Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Joan Walsh: McCain Was Cowardly To Put Palin A Heartbeat From Presidency

Speaking to MSNBC's Al Sharpton, Joan Walsh criticized Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) response to the Ukranian crisis. McCain referred to the administration as "cowardly"for not giving weapons to Ukraine and, true to his constant advocacy for military action, called for placing troops and missiles throughout Eastern Europe to confront Russia–"just for openers." Walsh said, "The idea that you would send more weaponry into an area like this where people are already misusing weapons obviously is crazy. And, you know, Senator McCain, I'm not sure that there's been a conflict in recent years that he hasn't thought that we should have more troops and more weapons from Iran to Iraq, Libya, Syria, Nigeria and now Ukraine." Regarding McCain's use of the word "cowardly," Walsh said, "You don’t say that about the commander-in-chief. This is a man, I respect him for his service, but if we’re going to talk 'cowardly,' somebody tried to put Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency so that he hoped to hold onto his right-wing base. Somebody that has a lot to atone for and a lot to think about shouldn’t be tossing around words like 'cowardly.' " Watch:

Monday, July 21, 2014

Central American Children Feeling Homeland Violence

Over the past few weeks, we've seen ugly protests against immigrant mothers and children, along with xenophobic comments by Republican Representatives McCaul, Bachmann and Gohmert. A New York Times article, "Fleeing Gangs, Children Head To U.S. Border," focuses on the horrific violence these children face in their homelands. They deserve our compassion and should be considered refugees seeking a safe haven:

The killings are a major factor driving the recent wave of migration of Central American children to the United States, which has sent an unprecedented number of unaccompanied minors across the Texas border. Many children and parents say the rush of new migrants stems from a belief that United States immigration policy offers preferential treatment to minors, but in addition, studies of Border Patrol statistics show a strong correlation between cities like San Pedro Sula with high homicide rates and swarms of youngsters taking off for the United States.

...Honduran children are increasingly on the front lines of gang violence. In June, 32 children were murdered in Honduras, bringing the number of youths under 18 killed since January of last year to 409, according to data compiled by Covenant House, a youth shelter in Tegucigalpa, the capital.

With two major youth gangs and more organized crime syndicates operating with impunity in Central America, analysts say immigration authorities will have a difficult time keeping children at home unless the root causes of violence are addressed.

In 2012, the number of murder victims ages 10 to 14 had doubled to 81 from 40 in 2008, according to the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University of Honduras. Last year, 1,013 people under 23 were murdered in a nation of eight million.

Although homicides dropped sharply in 2012 after a gang truce in neighboring El Salvador, so far this year murders of children 17 and under are up 77 percent from the same time period a year ago, the police said.

...Refugee advocacy organizations have urged the State Department to treat the children arriving at the United States border as refugees, and proposed a processing system where asylum claims could be reviewed in Central America and those accepted could move safely to the United States or countries willing to accept them, as was done in countries such as Haiti and Iraq. They have not yet received a response, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said.

VOA Photo: A Border Patrol agent stands on a ranch fence line with children taken into custody in South Texas brush country north of Laredo, Texas.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bill Moyers: America's Mad Dash To Oligarchy

Bill Moyers reports that while top CEOs made 331 times more than the average worker, many paid a lower tax rate than members of the middle class. “Inequality,” he asserts, “has turned Washington into a protection racket for the one percent. It buys all those goodies from government: tax breaks, tax havens allowing corporations and the rich to park their money in a no-tax zone, loopholes, favors like carried interest.” Moyers referred to a study asserting that “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened” and that the influence of the average American is "miniscule." He concluded that it’s up to us to stop this “mad dash to oligarchy.” Watch:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Remembering Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter, among the greatest of blues guitarists, passed away at 70 last Wednesday. The Texas-born Winter, who recorded with one of his blues heroes, Muddy Waters, was renowned for his fiery, high-octane playing and raw vocals. Performing above in Barcelona, Spain, 1990, he applied his blistering slide guitar to Elmore James' "Stranger Blues."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mike Papantonio: Multinational Corporations Colonizing The U.S.

Speaking to MSNBC's Michael Eric Dyson, Mike Papantonio spoke about the dark money from multinational corporations that is corrupting our politics–and its applications to the minimum wage battle in Florida and Republican Gov. Rick Scott's $72 million campaign war chest. Papantonio referred to Howard Zinn, Chalmers Johnson and Studs Terkel, who predicted that corporations would colonize our country by using dark money to bribe regulators and politicians, bust unions and ruin the environment. Seems that all three historians were, unfortunately, quite prescient. Watch:

Obama Criticizes GOP For Failing To Help The Middle Class

In his weekly address, President Obama criticized the Republicans for obstructing every measure to help the middle class, including lifting the minimum wage, fair pay and student loan reform. Instead, House Speaker John Boehner wasted time and taxpayers' money on the political stunt of suing the president–an unpopular action from which he's since distanced himself. Watch:

OBAMA: But so far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked every serious idea to strengthen the middle class. Lifting the minimum wage, fair pay, student loan reform—they’ve said no to all of it. And that’s when I’ve acted this year to help working Americans on my own—when Congress won’t act. I’ve taken actions to attract new jobs, lift workers’ wages, help students pay off their loans, and more. And the Republican plan right now is not to do some of this work with me—instead, it’s to sue me. That’s actually what they’re spending their time on. It’s a political stunt that’s going to waste months of America’s time. And by the way, they’re going to pay for it using your hard-earned tax dollars. I have a better idea. Do something, Congress. Do anything to help working Americans. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Eden Foods Battles Contraception Coverage Mandate

Despite the fact that Eden Foods markets to liberals with appeals such as ”Organic agriculture is society’s brightest hope for positive change,” the company has sued the Obama administration to exempt itself from the mandate to cover contraception under the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, which stated that "for-profit corporations controlled by religious families" have the right not to provide insurance coverage for birth control and emergency contraception, has boosted Eden Foods' contention that insurance coverage for contraception violates its religious beliefs:

Clinton, Mich.-based Eden Foods, a natural foods company that makes soy milk and other organic products, appears on track to win its fight with the federal government over funding insurance coverage of contraception in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial Hobby Lobby ruling.

Last week, after its ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a judgment against Eden Foods and sent a lawsuit back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit for further consideration.

Eden Foods claims the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is violating the company's religious beliefs by requiring the company to pay for health care services, including contraception. The Eden Foods case was separate from the Hobby Lobby case but argued similar issues.

"We were convinced that actions of the federal government were illegal, and so filed a formal objection," the company said in a statement on its Web site last week. "The recent Supreme Court decision confirms, at least in part, that we were correct."

Eden Foods Founder and CEO Michael Potter, who has compared contraceptives to "lifestyle drugs," is a devout Catholic who does not believe companies should be forced to fund insurance that includes that coverage.

The Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that some family-owned or other closely held businesses can opt out of a federal requirement to pay for contraceptives in health coverage for their workers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Conservatives Making Vehicles Purposely Spew Toxic Smoke

Conservatives who dislike the Obama administrations's emissions regulations, as well as liberals and environmentalists, are "making a statement" by "coal rolling," altering diesel trucks to enable them to pour thick toxic smoke into the air. They even have a Facebook page, Rollin' Coal, with over 16,000 fans. A seller of coal rolling customization equipment told Slate's Dave Weigel, "I run into a lot of people that really don’t like Obama at all. If he’s into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not. I hear a lot of that. To get a single stack on my truck—that’s my way of giving them the finger. You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you." The Clean Air Task Force estimates that diesel fuel pollutants “lead to 21,000 premature deaths each year and create a cancer risk that is seven times greater than the combined risk of all 181 other air toxics tracked by the EPA.” That doesn't seem to matter to the drivers in the following video, entitled the "Diesels Rolling Coal on PEOPLE 2014 Compilation." Watch:

GOP Rep.: Some Teens At Border Look Like A "Threat" To U.S.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, acknowledged that the plight of young undocumented immigrants at the Southwest border was "sad"–but he also stated, "I also saw some 17-year-olds that I thought looked more like a threat to coming into the United States." According to what criteria is McCaul able to assess, at a glance, that some Central American teens look like a threat to national security? Actually, many of the children themselves are under threat from horrific gang violence in their own country, causing them to flee. That makes no difference to McCaul, who wants to ship most of them back:

"It’s very heart-wrenching as a father to see that — mothers with their babies," McCaul said on "Fox News Sunday." "I also saw some 17-year-olds that I thought looked more like a threat to coming into the United States."

The congressman showed little sympathy for young migrants crossing the border. While he said that some may qualify to stay in the U.S., that most needed to be sent away as a "message of deterrence."

He called for immigration policy changes, including tweaking the 2008 anti-trafficking law to make it easier to quickly deport immigrant children from Central America.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Katha Pollitt: Where Will The Slippery Slope Of "Hobby Lobby" End?

Writing in The Nation, Katha Pollitt agrees with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's scathing dissent to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling. Considering the decision that "for-profit corporations controlled by religious families" have the right not to provide insurance coverage for birth control and emergency contraception, Pollitt warns about a future that could hold more restrictions on coverage that offends an employer's religious beliefs:

Justice Alito’s opinion is canny. Slippery slope? No problem: “our decision in these cases is concerned solely with the contraceptive mandate. Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs.” He specifically mentions vaccines, blood transfusions and protection from racial discrimination as being in no danger, but he gives no argument about why Hobby Lobby’s logic would never apply. In other words, birth control is just different. Of course, it’s about women. Anyone could need a blood transfusion, after all, even Alito himself. And it’s about powerful Christian denominations, too, to which this Court slavishly defers—for example, in the recent decision finding no discrimination in the Christian prayers that routinely open town council meetings in Greece, New York.

As Ruth Bader Ginsburg argues in her stirring dissent, there’s “little doubt that RFRA
[Religious Freedom Restoration Act] claims will proliferate, for the Court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood—combined with its other errors in construing RFRA—invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faith.” The reason it’s unlikely the Supreme Court would uphold a religious exemption for vaccinations or blood transfusions is not something intrinsic to those claims; it’s simply that Alito finds them weird. Birth control is banned by the Bible? Sure. Blood transfusions are banned by the Bible? Don’t be silly. For now. We have no idea, really, how far the Court might be willing to extend RFRA. Could a CEO refuse to pay childbirth costs for unmarried women? Could he pay married men more because that’s what the Lord wants? (Actually, he’s probably already doing that.) But here’s my prediction: the day a religious exemption burdens by so much as a mouse’s whisker the right of men to protect their own bodies from unwanted, well, anything, is the day the Supreme Court Five discover that religion is not so deserving of deference after all.

It would be nice to think this ruling, which applies only to “closely held corporations,” will affect few women. Unfortunately, these are not just sweet little family businesses. As Ginsburg noted, some are huge—Dell, Cargill, Mars. Altogether, they employ some 52 percent of the workforce. True, most either offer contraception coverage already or are exempt because they employ fewer than fifty workers, but who’s to say what the future holds? Companies change hands, CEOs find Jesus—or Allah or Thoth or L. Ron Hubbard. It’s not reassuring that a CEO’s views of a fertilized egg get deference today, but workers’ contraceptive coverage is left to the fates.