Those times the GOP didn’t threaten government shutdown.

September 28, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Keith Ellison from Minneapolis, USA.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Keith Ellison from Minneapolis, USA.


It is becoming increasingly obvious that Republicans simply do not like to lose. They cannot abide it. They lost the Senate, they lost the popular vote for the House of Representatives, and with Obamacare a big part of the 2012 Presidential election… they lost that too. Their record in the White House since the turn of the century was horrendous, Red States tend to be the highest for poverty and the uninsured, and yet they still demand to be taken as a credible alternative to a President who is shrinking the deficit the fastest since World War II, and helping those with pre-existing conditions get coverage. It is difficult for Republicans to accept that the Democratic President has achieved more in just four years, than the Republican Party has achieved in decades.

So, what in the past, hasn’t made the Republican Party decide they wish to close down government? Well:

The Republicans didn’t threaten to close down government, for the massive Bush deficit:
In 2001, the CBO announced that the Clinton surplus of $280 billion would lead to a surplus of $5.9tn by 2011. After 8 years of Bush, that number was actually -$6tn. Two wars, massive failed tax cuts and a recession later – all of which, Tea Party Republicans appear to have been asleep throughout – and most (over 60%) believe the deficit is growing under Obama. In fact, the deficit is shrinking under Obama, and pretty rapidly. Down 37.6% for the first 10 months of the fiscal year. Look at all of those deficit years. All Republican. Except for since 2008, with the deficit falling rapidly, under a Democrat.

screen shot 2013-01-20 at 5.48.24 am
– Can you imagine how Republicans would have reacted had the Party that inherited the deficit in ’92, and again in ’08 been Republican? The President would be hailed as a great success. The saviour of the US economy from the dark days that came before.

Republicans didn’t feel the need to register their disgust at the President’s indifference to Osama Bin Laden:
Can you imagine the outrage across Republican America if six months after the biggest terrorist attack on US soil, in which thousands of Americans died, the President on National TV, tells the country that when it comes to Osama Bin Laden:

“I don’t know where he is and you know I don’t spend that much time on him really”.

– Can you imagine the outrage if President Obama had said that? If President Obama had said of Benghazi: “You know, I just don’t spend much time on it really” Fox – after visibly exploding with fury live on TV – would spend days discussing just how much President Obama must hate America. Twitter would be a gathering of Americans with Eagles as their profile picture, demanding impeachment for anti-American hate. Can you imagine the Republican reaction, if ten years after the previous President not spending much time catching the man responsible for 3000 American deaths, a Republican President was the Commander-in-Chief when Osama Bin Laden is tracked down and caught? He would be hailed as the saviour of the economy, and the man who brought justice for 9/11. Instead, they are charging President Obama with weakness, over his incredible diplomacy tactic with Iran and Syria.

The Republicans had absolutely no problem with warrantless wiretapping & The Patriot Act:
Can you imagine the storm of shit that would be kicked up had warrantless wiretapping, and The Patriot Act been an Act conceived by the Obama Administration? I shudder to think how many comparisons to Orwell’s 1984 we would be presented with. Badly Photoshopped images of Obama as Stalin would flood social media. How did Republicans react when The Patriot Act was conceived and then passed by Republicans? With complete indifference.

Republicans didn’t threaten government shut down for Republican mistreating of veterans:
If you voted Bush in 2004, whilst displaying a “We support our troops!” bumper sticker, perhaps it’s time to rethink your allegiances; If President Obama’s healthcare plan involved cuts to veterans care, I can say with some degree of certainty that the reaction from Republicans would range from “He hates American soldiers! Impeach NOW!” to… “He’s letting the Terrorists win! It’s a conspiracy!”. And yet, had the Republicans returned to power in 2008, the budget for Veterans care – at the precise time most were coming home from Iraq & Afghanistan – was intended to be slashed. Due to previous cuts to Veterans affairs, centers were closing down, and queues for care became over burdensome due to those cuts. The Administration proposed further cuts. According to the “VA Health Care Funding Alert,” Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Press Release, January 31, 2003; 200,000 veterans were having to wait over six months for a medical visit, due to health care shortages. Can you imagine the Republican response if ‘Obamacare’ included a section dedicated to making it far more difficult for veterans to get healthcare? Ted Cruz would have had a lot more to talk about in his speech that included absolutely nothing of interest.

Well, according to a study released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Obamacare will enable 630,000 uninsured veterans to qualify for the expanded Medicaid program, and an extra 520,000 veterans qualify for subsidised health insurance coverage.

This comes at the same time as Republicans in Congress voted to throw 170,000 veterans off of food stamps, with their horrific cut to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $40 billion over 10 years. Essentially, they created the deficit with two wars, and now they wish to turn their backs on those who fought the wars, by making the most vulnerable of veterans pay for it.
Republicans failed veterans, the Obama administration is putting that right.

Republicans had no problem with the President sitting idly by as New Orleans drowned:
I imagine that had the President reacted to Hurricane Sandy in New York, as his predecessor reacted to New Orleans after Katrina certain right winged media outlets would be insisting on playing video after video of lower Manhattan drowning as the President does nothing. Select Committees would pop up after right winged calls for immediate inquiries into the negligence of the President and his lack of care for American lives. The banging of the impeachment drum would be deafening. What happened when Bush completely mishandled the aftermath of Katrina, with a lack of preparation, emergency aid and reconstruction….. Republicans said nothing.

Republicans registered no anger at the joy the Bush administration took from outsourcing jobs abroad.

“I think outsourcing is a growing phenomenon, but it’s something that we should realize is probably a plus for the economy in the long run”.

– I’d imagine the response would include Tea Party protestations daily about how the President is wilfully killing the American Middle Class, like a crazy out of control Marxist.

Republicans didn’t and still don’t have a problem with growing numbers of uninsured children:
We all know how Republicans feel about ‘Obamacare’. I think there is a distinct possibility that their main problem with the health reforms, are that they involve the words ‘Obama’ & ‘care’. The former being a figure of hate regardless of what he says and does, and the latter being a concept that has eluded Republicans for generations. We should perhaps begin referring to the period between 2001 and 2008, as ‘BushPoverty’ (and if we’re in Texas, we may call it CruzPoverty, given his horrendous record). It’s a phrase Republicans can get on board with, because they remained particularly silent when the Census Bureau report noted that when Clinton left office, the number of uninsured Americans stood at 38.4 million… but when Bush left office, not only had median incomes fallen, the deficit risen, and poverty spiked, but the number of uninsured people in the US rose to 46.3 million. A 20.6% increase. That’s the record of a Party that now insist we consider them to be the rightful authorities on healthcare in America. Can you imagine how Republicans would have reacted if under a Democratic President, in just 8 years the number of uninsured rose by 20%, poverty spiked, and the median income plummeted? ……. Actually, they’d probably hail it a success.
BushPoverty.

Republicans didn’t threaten to shut down government over: A misleading argument taking the country to war, the massive deficit incurred because of the misleading arguments taking the country to war, a $6tn deficit, the hailing of outsourcing jobs to be great for the country, the drowning of New Orleans, impoverishing veterans, the worst job creation record in decades, the flippant dismissal of attempts to track down the World’s most wanted terrorist responsible for thousands of American lives lost, the Patriot Act, the 20% increase in those living without insurance, the drop in median incomes, the rise in child poverty.

Republicans do threaten to shut down government over: Insurance for kids with pre-existing conditions.
Good job Republicans. Good job.


E.ONs misleading response to Miliband.

September 25, 2013

In August 2013, E.ON Energy saw profits jump 14.7%, with their profit margin rising to 6.25% from 5.97% after price hikes of 8.7% for duel fuel customers. In the winter – the time when people struggle the most to pay their fuel bills, and in the middle of economic downturn – E.ON decided to put their prices up. They then claimed the profit increase was due to the cold weather….. in winter….. after they put their prices up. Seriously. Remember that when you read E.ON insisting that government programmes are to blame for customers paying more.

When reading E.ONs response, keep in mind that the Big Six netted the following profits collectively since 2009:
2009: £2.15bn
2010: £2.22bn
2011: £3.87bn
2012: £3.74bn
Over £1.5bn more in 2012, than 2009. They managed this during a period of economic stagnation, unemployment, and households struggling to put food on their tables, the big six were happily swimming in pools of profit. Remember that, when you read E.ON insisting that government programmes are to blame for customers paying more.

We can say for certain that Ed Miliband has finally struck the right chord, when energy companies who have seemingly experienced complete impunity with their mistreatment of the entire country for far too long, start to throw their toys out of the pram. Today was E.ON’s turn to act the spoilt brat. We must remember that, like the banks insistence that all the best people would leave the UK if the financial sector was in any way regulated for bringing down the entire system…. energy companies will start insisting that the UK will suffer intense blackouts, if we dare to put the breaks on their exploitation. Threats are worthless, and should not factor into discussion.

Labour’s plan isn’t just a price freeze until the end of 2017, but also the breakup of the big six to ensure a more competitive environment not dominated by what is becoming increasingly clear as a monopoly; and a new regulatory body to ensure necessary investment in greener technology. A completely new energy market. This is absolutely necessary. Centrica’s boss predictably reacted by suggesting that more competition, would lead to economic ruin. The spirit of Capitali….oh wait.

In response to Milibands speech, and the full Labour plan, E.ON UK released this press release, predictably not happy that their gravy train may now be coming to a end. Only an energy company could endeavour to write one long, deluded and manipulative piece that can be summed up with simply: we love our customers that much that despite their struggles in this tough time, we want to keep raising the price of their bills without consequence.

First thing to note is that E.ON are rather adept at misleading responses to customer’s worries. When asked about January 2013 price hikes, E.ON said this:

“Some 16 months after our last price increase, and almost a year since we actually cut our electricity prices, we have had to make the difficult decision to increase our prices in January.”

– A cut? That sounds like customers saved money over the previous year! Well, no. It’s a misleading statement to say the very very least. Which.co.uk provided this graph to show E.ON price hikes over the past three years:
eon
– Dropping £30, after a £160 increase, followed by another £100 increase, and (the graph doesn’t give 2013 date) a further increase of £110 for 2013…. does not in anyway represent a “cut”. The average household energy bill will now be 23% higher than in 2011. E.ON will now be the most expensive for average household energy bills, of all the big six, and £18 higher than the Big Six average. In 2012 the energy watchdog noted that the average annual profit margins per customer for the big six energy companies had risen to £125 in October, from just £15 in June.

In the press release today, E.ON boss Tony Cocker says:

“Let me start out by making clear where we absolutely agree. Our customers are the most important people in the world.”

– So much do customers mean to E.ON, that they rose their prices by over 8% for the first half of the year, increasing their profit margins, whilst knowing that customers would be needing to heat their homes during the cold winter months and in the middle of an economic downturn. So much are customers ‘the most important people in the World’, that Cocker goes on to spend the next 800+ words of the press release arguing his case for continued price hikes that his customers are struggling to afford.

Quick stat: Between 2005 and 2010, energy prices increased 57%:
chart1r2
– There is no positive outcome, is this trend continues. Everyone suffers unless those bars start to fall. E.ON cannot manipulate their way out of that responsibility. What we can deduce from E.ONs angry response to the Labour’s price freeze idea, is that E.ON intend to make those bars keep rising, until at least 2017.

In 2009 The Independent reported that whilst wholesale gas prices had halved, bills had fallen by just 4%. It took campaigns by newspapers, and grassroots groups to convince people to shop around, after discovering that the Big 6 were charging almost £200. The Independent noted:

“Quarterly and pre-payment customers who switch to Ovo or First:Utility would save £287.”

The Energy Contract Company, an independent energy forcaster said:

“The fall in spot prices has meant the domestic market is now highly profitable”.

– E.ON knew what it was doing. They knew that people were struggling, and that energy bills were one main reason, and they did nothing. But then, how else would they pay for E.ON CEO Johannes Teyssen’s £3.6mn in salary and bonuses for 2011?

“You’ve called for us to be fair and reasonable in our pricing and our profit levels. We already are.”

– This is an opinion. I do not believe it fair to inflate prices during the coldest months, and during economic stagnation, knowing people are struggling, and forcing the most vulnerable into further hardship and debt, whilst profits soar. The Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE) Project, in March, published its report into poverty in the UK. The report – ‘The Impoverishment of the UK‘ – found that one in three people couldn’t afford to adequately heat their homes throughout the winter in 2012.
Save The Children reported that families are going without food, to stop getting into debt over energy bills they cannot afford. This must be what E.ON believes is “fair and reasonable”.

“Read the letters from customers telling us of the difference to their lives, not just their homes, that the insulation we put in has made. Meet our customers at our Open House store in the middle of Nottingham who value and appreciate the extra help our people have given.”

– Why are we even discussing this? Everything is great! It’s like being mugged for £10, and then given £1 and the mugger telling you that he’s only trying to help.

Mr Cocker then writes:

“What do I mean by political programmes? Successive governments have collected taxes for different schemes through energy bills and this has added extra pressure and is a factor in why bills have risen over a sustained period of time. All politicians, from all sides, need to acknowledge that fact. At a stroke you could remove a large cost from energy bills simply by moving these costs to general taxation.”

– This is the crux of the entire press release. It is one big “tax us less, and we might consider not leaving pensioners to rot in fuel poverty. Deal?” And whilst we’re at it…. General taxation. Take the ‘burden’ away from massive profit making companies that pay their CEO’s extortionate bonuses, and onto the general public who are already seeing incomes drop? And what should those taxes be used for?…..

“So I’m asking all politicians: Help me to get Smart meters into more homes more quickly. Help me to get British homes up to a modern, energy efficient standard. Help me to get UK businesses on top of their energy use.”

…. of course. Those general taxes should go to E.ON! They want to pay nothing, and reap the benefits of everyone else paying. They don’t want a more competitive environment, they want the government to help their own company get ahead. What Mr Cocker is admitting here, is that despite vast profits, they are still unwilling to do anything to help bring your bills down, without government subsidies. A failing sector. More competition is absolutely vital. Force them to act for the benefit of their customers, through well regulated competition.

If successive government programmes were in fact responsible for much of the size of an energy bill… then it stands to reason that E.ONs profits should be at best flatlining, rather than skyrocketing. There would be no 14% profit jump. Government programmes have apparently been that restrictive on an incredibly small number of energy companies, that in 2012, they still managed to net £3.74bn between them, according to the regulator. How terrible!

Mr Cocker writes:

“Of course there are people who need our help and yes, there are a few we’ve let down but we have, and we are, making the changes needed to get things right: Simpler bills, clearer products, changes for businesses. Of course we need to rebuild trust with our customers, and reset our relationship. We acknowledge that, we have made changes, and we are making changes.”

– I’d like him to elaborate on who he thinks he’s let down? Perhaps the 100,000 former customer they overcharged for switching to a different provider, and which took the regulator to investigate and actually force E.ON to act? And when they speak of the changes that they are making…. how many of those were not forced upon them when it became clear that E.ON and other energy companies were ripping customers off at every possible opportunity? Clearer products – forced. Simpler bills – forced. Ed Davey insisted that the energy companies and the government were working to make bills more transparent. The fact that the government had to get involved and energy companies weren’t willing to make bills transparent in the first place, is a problem. You do not ‘rebuild trust’ by claiming to be fixing the problems of your own generous, good will, when in fact, you were forced. And until they’re forced to bring down energy prices, they will continue to manipulate, blame everyone else; usually government, kick and scream, and then eventually give in and accept that ‘we need to rebuild trust’.

Gas and electricity isn’t a commodity like any other. It is a necessity for most. It can be the difference between life and death, and therefore energy companies must put people before shareholders. They sell an extraordinary product that cannot be allowed to reap great profits for companies at the continued expense of the lives and finances of the public. During economic downturns, if the price of energy is causing economic pain across the country, then I would suggest that energy and gas profits should be minimal. This is not like selling jam, or Xbox games, or football shirts. If profits soar, whilst fuel poverty soars, something is deeply flawed, and the market is broken. E.ON call this “reasonable and fair”. Right there, is the problem. They see no problem.

And as I noted previously, we can deduce from E.ONs angry response, that they have every intention of rising prices over the next five years; the same period of time that the Chancellor announced austerity will now last until. The hardship and the economic pain will only continue, prices will rise, there will still be a lack of competition, and that’s what E.ONs press release argues for.

So, they don’t control much of the price, the government are to blame for the majority of the Bill, and they want the public to be taxed more to pay for their lack of investment? Why not just renationalise gas and electricity? I see no use for these big six companies any more. And judging by his statement today, neither does Tony Cocker. He doesn’t seem to see any issue whatsoever. For Cocker, they cannot afford to modernise, without government help, and according to Cocker, all the problems can be fixed by taxing them less, and taxing people more to fund E.ON. So why not just cut out the middle man? They were given a chance, they enriched themselves, and immiserated everyone else, whilst calling it ‘fair and reasonable’. Nationalise them.


Ted Cruz: One Man Death Panel.

September 25, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Ted Cruz  Uploaded by AlbertHerring).

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Ted Cruz Uploaded by AlbertHerring).

It’s been a strange week to view US politics. The Tea Party; a group that consists of about five men, waving Confederate flags, and insisting that anything slightly Left of Mussolini is a communist plot, seem to be holding their party, and the country to ransom.

Like most nights Canadian born (which strangely, birthers seem not too fussed with) Ted Cruz spends not filibustering anything, he spent last night, not filibustering anything, but performing a filibuster anyway. After vowing to stand and talk until he couldn’t talk any more (though taking a break after an hour) he’s doing the same thing today. And when he’s asleep tonight, he will also not be filibustering anything in much the same way, though he wont have the distinct enjoyment he gets from the sound of his own voice. Like their redefinition of the word ‘Marxist’, The Republicans have redefined the word ‘filibuster’ to mean; speaking aimlessly for quite a long time. And the more he speaks, the more myths he throws to be knocked out of the park, like the World’s worst pitcher. Incidentally, I deal with debunking three Obamacare myths here.

It is indeed ironic for a Party apparently calling itself “Republican” to be attempting to close down the entire Government despite losing the Presidential election twice in a row, losing the Senate, losing the popular vote for the House, and their share of the vote falling for both legislature elections. A minority sect, of a minority Party appears to believe it rules the Country. How un-democratic, and how tyrannus.

Whilst Cruz compared his ‘struggle’ to prevent millions of children from being insured, and women from accessing preventative care, to the sruggle to beat the Nazis, and the struggle for American Independence, we must ask; What are Ted “Mr Over Dramatic” Cruz’s credentials when it comes to the health and well being of Americans? Well, as it turns out, not so good.

Ted Cruz & Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week:
In March this year Cruz registered his opposition to the ceremonial, routine Senate resolution commemorating Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week. The excuse pushed by his staff was:

“The Senator, like many of his colleagues, will not grant consent to call up and pass a resolution or bill at the last minute without time for review,”

– The time given, was just under 48 hours. Two days. So, given Cruz’s complaint, we’d expect the Bill for this routine Senate resolution to have far too many words for a Senator and his staff to read over in just 48 hours? Well, no. House Resolution 95 has less than 700 words. Actually, when you take out the introductory paragraph and focus on the substance, it comes to 568 words. That’s a little over 150 words more than you’ve currently read of this article so far.
So if we put aside that ridiculous excuse from Cruz’s staff, and look at the Bill, we may be able to see the real issue Cruz has with accepting it. And it doesn’t take long before we reach:

“(6) recognizes and reaffirms the Nation’s commitment to ending multiple sclerosis by promoting awareness about people that are affected with multiple sclerosis and by promoting new education programs, supporting research, and expanding access to medical treatment.”

– This might go some way to explaining why Politico referenced a Democratic staffer who told them that the reason Ted Cruz opposed the MS Bill, was:

“He was unhappy with a clause in the resolution describing the purpose of the Multiple Sclerosis Coalition.”

– Could it have been the clause that seeks to help expand access to medical treatment for those with Multiple Sclerosis? Judging by his current behaviour, I’d find it difficult to pinpoint another clause in the Bill that he might have issues with.

Ted Cruz & Hurricane Sandy:
Ted Cruz rightfully demanded Federal aid in the aftermath of the West Fertilizer Company explosion in West Texas in April. Though he failed to accept that weak regulations lead to this plant running for years without a pollution permit; thus leading to Cruz having to ask the taxpayer to bail out failed deregulation policies and the irresponsibility of a private company. This came six months after the same Ted Cruz announced his opposition to the Sandy Relief Fund. His excuse was disastrous:

“Two thirds of this spending is not remotely “emergency”; the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 30% of the authorized funds would be spent in the next 20 months, and over a billion dollars will be spent as late as 2021.”

– This isn’t exactly true. Short term aid or “emergency” aid accounts for 40% of the money spent. The rest was indeed for longer term relief. I see no problem with that. For example, $5.3 was set aside for funding projects “related to reducing risk of damage from future disasters.” For that, Cruz voted against all funding for Sandy relief, including emergency food supplies. This is not a man who cares about people.
Other Republicans stood against the relief fund for the victims of the superstorm, because it was a Bill ‘laden with pork’. What Republicans didn’t like to tell people, is that the ‘pork’ was actually aimed at winning over Republicans, in Red States, with funds for Red States, to ensure a filibuster proof bill, as pointed out by Rick Ungar writing in Forbes. This is the result of Republican derailing attempts at every possible turn, to the point where even relief for victims of a horror storm, aren’t enough to warrant help according to Republicans. Interestingly, the relief fund for the West Texas explosion, didn’t require bribing Blue States to ensure its funding.

Ted Cruz & Mental Health:
When it comes to mental health, Cruz is astonishingly inconsistent with his underlying values. When it comes to a database of gun owners, Cruz is quite clear:

“I don’t think the Federal Government has any business having a list of law abiding citizens who choose to exercise their right to keep and bear arms.”

– Law abiding citizens being the key phrase to this, because when asked about the database, Cruz called for the strengthening of a Federal ‘list’ of law abiding citizens who wish to own guns, who happen to have mental health issues:

“Right now a lot of states, a lot of local jurisdictions, are not reporting criminal convictions, not reporting mental health barriers to ownership. And so the federal database is not nearly as good as it should be. That would be a common-sense improvement.”

– We can deduce from these two quotes, that Cruz believes ‘law abiding’ does not apply to anyone with a mental health issue.

Ted Cruz & Uninsured Children in his own State:
According to the 2012 American Community Survey, Ted Cruz’s State of Texas has the highest number of uninsured people in the entire Country. But even more horrifically, is that whilst Ted Cruz works to block a Bill that will cover millions more children…. his own State has the highest number of uninsured children in the Country. A status quo that Ted Cruz is currently fighting to protect, in what can only be deemed to be a bid for the White House in 2016. More than 852,000 Texas children did not have health insurance in 2012. As Senator, what is Ted Cruz doing to put an immediate stop to this tragedy? Did Cruz use his fake-filibuster to argue for higher rates of employer-sponsored coverage? No. Did he use his fake-filibuster to talk at all about the tragedy of uninsured children in his own state? No. Did he even spend any of the 18 hour fake-filibuster to offer an alternative plan to cover those in desperate need of coverage? No. Instead he read Dr.Seuss (who, ironically, was very liberal, and very Democrat). Cruz should be ashamed of his record, ashamed of the state of Texas for its unacceptable treatment of children, and for offering nothing to correct it.

Ted Cruz & Violence Against Women:
Of the 100 Senators, Ted Cruz was only one of eight who voted No on reauthorising the Violence Against Women Act. On voting No, Cruz issued this statement:

“He (Senator Cruz) voted against this federal law because stopping and punishing violent criminals is primarily a state responsibility, and the federal government does not need to be dictating state criminal law.”

– Cruz here defining his objection to the Federal Government meddling in State’s affairs. And yet, Cruz openly supports the Federal Government defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Like most Tea Party Republicans, he abhors ‘big government’ when it doesn’t meet his set of values, and fully endorses big government when it’s aimed at gay people. So when it comes to the VAWA opposition, we of course get a subtle answer from Cruz (he’s setting himself up for a Presidential run, afterall), but we get a much more candid answer from less ambitious members of Congress like the horrendously ignorant and bigoted Steve Stockman, who registered his opposition to the VAWA in a way we all know that Cruz agrees with:

“This is a truly bad bill. This is helping the liberals, this is horrible. Unbelievable. What really bothers—it’s called a women’s act, but then they have men dressed up as women, they count that. Change-gender, or whatever. How is that—how is that a woman?”

– Ted Cruz similar announced his arrival on the homophobic scene by opposing ex-Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert’s attendance at a gay pride march. Cruz said:

“When a mayor of a city chooses twice to march in a parade celebrating gay pride that’s a statement and it’s not a statement I agree with.”

– What statement is he making? That it’s absolutely fine to be gay, and open about it? That gay people are citizens whose rights are not to be decided upon by dictatorial, Republican men? What does Cruz object to here?

When a Party loses the Presidency, loses the Senate, loses the popular vote for the House, I’d suggest being a little more humble, accepting that the American people don’t want you controlling anything, and stop trying to hold the entire Country to ransom for the sake of one man’s egotistical attempts to set himself up for a Presidential run in 2016. And when that Presidential run is more important to that man, than a generation of vulnerable, uninsured children…. it’s time to question who you choose to elect to positions of power.


The Republican Party: Wealth before Health.

September 20, 2013

Earlier this month a booth at the Kentucky State Fair offered people the chance to sign up to ‘Kynect’ the new healthcare coverage facility for Kentucky. It was an incredibly popular booth, with one Republican gentleman who was told he would qualify for tax credits to purchase insurance, commenting:

“This beats Obamacare, I hope.”

– What he didn’t realise, due to all the misinformation and complete myths invented by the Republicans over the past two years…. Kynect is a part of ‘Obamacare’.

Today, very wealthy, insured Republicans in the House voted to make certain that the most vulnerable, uninsured, struggling people – including children – cannot get access to affordable healthcare. They voted to ensure that women cannot get access to preventative care. These are the same Republicans who also voted against the Violence Against Women Act, and against Veterans jobs bills, but voted to continue tax breaks for big oil. This is the Republican Party in the 21st Century.

After the House vote, Speaker John Boehner said:

“The American people don’t want the government shut down, and they don’t want Obamacare”.

– John Boehner, heroically defending democratic accountability. Well, not so much. If he is to insist that he cares deeply for the will of the American people, he should perhaps take a look at how those people voted in 2012:

For the Presidency 2012:
Democrats: 65,915,796
Republicans: 60,933,500

For the House 2012:
Democrats: 60,252,696
Republicans: 58,541,130
Republican vote down by 4.8%

For the Senate 2012:
Democrats: 49,998,693
Republicans: 39,130,984
Republican vote down by 7.3%

– In each case, the American people did not want the Republicans to have the power that they currently have. So perhaps the Speaker of the House should pay attention to his own logic, and stop wielding undemocratic power. If your Party lost the popular vote for the two branches of elected power… be a little humble, rather than trying to control the entire country. The only reason the government will be shut down, is if one Party that did not win the popular vote for any branch of power continues its spree of blackmail.

According to a Harvard Study in 2009, 45,000 annual deaths are connected to a lack of healthcare coverage. It further notes that lack of insurance now kills more people than kidney disease. Today, Republicans voted to ensure the apparently very important freedom to lose everything you have if you get cancer, and then to die bankrupt. Republican supporters are out in force hailing their victory:

Untitled-1

There are two Tea Party-esque contentions that appear in most anti-Obamcare arguments. Firstly, that the Affordable Care Act is inherently “Marxist”, and secondly, the Affordable Care Act is government compulsion and therefore, tyrannical. Both are supremely over dramatic, that you begin to wonder who takes it seriously. Especially given that the Affordable Care Act is based largely on a Republican law implemented (and working great) in Massachusetts. Myths have been invented by the Republicans, that are easily discredited. I discredit three Affordable Care Act myths here. All completely over-dramatic and over simplified. But, given that the House is currently controlled by the most over-dramatic faction of one Party (but still didn’t win the popular vote), it must be taken seriously.

It is the first time I have heard the making certain that people purchase Capitalist health insurance, from Capitalists, with money that will go to Capitalist hospitals and corporations, described as Marxist. I can say with much confidence that Marx might have disagreed with this contention a little. Unless I missed the part where the Affordable Care Act calls for worker control of the means of production and distribution, the end of the wage system, and abolition of private property, and profit…. it isn’t Marxism.
The Founders recognised the importance of a healthy population, and the role government can play in ensuring that. By Tea Party logic, The Congress of 1798, under the Presidency of John Adams were Marxists. That particular Congress & President signed into law “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.” Article 1 referring to the private owners of ships and vessels:

“..and he shall pay, to the said collector, at the rate of twenty cents per month for every seaman so employed ; which sum he is hereby authorized to retain out of the wages of such seamen.”

– This act created government run hospitals for privately employed sailors, paid for by a mandatory (compulsory, or “Marxist” if you’re a member of the Tea Party) tax on sailors. Not only do we have one Founder – the President – signing off on a government run healthcare program, but another Founder, Thomas Jefferson was President of the Senate at this point, and so we can reasonably assume that both Jefferson and Adams had no problem with government running healthcare programs, paid for by a mandatory tax, that sailors had no choice but to pay.

The second contention has a little more to it, though is still wildly off the mark and deeply flawed in its premise. The contention being, that Obamacare is government compulsion, and that regardless of the context, government compulsion is “tyranny”. This would of course mean that any form of government interference is ‘tyranny’; medicare, public funded schools, public funded roads, public funded police & fire. All of which paid for, whether the individual wishes to or not. Will Republicans be insisting that these are also “Marxist” in need of defunding? What about the Advanced Technology Program, and other taxpayer funded programs to subsidise business? Will Republicans be voting to repeal these?

The Federal agency; Export-Import Bank loaned $2.5 billion to General Electric at a time when the company reduced the size of its workforce by over 200,000 American jobs, and shipped more abroad. The same is true of General Motors. And of course, thanks to tax breaks for big oil, those companies can afford to fund the vote of Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who unsurprisingly votes in their favour every time. See here. Did taxpayers get a say on this? No. Has this Republican House voted to end any sort of Corporate welfare? No. They are instead completely focused on ensuring the women cannot access preventative care, that children with pre-existing conditions continue to be left to suffer.

Curiously, one Republican who objects to the ‘compulsion’ element of the Affordable Care Act, is Republican Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker. This, despite the fact that Walker signed into law a Bill that forces a woman who wishes to have an abortion, to have a transvaginal ultrasound, for no medical purpose, whether she wants it or not. The Republicans; keep government out of everything…. except a woman’s virgina, obviously.

A program should be judged on its effectiveness, and its results. Is Obamacare compulsion? Yes. But so is government in general, so is Social Security, so is Medicare, so is fire protection, defence spending, policing, public schools and roads. There is no reason why healthcare should not be considered a protection in much the same way as fire and police. Context is required for each situation. Simply yelling “compulsion!” isn’t good enough.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, the system disincentivised those less wealthy, but who wished to start their own business, through fear of losing health coverage. It just wasn’t worth the risk. The tyranny of health insurance. But now, according to the Urban Institute, those wishing to leave their work and start a business have far more incentive, and freedom to do so, because the Affordable Care Act will offer coverage starting in October that just didn’t exist before, and so far more people will have the incentive to self-employment, and wont be victimised for pre-existing conditions. It is already having a positive effect in Massachusetts. This is freedom enhancing, it is good for the economy, and the complete antithesis of Marxism.

Secondly, when the ‘choice’ is between ill health, or bankruptcy and poverty, it isn’t a choice. It is insurance company mandated poverty. Healthcare is not a commodity on a level equal to for example, a TV or phones or lemonade. Health is vital, it transcends economic and political systems, and is a necessity, not a luxury. If the government required you to buy a TV on threat of punishment, perhaps the case for “tyranny” may be a little stronger. What is far more tyrannical, is the influence of the compulsion for profit at the expense of the life of the person. What is more tyrannical, is the exclusion of vulnerable children from insurance, if it cuts into an insurance company’s profitability. There is no choice for those uninsured. Those children don’t have a choice. Those with pre-existing conditions didn’t have a choice. They aren’t choosing to remain uninsured and highly vulnerable, in the same way that someone has a choice between a Samsung phone, and a Sony phone. There are no benefits to being uninsured. It isn’t a free choice, it is putting your life completely at the mercy of financial circumstance. To pass it off as choice, or freedom, is incredibly insensitive to the struggles of those who suffered from being uninsured.

In lieu of a national healthcare system (which we in the UK are incredibly lucky to enjoy) Health insurance companies have a duty, far beyond private companies that make TVs or cars or guitars, to ensure the most affordable and satisfactory care possible; especially when it involves the most vulnerable including children and those with pre-existing conditions. They hold the lives of people in their company wallets. It is this duty that health insurers did not care too much for. It is a tyranny of profit.

It is the tyranny of profit in a sector that it should not be involved in. That tyranny of profit lead to horrendous insurance company abuses & the exclusion of those with pre-existing conditions. The tyranny of profit lead to companies ensuring they squeezed ordinary people for as much money as possible and offered very little coverage in return. The tyranny of profit lead to 60% of bankruptcies attributed to healthcare costs. The tyranny of profit meant that people suffered and died, because they could not afford insurance. The tyranny of profit lead to insurance companies denying children care…. children. The tyranny of profit ensured that on average insurance companies charged women 50% more than men for the same level of coverage. The tyranny of profit ensured insurance companies were not required to provide preventative care. The tyranny of profit lead to multiple family members suddenly seeing empty bank accounts, loss of homes, loss of hope, just to carry on being alive. And this isn’t compulsion to you? If a person cannot afford health insurance…. they have no choice if they suddenly get sick or injured. This isn’t a choice between what TV to own, this is a choice between suffering physically, or bankruptcy and poverty. That isn’t an acceptable choice. The tyranny of profit ensured this. Those 48 million uninsured did not choose to be uninsured. It wasn’t a well balanced, reasonably arrived at decision, it was compulsion. The tyranny already well established. The Affordable Care Act goes someway to addressing those inherent tyrannical flaws within the system; like prohibiting the truly vile practice of excluding children with pre-existing conditions. It has much further to go, until a universal healthcare system ensures coverage for all regardless of wealth; the mark of a civilised, decent, and caring society cannot be met by the tyranny of profit in a sector it doesn’t belong.

The President must step up and show leadership, because when it becomes clear that one extreme section of one Party is focussed entirely on attacking the President regardless of the outcome for Americans across the country; when that one extreme faction is willing to place the health of vulnerable children into the line of fire and smile whilst they watch the Country burn… the President is in a strong position to fight back.

The Republican Party did not win the Presidency, they did not win the Senate, they lost the popular vote for the House, they have no problem with corporate welfare, and they now vote not only to defund the Affordable Care Act, but to shut down government, unless their unelected demands are met. This undemocratic blackmail bought and owned by big business, is far more tyrannical than anything the Democrats could conceive.

The Republican Party: Of the Rich, By the Rich, For the Rich.


Yahwallahism & the Prophet Barbara.

September 19, 2013

If a woman – let’s call her Barbara – were to insist that God had chosen to speak to Her, and that through the Prophet Barbara we have the final Prophet of the one true God. But curiously, this new set of demands and doctrine from God – let’s call Her Yahwallah – gathered up all of the prejudices encouraged by the Abrahamic faiths, and turned them back on themselves?

And so, inspired by declarations like this…

Untitled-2

…I thought I’d give it a shot.

If we were to take the prejudices thrown at women, at homosexuality, at children, by powerful faiths and their followers who seek to enshrine those prejudices into law, and we were to aim those inherent faith-based prejudices back at those faiths, and we demanded society be organised by this new faith, how would Christians and Muslims react? How would the arguments against its adoption, or political power over their lives be formed? How would they prove the new scripture to be wrong? As of now, I will present a summary of the TRUE scripture of the one true God.

Let’s call the new scripture, the Book of Yahwallah. It was given to the Prophet Barbara, by an Angel of Yahwallah, and you can’t prove it wasn’t. Here is what the one true word of God says.

This new Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – insists that “Muslims and Christians are unnatural, and an abomination, they must be punished”. Whenever evidence is presented to the contrary, you must point out that Yahwallahist scripture insists that these “people” are horrid sinners, an abomination, and destined for Hell. I don’t make the rules. This came from God. This should be instilled into the minds of Children. If then these children are bullied for secretly being Christian, or Muslim….. tough.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – has been interpreted to insist that Christians and Muslims should be banned from marriage. We therefore demand a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between non-christians and non-muslims only, this is the true and only definition of marriage before God. Any deviation from this, is an abomination, and influenced by Satan.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – should be used to defend Congressional votes against the right of Christians or Muslims to adopt a child, based not on their suitability as parents, but on whether or not they are Muslim or Christians, thus banning Muslims and Christians from being allowed to adopt. Children should be brought up in good, wholesome non-Christian, non-Muslim families. To bring them up in Christian or Muslim households, threatens their development.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – tells the story of Modos & Harromag; a City full of hedonistic Muslims and Christians. The merciful God destroyed that evil city. Let this be a lesson, that allowing sin – like Islam and Christianity – to flourish, will bring the fury of God. The war in Syria right now, is actually Yahwallah’s punishment for allowing Islam & Christianity to flourish.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – insists that children not be forced to marry old men, but that those old men who advocate child marriage, now themselves be forced to marry sex-starved prison inmates. They have no choice in this.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – insists that those who didn’t follow the words of the new one true Prophet Barbara, nor accept her as their personal saviour, and the rules she sets out, regardless of her historicity and the moral reasoning behind those rules, that those people will burn forever in eternal fire…this should be taught to children. Fear of Yahwallah will guide them.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – doesn’t go into detail when it comes to nuclear fission, or the physics of a black hole and event horizon, or evolution, or dinosaurs, or the speed of light…. because to be honest, it’s too busy condemning everyone who isn’t Yahwallahist…. but it does say “and we are all made up of small things”… clearly describing in perfect detail all known atomic theory. HOW COULD SHE HAVE KNOWN THIS WITHOUT GOD!!!! Truly miraculous. This MUST be taught in school science lessons.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – starts with the story of creation. The World was knitted by Yahwallah, in 5 days (far more impressive than 6), before She rested on the 6th, and that as a result, everyone should wear a knitted hat, and that this story of Intelligent Design should be taught in science class alongside pesky science and evidence. Teach the controversy!

Without the Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – you are morally inferior.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – makes clear that after a woman gives birth, the father is unclean. Also, Women, make sure your husbands (of which you can marry as many as you please) stay silent in Yahwallahist temples. For it is shameful for a man to speak in a temple.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – tells the story of the condemning to death of the Prophet Barbara, by Christians and Muslims. For this, Christians and Muslims must always be treated as suspicious, probably part of a global domination conspiracy, and must be thrown out of any land they rest, because they murdered the one true Prophet.

The punishment for apostasy from Yahwallahism is flogging. Though apostasy from Yahwallahism and then speaking out against Yahwallahism can only reasonably be solved by the death penalty.

Innocent children gunned down in schools must be the victim of the Government straying from the path of Yahwallah. We must use this opportunity not to call for tighter gun laws, but to call for more Yahwallah teaching in schools.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – makes clear that if a man disobeys his wife (she is the head of him), then she has permission to beat him. Good men are obedient. This is God’s truth.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – tells how when a man reaches the age of 1, he must have one testicle removed. He has no choice in this. Ignore those who call it forced genital mutilation. It isn’t. Because it pleases God.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – insists that the one true Prophet Barbara was born in Jerusalem – the home of Yahwallahist, and it is where Prophet Barbara will return when Yahwallahism bring about Judgement day. It was here that the Prophet Barbara heard Yahwallah speak through an Angel. Yahwallah said “Barbara, Jerusalem is yours, for your faithful alone”. This of course means the land was divinely given to Yahwallahists, and so all Muslims and Jews must leave immediately, or face perpetual war until they accept that it is ours. Remember, we don’t make these rules, they came directly from God. Oh, the Prophet Barbara once flew during the night to London too, so we claim London as ours.

We support a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy on Christians in the Military, though we don’t think they should be allowed to fight alongside true American Yahwallahists, because they’re an abomination. For this reason, and because kids are vulnerable, we believe Christians shouldn’t be allowed in the Boy Scouts of America. Words of the scripture, not me.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – tells how the Prophet Barbara gave unbelievers (let’s call them “rifak”; they are Muslims and Christians) the chance to convert to Yahwallahism. But they insisted on worshipping false idols, and so the Prophet Barbara obviously had to go to war with them and slay them. So, never trust, nor imitate the rifak. They are immodest, liars who wish to pull you away from the one true God. They do the work of Satan. They will be punished in hell.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – insists that the Yahwallahist Scripture is really well written, and you can’t produce anything like it, and so it must be a miracle, because the Yahwallahist Scripture and people who are Yahwallahists say so. To further back up this self evident TRUTH, the Yahwallahist Scripture constantly says: “Yahwallah sent this down from heaven, and Barbara is the Prophet of the Lord”, so it must be true. How can the rifak deny it?

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – insists that the witness of a man is half that of a woman. That a man must cover his entire body and face to protect his modesty, that if he doesn’t he must bear some responsibility if he’s sexually assaulted, and that a man not be allowed out of the house without a female chaperone. This is an example of the wonderful rights we have given to men everywhere! Far more so than the oppressive West.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – insists that the phrase “One Nation under Yahwallah” be inserted into the US Pledge of Allegience, rather than the current focus on the wrong non-existent God. We also call for mandatory school Yahwallahist prayer.

The Yahwallahist Scripture – direct from God – tells the story of the death of Prophet Barbara. She died to save you all from hell fire. All you have to do is discard belief in Allah or Jesus, and believe in the true God Yahwallah and his one true Prophet, Barbara. If you don’t, you’re destined for hell. This message of hope must be spread and forced upon populations where ever possible.

If Muslims or Christians ‘offend’ the Prophet Barbara, or this new scripture of anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, anti-men doctrine, they must be punished. No one has a right to say anything negative about this scripture that insists Christians and Muslims are an unnatural abomination. You don’t have to believe it, but freedom of expression does not cover disrespecting a religion that thoroughly disrespects you. Deal with it.

To challenge any of the above, or to thoroughly despise any of the above, and to call out the oppression inherent to any of the above, or to suggest that this one scripture permits both prejudice and the acceptability and perpetuation of prejudicial language…. at best you will told you are just being Yahwallahophobic, at worst you will be threatened, or punished for blasphemy.

When you understand the oppressive structure set out above toward Christians, Muslims, and men, and the quite obvious absurd risks that come from teaching it to children as fact; when you understand that it is not acceptable to hide unjustifiable prejudice and privilege behind the mask of faith, as I would be doing if I were to claim all Christians are an abomination destined for hell based on my new Yahwallah scripture…. when you understand this, you will understand why non-believers find Christianity and Islam so dangerous and oppressive.


Painting Congress Blue 2014: Focus on Candidates IV.

September 18, 2013

wisconsin

Seventeen. That is the number of seats Democrats need to pick up in the House to ensure a majority in 2014. It would be a post WWII mid-term record, for the President’s party to pick up that many seats in the House. It has only happened twice before, and the record was set by Republicans who picked up 8 seats in President Bush’s 2002 midterm. So for Democrats to more than double that record, is quite a battle. But not impossible.

The reason the party in the White House tends to lose seats, or gain few seats in the mid-terms is usually down to their supporters not turning out to express satisfaction with the party, whilst the opposition voters turn out to express dissatisfaction. But this mid-term is a little different. At the 2012 election, Republicans lost the national vote in the House by 1.4 million votes, only managing to hold the House due to redistricting. Democrats easily won the national vote. The Republican vote was down by 4.8%, with the Democrats up by 3.4%. Redistricting makes it difficult for Democrats to pick up 17 seats, but with Congressional approval ratings at an all time low, the Republicans offending everyone they possibly can on their journey to far reaches of the right wing, this election will come down to candidates. And so this is part IV of a series focusing on one particular Congressional race that Democrats – though difficult – need to win.

Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District:
Dave Heaster has a mountain to climb if he is to claim Wisconsin’s 5th from Republican incumbent Jim Sensenbrenner. Heaster won 32% of the vote in 2012, to Sensenbrenner’s 68%. But Sensenbrenner has a voting record, and positions, that is in keeping with the Tea Party take over of the Republican Party in the second decade of the 21st Century, and should be drawn upon strongly by the Heaster team if it is to win the seat in 2014.

Heaster supports campaign finance reform (opposed by Republicans; mainly due to who it is that actually funds them) and believes the government should not legislate against a woman’s right to her own body. The “small government” Sensenbrenner disagrees, and is one of those Elephants in the womb. It’s a curious paradox for 21st Century Tea Party Republicans; small government seems to only apply when it’s for the benefit of of white, Christian, wealthy men, and support for big government for everyone else… as we’ll see in this article.

Earlier this year, Sensenbrenner released this press release.
Importantly, it reads:

“Not coincidentally, 75% of the towers the Obama administration is closing are located in Republican Congressional Districts”.

– This is in relation to the 149 Air Traffic Control towers closing due to sequestration cuts. The implication being, that the Obama administration is playing politics with passenger safety, and jobs. The problem is, the claim is completely untrue. Just invented. No substance whatsoever. Apart from the couple that are inbetween Congressional districts, 58% are in Republican districts, and 42% in Democrat districts. Republicans hold about 52% of Congressional seats. 58% is significantly lower than 75%, and as Politifact point out; many of those affected are in rural areas, which lean Republican.
There is no reason to claim this is at all politically motivated.

In an article to the Guardian earlier this year, Sensenbrenner on the NSA scandal:

“‘Big Brother’ is watching. And he is monitoring the phone calls and digital communications of every American, as well as of any foreigners who make or receive calls to or from the United States.”

– Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the Patriot Act to the House. This includes section 215, which sets out what the FBI Director can apply to obtain without a warrant. These are set out as “tangible things” such as:

“books, records, papers, documents, and other items”

It also provides a gagging order for absolute secrecy, meaning that the government can demand your details, conversations and records, without your knowledge, from third parties who don’t have to inform you, as long as FISA grants it. None of this is new to the Obama Administration:

“No person shall disclose to any other person (other than those persons necessary to produce the tangible things under this section) that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought or obtained tangible things under this section”.

– Apart from being a complete disregard for the Fourth Amendment, the leaked Prism documents show the NSA really jumped on board with what falls under “tangible things” and “other items” to include videos, photos, emails, VOIP. The spying hasn’t suddenly appeared under President Obama. Between 2001, and 2005, no one said a word. The ACLU made their case against government agency spying, but Republicans at large kept quiet. So why the outrage now? It is the inevitable product of the Big Brother Patriot Act introduced into the House by Jim Sensenbrenner. The power Sensenbrenner was willing to provide the Bush administration, he now ironically claims is an example of the Obama Administration’s style of big government abuse.

Jim Sensenbrenner is another old, rich Republican male who voted no to reauthorise the Violence Against Women Act. Republicans argued that the law represented a “feminist attack” against family values. Before the Violence Against Women Act, there was little incentive for women to report domestic abuse. The 1994 Act changed that, and has worked ever since. This year, House Republicans let it die, because it included protections for the LGBT community, Native American women, and undocumented female workers. All three of these groups are incredibly vulnerable to abuse, with 40% of Native American women facing domestic violence. The new provisions seeked to address those problems. House Republicans didn’t approve. All women suffer as a result of Republican bigoted, anti-women principles. Sensenbrenner is one of those.

As the ranking Republican on the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, Sensenbrenner chose to ignore the scientific consensus and vast evidence produced and supported by agencies all across the World, deciding instead to side with faith, and big business. Two entities that should not be allowed anywhere close to scientific policy. He Voted NO on expanding vital, life saving research to more embryonic stem cell lines. He Voted Yes on barring EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. Voted No on tax incentives for renewable energy, whilst voting to sustain Federal subsidies for oil & gas exploration. If anything, he has voted to keep science out of policy.

Sensenbrenner is a Republican who decries “Big government” when it suits his debating point, but he voted for the biggest government intrusion into the private lives of individuals possible. He voted for a Constitutional Amendment, banning same sex marriage, and he voted to ban same-sex adoption. Neither of those positions are based on evidence or reason, but on religious conviction alone. In fact, there is absolutely no reasonable excuse to oppose same-sex adoption. The position taken up for opposing same-sex adoption is almost always based on the idea that a child requires a mother and father and anything else is damaging. This of course, isn’t borne out by facts, or any credible research.

It isn’t loving families that happen to be same-sex, that harm a child’s development; it is lack of opportunity, and perpetual poverty. Sensenbrenner voted to authorise the Bush Tax Cuts, which resulted in the median income falling from $52,500 in 2000 (inflation adjusted) to $50,303 in 2008. In 2000, 31.6 million Americans were living in poverty. When Bush left office, 39.8 million were in poverty.
During the 2012 ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations, the House Republicans passed 39.8 million DOA Plan B 215-209-1. This Bill didn’t make it to the Senate, but its interesting to note that the proposal from Boehner, included throwing 300,000 children off of food stamps, whilst the Tax Policy Center found that the same proposal offered an average $108,000 tax cut for millionaires, in a typical Republican move to redistribute wealth upwards, whilst endangering and impoverishing the lives of children. If you believe that having same-sex parents is more damaging to child than pushing their head under a sea of poverty, for the sake of wealthy tax breaks, then go ahead and vote Jim Sensenbrenner.

This represents an attempt to smash down the Constitutional wall of separation between church & state, but also to place government right in the centre of the private lives of anyone who isn’t considered the “correct” sexuality by religious fundamentalists, whilst limiting the amount of loving and caring parents available for children in desperate need of adoption.

Sensenbrenner not only has no problem with violence against women, but he has no problem with violence against gay people, having voted No to enforce against anti-gay hate crime.

On jobs, Sensenbrenner voted No on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. He believes a company should be allowed to refuse to hire you based solely on who you’re attracted to in your private life. Your ability to do the job is irrelevant to Sensenbrenner, if you happen to be gay. It’s what Jesus wants.

If you’re middle or working class, and worried about job security, then it’s probably best not to vote Republican. Sensenbrenner voted No on any assistance provided to you if you lose your job due to jobs being shipped abroad.

And whilst he currently makes headlines trying to appear as if he cares for minorities affected by the recent Supreme Court decision to strike down a key section of the Voting Rights Act; let’s not forget that Jim Sensenbrenner voted Yes to require voters produce a photo ID in Federal elections, voted No on $84 million in grants for struggling Black and Hispanic colleges whilst voting Yes to Federal funding of schools that allow voluntary prayer, and received only 33% approval rating by the NAACP. Jim Sensenbrenner is no supporter of minority rights; be they gay rights, women’s rights, African American rights. He will use the power of government to ensure perpetuated privilege for white, heterosexual, Christian men.

It is of course no surprise that Rolling Stone refer to him as “The Dictator”.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in July 2012 Heaster had about $500 in hand for his campaign, to Sensenbrenner’s staggering $350,000. So the outcome of 32% to 67% was not a shock. Hopefully Heaster can turn those fortunes around in 2014 and defeat the big government, anti-women, anti-minorities, anti-science, anti-children, anti-middle class, pro-Corporate socialism Jim Sensenbrenner.

Vote Dave Heaster for Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District in 2014.

See here for FD’s focus on Florida’s 2nd, and Illinois’ 13th Congressional Districts.
See here for FD’s focus on West Virginia’s 2nd, and Colorado’s 6th Congressional Districts.
See here for FD’s focus on California’s 1st, and California’s 25th Congressional Districts.


Bad Day for Bigots IV: Miss Murca!!!

September 16, 2013

Right winged America entered a new round of hysteria and delusion last night, at the crowing of Nina Davuluri as Miss America 2013. Nina was born in Syracuse New York, is applying to Medical school, and wishes to become a doctor. What could right winged America possibly have to hate? Well, she has darker skin. That’s enough to send the right winged Twittersphere into meltdown:

beau

jakefrazier

jakeknight
– Make sure no one mentions to this guy, that the NFL has several foreign born players, and several Muslim players. It’ll ruin his entire life.

jasonmc

kyle

nickratz
– I love the implication that the only two positions in America capable of progressing the entire nation, is the President, closely followed by Miss America.

southern
– This is otherwise known as the Republican National Convention.

sweedy

troyprice

wendy

-Yes! Exactly! It’s rigged because someone white didn’t win, because, like, 9/11!

todd

– Narrowing the acceptable field down, from white….. to white, with a gun. Brilliant. I bet Miss Kansas also recites the Pledge every morning. ‘MERCA!

michaeltaylor

– Famously, New York is in the Arabian peninsula.

I am certain we are one step away from Michelle Bachmann insisting that Miss America is now fully under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood. I am surprised that Louie Gohmert hasn’t yet claimed that Nina Davuluri is one of the “terrorist babies” he’s been warning us all about.

If we have learnt anything from this charade, it is that 9/11 was carried out by Indian women born in New York, of Hindu descent, and that India & Syracuse have, between 9/11 and today, moved to the Arabian peninsula. But all joking aside, there is such a plethora of unacceptable, regressive, and vicious rhetoric within those tweets, that it’s difficult to know where to start. The reference to a woman from India as being a terrorist. The reference that if you’re Muslim, you must be a terrorist. The reference that if you’re a Muslim, or Hindu of Indian, or Arab descent; whether you’re born in the US or not, you’re not considered American, and that your skin tone is still to be taken into consideration.

The question must be asked, because the implication is apparent in their disdain for the winner; do conservative Americans believe only white, Christian Americans are to be considered ‘American’?

The clear irony in suggesting that someone who is not of the same religion as you, cannot be considered ‘American’ and musn’t be afforded the same opportunities as you, is that it is the most unamerican, anti-secular, anti-constitutional principle possible.


The Blue Eyes of Saudi Arabia

September 14, 2013

Try to imagine for a second how you would react, how you would feel, and how every day would be for you and your family, if you were born with blue eyes, in a Country that not only viciously stigmatised those with blue eyes as an unforgivable perversion against nature, but that nation also tortured, and sometimes executed those caught with blue eyes.

Try to imagine, if the basis for the hate directed at you for having blue eyes, was a 7th Century book of myths. That, because that 7th century book of myths told a story of a city that God burnt to the ground for being full of people with blue eyes, even though that story has no basis in historical fact, you would forever be linked with the inhabitants of that city, and considered the enemy of God, regardless of the content of your character.

The Saudi Arabia UN Delegation made this plea to the UN earlier this year:

“Moreover, the Human Rights Council in last June condemned the Syrian regime on the violations of the Syrian people human rights. Any delay from the international community to take action means more suffering for the helpless Syrian people helpless.”

– It would seem from the rhetoric that Saudi Arabia cares deeply for applying international pressure for the sake of human rights. But it is quite simple to turn this Saudi call for action in Syria for human rights abuses, right back around to face Saudi Arabia itself. And the Delegation would be correct; any delay from the international community to take action in Saudi Arabia over its horrific record on human rights, means more suffering for the victims of the crime family that currently rules that country.

One simple paragraph from the Saudi Ministry of Education Textbooks for Islamic Studies: 2007-2008 offers a prime example of just why politically religious folk should never be allowed power over the apparatus of a State, nor over the lives of its inhabitants especially its children, in an enlightened World. The barbaric nature of their law:

“Homosexuality is one of the most disgusting sins and greatest crimes…. It is a vile perversion that goes against sound nature, and is one of the most corrupting and hideous sins…. The punishment for homosexuality is death. Both the active and passive participants are to be killed whether or not they have previously had sexual intercourse in the context of a legal marriage…. Some of the companions of the Prophet stated that [the perpetrator] is to be burned with fire. It has also been said that he should be stoned, or thrown from a high place.”

– It seems almost as if this is an attempt at an ironic art work. Because for a faith that believes their Prophet flew on a very fast magic flying horse to heaven and met Jesus, to claim to be able to speak confidently on anything pertaining to ‘sound nature’ is either an ironic art work, or the start of the most hypocritical speech in religious history. When it comes to the “unnatural”… religions have that one covered almost exclusively.

Either way, that one nasty paragraph – that completely misunderstands ‘sound nature’ – should be enough for those who profess to believe in the cause of social justice and human rights, to focus the majority of their time and efforts on freedom for Saudi Arabia. Currently, students are banned from school and university, if they are suspected of being gay. It isn’t just intense and violent homophobia today in Saudi Arabia that is the problem, it is the systematic attempts to instill into the vulnerable minds of children, that hate is acceptable. It is an attempt to poison those vulnerable minds with violent witchcraft and the acceptability of oppression rather than universal rights and biological fact.

For some odd reason, we do not treat this blatant abuse of the most fundamental rights, in the same way we would if we were to exchange the word “homosexuality” in the above, to “having blue eyes“. Both are part of a natural spectrum that we have no control over, and yet they are treated completely differently, despite being very similar. I would suggest that if the above paragraph from the Saudi Ministry of Education Textbooks were to specify punishment for those with blue eyes, instead of homosexuality, there would be far more outrage both for the country in question, and the faith that spawned it. Here:

“Having blue eyes is one of the most disgusting sins and greatest crimes…. It is a vile perversion that goes against sound nature, and is one of the most corrupting and hideous sins…. The punishment for persons with blue eyes, is death. Some of the companions of the Prophet stated that those with blue eyes are to be burned with fire. It has also been said that he should be stoned, or thrown from a high place.”

– This paragraph, if enshrined into a Nation’s law, should not shock us anymore than when it said Homosexuality, and yet I am certain that it would. The ‘companions of the Prophet’ would be ignored as a product of their time not to be taken seriously today. I am certain that the World would act to ensure that a scientifically as well as historically untrue basis for such a law, were thoroughly discredited and pressure exerted to ensure the law never made it to any statute book, as a grave abuse of basic human rights.

But, when it is applied to homosexuality, it is often dismissed as a “cultural” difference by cultural relativists whose respect for the dignity of life and individual rights, are not universally applied and must come second when considered alongside violent Theocratic considerations. Tradition seems more important than rights. As if tradition and ‘cultural differences’ are an acceptable excuse for the fact that in the year 2000, Saudi Arabia executed three Yemen men for what it deemed the:

“…obscenity of homosexuality and imitating women.”

– By ‘imitating women’, I’m guessing they don’t mean having to cover everything with the exception of hands and eyes, and another male having ‘guardianship’ rights over her, like a piece of property, nor married off to dirty old men at the age of 9.
In 2005 over 100 men were arrested and sentenced to flogging for:

“behaving like women.”

In 2002, three men were beheaded for being gay.
In 2007, two gay men were sentenced to 7000 lashes, for being gay.
– However we dress it up; this is torture and murder and it is a flagrant disregard for even the most basic of rights; to life itself. We cannot imagine the fear that gay men and women must face every day in Saudi Arabia. Religion does not prevent homosexuality, just like religion would not prevent blue eyes. Because religion has no explanation for nature. It has unsubstantiated, tribal myths, and nothing more. And when nature outgrows religious explanation, religion resorts to violently repressing nature, instead of looking inward and accepting it might be the faith that is flawed.

Gay Palestinian men often risk their lives fleeing into Israel, where they feel far safer and respected, than in the deeply illiberal, Theocratic Palestinian territories. According to a BBC World Service Outlook report, one man fled Gaza to Israel after his family found out that he was gay. The man said that police in Palestine had beat and tortured him.

In 2011, police in Afghanistan publicly humiliated a man dressed in women’s clothes. The victim is seen on film with eyes tearing up as the officers humiliate him. The man says:

“Please have mercy, don’t make fun of me.”

In 1998 in the southern town of Kandahar, the Taliban ordered three gay men buried, with their heads sticking out of the ground, and a wall pushed on top of them by a tank… for the crime of being gay.

The Iranian Constitution states:

“Sodomy is a crime, for which both partners are punished. The punishment is death if the participants are adults, of sound mind and consenting; the method of execution is for the Shari’a judge to decide.”

– Imagine the international backlash, if that Constitution noted that “having blue eyes is a crime“. This constitutional addition has lead to 4000 gay men and women stoned, hanged, beheaded, thrown alive from tall buildings, and set on fire, as legally sanctioned punishments for being gay in Iran. But, because the precedent is set in certain Hadith, for some odd reason it takes on a form of respectability and credibility that those who aren’t Muslim, seem to feel must be respected to a degree. Why? It isn’t acceptable, and the words and deeds of religious figures that give these punishments the life they have, are also completely unacceptable.
One Hadith in question is particularly grotesque and must be condemned as such:

“Narated By Abdullah ibn Abbas : The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.”

– If God creates people who happen to be gay, or who have blue eyes, and then demands stigmatising and punishment for those people, it is extremely problematic to label this God anything but a being that enjoys playing violent games with human lives, like rearing ants so that eventually you can point a ray of burning light through magnifying glass at them, and still demand that those tortured ants worship you for such ‘mercy’. This is a cruel Being with no redeeming features.

Secondly, there is no Qur’anic law or rule demanding the murder or torture of gay people (A similar thing cannot be said for the Bible). We could of course point to Sodom – in both the Bible & Qur’an – but, given that no evidence has ever surfaced to suggest this story is based in fact; it’d be like using Narnia for evidence that kids and lions make excellent rulers. And so if any law comes from the (completely unsubstantiated; as all Hadith are) words or deeds of the Prophet, I’m afraid those Muslims who endorse such man made laws, that in no way relate to the Qur’an, are guilty of a sort of idol worship, which of course is a grave sin for that particular faith. It is only through completely unreliable Hadith – reflecting the prejudices and scientific, and social ignorance of the time and place, along with the imperial structure of that particular time and place in history – that gay men and women in Saudi Arabia and other Islamic nations are persecuted so horrifically.

Whilst every move Israel makes is remarked upon, condemned, and watched with an unmovable eye from both Western Muslims, and a vast portion of those on the Galloway-Left whose ‘cultural relativist’ position is strangely less active when it involves Israel; the most vile regime in Saudi Arabia quietly carries out public lashings, torture and executions of anyone who doesn’t fit its very narrow vision of what it’s 7th Century book demands, with very little real anger from the rest of the World.

My position is quite simple. If your religious text claims universal and timeless truth, upon which it advocates death for any natural trait, be it homosexuality, or blue eyes… your religious text should not be taught to children, should not be allowed to influence policy, should be criticised, shamed, and satirised at every possible opportunity, and deserves not a single shred of respect. Any Nation that puts that text into political practice, must be the focus of united international condemnation from those who claim to have even an ounce of respect for the dignity of human rights and social justice. There is no acceptable excuse for the torture, and murder of anyone with blue eyes.


The Grant Shapps Embarrassment.

September 12, 2013

The Conservative Party must be thoroughly embarrassed with their Chairman this week. Grant Shapps has not only begun an ill-informed argument with an informed UN Official and international housing expert of 30 years experience, appointed by the UN, for her vital report into the horror of the Bedroom Tax, he did so with what seems to be completely invented reasoning.

Upon reading the report by the UN special rapporteur on housing, Raquel Rolnik into the dehumanising, and poverty-inducing effects of the Bedroom Tax, Shapps said:

“It is completely wrong and an abuse of the process for somebody to come over, to fail to meet with government ministers, to fail to meet with the department responsible, to produce a press release two weeks after coming, even though the report is not due out until next spring, and even to fail to refer to the policy properly throughout the report.”

– This is almost entirely ill-informed, and wrong. Raquel Rolnik absolutely did meet with not only DWP officials, but also two Ministers to discuss the report, neither of which had any problem with her “coming over” to conduct research. Not only that, but she acted well within her remit. There is no debate. She’s right, and he’s having an ill-conceived tantrum.

Secondly, Shapps complains that she isn’t using the name of the policy properly. What he means by this is, the “Spare Room Subsidy”. A name that no one uses, because it is a brazen insult to the intelligence of the electorate. A name that isn’t actually based on anything remotely reasonable, because there is no law that grants a subsidy based on a spare room. So the manipulative name is simply what Conservatives wishing to water down the damaging effects of the policy wish to call it. The rest of us don’t. He can whinge that we’re all not willing to polish his turd, and insist that it has a “proper name” all he wants. No one has to accept that name as fact. Rolnik is entitled to call it whatever she feels it is, and she clearly agrees that it is a Bedroom Tax.

Rolnik appeared on Channel 4 news last night, and responded to equally ill-informed Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi, by insisting that it is her obligation and her UN mandate to highlight those significantly harmed by government policy on housing. A much needed role. Nadhim Zahawi then complained – echoing Shapps – that she hadn’t met officials from the DWP. She responded by saying that the UK Government arranges her specific meetings during UN fact finding missions, and that she had in fact met with officials from the DWP. So, discrediting Zahawi instantly.

Rolnik then further backed up her point:

“I requested to meet with the highest possible officials, and I met with the DWP, and had more than one meeting with the ones in the DWP who are responsible.”

– It turns out she not only met with officials from the DWP, but she also met with Don Foster and Eric Pickles. Two Ministers. I predict that Shapps will next register his disgust that she hadn’t specifically spoken to the Prime Minister. He’s likely to get more absurd by the day, as his case slowly crumbles beneath him.

Shapps then unable to defend his discredited reasoning, and not willing to apologise for lying, went for the typical ad-hom attack, shamefully insulting Raquel Rolnik based on her nation of origin:

“How is it that a woman from Brazil – a country that has 50 million people in inadequate housing – has come over, failed to meet with any government minister, with any official from the Department [for] Work and Pensions [DWP] or to refer to the policy by its accurate name… She has come over with an agenda and clearly has an axe to grind.”

– Suddenly, he’s mentioning specific departments. Predictably, after being proven completely wrong, he’s now dropped his claim that she hadn’t met with any ministers. But demands she see officials from a specific department. A department that she in fact, did meet with, did request a meeting with Iain Duncan Smith. It seems the Tories don’t know what their argument is.

But when we cut underneath the surface layer, just a little, it isn’t difficult to note that Grant Shapps wants a UN report to reflect Government bias, rather than focusing on the effects felt by the most vulnerable.

Shapps’ also dropped his criticism of her conducting a report, that is actually within UN framework for her to conduct in the first place, because again, he was wrong. And I can guarantee, had her report shone a positive light on the Bedroom Tax, Shapps wouldn’t be on the ill-informed offensive that he’s now on, embarrassing himself everytime he opens his mouth.

Secondly, it is irrelevant where she is from. She is a respected member of the UN team with decades of experience around the World. She is the UN special rapporteur on housing. She knows what she’s talking about. She’s an expert. Being Brazilian is irrelevant, and to attack her for where she was born is a very weak line of attack from a Tory Chairman quite obviously losing the fight. She isn’t just “a woman from Brazil”. And perhaps being from a country that has inadequate housing, and suffering terribly for that, makes her far more able to understand the horrendous situation the most vulnerable people in any country face, when very wealthy people in very big houses conceive of such a heartless policy. It is also irrelevant where Rolnik is from, because Shapps is completely unwilling to listen to the plethora of charities and experts from Britain who register disgust and concern about the Bedroom Tax.

Shapps has since wrote a letter demanding an investigation, to……. Ban Ki Moon. The Secretary General of the UN currently working to try to resolve a crisis of unbelievable magnitude in Syria, will now have to deal with a whimpering Tory throwing his toys out of the pram for not being allowed to influence a UN report. In his letter, Shapps writes:

“I believe that the Special Rapporteur’s report has been influenced by political bias and suggest that the UN withdrawn her claims”

– Naturally he doesn’t actually elaborate on that ‘political bias’. It is eerily similar to Michael Gove’s continued insistence that if teachers disapprove of his changes, they must be Marxists. Reds! Reds everywhere! If you’re going to write a horrifically condescending letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations insisting that a respected member of his team is influenced by political bias, perhaps it would be to your credit, to prove that assertion. Otherwise, you’re just having a tantrum.

Rolnik travelled around the UK speaking to the only people that matter; those affected by the policy. Those who have been driven to food banks, and those who spend every waking hour worried about their future, and how they will afford to live. These are human lives that Conservatives like Grant Shapps would like to completely destroy with impunity. Rolnik concluded that the Bedroom Tax breached the human right to basic housing, because there are not enough smaller properties to downgrade to. And she’s correct. We all know it. Which is why it is a tax.

Earlier this year, Shapps said:

“It is wrong to leave people out in the cold with effectively no roof over their heads because the taxpayer is paying for rooms which aren’t in use.”

– People would not be ‘left out in the cold with effectively no roof over their heads’ if government policy had not, according to figures by the Department for Communities and Local Government, forced a 14% leap in households registered as ‘homeless’. The largest in nine years. Let’s not take lectures on homelessness from a Party that is responsible for rising homeless rates. A report from the same department also showed the number of people sleeping rough had jumped by a fifth, in a year.
Leslie Morphy the Chief Exec. of Crises said:

“Our worst fears are coming to pass. We face a perfect storm of economic downturn, rising joblessness and soaring demand for limited affordable housing combined with government policy to cut housing benefit plus local cuts to homelessness services.”

Similarly, the Chief Exec. of Shelter, Campbell Rob said:

“These figures are a shocking reminder of the divide between the housing haves and have nots in this country,”

Similarly, Matt Harrison, interim chief executive of Homeless Link said:

“This comes at a time when reduced funding has already hit services and further cuts are expected this year. Our research indicates that there are now fewer projects, fewer beds and more of our members are turning people away because they are full.”

Predictably, as with every overwhelming indication that Conservative policy is failing the most vulnerable, the Party refused to accept that the situation could ever be blamed on them. Grant Shapps said:

“the debt-laden economy we inherited is leaving a legacy of hard-up households across the country”.

– So, charities, The British Academy of Childhood Disability, the UN, those most vulnerable, as well as the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist and United Reformed Churches and Church of Scotland all calling these policies completely unacceptable and unjust, Grant Shapps still insists he is right, and will not be swayed by attempts to reintroduce a human aspect to the debate. The refusal to even acknowledge the damage austerity poverty-driven policies have on the most vulnerable, and his indifference toward the problem, choosing instead to try to score, weak and cheap political points, or to attack a nation of origin, should be enough to disgust anyone with even a fundamental sense of social justice.

Rolnik said:

“During these days of my visit, the dramatic testimonies of people with disabilities, grandmothers who are carers for their families, and others affected by this policy, clearly point to a measure that appears to have been taken without the human component in mind.”

– And she’s absolutely right. Conservatives tend to get very defensive when presented with the human cost of their dire policies. The insistence that cutting housing benefits for those considered to be in a house with one bedroom more than they “need”, will save £500,000,000 highlights the mentality of the party of Grant Shapps. Money first.

In March this year, grandmother Stephanie Bottrill committed suicide, after telling neighbours that she couldn’t afford to live any more. She could not afford the cost of living in her house, a home she had lived in for 18 years, because a government of millionaires decided she had too many ‘spare’ bedrooms (let’s not forget that Lord Freud, staunch defender of the Bedroom Tax, lives in a massive country estate). Grant Shapps and others like him, do not like attention drawn to the human cost of this dreadful and dehumanising policy. They wish the debate to be centred purely around money. The argument for freeing up housing, falls down because the supply of social housing is woefully inadequate. There is no other argument. The Bedroom Tax is a further attack on the most vulnerable, for no discernible reason. There is no positive to take from the policy. When this is the case, it is natural for the Conservative Party to resort to absurdities, and ad-hom abuse. You can almost set your watch by it. Shapps didn’t disappoint on this one.

It is one in a long list of embarrassments for Grant Shapps, who previously admitted to editing his own Wikipedia page to remove embarrassing gaffes, he’s changed his mind about where he was born depending on where he was standing for election, and according to his name badge at a Las Vegas internet conference in 2004, he is actually “Michael Green, a ‘multi-million-dollar web marketer’”. Whilst Shapps was inventing fake names for his dodgy business ventures back in 2004, Raquel Rolnik was focused on international housing concerns.

Rolnik is right to focus on the human aspect of the Bedroom Tax – an aspect that the utterly horrendous Grant Shapps, in his quest to apply unnecessary and heartless pressure to the lives of the most vulnerable, will never understand nor be the slightest bit concerned about. The human aspect is an aspect that has been missing from the debate on the Bedroom Tax and from the Conservative Party in general for far too long.


September 11th.

September 11, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA (9/11 Memorial  Uploaded by russavia).

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA (9/11 Memorial Uploaded by russavia).

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.
– Robert Kennedy.

Last year I stood at the memorial fountains at the World Trade Center site in New York City. It is a truly humbling experience that I recommend everyone undertake. The feeling of horror, and anger, and great sadness are all intensely overwhelming as the spray from the fountains blows into your face and the solemn calmness conflicts with the enormity of the ideology-driven terror that struck in 2001.

Twelve years later, and reflection is still difficult. It is difficult to imagine what it must have been like to be a passenger on one of the planes, without pulling your mind away because it becomes just too much for any human being to deal with. We try to imagine what it must have felt like for those incredible firefighters running into the debris and the screams, and the nightmare, and we cannot bring ourselves to do so for long before it becomes beyond our capacity. We cannot imagine the pain so many families have been through, through no fault of their own and so many lives broken. Fathers who never saw their children grow up, mothers missing from family christmases. Equally we cannot imagine, and we find it difficult to place ourselves in a position to even try to imagine how peaceful and respectful Muslims felt in the days and weeks, and years following 9/11. It was a day that broke the hearts of every decent person on the planet. There cannot be a legitimate excuse.

There is no excuse. There is no justification. The attack that occurred on that blue skied morning in 2001, was carried out by a multinational crime family, with designs on empire and a deep seated hatred not just for Americans, but for any group that isn’t exactly like them. It is entirely unreasonable to argue “Well Americans killed Muslims, so we killed Americans” as is often the repeated argument, and still used to this day, with varieties employed by Western apologists in the Galloway mold. Indeed, if for example a Brit is murdered in Spain by a Spanish person, I have no right or moral justification whatsoever as a Brit to murder a random innocent Spaniard in retaliation. This isn’t reasonable. It is murder, and it is evil. An outdated, violent, power-hungry, callous political ideology based not on reason but on dogma, that considers the human being to be expendable in the pursuit of the goal of a resurrected Theocracy, cannot be rationalised in an age of enlightenment, human rights, and reason. Responsibility for violence based on that ideology, should not be shifted away from those committing the act, to anyone else. The ideology – with violence and force at its core – is autonomous; it doesn’t require aggressive Western foreign policy to exist, it exists with or without it. We must not excuse it as simply a reaction. For the adherents to such an ideology, human beings are merely another tool to be used as a means to an end, and it is this callousness, and indifference toward the sanctity of life, that we saw materialise on September 11th 2001.

Ideologies based on dogma are defeated by empowering people. They are defeated by gender equality, and human rights. They are defeated by religious moderates rejecting a religious stranglehold of the state. They are defeated when Nations with power stop aiding their fight. They are defeated by equal treatment under the law, and the distinct separation of religion from state with no single myth placed in control of the lives of anyone else. They are therefore defeated by the enduring human desire to be free.

Humanity has a long way to go before we treat each other as sacred, as anything but the narrow band that extremists of every stripe insist we must be identified as. However, violently enforced regression and weak attempts to rationalise or justify violently enforced regression as a product of anything but itself, is not a step along that path. It is a step backward. It deserves neither respect nor consideration.

The only people who deserve our consideration, are those who lost their lives, and their families and friends. Those people who simply went into work that day. Whether through pure chance they happen to be Americans, or non-Americans (12% of those who died, were not American), Christians, or Muslims, Gay, or Straight, Men, or Women, young or old; Human beings – people who were loved, and cherished, and had hurt not a soul – were savagely slaughtered that day in September. This one fact must never be forgotten, nor excused.


The Republican-made Benghazi Scandal.

September 11, 2013

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, at ceremony for the victims of the Benghazi attack. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By U.S. Department of State from United States [Public domain].

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, at ceremony for the victims of the Benghazi attack.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: By U.S. Department of State from United States [Public domain].

It is a year today, since the tragic events in Benghazi unfolded, and four people lost their lives in a senseless terrorist attack. Since that day, Republicans seeking to undermine and attack the Obama Administration by any means, and using the memories of anyone they can find, have used the Benghazi attack for what is quite obviously political point scoring and nothing more. A year of hearings on the subject, and with no scandal to be found anywhere, this hasn’t deterred the Benghazi obsessives. Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz on Hannity accused the President, over Benghazi, of trying to:

“…trying to personally disparage the people that are trying to get at the truth”

– This is the same Republican Congressman who – whilst doing the rounds on TV in 2012 to register his disgust at the Administration for not providing necessary security for the embassy in Benghazi – admitted that he had voted to cut funds for embassy security. In October 2012, Chaffetz said:

“Look, we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have — think about this — 15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, private army there for President Obama in Baghdad.
And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces? When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices how to prioritize this.”

– On a side note, Chaffetz told Fox News that the Administration was intimidating witnesses to keep them silent. When pressed for evidence and examples, he couldn’t offer any. When asked what the cover-up was covering up, he had no answer.

The Republican controlled House cut funding for embassy security by $128 million in 2011, and $331 million in 2012. For 2013, the Obama administration asked for $2.15 billion for embassy security, House Republicans agreed to $300,000,000 less than that. At the time, Hillary Clinton insisted that cuts to embassy security would be:

“…detrimental to America’s national security”

– House Republicans rejected this, despite the fact that between the Islamabad US Embassy burning in 1979, to the Benghazi attack in 2012, over 20+ US Diplomatic personnel in the US Foreign Service had died. Nine embassy staff were killed in the 1998 bombing of the embassy in Nairobi. 13 on the Hezbollah attack on the Beirut US Embassy in 1983. Laurence Foley was an American diplomat assassinated in 2002. Add those to the list of attacks on embassies between the inauguration of George Bush Jr and Barack Obama; Indian US Consulate in 2002, US Consulate in Bali in 2002, two attacks on US Embassy in Karachi in the space of just one year in 2002-2003, 9 Americans killed in attack on U.S. Compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, attack U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in 2004, a third attack on Karachi U.S. Consulate in which US Diplomat David Foy was killed. All under Bush, and none receiving the intense right-winged media & Congress storm whipped up after Benghazi. Despite past attacks, and despite Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and despite uprisings across the Middle East making the lives of diplomatics far more at risk, in some of the most dangerous parts of the World; the House Republicans still voted in favour of cutting funding for embassy security.

According to the Citizens for Tax Justice:

“In fact, under Ryan’s plan taxpayers with income exceeding $1 million in 2014 would receive an average net tax decrease of over $200,000 that year even if they had to give up all of their tax expenditures.”

– A tax cut for the wealthiest, partly paid for by defunding embassies in the most dangerous parts of the World, for which they then attempt to spark up a non-scandal aimed at the Obama Administration when the inevitable occurs.

But it isn’t just House Republicans digging in a haystack for a needle that doesn’t exist. Special Operation Speaks – a group dedicated to uncovering what they call:

“… the deadliest scandal in American history.”

– Apparently choosing to ignore the reasons given for an invasion of Iraq. And, well, the entire Reagan administration and the countless convicts over Iran-Contra. It is of course no surprise that the chief funder of Special Operation Speaks, is a man dedicated to bringing down the President by any-means-necessary, he’s known for this, and not just for Benghazi. The names and the families of those killed in Benghazi are simply a means to an end for Larry Bailey. He really has a hatred for President Obama, and will happily invent scandal everywhere. Bailey once said:

“If there were a jury of 12 good men and women and the evidence were placed before them, there would be absolutely no question Barack Obama was not born where he said he was and is not who he says he is.”

– He of course, has never provided evidence for this assertion, or any evidence for who he believes Barack Obama really is.

The call for the establishment of a House Select Committee to investigate Benghazi, has been put into Bill form, by Representative from Virgina, Frank Wolf. And a credible man he is too, what with having voted for military action in Iraq based on the intelligence for which he’s never asked for a committee be set up to investigate, and for restricted Congressional oversight of CIA interrogations. So far, Boehner has not allowed the bill to enter the House floor. Which, naturally, prompts the conspiracy obsessed Republicans to insist that Boehner must be part of the evil cover up, rather than coming to the realisation that the empty result of hearing after hearing, is proof enough that there is no big scandal. It must be incredibly embarrassing to be a Republican these days.

In fact, a House Republican Report contradicts many of the claims made by those purportedly searching for the “truth”. For example, on the often repeated claim that the President refused to offer forces to help those being attacked in Benghazi, the House Republican Report says:

“The progress report finds that officials at the Defense Department were monitoring the situation throughout and kept the forces that were initially deployed flowing into the region. No evidence has been provided to suggest these officials refused to deploy resources because they thought the situation had been sufficiently resolved.”

– Republicans discrediting Republican complaints.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas weighed in shamelessly with:

“One of the problems with all of this focus on Syria is it’s missing the ball from what we should be focused on, which is the grave threat from radical Islamic terrorism. Just this week is the one year anniversary of the attack on Benghazi. In Benghazi, four Americans were killed, including the first ambassador since 1979. When it happened, the President promised to hunt down the wrongdoers, and yet a few months later, the issue has disappeared. You don’t hear the President mention it. Now it’s a phony scandal, we ought to be defending U.S. national security and going after radical Islamic terrorists.”

– Three issues here. Firstly, Yes. You should be defending U.S National Security. How about you start by adequately funding security for embassies, with money you’d otherwise give away in tax breaks for your donors?
Secondly, Cruz seems to flippantly brush off the urgent need for a response to the crisis in Syria. It is as if he’s choosing to ignore the 600,000 dead, the 3,000,000 displaced, the hundreds of thousands of children facing forced prostitution and poverty, instead choosing to focus on a non-scandal, discredited even by House Republican Reports.
And thirdly, the issue hasn’t “disappeared” with regards hunting down those responsible. In August of this year, the US filed charges against Militia chief Ahmed Abu Khattala, among others, for the attack in Benghazi.

Where was the outrage for the lives of those killed in attacks during Bush’s years? Where was the outrage for the three attacks on the US Embassy in Karachi, resulting in the death of US Diplomat David Foy? Where was the demand for select committee investigations? There wasn’t any, because it wasn’t perceived as politically valuable for House Republicans to shine a light on those attacks.

The real scandal of Benghazi is two fold. Firstly, could the deaths have been prevented if the funding hadn’t been so drastically reduced by House Republicans over the past three years, and secondly, the shameful use of the victims of the attack on the embassy, for political purposes. The longer Republicans insist on focusing on trying to expose a scandal that doesn’t exist, the more the attention is turned on their own lack of principles with regard funding for embassy security and the lengths they’re willing to go to, the names and the families of the victimes they’re willing to insult and degrade, just for political point scoring. This is a Republican-made scandal and nothing less.


… at least you don’t have an I.D Card.

September 8, 2013

In 2010 – and still taking a prominent place on their website today – The Conservative Party released their ‘Quality of Life Agenda‘; a pamphlet setting out Conservative values for a modern age. Section 4 is titled ‘Defending Civil Liberties‘ and lists the Labour Party’s civil-liberty failures whilst in government:

“Labour have shown complete contempt for the rights of the individual. In opposition we have fought them every step of the way; forcing them into a humiliating u-turn over 42-day detention. In government we’ll go further, scrapping
the Contactpoint database and abolishing ID cards. But these blows for our civil liberties will only happen with the clean break of a new Conservative government.”

– So, please note….. effortlessly carrying around an inconsequential ID card is – according to the Conservative Party – an unacceptable attack on individual civil liberties. Keep that in mind throughout this article.

In July 2013, Conservative MP Philip Hollobone – who voted strongly against any ID scheme – introduced a Bill into Parliament calling for a compulsory one year National Service for 18-26 year olds. The Bill reads:

“Non-exempt individuals who do not serve one year of national service before the age of 26 years shall be guilty of an offence.”

– So for Philip Hollobone, effortlessly carrying around an inconsequential ID card is an unacceptable attack on individual civil liberties. Stealing a year out of the life of young people and punishing them if they don’t comply with that theft, is perfectly acceptable.

Parliament’s website describes the Bill in rather manipulative language:

“A Bill to provide a system of national service for young persons; and for connected purposes.”

– This Bill doesn’t “provide” anything. It removes. It forcibly takes a year from the life of every young person in the country.
When a young person finishes college or university and perhaps has the perfect career opportunity presented before them with which they would ordinarily choose to pursue, would – upon passage of this Bill – have to factor in leaving that position within 8 years whether they wished to do so or not, to comply with Hollobone owning a year of their life.

The horrific Bill continues:

“(2) Regulations shall also provide that the scheme shall include—
(a) a residential element, requiring that participants live away from home;”

– Not only will you not be able to take on the job of your dreams because you’ll inevitably have to give it up whether you wish to or not, but you will have to live where Hollobone demands that you live. Don’t you dare stay at home. You will face punishment. It doesn’t set out the punishment, but that is irrelevant. The fact that a punishment exists at all, and thereby criminalises the act of staying at home, and not wilfully giving up your right to owning your own life, cannot be spun as anything other than an extreme overreaching of centralised government into the lives of individuals, on a level far beyond anything the previous Labour government could have even proposed.

If an 18 – 26 year old is to give up one entire year of his or her life through no free choice, and not as a result of an intrusion upon the rights of others, but through compulsion by threat of punishment, a liberty has therefore been offended. Life is short, and our life is our most sacred property, and with this Bill Philip Hollobone – espousing a Paternalistic society based on the born-to-rule-over-you delusions of Tory Party members – proposes stealing that sacred property. He proposes owning a year of a human being’s life without that person’s consent. A year will been stolen and whilst those who vote “Yes” on the Bill – and if it passes – are the ones who partook in the theft of a youth’s liberty, the author of the bill is the ringleader. He orchestrated it. He is to blame. That year of your life belongs to Hollobone, and if you disagree you will be punished.

The Conservative ‘Quality of Life Agenda’ states:

“And what about giving people more power over their lives?”

– Before launching into a tirade upon the legacy of the previous government. But if an 18-26 year old did not owe a year of their life to a Tory MP before 2010, does owe a year of their life to a Tory MP by 2015, then I’m afraid the Conservatives have taken more power away from that individual and handed to the State, on the terms of Philip Hollobone. And this is a rather massive intrusion upon the civil liberty of an individual. And what will the individual be compensated for being forced to give up an entire 12 months of their life on the terms of one Tory MP?

“Participants in national service shall be paid the national adult minimum wage.”

– Of course. The bare minimum. The least he can possibly pay someone. This is grotesque. Not only is he suggesting paying the bare minimum for labour, but he is suggesting paying the bare minimum for forced labour. That giving up the liberty of owning every year of our life through no choice of our own, is worth nothing to this hideous man. Your labour, and a year of your life combined are only worth the bare minimum to Philip Hollobone. One suspects that if he could get away with it, you’d be paid far less.

Article 2(c) leaves me a little bewildered. It sets out what you will be required to learn:

“treating elderly and disabled people with dignity.”

– I’m not entirely sure that when I was 18-26 (I’m now 27) I would be happy to take deluded lectures on the treatment of the disabled or the elderly from a Party that has systematically abused both over the past three years to the point where every charity for those with a disability that I can find, insists that the people they represent – and those in the most need of care – are the hardest hit by the Conservatives dogmatic obsession with rolling back the State. I would suggest that the majority of young people in this nation are far more respectful toward the sick, those with disabilities, and the elderly, than the entire Conservative Party – and its bedfellows over at Atos – have ever been.

Hollobone makes the Conservative line of “defending civil liberties” appear almost a parody. Not only does he wish to steal and own a year of the life of every young person in the country, he’s also voted against the right for a gay couple to marry, and against removing Hereditary Peers from the House of Lords, and in favour of raising tuition fees to £9000. So if you’re between 18-26 and you happen to be gay; remember that Philip Hollobone is the reason that you cannot afford to go to university, he tried his best to ensure you can’t marry your partner, and now he wants to own a year of your life, uproot you from your home, and all for the bare minimum he’s legally allowed to pay you. But at least you don’t have an inconsequential ID card.

The Conservative Party; defending civil liberties!


Tony Abbott – in his own words.

September 7, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website – www.dfat.gov.au

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website – http://www.dfat.gov.au


Tony Abbott was not a politician anyone expected to become Prime Minister, back in 2007. Abbott was a force of reaction more than anything else. The Liberals were shattered. But then, a sort of bitter War of the Roses-type family rivalry took over the Labor leadership – both trying to slightly out right-wing each other – and the Liberals were always going to be the obvious benefactor. And so Australia has today dealt Labor a mighty blow in the Federal Election, and elevated Tony Abbott to the Prime Ministership. So, it is perhaps worth noting the new Prime Minister’s thoughts on a variety of issues.

On women, Tony Abbott said:

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

“What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up.”

On man-made climate change:

“The climate change argument is absolute crap, however the politics are tough for us because 80 per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger.”

– Tony Abbott here is in direct disagreement with Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007, African Academy of Sciences, International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, Geological Society of London, Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, American Geophysical Union, United States National Research Council, Royal Society of New Zealand, and many more. Abbott believes he knows better. I am unable to locate any research or thesis he has written on the subject.

On the right for same-sex couples to marry:

“I’m not someone who wants to see radical change based on the fashion of the moment.”

– Fashion of the moment. Seriously.

On the huge life decision whether to have an abortion:

“Abortion is the easy way out. It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.”

On what abortion might lead to:

“I believe that there is a vast moral gulf which separates modern Australia from Nazi Germany. But can we be so sure that, under pressure over time, we will not slide down the same slippery slope. We only have to look at the abortion situation in this country.”

On rose-tinted Colonialist history:

“Now, I know that there are some Aboriginal people who aren’t happy with Australia Day. For them it remains Invasion Day. I think a better view is the view of Noel Pearson, who has said that Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage.”

On the death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan:

“Shit happens.”

On a woman’s right to control her own body:

“I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak.”

On the plight of Aboriginal Australians:

“There may not be a great job for them but whatever there is, they just have to do it, and if it’s picking up rubbish around the community, it just has to be done.”

The Liberal’s website echoes the thoughts of right-winged Parties in other developed nations, with its delusional promises:

“The Coalition’s priority will be to build a stronger, more productive and diverse economy through lower taxes, more efficient government and more productive businesses that will deliver more jobs, higher wages and better services for all Australians.

– The exact same plan is well underway in the UK, and hasn’t delivered more efficient government – I challenge anyone to suggest the Department of Work & Pensions, or the Education Department, or the Health Department are now ‘efficient’ – hasn’t delivered more productive businesses, hasn’t delivered higher wages, or better services. Quite the opposite. With an added dose of misery and a distinct lack of hope. Similar policies in Republican controlled States in the US, offer similar results. Austerity is completely unnecessary in Australia in 2013. It doesn’t work. And it wont work for Australia.

Abbott is an Australian version of the slightly less sane sect of the US Republicans in Congress, a sort of Louie Gohmert figure for Australia. It will be interesting to see how the Abbott administration acts on the positions that their new Prime Minister fosters. It’ll be equally interesting to see how Labor change and if – with Rudd having retained his seat – they can move forward, get it together with a new leader, and new direction in time for 2016.


Painting Congress Blue 2014: Focus on Candidates III

September 6, 2013

3

The third in the FD series on Painting Congress Blue 2014: Focus on Candidates, will be focusing on California’s 1st & 25th Congressional Districts, in the battle to gain the 17 House seats for a much needed Democratic majority.

California’s 1st Congressional District:
Between 1873 and 1875, California’s 1st Congressional District was represented by a man born just twenty miles away from my house here in England. Charles Clayton, from Derbyshire, England, was a progressive who served the district well. It is a district that has swung between progressive to conservative ever since. In 2012, the district became Republican, after Doug LaMalfa polled an impressive 14.2% higher than his Democratic challenger. And so, in 2014 it is going to take a big swing if the Democrats are to retake California’s 1st.

The Republican incumbent LaMalfa is as conservative as a legislator can be. On his website, he states:

“In repealing Obamacare we will immediately overturn the $718 billion cut made to Medicare.”

– The worry the Republicans raised was that the proposed cut to the Medicare Advantage program, would mean less seniors signing up for the program, and insurers cutting benefits. The Heritage Foundation suggested that enrollment on the program would halve by 2017. Unfortunately for the GOP, the exact opposite has happened. The number of people signing up for a Medicare Advantage program has grown by 30% since 2010, and 9% since 2012. The cuts that LaMalfa spoke of, were intelligently conceived, designed to incentivise, and have worked. LaMalfa can keep bleating the same tired GOP line if he wishes, it based on nothing but misinformation and fear.

LaMalfa is another very anti-women Republican. He opposes abortion entirely, and voted No to reauthorise the Violence Against Women Act. Putting the health, and the lives of women at risk, whilst calling himself ‘pro-life’ is wholly incomprehensible to me. He is also one of those pro-lifers that endorse State funded execution. And in August, he voted in favour of the ‘Stop Government Abuse Act‘, a nasty little Act that allows government agencies to place senior executives on leave without pay whilst they’re investigated for misconduct. Effectively punishing people, taking away their livelihoods, even if they’re later found innocent.

LaMalfa supports amending the California Civic Code to state that human life begins at conception. This is an example of Republicans basing their support of such a vital issue that concerns the health and wellbeing of women everywhere, on religion. There is no reasonable or scientific excuse for believing that human life begins at conception. It is a religious teaching, and as we know from the Founders, the US is a secular nation, that must base its laws on reason, and not base its laws on religious considerations.

On the subject of the embedded principle of church & state separation, LaMalfa supports posting the 10 Commandments in public schools, and abstinence only sex education. Like his lack of reason over human life, LaMalfa also ignores the evidence to suggest that abstinence only sex education fails miserably. The Centers for Disease Control reported that teen pregnancy is at its lowest level since 1946. Dr. Lawrence Friedman, the director of adolescent medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine said:

“That doesn’t mean there is less sexual activity. There’s plenty of sexual activity — oral sex and mutual masturbation and other things that don’t produce pregnancies. There is more awareness of the negative effects of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.”

– Education works. Abstinence education doesn’t. We know this, because despite an overall drop in teen pregnancy, Mississippi has the highest teen birth rate; and uses abstinence only sex-ed as the State standard. New Hampshire has the lowest teen birth rate; and uses a comprehensive sex-ed program. You want to lower abortion rates? Why not start having a commendable, reasonable and coherent policy on sex education.

LaMalfa heavily supported Prop 8, and worked to pass the ‘Protection of Marriage Act’. Another attempt to break down the walls of separation between Church & State.
LaMalfa is opposed to any restrictions on gun purchases.

So, that’s women, Federal employees, gay couples, the Founders, victims of gun crime, and teenagers, that LaMalfa does not particularly care for.

The Democratic challenger to LaMalfa’s title, is Heidi Hall. Hall describes the reasons she chose to run for Congress:

“As my children are grown, I have watched this country veer from a land of opportunity towards a country of greed, inequality and dysfunction, leaving women, children, local communities, and our own environment last on a long list of items to be protected.”

– The issues she lists – especially women, children, and a land of greed – can most certainly be somewhat attributed to the beliefs and politics of LaMalfa and his Republican Party contemporaries.

Hall is dedicated to much needed campaign finance reform. Her website states:

“Our democracy can only function if we have an open exchange of ideas, but corporate cash threatens to drown out all other voices in the process.”

– The reason campaign finance reform is vital for the health of the US Republic, is simple. If we take Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as an example. According to Oil Change International, McConnell had voted in favour of big oil companies 100% of the time during the period 2005-2007. In 2011, McConnell decided to push for the extension of the Keystone oil pipeline, by adding it onto the end of a bill designed to extend year-end payroll tax cuts for middle class people and families. Yes. Senate Republicans would vote down tax breaks for struggling people, unless the Obama Administration succumb to Republican demands for the pressing ahead with the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The Senate Republicans insist that they support the pipeline for the sake of American jobs, and energy independence. I’m sure that must be the case. It can’t possibly be anything to do with the fact that the recipient of the most Oil and Gas contributions in between 2011 and 2012, was Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, racking up an astonishing $583,550. His main contributor, being Exxon Mobil, at $48,000 for that period. In fact, McConnell is the biggest benefactor from Exxon’s generosity in 2011-2012. In 2013, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson publicly urged the Obama Administration to press ahead with the Keystone pipeline extension.
McConnell is a good friend to big oil. On the actual day of the debate on the so-called “Repeal Big Oil Subsidies Act” – an Act designed to end the tax breaks afforded to the wealthiest oil companies in the World of up to $24bn – in 2012, McConnell received $131,500 from oil donors in Midland, Texas. The Act failed by filibuster. One of many very dubious filibusters promoted by McConnell since the Republicans lost the Senate in 2006.
Draw whatever conclusions you so wish.

Hall’s commitment to incredibly important campaign finance reform, and her understanding of the issues facing local communities and infrastructure requirements, children, and women, and how greed rather than opportunity is a major concern; are all decisively important issues that voters should consider when voting in California’s 1st Congressional District election in 2014. These issues are far more important than wasting endless time and money on symbolic votes to repeal ‘Obamacare’. Heidi Hall’s website can be seen here.

California’s 25th Congressional District:
Staying in California, this time reaching the 25th district, we are greeted with Howard ‘Buck’ McKeon, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He is getting older, and may not run in 2014. But let’s assume that he does (there’s no reason to believe he wont).

McKeon is strongly opposed to government programmes designed to prop up an economy in recession. But his principled stance against government spending doesn’t appear to extend to military spending. He opposed proposals to cut defense spending and specifically, cuts to contracts with General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin & Boeing. On a side note, and naturally completely unrelated to the above…. in 2012, McKeon’s biggest campaign contributor was Lockheed Martin (and in 2010), to the tune of $65,750. Next, was General Dynamics, with $60,000. Another, was Boeing, at $31,750. Defence aerospace, is the top industry that contributes to McKeon’s campaign.
To save the defence budget, McKeon favours $1tr cuts to Medicare and Social Security. I’m sure Boeing and Lockheed completely agree.

McKeon voted No on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
McKeon voted Yes on a proposal for a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Like LaMalfa, he wishes to infect the secular Constitution with Christian tradition.
McKeon voted Yes on the horrendous law banning gay adoption in DC. The belief is that a stable family environment can only come from a family with a mother and father. This, again, as is usually the case with Republicans and social issues, is based on religious belief and has no basis in reality. According to the American Psychological Association Policy Statement on Sexual Orientation, Parents, & Children:

“there is no reliable evidence that homosexual orientation per se impairs psychological functioning. Second, beliefs that lesbian and gay adults are not fit parents have no empirical foundation.”

Similarly, The American Psychological Association said:

“Research suggests that sexual identities (including gender identity, gender-role behavior, and sexual orientation) develop in much the same ways among children of lesbian mothers as they do among children of heterosexual parents”

– Therefore, McKeon’s hate for gay people is based on nothing but religiously-induced bigotry. He is also lowering the number of available loving households for children needing to be adopted. He is harming not only gay couples, but children. (He laughably refers to himself as ‘pro-life’).
McKeon also voted No on enforcing against homophobic hate crimes. McKeon absolutely despises gay people. He believes heterosexual men have the right to designate how a gay man or woman chose to live their life. Their happiness, is dependent on what McKeon believes they should be allowed to enjoy. And if they are hatefully attacked in the street, McKeon sees no problem with that.
The Human Rights Campaign scored McKeon a pathetic 0% on gay rights voting.
The ACLU scored McKeon just 7% on civil rights voting.
Rated 0% by the LCV, indicating anti-environment votes.
Rated 10% by the ARA, indicating an anti-senior voting record.
Buck McKeon is just horrific. There is absolutely nothing I can find in his record that is redeeming. Anti-civil rights, anti-separation of church & state, anti-women, anti-environment, anti-senior, pro-perpetual war.

McKeon’s opponent for 2012, will be Lee Rogers. Rogers lost by less than 10% in 2012 to McKeon, due hugely to the negative campaign waged against him by the truly reprehensible McKeon campaign, and he intends to change that in 2014. Rogers is scientifically (and so, rationally) minded, is a podiatrist and co-founder of the Amputation Prevention Center. He won 1st place for outstanding research from the American Podiatric Medical Association in 2007. Rogers echoes the theme of other Democratic candidates running for Congress in 2014, by wishing to end the political chaos in the House that has resulted from three destructive years of Republican rule:

“In the time since the 2012 election, we have seen an unimaginable rise in partisanship, inaction, and dysfunction in Congress. … I’m running to find a way forward through the deadlock on Capitol Hill.”

– I can’t find where he sets out his positions, but then, we’re still a year away from November 2014, and so I expect to see more soon. Judging by his tweets, he is socially liberal, supporting the legalisation of same-sex marriage over here in the UK, and calls out Congressional misbehaviour and vicious rhetoric on abortion. He appears rational and a much needed voice in Congress. A decisive change from the McKeon years. The very fact that McKeon has such terrible ratings when it comes to civil rights, and his dubious campaign finance sources, it seems imperative to me that McKeon not be afforded more time to devour the rights of minorities and children in the way that has dogged his career so far. Rogers’ website can be see here.

Vote Heidi Hall for California’s 1st Congressional District in 2014.
Vote Lee Rogers for California’s 25th Congressional District in 2014.

See here for FD’s focus on Florida’s 2nd, and Illinois’ 13th Congressional Districts.
See here for FD’s focus on West Virginia’s 2nd, and Colorado’s 6th Congressional Districts.


Painting Congress Blue 2014: Focus on Candidates II

September 4, 2013

battle2

It is without doubt that the Democrats have a thoroughly difficult challenge in the next year, if they are to ensure a House painted blue at the end of 2014. This series will provide details on Democratic candidates running for election in 2014, and the work of Republican incumbents.

Yesterday’s focus on Congressional candidates and incumbents for 2014 included Nick Casey running for West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, and Andrew Romanoff for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District. Today, the focus will be on two more Democratic candidates required for the Democrats to pick up the 17 seats needed to take the House.

Florida’s 2nd Congressional District:
The race for Florida’s 2nd district is already in full swing. The theme running through Democrat candidates for 2014, is to return Congress to a functioning legislature, rather than the chaotic state that it currently resides under Republican leadership. Democratic candidates are absolutely right to fight to restore the confidence in Congress. According to a Gallup poll, as of August 13th, 81% of Americans do not approve of Congress. This downward trend of approval is likely to continue when Congress returns to hammer out agreement on the new fiscal yearly budget, and immigration reform. Republicans have had their opportunity, and they’ve failed miserably.

Gwen Graham is a Democratic candidate for Florida’s 2nd. Daughter of former Senator Bob Graham, Gwen Graham is running as a voice of moderation and bipartisanship in 2014. Among the issues, she supports same sex marriage, based on principles of universal love. Graham said:

“I have a daughter and two sons, and if they came to me and said that they were gay I would want them to have the same rights under the law as everyone else has, and I would want them to be happy and I would want them to be in a committed marriage with someone that they loved”.

Graham also wishes to fight the disastrous outcome following the debate on student loan interest:

“Raising rates for students is no different from raising taxes on middle-class families. And if the politicians in Washington want to raise our rates, they should at least have the guts to be honest about it.
While in D.C., Congressman Southerland must have forgotten we have almost 100,000 college students who live in the second congressional district, and countless families who send their children to colleges outside the district.
Our representative should be a voice for the students and families of North Florida — voting to make college more accessible, not more expensive.”

Florida’s 2nd Congressional District is currently represented by Republican Steve Southerland. The district is on the Democrats top 10 list of seats to take in 2014. The district leans Republican, and Southerland was endorsed in 2010, by Sarah Palin. And it doesn’t take long to find out just why he might have gained the support of the Tea Party’s finest.

Southerland is one of those Republican Congressmen that insists on vocalising a ‘pro-life’ position, until the child is born. And if the child happens to be female, or gay, his pro-life credentials are quickly replaced by a very Patriarchal, Christian-right ideal. For example, Southerland voted against increasing funds for the Violence Against Women Act. In the same month, Southerland voted to block a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, that went some way to address the gender gap in pay. Florida, according to Sun-Sentinel, has a pay gap of around 20%. For every $1 a man makes, a woman makes 80 cents. Southerland also co-sponsored the horrifying ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act‘ with which the GOP eventually relented on, after critics pointed out that is used the loaded phrase “forcible rape” as an exception, suggesting that date rape, statutory rape and other forms would not be covered.

His utter contempt for women doesn’t end there. Southerland voted in favour of prohibiting funds to Planned Parenthood. As noted yesterday, Planned Parenthood offers family planning funding and services including breast and cervical cancer screenings and preventative healthcare to millions of low income women and families. He dismisses the incalculably important advice and services that Planned Parenthood offers vulnerable people, all for Christian crusade against abortion. Writing in Psychology Today, Jennifer Hamady talks of the importance of Planned Parenthood:

“They provide free and drastically reduced gynecological services to those who might otherwise not get treatment, saving the lives of countless mothers and children. They provide affordable care for those who don’t have, can’t afford, or have lost their health insurance. They provide counseling for women and girls who have been abused, raped, or are in the process of being bullied or pressured into sex. They provide education on hygiene and wellness. They provide screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.”

– When Southerland and others like him seek to completely prohibit Federal funding for this service, they put a huge number of lives at risk, and care little for those lives.
Victims of domestic abuse, and sexual assault, and those seeking important services like breast and cervical cancer screenings, have been failed by Steve Southerland.
But remember…. he’s “pro-life”.

Whilst Gwen Graham supports keeping politics out of agriculture, Congressman Southerland is blamed by both sides of the political divide for killing the bipartisan Farm Bill in July, with a partisan poison pill amendment. Farmers in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District should not forget that particularly horrendous betrayal, in 2014.

In contrast to Gwen Graham’s support for same-sex marriage on the basis of the right to love, and to be happy, Steve Southerland supports a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. He fails to note just how incredibly unconstitutional this idea is. Defining an institution that exists across cultures and is not confined to Christian Theology, as a Christian ideal and attempting to enshrine that ideal in a secular Constitution, is an outright attack on the founding principles of the United States. It takes a giant Theocratic wrecking ball to the wall of separation between church and state.

This is Gwen Graham’s first run for office, and judging by Congressman Southerland’s lack of support for anyone who isn’t a rich, Christian male, this is going to be an incredibly important race for the Democrats to win. Republicans have noted this, and Southerland is part of their “Patriot Program” designed to shore up support for those House Republicans facing the most difficult races in 2014. If Graham manages to turn Florida’s 2nd Congressional District blue, there will be one less irrational and dangerous Tea Party Republican voting in 2015.

Illinois’s 13th Congressional District:
Whilst Rodney Davis – Illinois Republicans’ 13th Congressional District Representative – is perhaps not as extreme as the Tea Party faction of which Steve Southerland resides, he still presents serious concerns. He opposes same-sex marriage (and as I’ve previously noted, there is not one argument against same-sex marriage that is based on reason rather than bigotry, Davis offers nothing new). And despite being less ‘extreme’ than the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party, we must consider the importance of a Representative’s judgement. In June this year, attorney and Republican Erika Harold announced she would run against Davis for Illinois’ 13th. In response, Montgomery County Republican Chairman Jim Allen sent this email:

“Rodney Davis will win and the love child of the D.N.C. will be back in Shitcago by May of 2014 working for some law firm that needs to meet their quota for minority hires.
The truth is Nancy Pelosi and the DEMOCRAT party want this seat. So they called RINO Timmy Johnson to be their pack mule and get little queen to run.
Ann Callis gets a free ride through a primary and Rodney Davis has a battle.
The little queen touts her abstinence and she won the crown because she got bullied in school,,,boohoo..kids are cruel, life sucks and you move on..Now, miss queen is being used like a street walker and her pimps are the DEMOCRAT PARTY and RINO REPUBLICANS…These pimps want something they can’t get,,, the seat held by a conservative REPUBLICAN Rodney Davis and Nancy Pelosi can’t stand it..
Little Queenie and Nancy Pelosi have so much in common but the one thing that stands out the most.. both are FORMER QUEENS, their crowns are tarnished and time has run out on the both of them..”

– That’s right. The Chairman of Montgomery County’s Republican Party referred to a successful attorney and fellow candidate for the House of Representatives as “a street walker” and that she’d only manage to find work in a law firm due to affirmative action. The Chairman of Montgomery County’s Republican Party was on Rodney Davis 2014 election team.

Davis has set out his plan for 2014, and it is eerily similar to Republican’s failed plan over the past several years, and is the root cause of the stalemate in Congress. Davis appears not to understand. Here he notes his obsession with the futile task of working to repeal Obamacare:

“Rodney believes we must lower taxes for everyone, including small business owners, reduce red tape and regulations, and repeal and replace Obamacare.”

“In Congress, Rodney will fight to repeal and replace the flawed Obamacare.”

– Before the summer break, one of the final votes in the House was to repeal Obamacare. Again. A bill signed into law by the President and upheld by the Supreme Court, the Republicans in early August tried for the ….. 40th time…. to repeal Obamacare. Continuous attempts to repeal, offering no solution, and peddling easily discredited myths, Davis appears to be insisting that this must continue. His sole contribution to the debate on healthcare, is to insist on continuously and pointlessly voting for repeal. Same old Republican Party.

Davis Democratic opponent in 2014 for Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, is Madison County Judge Ann Callis. She self funded her retention campaign for the Judiciary in 2012. Callis has a lot of ground to cover to get her name and her positions known throughout Illinois’ 13th, but over a year to do it, and the 13th is by no means locked down by either Party. It is prudent to begin now, and Callis is a rising star in the Democratic World. Callis seems both moderate, and responsible, and in a district neither safe Red nor safe Blue, moderation is the key. Lean too far to the left or to the right, and the campaign is over. Callis’ positions are set out clearly on her website:

“Ann Callis believes that Washington needs to find ways to cut the deficit responsibly – not on the backs of middle-class families, and not while providing massive tax cuts for millionaires and corporations that ship jobs overseas. In order to help businesses grow and create jobs, we need to get our fiscal house in order and give breaks to small businesses that create jobs here at home. We must also not make dangerous cuts to Social Security, Medicare, education or other programs that are vital to the middle class.”

– She is supported and endorsed by the Women’s Campaign Fund in Washington DC and rather embarrasingly to the Davis campaign, she earned the support of Davis’ mentor, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, who once noted of her Judicial reforms, that Callis has:

“…earned my respect and the respect of Republicans and Democrats alike.”

Unlike Davis, who seemingly believes endless votes to repeal Obamacare is the principle function of Congress, Callis rightfully notes:

“Judge Callis believes Washington’s top priority must be to create good jobs that will keep our middle class strong. Congress should be working to create an environment where small businesses can grow and thrive, not making ill conceived cuts that hamper our fragile economic recovery.”

– As we found out here in the UK, ill conceived cuts are the absolute antithesis of economic recovery. It is dangerous, it destroys lives, and it leads to stagnation and despair with no positive results. Callis is right to point out the consequences of ill conceived cuts.

Whilst Davis, on his site, dogmatically tells us that Government cannot create jobs, Callis (and history) disagrees:

“Rebuilding our local infrastructure and re-training those who are actively looking for work are vital steps toward keeping the middle class secure.”

– What comes across from both campaigns, is that the Republican candidate favours a trickle-down system that has never worked for the majority, whilst the Democratic candidate is focused on pragmatism rather than dogmatism on economic sustainability.

With a little over a year to go until the 2014 election, it will be interesting to note the twists these campaigns take, the fiery rhetoric, and the evolving positions. Democrats need to secure 17 seats in order to gain a majority in the House and ensure an end to the awful deadlock that has plagued Congress since the Republican take-over in 2010.

Vote Gwen Graham for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District.
Vote Ann Callis for Illinois’ 13th Congressional District.

See here for a previous Focus on Candidates in this series.