Thursday, February 28, 2013

Voting Concerns in the U.S. Right Now: Shouldn't One Person Get One Vote?

We have many voting concerns in the country right now, including:

Now.. Which of these situations, which of these affronts to our democratic national principle of one person/one vote, are getting the most press and the most concern from Republicans and other right wingers? 

You get three guesses and the first two don't count.
(You can find information on the woman in Ohio all over the right wing Internet sites.. Just do a search on "Ohio woman voted six times".)   

No, people, Both Parties Are NOT the Same! 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Conservatives are Soooooo Superior.... and You're Not!

I'm perfect in every way.. and YOU are just a of those "takers"!

Ducks in a Row (from Sophyta's blog)

Sparring with right wingers may not be the best use of my time ...  I hear many of the same things over and over again.  But there are just a few different tenets underlying right-wing (usually conservative and/or Republican) thinking.  Here is one of the biggies:  

  • If "those people" just "worked harder", "planned ahead", or "made good choices", then they wouldn't need any kind of assistance/would have enough saved for retirement/wouldn't be poor/wouldn't be sick...on and on, bla bla bla, whatever.

But really people.. are we all so superior and so sure of ourselves? 

Look, I KNOW families who THOUGHT they had all their retirement ducks in a row by the time they were 50 who wound up in difficult financial straits or foreclosure.. One guy I know was even homeless for awhile.  This happened to one family I know BEFORE the economic collapse of 2008.

Here are the kinds of things that can happen (even without an economic collapse thrown in) that can cause hardship for people who DID plan ahead, who DID save enough, who DID work hard, who DID get an education.  Few of us are immune from or have enough insurance of varying types to weather these storms... unless we have very wealthy families behind us.

1.  After a job layoff after 50, a man invested some of his money into a business and lived off of the spouse's salary... The business went bad and the company the spouse worked for went belly up a few years later.  (I'm tired of reading that people who are laid off should "start their own businesses".  If the person can do it, fine, but businesses generally require capital and MOST businesses go belly up in the first two years... taking that needed nest egg with them.)
2.  A late in life divorce.. Splitting assets when you are 50 doesn't help your financial situation at all.  But if your spouse has started to wig out in terms of drinking, gambling, perhaps not working, being abusive, chasing other men/women-- and refuses to get help.. what are you supposed to do?   
3.  Health problems in one or the other partner or one of the kids; that is, serious physical or mental health problems.  I know families who spent sums in the tens of thousands of dollars, perhaps as much as a hundred thousand, trying to get a teenaged or young adult kid straightened out... Special schools, rehab facilities, kiddie prisons, you name it.  Physical diseases can be just as taxing and as expensive. 
4.  Disability in the primary worker.  After an accident or a disease, he/she may be tossed out of his job or simply can't work.  It takes two years for disability (SSDI) to go through these days and, IF and when you finally get disability, those $1400 payments (if you are lucky to get that much) don't go far.
5.  A natural disaster in your home.  Anyone who thinks that adequate insurance, FEMA, and flood insurance will put everything back in order hasn't lived through a massive natural disaster.  And you may not know this:  You can move into a house that is NOT in a flood zone.. and find out some years later that your home has been reclassified into a flood zone!  Oh, happy day!
6.  Having kids late in life.  If you have kids in your 30's, they aren't out of the house until you are in your 50's.  Many people plan on working for 10-15 years after the kids are gone to refeather the retirement nest.  And then.. health problems, a lost job, a lost business.  And there they are, 62, no job, no retirement savings.  

There But For the Grace of God...

If one of these things hasn't happened to someone before they retire, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, they need to get down on their knees and thank the Lord, the Great Spirit, or the Goddess Athena herself.

And I know really know families who have somehow been saddled with MANY of these situations, particularly in this Great Recession.

And If You Lack Compassion..

Now to those characters who simply lack compassion, empathy, common sense or all three:  I hate to wish a calamity on anyone...  But if you have ever bragged about how superior you are to someone who needs help...  I DO wish a calamity upon you.  May an uninsured rusty pick up truck cross your path...leaving you with no time to jump out of the way.
More...Just as I was writing this, I came upon this link from  Four Things Politicians Will Never Understand About Poor People.  I personally believe that this is a much bigger problem on the Republican side of the aisle (because I do NOT believe that "Both parties are the same"), but I do agree that many people who have never themselves experienced hardship have a hard time really understanding what it is like to sit on your fence (because you couldn't get the gate open fast enough) and beg the electric company to not turn off your electricity because you had gone down there the day before with a deposit (that you borrowed from a relative) and made a payment plan.  
And I wrote this last year, profiles of several families and people that I know who are struggling:  What Is Unemployment and Poverty in America?  Now, some of the people profiled in that series have improved their situations, but many are still struggling.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Where's the outrage: Watermelon in Montana?

This is what passes for humor in the Montana GOP:

Hardee har har.

Now, Jennifer Olsen didn't make this up this hilarity.  She just shared something on Facebook made up by some true comic talent (yes, sarcasm) named Rich Diamond.  But no one is talking about good old Rich.  You see, Jennifer Olsen is a Tea Party person in Montana.  O.K., you might expect the above from a Tea Party person anywhere in the United States.

But that's not the big problem here:  She's also the county GOP chairperson in Yellowstone County, Montana.  That's right; she's an official representative of the Republican party in addition to being a Tea Party person.

Meteor Blades at the Daily Kos captures the story of the above Facebook post beautifully:
It speaks volumes that the head honcho of the GOP in Montana's most populous county and home of its largest city would think the Obama-trap photo is a big ha-ha. But then as has become obvious over the past four years, it's not just in Big Sky country that modern Republicans, and not all of them tea partiers, have chosen to treat the president like some uppity darkie who has no business entering the White House other than through the deliveries door.

The story at the Montanafesto about Racism and Republicans in Montana in general and Jennifer Olsen and her family in particular, makes this point:
Thanks to the first amendment, Americans are able to think whatever they would like as well as express those thoughts, but such expression does (have) consequences.  I discourage Yellowstone County Republican precinct chairs and legislators from turning a blind eye to this blatantly racist post.  If Ms Olsen is not held responsible for her actions, we send a message that this behavior is acceptable and perhaps these views are even condoned by the GOP.  The Republican Party was founded on abolishing slavery.  Why do we now tolerate our leaders advocating bigotry in a public forum? Bigotry is rooted in ignorance and the Republican Party should purge this cancer from the party.  Shame on you, Jennifer Olsen.  You are a disgrace to your party, to the central committee you chair,  to Montana, and to America.
Well, yeah, writer at the Montanafesto:  Of course you are correct.  The problem is that this behavior probably IS acceptable and these views probably ARE condoned by the current GOP. 

"This is what passes for humor in the Montana GOP."

And yet people out there claim that "Both Parties Are the Same" and the differences between them are spurious.  But really.. When is the last time a Democrat put out some kind of racist "fun" thing like this?  Of course Democrats take jabs at Republicans.. but blatant racism?  Find me some examples of Democrats mocking black public officials by talking about watermelons or making other racist slurs!

Most important:  When have we heard any Republican elected officials at either the state or local levels condemn the racists who do this kind of stuff?  

And then, people who proclaim that "Both Parties Are The Same", try to tell me that it doesn't matter that the racists find a home in the GOP whereas racists do not find that kind of home among the Democrats.  Tell me that racism and tolerance of racism is just not important.

A Republican Party With a Heart and a Brain

Meteor Blades at the Daily Kos sums this up better than I can:

A Republican Party with a heart and a brain and a sense of honor would have immediately booted Olsen out of her county post and offered Montanans and the President an apology. But then a Republican Party with a heart and a brain and a sense of honor wouldn't be the Republican Party.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Republican War on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

If "both parties are the same", why are the Republicans trying to destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?

From' Facebook page.

Let's make this very clear: 

It isn't the Democrats or Obama who are trying to destroy or handcuff this new agency- It's the Republicans.

A recent editorial at the New York Times makes this abundantly clear  as it lists three big accomplishments of the CFPB in its first 18 months:

  • It opened an investigation into questionable marketing practices by banks and credit card companies on college campuses, which often take place after undisclosed financial arrangements are made with universities.

The Republicans are fighting the recess appointment of Richard Cordroy as Director tooth and nail in any way possible, including through the federal courts.

Here's a disturbing passage from the editorial:

The consumer bureau has taken seriously its mandate to protect the public from the kinds of abuses that helped lead to the 2009 recession, and it has not been intimidated by the financial industry’s army of lobbyists. That’s what worries Republicans. They can’t prevent the bureau from regulating their financial supporters. Having failed to block the creation of the bureau in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, they are now trying to take away its power by filibuster, and they may well succeed. 

Let's Face It:  The Republicans Don't Want Consumer Protection
Back on February 1st, a cabal of 43 REPUBLICAN Senators complained to the President and vowed to block the appointment of anybody as Director unless their demands to basically strip the agency of its powers were  met.  The agency can't do much of anything without a functioning Director.    (Click the link in this paragraph or the link under the blue photo at the top of the article for more information).

Remember that Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts set up the agency and it was hoped that she would be named Director.  But the Democrats knew that the Republicans would never confirm her as the Director of the agency, so they nominated Cordroy, her able lieutenant and the Ohio Attorney General.  But the Republicans in their letter make it clear that they are "concerned" about the lack of "Congressional oversight" and lack of "normal Democratic controls" over its Director.  In other words, they do not want this agency to have any real authority.. They want it to be under the purview of Congress, despite the fact that most other executive department agencies do NOT answer to Congress, but to the Chief Executive, the President.  

Both Parties are NOT the Same!

Let me make that clear to anybody out there who thinks that "Both parties are the same" or that the "Democrats are in the pockets of the banks just as the Republicans are" or any other similar stupidity:  It's the REPUBLICANS who are blocking the effective functioning of this agency, not the Democrats.  No, the Democrats are not perfect-- but they AREN'T Republicans! 

Follow the Money

Now... let's just see where the money for these Republicans is coming from.  The first two signatories to this letter from the Gang of 43 are (surprise, surprise), Mitch McConnell, Republican Senator from Kentucky, and Mike Crapo, Republican Senator from Idaho.

The top industry donating to McConnell in 2007 through 2012?  Surprise, surprise again!  "Securities and investments" which contributed 1.6 million to McConnell.  according to Open Secrets.  And the top industry donating to Crapo in 2007 through 2012?  Surprise again:  Securities and Investments, which contributed a mere $400,000 to Crapo.  To be fair, Securities and investments (or the employees of securities and investments firms or PACs) contribute to almost every candidate, Republican and Democrat.

But still....The representatives and employees of Securities and investment interests started giving more and more money to Republicans when they decided that they didn't like the regulations that Democrats were increasingly proposing and enacting in 2009 and 2010.

Nope, boys and girls, the two parties are NOT the same, they are NOT both "puppets" of Wall Street, and don't let anybody convince you that they are.

Please check out the comments section as I will add comments, both pro and con, about this situation in the days and weeks to come.


Updates and links from Represent.Us on Facebook:

Public  Senators Pledging to Block Wall Street Watchdog Have Received $143 Million Financial Industry Cash:
"The 43 U.S. Senators who signed a letter to President Barack Obama pledging to block Richard Cordray’s re-appointment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) have received nearly $143 million in campaign contributions from the finance, insurance, and real estate sector—those who’d benefit the most from a weakened CFPB."

The Hill: Senate Republicans Renew Blockade of Obama's Consumer Protection Pick 
 "The CFPB as created by the deeply flawed Dodd-Frank Act is one of the least accountable in Washington," said McConnell. "Today’s letter reaffirms a commitment by 43 Senators to fix the poorly thought structure of this agency that has unprecedented reach and control over individual consumer decisions — but an unprecedented lack of oversight and accountability.”...
"The American people need Richard to keep standing up for them," the president said when he made the pick. "And there’s absolutely no excuse for the Senate to wait any longer to confirm him." 
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) dismissed the latest GOP pronouncement as "just politics at play." 
"The CFPB enjoys overwhelming public support, and there is no evidence that the bureau is unaccountable and that structural changes are necessary," Johnson said. "The market needs certainty, and blocking Richard Cordray's nomination is a disservice to consumers and industry alike."
How Much Did Other Senators Get From Wall Street?

From a reader:  I want to know how much Wall Street gave the other 57 senators.

I use Open Secrets to check campaign contributions:  Who is contributing what to whom.  But read carefully.  Remember that when names of companies are listed, it is actually employees of those companies that are contributing, not the companies themselves.
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