Friday, December 30, 2011

Congress enjoys fat pensions and 401(k) plans while Americans just get poorer

The current Congress will have a hard time convincing the American public they should be re-elected, except for those dolts that walk around in a daze and end up voting for who they are told to vote for.  It’s pathetic, but in my estimation, it is this apathetic group that can often sway elections.  Otherwise, how would you explain nit-wit incompetents like Arizona’s sham Gov. Jan Brewer getting into office?  There is no other explanation, and it is likely that 2012 will be the long awaited reckoning.

In the meantime, these blundering blockheads we have sent to Washington will go on their merry way and even if we throw them out will enjoy a hefty pension of an average $40,000 per Congress member per year.  The taxpayer’s portion of that nice nest egg is 23 percent, according to newspaper columnist Laurie Roberts who laments “…the number of the people who approve of the job they're doing could fit comfortably into a Smart car…”  In addition there is a lucrative 401(k) plan which taxpayers also must contribute to.

All this while recent Census figures show that almost 1 in every 2 people in the United States are now considered poor or low-income.  You read that right; 146,400,000 people now fall into that category, based on current population figures from the U.S. Census.  And the numbers could go up if states continue to make further cuts.  But a conservative researcher says some of those in this class “…live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs.”  There is always the exception, but this does not explain the overall situation.

The actual figures are 97.3 million in the low income category and 49.1 million below the poverty line.  And the total is up by 4 million since 2009.  Yet the GOP refuses to allow a tax on millionaires that could help in stabilizing the economy and putting many of these people at the poverty level back to work.  But Tom Coburn of CNN says the millionaire tax won’t work but suggests instead ending  earmarks for the wealthy.

These earmarks include tax write-offs for second homes and luxury yachts, gambling losses, business expenses, electric vehicle credits, even child care tax credits.  There are unemployment checks in the amount of $74 million, $316 million in farm subsidies, $9 billion in retirement checks, and $16 million in government-backed loans to attend college.  If we can’t tax the filthy rich, at least we should be able to take away perks that could be going to help low income and poor.

To me this sounds absolutely ridiculous and reeks of the grounds on which most Social Democracies are founded.  A financial inequity such as we have in America today has all the elements of a revolution and there are many out there that have already been pushed to the limit.  The Occupy Movement is an example and considering its longevity so far, could easily pave the way to more disorder in the trenches.  The extreme conservative right must take full credit for the situation we are in, and progressives must realize the opportunity at hand and take full advantage.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Arizona tough Sheriff Joe Arpaio under fire from all directions

The federal government issued a harsh report recently that illustrates the scope of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s civil rights violations against Arizona Hispanics.  It includes a history of racial profiling and discrimination, emphasizing the regular raids that Arpaio conducts to find illegals.  The investigation has been going on for three years according to the Associated Press, and exposes a culture of bias that starts with the Sheriff and works its way down through the agency.

Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division says that Arpaio stimulates this environment of hostility and bias by sending “racially charged letters” to top aides and even saved them.  DOJ’s expert on racial profiling said, “it's the most egregious case of racial profiling in the nation that he has seen or reviewed in professional literature.”  As an example here is an excerpt from the report:

“The investigation found a number of instances in which "crime suppression activities" were initiated on complaints that ‘described no criminal activity, but rather referred, for instance, to individuals with 'dark skin' congregating in one area, or the individuals speaking Spanish at a local business.’"

And then there’s Arpaio’s botched sex crime investigations where 432 cases had fallen through the cracks and were not investigated.  A now-retired detective left a “poor paperwork trail” which resulted in these unprosecuted sex crime cases.  The Sheriff tried his usual cover-up strategy by saying Phoenix police had a much larger caseload of similar cases.  Phoenix police countered that, unlike Arpaio’s inaction, they immediately assigned a task force to the issue.

The Sheriff’s latest headache is a Mexican woman, an inmate in the county jail, who claims sheriff’s officers mistreated her during and after a pregnancy which included shackling her while in labor and following a Caesarean delivery.  Miriam Mendiola-Martinez has filed suit against the Sheriff, his agency and deputies, which follows right on the heels of the federal report.  The Arizona Dept. of Corrections, the U.S. Marshall’s Service and the FBI have eliminated the practice of using shackles on pregnant women.

Arpaio giving up right to detain illegals
But that’s still not all.  On the day before Christmas, a judge ruled that Sheriff Joe Arpaio could no longer detain people for being in the country illegally.  The ruling is a direct result of a 2007 lawsuit against Arpaio and his officers of racially profiling Latinos in traffic stops that occurred during Arpaio’s infamous immigration sweeps.  At the same time the judge sanctioned the Sheriff for destroying documents related to the case.

The feds report had a number of other interesting revelations.  It found that Arpaio and his staff had tried to silence people speaking out against him and the department.  Hispanics are 4 to 9 times more likely to be detained in traffic stops than non-Hispanics.  From 2006 to 2009, 20 percent of traffic stops handled by Arpaio’s immigrant smuggling squad were done without reasonable suspicion and involved almost 100 percent Latinos.  Deputies were encouraged to make high-volume traffic stops in “targeted” locations, often arresting Hispanics who were in the country legally.  And there’s much more.

Another quote from the report:

“Investigators believe the sheriff's office followed a pattern or practice of unconstitutional treatment of Hispanics both inside the jails and in traffic stops, especially by the sheriff's human smuggling and work-site enforcement units.”

The Tucson Citizen newspaper commented: “Arpaio is equivalent to ‘Bull’ Connor and our Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is equivalent to Alabama’s George Wallace.”  “Bull” Connor was the bigoted Birmingham, Alabama Commissioner of Public Safety with control over a police force that directed the use of fire hoses, and police attack dogs against peaceful demonstrators, including children.  George Wallace was the Governor of Alabama and an avid pro-segregationist.  Both are very accurate comparisons to the people who run the state of Arizona.

Racist JT Ready with Russell Pearce
But wait, that’s still not all.  Randy Parraz, president of Citizens for a Better Arizona, the guy who was responsible for removing racist Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce from office in a recall election, is asking the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to pass a resolution to dump Arpaio.  Parraz has said in the past that he might consider a recall for Joe Arpaio as well as Arizona’s bogus Gov. Jan Brewer.

Unfortunately Arizona has all of a sudden discovered it is in the hands of a gang of bigoted, extreme conservatives that have almost brought the state to its knees.  Being the great place Arizona is, the question is will its people find their way once again and return to a sane environment to live and visit.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

With voters deserting Democratic, Republican parties en masse, who is to blame?

In the Republican Party it would be safe to say today that many are upset that the Tea Party has had so much control over the GOP and has led it down the path to near-destruction.  Last Friday’s cave by House Speaker John Boehner to Democrats came only after members of his own party, in the name of Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell, said are you out of your freaking mind?  The Dems are of course gloating over their victory, but they have problems of their own.

For years now the left has settled for mere compromises when fighting the right over certain legislation, and the Republicans have gotten pretty much what they wanted.  We have entered an era where religion dominates certain national issues such as abortion and gay rights.  The former, although still legal but looking iffy, is attacked daily by religious conservatives.  And gay rights have only recently been able to make any headway in the U.S.

Other losses are how big business has entrenched itself firmly, with the solid help of the GOP, as steadfastly favored over consumer rights.  The wealthy enjoy unfair tax cuts thanks to George W. Bush, and Republicans are making it clear that they will not stand for an increase on the rich.  So what do the Democrats do?  They easily relented on this issue to pay for the payroll tax cuts and earlier this year in the attempt to balance the budget.


This has come from the top down and many progressives are now looking for someone to stand up and say enough is enough.  But if it doesn’t start with President Obama, there is no way to enlist Democrats in the House or Senate.  The leader of the party must show the strength to organize the rest to support him and demand the legislation.  So far this hasn’t happened and I believe the voting public has decided both political parties have failed.  That is further confirmed with Congress at an abysmal 11 percent approval rating.

According to USA Today, 2.5 million voters have left the Republican and Democratic parties since the 2008 elections.  Republicans dropped in 21 of the 28 states that register by party, Democrats 25, but Independents increased their total in 18.  By the numbers, the Independents gained 325,000, Democrats lost 800,000, Republicans 350,000.  The Dems are still out front with 42 million voters, with only 30 million Republicans.  There are 24 million Independents, which proves to be a colossal challenge for both parties in 2012.

Adlai Stevenson-Last Statesman
The study says there are many reasons that account for the demise of the parties.  Families move or people die, some are purged from voter rolls when they have been inactive for some time.  But my guess, and one that is shared by many political writers today is the fact that a great deal of the population is just fed up with the shenanigans in Washington and an incompetent bunch of congressional leaders that think only of holding on to their seat in Congress.  Here is an appropriate quote from Thomas Jefferson:

“A politician looks forward only to the next election.  A statesman looks forward to the next generation.”  

Unfortunately, there are no statesmen left.

Read more here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tea Party massacred on payroll tax decision

Senate majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) has brought the Tea Party to its knees once again.  He beat Sharon Angle, a TP favorite, for his Senate seat in Nevada just a year ago, and now he backed House Speaker John Boehner, backed by radical TPers, into a corner on the payroll tax bill until they had to lose face and give in to what had been the right thing to do all along.  The only upside to this whole bizarre episode is that the American public is finally seeing the real color of these right wing fanatics.

President Barack Obama signed the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut this past Friday, a victory for himself over a Tea Party that has targeted the President since its inception and his inauguration.  Independents and moderate Republicans should view this as an example of how Democrats and progressives in general can champion tax cuts.  Also included in the bill are a continuation in jobless benefits and a delay in decreased Medicare payments to doctors that could seriously affect Seniors.

Apparently Boehner, who was originally in favor of passing the two-month deal worked out by Senate Democrats and Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, caved to the TP lunatics led by head maniac Eric Cantor (R-VA) House Majority Leader.  Some have even questioned whether it is Cantor or Boehner leading the House, and if it’s Cantor, then, up until last Friday the Tea Party had definitely been in control. 

Political analysts view this defeat and turmoil leading up to the showdown as significantly hurting the GOP in their backbone Republican philosophy of tax cuts at any cost.  It clearly shows that when it comes to the wealthy, there is absolutely no concession on taxes, but they are willing to sacrifice the middle-class and lower income groups on the basis of demanding a year’s extension over the two-months that was finally passed.

Jon Summers, who was instrumental in Reid’s win over Angle, thinks that things will go much the same way at the end of the two-month extension as it did last Friday.  Democrats are on a roll and they will get what they want in February of 2012.  Harry Reid has already predicted that the Tea Party, spawned in hard times, will just fade away as the economy improves.  In the second phase of the payroll tax cut fight, even more damage could be done to the GOP by TPers that place extreme right ideology over their country.

If you want to know who to blame, you can take a look at the list of Tea Party caucus members here, led by presidential hopeful (?) Michele Bachmann, along with some other good info on the group by Wikipedia.  The list is a blueprint of House representatives and Senate members, some of which are running for office in 2012, that we progressives want to give the boot.  This is also the gang

that is apparently enraged at John Boehner after caving to Democrats last Friday.

When Congress reconvenes in January and the fireworks start, it will be interesting to see who is on the offensive and who is on the defensive.  If the Democrats and all progressives alike don’t take advantage of their current momentum to slay the ultra conservative dragon, the elections of 2012 could well be a complete toss up.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Immigrants want a part of the Occupy Movement

Several have commented that no group is more apt to be part of the 99 percent the Occupy Movement is fighting for than immigrants.  Two occupy activists, Phil Arnone, and Emma McCumber, established the Immigrant Worker Justice Working Group to help bring together these folks in a cohesive way.  IWJWG is focused on two main points: First is wage theft, wages stolen from low-paid workers; Second is protesting the private prison industry that takes advantage of poor immigrants kept in questionable detention for months or even years.

The organizers are starting with education centered on the connection between corporategreed and the private prison industry that encourages more immigration round-ups to fill their prisons.  This coincides perfectly with an investigation done recently by National Public Radio on whether the crackdowns on immigration have gone too far.  NPR commented that only a year ago, the country was ripe for more immigration control legislation.  Today it seems somewhat clear that it has already gone too far.

Alabama immigrants protest
Arizona, the flagship of immigration laws, followed by Alabama, are both seeing their legislation challenged in court, by local businesses and a part of the population as well.  In Alabama, where agriculture depends significantly on immigrant workers, it is estimated the economy would shrink $40 million without 10,000 workers affected.  Other states with similar legislation, or at least have it in the works, are Pennsylvania, Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Both Occupy Movement organizers and immigration activists see great potential in bringing immigrants into the cause.  The former, to increase their numbers with a credible group of people who are deserving; the latter to educate their following and by virtue of the organization, line up those who are eligible to vote and get them registered.  The question is whether they will be able to overcome the fear immigrants have of law enforcement after going underground as a result of the anti-immigration legislation.

John Michael Torres, an activist from McAllen, Texas, worries about the ability to communicate with those who don’t have a TV or the Internet.  That is the reason for the meetings like the ones in New York where those who have experienced a connection with the movement can tell their story.  Maurio Munoz, who is a part of the Spanish assembly for Occupy Wall Streetsays they are offering classes with legal experts, including lawyers, to answer peoples’ questions.

Teresa Puente wrote in In These Times that “the convergence between the immigrant rights struggle and Occupy is growing increasingly profound.”  She adds, concern has been voiced “because the white activists seen as leading the Occupy movement haven’t been vocal about immigration reform.”  So activists have decided that the best way to win the attention they want is to get involved, bringing as many immigrants into the fold as possible.

International Migrants Day was December 18, and Occupy activists marched in the Immigrants Occupy! Rally in Manhattan at Foley Squareled by the Immigrant Workers Justice Working Group.  Here is their statement:

“We recognize globalized capital–in the form of financial institutions, multinational corporations, and neoliberal state economic policies–as the impetus for economic migration to the United States, and deplore the fact that banks and corporations, supported by the government, continue to profit from immigrant detention and deportation. The leadership and participation of immigrant workers is necessary for any discussion of social, economic, and environmental justice.”

Friday, December 23, 2011

The discipline of a Jihad terrorist suicide bomber

Sam Giancana
I have written about the discipline of the American Mafia in the past, a subject that has fascinated me since I had lunch in a restaurant in Chicago on Harlem Ave. where mobster Sam Giancana was holding court with his Lieutenants in a covered booth in the back.  The bartender went about his business as if it was his regular clientele, which I later learned Giancana was. 

The choice of the restaurant was by accident and I never met the man, but I remember how my friend and I were the only other party there at the time.  The setting was reminiscent of the days when the opposing mob drove by with blazing machine guns, all but the innocent knowing in advance what was about to happen.  Well it didn’t, and I eventually left the place unscathed and full of questions about the Mafia.

Giancana died on the night of June 19, 1975, killed by another mafioso because he had crossed the mob by becoming a witness for the FBI.  He was shot in the head while frying sausage and peppers in his kitchen.  For some reason or other the FBI had pulled his protection just before the shooting.  Sam had broken his pledge to the organization and even he most likely knew he had to die.  That is the discipline of the Mafia.

Taimour Abdulwahab died on December 11, 2010, on Stockholm, Sweden’s
Olof Palme street

Taimour Abdulwahab
in the middle of an array of apartment buildings and commercial businesses.  A lot went wrong with his intended suicide bombing when the car he had packed with explosives would not detonate.  He then walked around for ten minutes trying to set off the bomb around his waist.  Finally part of the bomb finally exploded killing Abdulwahab, but the rest didn’t no doubt saving lives.

The discipline this terrorist showed, not only in the planning and building of the bomb, but also in how he kept everything from his family and friends, is remarkable.  And this is the main problem with these lone-wolf suicide bombers who, in the face of all kinds of obstacles, manage to carry out their mission.  Although Abdulwahab did not kill anyone but himself, this kind of incident is becoming more prevalent and one day could result in a small nuclear device.

Abdulwahab did it because he didn’t like the cartoon of Swede Lars Vilks, which was a controversial rendition of the Prophet Mohammed, and he didn’t like the Swedish being Afghanistan.  If all the explosive devices had gone off, it could have injured many people and property plus killing several.  Magnus Ranstorp, research director at the Swedish National Defense College and a leading counter-terrorism expert commented the bomb was anything but amateurish.

The following video is Jihad jibberish audio from Abdulwahab just before he blew himself up:


Abdulwahab had a well laid out blueprint for his bomb building and suicide plan that took him from Luton, England to Sweden.  In a nearby building to his sister’s home, he was able to build the mechanism using components he was able to buy right in the town.  He had learned to build the bomb in Iraq, and there may have been two additional people helping him.  He used a white Audi, which, along with all the other necessary ingredients for the bomb, many thought was just too rich for someone with a limited income.

An investigation still continues to learn if Abdulwahab was associated with a terrorist organization overseas.  Regardless of those findings, the world is up against a breed of maniacs who are willing to die for a cause and able to muster the discipline to carry it out.  The question is will we ever be able to stop this?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

RELIGION: Evangelical youth tire of being told how to live…leave church

The religious conservative right has long been a thorn in the side of Democrats and progressives in general.  Mixing religion with politics has been considered much too acceptable for far too long and now young evangelicals are turning the tide in both church attendance and their voting habits, and, in compelling numbers.  It’s the 18-to-29-year-old age group producing a 43 percent drop in their participation in Christian church services.

They’re telling parents “Don’t tell me what to do,” saying they will live with their partner before marriage if they want to, and that means gay or straight.  And abortion is an option they want on the table if they decide to end a pregnancy.  In other words, mom and dad, we can think for ourselves and do not necessarily agree with your fundamentalist beliefs.  These young people maintain their Christian frame of mind but many have decided not to attend a church at all.

What is frightening is the fact that some say that based on politics as usual today, they may just not vote at all.  That is a dangerous precedent, one that is not prevalent only in their age group, but rather widespread among all ages due to congressional dysfunction going on in Washington.  76 percent of all voters say that most members of Congress should be dumped from office in 2012, the highest percentage ever says Gallup in asking the question over 19 years.

Laura Stepp
The whole thing is reminiscent of members leaving the Catholic Church for years because of the stringent discipline that allows them little leeway in making their life’s decisions.  My Catholic friends have told me repeatedly that the church is so demanding that it is impossible to think for yourself and be a loyal follower.  So, they leave.  And now it has reached the evangelical community and these millennials have decided they aren’t taking it anymore.

Here are some hot spots for this group in a CNN report by Laura Sessions Stepp:

·       70% are OK with unmarried sex and engage as much as non-Christians
·       Most women in their early 20s give birth unmarried
·       60% want abortion legal
·       60% support same-sex marriages

According to the Christian Science Monitor, millennials say the wealthy and corporations have too much power and should be taxed more.  Two-thirds want more regulation for financial institutions.  Stepp says this is beginning to sound a lot like Democratic ideology, but I say it is simply a new progressive tone from the young people who are sick and tired of the radical conservative dogma that has brought this country to its knees over the past few years.

It is apparent that the GOP is losing these young evangelicals in significant numbers, but that could also apply to the left if it isn’t careful.  It will take a definite improvement in the jobs situation to get this group’s attention.  And since elections in the past have been decided by the 40+ crowd, much of the emphasis of the President and fellow Democrats seems to have ignored these young people.  Obama received 33 percent of the young white evangelical vote in 2008, and he can’t win without it and other millennials in 2012.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More gun sense and nonsense

Starting with the ridiculous, New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg has shown the gun freaks once again that he means business.  Some time back he demonstrated how some low-lifes in Arizona and elsewhere in the country were willing and anxious to sell guns to people they had reason to believe did not have the right to own them.  You can read more on this in an earlier Nasty Jack post.


In my post, Bloomberg and Thomas Menino, Mayor of Boston and co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, were asking for an overhaul of the background-check system for gun purchases which allowed such massacres as the one at Virginia Tech which killed 32 people, injuring 17 others, and the most recent in Tucson, Arizona killing 6 and injuring 13, including U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords from Arizona.

Craigslist-New York
But the latest that Bloomberg/Menino have come up with exposes the gun industry once again as being irresponsibly relentless in its pursuit to make firearms available to anyone, no matter what their past, or whether they are fit to own a weapon.  The mayors’ sting operation centered on the online marketplace, particularly Craigslist and Web sites selling firearms. 

These reprehensible gun nuts were willing to sell to NYC investigators that clearly admitted they were probably unable to pass a background check.  Some even said they were too young to buy a gun legally.  These private sellers are not required to make a background check, but knowingly selling to someone who admits to not being able to pass one is a felony.  Just more of the NRA’s best.  In all fairness, there were other instances where the seller refused to make the deal.

And then there was the person who could lose their 2nd Amendment rights over having a medical marijuana card, which borders on ridiculous.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) now says you will lose a “key constitutional right” if you let your state know you take pot medicinally.  Arizona’s make-believe governor, Jan Brewer, and Michigan’s attorney general are already interfering with medical marijuana laws legally passed by their constituents.

In a Nevada case, a woman is challenging this BATFE ruling after trying to buy a gun and being turned down.  If her intent is to have the weapon in her home for protection, it is absurd that the government would deny her this 2nd Amendment right just because she uses the medical marijuana for pain.  However, in terms of issuing her a concealed carry permit to walk the streets with her weapon, I would be absolutely against this and another court case in Oregon is pending on this issue.  It all comes down to what’s reasonable and both sides must give.

Guns and marijuana
Where’s the NRA when you need them?  Just let a situation like this get a little touchy, in this case involving medical marijuana, and they tuck their tail between their legs and hide.  Other larger gun organizations have done the same.  But it could all come down to an order from President Obama that directs BATFE to make an interpretation of the policy, which is in their discretion, to determine that these users are not unlawful due to their regulation under state law.  It’s all about bureaucracy and in this case the gun industry should win.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cell phone users and texters need to grow up

When someone says they are having trouble shaking an addiction to perpetual use of their cell phone or texting, especially while driving, you have to question their propensity toward mental analysis.  In other words, they are a fruitcake.  It becomes even worse when they compare this craving to that of cigarettes or alcohol, which clearly places them in the category of the feeble-minded.  Sorry, but if these people have learned that little discipline in their life, it’s pretty sad.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) this last week recommended a complete ban on the use of cell phones and text messaging devices while driving and this prompted outcries such as the above.  Although it is only a recommendation and states must pass their individual laws, it might be a good thing if the federal government considered such a law.  According to the NTSB, “at any given daylight moment” there are 13.5 million drivers on hand-held phones.  Sometimes it seems they are all right in front of you, right?

The Board also reports that there are 3,092 fatalities on the roadway caused by distracted drivers, a figure which could be underestimated due to reporting methods and drivers who won’t admit what they have done.  "This (distracted driving) is becoming the new DUI. It's becoming epidemic," says the NTSB’s Robert Sumwait.  But everyone agrees that laws are not the only answer; there must be a massive educational campaign to convince the hard-noses.  If you want to compare this with cigarette addiction, education helped reduce smokers.

The straw that broke the cell phone’s back was a 2010 chain-reaction accident close to Gray Summit, Missouri involving a truck, a tractor trailer and two school buses.  The idiot driver of the pickup had sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes prior to the crash.  It’s almost like he didn’t have his eyes on the road at all during this period.  Two people, including the truck driver were killed, 38 others injured.  The driver of the pickup was 19 and was at the time breaking a Missouri law that prohibits drivers under age 21 from texting while driving.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that a “safety-critical event” while driving was 163 times more likely to happen if the driver was texting, e-mailing or surfing the Internet.  Right now there are laws on the books in 35 states that ban text-messaging while driving, 30 that ban cell phone use by “novices,” and 10 that ban all use of hand-held cell phones.  Cell phone companies have successfully lobbied in many states to block these laws and will undoubtedly fight the NTSB recommendation.

Do you know anyone who doesn’t own a cell phone?  In most cases if we did, they would probably be in a coma.  They’re everywhere, and with over 4 percent of the U.S. population—doesn’t sound like much but it’s 13.5 million people—on their cell phone at any moment while they are driving, just how coincidental would it be if one of these distracted lamebrains were to rear-end your car at a red light?  

Socializing on the phone, which probably accounts for much of the activity, should come under the heading of “duh” I really shouldn’t do that.  Doing business; why not wait until you get to the nearest Starbucks?  An emergency is different but in most cases you can pull off the road.

The NTSB knows they have a fight on their hands and an already dysfunctional Congress is not likely to listen to the Agency, at least until after the 2012 elections.  The question is, how many more deaths, many of whom will be innocent drivers, will occur by then?  One thing is for sure; the NTSB will be keeping a record of incidents.

Read more here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

House Speaker Boehner freaks out on payroll tax cut. Is Tea Party to blame?

Speaker John Boener
 It was a slam dunk with a vote in the Senate of 89 to 10 to pass the two-month extension on the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits, also including a deal on the Keystone XL pipeline.  But House Speaker Boehner caved to the Republican caucus that Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer described as “…a small group at the extremetry to dictate every move this nation makes.”  This sounds like Tea Party extremists to me, and once again Boehner has reneged on an agreement.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor
Everyone involved agreed it wasn’t the best and should have instead been a plan to carry these programs through for a full year.  But Boehner had earlier left it to Senate leaders to come up with a deal, one that even Republican Mitch McConnell was in favor of.  But conservative extremists, apparently led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, turned their wrath on Boehner who once again changed his mind and went with the flow.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Schumer question Boehner and the GOP’s ability to lead.

Reid has said repeatedly that the Dems. have supported the two-month deal because “that was the best we could get.”  A statement that seems to reflect a combination of the willingness to negotiate with Republicans—completely contrary to the latter’s refusal to raise taxes—and some degree of weakness that must be turned around soon if progressives are to win control of this country.  It has to start from the top down and we haven’t seen much of that from President Obama.

It is also clear that the GOP is insisting on including the pipeline issue in any payroll tax legislation because they back the oil industry as is the case with any big business.  This, even though there is some credible concern by environmentalists and the state of Nebraska where the pipeline is scheduled to cross.  But politics aside, it is incomprehensible that conservatives would make this demand in light of its opposition possibly scuttling the passage of the whole payroll tax bill, just to support the corporate world.


So what can you expect if the payroll tax bill is not passed?  A cancellation of the program means that individuals will pay from $700 with a salary of $35,000 to $2,341 if you earn $110,000 and up, the maximum.  But there are some questions re. just how much a continuation will spur the economy.  There are those who believe, because it takes such a broad sweep in income, there is not enough emphasis on low and middle-income households which are most likely to do the most spending in the marketplace.

But this whole fiasco is just another example of a dysfunctional government that has now taken on a life of its own.  These morons in Congress walk around in a state of denial, in delusions of grandeur actually believing what they are doing is right.  Power is king and being reelected the only goal of their actions.  However, if they think this goes unnoticed, the Pew Research Center shows discontent with Congress at record levels.  Right now two-thirds of voters believe lawmakers should be voted out of office in 2012.  Amen!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Church condemns interracial marriage then repents

A Kentucky Baptist church voted to ban interracial couples from attending their services.  This was all prompted by a nice couple, Stella Harville, who played the piano in the church and who is white, and her fiancé, Ticha Chikuni, a black from Zimbabwe, who had sung at the church the day they were booted. 

Stella and Ticha
 After the service one of the redneck members came up to Stella’s father, Dan Harville, a member for decades, and said, “Susie and her boyfriend are not allowed to sing in this church anymore.”  He added, “Furthermore, Susie can take her fella back where she found him from.”

Kentucky is my birth state but it is a part of the South, and racism is still prevalent in that part of the country.  Of course this is true all across the U.S. these days and it seems to be getting worse, not better.  It has been 47 years since the Civil Rights Act was enacted on July 2, 1964, so I decided to do some research on Wikipedia to determine just what this epic legislation was designed to do. 

It clearly spells out the fact that you can’t do what the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church in Pike County, Kentucky did.

The bill outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation.  It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public.  It was the dream of John F. Kennedy, but ramrodded through Congress by then President Lyndon Johnson after JFK’s assassination.

The legislation was challenged in both the House and the Senate, in the latter by the "Southern Bloc" of 18 southern Democratic Senators and one Republican Senator led by Richard Russell (D-GA) who launched a filibuster to prevent its passage.  Sen. Strom Thurmond (D-SC) and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) fought the bill until the end when four other senators came up with a compromise piece of legislation that was finally passed in July of 1964.

So is the American public still not ready for interracial marriages?  If not you had better get ready because they have soared since the 1980s, according to the Pew Research Center, accounting for nearly one in seven of all U.S. marriages.  President Barack Obama is the product of a black father and a white mother, which many feel accounts for those who claim to dislike his politics.  An important Pew finding was that the 18 to 29 age group has an 85 percent acceptability rate for interracial marriages.

That is interesting thinking back to growing up in a South where I would constantly butt heads with racists, even KKK members, who not only said I should get out of the South, but some added threats if I didn’t.  It was the young turks like me that refused to conform.  The point here is that Pew claims interracial marriages are important to examine since they could be a barometer for race relations, and these seem to have deteriorated again since the election of President Obama, and the fight now over the immigration issue.

What happened to the “melting pot” ideology?

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