Tuesday, January 27, 2015

MAJOR UPDATE: Sgt. Bergdahl in the News Facing Many Possible Charges

Sgt. Bergdahl in undated photo (shortly before he was released)

Original Post Follows this Update (January 27, 2015): I should have known that the initial news yesterday was not definitive. What follows is a major update from the Department of the Army. It offers a more definitive and clearer picture on the subject of options and possible charges that SGT. Bergdahl faces over the next few weeks. A few highlights:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Army and Pentagon officials said Tuesday there has been no decision on what, if any, criminal charges will be filed against SGT. Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier who left his post in Afghanistan and was held by the Taliban for five years before being released in a prisoner exchange.

Gen. Mark Milley, head of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, NC, has a broad range of legal options, including various degrees of desertion charges. A major consideration is whether military officials will be able to prove that Bergdahl had no intention of ever returning to his unit — a key element in the more serious desertion charges.

The case is also fraught with politics.

Some members of Congress and former members of Bergdahl's unit criticized the Obama administration for trading someone they considered a deserter for five top Taliban commanders held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

If Bergdahl is severely punished, that trade could be called into question again. On the other hand, some believe that five years in Taliban captivity is punishment enough. 

Possible charges and possible punishments (continue at the link – it’s quite extensive): 

The original post: this story warrants a review of the case thus far and comes from here:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -  Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who disappeared from his base in Afghanistan in 2009 but was released last year in a prisoner swap with the Taliban, will be charged with desertion, according to NBC.  The television network, citing senior defense officials, said the charges could come within a week.

My thoughts on this up to this point:

There are times when some start to think: the GOP-Rightwing can’t sink any lower as they always surprise us (again) with their nadir as they wallow in their own self-imposed muck. Nothing about the GOP-Right seems to shock the conscience or incense the soul any longer. That list is very long and for the history book. Examples:

  1. Their blatant hatred for Mr. Obama ever since January 20, 2009 when he took office.
  2. Their anger about his birth right and birth place and birth certificate.
  3. Their hatred for the ACA (Obama-care) as they apparently root for citizens not to get good health care, especially in the sates that support the GOP the most – a fact.
  4. Their allegiance and near total fealty to the NRA even after thousands die each year from guns further saying “we are losing our rights and Obama for coming to get our guns.”
  5. Now the release of and current status of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  
It should have been, and was for a day or so, a moment of American unity and joy. The release of a soldier held captive by the Taliban for 5 years was great news. He was coming home for the price of exchanging five Taliban prisoners from Gitmo. Then, true to form, the GOP-Right’s machine got a fresh supply of gas and oil and the proverbial shit hit the fan.

That brief moment of unity have way to another GOP-Right opportunity to mount another frontal assault against President Obama and then to Mr. Bergdahl himself — and leading the pack and I truly mean pack is the entire FOX so-called “news” network (that I call FAUX Nitwork). 

Comments like: Bob Bergdahl (Sgt. Bergdahl’s father) looks and talks like a Taliban and he even learned Pashto. He is so un-American.”

Then we had the talk of desertion:

1.  Sgt. Bergdahl is a deserter (although never charged but soon may be).
2.  Hang him.
3.  Skip his recovery, try him now.
4.  Toss the UCMJ, bring on the lynch mob.
5.  The Taliban should have kept him.
6.  We should have let him rot in captivity.
7.  Give him back we don’t want him here.
8.  We are now dealing with terrorists and he is one.
9.   Obama shows again how weak he us he's an enemy appeaser,
10.  Impeach Obama now.  
11.  Damn the facts, full stream ahead and burn the bastard.
12.  Bring the guilty bastard in, give him a fair trial, and then hang him.  

I even heard someplace (can’t recall where): “Bergdahl should be executed for desertion” and some even have said they hope “it will come to pass in a Ted Cruz Administration.” (I still can’t stop laughing at that one).

This has been a sample of some of the more tepid comments from the GOP-Rightwing at various levels and stages leading up to where we now.

The unspoken rule of American politics, and especially since 9/11 and two major wars, plus the other military actions around the globe. has been that the military is off-limits for criticism.

Naturally, the GOP-Right loves soldiers as long as they’re dying silently, but they have not much use for them once they become Veterans and start seeking services or new programs of assistance. But leave that aside.

Respecting and honoring the military has been the one truism of American politics almost forever. If any soldier is held captive, bringing him or her home alive has always been the sworn duty and code and incumbent upon the Commander-in-Chief. In this case, the current CINC acted correctly.

However, if  Bergdahl is charged with any crime (e.g., desertion as now seems to be the case), so be it. He has to face the music on that charge will hold him accountable.

The bottom line is simple: We got one of our own and that was the right thing to do … let the facts and chips now, fall where they may, after that fact.

Now a few facts to wrap this up at this point for now:

What is desertion? In military terminology, desertion is the abandonment of a duty or post without permission (i.e., a pass, liberty or leave) and is done with the intention of not returning.

In contrast, Unauthorized Absence (UA) or Absence Without Leave (AWOL) refers to a temporary absence without permission or approval (i.e., a pass or verbal).

According to the Pentagon, more than 5,500 military personnel deserted in 2003–2004, following the Iraq invasion and occupation. That number had reached about 8,000 by the first quarter of 2006.

Another report stated that since 2000, about 40,000 troops from all branches of the military have deserted, also according to the Pentagon. More than half of these served in the US Army. Almost all of these soldiers deserted within the United States. There has only been one reported case of a desertion in Iraq.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force reported 7,978 desertions in 2001, compared with 3,456 in 2005. The Marine Corps showed 1,603 Marines in desertion status in 2001. That had declined to 148 by 2005.

The punishment if found guilty of desertion – a historical look:

Before the Civil War, deserters from the Army were flogged. After 1861, tattoos or brands were used. 

The maximum penalty for desertion in wartime still remains death, although this punishment was last applied to Army Private Eddie Slovik in 1945.  

No U.S. serviceman has received more than 24 months imprisonment for desertion or missing movement in the post-September 11, 2001 era.

I have to ask: What penalty does the GOP Rightwing want and advocate now?   

My view: I strongly believe that if SGT. Bergdahl is found guilty that he should receive mercy, and if necessary, a pardon from the President. He has suffered enough. Then we need to close the file.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sipping Koch, Pandering for Dollars, Kowtowing By Any Other Name

Oh, Charles, David: Give us direction
(Koch platform)

The Real Plateau: Koch Summit

Primary Climbers
(Empty knapsacks going up, full coming back down)

At Palm Springs and very secretive and hush-hush with the media not invited. Democracy, right?

A good panel discussion here with more slides the "Koch summit."  

And, still millions say "It's not about the money..." maybe not, until it is.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Keystone XL Pipeline: Oil Spill Crap Shoot and Tar Sands Owners (Gue$$)

View of the Pipeline and What Could Happen

Deeply Involved - Why? Big, big money
(Koch and Tar Sands - Helluva Tonic)

This headline from Media Matters triggered me to got back and review my notes and references on the whole Keystone XL pipeline issue, which is extensive and very complex. My update follows this:

Despite Dropping Oil Prices, Media Are Still Dismissing Keystone XL Climate Impact 

This story is quite detailed with this introduction: Many news outlets are uncritically touting the State Department's conclusion that building the Keystone XL pipeline would not significantly worsen climate change without noting that this determination was based on an expectation of high oil prices. Some media outlets, however, have reported the significance of the recent plunge in oil prices, such as the Associated Press, which noted that “…low oil prices could make the pipeline more important to the development of new oil sands projects in Canada than anticipated by the State Department ... and therefore is more likely to increase emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming.” Continue reading at the above link.

My overall review starts from here (long, but I think important):   Two points from TransCanada here and here.

Some GOPers say: “The positives far outweigh the negatives.” I retort: What negatives? Should we not always strive to reduce or eliminate negatives (and strive for the benefits and positives)? 
Building this pipeline, with a record of over several dozen spills (12 in one year alone) should be reason to pause and not rush into this: it is not a crapshoot … throw the dice and scream 7 come 11 ain’t the answer. Once a spill occurs, all bets are off  because this type of crude (tar sands) is like a rock laden with heavy syrup: it sinks to the bottom of the lake or river, etc. It does not float on the top of the water where is can be easily skimmed off. Why take a chance on any prospective, and I add, massive spill like imagine across or near the Ogallala Aquifer

Who are the Tar Sands Biggest Land Owner? 

More on the Ogallala Aquifer: This is s a hallow water table aquifer located beneath the Great Plains in the United States. It is one of the world's largest aquifers, covering an area of approximately 174,000 mi² (450,000 km²) in portions of eight States: South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas). It was named in 1898 by N. H. Darton from its type locality near the town of Ogallala, NE. The aquifer is part of the High Plains Aquifer System, and rests on the Ogallala Formation, which is the principal geologic unit underlying 80% of the High Plains.

About 27 percent of the irrigated land in the United States overlies the aquifer, which yields about 30 percent of the ground water used for irrigation in the United States. Since 1950, agricultural irrigation has reduced the saturated volume of the aquifer by an estimated 9%. Depletion is accelerating, with 2% lost between 2001 and 2009 alone. Certain aquifer zones are now empty;  these areas will take over 6,000 years to replenish naturally through rainfall.

The aquifer system supplies drinking water to 82 percent of the 2.3 million people (1990 census) who live within the boundaries of the High Plains study area. 

Myth: Keystone XL Will Create Tens of Thousands of Jobs:

Any big construction project requires workers to build it. How many? The U.S. State Department’s analysis says 3,900 would be employed directly if the job is done in one year, or 1,950 per year if work is spread over two. TransCanada Corp. puts the number higher, saying the project would support 9,000 construction jobs directly.

There would be additional, “indirect” work for companies supplying goods and services, including concrete, fuel, surveying, welding materials and earth-moving equipment required for the project, and “induced” jobs resulting from money spent by workers and suppliers, such as ranchers providing beef for restaurants and construction camps.

Counting up everything, the State Department estimates a total of 42,100 jobs could be created. TransCanada has accepted the 42,100 figure for total employment. Whatever the number, these jobs are temporary, lasting only for the year or two that it would take to complete the project. The number of permanent jobs is much lower. “The proposed Project would generate approximately 50 jobs during operations,” according to the State Department analysis.

House Republicans are still claiming the project would create 120,000 jobs. But that’s based on outdated information. The House Energy Committee’s GOP majority website extrapolates from figures given by TransCanada two years ago — for a much longer pipeline than is now proposed.

That was before President Obama initially rejected the original Canada-to-Texas project pending changes in the route. Since then, TransCanada has completed a 485-mile segment of the original project — running from Cushing, OK to refineries in Texas — which did not require presidential approval because it did not cross an international border. Now named the “Gulf Coast Pipeline Project,” construction began in August 2012 and was completed this year. It went into operation on Jan. 22.

The current Keystone XL project includes 875 miles within the U.S. And, as noted, even TransCanada says it would create about 42,000 temporary jobs, not 120,000.

Pipelines can be hazardous. An average of 97,376 barrels (4.1 million gallons) of petroleum and other “hazardous liquids” have been spilled each year in pipeline incidents over the last decade, according to the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. These incidents have claimed an average of two lives per year, and resulted in more than $263 million in annual reported property damage as well.

Those figures include the most expensive onshore oil pipeline spill in U.S. history, caused when 30-inch pipe operated by Enbridge ruptured on July 26, 2010, near Marshall, Mich. That dumped more than 1 million gallons of Canadian diluted bitumen — the same material that would be carried in the proposed 36-inch Keystone pipeline — into the Kalamazoo River. Enbridge is still struggling to complete the cleanup, having failed to meet a Dec. 31 Environmental Protection Agency deadline for dredging remaining oil residue that settled on the bottom of the river.

Although Enbridge initially put the spill at about 840,000 gallons, the EPA said last year that 1.15 million gallons had been recovered and 350,000 cubic yards of contaminated river sediment remained to be recovered. Enbridge said in August 2013 that it had spent more than $1 billion on the cleanup and remediation to date, and the figure continues to rise.

A spill from the Keystone could potentially have similar effects. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, in its final evaluation report on the project, found that the properties of the diluted forms of bitumen that would flow through the state in the Keystone pipeline “are similar in many respects to other heavy sour crude oils.” For what it’s worth, TransCanada says it plans to make the Keystone “the safest pipeline ever constructed in the U.S.,” adding more remote shut-off valves and inspections and burying the pipe more deeply than with other pipelines.

Rail transport is even more hazardous than pipelines, however. Last July, 47 people died in a single disaster when an unattended train including 72 tanker cars loaded with crude oil rolled downhill, exploded and burned in the Canadian town of Lac-Mégantic in Quebec province. Forty buildings were demolished, and an estimated 5.6 million liters (1.5 million gallons) of crude oil spilled or burned.

And that calamity is by no means an isolated incident.  

Pop Quiz: Who are the Biggest Tar Sands Investors (biggest Lease Holders): Yep: the KOCH Brothers.

This presentation is outstanding in that is shows graphically the Koch reach into so many areas or our lives ... the pipeline segment is at about the 38:00-minute mark. It shows the evidence re: this project - worth your time to watch:

  1. On Oct. 19, four rail cars carrying crude oil and nine carrying liquefied petroleum gas derailed in Alberta, causing a fire that burned for days and forcing evacuation of the nearby hamlet of Gainford.
  2. Another crude-oil tanker train derailed on Nov. 8 and burned near Aliceville, Ala., releasing up to 750,000 gallons of oil. 
  3. And on Dec. 30, 20 cars in a mile-long train carrying crude oil ignited and burned after colliding with a derailed grain train near Casselton, N.D., sending up a giant fireball and spilling what federal investigators later estimated to be 476,000 gallons of oil.
The tempo of oil-train accidents has increased along with the sharp rise in tanker shipments, as has the amount of oil discharged. Soon after the Casselton spill, an investigative news report by the McClatchy news agency concluded, based on federal data, that last year more oil spilled in the U.S. from rail tank cars than in all the nearly 40 previous years on record combined.

But later that month, on Feb. 26, a representative of the National Transportation Safety Board, Robert L. Sumwalt, told a congressional hearing that incidents such as the Casselton explosion have become an “increasingly commonplace story.” He said continued use of tanker cars built to meet current federal standards poses “an unacceptable public risk.”  Meanwhile, the Association of American Railroads is pressing the federal government to impose “more rigorous standards for tank cars carrying flammable liquids, including asking for retrofitting tank cars to meet the higher standards or phasing those that cannot be made safer.”

The incidents continue. On Feb. 13, several cars of a train carrying heavy Canadian crude derailed in Western Pennsylvania. This time only a few thousand gallons leaked out, and there was no fire or explosion.

Based on relative safety records to date, the State Department estimated that an average of six deaths per year would result if the Keystone isn’t built and the same amount of oil is shipped by rail instead. More than twice as much oil is likely to be spilled as well, State estimated.

(1)  Tar sands are “game over” for the climate. Canada’s tar sands, which Keystone XL would carry, could contain double the carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in history — and green lighting the pipeline that would carry them to the global market would be disastrous for climate change.

(2)  The supposed benefits of the tar sands pipeline have been over hyped. While supporters once said that the pipeline would bring gas prices down, experts agree that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline could even increase domestic gas prices — and have little chance of lowering them. Jobs numbers, too, have been wildly inflated; TransCanada gave U.S. officials a job number that was 67 times higher than the number they used in Canada. While every U.S. job is important, the estimates on this project have ranged from 50 permanent jobs, to 2,500 temporary jobs, to TransCanada’s claim of 20,000 jobs. Even unions agree that clean energy jobs outweigh this potential for temporary dirty oil jobs.  

(3)  The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline puts our country’s natural resources at risk. The pipeline route passes through Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer (as discussed above), which is the country’s largest source of freshwater as addressed above. Even a single spill could have disastrous consequences for generations to come — and a University of Nebraska at Lincoln analysis of the pipeline finds that it could have 91 major spills in 50 years.

(4)  On Tuesday, Nov. 6, Americans voted against dirty energy and against Big Oil. Big Oil bet big on the election — and lost big. Big Oil-backed groups spent over $270 million on television ads in the last two months of the cycle alone, and have little to show for it. A recent Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll found that 64 percent of voters say they have a favorable impression of renewable energy. In a Zogby poll released today, only 12 percent of respondents said that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was a “priority.” Meanwhile, 48 percent identified renewable energy as a priority.

(5)  The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline compromises our energy security. The tar sands oil that will pass through the pipeline is intended for the international market, making Keystone XL a pipeline that goes through the U.S. — not to the U.S. Furthermore, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline continues to feed our dangerous addiction to oil that compromises national security and places American troops in harm’s way.

Key Point:  Canada’s pro-industry energy regulator — the National Energy Board — just announced a sweeping audit of TransCanada’s Canadian operations. This is the latest in a long series of accidents, shutdowns and pipeline safety infractions that have hounded the Canadian pipeline operator TransCanada.  Earlier this month, TransCanada was forced to shut its leak prone Keystone I tar sands pipeline down for four days after finding an “anomaly” — a technical term for cracks, corrosion or other defects in a pipeline which may lead to a rupture. These incidents are not unique; TransCanada has a sordid history as a pipeline operator

Don’t take my word for, ask the folks in Upper Michigan along the Kalamazoo River regarding a record spill there.  

Note: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper once said that “TransCanada could pursue an alternative route through Canada to the West Coast, where oil could be shipped to China and other Asian markets.” However, Canadian Native group opponents call the West Coast option far fetched. They note that Canadian regulators have announced a one-year delay for a similar project that would carry tar sands oil to British Columbia (Canada's west coast as Harper referred to). But, that group has constitutionally protected treaty rights and unsettled land claims that could allow them to block or significantly delay both pipelines.

Finally, Media Matters here takes on and debunks five of the prevailing media myths about Keystone XL.

As I've said all along from my research and actual events, this is still a very bad idea. Stay tuned - this issue is by no means a "done deal."

Monday, January 19, 2015

Who Fights for the Middle Class, Low-Income, the Poor: GOPers or DEMS

Prospective 2016 Field Leaders
(So, who stands with the middle class? The one in the middle)

GOP 2012 Model
(How's that work out)

I love this story from the WSJ. Here is their headline:

Defending the Middle Class Takes Central Role in 2016 Race

The story:

When did populism become so fashionable?

Income inequality has assumed a central place in the evolving 2016 presidential campaign, with would-be candidates of both parties tripping over themselves to champion the interests of a struggling middle class–the rich be damned.

The latest is Republican Mitt Romney, who in the 2012 race was criticized for being a walking, talking caricature of the out-of-touch plutocrat. Mr. Romney, who is considering a third bid for the White House, delivered a speech at a Republican gathering in San Diego that sounded as if it came from the mouth of liberal firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Romney said in part: “The rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before under this president.” (Notice “under this president” and not under any others including the harsh party Mr. Romney belongs to?? – a slip of the mind gears, eh).  (Also, Ms. Warren might have skipped the dig at President Obama, but you get the point).

The same day that Mr. Romney spoke, Democrat Hillary Clinton sent out a tweet in which she sided against the big Wall Street banks in a fight over financial regulation. Some in Congress are pushing to loosen the Dodd-Frank regulatory measures taken after the 2008 financial collapse

John Ellis Bush (Jeb are his initials obviously). He tries to come across and portray himself as a GOP moderate. Kinda like Dubya with his “I’m a compassionate conservative” pitch.  We'll see. 

Parting note from Sodahead here and an interesting list:

Do You Believe That the GOP Platform, and Conservatives, Represent the Dark Side?

When you look at things, in society, that would generally be considered kind, good, or nice, the GOP is against it. Things that would be generally considered bad, evil, or cold, they are for. The only thing that Democrats are “for” that would be considered evil, is abortion.

As for Republicans, they generally view as favorable:

1.  War
2.  Guns
3.  Greed
4.  Pollution
5.  Oppression
6.  Discrimination
7.  Voter Suppression

At the same time, GOPers dislike:

1.  Gays
2.  The Arts
3.  Environmental Protections
4.  Hispanics
5.  Women
6.  Sex
7.  Education
8.  Equality
9.  The Less Fortunate
10.  Workers
11.  Intellect
12.  Anything that feels good

Continue reading and researching – it’s a long way until November 2016. Ouch.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Not By Choice: Hungry, Homeless, Living Poor in Poverty

The Ugly Truth and, Yes, in America

First, some numbers: Hunger and Poverty Fact Sheet - it speaks for itself, and Homelessness / Poverty Stats.

The story and question that deserve tracking over the next few weeks and months is here in part from Alternet.org here:

The question: “Will escalating Republican attacks on Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) cause an increase in homeless people across America?” 

Short answer: Quite possibly.

So say some advocates for disabled and mentally ill Americans, citing the growing attacks on the program in Congress and on the presidential [2016] trail. GOP threats to curtail spending on Social Security have many worried that tens of thousands of people could be pushed into the streets, primarily because they would (1) either lose access to subsidized housing or (2) could not afford rent.

One view from New York State: “It’s hard to assess how many homeless people would be affected by it — it’s more like how many people would become homeless.” Says Shelly Nortz, the deputy executive director for policy for the Coalition for the Homeless in NYS when asked how potential SSDI cuts could affect homelessness.

Finally this re: the 2016 run for the White House: It is hard to disagree with this article from the Brookings Institute – here in part: The mismatch between the two parties and governing institutions is exacerbated by the fact that the polarization is asymmetric

The GOP: “They have become a radical insurgency — ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited policy regime, scornful of compromise, not persuaded by conventional understanding of facts and evidence, or about science; dismissive of the legitimacy of their political opposition, and generally bunch of sour pusses who advocate change but can’t seen to accept any other than their own.” 

Yet, now, some like Mitt Romney say they feel for the poor, the hungry, the sick, those at or below the poverty line (a line the GOP keeps redrawing I might add with harsh policies) say they will fight like DEMS for those Americans. I have to admit BS does come to mind.

A look back at 2012 with this in mind: Are they truly honest about helping the poor in America...

Q: Gentlemen: do you stand with and for low-income, hard-working, low-wage Americans, many at or below the poverty line by asking the upper crust taxpayers to pay a bit more?

We probably would have seen this reaction then:

Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney

The question regarding this GOP change of heart is simple: Will the massive GOP PR machine be able to sell that this new, retooled message and win? Probably. Look at the results in 2014. I rest that case.

Thus, the evidence about the GOP asymmetry is overwhelming, for those who bother to pay much attention.

All in all, these are worthy subjects to track for sure. If you don’t think so, then try and image yourself in their shoes: hungry, homeless, and living in poverty even by holding two low-income wage jobs with no health care provided by employer and living day to day.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

GOP: We Will Aid the Poor, Help Low-income, Defeat Poverty, Add New Mascot

Pondering How to Sell that Horseshit as Roses

The Proposed New GOP Mascot
(pachyderms are passé)

From a great article here: What is sweeping across la-la land recently is “... an outbreak of claims by party leaders and presidential candidates that Republicans deserve credit for a slow but steady economic recovery, and that the GOP is the emerging champion of still-struggling working Americans.”

Whew boy … that baby is going to be a hard sell, I suspect – to wit:

Just a bit more and then please continue at the link … as I said, an excellent article: Both of these assertions are brazen falsehoods.

The first claim, by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), is their latest effort to dilute the White House's achievements.

The second claim, by likely 2016 candidates including Former FL Gov. JEB Bush — is another variety of political theft, all but plagiarizing (at this site) Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).  

This new and very all powerful GOP is shameful, yet they remain shameless. Who would have thought it, right? (LOL LOL).

Enjoy the article ... it's a keeper.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Okay, Pop Quiz: Who Didn't See This Coming, Raise Your Hand

When the GOP Has Control of Congress
(The legislative agenda)

Three quickies to emphasize my point ... this GOP is already out of control:


They’re Baaack … Inside the GOP’s 80 Year War on Social Security


House Judiciary Chair: Not ‘Necessary’ to Fix Voting Rights Act


This is related the voting issue, re: the November 2014 midterm election quick analysis:

How did the GOP gain power in November? For one, older, white voters who traditionally support Republican went to the polls in droves.

Turnout among traditionally Democratic groups, e.g., young, minorities, and women was down.

The overall turnout declined to an estimated 36.6% of eligible voters, the lowest rate of participation since the 1940s.

Mr. Obama’s poor performance and approval rating undoubtedly played a role in the lower turnout and was strongly reinforced by the GOP PR machine. However, more evidence is piling up that the systematic voter suppression (in mostly RED/GOP states) re: harsh voter ID laws and dubious voter fraud prevention software played a significant part in keeping people from casting ballots. Examples:

In Texas, Democrat Wendy Davis lost badly to Republican Greg Abbott for the state house. More important than the defeat is that Texas had the lowest voter turnout in the country at 33%, down from 38% four years earlier.

It’s difficult to determine to what precise extent their new voter ID law is to blame, but official records in Texas shows that “there are somewhere between 600,000 and 1.4 million registered voters in Texas without state IDs. Think Progress also documented how some Texas voters were dropped from the rolls or denied ballots because they couldn’t afford new IDs.

In Tennessee and Kansas, a recent GAO report found that voter turnout eased considerably in those two states in 2012.  In Texas, there are indications the same thing happened, too.

In Georgia, nearly 40,000 new voters mysteriously vanished from the rolls, possibly due to a new and controversial software system known as Crosscheck. Turnout was only 34%, which is down six percentage points from 2010.

Back to the future as it were (I guess)???

Now we seeing the results of the election, the low-voter turnout which I conclude was due directly to the harsh voter ID laws, and they were by crafted carefully with one object: TO SUPPRESS THE VOTE SO THE GOP WOULD WIN, and it worked. 

No one needed a crystal ball to have predicted this outcome (I state the obvious).

I'm done now ... enjoy.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015 Big Year for the ACA (Obama-care) as GOP Sharpens Their Bayonets

I wonder: Who is bullying whom?
(GOP-controlled Congress vs. President Obama)

Click here for story and larger view

This post is long, but I think timely and sorely needed. I hope you enjoy it and your own further personal research on the issue.

SUBJECT: ACA Update on Upcoming USSC Case (WSJ) re: Healthcare Subsidies:

The Supreme Court will it will determine whether the law allows health insurance subsidies to millions of Americans – most already enrolled (some say over 5 million – poor states and with low or no-income). The Court will hear arguments in March 2015 with a decision in June.
This latest challenge was brought by conservatives who argue that only states, not the federal government, can pay such subsidies. (Note: I always thought conservatives were “compassionate” like George W. Bush once proclaimed)!
Background: The Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obama-care), established health insurance exchanges run by the federal government and by 16 states that provide subsidies to help Americans purchase insurance premiums. As of 2014, more than 10 million people are enrolled for coverage on the exchanges more are expected as we now enter 2015.
The law's conservative opponents argue a close reading of the statute only allows subsidies to be paid by states that have their own healthcare exchanges, not by the federal government, which serves residents of states that have not established their own.  Currently, 36 states do not have exchanges of their own, and thus those enrolled rely on the Federal government for their ACA payments. (The GOP hates that part in addition to most of the bill).
Should the Supreme Court find in favor of the conservative plaintiffs, more than five million people could find their insurance costs rise dramatically or they will have to drop their plan, go back to the using the ERs as primary care and reversing any progress to this point – which was to solve the problem in the first place.
In July 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for DC ruled in favor of the law's opponents, but later threw the ruling out so it could rehear the case.
The White House has dismissed the lawsuit as a partisan attempt to undermine the law and further erode it as the GOP still tries to repeal, not fund, or greatly weaken the program. They also say they are confident that the financial help afforded millions of Americans was and remains the original intent of the law and it is working as Congress designed and a simple meaning of “state” provides is badly misunderstood.
Why does the GOP so badly want to get in the way of the Affordable Care Act that provides millions of Americans with health care that in many cases persons and families who never had care and now do?
Other Notes:
  1. The ACA passed in 2010 with not one single Republican vote of support.
  2. It has been a focus of GOP-Conservative outrage ever since with over 50 votes in the House alone to repeal it – all have failed.
  3. In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the central provision of the law requiring Americans to carry health insurance or pay a penalty, in a 5-4 decision.
GOP Myths Disputed here (Media Matters.org), or click items below):

  1. MYTH: ACA Will Eliminate Millions of Jobs
  2. MYTH: Obama-care Won't Reduce Number of Uninsured Americans
  3. MYTH: The Affordable Care Act is “Failing the Public”
  4. MYTH: “Millions Will Lose Insurance” as Companies Drop Health Benefits
  5. MYTH: The Affordable Care Act Creates “Death Panels” to Ration Care
  6. MYTH: Health Care Premiums Will Rise Dramatically Thanks to Obama-care
More on the program below – click them and see whether or not the ACA is working or not. I say it is working and yes, it will need fixes along the way, big programs always do, but it deserves a chance to be fully implemented, and then fixed accordingly. The purpose however, remains an honorable one it was long overdue.

  1. The Healthcare Law
  2. What Does the Act Mean to Me
  3. The ACA's Obama-care Problem
  4. Economist's View: The Affordable Care Act is Working
  5. More Solid Proof that Obama-care is Working - Forbes
  6. Bill Defines Full Time as 40 Hours for ACA
  7. GOP Hates Obama-care Except for Employer Freebies
  8. Einstein: “If you can't explain it to a 6-year-old, you probably don't understand it yourself.”
  9. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): Ässhølë Out of Control Without a Doubt
  10. Average Americans are Smarter than Average GOP Weasels
For the second year in a row, Obama-care premiums are lower than anticipated and millions of Americans can expect to find affordable health insurance options during the second open enrollment period.

Story and key points from here (Think Progress.org):

  1. Analysis of 2015 premium rates for the individual market in states with Federally-Facilitated Marketplaces shows that premiums will increase by an average of only 3.9 percent from 2014 to 2015, and that average is for individual coverage for the 27-to-40 year olds across all plans in each metal level in each state and weighted by each state’s enrollment by metal level in 2014.
  2. Silver plans for example, which is the most popular type of plan in 2014, will increase even less only about 3.45 percent on average. While there is wide variation around the average growth in different geographic areas, the low national average is a testament to the popularity and affordability of the health insurance plans on the exchanges. That is where more than 7 million Americans purchased health insurance in 2014.
  3. Increased competition in the exchanges (Note: about 25 percent more issuers will offer plans via the state exchanges in 2015 than in 2014), and that has helped keep premiums low. Some of the nation’s biggest insurers will now be participating in the exchanges for the first time as the market place expands and they see opportunities.
  4. To put this small premium increase into perspective an average increase of 3.9 percent is much less than historical premium growth (one of the main reasons for the ACA in the first place: reduce rising costs). For example, from 2008 to 2010, the national average rate of premium increase was 10.9 percent, which is 179 percent greater than the increase between 2014 and 2015.
NOTE: Health care costs WOULD HAVE gone up considerably WITHOUT Obama-care regardless, however now in fact, THE COSTS ARE SMALLER AND IN MANY CASES VERY MUCH SMALLER. Thus, to say that Obama-care is causing health care insurance costs to rise is EASILY DISPUTABLE.

All this clearly is proof positive that the ACA is working as predicted. Now it moves forward even better to convince more people that it is a good deal for the insured and the country.

Naturally, as I said, this ticks off the GOP – big time. Yeah, big time which reminded me of the phrase Dick Cheney confirmed and used when he responded to George W. Bush who had spotted a New York Times reporter (Adam Clymer, reporter from 1977-2003) in the crowd at their rally in Illinois. Bush pointed and said: “There's Adam Clymer, major-league asshole from The New York Times.” Cheney, also unaware their microphones were still turned on agreed with Bush, adding, “Oh yeah, he is, big time.”

Little did both men know at the time that they were labeling themselves and possibly the entire GOP the same way regarding helping Americans with health care and other important and critical life-saving/sustaining programs that we see right now, including of course, going to war (twice) on false pretenses (i.e., Iraq invasion in 2003). 

Added Note: The newly-elected GOP majority (both houses) just voted on H.R. 30 to repeal Obama-care (again) and change the definition for full-time (from current 30 hours in the law to 40). That vote as well as others can be seen here at the House.gov page. Both face a presidential veto (but the GOP doesn't care - political points are more important).

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Keystone XL Battle Heats Up: North Dakota Weasels Now Involved — Damn

North Dakota Long-Tail Weasel

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), possibly the only known tail-less Weasel in North Dakota

Latest from Hoeven vis-á-vis getting the Keystone XL pipeline approved comes from this story.

That approval apparently is still on President Obama's desk. 

Part of the story that got my attention is that he and I guess some other Republicans have said they intend to keep pursuing pro-Keystone legislation. Hoeven said earlier today (January 6, 2014, which was the day the new Congress was sworn into office), that he is considering attaching the Keystone measure to must-pass legislation like appropriations bills (in other words: blackmail to force Mr. Obama's hand to approve the pipeline, or lose an important bill that the pipeline provision is attached to). All in all, it’s a lousy stunt and worse, a very nasty threat.

A word on this type of blackmail, for surely it is. Why do I say that? Because the threat of attaching it to a “must-pass” bill is raw blackmail ... i.e., must pass bill is a measure, considered vitally important, that must be passed and enacted by Congress, e.g. funding for a function of government or to even keep government open. Because of the time-sensitive nature of these bills, they are often amended with policy provisos, or “riders” that are totally unrelated to the principle function of the bill itself (call them pet projects and such blackmail and ransom notes).

Nice way to start the new year, isn’t it? 

Many Opponents Have this View of the Pipeline
(I tend to agree with them).

Friday, January 2, 2015

Moving into 2015 on a High Note and Optimistic Not a Sour Puss


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Even GOP children: they seen to learn early and quickly (cute kid - added for humor):


2014 wrap up... For those who hoped to see the American economy succeed, here are a lot of reasons to smile today – GOP frowns not included:

1.  Economic growth is at an 11-year high.
2.  Job growth at a 15-year high.
3.  The stock market is soaring - setting new DOW and S&P highs.
4.  Wages are rising.
5.  Gas prices are plummeting.
6.  American manufacturing is improving.
7.  Those previously uninsured and without health care – that rate is dropping.
8.  And, much, much more.

President Obama has good reason to boast about “America’s resurgence.”

The GOP, natch, continues to show their great displeasure and for no good reason except, well... that who they are: the party of bitter sour pusses, even their pet cats know the score.