques. This was true for two of the 9/11 hijackers who were known to be in the United States before the attacks on New York and Washington..."

This story from here:  The NSA could significantly change how it gathers information thanks to a new set of recommendations issued by the White House’s intelligence task force. The panel, created by President Obama following the Snowden leaks that revealed widespread surveillance of private citizens has submitted a list of drastic reforms. 

None of these recommendations are final, and all or some, could be rejected by Mr. Obama.Below is a list of those proposals by highlight title — refer to the story link to fill in the details.

1. Shut down the secret collection of bulk phone records.
2. Create an independent entity to monitor government programs that infringe on civilian privacy and liberty.
3. Bolster protections for whistle blowers in the intelligence community.
4. Close loopholes that allow “backdoor” spying through United States-based tech companies.
5. Tighten requirements for security-clearances and no longer using for-profit contractors.
6. Make the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court more accountable to more people.

We are about to see how much our government stands with the people and their privacy rights; not just NSA's right to infringe on that privacy in the name of safety.

More at these sites:

Emotions are mixed about Snowden for sure with more and more of the releases like this one. The value is important to keep the public informed of privacy violations at the same time showing the world we are tracking down terrorists, but are we telling too much? He should have handled it differently than this, for sure. History is still judging him and the release. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Uncontrolled Money in Our Political System: Great for Few, Not Most

Back to the Marble Palace: Where it all started in 2010
(Citizens United: Jan 2010 and a 5-4)

Happy 4th Birthday
(To Hell with Disclosure and Transparency)

"Why, 'cause we say so." /s/ the USSC
(Shut up, sit down, comply. Corporations are people. They have a voice like you ...)

Major Update (and revised post) (July 5, 2014). The original post follows this update.

Corporate personhood is an American legal concept that a corporation may be recognized as an individual in the eyes of the law. This doctrine forms the basis for legal recognition that corporations, as groups of people, may hold and exercise certain rights under the common law and the U.S. Constitution. For example, corporations may contract with other parties and sue or be sued in court in the same way as natural persons or unincorporated associations of persons. The doctrine does not hold that corporations are flesh and blood “people” apart from their shareholders, executives, and managers, nor does it grant to corporations all of the rights of citizens.

Since at least Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward – 17 U.S. 518 (1819), the U.S. Supreme Court recognized corporations as having the same rights as natural persons to contract and to enforce contracts. In Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad – 118 U.S. 394 (1886), the court reporter, Bancroft Davis, noted in the head note to the opinion that the Chief Justice Morrison Waite began oral argument by stating, “The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.”

While the head note is not part of the Court's opinion and thus not precedent, two years later, in Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania – 125 U.S. 181 (1888), the Court clearly affirmed the doctrine, holding, “Under the designation of 'person' there is no doubt that a private corporation is included [in the Fourteenth Amendment]. Such corporations are merely associations of individuals united for a special purpose and permitted to do business under a particular name and have a succession of members without dissolution.” This doctrine has been reaffirmed by the Court many times since.

Additionally, this very good article addresses that topic. It was written by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) in a 2012 The Atlantic Op-ed:  It follows here in part.

“Three weeks ago, in a decision all but lost in the tumult over the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obama-care), the Justices overturned a century-old Montana law that prohibited corporate spending in that state's elections.”

(My inserted note also from The Atlantic: Advocates of campaign finance restrictions are not necessarily displeased by the Supreme Court's unsurprising, summary disposal of Montana's ban on independent corporate campaign expenditures. The brief unsigned order in ATM v Bullock, reversing a Montana Supreme Court decision that upheld the ban, will "further fuel" the drive for a constitutional amendment repealing Citizens United, according to free speech for, where hyperbole reigns: “In the face of overwhelming evidence that the basic premise of the Citizens United ruling was wrong, five justices of the United States Supreme Court today said they do not care. They do not care about the facts.”)

“In the bigger scheme of things, the Montana case may have been the more significant decision that week, since corporate influence over a raft of key issues, including health care reform, was hanging in the balance.”

(My inserted note: Which we just saw in the Hobby-Lobby case (5-4).

“In the Montana case, the Supreme Court had the chance to revisit its deeply flawed 2010 decision in Citizens United. But despite the urgings of members of the Court itself and a public shell-shocked by the recent torrent of unregulated corporate expenditures, the Court chose instead to double down and reaffirm the conclusion of Citizens United that corporations are people, at least as far as the First Amendment is concerned.”

“As a legal decision, the Citizens United opinion was remarkable in many ways — in its willingness to overturn a century of jurisprudence, in its choice to issue as broad a ruling as possible rather than as narrow as the case and Constitution required, and in its reliance on minority or concurring views in prior decisions rather than the prevailing opinions in those same cases.”

“As Justice Stevens pointed out in a striking dissent, nothing had really changed since prior controlling case law except the composition of the Court itself. So much for stare decisis.”

(My inserted note: Stare decisis is Latin for “to stand by things decided.” In short, it means the doctrine of precedent, which is when the Court cites stare decisis it is saying, essence, the issue has been previously brought to the court and a ruling already issued. Note: Generally, courts will adhere to the previous ruling, though this is not universally true, e.g., Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 US 833 (1992).

“But what stood out most about Citizens United was not the Court's legal reasoning, but its staggering naiveté. As the Court confidently declared, "We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." And for skeptics who thought otherwise, the Court provided this additional assurance: “The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.”

“Well, glad that's settled. Unfortunately, the five Justices who joined this opinion must be the last five Americans to feel that way. Certainly none of the evidence before the Court in Citizens United or the Montana case compelled a conclusion so at odds with reality.”

More at the links, the original post begins from here:

What follows is from my personal archives with data gleaned from Mother Jones and the Washington Post. It felt a good review was needed now as we move into high gear for the upcoming 2014 midterms. And, by some accounts some would say, getting ready for the 2016 dash for the White House. Reflection is good for the soul they say (whoever "they" is), and I'd had to say that the awful Citizens United ruling and the couple that have followed since (more on those below in this blog) have been great for a lot of bottom line folks.

Here we go: As predicted, campaign Ads that would previously had been illegal are airing in key midterm election races all across the country (e.g.,. we saw over $1.5 million spent by Karl Rove Ads in this district just recently in the hotly-contested GOP primary - they were all negative as expected). 

A little background first: The players and their Ads since Citizens United are not all from the sources you might have expected for a number of reasons. As it turns out some of the first groups to exploit the Citizens United ruling were not big corporations, but are labor unions.

One Ad example: Union Ad against a candidate by name, which was a no-no before Citizens Untied: “Sen. Blanche Lincoln packed up and left us years ago. Maybe it’s time for us to send her packing, for good.”

These new kinds of Ads are in the category of “express advocacy.”  

Now the twist is that they can tell the public directly to vote for or against a specific candidate, whereas before the Citizens United ruling, Corporations, Unions, and other Independent groups could only run express advocacy Ads if they were funded by political action committees, which are restricted to $5,000 donations each year from individuals — a category known as hard money, but now those groups can use any funds for these campaign efforts — an unrestricted category called soft money.

Now, that rule is passé. Groups can have far more soft money than hard money and thus they are able to blast candidates or incumbents by name in their attack Ads at will. Worse, one knows where the money comes from, or whose interests are at stake and for what reason. And, boy are they happy, with many of them saying openly: “We couldn’t say a lot of things before this ruling, but now we can and with lots of different money.”

As far as the so-called “Independent groups and their money,” um… they previously had been allowed to run issue-based Ads using unrestricted funds, but were required to tie those Ads to a specific piece of legislation or other concrete proposal, urging voters and say things like: “Call Congress” (note: could not advocate for or against a named candidate or incumbent). That is now passé, too.

One of the GOP’s strongest supporters, the Chamber of Commerce, said that they plan to spend $50 million on the 2010 election alone after the ruling. That would be twice as much as they did in 2006. Thus far in 2010, political expenditures overall had topped $2 billion in 2010. Further, the Washington Post says that “about two-thirds of expected group expenditures will come from conservative-leaning organizations> (charts below reinforce this point).  

Labor unions also planned to spend record amounts. For example, AFSCME and the AFL-CIO devoted some $100 million combined in 2010 after the ruling. 

There are several graphic illustrations to show the growth in 4 short years since the ruling (one is posted above). Six more make excellent points and all posted here.

The so-called bottom line: Outside spending is 25 times higher than it was at this point in 2006. Welcome to the future of American elections. It will get worse.” Hang on tight.