From my inbox: Stop the FACT Act

Knowing ALEC is behind this is why I am posting, word-for-word, an email I received today regarding the FACT Act.

Hi Blue Lyon Blogger,

My name is Susan Vento, and I am writing to you about a cause very close to my heart. My husband, Bruce, was a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives until October 10th, 2000 when he died of pleural mesothelioma––a rare disease caused by asbestos exposure. Recently, asbestos companies are using their political influence to push a new bill in Congress, led by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It is called the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act.” In short, this bill would delay and, in some cases, deny justice to people suffering from asbestos-related diseases. The FACT Act marks the beginning of a state-by-state strategy to dismantle the rights of victims. We must take action to protect these victims before it’s too late, like it was for my husband.

In the name of so-called “transparency,” the bill places burdensome reporting requirements on victims applying to the bankruptcy trusts. Yet, the companies who knowingly caused the asbestos exposure have no comparable requirements. The legislation is a one-sided and unfair effort designed to harm those who have already been injured. You can find more information on the bill here. This legislation is not an effort to make the legal system more responsive. Instead, it is merely the latest attempt by companies  and individuals like the Koch brothers to avoid responsibility for their wrongdoings.

Because of your influence and experience in the political blogosphere, I am asking for your help. I am a spokesperson for the Asbestos Cancer Victims’ Rights Campaign. The ACVRC is a national campaign dedicated to protecting the rights and privacy of cancer victims and their families.  I hope that you will join our fight to defeat this unfair legislation and the potential precedent it sets. Here are a couple of simple steps you can take to make a difference:

1.     Sign the petition to stop legislation that threatens cancer victims!

Go to www.CancerVictimsRights.org/take-action/sign-the-petition/ and follow the instructions to sign the petition at the bottom of the page.

2.     Spread the word!

Share your thoughts on the bill and our cause with your blog audience. Place a link to our petition on your blog to allow your readers to sign and showcase their public support––every signature matters!

Thank you in advance for your time. Individuals and families affected by cancer already have enough on their plate. With your help, the ACVRC is committed to fighting legislation that further burdens them.

Best,

Susan

 

Why abstinence-only is winning: We are undone by our apathy

Originally posted on The Sin City Siren:

Talk about AB230, the comprehensive sex education bill, was all over the TV yesterday! Even your humble Siren got in the mix as a guest, with my pal Annette Magnus, of Planned Parenthood of Southern Nevada, on Ralston Reports. Likewise, Annette made appearances on Fox 5 in the morning as well as The Agenda.

Taking it to the airwaves!

And we need it more than ever! If you haven’t already, check out my re-cap of the hearing on AB230 on Monday, in which some truly horrifying behavior and testimony happened. And if you’re not totally outraged after that, take a gander at the opinions entered on the public record for AB230. No really. Let’s look at some.

Names are withheld on opinions submitted through the Legislature’s website, but here are some snippets from the opposition:

You are forcing the rights of parents and churches out of the raising…

View original 1,441 more words

I haven’t forgotten

“Shame on us if we’ve forgotten. I haven’t forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten. Tears aren’t enough. Expressions of sympathy aren’t enough. Speeches aren’t enough. We’ve cried enough. We’ve known enough heartbreak. What we’re proposing is not radical. It’s not taking away anyone’s gun rights. It’s something that, if we are serious, we will do.” ~ President Obama, speaking today.

I haven’t forgotten, and so, knowing that I’m likely pissing into the wind, I will be contacting my Congress Critters.

But shit.  92% of us are in favor universal background checks and yet, Republicans are vowing to filibuster anything. I despair.

And honestly, I don’t understand this at all.

Doing nothing would be akin to pissing on the graves of those little children and anyone felled by gun violence, and spitting in the faces of those left behind.

(And no, I’m not allowing comments on this post. I just had to get this off my chest and have no fucking interest in getting into another gun debate.)

William Rivers Pitt and Moral Geometry

When I listen to “my side” defend the indefensible, rationalizing that which they would be howling about if it were the “other” side doing it, I want to scream, and often do.

When what is moral is whatever our side does, then we have cut ourselves loose from our moorings.

William Rivers Pitt: Waking From My Moral Coma

I am finished with the moral geometry that says this is better than that, which makes this good. This is not good; this is, in fact, intolerable. Allowing the perpetrators of war crimes – widely televised ones at that – to retain their good name and go on Sunday talk shows as if they had anything to offer besides their ideology of murder and carnage is intolerable. Entertaining the idea that the billions we spend preparing for war cannot be touched, and so the elderly and the infirm and the young and the weak and the voiceless must pay the freight instead, is intolerable.

The pornography of America’s global killing spree is intolerable, and, by the by, I am sick of hearing about drones. A child killed by a Hellfire missile that was fired from a drone is exactly, precisely as dead as a child killed by a Hellfire missile fired from an Apache attack helicopter, precisely as dead as a child killed by a smart bomb, precisely as dead as a child killed by a sniper, precisely as dead as a child killed by a land mine, or by a cruise missile, or by any of the myriad other ways instant death is dealt by this hyper-weaponized nation of ours.

Exactly, precisely as God damned dead, and the blood is on our hands regardless of the means used to do the killing. The issue is not the drones. The issue is our hard, black hearts, and the grim fact that the debate in this country right now is not about whether the killing is wrong, but about the most morally acceptable way of going about that killing. Drones are bad, but snipers are better, because you don’t hear the buzzing sound in the sky before your lights go out forever. Or something.

It is the killing, it is the permanent war, it is our deranged national priorities. It is the system we live under which requires the serial deaths of all those innocents to maintain our economic health that should appall us. We sup upon the blood and bonemeal that is the byproduct of the idea that is America, and we sleep. And we sleep.

I pulled the transcript, just in case I’d missed it

I listened to the inaugural address while sitting in my office at work, so it was possible that in the middle of answering emails, scheduling meetings, and entering my time, I might have missed it. But no,  not a mention.

Unlike four years ago, not even a crumb for us non-believers today. No, Mr. President, freedom is not “a gift from God.” Our freedom was earned by the blood, sweat, and tears of real, live human beings.

And no, Mr. President and Chief Justice Roberts, “so help me, God” is not part of the oath of office.  Please reread that Constitution you just swore to defend.

Article Two, Section One, Clause Eight:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:–”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

That being said, good luck with the bat-shit crazy contingent in Congress.

Cross-Post: Good Luck, Mr. President

Cross-posted from The Neophyte Photographer.

It is Inauguration Day in the United States.

For all the silliness of the election season, and regardless of the winner, I like inauguration day and the peaceful transition of power it symbolizes (or in this case, the assent of the people to the continuation of the current administration).  I’ve got a number of friends who are there and I hope they have a great time.

I took these shots of the White House last March.  You can see the lights on in the Oval Office and I wonder if they are on all the time, or only when the President is in residence. I’m pretty sure President Obama was in D.C. at the time, so seeing the lights on was kind of cool.

UPDATED to add: Okay, now I’m feeling rather foolish. I’ve been operating under the misapprehension that the Oval Office is located in the White House. It is not. Rather it is located in the West Wing, a separate building on the White House grounds.

Reprise: Go Ahead, Raise our Taxes

Let’s just do it.  Let’s just go over the fiscal cliff slope.  

The Bush tax cuts were designed to expire in ten years. For everyone. We’ve gone two years beyond that expiration date and it has cost the country dearly.

Before anyone starts talking about cutting Social Security, or Medicare, or Medicaid, or closing loopholes or what-have-you, let’s just push the re-set button. Let all the Bush tax cuts expire. End the Payroll Tax “holiday.”  All of it. 

I posted this back in November of 2010. It is timely and bears repeating:

We’re willing to bite the bullet along with the fat cats. Seriously.

I looked at our joint tax return from last year and going back to 2001 rates would mean paying an extra $102.63 in taxes between the two of us every two weeks. Basically $50 a week. At least as best as I can figure. That appears to be the maximum we would owe.

That’s the sacrifice we are willing to make.

Sweetie and I are fortunate. When it comes to household income, we land in that upper bar. Barely. But if Sweetie were to lose his job, we’d immediately plunge down to the bar second from the bottom.

We know how to live with less, but we can’t live with nothing and we have never felt so job insecure in our lives. If either one of us were to  lose our job today, there is nothing comparable in terms of income out there for us. It’s a fact.

We’ve had ten years of Bush’s tax cuts and really, what has it gotten for the vast majority of us? Stagnant wages and job losses.  Worries that Social Security is on the chopping block. Less social safety nets. Less police and fire, less education for our kids, pot-holed roads.

If tax cuts create jobs, then why have we lost millions upon millions of them? If tax cuts generate tax revenue, then why are states and local municipalities slashing their budgets to the bone, laying off employees, requiring wage cuts, freezes, furlough days, cutting vital services, and on and on?

We can live without that extra $50.00  every week.

You guys have had your chance.

What Heller understood that Berkley did not

“Over the years, I have really had to work Washoe hard,” Heller said. “In my first race for Congress, I lost Washoe. And so it has taken me six years of dedicated work in Washoe County to develop that relationship.”

Quite a stunning piece about Heller and his thoughts on the Republican party. Is it possible that the old Dean Heller is making a comeback? Makes me think him being in the Senate won’t be completely catastrophic.

And yes, Shelley Berkley lost her Senate bid because she thought she could win with Clark County alone. If she had performed as well as Obama did in Washoe, we’d be calling her Senator Berkley now.  She needed to introduce herself to voters in the north, but instead, she was pretty much invisible up here and it showed in the vote.

The Republicans’ next tactic to delegitimize the election

And so it begins.

If they can’t get their way with Voter ID laws designed to suppress Democratic votes, Republicans are setting the stage to blame what is shaping up to be Mitt Romney’s loss on the voting machines.  And as is usually the case when the Republicans start screaming about vote fraud, there is no there there.

The Republican National Committee alleges voting machines in Nevada and five other states are flawed and improperly showing votes for President Obama instead of GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

In a letter sent Thursday to state election officials, the RNC’s chief counsel says a “significant number” of cases have been reported of votes being placed for Obama when a voter cast a ballot for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

Here’s the thing: Even if this were true – glitches do happen sometimes – this isn’t a problem in Nevada. We use voter-verifiable, paper-trail voting machines. In fact, the machines provide a two-step double-check, the first being where the voter reviews their ballot on the large touchscreen, and again, a second time by viewing the print-out that scrolls under the plastic window to the left of the touchscreen.  At both of these verification points the voter has the opportunity to go back and change or correct any of their votes before officially casting it.  If any person casts a vote for the wrong candidate after being given TWO chances to correct it, well, I’m sorry, but that’s on them.

And it appears, that hasn’t happened at all.

Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said his department has had about four complaints of the 400,000 ballots cast this election. In every instance, the issue was corrected before the voter cast his or her ballot, he said.

Four out of 400,000.

Hardly the “significant number” the RNC letter alleges.  And each vote was corrected before it was cast.

The Republicans are also trying to imply that the machines are not well-maintained and glitchy.

The RNC asks that machines be recalibrated and voters be reminded to double-check their choices before their votes are recorded.

Lomax said it is possible for the machines to fall out of sync, but the county recalibrates the voting machines at least once a day.

As far as demanding that “voters be reminded to double-check their choices before casting their votes,”  as I mentioned above, that process is already built into the voting process.

Did they run this by Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) before going down this road?

In 2003, when the state decided to go completely to the touchscreen voting machines, there was a hue and cry from all sides of the political spectrum about the need for voter-verifiable machines and that meant a paper trail. I remember going to town halls and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, and Non-Partisans who were determined that the integrity of their votes would be protected.  It was so loud and so bipartisan (poli-partisan?) that county clerks and registrars across the state were set back on their heels by the people of Nevada.

From an article in the Reno Gazette-Journal in December 2003:

“A paper trail is an intrinsic component of voter confidence, ” Heller said in explaining why he insisted that Sequoia–which already has nearly 3,000 machines installed in Clark County– include the receipt printers on new machines for the upcoming elections. The printers must be added on existing machines by 2006.

Heller mentioned the Florida elections in 2000, saying, “The Florida debacle and the chaos created by the’hanging and pregnant chad’controversy clearly demonstrate the need to move forward with advanced technology.”

While the printers add to the cost of the voting systems, Heller said “money takes a back seat to accuracy, security and voter confidence.” The printers let voters see their ballot choices before finalizing their votes.

The decision to go with Sequoia machines was based in part on a review by the state Gaming Control Board’s slot machine experts who issued a report saying the Diebold machine that was analyzed “represented a legitimate threat to the integrity of the election process.”

Marc McDermott, the GCB’s electronic services division chief, said the Sequoia machine”represents a much more secure option.”

From USA Today in 2004:

[Secretary of State Dean] Heller purchased the equipment in December, after his staff conducted town hall meetings and solicited comments from voters. The feedback came after voting activists discovered security breaches and conflicts of interest among executives at voting equipment companies, particularly Ohio-based Diebold Inc.

Voters were very vocal in their concerns about paperless electronic voting,” Heller said at a Carson City community center where voters received red, white and blue “I voted touchscreen” stickers as they left the polls. “Diebold’s controversies were on the leading edge of voters’ minds.”

Voter advocates praised Nevada’s system, in which paper records will be kept in county election offices for 22 months and used in case of a recount.

For the RNC to come in now and try to pull this shit just shows how desperate they are.

It matters

Sweetie and I will be voting today.  For me, this election is a no-brainer, at least at the federal level. I’ll be voting a straight Democratic ticket, and not because I think the Democrats I get to choose from are all that and a bag of chips.  They are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  The ones I have to choose from are far more conservative than I am.

I worry when I hear Shelley Berkley advocate a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I worry when President Obama touts the Simpson-Bowles Commission and wonder if Social Security will be there for me in eleven years.  I oppose the drone strikes.  I think we are far too militaristic and would like to see our Pentagon budget reduced.  The Affordable Care Act did not go nearly far enough for this Single Payer advocate.

But voting for Jill Stein, in this closer-than-close swing state is not an option, because there are some really important issues that matter.

The separation of church and state matters.  

The U.S. Constitution declares that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Unfortunately, we do have a de facto religious test, much to my dismay.

However, while Barack Obama is a declared Christian, and he ends every speech with “God Bless America,” (Oh how I long for the days when politicians just ended their speeches with “Thank you.”), he at least has not been beholden to the religious right and has (gasp!) acknowledged that there are a great many people in our country who do not believe.

FACTS matter.

When I see the denial of science in climate change or hear a sitting Congressman declare that the Theory of Evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell,”   or hear a Senate candidate declare that a “legitimately raped” woman cannot get pregnant because her body just “shuts that whole thing down” I am stunned.  When I learn that these people are in charge of my life, and literally in charge of science research dollars, I am beyond gob-smacked.

I vote for reason. I vote for facts.

Women matter.

When I see Republicans denying women the right to control their own bodies and denying women their reproductive rights on the basis of said Republicans’ religious beliefs, whether it be it contraception or abortion, or categorizing some rape victims as legitimate (and others, by extension, not) or declaring the pregnancies resulting from that rape as a blessing from God, I am horrified.

Religious people in this country have the Constitutional right to believe whatever they want and to live their lives accordingly. They do not have the right to force anyone else, under penalty of law, to do the same.

Keeping religion out of our bodies, our bedrooms and our classrooms matters.

Voting rights matter.

When I see the voter suppression efforts pushed by Republicans in state after state, I am stunned.  There are virtually no known cases of In Person voter fraud.   Why would there be? It makes no sense.  In order to pull off a crime of that magnitude, the people engaging in it would have to be willing to risk up to two years in prison for this federal offense. It’s just not going to happen.  If Republicans really were worried about voter fraud, they’d tighten up absentee voting which has a much higher potential for fraud. (See granny farming)

But they won’t because absentee voting tends to favor Republicans. Voter ID laws are designed to suppress voters who traditionally tend to vote for Democrats. I guess if you can’t win in an open election on the merits of your argument, it just makes sense to remove the competition!

Character matters.

When I see Mitt Romney careen from position to position, never knowing what side of an issue he’s going to be on, I know I cannot trust him to be at the helm of our country for the next four years.

I may not agree with President Obama on every position he’s taken, and regular readers know who I supported in the Democratic primaries the last time around, but over the past term, I’ve come to understand that we don’t have a liberal Democratic president. (Can anyone tell me when we ever have?).  We have now someone I would characterize a progressive Republican president, kind of in the mold of Dwight David Eisenhower, except that Obama accepts the idea of the Military Industrial Complex.  And that, my friends, is the best we’re going to do this time around. Further,  I’m pretty sure I know where Barack Obama stands on most issues important to me. I have not seen him bobbing and dodging the way Mitt Romney has.

There are things I don’t agree with this President on. Race to the Top. No public option in the Affordable Care Act. Drones. Simpson-Bowles.

But . . .

I’ve seen President Obama grow in his office.

I’ve watched the economy come back from near disintegration.

I’ve seen the war in Iraq end. And I see light at the end of the tunnel in Afghanistan.

I’ve seen the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

I’ve seen him evolve on gay marriage to where he now stands with the majority of Americans on legalizing it.

I’ve seen him nominate two women to the highest court in the land, which that brings me to my next point:

The Supreme Court matters.

During the next four years whoever is President will likely select one or two more Supreme Court justices.  Beyond women’s reproductive rights, I need to consider what a Romney nominee (or two) might do for workers’ rights as well.

As Bill Fletcher, Jr. at Black Commentator put it:

Who gets to appoint the next several Supreme Court justices could have an impact for decades.  We have already seen the damage done by George W. Bush’s appointments to the Supreme Court in the form of the Citizen’s United decision on campaign spending.  In looking at the cases that are moving to the Supreme Court or have been taken under their jurisdiction, e.g., the Texas affirmative action case, I sure wish that there was a different balance on the Supreme Court.

These considerations are important when one realizes that progressive forces in the USA remain on the defensive.  If we had the initiative there might be a different discussion.  But at the moment we are trying to hold off some of the worst elements of an increasingly barbaric capitalism.  No, Obama does not open the road to fundamental social transformation, but to tell you the truth, if he can shift the Supreme Court balance even slightly that will be an important victory; a victory with a potentially lasting impact.

‘Nuff said.