Republicans,Truth About Sequestration, And The Impact On You

I’ve been asked a lot over the past few weeks why in the world the US Congress would allow rather unfocused budget cuts to come into effect.

New to the term Sequestration?  CNN explains it for us nicely.

It’s a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts to government agencies, totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The cuts would be split 50-50 between defense and domestic discretionary spending.

Another cliff!  (I will avoid the obvious Lemming/cliff connection…)

Yes, Sequestration is the same sort of poison pill packaged we just witnessed with the tax portion of the fiscal cliff.

And letting these cuts happen, when they were designed to be so painful that nobody ever envisioned they would be allowed to transpire, seems borderline insane.  Congress was supposed to come up with a real, targeted plan of budget cuts. They did not.

What’s worse, is that letting these cuts happen will most certainly have a negative impact on a economy that is precarious at best. Lawmakers know this.

But here we go again anyway.

Why?

Politics of blame looking toward 2016?  Certainly.

A sign of the incredible disfunction now crippling Washington? Absolutely.

Will damage to the economy through these cuts help the GOP in 2016 and the next Presidential election cycle?  They think it will.

But it really boils down to this:

Republicans, led by Paul Ryan, want to “Starve The Beast“.  That is, to shrink the Federal Government to its smallest possible size and allow the private sector to take over the vast majority of public services.

One needs only to look at the wonderfully low cost of healthcare to see how this would look in the Education Department, the FDA, the EPA (likely DOA) and so on.

The Republican dream of a country run by the markets would be realized all via a trojan horse.

And how does this impact you?

Well, the folks at the Washington Post have an excellent breakdown of each State and what is at stake.

It is a must read.

And you shouldn’t be surprised that it will be felt hardest in the area of education. Cuts to school budgets mean the real loss of teachers and the elimination of programs that benefit the youngest and neediest. (Education should be any country’s greatest priority, for the benefits are indisputable.)

But hey, why should that bother lawmakers?  It certainly won’t be felt by their families.

So bravo Congress!

Keep up the good work.

 

 

Mentally Ill South Carolina Woman Shoots Down NRA’s Gun Control Positions

UPDATED

Welcome to the NRA’s America.

A mentally ill South Carolina woman is charged with attempted murder after she showed up outside a local school, pointed her gun at teachers and pulled the trigger.

The gun did not fire.

Alice Boland, a 28-year-old Beaufort woman with a long history of mental illness, was arrested at Ashley Hall in Charleston, South Carolina on Monday, February 4th 2013 in the midst of gun control debates in the US.

According the The Post and Courier:

About 50 students and school officials were standing outside the gate on Rutledge Avenue waiting for parents to pick up children. Boland walked up to Mary Schweers, director of the upper school, pointed a Taurus PT22 with eight rounds in the magazine at her and pulled the trigger several times.

The .22-caliber didn’t fire. The semi-automatic has a capacity of nine rounds, but there was no cartridge in the chamber.

But is was loaded and it was functional. Thankfully, she had no idea how to use it. (so much for gun owner education)

What’s worse is that she had a long, documented history of threatening mental illness:

In 2005 she was indicted in a federal court and ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation after an incident at US Customs pre-screening at Montreal’s Trudeau Airport.

“I am going to kill President Bush with a gun,” she said, according to an arrest affidavit. “Just give me a gun. I am going to come back and shoot you all.”

Doctors deemed her mentally unfit to stand trial and forcefully injected her with anti-psychotic drugs.

You really need to read the whole bizarre story to understand how incredibly lucky those teachers and students are.

And now the part that completely destroys the core arguments made by the NRA and other gun support lobby groups:

She legally obtained the handgun two days earlier.

Let that roll around in your mind for a moment.

Yes, because there are no universal background checks, because there is no mental health database linked to it, because of the ridiculously easy access to semi-automatic weapons, this delusional psychopath almost killed a number of people, including possibly, young girls waiting for their parents.

Is this your America NRA?

And with all due respect to the stupidest of the NRA’s ideas – no – armed guards would not have stopped her from getting off a number of rounds before reacting, thanks to the nature of the gun and the element of surprise. It would have been too late for the victims.

I want you to really think about this situation the next time you hear some lobbyist for the NRA or other such gun groups spout off about the root causes of the problem.

They will blame violent video games, but then release a shooting game of their own.

They will blame mental health “issues” but then block any form of national database and universal background checks that could have prevented this woman from obtaining this gun legally.

And if she had been successful, if she had known how to fire this loaded weapon, the lack of these sensible laws, the common sense ideas being blocked by the NRA would have been one of the root causes of this tragedy.

And the NRA would have blood on its hands.

The other root cause would be what is always the single, common thread in all of these incidents.

The common denominator.

Ridiculously easy access to guns.

Eliminate this one thing, make it far more difficult to qualify to carry, limit the automation of these weapons, and you go a long way to solving the problem.

The time to act is now, before the next gun fires as planned.

 

UPDATE

It appears this young woman, Alice Boland used her parent’s old checkbook to spend the $320 required for the Taurus PT22.  Worse, the gun shop failed to notice that the name on the check did not match the name on her drivers’ license.  That one small step should have prevented the sale.

Attempts to contact Walterboro Gun Shop and its owner, Robert Mock, were not successful.

Despite her very troubled mental health history – reported by the Post and Courier,  Boland passed a background check and correctly answered that she had never been deemed “mentally deficient,” which would have prohibited her from buying the gun. She has never been convicted of a crime, though she faced a felony charge in 2005 for reportedly threatening the president.

Does anyone else see a huge problem with the system as it is?  Can anyone honestly say that it doesn’t need fixing?

This proves, with certainly, that guns are far to easy to purchase.

 

 

NRA’s Wayne LaPierre Proclaims No New Gun Laws – Ever

Now that the control of semi-automatic weapons appears all but dead in the current US gun debate, NRA chief Wayne LaPierre has proclaimed that there should be “no new gun laws” whatsoever.

As if inexplicably changing his mind on universal background checks wasn’t enough, (having previously embraced them wholeheartedly) Mr. LaPierre even defended the NRA’s controversial TV ad referencing President Obama’s children when challenged by Fox’s Chris Wallace. (One of the dumbest ads ever unloaded upon the public)

Since this organization has a mere 4.5 million members, one must ask a very serious question:  why does his opinion matter?

Why does this one, small group hold such sway over American public safety?

Why does Mr. LaPierre and his administration ignore the sentiment of even his own members employers?

And why do US voters continue to allow their elected officials in Congress to cower from such a small, albeit vocal minority?

It’s time to answer these questions in a factual, clear and honest manner.

Before it is too late.

 

 

President Obama, Gay Rights, Discrimination And A Simple Solution

One of the things I hope to do here on these pages, is to boil seemingly complicated issues down to their simplest form.

In his second inaugural address, President Obama did the same, when it comes to marriage equality for the LGBT community:

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well”

Exactly.

Let me say this another way – a democratic government of a free people can not, must not, discriminate against a group of law abiding citizens in any way, shape or form.  

Period.

It is as simple as that.

DOMA is a national disgrace, and will be found mostly unconstitutional.

States that have allowed a simple 50 + 1 majority vote to limit the rights of a minority are dangerously similar to those countries past and present that the same politicians and citizens rightly look down upon as inferior to a free country such as the United States.

And there is no possible constitutional, moral or ethical argument for such discrimination. None.

It is hypocrisy in its simplest form, but on a grand scale.

If a government is going to be in the business of recognizing marriages, it must recognize them all.  

Every single one.

It is as simple as that.

 

 

NRA Releases Shooting Video Game For 4 Year Olds

The headline is accurate – you really can’t make this stuff up.

To be fair it is for ages “4 And Up”, which of course, makes it all so much better.

Find the app on iTunes and then read the NRA quote blaming violent video games for mass shootings here. Then shake your head in disbelief once that odd, incredulous feeling starts to fade…

Hypocritical? No.  They believe this stuff.

Tasteless? Absolutely. Especially one month after Sandy Hook.

Surprising?

Sadly, no.

 

 

Canada’s National Post Deliberately Misleads Readers, Betrays Public Trust

Readers of these pages will know that I have a long history of calling out misleading news organizations.  In fact, it is one of the reasons this site exists.

Therefore, you will also know that Canada’s National Post is without doubt, the most biased and misleading major news organization in Canada.

Their most recent disservice to readers comes from a usual source for them – climate change.

Let me lay this out for you.

  • The report gets picked up by major news organizations.
  • Despite the report being simply an analysis of temperature and precipitation, there is a logical progression in the reporting about climate change and the use of this data to add another piece to that puzzle.

Over at the National Post, they ignore the story entirely.

Now, if they choose to ignore the story, so be it. No surprise there.

But instead, in true National Post fashion, they go out and find another story in an attempt to lessen the impact of this other factual report that they are ignoring.

Headline:

“Global warming hasn’t stopped, but it has stalled, says new prediction from British national weather service”

And the first sentence in Joseph Brean’s “article”:

“Global warming has stalled and will not raise world temperatures over the next five years, according to a new prediction from the British national weather service”

And then Brean goes on to totally skew the findings for his own agenda.

Why do I say this?

Well first, there is a much more factual reporting of the findings from the BBC that includes more balance in the assessment of what is simply a new computer model prediction. (This of course, is how real reporting is supposed to work..)

Second, the National Post “article” goes on to spend most of its time quoting two well known climate change experts skeptics, Ross McKitrick and Bruce Pardy.  Both have strong ties to organizations who receive their funding from the Koch Foundation and Exxon Mobile, not to mention right wing think-tanks like the Fraser Institute.

Add these dubious associations to the fact that one is an economist and the other a law professor and they have zero credibility.

Worse, no opposing viewpoint is offered for balance.

This tactic is almost and exact blueprint of their behaviour previously.

Mr. Brean even has the nerve to state that McKitrick “…was instrumental in debunking the famous “hockey stick” graph of rising global temperatures.”

Oh dear…

The graph was not debunked.  It was eventually upheld as the best science available at the time, despite some obvious concerns.  Michael Mann’s research was, for the most part, validated and eventually some of his critics, discredited.

To say otherwise floats dangerously close to deliberate, false reporting.

And that is a new low, even for the National Post.

Look, you simply MUST be able to trust your news source and unfortunately for Canadians, the National Post continues to betray the public trust.

They do not deserve your time, money or support.

 

UPDATE:

Seems the editors at the National Post have decided to double down on the headline to their story:

“Experts cool on global warming: Weather office cuts temperature predictions by 20% in ‘return to humility’”

Gee, that is so much better…

 

 

Hobby Lobby, Obamacare, Discrimination And Evangelicals

In case you have missed it, yet another US company owned by an evangelical Christian family has challenged the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on religious grounds.

Craft store chain Hobby Lobby is facing fines of perhaps 1.3 million dollars per day for noncompliance, after refusing to obey the rules of the new law.

These objections center around the requirement to provide contraceptives to employees through its company health care plan, because they feel that some contraceptive products, like the morning after pill, equate to abortion.

I have no interest in debating the various religious reasons for their opinion on this, nor do I care to discuss abortion.

The bottom line is much simpler than that.

It equates to two key words in the proper name of “Obamacare” – Patient Protection.

This type of situation, in part, is exactly what the new law set out to prevent – discrimination against an employee at the hands of an employer (or insurer).

Hobby Lobby’s owners, the evangelical Christian Green family, want to impose their personal religious beliefs on each and every one of their 13,000 employees.

Think about that for a moment. Read it again:

Hobby Lobby’s owners, the evangelical Christian Green family, want to impose their personal religious beliefs on each and every one of their 13,000 employees.

Each time I read that line, it triggers mental comparisons to other countries in the world that we so easily look down upon. Countries who’s leaders adhere to strict religious dogma and oppress minorities, including women.  And we let ourselves think it is beneath us to act in the same manner.

And yet, the evangelical crowd, the Mike Huckabees and the Denny Burks of the world are treating this fight like a holy war.

Huckabee has a well known response for these situations and in addition to copying his Chick-fil-A type “appreciation day” blueprint, he managed to utter this:

The Obama administration insists that companies like Hobby Lobby bow their knees to the God of government health care mandates, even when those mandates are a clear and direct contradiction to their personal beliefs of faith.

The key line here Mike is “personal beliefs”.

I suggest the Green family respect the “personal beliefs” of those employees who disagree with their own religious leanings and simply mind their own business.  What their employees choose to do when not stocking the shelves with craft supplies and model rockets is their own business alone.

And furthermore, do these employees not pay for some of this health care through deductions?

Then there is evangelical blogger Denny Burk.  He has a few choice thoughts as well:

This is the kind of business [Hobby Lobby] that we need more of in this country, not less. What we don’t need is for the government to put such people out of business by fining them over $1 million dollars a day. Yet that is exactly what is happening right now because the Greens are not complying with Obamacare’s abortion mandate.

Abortion mandate?  Seriously Denny?  It is no such thing and you, as an educated person, and as an educator, darn well know it. The Greens are willfully breaking the law.  They are committing a crime by doing so. And a million a day is not going to put them out of business – they will never let it go that far.

But Denny is just getting warmed up:

Would you have a problem if the federal government required you to purchase goods or services that you believe to be immoral and against your most deeply held beliefs? That is precisely what is happening to Hobby Lobby right now.

Hmmm… I suppose one could say that buying auto insurance violates my rights.  How about contributing to Social Security?  Gee, I love peace, so it is immoral to have taxes diverted to tanks and nukes. We can do this all day. It is an intellectually childish argument. (And again, do the employees not pay a significant portion of their own insurance through payroll deductions? Does this not give them the right to have some input?)

My favorite:

The first line of the Bill of Rights says this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Obamacare prohibits the free exercise of the owners of Hobby Lobby.

First of all, this “free exercise” line applies to churches, groups and organizations, not owners of a billion dollar craft and hobby business.  And, the exceptions for these aforementioned groups has already been added to the legislation – even though it likely should not have been.

Second, the owners of Hobby Lobby have no right whatsoever to impose their own religious beliefs on their 13,000 employees against their will.  The Greens have no right to discriminate against any employee who does not hold the same religious views as they do.

Period.

And the Hobby Lobbys, the religious groups, the individuals and the politicians who support this holy war are not fearing the loss of religious freedom.  No.  They fear the loss of religious discrimination. The loss of having their religion of choice at the top of the totem pole.

Period.

I will state this once again – America is not a theocracy. It will never be a theocracy.  And history is littered with societies that tried to mix governmental policy with evangelical religious beliefs .

It never, ever ends well.

Now, a couple of facts.

  • Obamacare does not cover RU-486, the abortion pill. The emergency contraceptives it does cover such as Plan B, aka ‘The Morning After Pill,” do not abort. Plan B was once thought to prevent implantation, but subsequent studies found that it only prevents fertilization of an egg. Implantation can and still does, occur.
  • Hobby Lobby fills its stores with supplies almost exclusively imported from low-cost, low-wage suppliers in China.  And yes, the morality of this is certainly fair to discuss in this case, as the Greens are making a moral argument.  Glass houses after all…

With regard to requiring insurers to provide specific procedures and medications across the board, to everyone who wishes that access, think of it this way:

A universal type health care system must not discriminate. Period. That is why it is “universal”. The government and private insurers must not discriminate against anyone whatsoever, ever. Period. Protecting employees from the beliefs of their employers is absolutely necessary, as this case proves. Period.

Full stop.

And end of story.