Thoughts for Sunday

Posted by J.D. On Sunday, May 31, 2009 1 comments
I cannot prevent anyone from getting angry, or mad, or frustrated. I can only hope that they'll turn that anger and frustration and madness into something positive, so that two, three, four, five hundred will step forward, so the gay doctors will come out, the gay lawyers, the gay judges, gay bankers, gay architects ... I hope that every professional gay will say 'enough', come forward and tell everybody, wear a sign, let the world know. Maybe that will help. - Harvey Milk

When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one. - Leonard Matlovich

No government has the right to tell its citizens when or whom to love. The only queer people are those who don't love anybody. - Rita Mae Brown

Everybody's journey is individual. If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality. - James Baldwin

I'm a supporter of gay rights. And not a closet supporter either. From the time I was a kid, I have never been able to understand attacks upon the gay community. There are so many qualities that make up a human being... by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant. - Paul Newman

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. - Dr. Seuss

Prop 8 aftermath

Posted by J.D. On Friday, May 29, 2009 0 comments
I've been busy this week, so I didn't write anything about the Prop 8 ruling when it happened. I'm sure everyone has read about the ruling. The ruling hasn't changed anyone's minds about anything: you are still either pro-equality or you aren't.

Even Governor Schwarzenegger has weighed in with his opinion:

...I think that this is not over. This decision - because I think that they will be back - that there will be in a year or two they will be back again with another initiative - trying to get it - you know, eventually it's going to be overturned. I'm sure of that.

Of course, this is the governor that vetoed same-sex legislation in 2005.

Now two lawyers, former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, are planning to file suit.

In a project of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Olson and Boies have united to represent two same-sex couples filing suit after being denied marriage licenses because of Proposition 8.

Their suit, to be filed in U.S. District Court in California, calls for an injunction against the proposition, allowing immediate reinstatement of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Some have questioned Olson's motives. Olson was, after all, an Assistant Attorney General in the Reagan administration and in that capacity he defended President Reagan during Iran-Contra. He also represented George W. Bush in Bush v. Gore (where Bush stole the 2000 election) and in doing so was rewarded with the position of United States Solicitor General.

In response, a coalition of LGBT organizations have issued a press release warning against lawsuits.

In response to the California Supreme Court decision allowing Prop 8 to stand, four LGBT legal organizations and five other leading national LGBT groups are reminding the LGBT community that ill-timed lawsuits could set the fight for marriage back. The groups released a new publication, “Why the ballot box and not the courts should be the next step on marriage in California.” This publication discourages people from bringing premature lawsuits based on the federal Constitution because, without more groundwork, the U.S. Supreme Court likely is not yet ready to rule that same-sex couples cannot be barred from marriage.

One thing to note is that the wording of the ruling made it clear that this ruling doesn't slam the door on same-sex marriage as many on the right are claiming.

Some conservatives have interpreted the California Supreme Court's decision as the Court defining marriage as between "a man and a woman", but that's wrong. The Court is protecting the initiative called Proposition 8 which claims marriage is between a man and woman because it interprets the California Constitution as consisting of these constitutional amendments and the Court has stated that its job is to interpret the state constitution and that it's not above it. That distinction is important because should voters pass a new initiative that overturns Prop 8, the Court would be legally inclined to protect it as well.

Of course, has Governor Schwarzenegger just signed the damn legislation years ago this whole thing would be moot. That being said, I think the coalition might be correct here: winning at the ballot box removes the argument that Conservatives use that the courts routinely subvert the will of the people. If the people vote for equality...well, Conservatives will still figure out a way to complain. But screw 'em. They will have lost fair and square.

Presidential debates and third parties

Posted by J.D. On Thursday, May 28, 2009 3 comments
Most school children learn about the Lincoln-Douglas debates of least to a small degree. The debates were primarily concerning the Illinois state legislature, the speeches brought forth people from neighboring states. Lincoln even published the texts of all the debates later and used it as his launching pad for his Presidential run two years later.

Then there are the famous Kennedy-Nixon debates which were the first televised Presidential debates. It has often been said the radio listeners felt that Nixon won the debates while television viewers rated Kennedy the winner. Thus political parties soon learned the power of image.

Now flash forward to the last election cycle...and how boring and plainly useless the Obama-McCain debates were. There is a reason for that.

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to protect the images of both Democratic and Republican candidates. The CPD was formed by both the the Democratic and Republican parties to protect the two party system.

At a news conference, Paul G. Kirk Jr., the Democratic national chairman, and Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., the Republican national chairman, said they had the support of all the 1988 Presidential hopefuls for the new arrangement, which they said would ''institutionalize'' the debates and strengthen the role of the political parties in the electoral process...

...In response to questions, Mr. Fahrenkopf indicated that the new Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonprofit group made up of representatives from each party, was not likely to look with favor on including third-party candidates in the debates. He said the issue was a matter for the commission to consider when it worked out the format, timing and other details of the debates with the candidates.

Mr. Kirk was less equivocal, saying he personally believed the panel should exclude third-party candidates from the debates. But he said he could not speak for the commission.

In 1992, voters no longer supported President George H. W. Bush. Clinton was the Democratic dark horse candidate but potential scandals began popping up out of the woodwork. The independent candidate, H. Ross Perot, began leading in the polls.

That summer, polls showed Ross Perot had a commanding lead with 39% of the vote. Unfortunately for his supporters, by July Perot dropped out of the race. Upon his exit, Clinton's number shot up. When Perot announced that he was reentering the race, Clinton clearly didn't want him involved. Bush did...with the assumption that Perot would pull votes from Clinton and not so much himself.

The CPD didn't want Perot involved because it feared his inclusion would set a precedent for future third party candidates.

"The commission was worried about the precedent of third-party candidates always being included," said Mickey Kantor, chairman of Clinton's campaign.

Bush pushed for Perot's inclusion in the debates and Clinton acquiesced lest he appear to be undemocratic. On election day, Perot received 18.9% of the popular vote.

By 1996, neither candidate wanted Perot in the debates.

Scott Reed, Dole's campaign manager, said, "We didn't want Perot in the debates. Nothing else really mattered. ... We made sure Perot wasn't going to be in the debates."

Dole was more concerned with Perot possibly sapping votes away from him and the Clinton camp knew this. They used the threat of having Perot in the debates to force their will on the format of the debates.

George Stephanopolous, senior advisor to President Clinton, explained, "[The Dole campaign] didn't have leverage going into negotiations. They were behind. They needed to make sure Perot wasn't in. As long as we would agree to Perot not being in it, we could get everything else we wanted going in. We got our time frame, we got our length, we got our moderator."

A settlement was reached. Perot was out and President Clinton got to dictate the format of the debates. Months later, Dole lost the election. Perot garnered a mere 8% of the popular vote.

In 2000, the CPD created a stipulation which required potential candidates to have at least a 15% support level across five national polls in order to participate in Presidential debates. Consequently, Ralph Nader was not invited.

One might ask how a person is supposed to attain 15% support when that person is locked out of debates. The answer? The two major parties know that it is virtually impossible for a third party candidate to achieve this...hence the rule.

I have already written an article entitled In Defense of Third Party Voting which outlined many third party elections through history and why I disagree with the two party system. A blog on The Modern Left's blogroll, Poli-Tea Party, deals primarily with the stupidity of the two party system.

An organization called Open Debates would like to help change this problem.

Open Debates is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to reforming the presidential debate process. Currently, the presidential debates are controlled by the Republican and Democratic parties, through the private bipartisan corporation called the Commission on Presidential Debates. As a result, challenging formats and popular third party candidates are often excluded from the debates.

Open Debates has launched simultaneous campaigns to inform the public, the news media and policy makers about the antidemocratic conduct of the Commission on Presidential Debates. It is also promoting an alternative presidential debate sponsor - the nonpartisan Citizens' Debate Commission - comprised of national civic leaders committed to maximizing voter education.

Even if you are a dyed-in-the-wool Republican or Democrat, I think we can all agree that allowing more openness in the debates and more people with differing philosophies will help the American people choose the person who best exemplifies the character they would want in a leader. Allowing third party candidates will force even the two major parties to field the absolute best candidate they have to offer...and not so much just a past President's son.

If you believe that the American people deserve better than simply allowing the two parties to dictate to us who we will vote for and how we will perceive them, why not pop over to Open Debates and give them your support?

As Former President George H. W. Bush himself has said:

"I'm trying to forget the whole damn experience of those debates. 'Cause I think it's too much show business and too much prompting, too much artificiality, and not really debates. They're rehearsed appearances."

Granted, he attempted to use the CPD to his advantage...but even he realized that this format destroys what the Presidential debates are supposed to be.

Montogomery county has finance issues

Posted by J.D. On Wednesday, May 27, 2009 0 comments
Montgomery county, Ohio has a projected $7.6 million General Fund shortfall. To combat this shortfall, there have been layoffs in various areas and general belt-tightening. But there does seem to be some money that could help. It just can't be used.

When Montgomery County Administrator Deborah Feldman surveys the county’s dismal financial picture, she can’t help but notice the $9.4 million sitting in county treasurer and prosecutor coffers.

That money, accumulated from delinquent property tax payments, can only be used to collect additional late taxes...

...State law keeps Feldman from tapping the $9.4 million held by the treasurer and prosecutor. The law allows those offices to keep and divide evenly 5 percent of delinquent tax collections. Had the taxes been paid on time the money would have gone to schools, the human services levy, Sinclair Community College, the Dayton Metro Library and other property tax recipients.

Apparently, state law mandates that delinquent tax payments go to a fund...which is used to collect delinquent tax payments. Those delinquent tax payments never actually go to the schools, libraries, human services, etc.

The county just made $7.4 million in across-the-board-cuts. That included cuts to the police force.

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer already cut 35 positions by attrition and job transfers and said the Feldman’s plan will cost him $800,000, which translates to about 16 positions. Plummer said he may have to cut the SWAT team and drug squad, and stop helping local jurisdictions with processing crime scenes.

And the county is sitting on $9.4 million...which can only be used to gather more money. To sit there. And do nothing.

The fund is supposed to be there to pay the salaries of the people who collect these delinquent taxes. Which, clearly, is necessary. The problem is that the money in the fund far outstrips the money spent to collect these delinquent taxes. So there is always money just sitting there. Doing nothing.

County Prosecutor Mathias H. Heck Jr. has the largest pot of special fund money, with nearly $5.8 million accumulated in his delinquent tax fund. County Treasurer Carolyn Rice has the second largest: $3.6 million in her delinquent tax fund. Money coming into those funds — about $935,000 for each office last year — far exceeds the amount that each office spends collecting delinquent taxes.

“It appears that we are consistently collecting more than has been needed to perform the function,” Feldman said. “(That) fund has had me concerned for a very long time.”

All told, there is nearly $19.4 million sitting in 33 special purpose funds.

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer claims he could easily pay the salaries of 15 laid-off deputies and officers if he could access this money.

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer could more than cover the cost of 15 laid-off deputies and officers with the $1 million he has in two funds filled with proceeds seized from drug raids and other criminal activities.

But he can’t use that money to pay staff. By law Plummer can only use seized assets for equipment, such as his SWAT vehicle, guns or computers.

So they can only use the money for equipment...not the people to use said equipment.

$19.4 million. Sitting in various accounts. While people are losing their jobs.

Peace is cheap, war is expensive

Posted by J.D. On Tuesday, May 26, 2009 0 comments
In conversations about capital punishment, it is often pointed out that it costs more to put someone to death than it does to simply imprison him or her for life. The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice found that it cost an additional $90,000 per year per inmate to house someone on death row.

Yet we do it anyway.

The argument for peace versus war has similarly skewed financial quirks.

According to the non-profit RAND Corporation the four branches of the military spent $600 million in advertising alone.

The four military Services spent over $600 million on recruiting advertising in 2007. This represents a 150 percent increase since the 1999 fiscal year (FY). In addition, the mix of advertising programs has changed significantly. In particular, the Army share of traditional advertising (primarily print, radio, and television advertising) has gone down relative to the other Services, especially the Air Force and Marine Corps. In addition, all the Services are spending relatively more on new advertising vehicles, namely, the Internet and cable television.

As a comparison, the budget for The Peace Corps, a government organization which provides foreign aid to developing nations, is $330.8 million for the 2009 fiscal year.

The four branches of the military spend more on advertising alone than the Peace Corps spends for its entire operating budget.

So while the organization founded by President John F. Kennedy to promote world peace and friendship spends $330.8 million to do all their work all over the globe, the military spends millions to advertise. Like their $13 million video arcade to recruit teenagers.

Military spending in total was $685 billion for 2008. Compare $685 billion to $330.8 million and it becomes pretty obvious where our priorities are when it comes to foreign countries.

How about domestically?

In 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the National and Community Service Trust Act, which established the Corporation for National and Community Service and brought the full range of domestic community service programs under the umbrella of one central organization.

This legislation built on the first National Service Act signed by President H.W. Bush in 1990. It also formally launched AmeriCorps, a network of national service programs that engage Americans in intensive service to meet the nation’s critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment.

The newly created AmeriCorps incorporated two existing national service programs: the longstanding VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program, created by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).

How much do they spend?

On May 7, 2009, President Barack Obama released his detailed fiscal year 2010 budget request. The budget requests $1.149 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service and its programs, a 29 percent increase over the FY 2009 enacted level.

While it is great that we are willing to spend $1.149 billion for domestic programs to fight illiteracy, improve health services, and build affordable housing, (and kind of sad that we are only willing to spend $330.8 million for the whole rest of the world) it is still a drop in the bucket compared to $685 billion.

With President Obama approving troop increases, this isn't going to change anytime soon.

It quite literally costs less money to help others than it does to kill them. It costs less in prison, it costs less all over developing countries, and it costs less domestically.

There is nothing right about war. Helping others, however, is the right thing to do.

And cheaper.


Nevada Governor to veto domestic partner benefits

Posted by J.D. On Monday, May 25, 2009 0 comments
Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons has announced that he will veto a bill that would give domestic partners the same benefits as are currently granted to married heterosexual couples.

Harrah's Senior Vice President Jan Jones sent a letter to Nevada lawmakers outlining her views on the legislation:

"Our state cannot afford to lose any more revenue to other destinations because of a reputation as a place which is not socially or politically the right place to do business or to vacation," Jones stated in the letter, dated Tuesday.

Gays and lesbians have the highest disposable income of any segment of the population, according to Jones.

"Our company does aggressive marketing to this community," Jones said Wednesday. "How can we say to them 'we want your business, but we don't care about your rights.'"

Nevada twice voted for a constitutional amendment in 2000 (which passed with 70% support) and again in 2002 (which passed with 66.9% support) that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The bill makes it clear that domestic partnership is not marriage so it does not reverse those amendments.

Sen. David Parks, who sponsored the bill, says that the legislature will attempt to override Gibbons veto.

In the mean time, if you are thinking about doing some gambling, how about taking your business to Harrah's Casino?

The company openly wants everyone's business and supports equal rights for all.

That's the kind of company I respect.

Thoughts for Sunday

Posted by J.D. On Sunday, May 24, 2009 0 comments
The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding. - Albert Camus

Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization. Progress is born of agitation. It is agitation or stagnation. - Eugene V. Debs

I'm worried that students will take their obedient place in society and look to become successful cogs in the wheel - let the wheel spin them around as it wants without taking a look at what they're doing. I'm concerned that students not become passive acceptors of the official doctrine that's handed down to them from the White House, the media, textbooks, teachers and preachers. - Howard Zinn

We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community... Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own. - César Chávez

If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place. - Margaret Mead

It takes no compromising to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions. - Harvey Milk

Liberty University doesn't like Democrats

Posted by J.D. On Saturday, May 23, 2009 1 comments
Like many college campuses, Liberty University had a student Democratic Party organization. Note: had.

Mark Hine, vice president of student affairs, sent an email to Brian Diaz, the president of Liberty University's student Democratic Party organization informing him that the organization can no longer exist on Liberty University campus.

According to the e-mail, the club must stop using the university’s name, holding meetings on campus, or advertising events. Violators could incur one or more reprimands under the school’s Liberty Way conduct code, and anyone who accumulates 30 reprimands is subject to expulsion....

...Part of Hine’s e-mail said, “The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine (supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the “LGBT” agenda, hate crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc.)” LGBT refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

LU has had a College Republicans club for several years and continues to support that club. The Democratic students have been told that "students’ activities outside the school were not affected by the university’s decision to revoke the club’s recognition." So they have that, I guess.

Liberty University was founded as as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971 by Jerry Falwell. It later changed its name to Liberty Baptist College before finally becoming Liberty University in 1985.

Falwell was the man who said the following among other gems:

AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.

If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being.

And who can forget his views on the events of September 11, 2001:

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'

So frankly, it shouldn't be a surprise that a university founded by Jerry Falwell shows some intolerance and censorship toward others.

Hine stated:

We are in no way attempting to stifle free speech.

Uh huh. And Falwell was just sharing God's love, right?

Liberty University is a private university. If they want to revoke recognition of the Democratic organization then that is their right. But it is disingenuous to claim they aren't attempting to stifle free speech.

That is exactly what they are doing.

Banks and credit cards

Posted by J.D. On Thursday, May 21, 2009 1 comments
If you live in America, you have also probably seen the various Capital One credit card commercials ("what's in your wallet?"). Or even the MasterCard "priceless" advertisements.

If you are college aged, you have probably been deluged with applications for various credit cards.

When a person applies for a credit card, that person signs a contract that states he will be paying a certain level of interest on his purchases made with the credit card. The credit card companies then have all manner of penalties that will actually raise that level of interest and often that is where people get themselves in trouble.

How lucrative is the penalty business?

...the amount of money generated by penalty fees like late charges and exceeding credit limits had increased by about $1 billion annually in recent years, and should top $20 billion this year.

While that might not seem fair or right, it is legal. And the credit card companies have been doing it for years.

"Virtually no other contract in this country allows a business to change the terms of an agreement once a purchase has been made," says Travis Plunkett of the Consumer Federation of America. "That's the main issue."

Back in 2004, Edmund Mierzwinski of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group was interviewed for PBS Frontline.

Congress has been afraid to deal with any kind of bad credit card company practices for years. Three years ago, they held a hearing on credit card practices, but they did nothing. Since then, Congress hasn't done anything about credit card companies' unfair practices because the credit card companies have enormous power and sway with the Congress. There are lobbyists for each of the big credit card companies. Then there are lobbyists for the bank associations. And the bank associations and the credit card companies have political action committees. They made soft money donations when they were legal, and they also have a large lobbying budget. Credit card companies have power over the entire Congress. Absolutely. The banking committees are usually dominated by members from the states where the credit card companies and the other banks do business.

So essentially the Congress and the courts took away the right of the states to do anything about the credit card industry years ago. We've got the credit card companies saying Congress shouldn't do anything, and they inoculate themselves against that with a massive lobbying push...

...It's partly that some bad laws are being passed, but it's more with this particular industry, credit cards, they have managed to prevent Congress from investigating and conducting the oversight that Congress is supposed to do of their practices. … The courts and the regulators have taken away the right of the states to investigate or regulate the credit card companies, but Congress has fallen down on the job. So first, Congress is doing nothing about the problems in the credit card industry.

Second, the credit card industry wants new laws, such as the bankruptcy law, the outrageous, unfair bankruptcy law, and they've come very close to enacting it. They have bipartisan support. [It] would be shocking to the public to realize how many members of Congress backed the credit card industry's attempt to put Americans in debtors' prison without regulating the unfair practices of the credit card industry at the same time, even if you agreed that we needed to change the bankruptcy laws, which most people don't...

As Mierzwinski notes, not only does the credit card lobby spend millions to control Congress...they also write the bills that affect them.

Remember when George W. Bush signed the new bankruptcy overhaul legislation? Yeah...the banks and credit card companies wrote that one.

Sponsors of the bill acknowledge that lawyers and lobbyists for the banks and credit card companies were involved in drafting it. The bill gives those industries most of what they have wanted since they began lobbying in earnest in the late 1990's, when the number of personal bankruptcies rose to record levels.

Finally, now Congress is working on credit card reform to try and curb certain abuses and make the playing field a little more even. Some of the features may finally change the situation that Mierzwinski was talking about.

A card company can still change the terms of your contract. It just has to give you 45 days notice. It's still possible for an issuer to assess a charge when you go over your credit limit. But you'll have to have indicated that you want to be able to go over your credit limit in the first place, instead of having your card denied. Companies can still set minimum required payments however they see fit. But they'll be required to tell you how long it would take to pay off your balance if you stick to that minimum amount each month.

Some of the other features include:

Banks must send out your bill no later than 21 days before the due date. They cannot send it with, say, 14 days to go, hoping that you won’t get a check to the bank in time to avoid a late fee...

...If the card company gets your payment by 5 p.m. on the due date, it’s on time, according to the new rules. No more of this early morning deadline nonsense, which led to late fees for payments that arrived with the afternoon mail. Also, no more late fees if the due date is a Sunday or holiday and your payment doesn’t arrive until a day later...

...Let’s say you’re paying different interest rates on the debt on a single card — one for a cash advance, another for a balance transfer and a third for new purchases. Now, when you make a payment over the minimum balance, banks will have to apply it to the highest-interest debt first. I bet you can guess how some banks used to handle this sort of situation.

Will that stop banks from making money hand over fist every year? Probably not. And they certainly aren't happy to see that potential $20 billion a year in penalties they are going after a new target: the good customers.

Now Congress is moving to limit the penalties on riskier borrowers, who have become a prime source of billions of dollars in fee revenue for the industry. And to make up for lost income, the card companies are going after those people with sterling credit.

Banks are expected to look at reviving annual fees, curtailing cash-back and other rewards programs and charging interest immediately on a purchase instead of allowing a grace period of weeks, according to bank officials and trade groups.

“It will be a different business,” said Edward L. Yingling, the chief executive of the American Bankers Association, which has been lobbying Congress for more lenient legislation on behalf of the nation’s biggest banks. “Those that manage their credit well will in some degree subsidize those that have credit problems.”

If you have less than impressive credit, the credit card companies will make piles of money off you. That has always been the situation. But now if you have absolutely perfect credit....the credit card companies will make piles of money off you, too. Annual fees, immediate interest, loss of reward programs, etc.

When Glenn Back decided to mangle Pastor Martin Niemöller's famous "first they came..." quote and turned it into some offensively idiotic method of fomenting hate and fear he stated:

First, they came for the banks. I wasn't a banker. I didn't really care. I didn't stand up and say anything.

No, Glenn. It's not that we didn't care because we aren't bankers. It is because they have been screwing us for years and are even now looking at methods to screw over those who have perfect credit. That's the reason we "didn't say anything".

Glenn Beck...spreading the hate

Posted by J.D. On Tuesday, May 19, 2009 1 comments
Back in April, Glenn Beck said the following:

...he will slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun. He will make them more expensive; he'll tax them out of existence. He will because he has said he would. He will tax you gun or take your gun away one way or another.

Earlier in that same month, Beck called the U.S. government fascist and not so subtly compared President Obama to Adolph Hitler.

He has been even clearer in the past, talking about Obama with nazi footage playing behind him:

Now Beck is reiterating his Obama/Hitler comparisons as well as his fear-mongering claims that Obama plans to steal all your guns:

Gun sales are going up through the roof. And let me tell you something, I really truly believe the reason why a lot of Americans aren't paying attention to this is because they -- does anybody remember the poem, you know, first they came for the Jews and I didn't stand up because I wasn't a Jew? Do you know that from Germany?

In the end, I think this is the problem. First, they came for the banks. I wasn't a banker. I didn't really care. I didn't stand up and say anything.

Then they came for the AIG executives. Then they came for the car companies and I didn't say anything.

Until it gets down to you. Most people don't see they are coming for you at some point. You're on the list. Everybody's on the list.

Some people want to think of Beck as a crazy goofball and just write him off. They picture him like this old sketch from The Kids in the Hall:

Writing Beck off like that is dangerous. People listen to this guy. His words incite violence. Beck is no idiotic looney like the character Dave Foley portrays, nor is he Father Charles Coughlin. After all, Coughlin was basically a fascist while Beck ex morning-drive DJ radio personality who discovered that there was more money and fame to be had in political radio.

As I have noted before, right-wing hate rhetoric has consequences. Spreading fear and hate like this provokes violence. Beck knows this...he just doesn't care. He cares about ratings.

Bush's crusade

Posted by J.D. On Monday, May 18, 2009 0 comments
A few days after the events of September 11th, then-President George W. Bush gave a speech where he uttered the following line:

...this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile...

This, of course, raised the ire of many as it gave the appearance of a modern Holy War between Christianity and Islam.

His use of the word "crusade," said Soheib Bensheikh, Grand Mufti of the mosque in Marseille, France, "was most unfortunate", "It recalled the barbarous and unjust military operations against the Muslim world," by Christian knights, who launched repeated attempts to capture Jerusalem over the course of several hundred years.

In 2003, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gave President Bush daily updates of military intelligence entitled "Worldwide Intelligence Update". On the WIU was a coversheet featuring Biblical quotes printed above military photos.

Above an image of a tank at sunrise:

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Above a soldier manning a gun in Bagdad:

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

Robert Draper of GQ was able to get copies from a government official who was appauled by the religious crusade imagery.

Even though the backlash would be catastrophic for the administration if the copies were leaked, the reports continued to be printed with religious texts on the covers.

These cover sheets were the brainchild of Major General Glen Shaffer, a director for intelligence serving both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense. In the days before the Iraq war, Shaffer’s staff had created humorous covers in an attempt to alleviate the stress of preparing for battle. Then, as the body counting began, Shaffer, a Christian, deemed the biblical passages more suitable. Several others in the Pentagon disagreed. At least one Muslim analyst in the building had been greatly offended; others privately worried that if these covers were leaked during a war conducted in an Islamic nation, the fallout—as one Pentagon staffer would later say—“would be as bad as Abu Ghraib.”

This was a crusade for Bush. Using the tragedy of September 11th as an excuse to attack Iraq, Bush needed a link. No matter how tenuous. So he used torture.

Finding a "smoking gun" linking Iraq and al Qaeda became the main purpose of the abusive interrogation program the Bush administration authorized in 2002, a former State Department official told CNN on Thursday...

..."Its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at preempting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al Qaeda,"...

It didn't seem to matter to Bush that there was no link. Intelligence agencies even advised him that there was no link...but he continued searching for one. Because he was on a crusade.

"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."

Even former Vice President Al Gore warned that the pre-emptive was devoid of merit. Of course, for that Charles Krauthammer called Gore's speech "a disgrace."

When torture failed to provide a link, the administration simply lied about Saddam seeking quantities of uranium from Africa.

Because Bush was on a crusade.

Thoughts for Sunday

Posted by J.D. On Sunday, May 17, 2009 0 comments
Not only do . . . rulers keep many millions of men whose only trade is war, but these must be supported in worse than useless idleness by the labor of the poor. Still other millions are trained to war and are ever ready to answer to their master's call, to desert their homes and trades and offer up their lives to satisfy the vain ambitions of the ruler of the state. Millions more must give their strength and lives to build forts and ships, make guns and cannon and all the modern implements of war. Apart from any moral question of the right of man to slay his fellow man, all this great burden rests upon the poor. The vast expense of war comes from the production of the land and must serve to weaken and impair its industrial strength. - Clarence Darrow

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in a final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed—those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending its money alone—it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

We need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children. - Howard Zinn

When a war breaks out, people say: "It's too stupid, it can't last long." But though a war may be "too stupid," that doesn't prevent its lasting. - Albert Camus

What is absurd and monstrous about war is that men who have no personal quarrel should be trained to murder one another in cold blood. - Aldous Huxley

When we are in partnership and have stopped clutching each other's throats, when we have stopped enslaving each other, we will stand together, hands clasped, and be friends. we will be comrades, we will be brothers, and we will begin the march to the grandest civilization the human race has ever known. - Eugene V. Debs

First Monday in October

Posted by J.D. On Saturday, May 16, 2009 0 comments
As Justice David Souter prepares to step down and speculation swirls about his replacement on the Supreme Court, I was reminded of a film I first viewed back when I was a teenager.

I had been flipping channels and happened upon the beginning of a film. I missed the title, but the cast listed Walter Matthau. Having recently seen Grumpy Old Men (I was a teenager at the time) and enjoyed it, I stopped on this channel and watched the film.

The film is about Ruth Loomis (played by Jill Clayburgh) who is appointed the first female Supreme Court justice. Being a Conservative, she clashes with old Liberal lion Dan Snow (Walter Matthau).

I didn't know the title and Matthau's IMDB page lists over a hundred credits. I knew the films had to have been released in the late seventies or early eighties. After about an hour of searching, I found the title. First Monday in October.

The screenplay was adapted by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee from their play of the same name. Released in 1981, it was originally scheduled for October (like the title) but instead was moved up to August to capitalize on the serendipitous appointment of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

view the trailer here

The film beings with Justice Snow mountaineering while Chief Justice Crawford (Barnard Hughes) tries desperately to contact him. Justice Stanley Moorehead has died and Crawford needs Snow to return to Washington for the funeral.

Back in Washington, Snow is chatting with his new lay clerk Mason Woods (James Stephens) and Woods shows him a recent ruling by Orange County judge Ruth Loomis which annoys Snow. While he admits it is extremely well written, he disagrees entirely. Snow believes that Loomis is so prudish with her beliefs that he dismissively names her "the Mother Superior of Orange County".

At this point, it should appear patently obvious that Loomis is going to be the next Justice.

The first case the two clash about is the legality of a pornographic film entitled The Naked Nymphomaniac. As an aside, if the Supreme Court justices really do have a screening room where they all gather and watch pornographic films together...being a Supreme Court justice has some serious perks.

Snow is the kind of cranky Justice remarks about a ringing phone he refuses to answer: "A telephone has no constitutional right to be answered."

Loomis is the kind of Conservative who refers to The Naked Nymphomaniac as "celluloid poison". Of that same film, Snow claims "So its crap. What if it is crap? That's not the point. Crap's got the right to be crap."

Clearly, the sparks will fly.

But they kind of don't. Which is nice. The film doesn't become a standard romance but instead has the two characters learn to appreciate and respect each other. They each even get the other to open their eyes and minds a little. The ending leaves open the possibility that they could become romantic, but nothing is underlined and it could just be the beginning of a great partnership of mutually respectful co-workers.

The dialogue has some painful episodes. Occasionally, the characters don't speak like actual human beings but instead as characters in a play...which makes sense as the film is based on a play.

Undergoing her Senate confirmation hearing, Loomis speaks of her lack of children.

The F.B.I. is wrong in reporting to you that I have no children. Ideas are my children, and I have hundreds of them.

Yeah. That is the kind of line that is supposed to sound deep, but is actually painfully dumb. Try using that logic on someone who is unable to have children and see where it takes you.

"Sure, you can't physically have children, but you can have the idea of children. Let those ideas be your children!"

Prepare to be punched at that moment.

The characters clash on the issue of whether or not to hear a case about a large corporation called Omnitech. The company's owner supposedly bought up all the patents to a potential new engine and buried them. The minority stockholders want an accounting for these actions.

Loomis and the other Conservative justices have no desire to hear the case feeling that it could negatively impact big business. Snow, spearheading the Liberal side of the court, wants to hear the case...for similar reasons.

What is the engine? It is the film's MacGuffin. Largely irrelevant but useful in bringing our two protagonists together.

The original stage play featured Henry Fonda and Jane Alexander in the roles of Snow and Loomis. While I would wager that it is almost impossible to best Matthau when playing curmudgeonly, seeing Fonda give it a go must have been something.

Loomis' arguments against pornography ("Doesn't your celluloid poison offend all human dignity and decency and beauty?") are sadly still the same basic arguments made today. I guess in the last 26 years, Conservatives haven't been able to come up with a better argument than "I don't like it it's evil and it ought to be illegal!".

The character of Justice Snow was supposedly modeled on William O. Douglas. Douglas was the longest-serving justice in the history of the Supreme Court and was appointed by FDR. Douglas was a strong advocate of First Amendment rights as is the character of Justice Snow.

As noted, the film can be kind of stagey at times and some of the dialogue can induce groans. While I have never had the pleasure of seeing the inner workings of the Supreme Court, I feel confident that this film is a fantasy version of that hallowed institution. That being said, it is entertaining and fun. It probably isn't the most accurate film, but then Hollywood isn't really known for accuracy so I guess we will all have to take what we can get.

Conservatives continue to defend torture

Posted by J.D. On Friday, May 15, 2009 2 comments
In recent weeks, Dick Cheney and other Republicans have been working overtime to defend the Bush administration's use of torture.

Earlier this week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) defended the use of torture as a technique that works.

...I mean, one of the reasons these techniques have survived for about 500 years is apparently they work.

George Carlin once said:

People get all upset about torture, but when you get right down to it, it’s really a pretty good way of finding out something a person doesn’t want you to know.

The thing is...Carlin was joking. These guys aren't. Carlin was a comedian. These guys make decisions which impact your lives and the lives of others in other countries.

And they think torture works. But it doesn't.

The CIA inspector general in 2004 found that there was no conclusive proof that waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped the Bush administration thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to recently declassified Justice Department memos.

While former Vice President Dick Cheney claims that CIA memos will show "the success of the effort". This week, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) referred to those CIA memos and found a very different reading:

Nothing I have seen — including the two documents to which former Vice President Cheney has repeatedly referred — indicates that the torture techniques authorized by the last administration were necessary, or that they were the best way to get information out of detainees. The former vice president is misleading the American people when he says otherwise.

Former Minnesota governor Jesse Venture was a Navy Seal. In his training he had to undergo waterboarding. On Larry King Live he discussed his experience.

That’s right. I was water boarded, so I know — at SERE School, Survival Escape Resistance Evasion. It was a required school you had to go to prior to going into the combat zone, which in my era was Vietnam. All of us had to go there. We were all, in essence — every one of us was water boarded. It is torture....

...That's why torture's no good in a court of law. Because if you're torturing someone they are gonna tell you what they think you want to hear to stop the torture. Let me say this - they say it's prevented things by us torturing - if that's the case then why haven't we caught Bin Laden? Because we got his people and if we tortured them they ought to be able to tell us where he's at. See it don't work. We haven't captured Bin Laden. We haven't done anything. Torture does not work.

If torturing people had led to anything of note, we wouldn't be having this discussion. The Conservatives would be able to point to some concrete things...but they can't. Because torturing people didn't do anything except make some chickenhawks feel more like Rambo.

But it didn't protect us. It didn't lead to a flood of good intelligence. It just made America look immoral.

Obama delays movement on DADT

Posted by J.D. On Thursday, May 14, 2009 2 comments
On the heels of John McCain's opinion that DADT "has been working and I think it’s been working well", President Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs announced that there will be no immediate move to change the policy.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs today indicated that President Obama will not intervene to keep gay servicemembers from being dismissed from the military, despite his vow to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

Gibbs said "the policy isn?t working for our national interests," but added that ending it will "require more than the snapping of one's fingers."

"To get fundamental reform in this instance requires a legislative vehicle," Gibbs said. "The president made a promise to change this policy; he will work with the Joints Chiefs of Staff, the administration and with Congress to ensure that we have a policy that works for our national interests."

Back in November, Obama's camp was already signaling that they would drop the ball on this issue and delay any movement on it until at least 2010. The excuse then was the need to reach a consensus and then present legislation to Congress...which is pretty much the same excuse they are using now.

Some anti-gay organizations like Cornerstone Policy Research have claimed that most Americans don't want gays in the military. Unfortunately for their case, their evidence is false.

The truth is quite the contrary. A recent Quinnipiac University national poll shows the majority of Americans want the policy repealed. And I have repeatedly noted that more than 100 retired generals and admirals have called for the repeal of the policy.

That seems like consensus to me.

Obama needs to get moving on this or he seriously runs the risk of electoral backlash in the next election.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has various petitions you can sign to prod the government into doing what is right. They provide an easy way to write to the House, the Senate, or even President Obama.


McCain thinks DADT has "been working well"

Posted by J.D. On Wednesday, May 13, 2009 0 comments
This past weekend, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Republican Senator and former Presidential candidate John McCain his views on the military's Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell policy.

...But in all due respect, right now the military is functioning extremely well in very difficult conditions. We have to have an assessment on recruitment, on retention and all the other aspects of the impact on our military if we change the policy. In my view, and I know that a lot of people don’t agree with that, the policy has been working and I think it’s been working well.

No, Mr. McCain, it hasn't been working well.

This past March, a group of West Point graduates came out of the closet in solidarity and denounced the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell policy.

Thirty-eight graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., came out of the closet Monday with an offer to help their alma mater educate future Army leaders on the need to accept and honor the sacrifices of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender troops.

“Knights Out” wants to serve as a connection between gay troops and Army administrators, particularly at West Point, to provide an “open forum” for communication between gay West Point graduates and their fellow alumni and to serve in an advisory role for West Point leaders in the eventuality — which the group believes is both “imminent and inevitable” — that the law and policy collectively known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” are repealed by Congress.

“We’re publicly announcing our sexuality, our orientation,” said 1st Lt. Dan Choi, a National Guardsman with the 1st Bn., 69th Infantry, based in Manhattan. “It’s just one part of who we are in saying that we are standing to be counted.”

A month and a half later, 1st Lt. Dan Choi was dismissed from the military under that same policy. Lt. Choi is an Iraq war vet and Arabic translator. He made it clear that he was willing to be deployed again...and still they dismissed him. Because he is gay.

This week Choi received a letter citing his public admission of homosexuality as a cause for discharging him from the Army, stating that his actions “negatively affected the good order and discipline of the New York Army National Guard.”

In 2008, Barack Obama gave an interview to The Advocate wherein he discussed his views of Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell.

...But I think there’s increasing recognition within the Armed Forces that this is a counterproductive strategy -- ya know, we’re spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of our military, some of whom possess specialties like Arab-language capabilities that we desperately need. That doesn’t make us more safe, and what I want are members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who are making decisions based on what strengthens our military and what is going to make us safer, not ideology.

Lt. Choi had those "Arab-language capabilities"...and still he was dismissed. For being gay.

Earlier this year, Sandy Tsao, an army officer based out of St. Louis, MO came out and wrote a letter to newly sworn in President Obama. This month she received a handwritten letter from President Barack Obama. The President said that he was "committed to changing our current policy" but cautioned that it "will take some time to complete (partly because it needs Congressional action)". Tsao's last day in the military will be May 19. She, too, is being dismissed from the military.

In January, the Army fired 11 soldiers for violating the don't-ask-don't-tell policy. This is in the wake of more than 100 retired generals and admirals calling for the repeal of the policy. Since the policy was created in 1994, more than 13,000 military personnel have been dismissed from the military.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has various petitions you can sign to prod the government into doing what is right. They provide an easy way to write to the House, the Senate, or even President Obama.


BLS releases a new unemployment report

Posted by J.D. On Tuesday, May 12, 2009 1 comments
Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released an Employment Situation Summary which shows the unemployment numbers for April 2009.

The official rate of unemployment (labeled U3 by the BLS) is now 8.9%...the highest rate is has been since 1983.

Of course, that is just the "official" unemployment rate. There is another measure the BLS uses: the U6.

What makes the two different? Only the U6 counts "marginally attached workers".

Marginally attached workers are persons who currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the recent past. Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached, have given a job-market related reason for not looking currently for a job. Persons employed part time for economic reasons are those who want and are available for full-time work but have had to settle for a part-time schedule.

The "official" unemployment measure doesn't count those who aren't working and have given up looking after becoming discouraged with the lack of job openings. If a person stops actively looking for work for 4 weeks, that person becomes "marginally attached".

You see, if you are continually unable to find a job and finally give aren't unemployed anymore.

You aren't employed. But you aren't unemployed. Government mathematical magic!

This, of course, drastically alters the percentage of unemployed. While the U3 posits a 8.9% unemployment rate, the U6 shows a 15.8% rate. Almost double.

Counting those "marginally attached workers" makes all the difference in the world. As the newly released report notes, there are millions of people who fall in that category.

About 2.1 million persons (not seasonally adjusted) were marginally attached to the labor force in April, 675,000 more than a year earlier. These individuals wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

So while some have noted that our unemployment rate is lower than that of the Great Depression...they are using cooked numbers. The Great Depression had a rate at about 15.9%...if we use the more accurate U6 instead of the prettier U3, we find that we are basically right there.

The government uses those numbers to cook the books as it were and make unemployment look less severe than it is in reality. Others are doing their part to belittle the economic woes of many.

Recently, Rush Limbaugh gave a speech in support of the Heritage Foundation which is a conservative think-tank. In that speech, he mocked the recession and bragged about his wealth.

I’ve never had financially a down year. There’s supposedly a recession, but we’ve got - what is this May? Back in February we already had 102% of 2008 overbooked for 2009. So I always believed that if we’re going to have a recession, just don’t participate.

Unlike Rush Limbaugh, 15.8% of the nation doesn't have the option of just not participating.

Texas charges rape victims for examinations

Posted by J.D. On Monday, May 11, 2009 1 comments
A disturbing story has come out of Texas recently.

Victims of sexual assault are getting bills, rejection letters and pushy calls from bill collectors while a state crime victims' fund sits full of cash, Local 2 Investigates reported Thursday.

"I'm the victim, and yet here I am. I'm asked to pay this bill and my credit's going to get hurt," said a single mom from Houston...

...She was 44 years old when she was attacked in her own bed. She said she awoke to find a burly 15-year-old friend of her son assaulting her. He was found delinquent, meaning he was convicted, in juvenile court, thanks in part to the evidence gathered with the rape kit.

It isn't as though the state doesn't have the money to cover these tests. Quite the contrary.

Texas State Comptroller's office figures show the fund has tens of millions of dollars left over at the end of each year.

In September 2006, the balance was $67,058,646 and one year later, the balance was $57,669,432.

In 2008, that figure was up again to $66,572,261 that was left unspent in the fund.

When the state chooses not to pay these fees, they turn the victim's name over to bill collectors. Now, the victim not only has the physical and psychological damage of what happened to her, but gets to deal with the destruction of her credit, too.

The way the state law is written, it is the victims job to pay for the examination. If and when the victim is completely unable to pay, then the state steps in and helps cover the costs.

Attorney General's spokesman Jerry Strickland said the crime victim fund is enforcing strict guidelines imposed by the legislature as to which bills are paid and which victims are sent a denial notice.

Otherwise, he said that fund could become "insolvent."

He said state law is clear that crime victims must exhaust all other potential funding sources, such as local police or their own health insurance.

Unfortunately, Texas isn't the first state to charge victims. During the election cycle last year, a story from Alaska made the national news.

Eight years ago, complaints about charging rape victims for medical exams in Wasilla prompted the Alaska Legislature to pass a bill -- signed into law by Knowles -- that banned the practice statewide.

"There was one town in Alaska that was charging victims for this, and that was Wasilla," Knowles said

Even if you don't live in Alaska you might be familiar with Wasilla. Current governor Sarah Palin was the mayor of Wasilla...back when they charged victims for medical exams.

In February of last year, the story was in North Carolina.

The vast majority of the 3,000 or so emergency room patients examined for sexual assaults each year shoulder some of the cost of a rape kit test, according to state records and victim advocates. For some, it's as little as a $50 insurance co-payment. For those without insurance, it's hundreds of dollars left when a state program designed to help reaches its limit...

...For those without insurance, hospitals send the bills to the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, which has a modest fund to help. Reimbursements are capped at $1,000; the average cost of the rape kit exam is $1,600.

After that story ran, North Carolina made some changes. One of which was lifting the $1,000 cap.

"The cap has been lifted," says North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety spokesperson Patty McQuillan, though she noted that the legislature would still have to provide the additional funds.

These kits aren't simply used for evidence gathering (although that should be enough to have the state cover the costs), but are also used to test for any diseases the victim may have received from the assault.

The rape kit itself generally contains bags to collect clothing, test tubes for collecting blood, swabs for fluid, and a comb to collect pubic hair. Small-change stuff. But exams also involve administering tests for pregnancy, HIV, gonorrhea, and syphilis, and that's where the costs add up, says Randall Brown, medical director for the Baton Rouge Rape Crisis Center in Louisiana.

To charge a victim of sexual violence the cost of gathering evidence as well as testing for STDs and/or pregnancy is just unethical.


Warren County now wants stimulus money

Posted by J.D. On 0 comments
In late April, Republican Representative Mike Turner planned to introduce legislation which would allow Ohio's Warren County to return rejected federal stimulus dollars to the U.S. Treasury in an effort to pay down the national debt.

At the time, Warren County Commissioner C. Michael Kilburn had this to say about the stimulus money:

I’ll let Warren County go broke before taking any of (President Barack) Obama’s filthy money.

The kindhearted Kilburn had more to say about those who require help:

Commissioner Kilburn said he is “tired of worrying about people who don’t have.”

Turner's legislation may need to be placed on the backburner...Warren County wants the stimulus money now.

Despite saying it adamantly opposed receiving federal stimulus money, Warren County will accept funds to pay for a $2.9 million road resurfacing project.

Warren County Commission voted Thursday, May 7, to accept the funds that will allow almost 10 miles of county road to be repaired. The federal money will come from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, which is funded by stimulus dollars, according to Engineer Neil Tunison said

“Usually, these projects come out of the county bridge and road funds,” Tunison said. “With the money saved there, we can focus on other projects around the county.”

This time, Kilburn skipped the meeting to vote on the project and instead criticized his fellow commissioners:

"I’m disappointed with the vote," Kilburn said. "Pat and Dave and Neil are doing what many good Republicans in Washington have done; they’ve lost their way and become big spenders."

Unlike Kilburn, I guess the other two commissioners aren't too terribly tired of "worrying about people who don’t have".

Thoughts for Sunday

Posted by J.D. On Sunday, May 10, 2009 0 comments
Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak... Non-violence is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win. - César Chávez

Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose—and you allow him to make war at pleasure. - Abraham Lincoln

I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service in the country's most agile military force, the Marines. I served in all ranks from second lieutenant to major general. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. - Maj. Gen. Smedley Darlington Butler

There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people. - Howard Zinn

They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people. - Eugene V. Debs

If it's natural to kill, why do men have to go into training to learn to do it? - Joan Baez

EFCA and intimidation

Posted by J.D. On Saturday, May 9, 2009 0 comments
Since Arlen Specter's party switch, people have been talking and writing about The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and wondering what effect, if any, Specter's switch would have on the legislation.

How important is EFCA? To the economy, it could be very important.

The Service Employee International Union (SEIU), comprised of workers in the hospitality industry, estimates that EFCA's passage would be tantamount to a mini economic stimulus package pumping $49 billion a year into the economy.

Some were hoping that with the switch to the Democratic Party, Arlen Specter would give the Democrats enough votes to pass the legislation. But before becoming a Democrat, Arlen Specter was against EFCA. As a Democrat...nothing has changed. His reasoning was the idea that EFCA removes the secret ballot. That, however, is a myth.

Fiction: The "legislation would end the rights of employees to secret ballot elections."
– Center for Union Facts

FACT: The Employee Free Choice Act does not abolish elections or "secret ballots." Under the proposed legislation, workers get to choose the union formation process—elections or majority sign-up. Under current law, the choice to recognize a union rests only with employers.

What the Employee Free Choice Act does prevent is an employer manipulating the flawed system to influence the election outcome. When faced with organizing campaigns: 25 percent of employers illegally fire pro-union workers; 51 percent of employers illegally threaten to close down worksites if the union prevails; and, 34 percent of employers coerce workers into opposing the union with bribes and favoritism.

Some claims that card check will allow unions to intimidate people into joining. Those people claim that elections carried out using the rules from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) are more fair.

American Rights at Work commissioned a survey which was conducted by Rutgers University and Jesuit Wheeling University professors Adrienne Eaton, Ph.D., and Jill Kriesky, Ph.D. This survey found that there was far more intimidation from management then from unions.

Of all workers surveyed (election and card check combined), four times as many workers reported that management coerced them “a great deal” as opposed to the union (22% vs. 6%)...

...During NLRB elections, 46% of workers complained of management pressure, compared to only 14% of workers during card check campaigns reporting pressure from the union...

...Workers in NLRB elections were 53% more likely than those in card check campaigns to report that management threatened to eliminate jobs, and 28% more likely to report that management discriminated against union supporters...

Another study, entitled A Study of Illinois’ Majority Interest Petition Provision 2003-2009, found a similar trend in Illinois.

Since 2003, Illinois labor law has allowed public sector workers in municipal, county, state, and educational institutions to organize a union via a majority sign-up certification process...

...In the past six years, 21,197 public sector workers from a wide variety of industries have organized under the new guidelines, with the boards certifying 799 units. While just under 300 petitions were dismissed because the union failed to achieve majority support, literally zero petitions were thrown out because of labor coercion.

Obviously, the idea that unions intimidate people into joining is a myth. Card Check will not make a non-problem suddenly a big problem.

How about those NLRA elections? How fair are they?

Not very.

Employees are restricted from openly disseminating information: In elections for union representation, employers have monopoly control of media within the workplace. They can distribute anti-union information anywhere and at anytime, while pro-union workers are restricted to posting literature in the break area during break time. Unions are restricted to distributing material off-site...

...Employees are restricted from openly expressing their opinions: Employers are allowed to enforce a total ban on employees discussing the proposed union outside of the break room. Yet employers enjoy unfettered communication subjecting employees to mandatory staff meetings and one-on-one meetings with supervisors, often with the intent of intimidating those suspected of supporting union formation. Labor law provides no equal opportunities for pro-union workers to respond or present alternative viewpoints...

The Employee Free Choice Act will go a long way towards making union elections more fair. It will cut down on harassment from management and allow the will of the workers to take precedence. And it is sorely needed:

When faced with organizing drives, 25 percent of employers fire at least one pro-union worker; 51 percent threaten to close a worksite if the union prevails; and, 91 percent force employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with their supervisors.

The video below outlines how workers can attempt to unionize today...and how incredibly difficult the process can be because it is designed to give all the power to management.


Obama outlines new tax code

Posted by J.D. On Friday, May 8, 2009 0 comments
Earlier this week, Obama outlined his plans for a new tax code which would cut down on the loopholes large multinational companies use to avoid paying taxes.

As part of his plans to overhaul the U.S. tax code, President Obama promised yesterday to crack down on such business strategies that can send jobs and U.S. taxes overseas...

..."It's a tax code that says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, N.Y.," Obama said.

Big business was sweating just how far Obama was going to go with his new tax code. But all the sweating was in most of Obama's proposals thus far, it doesn't really go that far at all.

The president did not propose eliminating the current law that allows U.S. companies to defer taxes indefinitely on overseas income, which some industry leaders had feared.

This President, like pretty much every other President, was elected with the help of big business. He isn't going to turn around and screw them.

And keep in mind that closing these loopholes isn't exactly a new idea.

Democrats have been fighting -- and losing -- this battle since John F. Kennedy made a similar proposal in 1961.

Obama has cited a study from 2004 that found large multinational companies paid $16 billion in taxes on $700 billion of foreign earnings.

Yep. Their tax rate is about 2%.

Obama said his plan would raise $210 billion over the next 10 years. He also stated that he would make permanent a current tax credit for companies that do research and experimentation in the United States which is set to expire later this year.

Obama's goal is to curb tax breaks for U.S. companies that operate in other countries with the (hopeful) end result of more American companies supplying more American jobs.

Companies may still pay taxes to foreign countries where they do business, but those rates tend to be lower than the U.S. tax rate. Through "deferral," big tech companies have avoided paying U.S. taxes on billions in overseas revenue...

...While not eliminating deferral, Obama would change the law that lets companies take an immediate deduction on their U.S. income tax for business expenses tied to overseas operations, such as interest on a loan to build a foreign factory. According to a White House fact sheet, the proposal would raise $60 billion over nine years by requiring companies to defer those deductions until they pay U.S. taxes on the income from those operations.

Making American companies pay American taxes? Somewhere a Conservative is claiming this is un-American.

While I wish Obama's plan went further (eliminating deferrals completely would have been nice) I do hope his new plans can come to fruition and hopefully lead to more jobs in America and help bring the economy back in line.

Not holding my breath, mind you, I just hope it works.

Turner and Schmidt want rejected stimulus money to pay down debt

Posted by J.D. On Thursday, May 7, 2009 0 comments
Earlier this year, Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH) was the only Republican co-sponsor of a bill Congressman John Boehner called "worst idea in the world": H.R.1106, the mortgage cram down bill.

This week, Boehner thinks Turner is a hero.

Congressman John Boehner (R-West Chester) today applauded Reps. Jean Schmidt and Michael Turner for announcing they will introduce legislation to allow Warren County (OH) to return rejected federal “stimulus” dollars to the U.S. Treasury to pay down the national debt.

“Local leaders in Warren County, Liberty Township and other communities are standing up for our children and grandchildren by taking a principled stand against Washington’s insistence on spending money we simply do not have,” Boehner said. “The funds Warren County has declined should be returned to the federal Treasury to reduce the national debt, and I commend Jean Schmidt and Mike Turner for their leadership in writing legislation to help ensure this happens. I hope House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will allow the bill to come to a vote immediately once it is introduced."

The money Warren County Commissioners rejected was $373,000 that had been intended for the purchase of three shuttle vans. The Commissioners claims the old fleet is perfectly adequate for the needs of county residents.

While The Middletown Journal claims that the county "did not apply for the money", an article which appeared hours later in The Dayton Daily News claims otherwise:

The commissioners deemed the money unnecessary after it was first requested in a “wish list” by county staff.

Warren County Commissioner C. Michael Kilburn had this to say about the stimulus money:

I’ll let Warren County go broke before taking any of (President Barack) Obama’s filthy money.

So the fleet of vans may not be in quite the pristine shape that the Commissioners claimed when rejecting the money. This appears to be more of a political move much akin to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal suggesting that Louisiana might reject stimulus money even though the state faces a $2 billion budget shortfall.

But Kilburn had more to say. Oh yes.

Commissioner Kilburn said he is “tired of worrying about people who don’t have.”

It's nice to know that the people in government are tired of dealing with all the darn poor folks. Granted, Kilburn is only one of three commissioners, but when one third of the commission walks this way, that is scary.

The Middletown Journal article had a great comment by one "Savanation":

The Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq was passed on October 11, 2002. Congressman Turner didn't take office until 2003. While he didn't vote to authorize the war, he has supported it since taking office.

He voted in support of The Global War on Terror.

He voted against Mandatory Troop Rest Periods Between Deployments to Iraq.

He also voted against Iraq Related Provisions such as a Troop Withdrawal, a Permanent Base Ban, and Limiting Interrogation Techniques.

I agree with Savanation that money would be better spent on helping people that in fueling the military machine. I completely agree with that.

And unlike Commissioner Kilburn, I do worry about "people who don’t have".