Painting Congress Blue 2014: Focus on Candidates V.

October 12, 2013

Florida's 19th Congressional District Race. April Freeman

At the time of writing the first four in my series of articles on Republican House incumbents and their Democratic rivals for the House in 2014, it seemed that for Democrats to pick up the necessary seventeen seats was going to require a significant political disaster by the Republican Party. If the most recent Gallup poll is anything to go by, it is apparent that the Republican Party may have inflicted a wound upon themselves that they might not recover from in 2014.

Florida’s 19th Congressional District:
Florida’s 19th is currently represented by Tea Party favourite, Republican Trey Radel. On his Facebook page, Radel posted this:

Trey Radel misleading Kentucky Obamacare Stats
– As part of his maniacal effort to defund the Affordable Care Act regardless of the courts or the outcome of elections, Radel is happy to use any PR tactic possible to drum up support for his failing cause. I say that, because the claim in the picture above omits crucial information: The claim relates to a story put out by Fox (obviously) of the Mangione family of four in Kentucky whose monthly premium apparently rises from $333 a month to $965 a month, from private insurer Humana, a few weeks before Kynect (the healthcare exchange) opened. What the story doesn’t tell you, is just who Andrew Mangione – the father – actually is. As it turns out, there is quite the conflict of interest with this story: Andrew Mangione is:

“…the Vice President, Government Relations, for AMAC. Andy’s career spans the medical device, pharmaceutical and managed care sectors of health care. He has held senior and executive sales positions with organizations including Humana, Inc., Pfizer, Inc. and Invacare Corporation. Andy serves as the lead legislative and government contact in Washington, DC for AMAC, and is also responsible for national grassroots outreach and developing strategic relationships. Andy earned a B.A. in Management from Malone University and his Master of Business Administration from Lake Erie College.”

– Not only did he hold senior/executive position in his insurance company, the website that he is now the Vice President of Government Relations for, has spent almost all its energy – prior to his appearance on Fox – fighting the Affordable Care Act. This man is one big agenda, so it is predictable that both Fox and Trey Radel decided not to mention his credentials. And $300 a month for a family of four? That’s a hell of a lot cheaper than most pay. Nevertheless, The New Yorker argues that under the new rules, the Mangione family might actually benefit.

So with that in mind, it is no shock to discover that despite moderate Republicans taking to the airwaves to pin the blame for government shutdown at the door of the Republican Party and its small group of extremists, Radel has decided that those extremists are in the right. Radel told CNN:

“This entire place is failing the American people”.

– He’s right. When a Freedom Works memo (The Freedom Works Website lists Radel as a signee of Sen. Mike Lee’s letter to use the CR to defund Obamacare) demands a willingness on the part of the Republicans the group funds, to use the threat of shutdown and its implications to win a policy battle that the Republicans couldn’t win via the usual electoral process, that is a massive democratic failure. One that Thomas Jefferson noted was a threat to the American system of governance:

“I hope we shall crush… in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

– But this isn’t what Radel meant. Radel thoroughly disagrees with Jefferson. He seemingly had no issue with the fact that an agreement had already been reached on funding the government, an agreement that hugely favoured Republican demands, only to be reneged on by House Republicans whose corporate backers weren’t happy enough, who now demand the complete defunding of a law they couldn’t repeal through the natural democratic process. Instead, he says:

“The adults need to come to the table, as Republicans are asking…”

– The typical spin, to deflect attention from the fact that they caused this. He then goes on to blame the Affordable Care Act for all the nation’s woes. Later in the same interview, and without a hint of irony, Radel says:

“When you hear the President say he isn’t going to negotiate…. I’m sorry but this is democracy.”

– Here, Radel, like fellow Tea Party members, has apparently redefined the word ‘democracy’. I am struggling to understand how it is possible to lose the Presidency twice, to lose the Senate, to lose the popular vote for the House, to lose a Supreme Court case, to watch your ratings plummet, when 21 of your own House members are willing to vote to reopen government, and still think that by shutting down the government until you get your way, that the path you have chosen represents “democracy”.

It is presumably also “democracy” in action when, at 10pm on September 30th, House Republicans voted to amend House rules, by taking away the right of every member of the House of Representatives to bring a clean CR vote to the House floor, and to bestow that right to Eric Cantor only, to ensure a shutdown went ahead.

According to opensecrets.org, Trey Radel’s 9th biggest donor, is Koch Industries. How surprising. His number one donor is “Every Republican Is Crucial PAC”. This particular PAC is the 2nd biggest donor to the 20 or so dissident Republicans in the House. They are instrumental in propping up support for those who have used the threat of shutdown unless their demands are met. And Radel is doing their bidding. In 2012, his website read:

“Our country has prided itself on freedom and liberty. Regulations like ObamaCare not only place severe restrictions on our freedom and choice but also threaten the economic livelihood of this country. ObamaCare in particular essentially forces individuals to buy a private product just because they are American. This is another example of the government excessively interfering in the lives of private citizens. This law is not only costly, but will also cause great inefficiencies in the medical industry, and have negative ripples throughout the economy. On Trey’s first day in office, Trey would offer a bill to repeal all parts ObamaCare (regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision).”

– The phrase ‘regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision’ should be enough to shock anyone who appreciates the system of American governance, as should the Tea Party section of the Republican Party’s complete lack of respect for the outcome of elections that don’t go their way. It is quite incomprehensible, and very anti-democratic. Let’s not be under any illusions. Trey Radel is one of the small group of Republicans responsible for the government shutdown, and backed by very wealthy donors.

Trey Radel – a man who genuinely believes that Public Enemy’s track ‘Fight the Power’ reflects the message of Tea Party Republicans – is so concerned about the health and wellbeing of his constituents, that he voted ‘NO’ on reauthorising the Violence Against Women Act. Not only does women’s health and rights not concern Radel, but he also voted ‘NO’ on the Sandy Relief Fund and voted in favour of cutting SNAP. I can find no redeeming feature of Radel’s incumbency, it appears to have been a year of making life as difficult for the most vulnerable as possible. Florida’s 19th can do better than that.

The Democratic challenger to Radel, is April Freeman. Freeman’s website identifies exactly what Florida’s 19th District is currently lacking:

“Real people, honest and intelligent leadership, hard working and caring public servants, and more independent women.”

– Honest, intelligence, caring and independent women. Those are the words all progressives would use to describe exactly what the House of Representatives requires more than anything at the moment.

Freeman has impressive credentials to back up the tagline on her website. She was awarded “2005 Business Woman of the Year” by the Business Advisory Council at a White House Dinner; she is the founder of a company that works for no profit to highlight the lives and memory of gifted individuals who died too soon as a result of mental illnesses, and she’s currently obtaining her law degree. Intelligence, and caring, are two traits that Congress desperately requires, and desperately lacks at the moment.

Freeman is right to highlight that voter suppression is a dangerous re-introduction to the democratic landscape, and must be a priority to secure fundamental political rights regardless of race, or wealth. Freeman sets out her position to deal with it:

THE PLAN – Educate local voters in a grassroots effort so they are taught the importance of the early vote & vote by mail in order to relieve the immediate issue of excessive wait times on election days.
THE RESOLUTION – Support Legislation that would make it illegal for the wait time to exceed 1 hour during Federal elections.

Whilst 30 years of anti-union, pro-market fundamentalist rhetoric and policy has seemingly lead to very little other than stagnating wages, poverty increases, recession, and jobs off-shored to the detriment of the lives of real human beings, April Freeman recognises the need to rebalance the scale:

“We need a steady growing economy in SW Florida thus relieving our sole dependence on seasonal residents.
THE PLAN – Support Unions to bring secure jobs with benefits while strengthening collective bargaining ability in order to build our local economy.
THE RESOLUTION – Introduce and Support Legislation that will give tax incentives to small business and corporations in right to work states for merging with unions to provide a living wage and benefits, while penalizing for outsourcing jobs to foreign countries.”

– Freeman’s plans put people right at the centre of policy, and that’s a breath of fresh air for Congress.

If you value women’s rights, ending violence against women, LGBT rights, the right to vote, economic growth and fairness, campaign finance reform, Protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, Veterans issues; then there is absolutely no reason to vote Trey Radel, he fails miserably on all of those issues.

The Democratic base in Florida’s 19th has to grow if April Freeman is to pose a serious challenge to Trey Radel. But with the public at large placing the blame for shutdown on Tea Party Republicans like Radel, there will not be a more perfect time for Freeman and Democrats in Florida to grow that base. Freeman certainly has a chance to turn Florida’s 19th blue in 2014.

Vote April Freeman for Florida’s 19th Congressional District in 2012.

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.
See here for FD’s focus on Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District.


The Tea Party: In the shadow on the Confederacy.

October 10, 2013

The Signing of the Constitution. By Thomas Rossiter.

The Signing of the Constitution. By Thomas Rossiter.

As the days turn into weeks, the US shutdown edges no closer to being resolved. Polls consistently show that the public believe the Republican Party shoulders most of the blame for the chaos and the threat of default. Moderate Republicans join the growing chorus of disapproval of the shutdown and takeover by a small fringe group of well funded Tea Party Senators and House members. But it isn’t just the public, Democrats, the President, the courts, and moderate Republicans who blame the Tea Party faction for the shutdown, the Tea Party doesn’t seem to have the Constitution on its side either.

The Constitution of the United States is a work of genius. Largely influenced by James Madison’s brilliance for applying enlightenment philosophy to practical politics, and moderating the thoughts of Jefferson (who wished for the Constitution and all laws to be replaced every ‘generation’; 35 years) and the ideas of Hamilton (who pushed for a President elected for life); the Constitution ensures the minority cannot and should not be allowed to dictate policy on threat of economic or political catastrophe. The delegates to the Constitutional convention knew that the Constitution must be adaptable to the progress of US society beyond their own lifetime, and so amendments were the answer. The Founding generation – though they knew the threat loomed heavily – could not have accounted for the Constitutional issues that would arise when a Civil War eventually proved the biggest threat to the Union. One of which, was the debt.

The Fourteenth Amendment is one of those Constitutional Amendments that isn’t ambiguous. There isn’t much room for discussion or debate over its legitimate meaning. Section 4:

“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

– The validity of public debt shall not be questioned. The Amendment was passed in 1868, as a result of political wrangling in a Congress worried that the public debt would be used as a weapon by southern States for reconstruction concessions in social and economic spheres of influence. The 14th Amendment put a stop to that threat. The South reacted bitterly to all of the 14th’s provisions (including section 4), refusing to ratify it. They wished to use the threat of the debt, to force the US government to bend to their will, despite losing an election, and a war. The South was eventually forced to sign up, with threat of exclusion from representation in the United States Congress, if they refused. The 14th Amendment was an attempt to prevent the minority – and those who lose elections – from seeking to rule on their own terms. And it worked, until today.

It would appear with the threat of default looming on the horizon, the Republican Party has decided that the wording of the 14th is not clear enough, choosing instead to openly and proudly use the public debt as a weapon to extract concessions that they didn’t manage to win through the electoral process. It took over 140 years, but we cannot be under any illusion; as they move further to the right, the Republicans have spent the past few years channelling the spirit of the Confederacy when it comes to voter suppression, when it comes to subtle hints at secession upon the election of a candidate they didn’t like, and now in seeking to use the debt ceiling as a way to defund and delay an established, Constitutional law.

On the validity of the 14th Amendment, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote in 1935:

“While this provision was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the government issued during the Civil War, its language indicates a broader connotation. Nor can we perceive any reason for not considering the expression ‘the validity of the public debt’ as embracing whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations.”

– It is all embracing. It isn’t questionable. It should not be used as a tool for partisan point scoring.

Section 5 of the 14th Amendment tells us exactly which branch of government is in charge of ensuring the 14th Amendment is carried through:

“The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

– It is Congress’s job to ensure that the validity of the public debt of the United States is not questioned. The historical context of the Amendment is such, that the Amendment was specifically designed to prevent the threat of default unless concessions are met. This isn’t new money the President is asking for, it is money already spent, debts already incurred. It is House Republicans refusing to pay the bills unless they get what they want. And whilst Speaker Boehner is right in that the debt ceiling has been used by both parties as a bargaining chip before, it has never been used to threaten closure of government and default on debts.

The President has no power to invoke the 14th Amendment to unilaterally incur and pay the US’s debts. The constitutional crisis caused by such a move by the President, may well prove to be more damaging than the threat of default itself. The President has been clear; the 14th Amendment does not allow him the power to raise the debt ceiling himself.

To this end, the Republicans know just how dangerous the course they have chosen is. This isn’t a negotiation. This is a threat of force. In 2011 Standard & Poor’s Credit Rating Agency issued the following statement:

“Since we revised the outlook on our ‘AAA’ long-term rating to negative from stable on April 18, 2011, the political debate about the U.S.’ fiscal stance and the related issue of the U.S. government debt ceiling has, in our view, only become more entangled. Despite months of negotiations, the two sides remain at odds on fundamental fiscal policy issues. Consequently, we believe there is an increasing risk of a substantial policy stalemate enduring beyond any near-term agreement to raise the debt ceiling. As a consequence, we now believe that we could lower our ratings on the U.S. within three months.”

– They are quite clear. The debt itself is not what will lead ratings agencies to lower the US’s Credit Rating. It is the politics of the debt ceiling and continued threat of political instability. This instability is driven by a small group of highly financed Republicans, distrusted and disliked not just by the American people and the Democrat Party, but also by their own colleagues. Whilst this is true, the instability is also the product of a lack of clarity on just which branch of government is responsible for ensuring payment of public debt, and if it is constitutional to use the payment of the public debt as political leverage. It is quite clear that the Republicans are using that lack of clarity for political posturing and to circumnavigate the democratic process that didn’t go the way they wanted. If this isn’t the use of force to extract concessions and hinder the stability of Constitutional, democratic government, the entire economy, and the will of the people in the United States, I don’t know what is. In theory, a law exists to deal with that threat:

18 USC Chapter 115 – TREASON, SEDITION, AND SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITIES:
“If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.”

– There are several reasons here why I would argue that the Republicans in Congress have already openly played loose with this law. Firstly, the use of the tactic of closing down the government, by attempting to hinder, and delay the execution of the Affordable Care Act – a law passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court. Secondly, by attempting to prevent, hinder, or delay the payment of debts that the 14th Amendment insists shall not be questioned, and shall be enforced by Congress. And thirdly, the word “conspire” is key, especially given the months of planning that this shutdown has seemingly involved. The legal framework of the United States has been completely disregarded by a very small fringe right-winged movement that cannot abide elections that they did not win, and constitutional laws that they do not like.

Whether or not the Republican Party has broken, or cleverly maneuvered its way around Federal laws, is up for debate. The period of reconstruction attempted to set straight the Southern treat of using the debt as a bargaining chip, with the 14th Amendment. Today that democratic idea is being challenged by the children of the Confederacy. Reason dictates that if a small band of fringe Congressional representatives are able to close down the government, threaten economic disaster, unless a concession is made to defund or delay a law that the American people largely voted on in 2012, that was passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Judiciary – all three branches of government – then something is seriously wrong with a democratic framework that allows for such a vicious tactic.


House Republicans Demand Clean CR…. in 2010.

October 3, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Kevin McCoy.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Kevin McCoy.

As House Republicans continue in 2013 to insist that it is perfectly justifiable to use the budget and government shutdown in an attempt to defund an established, constitutional law that they couldn’t achieve through the democratic process, it turns out House Republicans in 2010 thought very differently.

The 23 Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee in 2010 signed a letter addressed to Appropriations Chairman David Obey, that read:

“it is simply unacceptable to use a must-pass CR as a legislative vehicle ”

– House Republicans were unhappy at Democratic attempts to attach policy provisions to Continuing Resolution legislation. You know, like defunding a programme of some sort. Interestingly, this didn’t result in Democrats shutting down government.

Further into the letter, they reiterate just how wrong House Republicans in 2010 believed attaching unrelated items to the Continuing Resolution really is:

“The CR should not be used as a vehicle to carry unrelated items in an attempt to circumvent the regular legislative process and avoid offsetting the costs of such legislation.”

As if that wasn’t clear enough, they continue:

“Under this emerging scenario, we want to make our position abundantly clear: we will not support efforts to pass a CR that contains any unnecessary spending or legislative provisions unrelated to maintaining government operations.”

– That was the position of House Republicans in 2010. Just three years later, House Republicans in 2013 apparently completely disagree, having attached a ransom to the Continuing Resolution in order to ‘circumnavigate the regular legislative process’ after a loss in 2012 that they still haven’t come to terms with.

Among the signees of the call for a clean Continuing Resolution in 2010 (which can be seen here) was Jack Kingston (R-GA 1st). Kingston in 2010 believed that it was completely wrong to ‘carry unrelated items in an attempt to circumvent the regular legislative process’. Kingston in 2013 signed as a co-sponsor Tom Graves (R-GA 14th) plan to tie funding for the Affordable Care Act, to the CR. What a change of values! And in such a short space of time.

Another signee of the call for a clean Continuing Resolution, and the letter that makes ‘abundantly clear’ that he would not in any way negotiate on efforts to pass a CR that “contains any unnecessary spending or legislative provisions unrelated to maintaining government operations” was Ken Calvert (R-CA 42nd). So, given his indignation at the idea of attaching unnecessary partisan legislation to a CR, it is surprising that his website includes this quote:

“Like most Americans, I am frustrated that our federal government has been shut down. I have now voted for four different proposals to keep the government open.”

– All of those four proposals have included unnecessary partisan legislation designed to delay or defund the Affordable Care Act, or as Republicans in 2010 put it; attaching an unnecessary legislative provision. Ken Calvert in 2010 would be ashamed of Ken Calvert in 2013.

It is nice to know President Obama has the full support of House Republicans in 2010, when placing the blame entirely at the feet of House Republicans in 2013 for the current unnecessary shut down of Government.


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.


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.


Painting Congress Blue 2014: Focus on Candidates III

September 6, 2013

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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.


Painting Congress Blue 2014: Focus on Candidates.

September 3, 2013

ree

The US is still over a year away from the House elections in 2014, and having picked up just seven more seats in 2012 from 2010, it will be an uphill battle if the Democrats are going to grab the 17 seats of the 435 up for grabs, needed to secure a majority in the House in 2014.

That isn’t to say that it is impossible for Democrats to secure a much needed majority. There are some promising candidates pushing for a victory in 2014. I will focus on two Congressional races in this article.

West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District:
Firstly, former Chairman of West Virginia’s State Democrats Nick Casey. Casey is a candidate running for West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. The open seat will be vacated by Republican Shelley Moore Capito, who will be running for the Senate seat. On Casey’s campaign website, it is clear that a jobs plan is a priority, and rightfully so given that West Virginia as a whole has a 6.2% unemployment rate (15th highest in the US), with counties in the 2nd Congressional District having some of the highest rates of unemployment in the State. Casey’s website says:

“My campaign will focus on energy, infrastructure and the jobs they generate. Jobs repairing and expanding our roads, bridges, internet coverage, and essential infrastructure will help our entire economy grow. Right now in the Second Congressional District we have partially-finished projects. I’m talking about Route 35, Corridor H, Route 9 and other similar projects. Each of these are more than halfway finished and the remaining segments are already designed. Let’s finish these critical projects now, not in 20 or 30 years.”

– Given that Shelley Moore Capito has represented the district since 2001, with projects left unfinished, energy left untapped, and unemployment still high, it seems time for a change. It will be a struggle to win over a conservative leaning district in which President Obama lost every county in 2012, but with a clear focus on jobs, and on breaking the deadlock in Washington, Casey’s moderate, common sense approach could very well take the seat.

Colorado’s 6th Congressional District Race:
Less safe for Republicans in 2014, will be Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, which, since redistricting, has become a seat that could go either way. The swing seat is a battle between liberal Aurora and conservative Highlands Ranch. The Representative for Colorado’s 6th, is currently Republican Mike Coffman. Coffman is one of those Republicans that alienates those who aren’t exactly like him:

“I don’t know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don’t know that. But I do know this, that in his heart, he’s not an American. He’s just not an American.”

– Not only is he questioning the President’s place of birth in a show of Donald Trump-esque non-reason, Coffman is also sure that the President, in his heart, is unAmerican. He of course doesn’t define what ‘being American’ means, and why the President doesn’t fit that definition, just that he is ‘unAmerican’ in ‘his heart’. No focus on issues, just on needless abuse. He also suggested that the President might use the military and an overseas conflict to help him win the election in 2012. And last week, whilst Congressional Republicans were demanding the President seek Congressional approval for a strike on Syria, upon hearing that that’s exactly what the President would do, Coffman changed position:

“The Assad government has had all the time in the world to move their assets around so they don’t present themselves as easy targets.”

– So, now Republicans are unhappy that the President didn’t strike early, without Congressional approval?
This is the face of a Republican Representative who has no reasonable argument and so must resort to weak insults with the distinct reek of desperation. When Coffman isn’t busy abusing the President, he is busy on his website, being Mr Obvious:

“…it is vital to promote responsible gun ownership by keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and of the mentally unstable.”

– That’s not a position. The alternative would be “we must ensure the mentally unstable can easily get hold of firearms“. The antithesis to the absurd, is not a position worth voting for, unless a credible plan accompanies it.
Mike Coffman is one of the many old rich male, anti-women Republicans in Congress. The elephant in the womb. He co-sponsored a bill to cut Title X entirely because it provides federal funds to Planned Parenthood, which uses private funds for abortion (again, provides private funds for abortion, not federal). Title X offers family planning funding and services including breast and cervical cancer screenings and preventative healthcare to millions of low income women and families. His war on the most vulnerable doesn’t stop there, Coffman voted no on the expansion of Children’s Health Insurance Program and co-sponsored “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act” and “Defund ObamaCare”. Coffman, in short, is a time and money wasting anti-Obamacare Republican dedicated to the wealthy, who spends his time on useless legislation, to make a political point that no one wants to hear.

Coffman’s challenger for Colorado’s 6th, is Andrew Romanoff. Romanoff, like Casey is focusing on ending the stalemate in Washington and producing a Congress that actually works, along with green jobs. Romanoff also refuses to take campaign money from special interests, insisting:

“Washington is awash of special interest money…I’m going to need individuals to chip in and make contributions. I want to represent the people of the 6th District, not special interests.”

– Romanoff is one of very few to eschew campaign contributions from big business and special interests, worried – and rightfully so – that they distort the political process. By contrast, in 2011/12, Mike Coffman raised $216,000,000 from leadership PACs, $174,000 from the oil and gas industry and $144,000 from the real estate industry. According to the Denver Post, in 2012, Coffman received $10,400 in individual donations, over the legal limit.
Romanoff was the speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives between 2005 and 2008, sponsored Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Act. Whilst the process for receiving a BEST grant is a tough one, it is invaluable, given that small districts and charters have practically no other options for funding. Sanford Superintendent Kevin Edgar said:

“The BEST program is our only hope”

Romanoff has also authored laws protecting victims of domestic violence, and treatment for mental illness.
– So the choice is clear in 2014; an anti-women Representative with slightly neurotic, deluded Tea Party-esque tactics, funded by big oil among others, and no discernible position on most issues, or a Representative who isn’t tied to special interests and has worked for the benefit of the most vulnerable in the past.

Democrats need to secure more than double the seats they managed in 2012, if they are to take back the House and get Congress moving. It’s a tough battle, but it isn’t impossible. Focusing on candidates is vitally important and I will look at several more races over the coming weeks and months.

Vote Nick Casey for West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District.
Vote Andrew Romanoff for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District.


President Obama and the Syria Dilemma.

August 30, 2013

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.
– Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, 2007.

I’m not entirely sure what my position on intervention in Syria is. I do think it important that the UN inspectors be afforded more time. On the one hand, it seems unreasonable to suggest Syria can be compared to Kosovo before it – as some are doing – given that Kosovo did not have the level of Russian support that the Assad regime now seems to enjoy, and so any intervention against Assad, will inevitably only lead to Russian strengthening of the grotesque regime and an escalation of the conflict. On the other hand, what sort of awful precedent does it set, to allow a leader to chemically attack his own people, with no retribution, and no protection for those under attack? The circumstances forced upon refugees cannot be ignored by an international community that can help. If regime change isn’t the goal of intervention – As UK & US officials seem to be suggesting – then, what is? How do we ensure a post-Assad Syria isn’t overrun by Islamist religious conservatives? Is there a detailed plan for a secular, democratic framework upon Assad’s fall?

It would appear to me that President Obama may very well see himself in the firing line of the Republican obstruction and destruction machine, if he decides to push forward with intervention. Pushing ahead without UK assistance following the Commons vote last night, and without the spineless and opportunistic Arab League, but mainly without Congressional approval, could be a political disaster for the President. A bi-partisan Congressional group are calling on the President to seek the approval of Congress before launching any action. 50 House Democrats wrote a letter to the White House yesterday, stating:

“While we understand that as Commander in Chief you have a constitutional obligation to protect our national interests from direct attack, Congress has the constitutional obligation and power to approve military force, even if the United States or its direct interests [such as its embassies] have not been attacked or threatened with an attack. As such, we strongly urge you to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis.”

Other prominent Democrats weighed in on the side of Congressional approval, including California’s 13th District Rep. Barbara Lee. Lee said:

“While the use of chemical weapons is deeply troubling and unacceptable, I believe there is no military solution to the complex Syrian crisis. Congress needs to have a full debate before the United States commits to any military force in Syria – or elsewhere.”

– And so, with House Democrats registering their worry that the President could go this alone, it isn’t a stretch to point out that House Republicans – given their erratic, and frankly senseless behaviour over the past few years – may use an attack on Syria as a smoking gun for an attempt at impeachment. Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma told a town hall meeting that impeachment proceedings against the President was:

“perilously close”

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama said:

“The only legal authority that is required to deploy the United States military is of the Congress and the president and the law and the constitution.”

It is not beyond the realm of imagination, for this particular Republican House to push forward with forging a serious attempt to impeach a President they have long despised, simply because he isn’t Republican.
Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C) said:

“If one of our troops goes to Syria and is killed, I will introduce articles of impeachment against the president.”

– Jones himself likes to hold vendettas, having been a key player in renaming French Fries to Freedom Fries, in protest of France’s opposition to the Iraq war. And whilst he threatens to impeach Obama, when asked about false Bush WMD claims, Jones simply asked President Bush to apologise. In short, like the IRS non-scandal, like the Benghazi-non scandal, and now Syria; the Republican over-dramatic voices of bitterness will flippantly use the conflict as an excuse to attempt to knock the President off of his throne.

The Defence Authorisation Bill passed last month in the House that urges the President to consider all possible courses of action to remove Assad from power, not requiring Congressional approval. This matters little to the voices in the same House who now demand Congressional approval. But whilst this may appear to give the Obama White House full Congressional support for regime change in Syria, it seems to be over ruled by the Defense Appropriations Bill, which according to Rep. Bill Young (R-Fl):

“Included in this measure was an amendment , which passed unanimously, that prohibits the use of any funds with respect to military action in Syria without consulting Congress as required by the War Powers Resolution.”

– The President has his hands tied. If he goes it alone, he will be provoking a fight with Congress that he can ill afford. The wolves are waiting to pounce. Indeed, if Congressional Republicans put forward a compelling enough case, resting on Constitutional grounds among others, and especially if intervention becomes shambolic and shows no strategic planning or a reasoned pull-out strategy, then it seems to me that Congressional Democrats will find it increasingly difficult to reasonably object. Plenty of Democrats are already unhappy at the expanded use of drones, and most certainly do not favour a strike on Syria. Alienating those Democrats is particularly risky, because the conflict in Congress over intervention in Syria does not follow Party lines. If however the President does seek Congressional approval, and fails to get it, then lack of intervention in Syria from the most powerful nation on Earth gives Assad a green-light; makes the President look entirely powerless especially after his 2012 statement that the use of chemical weapons would be a red line; and Congress looking to be using the horrendous situation and innocent lives in Syria to win a battle with the White House. Everyone loses.

And if the US doesn’t intervene… what then? Who fills the gap? When does it stop? What becomes the red line before the Russians decide enough is enough? Another Rwanda? I suspect in this case, the US will be blamed for not intervening.

Either way, for the President, conflict in the Middle East has come full circle. His Presidential victory can in some way be attributed to the image presented of being ‘not Bush’, a President marred by a unilateralist attack on Iraq. In 2013 ‘not Bush’ now stands alone, preparing a unilateralist strike on Syria, tied to his 2012 declaration that use of chemical weapons would be a red line. It is an intensely difficult situation for the President, but will become far more difficult if he seeks to press ahead without Congressional approval. Calls for impeachment will become more pronounced. And as political point scoring in Washington ensures that valuable time passes, by which Syrian weapons and targets can be protected, a strike on the capabilities of the hideous Assad administration becomes less and less effective.


Racism in America: Lincoln

March 2, 2011

The election of Barack Obama in 2008 brought with it the utopic notion that racism in the United States of America was over. I certainly do not the doubt the momentous appointment of an African American man to the office of President of a country that was built on racial genocide and slavery. A country that less than a century ago, during the life time of my grandparents, did not allow a white child to attend the same school as a black child simply on the basis of race. The elevation of a black man to the highest office in American politics is symbolically another step on the road to tackling the evils of racism.

This blog isn’t meant as an analysis of Obama. He is essentially part of an establishment that favours financial institutions, oil companies and private health insurers above the lives of the less wealthy, and panders to the apparently widespread American belief that the very wealthy deserve massive tax cuts at the behest of the most vulnerable. He is no different in that respect regardless of his skin colour.

I wanted instead to focus on the beliefs of America’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, and his complex and often contradictory approach to slavery. Like Jefferson before him, it is almost impossible to figure out where Lincoln stood on the issue, and conflicting books are widespread. Lincoln’s party politics and his true beliefs seem to be confused much of the time, and yet history tends to stick entirely to his party politics regardless of the motives. I wanted to explore those motives more in depth.

Yesterday I went along to see an hour long lecture by Professor Richard Carwardin, the President of Corpus Christi College Oxford and winner of the Lincoln Prize for his book “Lincoln: A life of purpose and power“, a favourite of George W.Bush. Obviously there is a very limited and narrow version of Lincoln’s life one can present in just an hour, but Carwardin alluded to Lincoln as a great emancipator, as if he had been way a head of his time and the progressive champion for the freedom of black slaves, willing to fight a war for its eradication.
I would argue differently.

Lincoln wasn’t happy with the fact that slavery had become an issue by the time he took office. Lincoln told the esteemed journalist Henry Villard;

“I will be damned if I don’t feel almost sorry for being elected when the niggers is the first thing I have to attend to.”

Lincoln was not prepared to go to war for the abolition of slavery in itself. He had agreed to back an amendment to the Constitution, penned by the Representative from Ohio, Thomas Corwin, that would have made it Unconstitutional for Congress to amend rules or abolish slavery. Lincoln backed it.
The Corwin amendment read:

No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State

In his inaugural address, Lincoln referenced the proposed amendment, stating:

“Holding such a provision to now be implied Constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”

Interestingly, the amendment passed Congress by the two-thirds majority needed, but was never fully ratified in the State legislatures, and is still up for ratification, as it was never thrown out. If it had been fully ratified, one must wonder just how different the U.S would look today. The fact remains though that up until the outbreak of Civil War, Abraham Lincoln supported a Constitutional Amendment rendering it impossible to abolish the institution of slavery.

The worry from the Republican Party of the Lincoln years, was not so much the moral implications of ethical dilemma of the owning of slave labour, but the economic problems it creates. They worried that slave labour merely worked to undermine wages of the poor white working classes, and just created a new dominant class known as “Slave Power”. They worried that the Slave owning classes in the South were just violent and expansionist people with a goal of Empire. This paranoia wasn’t without merit, but it was borne out of the relatively new Nation’s deep suspicion of Empire and too much power. Lincoln charged that the Southern Democrats and slave owning classes were out to take over Cuba and the war on Mexico seemed to confirm those suspicions. The Civil War Confederate cry of “States rights!!” was simply the right for the very wealthy land owners in the South to keep and abuse people with darker skin, and the right to centralise power within very few hands. Only the free States were fighting for States rights.

Lincoln’s famous signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. It is doubtful whether the proclamation actually freed any slaves whatsoever. Depending on your source, it was either the greatest achievement of the short Presidency of Lincoln, or it was useless. No one really knows. One thing is for sure, Lincoln signed the proclamation as a further attack on the South (rightfully so). In September 1862, he demanded they return to the Union or he would free their slaves. Not “and i’ll free your slave“. It’s an ultimatum. If you rejoin the USA, you get to keep your slaves… if you don’t, we’re freeing them. He is more concerned here with preserving the Union – an abstract concept – than ending slavery. The Proclamation not only didn’t free slaves in the Confederacy, it didn’t free slaves in the slave holding States in the Union – Kentucky and Maryland.

The Proclamation looked good for Lincoln, as it put real pressure on the Confederacy. France and Britain were very anti-slavery, and he needed support and recognition of the legitimacy of the USA in a war that at the time, no one knew which way it might go. With the support of France and Britain, and so legitimacy, it helped Lincolns case. It was similar in a way, to how old European powers gained legitimacy. When Henry Tudor took the Kingship away from Richard III, he was a nobody on the European stage and England was at civil war, much like America. Tudor needed an air of legitimacy, so he married Elizabeth of York; she happened to be the niece of Richard, and daughter of King Edward IV. This was the legitimacy Henry required, and won. He rather secured himself, by marrying his son – Arthur – off to the daughter – Catherine of Aragon – of the most powerful family in Europe; the King and Queen of Spain. The marriages and alliances were all about protecting himself, and securing his throne, not about love nor about the wellbeing of his Kingdom. Lincoln signed the Emancipation declaration, to protect his Throne by winning the support of the English and the French. Up until the Proclamation was signed, it seemed Britain was on the side of the Confederacy, having been involved in the provision of the British made warships the CSS Alabama and the CSS Florida.

Lincoln knew the Proclamation, which freed black slaves in Confederate States that fell to the Union forces, would compel black slaves and freed slaves to help the Union armies. He stressed in a letter to his friend James C. Conkling:

“I thought that whatever negroes can be got to do as soldiers, leaves just so much less for white soldiers to do, in saving the Union.”

The freedom of the slaves with the passing of the 13th Amendment was a tiny ripple in the water. Saying to a group of people who have had no access to education, to family ties, to survival, to anything other than a system that treated them as less than human for so long, that they are now “free”, is worthless. It is not freedom. It would take another 100 years before the real reforms were introduced. Lincoln was not a head of his time. The abolitionists were calling for equality, not just the ending of slavery. Economically, black Americans would be held down for more than a century in place of White privilege. Lincoln may have given them freedom, but he certainly did not give them anything anywhere near equality, and he knew it.

Even the banning of slavery expanding into new territories was a rather obscure policy that was not designed for the sake of the wellbeing of black Americans, rather it was an attempt to keep black people from being shipped to America full stop. It was a white supremacist policy that today would be deplored as vicious and racist. Lincoln, when talking about the banning of slavery expanding to new territories stated that he did not want the United States:

…….to become an asylum for slavery and niggers

The expansion into the West was an opportunity to spread the white race for Lincoln, who had no desire to see black people live there, stating in 1858 in Illinois, that:

in favor of our new territories being in such a condition that white men may find a home … as an outlet for free white people everywhere, the world over.

Lincoln was therefore using race as an unnecessary social divide. Race had only really became an issue, during the late 1700s and early 1800s. Up until then, nobody really cared what race you were. White slaves existed in the Colonies way before black slaves. The worry was that they would join hands and rise up, so race was used to divide them. Tell a poor white slave that he is more important in God’s eyes than a poor black slave, and suddenly there is no chance they will rise up together and overthrow the economic powers that hold them both down.

In 1853, Lincoln backed the Illinois State law that banned freed black people from moving to Illinois. They weren’t so free afterall. Lincoln it seems, was obsessed with the division of black and white, and even Mexicans, whom he referred to, out of the blue, for no reason, as:

“most decidedly a race of mongrels. I understand that there is not more than one person there out of eight who is pure white.”

He was a power obsessed, white supremacist.

The great emancipators in the Congress and the abolitionist leaders who pressured and pressured for Lincoln to keep to his line on abolition. Thaddeus Stevens, in the House of Representatives, and Chairman of the Ways and Means committee was a committed Abolitionist. This man was ahead of his time. He helped runaway slaves escape to Canada. He protected the rights of Jewish and Chinese Americans and he defended the rights of Native Americans. Stevens was a hero of the Civil War era and should be remembered as such, far above Lincoln. But one man stood out as great, even beyond that of Thaddeus Stevens, and that man was Charles Sumner, the Senator from Massachusetts.

Charles Sumner absolutely hated the institution of slavery. As did his father before him. He argued that freeing the slaves would achieve nothing, unless it was accompanied by a raft of legislation promoting equal rights both politically and economically. This was 100 years before equal rights began to take shape. He is responsible for one of my favourite quotes from history, that I tend to live by when shaping my political thoughts:

“The Utopias of one age have been the realities of the next.”

Sumner argued in a court case, that segregation was an abomination. The year was 1848. The case was Roberts VS Boston. It lead to the ban on segregation on the basis of race in all public schools in Massachusetts. It was over 100 years before the rest of the country would catch up.

Sumner’s extraordinary career taught me that it is okay to think radically, even if the rest of your contemporaries think that you are an idealist living in a dream land. The contemporary Senators did not like Sumner for his radical ideas on racial integration and equality, one Senator suggested that Sumner was unimportant and should be ignored:

“The ravings of a maniac may sometimes be dangerous, but the barking of a puppy never did any harm.”

It is a myth that Lincoln was a great emancipator and forward thinker and it is a great injustice that men like Charles Sumner go unrecognised and ignored by history.
Sumner’s face should be on Mount Rushmore. Not Lincoln’s.

Anyway, as Sumner argued, The Proclamation was meaningless, the 13th Amendment was the result of much pressure put on the administration. Lincoln himself once remarked quite tellingly:

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.”

He stresses exactly why he felt compelled to free the slaves. It was not on grounds of compassion or freedom or respect for the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, far from it, he did it for the sake of his own power:

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”

Abraham Lincoln was not a great emancipator. Nor was he one of the great forward thinking abolitionists of the time. He was a racist and a white supremacist who put his own position and power above that of the rights of a group of people who had different coloured skin. It is quite extraordinary that history teaches us that President Lincoln was one of the great Presidents who ended the horrific institution of slavery. The reality is far more ambiguous. It is much like the celebrating of Columbus day as a great day in American history, when in fact it simply marked the beginnings of a mass genocide. History should be taught with equal weight to both interpretations, if the subject is as ambiguous as that of President Lincoln and the question of slavery.


My law on marriage

February 26, 2011

If we are to take the Biblical view, that marriage is between a man and a woman, we must look at what Biblical marriage stood for. Christians who oppose gay marriage, if they are going to use to the Bible to try to justify their prejudices, must be consistent and follow through with the Biblical guide to marriage. So perhaps we should use the Bible to structure a new Federal law on the Defence of Marriage. Let’s call it, Futile Democracy’s Defence of Marriage Act 2010. I took it upon myself to write it up:

Section 1 define marriage:
A marriage is defined as a union between a man and a virgin woman.
Deuteronomy 22:13-21
A marriage is also valid, in the eyes of God and so the eyes of the United States Congress, if it is between a man and his sister.
Genesis 20:1-14
The union also permits the man to take concubines whenever he sees fit.
2 Sam 5:13
2 Chron 11:21

Section 2 relating to women as captives:
If a man within the United States of America finds a desirable woman in a room of captives, he is entitled to marry her on the spot, without her consent.
After marrying a captive, it is required, by the consent of the United States Congress, that the man must first take her home, and shave her head.
Deut. 21:11-13

Section 3 relating to women as property:
Trading in women, is a perfectly acceptable form of property dealing, within the United States of America.
RUTH 4:5-10
Wives must not speak, or offer opinions, especially in Church, except in the company of her superior (husband) at home.
I Corinthians 14:34-35
If a man rapes a virgin, he shall pay fifty pieces of silver, and then marry her.
Deut. 22:28
If a woman is kidnapped at a party, this shall not fall under the law of the United States forbidding kidnapping, as long as the man marries the kidnapped woman.
Judges 21:19-25
When at war, is it permitted that you destroy their cities, kill all men and women and male children, take the female children for yourselves, and marry them.
Judges 21:7-23
Purchasing children of foreigners is acceptable in God’s eyes. You may marry them, as they are now your property.
Leviticus 25:44-46

Section 4 relating to adultery:
The punishment for adultery is stoning to death.
Death shall not be enforced before a quasi-trial is given for the wife. If the parents of the wife can prove that the wife is a virgin by spreading the cloth worn by the wife on a table to the City Elders, the husband must pay compensation to the parents and the wife is not permitted to see her parents ever again.
If she is found guilty, she must be put to death.
Deut. 22:22-30

Section 5 relating to pregnancy:
If a wife gives birth to a boy, she must spend a week in isolation because she is, by decree of the Congress of the United States, and God Almighty, unclean.
If a wife gives birth to a girl, she must spend two weeks in isolation, because she is, by decree of the Congress of the United States, and God Almighty, very very unclean.
Leviticus 12:5

Section 6 relating to the death of a husband:
Definitely don’t marry your dead husband’s brother.
Leviticus 20:21
Definitely do marry your dead husband’s brother.
Deuteronomy 25:5-10

Section 7 on divorce:
If a citizen of the United States of America abandons his wife and children, for Jesus, he will be rewarded.
Matthew 19:29
A woman who is divorced for a second time or widowed by her second husband, must not remarry her first husband.
Deuteronomy 24:3-4
Divorce and remarrying, is committing adultery against your first husband or wife in the eyes of Jesus and the United States Congress. This isn’t a law as such, just to let you know, if you get divorced, we think you’re scum.
Mark 10:2-12

Section 8 conclusion:
Marriage within the United States of America, is hereby described objectively as a union between a man, brother, rapist and a virgin woman, another woman, another woman, a few more women, a hostage, a rape victim, and the female children of parents who have just been slaughtered.
But NEVER let a homo marry. This is unnatural and immoral.

I think that just about sums up exactly what the new US law on Defence of Marriage should consist of, you know, if it really is about pleasing God, and not about simply being horrific bigots.

I found this poet, Alvin Lau, in a powerfully beautiful poem exploring the bullshit of Christian homophobic attitudes that are prominent on the American Right wing. I cannot think of a better way to put into words exactly how I feel on the subject of gay marriage, than Lau does: