Archive for: May, 2012

The Legal Walls Are Closing In on DOMA Bigots

May 31 2012 Published by under Featured News

Advocates for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) took a hit today, when the First District Court ruled that section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional under the equality clause. More specifically, the court ruled that denying same sex married couples the benefits that heterosexual married couples receive is unconstitutional.

The court’s opinion in Gill et al v OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT, ET AL.,  is summarized on pages 18 and 19 of the ruling.

 As for burden, the combined effect of DOMA’s restrictions on federal benefits will not prevent same-sex marriage where permitted under state law; but it will penalize those couples by limiting tax and social security benefits to opposite-sex couples in their own and all other states. For those married same-sex couples of which one partner is in federal service, the other cannot take advantage of medical care and other benefits available to opposite-sex partners in Massachusetts and everywhere else in the country.

. . .   Accordingly, we conclude that the extreme deference accorded to ordinary economic legislation in cases like Lee Optical would not be extended to DOMA by the Supreme Court; and without insisting on “compelling” or “important” justifications or “narrow tailoring,” the Court would scrutinize with care the purported bases for the legislation. Before providing such scrutiny, a separate element absent in Moreno, City of Cleburne, and Romer–federalism–must be considered.

The unanimous ruling was silent on the question of whether states that have not recognized same sex marriage should be compelled to do so. However, the court did make some interesting observations on page 20 of the ruling

 In our view, neither the Tenth Amendment nor the Spending Clause invalidates DOMA; but Supreme Court precedent relating to federalism-based challenges to federal laws reinforce the need for closer than usual scrutiny of DOMA’s justifications and diminish somewhat the deference ordinarily accorded.

Conversely, the court also cited the Supreme Court on the question of regulating domestic relations.

 ”[t]he whole subject of the domestic relations of husband and wife, parent and child, belongs to the laws of the States and not to the laws of the United States.”

Ulimately, DOMA will be considered by the Supreme Court.  For now, this ruling is an important step forward for civil rights.  Goodness, with all the steps backward we have seen, this ruling is a ray of sunshine.

Image from advocate.com

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Wal-Mart Dumps ALEC and Outs Them as Un-American

May 31 2012 Published by under Featured News

Wal-Mart dumped ALEC and gave the reason as ALEC’s departure from Jeffersonian free market principles; a.k.a. Wal-Mart hinted ALEC has become un-American.

In a statement, Wal-Mart representative Maggie Sans wrote, “Previously, we expressed our concerns about ALEC’s decision to weigh in on issues that stray from its core mission ‘to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets…We feel that the divide between these activities and our purpose as a business has become too wide. To that end, we are suspending our membership in ALEC.”

Wal-Mart claimed that ALEC was no longer as interested in Jeffersonian free market principles as they were other partisan political issues. Two of those unnamed political issues are most certainly voter ID and stand your ground laws.

Some of the statements from businesses who have dumped ALEC have blown the lid off the true goals of the formerly secretive organization, Procter & Gamble said, “On Friday afternoon, we learned that P&G began reviewing its membership in January and recently decided not to rejoin ALEC in 2012. External Relations Manager Elizabeth Ratchford told us via email that, ‘Decisions about which memberships we retain are guided by budgetary considerations, value to the business and engagement on issues core to our ability to compete in the marketplace.’”

Yum! Brands, operator of KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell cited ALEC’s secretive behind closed doors policymaking, “ColorOfChange.org Executive Director Rashad Robinson said in a statement, This week, ColorOfChange members have been calling executives at Yum! Brands to ask the company to end its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Today, employees in Yum! Brands’ corporate headquarters have told our members and ColorOfChange staff that the company has in fact dropped ALEC. In doing so, the operator of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell has restored our belief that it stands in favor of crafting legislation in view of the public, rather than behind closed doors.”

The insights provided by former members give us a glimpse of what ALEC’s true priorities are. The organization wraps itself around Jeffersonian principles, but their real motivations are to carry a far right wing ideological agenda of secret policymaking and vote suppression.

Wal-Mart is sensitive to its public image, and with good reason given its business model, but to accuse ALEC of drifting away from Jeffersonian principles was a serious allegation that struck at the very core of the organization’s public façade. Of course, the allegation contains more than a healthy bit of irony as few companies have done as much to destroy workers’ rights, small businesses, and free markets as Wal-Mart. Sam Walton’s baby calling another organization un-American is a serious pot meets kettle moment.

Each company that dumps ALEC punches another hole in the American Legislative Exchange Council’s public image. Being associated with ALEC is now bad for business, and in these economic times, not even a giant like Wal-Mart can afford the unnecessary bad publicity that comes from associating with ALEC.

The public exposure brought on by the boycott means that it will be more difficult for ALEC to inhabit the dark corners of our democracy.

No criticism from a former member could be sharper than Wal-Mart’s allegation that ALEC is no longer in step with the views of one of our Founding Fathers. We already knew that ALEC was actively working to subvert our democracy, but according to Wal-Mart the group has also become un-American.

What is most devastating for the American Legislative Exchange Council is that the more companies depart, the more their former veil of secrecy shatters.

It turns out that right wing corporate billionaires who owe their success to the country that gave them the opportunity may be as un-American as they come.

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Bad Data From Rick Scott Leads 2 Florida Counties To Suspend Voter Purge

May 31 2012 Published by under Featured News

In a statement that reads like a desperate attempt at damage control. Lenny Curry (Chairman of the Republican Party Florida) compared purging the polls to enforcing laws against drunk driving.

This past Memorial Day weekend, law enforcement put up checkpoints to ensure drunk drivers did not threaten the safety of fellow motorists. Undoubtedly, many of the drivers who were met by police were, in fact, not driving drunk. However, we accept the notion that on such a heavily traveled holiday, a few moments of inconvenience to law-abiding drivers is worth it if we can ensure safe highways.”

Similarly, officials in Florida are undertaking a methodical and reasonable effort to maintain the security of Florida’s voter rolls. While some who are citizens, and others who are not deceased, may be asked to simply participate in the verification process, thousands of these records do accurately reflect non-citizens and people who have died.

To borrow from Keith Olbermann; you, Mr. Curry, are an idiot.  Officials are using old DMV records, circa 2000.  As was the case in 2004 and for that matter in 2000, using old records will result in numerous errors. It comes with no surprise that Hispanics, Democrats and Independents have a higher probability of appearing on these lists than say, white Republicans.

And as Rolling Stone points out, this sort of thing is happening in other states as well.

“Florida Republicans are following the lead of GOP secretaries of state in places like Colorado and New Mexico, who’ve made outlandish and unsubstantiated claims about non-citizens voting based on sketchy data, bad methodology, and anti-immigrant sentiment.”

Thankfully, two County Supervisors, so far, recognize the problem.  According to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR), Palm Beach and Hillsborough Counties have suspended the voter purge in those counties because the information they received from Rick Scott’s officials was unreliable.

Hillsborough County received a list of 72 “non-citizens” in April. After receiving the notification that they were not citizens, five people came forward with birth certificates and a sixth person came forward with their passport, proving they are in fact American citizens.

Craig Lattimer, the chief of staff for Hillsborough County Supervisor told cltampa 

So at that point it was obvious it wasn’t very credible and reliable information, so we suspended any further action.

In an interview with Think Progress,  Susan Bucher, the County Supervisor for Palm Beach County said:

We need to make sure we have reliable and credible information, by a preponderance of evidence. We could prove that the information was not credible before sending letters and even the Division of Elections has admitted substantial flaws. I did not feel we had credible information and told them I wouldn’t send [any letters] until they could give me a better list.

Think Progress also reports this sort of thing is happening across the state and offers some very damning data to prove it.

According to Rolling Stone, The state intends to continue the purge, notwithstanding irrefutable proof that the information on which they are compiling their “non-citizens” list is seriously flawed.

The state has already pledged that “several thousand” more alleged non-citizens will be targeted from the purge list. “The state told us we’re going to get names routinely,” says Carolina Lopez, special project administrator for the Miami-Dade County Board of Elections. The purge is likely to be challenged by a host of voting rights groups under the National Voter Registration Act, which prohibits changes to the voter rolls ninety days before an election (Florida holds state and local primaries on August 14).

Since his statement yesterday, Lenny Curry told MSNBC

“There are certainly some issues with the data,” GOP chair Lenny Curry told MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts Thursday. “But we can fix this.”

Sure Lenny.  We believe you.

Watch various Republicans defend the purge list here:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Twisted Fox News Freaks Demonize Women With Fake War on Gendercide

May 31 2012 Published by under Featured News

Malkin making things up


This may be one of the most surreal few minutes in Fox News’ history, so bear with me. It involves Michelle Malkin saying Lila Rose should be given an award for her journalism while blaming the President for gendercide courtesy of Planned Parenthood.

Here you go, courtesy of Media Matters, from the May 31 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

Upset that Planned Parenthood (PP) wised up to Mitt Romney’s plan to get rid of it (because he SAID he would) and therefore backed Obama (funny thing about survival instincts), Fox News is outraged that PP has purchased a “big ad buy” to endorse Obama.

Sneering, Steve Doocy said, “The ad said if you vote for Mitt Romney he’s going to be bad for women’s health.” This is actually true, given Romney’s agenda to defund Planned Parenthood and given PP’s main work as health provider to impoverished women.

In order to make PP pay for having the temerity to put their money in the game (the game is reserved only for big corporations who do not have a humanist agenda), Fox commenced Operation Demonization and Smear.

“It’s no surprise that Planned Parenthood has marched in lock step with Obama…” Michelle Malkin begins. Lockstep must be the new agreeing on the policy that women should be able to make their own medical decisions and have access to healthcare.

Malkin warns that it is bad timing for the President to be associated with such a smeared group as Planned Parenthood, and what is the reason for this? A “bone-chilling expose” from Lila Rose, of James O’Keefe pimp and prostitute scam. The Lila Rose who is beneath Breitbart’s memory when it comes to accuracy and sanity. That Lila Rose.

The lower third beneath Malkin as she winds up reads: “The Gender Blitz Is On”. I kid you not.

Malkin goes pure projection, saying that PP has been exposed for so much “outrageous” behavior, including now sex selection abortion. “And you never hear from this current Commander In Chief (one wonders why she is referring to Obama’s role as head of the military while discussing women’s issues, and why she can’t say his name, but whatev) any acknowledgment of the excesses, the wretched excesses, and the ideological zealotry that Planned Parenthood stands for. It’s embedded in their DNA!”

Fox then rolls the clip of Lila Rose’s deceptively and selectively edited caca where a woman asks for an ultra sound in order to determine the sex of her baby prior to getting an abortion. This is it. This is the bomb.

For “Gendercide: Sex-Selection in America,” Lila Rose had to go all over the country to set Planned Parenthoods up and all she got was this lousy proof that Planned Parenthood will give you an abortion without lecturing you about your choice. Apparently, Lila Rose feels Planned Parenthood should be the morality police and deny abortions to women who want them because of the sex of the baby.

This doesn’t actually happen a lot in America. Guttmacher found that if there is any evidence of women seeking gender-based abortions, it is among the Asian community. “Among the widening panoply of strategies being deployed to restrict U.S. abortion rights—ostensibly in the interest of protecting women—is the relatively recent push to prohibit the performance of abortions for the purpose of sex selection. Sex-selective abortion is widespread in certain countries, especially those in East and South Asia, where an inordinately high social value is placed on having male over female children. There is some evidence—although limited and inconclusive—to suggest that the practice may also occur among Asian communities in the United States.”

Even Lila’s own efforts demonstrate that the PP staff don’t appear to have a lot of training dealing with cold blooded gendercide-driven women, because, you know, that’s not usually why women get abortions in America.

Women in America usually get abortions because they come from uber-conservative, right wing, religious fundamentalists homes where birth control is not allowed and they are terrified that they will be ruined for life by an out of wedlock pregnancy (okay for a Palin, but still not okay here on the ground). So they call up one of their liberal relations and beg her to take them to the clinic for an abortion … Oh, forgive me. I thought we were doing that thing where we brand an entire movement with the actions of a few.

Paddling her way to higher waters, Rose claims “Planned Parenthood and their ruthless abortion-first mentality is the real ‘war on women’!” Nice try, Lila. But we know what the war on women is, and it’s not other women seeking abortions. It’s THIS.

Malkin then says Rose needs a journalism award and appears visibly shaken to her feminist core by the attacks on girl babies that don’t exist in this country. Conservatives had to move from eugenics (so 2008, 2009, 2010!) to gendercide, because even Fact Check got wise to the eugenics crack, but that didn’t stop Malkin from reminding people what racists PP are and recycling the Margaret Sanger bit from the Glenn Beck libraries. Conservatives’ inability to contextualize has already been debunked.

We noted then that Guttmacher organization found that one in 10 of Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinics are located in predominantly African-American neighborhoods. Of course, the killing of minority children is best left to the Republican Party, who through various bills have done all they can to starve, freeze, and impoverish certain segments of the population.

But Fox News, home to plastic Barbie women and wind up patriarchs, wants us to believe that they are really on the side of women. Just because they back policies that take rights away from women doesn’t mean they don’t love us. After all, they want to fight imaginary wars in our honor! The war against imaginary American gendercide is finally being addressed.

What this is really all about is more demonizing of any support for the Democratic Party. Fox’ demonization of Planned Parenthood is the same as their demonization of union members, and that is the same as the deliberate conservative strategy of driving a wedge between gays and African Americans. Republicans know that there are more registered Democrats than there are registered Republicans.

If they want to win elections, they have to attack on several fronts; disenfranchising voters, killing morale (they get help on this one from some of the alleged liberals), and dividing the base. When they get into power, they then use their power to attack and destroy any Democratic political machines (see Wisconsin). This would be akin to President Obama swearing in, and while ignoring the jobs problems, using the budget deficit left to him by his predecessor to defund the Churches and start collecting taxes from them.

Yes, exactly like that.

We have Republicans on tape admitting that their union killing agenda is purely political – attempts to destroy the one small source of financial funding Democrats reliably have. Planned Parenthood is no different.

Instead of trying to actually get behind women’s rights, Republicans attack women’s rights with an unprecedented slew of anti-women legislation, and then when predictably, a feminist organization like Planned Parenthood backs the Democrat, Republicans attack the organization.

Republicans want to make every election about rhetoric instead of policy. They can’t win on policy. They pretend there is no war on women, but the policy tells the truth. Now they want to pretend that Planned Parenthood is selectively killing babies and somehow, if this were true (and it’s not), it would mean that Republicans were magically suddenly for birth control.

Republicans want to make this about abortion, but women and PP are not supporting Democrats just because they are pro-choice. Oh, no It’s gotten so archaic over at the Grand Old Party that any woman who uses birth control is now leaning Democratic.

That’s a whole lotta women, and that is why Republicans will do anything they can, including bringing discredited Lila Rose back from the James O’Keefe criminal coloring book.

If things go according to plan, soon the entire mainstream media will be asking Democrats to explain their support for the selective killing of girl babies instead of discussing the proven legislative push to block women’s access to birth control.

Planned Parenthood has already fired the woman who got set up and selectively edited, and this pisses me off. Stop cow towing to these nut jobs who are entrapping targets with deliberately manufactured set ups and then selectively editing them! This is akin to rewarding the bully on the playground. Do you really think they’re going to stop doing this because you fired someone? No, they’re going to do it MORE now.

If Lila Rose is a journalist, then she needs to be accountable for her tactics and deceptions like any other journalist.

I picture Fox News conservatives in their Lazy Boy recliner, one fist curled in rage against an imaginary enemy as the Fox horror show puts them to sleep. It’s almost as if they’re regressing to childhood, quaking in fear from the monsters under the bed. But now, all these years later, it’s Fox News’s bedtimes stories of imaginary and gruesome gendercide that haunt them… Tick tock. Tick tock.

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One Man Army Bernie Sanders Goes To War With the Koch Brothers

May 31 2012 Published by under Featured News

In response to the Koch Brothers’ plan to spend $400 million on Republican election campaigns, Sen. Bernie Sanders called out the Kochs and urged America to stand up against Citizens United.

In the response to the Koch plan to spend more money influencing campaigns in key states ($400 million) than John McCain raised in 2008 campaign ($370 million), Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “The Koch brothers’ bid to buy elections in America speaks to the obvious need for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and subsequent rulings. In the short term, Congress must pass legislation to require disclosure of the corporations and wealthy individuals behind the ads by outside groups.”

Sen. Sanders said the Koch spending demonstrates that we are no longer a nation of the people, “When one wealthy family spends more money than was raised altogether by the last Republican presidential candidate, it tells us that we are no longer a country of the people, by the people and for the people. We are becoming a country of the rich, by the rich and for the rich.”

The Koch Brothers may have the dollars, but the people still have the numbers. Now more than ever, it is imperative that the American people stand together to turn back this threat to our democracy. This isn’t just about who wins and loses elections. As ALEC has demonstrated, right wing funded candidates if left unchecked, win elections, and then implement the far right agenda of their billionaire masters. The Koch plan is a perfect example of how our representative democracy is being turned into an oligarchy of the few.

In a Congress that is infested with corporate, special interest, and billionaire dollars on both sides of the aisle, Bernie Sanders is standing virtually alone in his calls for action and reform. Sen. Sanders can’t do it alone. We can’t allow him to be a one man army against the Koch Brothers.

War metaphors should never be used lightly, but the situation brought on by Citizens United is nothing short of a war for our future freedoms and democratic system of government. Some of the left may blanch at the term, but the truth is that the Koch Brothers and conservative billionaire pals believe that this is a war, even if you don’t. Because of their mentality your choice is either to fight or be steamrolled

Sen. Sanders and your country need your help, and there is something that you can do right now.

Sign the petition supporting the Saving Democracy Amendment, which would overturn Citizens United. Over 219,000 people have signed the petition so far, but it is not enough. It will take an army of millions of Americans standing in unison to save our country from the billionaire oligarchs.

Bernie Sanders is leading the battle, but it is up to every single American to win the war.

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Now that America’s Awake the GOP Plans to Keep us from Voting

May 31 2012 Published by under Featured News

“There’s blood in the streets, it’s up to my ankles
Blood in the streets, it’s up to my knee
Blood in the streets in the town of Chicago
Blood on the rise, it’s following me” — Jim Morrison

For well over a year now, Americans have taken to the public squares in a thundering renaissance of popular democracy. Whether it’s farmers and public service union workers standing side by side in the Wisconsin snow, or social justice clergy and anarchists arrested face down on the streets of New York with a police knee on their necks; whether it’s soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan tossing their war on terror medals back at the NATO conference in Chicago, or economic justice activists swarming Bank of America’s headquarter in North Carolina–the old tried cliche of America as a nation of universally detached, self-centered, consumption-fixated beings has at long last been proven to be at least partially untrue.

With the vast astro-turf campaigns of the Tea Party fizzling out as soon as the mid-term elections were over (and their corporate sponsors moving on to further colonize some other part of our government), there has been nothing on the Right even remotely close to the quantity or diversity of numbers at Occupy Wall Street. Lacking a counterpoint, the corporate sponsored political hacks move on to the next best alternative. They vilify and attack, lie and purposely mislead about whatever movement they have no actual answer for. Instead of Occupy being wrong, for example, the Right Wing puppetheads will instead say they’re violent (or that old appeal to national megalomania: they’re anti-American). It’s an old right wing tactic that we should have long ago learned to recognize. When they can’t beat us in a democracy, they change the rules of that democracy.

In Chicago, an army of bike and billyclub-swinging police officers brought home the message Rahm Emanuel had been harping on all week (after he had not so secretly set up the tension by mailing thousands of memos to local companies about possible danger to their employees during the anti-NATO marches). In New York, the New York Post (a perpetual loss leader for Rupert Murdoch, who maintains the paper as a political mouthpiece) salivates over every possible opportunity to paint mom-n-pop activists as deranged militants hell-bent on burning the country and all modern civilization to the ground. Paid corporate shills at Breitbart.com, DailyCaller and NewsMax populate the echo-chamber with images construed to mislead as to the nature and content of Occupy.

And in all these efforts, the central theme is not a direct contradiction to the economic, political and social complaints of Occupy Wall Street. Instead, the whole vortex of right-wing criticism of Occupy Wall Street has actually focused on vilifying the participants, besmirching the movement and assaulting the morality of those who are simply using their legally guaranteed democratic mechanisms to demand a fairer society. In short, they cannot attack Occupy on the substance of its multi-tiered argument for change. So instead, it attacks the image, nature and character of Occupy’s participatory democratic actions.

This tactic of attempting to delegitimize democratic mechanisms (just as we’re finally starting to use them to express our community’s will) is not limited to Occupy. We should remember this same formula when we approach the voter suppression question. They all fit in a larger right-wing strategy of delegitimizing democratic structures whenever the 99% actually wants to use them. Parenthetically, this is why you’ll sometimes witness the occasional far-right winger getting very aggravated, defensive and insulting if you dare argue that we should live in a democracy, not just a republic (envisioned as a “vote and shut up” method of plebiscite plutocracy by the Right).

The tactic of voter suppression, much like the tactic of vilifying public assembly protest, echoes this formula of delegitimization. It’s one with roots in the very beginning of our country as the landed gentry often kept those without land from voting. Through generation after grueling generation of struggle, workers, women and minorities won the de jure right to vote. De facto, though, a system of disenfranchising black, female and various other power-minority voters soon began to take grip, as local politicos learned to manipulate the voter registration or identification system to take away the vote in a newer evolution of legal manipulation. Instead of using the law to directly keep power-minorities out of the ballot box, the hand puppets of the 1% changed the law (and the application of that law) to indirectly keep power-minorities out of the ballot box.

The imagined “voter fraud” that right-wingers are using as an excuse to eliminate millions of voting voices is a non-statistical creation of their corporate-sponsored think tanks and their well-funded online echo-chambers. A brief review of the numbers immediately shows the Voter Fraud myth to be a total sham,

A New York Times analysis of federal voting fraud cases found that roughly a third of the 86 convictions from 2002 through 2006 involved small vote-buying schemes in local elections. Nearly all the others were the result of honest mistakes by those who didn’t know they were ineligible to vote or instances of individuals acting alone. Ultimately, as the Times reported, prosecutors and election experts agreed that evidence of large-scale or coordinated fraud just wasn’t there.

In 2010, Tova Andrea Wang, a senior fellow at the think tank Demos, wrote, “Law enforcement statistics, reports from elections officials and widespread research have proved that voter fraud at the polling place is virtually non-existent. Lorraine Minnite, an elections expert at Barnard College, argues that there is “no threat” of voter fraud, with official statistics showing that from “2002 to 2005 only one person was found guilty of registration fraud. Twenty people were found guilty of voting while ineligible and five people were found guilty of voting more than once.”  honest mistakes by those who didn’t know they were ineligible to vote or instances of individuals acting alone. Ultimately, as the Times reported, prosecutors and election experts agreed that evidence of large-scale or coordinated fraud just wasn’t there.

Despite the virtually non-existent threat of voter fraud, this quarter-millenium long struggle for voting equality in America has once more come to the forefront. With thousands of Americans protesting in the streets every week, there’s a very obvious reason the voter suppression efforts of the 1% have been so vast and dedicated this year: they’re scared.

The game has changed. The commons are being gutted for sale to billionaires, as social security, the post office and our very schools are being targeted for wholesale merger and acquisition by corporate America. One in two of us is poor in America and we have among the highest rates of child poverty in the modernized world. For once, Glee, Twilight and Dancing With the Stars won’t cover up the hunger pains.

We’ve woken up. What a terrifying electoral prospect for the 1%.

In fact, in an explosive memo, the leaders of Citigroup essentially said as much a few years back, explaining that the voting system is all that kept them from accomplishing a full on plutonomy and “The New Managerial Aristocracy.”

No wonder then that the effort have been so vast, so aggressive, so deceitful, so overblown, so well-funded and dedicated. Much like Occupy, there’s now little arguing against our angry politics–there’s only eliminating their impact.

Up to 5 million voters will be turned away at the polls this years thanks to rightwing manipulation of state-level electoral laws. Much of their attention has been on forcing working class people to pay for new forms of identification (that they either can’t afford or maybe even haven’t heard about) and demanding an understanding of complex and sometimes contradictory new rules. The 1% and their lackeys in the right-wing know very well who they’re targeting, and they know quite well the political voice of those people could possibly pose a threat to them, even going so far as challenging the Voting Rights Act. As the Brennan Center explains on stringent and convoluted new Voter ID Laws:

Studies show that as many as 11 percent of eligible voters do not have government-issued photo ID. That percentage is even higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income voters, and students. Many citizens find it hard to get government photo IDs, because the underlying documentation like birth certificates (the ID one needs to get ID) is often difficult or expensive to come by. At the same time, voter ID policies are far more costly to implement than many assume.

Our votes are a target of the 1% because our votes have once more become a problem for the 1%. This well-funded effort of disenfranchising the disempowered (like poor folks, students, minorities and the elderly) plans on amassing over 1 million people this election day to steal, warp or distort the elections of 2012. We need to prepare.

Much like Occupy, Election Day is a democratic mechanism enshrined and protected within the seminal documents of our nation. Public assembly, free speech, your vote–these are elemental mechanisms to make sure our pool of employees (the government) use our national community’s pooled wealth (our taxes) towards ends envisioned, directed and achieved according to our community’s democratic will. Much of the American population has caught on to the multi-generational swindle that has become our modern economy. As we engage the full bloom of democratic action to challenge the status quo, from streets to community boards, from pickets to ballot boxes, we should appreciate the historic power of our self-liberating evolution as democratic actors. Through that grueling struggle of daily democracy we are educating ourselves as citizens and are even starting to re-shape the country. But as we do all that, we should remember that we’re not the only ones who have recognized the power of democratic action. If you’re fighting for a fairer, greener, juster America, the 1% and their lackeys will spend a great deal of money and effort in 2012 to delegitimize your actions, your voice and your vote. Perhaps in some ways, this too should encourage us. After generations of cultural struggle, we have at long last reached that point in America where even our votes are a threat to the power of the oligarchy.

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Tax Exempt Cheats: The Mormon Church Egregiously Breaks the Law to Fund Mitt Romney

May 31 2012 Published by under Featured News

Most Americans comprehend that when two parties enter into a contract, they are legally bound and committed to its promises and must follow the terms explicitly, and if one side fails to meet their obligation, the agreement is broken. There are laws to ensure parties entering into an agreement with the U.S. government abide by the rules, and if they choose to break the agreement, it is breached and the government is obliged to collect damages and take punitive action against the offender if they are a congressional representative, president, or a religious organization.  Four years ago, one of the richest religious organizations in the country broke their agreement with the Internal Revenue Service, and they deserve nothing less than revocation of their 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit organization, and the IRS is bound to collect taxes that were lost retroactively by virtue of Section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code. Furthermore, the Department of Justice must investigate and prescribe a comprehensive audit to determine the amount of back taxes owed the United States by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; the Mormons.

In June 2008, the First Presidency of the Mormon church sent a letter to church leaders in California to be read to all congregations on 29 June 2008 regarding California and Same-Sex Marriage, instructing cult adherents to “do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.” The First Presidency said church teachings are unequivocal and that “local Church leaders will provide information about how you may become involved in this important cause.”  The cause, Proposition 8, discriminates against LGBT couples, and in keeping with their belief that the U.S. Constitution is secondary to Mormon edicts, broke their agreement with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and should have lost their tax-exempt status immediately.

In June 2011, a member of the Mormon general authority used LDS Church email to solicit campaign contributions for Willard Romney’s run for president. W. Craig Zwick, who is a member of the church’s First Quorum of the Seventy and father of Romney’s finance chairman wrote, “How much can you contribute to the Romney for President Committee today? You can only give $2,500 max for you and your wife. Let me know — let’s take back America!” According to Revenue Ruling 2007-41 of the IRS, the law “prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one “which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

In 2004, the “IRS selected 110 cases for examination, issued 69 written advisories, revoked the tax-exempt status of five organizations and proposed revocation for two others,” and every election cycle sends out reminders to Charities and Churches of Political Activity Ban. The Mormons, like every listed 501(c)(3) religious organization, received the IRS reminder and they ignored the rules because they believe church law supersedes U.S. law and the Constitution. Interestingly, the Mormon hierarchy admonished “authorities and general officers of the church and their spouses and other ecclesiastical leaders serving full time should not personally participate in political campaigns, including promoting candidates, fundraising, speaking in behalf of or otherwise endorsing candidates, and making financial contributions.” Apparently, even though the church leadership sent out a letter stating its policy on political participation, it was only for show. These are egregious violations and typical of religious fanatics who have inserted their dogmata into legislation and political activism, and it is high time all churches lose their tax-exempt status. However, like the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and evangelical extremists, the Mormons are blatantly thumbing their collective noses at the letter of the law and they are profiting handsomely from their illegal activity.

Willard Romney gives a substantial amount of his investment earnings and large stock donations to the Mormon church from deals with Bain Capital, and there is nothing wrong with funneling money and stocks to the Mormon church. However, not only does the church avoid paying tax on the income, but Romney deducts charitable donations from his income tax returns and it is in part why he pays a lower tax rate than his secretaries and groundskeepers.

American taxpayers have given entitlements to churches for too long, and religious organizations are no better than any other American regardless if they are the Mormon cult, Catholic anti-contraception advocates, or evangelical homophobes. There are those who trumpet all the good work churches do in the communities, but their work is no better than teachers, firefighters, community volunteers, and police officers who pay their fair share in income and property taxes. Every church benefits from every other American’s fuel, sales, income and property taxes, and the entitlements must stop. States, cities, and rural communities are struggling in a slowly-recovering economy, and regardless if it was thriving, it is time to stop welfare to churches, the clergy, and religious-oriented PACs.

The majority of Americans believe the wealthy should pay their fair share in taxes, and churches are in the same league as the 1% who receives subsidies and entitlements from American taxpayers. Many of these so-called “non-profits” sit on expensive real estate and use the roads, police, schools, and fire protection that other Americans are funding with their tax dollars. Many people of faith complain that there are small congregations that are poor, but if they are poor, then they should pay the same rate as a poor family. Fair is fair, and the proselytizing entitlements have gone on long enough; especially in light of interference with women’s health and discriminatory legislation imposed upon the gay community by Mormons, Catholics, and evangelicals.

Republicans claim America is broke, and yet these mega-organizations are living off of government entitlements while they use the GOP to impose their religious dogmata on every American whether they adhere to their religion or not.  The clergy “double-dips” on their earnings that drastically reduce their tax liability, and by paying next to nothing in taxes are robbing communities, states, and the federal government of much needed revenue while they support cutting social safety nets and giving the wealthy larger tax cuts.

The Mormon problem is especially egregious because they flaunt their total disregard for the law and their agreement with the IRS with impunity, and the public suffers loss of revenue as well as discrimination based solely on the First Presidency’s edicts gleaned from the Christian bible, golden tablets, seer stone revelations, and Book of Mormon. The IRS and DOJ must investigate, audit, and revoke the Mormon church’s tax-exempt status and end their entitlements that fund discrimination against gays, Willard’s plans to privatize education, Veteran’s Healthcare, and worst of all, increase taxes on the poor. If Romney thinks the poor’s taxes should be increased sixty percent, then it follows that the Mormon church’s tax increase 60%  to repay Americans for the subsidies that has allowed them to amass considerable income and mammoth land holdings as tax-exempt, non-profit proselytizers.

Image: sodahead.com

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Elizabeth Warren a Communist Because She Supports Everything Conservatives Hate

May 31 2012 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party

Brian Carmenker of hate group MassResistance

Liberals, at least, are aware that the problem lay as much in the people doing the reporting as the people doing the speaking. If you get a bunch of ignorant, dishonest people making speeches or comments or writing op-ed pieces and then get another bunch of ignorant, dishonest people reviewing or reporting what they said, you’re basically propagating propaganda, that is to say, biased or misleading information.

If, say, somebody says President Obama (I still like the sound of that) is an anti-colonialist Kenyan, conservative news sources will report that Obama is an anti-colonialist Kenyan rather than examining the charge for truth content (let alone, inquiring what an anti-colonialist Kenyan might be and what relevance this has to 21st century American politics).

So when I read on fundie-friendly OneNewsNow that Brian Camenker, president of MassResistance thinks that Elizabeth Warren is a communist because “she’s a supporter of everything conservatives hate” I want on the one hand to shrug, but on the other, to inquire as to why this might be so. Chad Groening, who reports this factoid for OneNewsNow certainly shows an appalling lack of curiosity on the subject. He is content to simply report it, without question, without examination:

“People are finding themselves from the conservative standpoint much in the same way that they feel about Mitt Romney nationally, in that we really don’t like him, but look at who he’s running against,” the activist suggests. “Elizabeth Warren is basically a Communist — she’s a supporter of everything conservatives hate.”

Are we to understand from this that Carmenker (who, like Bryan Fischer is fascinated by gay Nazis) thinks that a communist is a person who takes positions opposite those of conservatives? Are we further to understand that Chad Groening accepts this as the definition of a communist? He certainly takes no issue with it; he makes no attempt to examine the truth content of Carmenker’s accusation.

Now most of us know that communist (like Nazi and socialist) is a term conservatives like to throw around without really comprehending what it means. And not just the average ignorant Tea Partier but congressmen like Allen West, who is convinced that there are between 78 and 81 Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party.

On the surface, it would seem both West and Carmenker are on agreement: a communist is one who is diametrically opposed to conservative ideology. This is all very Cold War and McCarthyesque and it’s no wonder it’s an attractive thesis to conservatives. It’s a simple appeal – emotional and “patriotic” and it requires little thought – everyone knows that those commies were the enemies of American democracy and since conservatives are “real Americans” communism must be its opposite, right? (remember too that witch-hunts have historically been conservatism’s response to people getting uppity and thinking for themselves).

Actual communism, of course, to be separated from its later Soviet counterfeit, is both a social and a political system is very community-centered -property is owned by the community (including especially the means of production) and each person contributes to the common good. There will be no classes (okay, you can see why conservatives would hate this).

You can readily understand communism in its mid-19th century context – the era of the Gilded Age and industrial robber barons and the oppression of workers without appeal to unions or state protections – if the people own the means of production there will be no industrialist to oppress them. Communism can be understood in its historical context to the Industrial Revolution and its widespread effects on society and culture. Since communism throws away the status quo and conservatism is based on maintenance of the status quo, it is easy to see why conservatives would label communists as an ideological bogeyman.

But does Elizabeth Warren argue from a communist position? Is she opposed to the ownership of property and for the communal ownership of the means of production? No, of course not. Elizabeth Warren is no more a communist by any definition of communism than are those members of congress so accused by Allen West, who is arguably not the brightest bulb on the tree (this needs to be said in the interest of accurate reporting). You can look at where Warren stands on the issues here and elsewhere with a quick Google and see for yourself.

But it makes good press. As I said, it is an emotional appeal. These people are our enemies, it says. It doesn’t have to be explained; it doesn’t have to have any basis in fact. It’s like calling everyone who isn’t a Christian a “pagan” or a Christian who doesn’t have the “right” kind of belief a “heretic”. Groening is no more interested in the whys and wherefores – that is to say the facts – than is Carmenker, and a reporter should care about the facts.

Unquestioning reporting: Chad Groening of fundie-friendly news service OneNewsNow says that Brian Carmenker of Massachusetts-based anti-gay group MassResistance says that Elizabeth Warren is a communist because she disagrees with conservative positions. OneNewsNow says of itself,

At OneNewsNow.com, you will get your news from reporters you can trust to give the latest news without the liberal bias that characterizes so much of the “mainstream” media.

Liberal biases like appeal to a fact-based universe, apparently. They claim that “For a refreshing and informative change in where you get your news, log on to OneNewsNow.com.” If by informative they mean dishonest and misleading, they are apparently spot on and certainly in good company (FOX News and now CNN leading the way).

While we’re on the subject of fact-filled reporting, I should also mention that SPLC declared MassResistance a hate group back in 2008 and noted Carmenker’s predilection for making fact-free claims in the interest of hate.

Apparently, conservative viewers and readers want to be liberated from the world of facts and from the millstone that is a fact-based universe where fantasy is not allowed to have its way with reality. If one hate-filled group says something the hate-filled news service has to report it and certainly won’t violate the precepts of the agreed upon fantasy universe to question it. Why introduce facts when the fantasy is so congenial?

Now of course, the old joke about communism for those not old enough to remember is the Cold War Soviet credo that in communism “everyone is equal – except for those who are more equal than others.”

I don’t know about you, but (stream of consciousness here) that sounds to me to have a lot more in common with conservatism than liberalism. But I’m not going to make that charge here because I’ve already used up my time and my space and can’t give the subject the attention it requires: it will have to be a topic for another day. Oh, and when you think about Brian Carmenker’s resistance to a fact-filled universe, think about the robo-calls he made in support of Rick Santorum, another guy with a deep-seated hatred of actual facts.

Image from SPLC-designated hate group Americans for Truth About Homosexuality

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CNN Moves To The Right and Loses 52% of Its Viewers

May 30 2012 Published by under Featured News

CNN’s abandonment of news to climb in bed with the tea party has turned into an epic disaster as the network has lost 52% of its viewers.

In a month where all three cable networks had ratings declines, no one did as badly as CNN. The network lost 52% of their total viewers (Run, Anderson, run. Imagine what a Cooper/Maddow primetime could do for MSNBC). Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room was down 46% in total viewers and 61% in the demo. How bad for have things gotten for CNN? In my recent travels, I passed through four airports, and not a single one had CNN on. The channel that I have been seeing more public televisions tuned to is The Weather Channel. Yes, even the weather is more interesting than CNN.

CNN’s problems started when the network bosses got the bright idea that they should try to copy Fox News, and move to the right. After climbing into bed with the Tea Party Express and hiring far right wingers Erick Erickson and Dana Loesch led to the current ratings disaster, what would you expect CNN to do?

If you said hire more right wingers and conservatives, congratulations, you are qualified for an upper management position at CNN. The network’s latest hire, Fox News castoff Margaret Hoover, let the cat out the bag, “Executives at CNN have been looking for fresh faces and new talent with conservative perspectives, and in the end, offered me an opportunity that was too good to pass up. Indeed, competition, that sturdy pillar of capitalism, is alive and well in the cable news industry.”

Despite the fact that their network is dying because they hired a bunch of conservatives, executives at CNN are looking to hire… more….conservatives.

The ratings suggest that viewers don’t want a Fox News clone CNN. They want their news network back. CNN used to be the best cable news network for two reasons. They focused on news, and they had more reporters and bureaus around the world than anyone else. CNN has been cutting their staffing for years, and their focus is now on trying to be a Fox News mini-me.

What they don’t seem to understand is that Fox News has branded itself so thoroughly with the conservative movement that their viewers are never going to leave Fox for CNN, and by moving to the right, they have alienated the left and middle who also will no longer watch CNN.

The truth is that the conservative cable news audience is tiny. Fox News only averaged 1.6 million primetime viewers in May, and those people will die in their nursing homes with their televisions tuned to Fox. However, CNN could be very successful by moving to the center/left. The network has more resources and is in more homes than MSNBC, and the vast majority of Americans don’t belong to the polarized extremes of the left and right.

CNN’s downfall should serve as a warning to the entire mainstream media that catering to the far right will only result in failure. There is only room for one Fox News. The audience isn’t big enough to support two networks working the same side of the street.

Maybe one day someone in cable news will wise up and not cave to the few screaming banshees on the right, and realize that there is a large and hungry audience in the middle, and those people would like to see some news.

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Mitt Romney May Now Begin His Cross Country Campaign of Homophobia and Dollar Chasing

May 30 2012 Published by under Featured News, Republican Party, White House

Welcome back Dennis, how were the Great Smoky Mountains and Knoxville?

Curling through the Smoky Mountains is always a sight for sore eyes in need of a rest especially for my spouse who just finished a rewarding, albeit exhausting year of advancing Special Ed Emotionally Disabled youngsters’ needs step by step. It’s a complex process for all and I consider my wife a magnificent lady for her selfless 12-hour days (in class and extra work at home) in working with these precious children while abysmally uninformed right-wingers slash funding that makes it much, much tougher to help them.

But enough about the family and me. Let’s talk about foregone conclusions, like Mitt Romney’s Texas May 29th Texas primary win giving him at least 88 delegates with 64 still unofficial, enough to put him over the numerical clincher of 1,144 for the official Republican Presidential Nomination. You would think Mitt would be in Dallas or Houston or at the very least the state capital of Austin conveying his appreciation to voters for such a historic event.  He opted instead for Vegas, some 1,300 miles from Austin by way of Phoenix. He was trying his damnedest to extract some major money commitments from two allegedly wealthy players, one of whom actually has money, the other leverages it like Mitt used to do with Bain Capital. Readers who have followed these primaries are already familiar with this motley pair. There was the fickle Newt-backing Casino mogul, Sheldon Adelson who hinted at changing donation allegiances to Romney even before primary voters kicked Sheldon’s first choice to the curb. It should be noted that Gingrich is now all in for Romney.

Adelson is loaded. He can drop huge coin on Romney, but doesn’t seem to have that much affection for the guy. So I’m sure Romney told Adelson what rich candidates tell rich potential donors. “I won’t tax capital gains or dividends. I’ll see to it your casinos pay the same taxes as the local dog-walker and I’ll make sure you’re repaid by pushing for every piece of legislation you want passed that will personally benefit you.”

We’ll see if it works.

Donald, ‘birther’ Trump was the other reason that drew the devout Morman to the bright lights of the gambling, prostitution and pretty much naked showgirl Sodom & Gomorrah of Vegas. Trump was coming off a week where the venerable right-wing pundit George Will called him a ‘Bloviating Ignoramus’ on an ABC-TV chat show. Never to be outdone, Trump fired back that “George Will may be the dumbest and most overrated political commentator of all time.” Both men threw in other ugly and gratuitous comments as Will referenced Trump’s ‘low IQ and The Donald compared Will with Trump’s selection for the most horrible human on earth, Rosie O’Donnell. Such an off-putting family feud. Sadly, were it not for Will & Trump’s homophobia they could hug it out and all would be forgiven.

Will’s opinions notwithstanding (he’s also on record as doubting Romney can win), money is money, even if it comes from the guy with the Mt. Everest ego and the funny hair. Speaking of hair, Romney likes to attack gay hair with scissors, so the pair clearly have more in common than one might think.

Money issues aside for the moment, the Romney campaign just received some good news.  At least what passes for good news in the Teapublican political universe.

As you know by now, a recent poll on the subject found that 58% of veterans adore Romney vs. 34% who support Obama. Of course that’s because of an Obama move nearly a year ago repealing DADT. Old veterans, (2/3rds are over 50), don’t accede to that kind of equality. That’s what their 2,000 year old advisers and 70-year-old preachers tell them. That gay people (including gay soldiers apparently) should A. Go to hell and B. Be the main reason for turning the pages of history back to 1942 and establishing the updated version of what the preacher was talking about; internment camps for gays with electrified fences replacing barbwire, just as we did for about 100,000 or so Japanese-Americans some 70 years ago.

Franklin Roosevelt authorized the camps and Ronald Reagan later signed legislation apologizing to the affected Japanese. But I thought only sissy socialists, black presidents ever apologized for an action of the United States!

So we’re back to ‘exclusion zones’ where certain parts of the country are declared off-limits to a segment of the population. We’ve reprized such zones, only it appears that for a certain percentage of the population the ‘exclusion zone’ subsumes the entire United States.

So please don’t moralize older veterans who spent your Viet days with a doobie dangling from your lips and took R & R at Patpong, paying for diseased and underage village Thai girls who would do any kinky and defiling thing you asked them to. Maybe even more kinky than gay sex.

I say these things in hope that veterans, especially those who slid in and out of Vietnam for a decade will rethink their knee-jerk homophobia. While you may have caught the occasional furtive glance at your buttpack, remember the guy who covered the grenade, giving up his life to save dozens of others. He just might have been gay. Or that first guy over the hill seemingly oblivious to VC & NVA AK-47’s and American (yes American) Thompson Submachine guns. This crazy, wild soldier’s soldier who finally bought it in Khe Sanh might very well have been gay. Or any number of the young men giving you M-14 or M-16 cover or the young gays who were killed along with their straight ‘buddies’ in a war congress gave away with their lack of financial support to the South Vietnamese.

The average age of the dead was 23. And also remember, having been drafted, a lot of gay kids didn’t want to be there anymore than you wanted them there.

Don’t succumb to hate of a class of people who have basically never done anything to you, my great and brave warriors. It’s beneath you. Wear your scars proudly. You’ve got a huge booster already occupying the White House. Don’t risk his unstinting support for the rich guy who wants to cut everything, most especially tolerance.

Image: Amercia Is With Mitt!

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