Saturday solutions for stewing

Get out your crock pots and Dutch ovens! It is time to stew a few ideas throughout the day to see if they have merit. This is not intended to solve world problems, but are some changes that might help. We can only try.

I love Pope Francis. He is entertaining the idea to slightly alter the end of the Lord’s Prayer. It sounds reasonable, but here is a more provocative change that will help many Catholics – allow Priests to be married again. What you might say, again? Yes, Priest were married until the 1100s, when it was banned, with some continuing to be married into the 1500s, as they did not get the memo. This would reduce pedophilia in the Priesthood and attract a more community-minded type of minister, who knows about the trials and tribulations of relationships.

Money and the influence it buys is a huge problem in the US. Here are a few changes. Pass a 28th amendment that says money does not equate to free speech and overturns Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions by the Supreme Court. The former greases the skids for dark money and the latter lets big donors influence local races they have nothing to do with. If you are not a voter in that location, you should not be able to fund the race. The other amendment is to shorten the election process and offer term limits as we do for the President. This will be cheered by many. Twelve years is enough for a Senator and Congressperson.

The Washington Post did an in-depth piece that counted the number of out-and-out, provable lies made by the last two Presidents. Our friend Gronda did an excellent piece on this last week*. The verdict, Obama in eight years had 18 lies, averaging to two per year. In ten months, Trump had 103. To add to this, a study was done by Politifacts that concluded Trump lies 69% of the time as President and 70% of the time as a candidate. But, this is not new, as his five biographers and ghost writer for “The Art of the Deal” said Trump has a problem with the truth. Stew on this comment – if you see Trump talking or read his tweeting, the odds are that he is lying. He said the FBI is in tatters, which is directly contradicted by two people he appointed – Jeff Sessions and Chris Wray, the head of Justice and FBI. He also keeps saying there is no collusion….

Finally, the best line I heard by a pundit was quite simple. People considering running for office – if you have sexually assaulted or harassed someone in the past – please save us the time and you the embarrassment and do not run for office. It will come out. I personally do not know why supporters of Roy Moore and Donald Trump cannot fathom that they each sexually assaulted and harassed women. The sad truth is one got elected and one almost did. But, neither should have won as both are men of little character. We have not heard the last of Trump’s travails, although he will deny it.

* https://grondamorin.com/2017/12/15/the-truth-about-president-trump-versus-president-obama/

Buying America for $889 Million

What you say, you did not know America was for sale? A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how the oligarchy is more empowered to buy political influence given the amount of money in politics. This investment is further facilitated by the Citizens United and McCutcheon US Supreme Court decisions which give greater reign to folks with money to fund political candidates.

On cue, the Koch Brothers, two of the wealthiest men in America whose money is traceable to the fossil fuel industry, have publicly stated a desire to invest $889 million in the 2016 Presidential race. Note the use of the term “investment” rather than “spend.” The Koch Brothers, like other members of our oligarchy, are investing in a politician to win to insure their interests are representated. The Koch Brothers are citizens, just as we are, and are entitled to invest their money, but the remaining citizens need to be asking more questions.

– Why would you spend $889 million to sway an election?

– What do you expect in return for such an investment?

– Is the fact that your money is linked to the fossil fuel industry have anything to do with your investment in the potential next President?

I mention this last question in that the industry has been in full public relations campaign mode ever since “An Inconvenient Truth” was produced to reveal the impact of climate change. The PR campaign has been hugely successful in first convincing some that climate change was a hoax. Now that it is apparent climate change is not a hoax, the line in the sand has been redrawn to say climate change is real, but the evidence that it is man-influenced is based in imperfect science.

These are public relations strategies meant to confuse the issue and allow the continued expansion or perpetuation of fossil fuel retrieval and use. It should be noted the same public relations firm that was so successful with the hoax campaign is the same one who has been telling us how safe fracking is. The lack of safety of the fracking process is increasingly becoming apparent as the evidence of water and air pollution, earthquakes and environmental degradation mount.

While I am disappointed in some of the measures taken by President Obama on fossil fuel expansion, he is at least doing something about climate change and accelerating expansion in renewable energy which is producing jobs, as well. Yet, the deference to the fossil fuel industry made by the President is not good enough for some of our wealthy citizens who benefit from the fossil fuel industry. With a faster migration away from fossil fuel needed, the Koch Brothers need a President that will do their beckoning to push off climate change actions that the rest of the world is doing. We are already ten years behind where we should be, but they want to push it further out, until it is too late and they have made their money.

These are the questions we should be asking. Since we do not pay attention and some who do will only pay attention to pseudo news sources that are speaking from the Koch playbook, we are not in a good a position in our country to fend off the wolves from our democracy. I recognize there are wolves on both sides of the political equation, but we need to be mindful of who money is being spent by and on and ask questions. Please look into the Move to Amend the constitution to not equate money with free speech and to note that corporations are not people. A link to the petition is below. http://movetoamend.nationbuilder.com/petition.

To be honest, there is very little chance that “we the people” can hold back this tide. Money is power and does buy influence, but we must at least do our best to maintain our democracy and keep our politicians honest. We can start by paying attention to real news and asking more questions.

Voting rights have greatly evolved from when we started, yet are under attack

When our Constitution and Bill of Rights were drafted and approved about 225 years ago, only 5% of our people could vote. Women were not permitted to vote. Slaves were not permitted to vote, but were considered 3/5 a person to give more weight to predominant slave-owning states in Congressional representation. So, pretty much you had to be a property owner to vote.

Our history of voting rights has been an effort to increase the 5%. Slaves were given the right to vote when the Civil War ended, but when they had too much clout, Jim Crow slapped them down. Women were given the right to vote less than 100 years ago, which is still amazing it took that long when you look backwards from today. The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act passed fifty years ago remedied Jim Crow’s suppression of African-American votes. And, it has taking an ongoing effort to make sure maltreatment of minority voters is not occurring.

Yet, we seem to have a hard time remembering what we are all about. I have written several times about the cookie cutter Voter ID Laws which have other features designed to suppress the vote of young college students, African-Americans and the elderly. Several of these laws have been ruled unconstitutional and are in various stages of appeal. In my own state of North Carolina, the most restrictive Voter ID Law will be on trial next year and should be overturned for unconstitutionally. The question is will it.

Also, in the last two years, our Supreme Court struck down some of the policing and auditing under the Voting Rights Act, saying it was no longer needed. To this day, I am wondering what country our Supreme Court justices reside in, as the country I live in still has some suppressive tendencies, as noted above. When people want less turnout to win an election, then something is wrong.

When you couple the above items with gerrymandering districts, we no longer have competitive elections in many places. The competition is in the primaries for each party and what we end up with, more often than not, are lesser candidates and officials. With so much strident extremism in our major political parties, a moderate candidate does not stand a chance. So, we citizens are malserved as we need more moderate candidates who can govern and understand their party does not have all of the answers. Some are not even permitted to understand the questions and problems per below and are not allowed to think for themselves.

I will be writing in the future about the recent rulings in the Supreme Court which made an age-old problem worse, by making it easier for a wealthy few to control elections. Money is now equated with free speech. Corporations are now people. Together, these rulings allow those with the most money to more easily write the rules. And, our country’s leaders are not listening as much to its citizens, paying more attention to its donors who helped them get elected.

This has got to change, as our problems are too apparent and opportunity is not equal in our country. And, those with the most money want to keep it that way. There is a movement to amend the constitution to restore order by overturning these Supreme Court decisions. In Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Florida, citizens voted overwhelmingly for their legislators to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and declare that only human beings – not corporations – are entitled to constitutional rights and that money is not speech and campaign spending can be regulated.

Please look into the movement called Move to Amend and learn more about what it entails. But, also get more informed over the issues of the day and pay less attention to the spin-doctored misinformation offered by pseudo-news sources. We have to hold our leaders accountable, as it is a huge uphill climb.

A few more odds and ends at mid-year

Since we are just beyond the halfway point of the year, I thought I would touch on a couple of issues in the news. In no particular order:

But, we have been fracking for over 60 years…

T. Boone Pickens, the famous oil man, was on CBS Good Morning News talking about how safe fracking is and we have been doing it for over 60 years. This is a common refrain from people in the fossil fuel industry to indicate how safe a process it is. This line of reasoning is disingenuous, as while that is true, the way they are fracking now, both vertically and horizontally, has only been done for the last few years. Fracking has never been safe, it is just people outside the industry are paying attention more. But, the new process has significantly greater pressure points where failure can occur. I also was tickled that Mr. Pickens pretended not to be aware of the $3 million jury award against a fracker for a family whose health has been impacted. Of course, he is aware of this as it is “a canary in a coal mine,” pun intended.

When every issue is a political game, nothing gets done…

I saw a funny line in the Letter to the Editor section of my paper. If Congress can sue the President for aggressive executive actions, can we sue Congress for dereliction of duty.  Most Americans are weary of all the political gamesmanship in some “zero-sum game of chess” where someone must win and someone must lose. Common Core was a bipartisan plan favored by business and teachers for the US to compete better globally. But, with the President behind it, the extremists in the opposing party had to be against it and now some states are repealing it. It should be improved not gotten rid of, so says the teachers. Obamacare is patterned after a Republican idea in Romneycare that was supported by Tea Party leadership for the whole country. Once Obamacare was passed, the leadership said BOTH Romneycare and Obamacare was unconstitutional. Again, Obamacare, which is showing some success, should be improved, but not repealed, so says the majority of voters.

The US and the world has some challenges, cooler heads must prevail…

As I wrote in an earlier post quoting a line from the movie Troy, “war is old men talking and young men dying.” Women are also dying as soldiers and pawns in extremist and terrorist actions. If we are going to commit people to die, let’s makes sure we know who we are fighting against, who we are fighting with, what are we fighting for, what will be different if we do fight and, above all things, are their diplomatic and economic pressures that could be deployed to avoid killing people.

The President has done some things poorly, but he should be commended for rallying countries together to economically punish Russia. The worst punishment for Russia is they are made to look untrustworthy like their leader which has led to an exit of capital. This is far from over, but so far, we have stayed away from a far worse scenario. Obama was too slow to act in Syria, but doing due diligence and helping on a targeted basis in Iraq is a judicious move. The last thing we need to do is bomb the hell out of people before we know what is what. And, we certainly should not be listening to a former Vice President, who did exactly that on top of a lie as a reason to invade,

The response to 9/11 is making the US look bad….

Many of our allies were 100% behind us after 9/11. However, as we set up the apparatus to make our country safer,  we have stepped on not only US citizens’ rights, but the rights of others around the world. I recognize spying has been going on since the dawn of civilization, but we have to treat our allies with better respect, if we want them to do so in return. I realize there is a need for cyber intelligence gathering, but we have to have the utmost in stewardship and governance. If this spy in Germany story points a finger at the US, then we need to do some major apologies and not let it happen again. American citizens and our global counterparts deserve better than this.

Our only recourse to Citizens United and other enablers is to not listen…

I have seen enviable activity to garner signatures in attempt to alter election funding laws in response to the poor decisions of the Supreme Court on these issues. Yet, like Sisyphus, we will be rolling a boulder uphill on this. We should try, but an additional strategy is well with our grasp. In fact, we hold the key in our hands. Mute all campaign commercials, as they are at best an embellishment. Obama’s presidential campaign commercials were proven to be 50% accurate, while Romney’s were proven to be only 33% accurate, so you are better off not watching. Those which are funded by out-of-state organizations with innocent sounding apple pie names, are the ones which we especially need to avoid. Also, please stop watching the book end faux news sources in Fox and MSNBC, which provide at best, a spin doctored version of the news. Any show that has people like Karl Rove on it should be avoided, as he is a professional spin doctor. He is paid to put perfume on any pig and does it very well.

That is all I choose to write about for now. Unfortunately, there is so much more on the agenda I could opine on. I would love to read your thoughts.

PS – Please check out Roseylinn’s post on a different take on the Hobby Lobby decision at http://roseylinn.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/birth-control-vs-e-d-drugs/

There are votes and there are votes that count

A couple of events occurred last week that galvanized my concern for democracy in our country. They impede our essential right that each of our votes is important and it should be made as easy as possible for us to cast them. Yet, after last week, it is apparent that all of our votes are not important and they certainly are not equal. We have been evolving toward this, but American democracy is up for sale and it goes to the highest bidder. Unless you have a lot of money, your voice does not really count that much. If your call as a constituent is answered, it will only be after your legislator takes a call from someone across the country that funded his or her campaign.

Last week, our Supreme Court ruled on a case called McCutcheon vs. the Federal Election Commission. In essence, the 5 to 4 ruling said it was OK for someone to spread his or her money around and fund as many candidates as possible. Apparently, the previous rule was infringing on the freedom of speech of wealthy people to have a stake in candidates around the country. When added to one of the worst rulings ever made by our Supreme Court in the infamous Citizens United case, people with money and influence can attempt to buy as many elections as possible. The latter ruling on top of previous ones allows unlimited funding of Super PACs to fund advertisements to discredit an opponent of one they favor. These rulings make it easier for an oligarchy to rule our country and state. My friend Barney has a great post on this topic from last week: http://mountainperspective.wordpress.com/2014/04/page/2/

That was only the beginning of the week’s events. Various states like mine in North Carolina (NC) have put forth similar, restrictive voter suppression laws under the guise of Voter ID. A few months ago, a less suppressive law than the one in NC was found unconstitutional in Pennsylvania. The NC law is being sued for unconstitutionality by four separate entities with multiple parts of the law designed to suppress votes of the elderly, African-Americans and college students. This independent voter will not be surprised to see it declared as such when the ruling is made. In fact, the NC Attorney General told the legislature that this law was unconstitutional before it was passed.

These Voter ID Laws were passed to combat the illusion of rampant voter fraud. As former Secretary of State Colin Powell noted in a speech in Raleigh there is no evidence of rampant voter fraud. Our rampant voting problem in this country is not enough people voting. But, last week in an effort to show there is rampant voter fraud, a study was done and found 765 cases of potential dual state voting cases in the last presidential election in NC. This should be looked into as to why this happened, but let’s put things in perspective and look at the numbers. In the 2012 presidential election, North Carolinians cast 4,499,039 votes. If you divide 765 by 4,499,039 you get a result of .017% (less than 2/100th of a percent). This very low percentage would support Mr. Powell’s assertion that we do not have rampant voter fraud.

So, what should we do about all of this? First, we should mute every campaign commercial we can. Just don’t listen to what the funders are selling. In the last Presidential campaign, FactCheck.org said only 1 out of 3 commercials for Romney was fully correct and 1 out of 2 for Obama. So, with those percentages, you are more informed by not watching. Second, we should get informed about the candidates and not the party they represent. Read and watch reputable news sources and not those who will have a biased spin on the news or cover the game of politics and not the issues. The latter especially includes Fox News and MSNBC which provide a version of the news that is spun to fit the demographics of viewers.

Third, let’s advocate common sense voter laws. Let’s start with passing bi-partisan redistricting laws designed to prevent gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is harmful to governance and it hurts both parties, as we end up with unopposed candidates and makes it easier for politicians who are the party fringes to get elected. Next, let’s repeal all Voter ID Laws like the one in NC, before they are ruled unconstitutional; that will save legal fees and let us replace them with more common sense laws to promote voting. A new Voter law should include automatic runoff voting, which means you rank your candidates, so when a runoff is needed, the system can do a runoff election without another vote. This is far cheaper and runoff elections often vote in a candidate with fewer than 10% of the voters making it to the polls. Let’s also change how we call on people for jury duty. This is an impediment to people signing up for voting. And, let’s repeal any laws that make it easier to influence elections of judges. The change made last year in NC, e.g., is akin to the horrible Supreme Court decisions above as it gives people with money too much influence over judges.

Democracy is under fire. We need to do what we can to make all of our votes count. The above is a start. But, don’t just believe me, I would encourage you to watch Bill Moyers’ documentary from earlier this year called “State of Conflict – North Carolina” to get a better sense of how our democracy has been polluted in my state as an example of what can and is happening. http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-state-of-conflict-north-carolina/