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Archive for the ‘Legal Issues’ Category

I have often scoffed at Bill O’Reilly.  Actually, that is not hard to do.  It seems every time he opens his mouth, something stupid comes out of it.  But, I must confess, I am beginning to have pity on the self-anointed prophet.  I am not a doctor, so I cannot say for sure what is going on in his poor little brain.  But, whatever it is, he definitely needs help.

He had a conversation with Carl Rove on his show Wednesday night.  As I watched the clip, I was stunned that even Carl Rove seemed somewhat bemused by what O’Reilly was saying.  O’Reilly was actually calling for the U.S. to build a “Berlin Wall” on the southern border.  He didn’t actually call it a Berlin Wall, he called it an East German Fence.  He apparently knew that using the words Berlin Wall may have caused pace makers in his viewers to stop working.

He went on to say “I was there and I was there for it coming down — the wall coming down in Berlin — and I was actually there on the scene,” “Nobody could get through that fence, all right? Nobody. It was a formidable obstacle.”  He further justified his claim by saying that the Israelis have built a similar fence to “keep out terrorists”.  Then he said  “We haven’t done that … That’s mistake number one.”  He then suggested that we need to put the National Guard at the border to “stop the madness” there.

Okay, let’s look at the East German Fence that O’Reilly seems to love so much.  First, the Berlin Wall was built not to keep people out, but to keep its citizens in.  It wasn’t so formidable that people weren’t able to escape East Berlin.  Actually, thousands of people managed to get past the Wall in order to gain freedom in West Germany.

Secondly, it was a formidable fence especially when you consider that there were “watch towers” positioned all along it with armed guards stationed there with orders to “shoot to kill” anyone trying to get over the wall.  Even so, there were still people who tried to get over or under the wall with that threat hanging over them.

Maybe in O’Reilly’s warped brain this is where the National Guard comes in.  I wonder if he is suggesting that we build our own version of the wall, place watch towers on it with armed National Guard members in them with orders to shoot to kill anyone trying to come over the fence into the U.S.  Here is an arm-chair patriot who has railed against Communism right up to today, advocating that we emulate the East Germans and build a “formidable” fence on our border.

As I said, I am not a doctor.  But, it seems to me that poor Bill has lost his mind!  Maybe Bill is suffering from dementia.  Maybe he has the beginnings of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Maybe he has just lost it altogether.   I think it is time for Bill to seek medical help for whatever is ailing him.

As a veteran, it is absolutely appalling to me that anyone in the country would suggest we emulate the ruthless East German government and build a new Berlin Wall.  Even I didn’t think Bill was that stupid.  There must be a medical reason.

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We have known for a long time that the far right-wing of the Republican Party is nuts!  We have also known for a long time that the “establishment” wing of the Republican Party is more than happy to subjugate themselves to these nuts in order to get votes.  But, what is happening at the border between Mexico and the U.S. is a disgrace.

Right-wing nuts are lining up to “stop immigration” by keeping buses with illegal immigrants from getting to the shelters and holding areas where they will be processed according to the law.  We have grown adults holding signs that read things like “return to sender”.  At the same time, they are railing against the administration for not enforcing the law.  Well, actually, the administration is enforcing the law.  The law that was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican President named George W. Bush.

The unfortunate part of all of this is that it has gotten completely out of control.  Yesterday in Arizona, a State Representative, Adam Kwasman, who is also running for the U.S. Congress whipped up hatred by decrying that the yellow school bus carrying illegal immigrants was coming.  The shouting started.  He went on to say that “this is not compassion”.  “This is the abrogation of the rule of law.”  He even said to a reporter that “he saw the fear on those children’s faces.”

How nice, a man running for a seat in the U.S. Congress is congratulating himself for terrifying children.  But, there was one slight problem with this situation.  The school bus wasn’t carrying undocumented immigrants.  It was carrying a bunch of kids from a YMCA camp.   When he was informed about the YMCA kids not being undocumented immigrants, all he could muster was “they were sad too.”  No kidding, a group of adults scaring the holy shit out of children just might make them look sad, too.

These scenes are being played out in Arizona and California.  But, rather than fighting for the law to be enforced, these people actually want the administration to break the law and simply send them back without a hearing the law says they must get.  I cannot fathom how adults can be so afraid of children.  But, there you have it.  They are absolutely terrified of them.

Not to be outdone, Louie Gohmert showed his brilliance again.  Okay, so he showed just how stupid a former judge can be.  He claims that what is going on at the southern border is actually the “real war on women”.  According to Mr. Gohmert, “criminal aliens” were responsible for 2,993 homicides in the past six years — as well as 7,695 sexual assaults.   Okay, but what about the other tens of thousands of murder and sexual assaults that take place in this country every year by what can only be described as “criminal citizens”?

As a result of these numbers, Mr. Gohmert claims that the “real war on women” is being waged by criminal alien hordes.  Furthermore  he said:

“Our continued existence is at risk with what’s going on at the southern border.” He blasted the White House for “actually assist[ing] the criminal conspiracy in achieving its illegal goals” by neglecting to adequately enforce America’s laws against illegal immigration.

In my opinion, though he left out the words “white women”, that was what he meant.

I want to remind everyone that immigration was handled differently in the past.  It was even “civil”.  Up through most of the 20th Century, immigrants were not given a green card.  My grandfather was an immigrant.  When he came to the U.S. he was not given a green card.  He went through Ellis Island like all the rest of the immigrants.

According to the law at the time, each year, he was required to “register as an alien” by January 31.  Since my grandfather never obtained citizenship, he had to register right up to his death.  I remember going to the post office every January to get his registration card.  I would fill it out for him, have him sign it, and mail it back.  I don’t know when green cards became the norm, but I do remember sending in his registration card through 1970 when he passed away.

Even still, we have adult people terrifying young children with their signs, yelling, and pure hate.  Why is this happening?  Why is this necessary?  It is only necessary to those un-American people on the far right who claim to be for liberty and freedom but don’t really want either.  It is only necessary for those who want to gain political points by snuggling up to these lunatics.  Let’s face some facts here, we are talking mostly about children.

Instead of reporting on the actions of these nuts, it is time to stop putting them on camera.  It is time to stop talking to stupid people and start talking about how to best handle the situation.  But that takes real adults.  People like Louie Gohmert and Adam Kwasman should not be confused with real adults.  Hate is on display at the southern border, and it is a disgrace to our country.

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As I had feared, the mess at the Veteran’s Administration has fallen to the back burner.  Obviously, it doesn’t stand up to the “sexy” tag that the news media needs to cover a story.  The political stunt of Boehner suing the President and the border crisis have top billing.  In the meantime, millions of veterans are still left in the dark alleys and not getting the help they need.

Then, all of the bills that are being proposed to “fix” the VA won’t actually fix it.  They are going to throw money at the VA, and they are going to pass laws that make it easier to fire people.  One allows those more than 40 miles away from a clinic or hospital to seek treatment at a private doctor or hospital.  But none of that is going to “fix” the VA.  It is time for an overhaul of the Veterans Administration.  I am not talking about taking the agency away, nor about privatizing it.  I don’t even think it needs to have everyone fired and restart over.  But an overhaul is necessary.

There are a lot of problems that the VA faces.  One is money.  But, that isn’t the only problem.  For example, in 2000 lawmakers passed the Veterans Claims Assistance Act.  A well-intentioned bill to help veterans with claims.

The law required that the VA tell a veteran what to do to prove a claim, help the veteran obtain necessary records, and inform the veteran when the VA could not obtain the information it needed. The law required the VA to retrieve the veteran’s service medical records and provide exams when the VA did not have sufficient evidence to substantiate a claim.

But the law was ambiguous and left much open to interpretation, which had to be fought out in the courts. It wound up adding several additional layers of bureaucracy to an already clunky VA claims process without appropriating additional funds or human resources to manage the increased workload.

As a result, things didn’t get better, it only made it more complicated.  There is a very good reason for the backlog.  There are more veterans needing help than there are people to help them.  Very few rural areas of the country have VA clinics or offices.  That means vets have to make, oftentimes, arduous journeys just to get the help they need.  Yes, they can often use the internet, but that doesn’t always help the situation and a face-to-face exam is necessary.

The quality of service at VA Hospitals and Clinics is excellent.  Most veterans will tell you that.  The problem is that there aren’t enough Hospitals and Clinics to properly treat all of the veterans who need treatment.  Additionally, there are thousands upon thousands of job openings at the VA and its hospitals and clinics.  They can’t fill all of the open positions they have.  One reason is money.  Though professional medical providers are paid well, they are not paid what they can get in the private sector.

The two wars that G.W. Bush laid on us also contributed to the backlog.  Especially when you consider that early on, the department was publicly counting only about a third of the casualties stemming from the War on Terror. That was because the Department was only counting servicemen and women immediately targeted in the department’s wounded-in-action statistics. That accounting method left out those who were not targeted but were wounded nonetheless, such as troops injured when they were riding two trucks back from one that was hit by a roadside bomb, or those hurt in training or transportation.

The problems at the VA go back decades.  At least to the Kennedy years.  The VA has always been the ugly step-child of the country.  We are keen to send our young men and women into harms way to “protect” our freedom.  But, once they have protected that freedom, they are forgotten, even shied away from.  If you want proof, look no further than the Wounded Warriors Project.  This is a very good organization that is trying to help our vets.  I commend them for their work.  But, I ask, why are such organizations even necessary?  Why isn’t the country taking on this responsibility?  Because no one wants to fix the VA, they just want to use tragedies like we have recently seen as political points.

Since the so-called “War On Terrorism” started, everyone seems to be happy to “thank a vet” for their service.  You see it everywhere.  At sporting events.  At concerts.  Everywhere people are gathered there is the phrase to “thank a vet” or “in honor of our men and women in uniform”.  Those are nice sentiments, but they are not what veterans need or even want.  They need and want proper medical treatment and help!

If you want to truly thank a vet, demand from your Representative that veterans stop being treated like they don’t exist by the very government they served.  Demand from your Representative that real, meaningful changes and fixes are made to the Veterans Administration so all veterans get the help they need.

We should not be headlines for political gain.  We should not be invisible.  We want to be respected for our service and treated so we can properly “heal” from the physical and mental wounds we have received.  Make that happen, and you will really be thanking vets for their service.

If not, “thank you for your service” are just meaningless words.  Sorry, but that’s the truth.

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Well, Congress is back at work, or at least they are in town.  What is the number one priority of Mr. Boehner?  Not making sure the humanitarian crisis at the border is funded properly.  Not passing immigration reform.  Not passing  a real jobs bill like the Transportation and Infrastructure Bill.  No, the number one priority for Mr. Boehner is suing the President over his use of Executive Orders.

Last week, Mr. Boehner said he was planning to sue over a wide range of issues.  Everyone waited with bated breath to find out what those wide-ranging issues were.  Well, he came out and said what they were.  He was going to sue the President because he delayed the enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate.  That is right, the President is being sued because he delayed the enforcement of one part of the ACA.  A part that the Republicans are against, by the way.

I am not sure why Mr. Boehner picked this one piece to sue the President over.  Maybe he thinks that will get his base fired up for the mid-term elections.  Maybe he can’t really justify the law suit in the first place.  The Republicans are screaming at the top of their lunges about an “imperial presidency” under President Obama.  They argue that his use of Executive Orders in undermining their powers granted by the Constitution.

Well, President Obama has used the “pen” as he likes to say, less than the Presidents before him.  At this time in his Presidency, George W. Bush used the “pen” over 60 more times than President Obama.  Republican anointed St. Reagan used the “pen” nearly 300 times in his presidency.  President Obama would have to issue the same number of Executive Orders in the remaining part of his Presidency as he has over the previous 6 years just to get close to St. Reagan’s number.

Looking back at history, the whole idea of suing a President over the use of Executive Orders is absurd.  Every President has used Executive Orders in the past.  Some more than others.  Most, not all, Constitutional Scholars and Lawyers say that Congress has no standing to even file a suit like this.  There have been one or two attempts in the past, and the courts ruled they have no standing since they can show no “harm” to them.

As a result, this can only be seen for what it really is.  A political stunt by the Republicans who need to gin up their base for the mid-terms.  Let’s face facts.  The Republican Party is under attack from all aspects of the political spectrum.  They are against the majority of Americans when it comes to important issues.  The latest polls indicate that 55% of all Americans favor same-sex marriage rights, including 30% who call themselves Republican.  Over 70% of Americans favor universal background checks when purchasing a weapon.  Over 70% of Americans favor immigration reform.

On top of all of that, the fringe wing of the Party is still coming out with stupid sayings.  Mr. “Legitimate Rape” Todd Akin is back at it with his book slamming the “establishment” wing of the Party for forcing him to apologize for his comments in 2012.  Then there is  Kentucky State Senator Brandon Smith who cited Mars as the reason that earthlings do not have to worry about the planet’s man-made climate catastrophe.  He said:  “I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There are no factories on Mars that I’m aware of.”  Nobody will dispute that?  Maybe, just maybe, if he had stayed awake during science class, he would know that Mars is at a minimum 100 degrees colder than the earth.

Finally, the Texas GOP goes on trial today, including Gov. Perry in his official capacity, for the redistricting that caused the gutting of the Voting Rights Act section 5.  There appears to be some emails between the two most prominent people who redrew that map that indicate it was done in order to keep the GOP in power.  According to the reports, it seems they plotted to make sure that some districts looked like an Hispanic majority, but was redrawn based on voter turn-out in the district.  Meaning low turn-out of Democrats and high turn-out of Republicans.  If true, that is discriminatory and therefore illegal.

So, in order to deflect coverage of these inconveniences, Mr. Boehner has decided it is time to sue the President because he had the audacity to temporarily delay a mandate Mr. Boehner doesn’t like in the first place, for one year.  What a wonderful use of public funds.  Mr. Boehner keeps crying about the President using his power of Executive Orders.  Yet, Mr. Boehner keeps blocking legislation from coming up for a vote.  He keeps saying the House has passed over “40 jobs bills”.  Yet, he never mentions what any of them are, except those infamous repeal ACA bills.

No, Mr. Boehner is fundamentally a coward bowing to the whims of his radical right.  He is too afraid to stand up to the lunatics and actually govern.  So, in order to attempt to save his bacon and phony job, he is resorting to the gimmick of “suing the President”.  One only needs to look at this stunt to realize how depressingly pathetic the Republican Party has become.  The political vacuum they have created in Washington makes it impossible to get any meaningful thing done.  But, to them that is okay.  Only the average American People are being hurt over all of this.

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Rep. Darryl Issa has taken a short break from his Benghazi and IRS tantrums.  His target this time is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.  The program is running short of money, not the first time, and is need of an injection.  Rep. Issa’s plan is to use his “divide and conquer” theory to pit older Americans against those who are on SSDI.

So, he is holding another hearing trying to show that the Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) who hear disability cases as being a “rubber stamp” for those who don’t want to work, but rather go on the public dole.  He says that if we don’t cut the SSDI program with “fundamental changes” the entire Social Security system will collapse.  Here is using the “fear” that he likes to generate to pit one group of deserving Americans against another group of deserving Americans.

The AFL/CIO has recently put out some information about the SSDI program.  It is called the 13 Things You Need to Know About SSDI.  Here is a reprint of those 13 things.

1. SSDI provides protection for 90% of America’s workers and their families if a life-changing disability or illness stops them from being able to work and bring in enough money.

2. SSDI pays modest benefits, averaging just $1,140 per month, less than most workers make before they qualify for the program.

3. For 80% of beneficiaries, SSDI is the primary or only source of income, and it provides a drastic increase in the quality of life of recipients who might otherwise live in poverty.

4. The eligibility criteria for SSDI are among the strictest in the world and fewer than 40% of applicants are approved.

5. Nearly 20% of beneficiaries die within five years of first obtaining benefits.

6. Nearly 9 million workers with disabilities receive SSDI benefits, including more than 1 million veterans. More than 150,000 spouses and nearly 2 million children also receive benefits.

7. Beneficiaries pay into SSDI as a portion of their Social Security payroll tax. The current tax rate is 6.2% on the first $117,000 of earnings a worker makes.  5.3% goes to the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund (OASI), the rest goes to the SSDI Trust Fund.

8. Only one-third of private-sector workers has employer-provided long-term disability insurance, and most of those plans often provide less than SSDI. Only 7% of workers who make $12 per hour or less have such insurance. Most private long-term disability insurance plans are too costly for most workers.

9. Most beneficiaries are in their 50s and 60s, with the average age being 53.

10. Fewer than 4% of beneficiaries earned more than $10,000 during the year.

11. The United States ranks 30 out of 34 OECD member countries in terms of replacement benefit payouts for workers with disabilities.

12. A temporary reallocation of how the 6.2% payroll tax is divided between SSDI and OASI would ensure that both trust funds would be able to remain fully solvent until 2033 and would alleviate the shortage in SSDI funds caused by demographic trends.

13. Beneficiaries face a wide range of significant disabilities, with many having multiple impairments, which include:

  • 31.8% have a “primary diagnosis” of a mental impairment, including 4.2% with intellectual disabilities and 27.6% with other types of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or severe depression.

  • 29.8% have a musculoskeletal or connective tissue disorder.

  • 8.7% have a cardiovascular condition such as chronic heart failure.

  • 9.3% have a disorder of the nervous system, such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis, or a sensory impairment such as deafness or blindness.

  • 20.4% include workers living with cancers; infectious diseases; injuries; genitourinary impairments such as end stage renal disease; congenital disorders; metabolic and endocrine diseases such as diabetes; diseases of the respiratory system; and diseases of other body systems

Why another attack on Social Security?  The Republicans have a total hatred for any social safety net.  They don’t care if the elderly or the disabled have enough money to live.  They seem to cherish the idea of being cruel to them.   And why not? Being cruel to people who are disabled and cannot work seems to be quite popular among Tea Party members, many of whom are disabled themselves (but, of course, they deserve their benefits while others do not.) Recall this nauseating display of cruelty during the health care debate:

At one point, a man with a sign saying he has Parkinson’s disease and needs help sat down in front of the reform opponents. Several protesters mocked the man, calling him a “communist,” with one derisively “throwing money at him.” “If you’re looking for a handout you’re in the wrong end of town,” another man said.

Of course these people hide behind their religiosity and alleged fealty to the teachings of the Bible.  Maybe they should go back to their Sunday School Classes and relearn:

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven — Matthew 18:10

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Proverbs 31:8-9

Although I doubt that either of these phrases were actually taught in their “cherry-picked” bible school classes in the first place.  If they were, maybe cruelty to the less fortunate wouldn’t be a so rampant on the right.

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Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Those are the words inscribed on the Statue Of Liberty.  We have lived by those words for a couple of hundred years.  Yes, there have been exceptions based on racism, but for the most part our immigration system has worked because of the belief in these words.

There was the time when it was illegal for Chinese Immigrants to enter the country.  We have had times when almost every immigrant group faced discrimination after they came here.  The Irish, Poles, Czechs, Italians, etc.  Every group has faced some kind of discrimination after immigrating to this country.

We are facing another example of mass immigration.  Problem is that there really isn’t an immigration system in place anymore.  Republicans in Congress has refused to allow a vote on any immigration reform plan.  They claim they are waiting for the President to “enforce” the laws.  That is a remarkable statement.  This President has deported more illegal immigrants than any President before him.  The Republicans want the current mass immigration problem at the border dealt with by “immediately deporting” all of those children.  Problem is that under George W. Bush, the law he had passed, says that cannot happen.  When especially dealing with children, we need to care for them, and they must be brought before a judge in order to determine if they are to be deported.

So, by not immediately deporting these children, President Obama is following and “enforcing” the law.  If the President should “immediately deport” all of these children, he would not be enforcing existing laws as the Republicans want.  Besides that, if the border is so open, how come we are catching so many people crossing it?  If there was not sufficient enforcement at the border, surely these people would not be in custody right now.

We have faced other “mass immigrations” in the past.  No one will forget the mass immigration of the Irish due to the potato famine.  Even though they were treated harshly when they arrived, no one was calling to close the border to them.  More recently, I was in the Coast Guard when the Boat Lift from Cuba occurred under Reagan.  No one was calling for them to be sent back to Cuba.  We also had to deal with a mass immigration effort from Haiti.  There was the mass immigration from Cuba when Castro took power in 1959.  Hell, even Ted Cruz’s father, after fighting on the side of Castro, paid a bribe to get out of Cuba and into the U.S.

These mass immigration problems are not new.  The only thing new about them is that now we are facing a problem with “those people” instead of “the right people”.  The Irish were allowed in because they were European, but discriminated against mostly because they were Catholic.  The Cubans were looked upon as “victims of communism” so they got a free pass.  The new mass immigration, mostly children, aren’t given that same courtesy.  In the eyes of Republicans, they are simply looked upon as “law breakers” and must be deported immediately.

The self-proclaimed prophet, Bill O’Reilly, said on his show Tuesday, to prove the “difference” between other immigrants and the current immigrants, that his “immigrant ancestors” didn’t accept government assistance.  He fails to mention that at the time of his “immigrant ancestors” there were no government assistance programs.  If there had been, I bet they would have accepted them!

His guest on the show was Kristen Powers, a FOX News contributor and USA Today columnist.  She went after O’Reilly and said:  “We advertise to the world, give us your hungry, your poor, your tired.  But no, not according to Bill O’Reilly. According to Bill O’Reilly, let’s bundle up the children and send them back.”

O’Reilly then got mad, sarcastically telling Powers that she holds “the high moral ground” because she “want[s] an open-border situation that lets everybody in … You want an open-border, you want to accept them all … And I am a cruel barbarian.”  Finally, a comment from O’Reilly that I agree with.  Yes, Bill, you are a cruel barbarian!

This crisis is not what the Republicans want you to think.  They want you to believe this is not about people looking for a better life in the U.S. because their country is in total chaos.  They want you to think that these people just simply want to illegally cross into the U.S. because they will be able to live on government assistance.

That is total nonsense.  These people, especially the children, are trying to escape violence that threaten their very lives.  They come from countries that are fighting drug cartels, and other violent groups.  They are looking to live in peace and freedom.  But, what makes them “different” from the Cubans in the 1980s?  Cubans have a tendency to vote Republican.  Because of the Republican stand against immigration reform, these people, if granted citizenship in the future, tend to vote Democratic.  And, that is what this is all about.

President Obama has asked Congress for more money to deal with the problem.  He wants to increase the number of judges so these cases can be legally expedited, among other necessary things.  But, the Republican Party is already balking at the expenditure.  Why?  Because they want to force the President to do what they want.  Break the law!

I often find it amusing that the Republican Party has wrapped itself in the Conservative Christian Cult’s flag and consider themselves “god fearing, good Christians”.  All of their actions prove that they are just the opposite.  And, they wonder why more and more people are turning away from their “religion”.  Maybe rational people just can’t stomach belonging to a religion so steeped in hypocrisy.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Beautiful words we should all live by.  Too bad the Republican Party won’t!

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If you think that all of the so-called Voter Identification Laws being passed in most Red States are designed to prevent in-person voter fraud, you only need look at the North Carolina law to know differently.  In Winston-Salem, there is a hearing in Federal Court taking place where opponents of this law are seeking an injunction so this law cannot be enforced during the 2014 elections.  The law was challenged by the U.S. Justice Department and other groups, but the full trial won’t take place until 2015.

The Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA) was passed and signed into law by Republican Governor Patrick McCrory.  It is the most restrictive voter law passed in the U.S. to date.  The amazing thing about this law, was that originally, it only covered Voter ID requirements.  It passed the State’s House in April of 2013.  But it languished in the State’s Senate until after the SCOTUS ruling on the Voter Rights Act on June 25 of 2013.

Immediately after the ruling, Sen. Tom Apodaca (R), the chairman of the Senate Rules committee, was quoted as saying, “Now we can go with the full bill.”  On July 23, 2013, House Bill 589 expanded from 16 pages to 57 pages and included a number of other provisions, including reducing the days for early voting. The expanded bill passed both the House and Senate on July 25. McCrory signed the legislation into law on Aug. 12.

This bill expanded from 16 pages to 57 pages and they had a full two days to “debate” the law.  There is no other way to put this, but there was no real debate on the bill.  It was a forgone conclusion that the bill would pass.  This bill was obviously waiting for the SCOTUS ruling.  Once SCOTUS gutted the Voting Rights Act, the Republicans dusted off what they really wanted, and passed it.

Some other provisions that were included is the repeal of party block voting.  In other words, you cannot vote straight Democratic or Republican.  You must go down the list of every candidate and vote for each one individually.  That may not sound like a big deal, but a lot of people from parties actually do block vote.

Another deletion from the bill was the “Stand By Your Ad” clause.  This clause originally tried to make sure that ads were factual and truthful.  This new VIVA eliminated that clause from the law.  So, I guess now you can lie all you want in ads and don’t have to “Stand By Your Ad” anymore.

The Voter ID provisions, which do not take effect until 2016, lists certain photo IDs that are acceptable.  One ID that has been removed is College Student ID Cards.  So, if you attend North Carolina University, and do not have a driver’s license, you can no longer use your school’s ID to prove who you are.  I guess that goes hand-in-hand with the fact that the law also closes down all of the on-campus polling places.  Students will have to leave their campus to vote.

That is made tougher by the reduction in “early voting” days.  It also eliminates the Sunday before the election from the early voting period and ends early voting on the Saturday before the election at 1 PM.  Since that Sunday was traditionally the “Souls To The Polls” day, it makes it more difficult for churches to organize mass voting of their members on that day.  That was truly offensive to Republicans because most of these churches who participate in “souls to the polls” are predominantly African-American.

If you don’t have a driver’s license, military ID, Retired military ID, Veterans ID, or passport, you MUST have a state issued ID card in order to vote.  Most people say that is not all that difficult.  Except, North Carolina charges a fee to get a State Issued ID card.  Plus, most people will be required to provide a Birth Certificate to prove they are alive.  If you don’t have a copy of you Birth Certificate, that adds to the cost of the “fee” for getting and ID Card.

Plus, many people in North Carolina live in rural areas.  All small towns in these areas do not have offices who issue driver’s licenses or state IDs.  Many people need to travel anywhere between 30 and 60 miles to get to an office.  Doesn’t sound too bad, except, how is a person without a driver’s license supposed to get to one of these offices?  There isn’t any bus service in these areas.

Additionally, if you are over 70 you can use an expired driver’s license to vote, as long as it expired less than 30 days before the election day.  If it expired more than 30 days before the election, you cannot vote unless you get one of those State ID Cards.  Most people over 70 that I know, don’t even think about getting a State ID Card after they no longer drive.  And, before everyone says their family can take them, a lot of elderly people don’t have family living nearby.

A very disturbing portion of the VIVA to me, is that any registered voter can challenge another person’s right to vote.  For example, if I was at the polling place, and a neighbor I hate came in to vote, I could challenge his right to vote.  Once I made the challenge, he would be allowed to cast a “provisional” ballot.  I see this provision as nothing more than an intimidation factor.  The real scary part is that the law does not say registered voter in that precinct.  That opens the door for “operatives” to go around challenging other people’s right to vote.

Finally, they also eliminated “Same Day Registration”.  In North Carolina, you were able to go and register to vote, during the early voting period, and then immediately cast your ballot.  With the elimination of Same Day Registration, you now have to make two trips.  One to register and one to vote.

All of these provisions have one common goal.  They are intended to make it more difficult for the poor, young, and elderly to cast votes.  Why?  Because those are the groups that predominantly vote Democratic.  North Carolina Republicans are so afraid of losing their grip on power, they are willing to disenfranchise thousands of people who may vote against them.

For example, the reduction in early voting will affect up to 56% of North Carolina voters.  That is how many used early voting in the 2012 elections.   Blacks used early voting at a higher rate than whites, comprising a majority of those who voted absentee or early. According to Public Policy Polling, 78 percent of North Carolinians support the current early voting system and 75 percent have used it in the past.

In addition, over 155,000 voters registered to vote and voted on the same day during the early voting period in 2012.  Voters expressed their satisfaction and gratitude that North Carolina had a process that afforded citizens with more opportunities to register and vote, said a 2009 report from the state board of elections.

The law was passed in the name of “protecting the ballot box from voter fraud”.  I went through the court records since 2012 and I cannot find one single case of “voter fraud” being prosecuted.  In person Voter Fraud is becoming a thing of the past in the state and the country as a whole.  There is far more potential for voter fraud in absentee ballots than in-person voting.  Yet, these laws do not place the same restriction on absentee ballots.  I wonder if maybe that is because most absentee ballots are cast by white people.

It is estimated that it will take at least until the end of the week before the hearing in Winston-Salem wraps up.  No one knows how quickly the judge will rule on the injunction.  Of course, the whole nation is watching.  Especially since it comes on the heals of a Federal Judge striking down Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law as unconstitutional.

Once again, if you think this has to do with protecting the ballot box, all you have to do is listen to  Sen. Tom Apodaca, the chairman of the Senate Rules committee, after the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act saying, “Now we can go with the full bill.”  He knew this bill would never pass muster if had to be pre-cleared by Justice.

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The Hobby Lobby case has some potential problems the media seems to be missing.  Yes, the fact that the Supreme Court ruled basically that “closely held” corporations are “people” and can enforce their religious beliefs on their employees is bad enough.  But, it may have even more dire consequences for owners of corporations and small businesses.  It seems that the curtain or veil between owners of “closely held corporations” and stockholders may have been torn.  Rather, shredded by the decision.

There was a short time when I was self-employed.  I had a very small consulting business.  I had no employees, except myself.  I went through all the legal hoops to protect my personal assets from the business.  That was part of owning a business.  You needed to make sure your personal assets were protected and that is exactly what corporate law is supposed to do.  But, as I researched the whole thing, it also meant that if I hired employees, I could not impose any religious beliefs on them.  The veil worked both ways.

Now, the Supreme Court has opened the door to totally shred that veil.  If a “closely held corporation” is allowed to base insurance coverage on “personal” religious beliefs, what is keeping someone from suing the owner or stockholders and go after their personal assets in liability cases?  If I was able, as a business owner, to dictate policies based on religious beliefs, which until now violated basic corporate law, doesn’t that open me up to other law suits?

The Supreme Court has validated this “veil” of corporate law since the founding of the country.  There is not a single ruling the history of the court that gives corporations the rights of an individual person, until now.  In my layman point of view, that means that the corporate “veil” no longer exists.  Individual people, like owners and shareholders, could now be held personally liable in every law suit against the corporation.  This ruling says they may be personally liable for their decisions.

For example, let’s say that Hobby Lobby sells a product that turns out to be harmful to the purchaser.  Maybe it is a product that contains lead paint.  Millions of the product are sold nationwide.  People begin to get sick from handling, or small children get sick because they put it in their mouth and ingest the lead paint.

There have already been lots of law suits about this safety hazard, and those suing usually win the case.  The question is, since the decision to sell this product was approved by the owners of Hobby Lobby, can they be sued personally?  In other cases following basic corporate law, the answer has been no.  But, in light of the ruling stating that this corporation is a “person”, I am not so sure anymore.

Since the Hobby Lobby ruling, there are a lot of corporate lawyers who are very nervous right now.  In my research, I have seen many discussions by corporate lawyers about this very nature of the case that isn’t getting a lot of press.  It is possible that if such a case does happen, the Supreme Court could try to patch the “veil” in corporate law to protect owners and shareholders personal assets.  But, wouldn’t that be a blatant disavowing of their writing in this case?  How can the court rule that corporations are “people” able to withhold coverage in insurance plans, and not “people” in liability cases?

I know that conservatives don’t have a problem with double standards.  But, this involves corporate law!  Corporate law has been in existence for hundreds of years.  It was intended to protect individuals since a “corporation” is not considered a person.  The Hobby Lobby case throws that division out the window.

If I were looking to start a business again, I would think very hard about it.  In light of this case, I would be very distrustful that my personal assets would be protected under corporate law anymore.  That would probably make me NOT want to open a business.  I know a few small business owners who are very nervous right now.  They have had to talk with their lawyers about this very possibility.

In an effort to thrust individual beliefs of owners of companies on employees by naming the company a “person”, the court may have done more damage to small businesses and corporations than they think.  They may have overturned corporate law in this country.

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You are at something like a Chucky-Cheese having a birthday party for your little girl.  All of her friends are there, and people are having a good time.  The kids are playing and having fun.  Parents are sitting around and having some small talk.  It is a really nice afternoon for everyone.  Then, a bunch of people walk into the restaurant.  All of them are openly carrying guns.  Some have rifles, other have hand guns.  The kids see the guns and run to their parents in fear.  The parents are shocked that anyone would bring a gun into a restaurant like this.  Everyone is worried that either a robbery or some kind of terrorist act is about to take place and they are caught in it.

If you were taking part in that birthday party, what would you be thinking?  A day that is supposed to be one of the happiest for your little girl just got interrupted by a bunch of gun-toting adults.  I seriously doubt that the first thing in you head would be “well, that is just ‘open-carry’ group demonstrating their right to bear arms.  I believe very few sane people would think that.

But, these open-carry groups want you to think they are law-abiding citizens who just like carrying guns.  At least that is what they profess to want.  They claim that they want to “educate” the public and teach them not to fear people with guns.  As Open-Carry Texas puts it, the goal is to:  “condition Texans to feel safe around law-abiding citizens that choose to carry (guns).”  Sorry, but that is an absurd “goal”.

We have had several mass shootings in the country.  Most people have come to look at people carrying weapons as a threat.  Which they are.  The right-wing nuts want us to believe that carrying weapons will stop these killings.  They want us to believe that they are the ones protecting us from other gun-toting nuts.  They even believe that schools should have teachers armed to the teeth to avoid school shootings.

But, what they are really saying is that they want control over everyone else.  They want to decide when and where they can openly carry their guns.  They don’t care if it scares the living shit out of everyone around.  They claim to have the “right”.  Sorry, but in my opinion, they are delusional!

I have written about this before.  I got the usual comments from people claiming that I am “living in fear of guns.”  I have been told I needed to “go to the range with one of them so they can teach me about guns.”  I have been told that these “law-abiding citizens are our heroes, and that we should thank them.”

Well, I don’t need to be “taught about guns.”  I served 20 years in the military.  I know all about guns and how to use them.  I do not live in fear of guns.  I have handled them and shot them.  I do not consider people openly carrying weapons to be heroes.  I consider them as people on a power trip looking to garner attention for themselves.

Frankly, whenever I am told about the “fear” factor, I cannot help but believe the only people really living in fear are the ones who think they need to carry a gun with them everywhere for “protection”.  Having to carry a weapon everywhere you go is a sure sign of outright terror as far as I am concerned.  Yes, there are bad people in the world.  But, I refuse to let them dictate my actions.  I refuse to live in fear.

Besides, how can the average person sitting at a birthday party know which nut with a gun is a “law-abiding citizen” and which is a “wacko looking to kill a lot of people”?  They can’t.  As a result, they are afraid for themselves and their families.  Their right to live without fear in a civilized world is being violated by these idiots.

No, these groups are not really interested in “educating” the public about guns.  They are simply interested in scaring everyone because they believe they have the “right” to scare everyone.  They are, in my opinion, degenerates who are simply looking to fill some psychotic need of theirs.  Bluntly speaking, I consider people walking into a restaurant, bar, church, store, or any other public place packing open guns to be domestic terrorists.  There is no other reasonable explanation for their behavior.

If this kind of behavior from these groups continue, I can foresee a time in the very near future, when someone else who is lawfully carrying a concealed weapon will see them walk into an establishment, believe they are robbers, and open fire on them.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.  The end result will be a lot of innocent people wounded or killed because an open carry group decided to terrorize everyone at a restaurant.  Then, the blame-game will start.

It is time for this nonsense to stop!  Someone is going to get hurt or killed if it continues.  To put it frankly, it is time for open carry groups to crawl back under the rocks they came from.  They are becoming a real threat to public safety.  No one will be safe with nuts like these running around with their guns.

One of my instructors when I was learning how to handle, shoot, and maintain my weapon said that guns are necessary to protect oneself in dangerous situations.  But, they are not toys.  They are serious tools needed by serious professionals to accomplish their jobs.  He also said that outside of professional need, the larger the gun, the smaller the ……  You can fill in the blank.

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Tomorrow is the 4th of July.  It is a day we celebrate our nation’s birth.  All across the nation we will hear the national anthem being sung and end with the words “O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”  Others will stand and say the pledge of allegiance.  It includes the words, “with liberty and justice for all”.

The right-wing will proudly stand tall and sing, or say these words loudly.  They will utter them with false conviction.  They will go on the podium and give speeches rallying their base to “fight for liberty”.  They will use hallow words like “we want to thank all of our men and women in uniform for their service”.  They will utter all sorts of patriotic slogans.  At the end of the day, all of these words and slogans will ring as hallow as they do today.

In Afghanistan our troops will be on patrol.  Fighting for our country.  In Iraq, newly arrived troops will be helping to train the Iraqi Army to fight the insurgents.  All around the world, our men and women in uniform will be working.  The far right neocons will use tomorrow to pump up their rhetoric about fighting terrorists.  They will use that argument to call for a re-invasion of Iraq.

Yet, tomorrow, there will still be millions of people out of work because our Congress won’t do anything to help them get jobs.  Tomorrow, millions more people will have their extended unemployment insurance run out and have no income and face losing everything they spent a lifetime working for.  Tomorrow, women will still be considered second class citizens, especially by the Conservative Christian Cult.  Tomorrow, minorities will still face voter suppression laws in several states.  Tomorrow, LBGT couples won’t be able to get married in most states.

At the birth of our nation, we had to live with the evil “institution” of slavery.  Even though Thomas Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal”.  We continued slavery, because, well the slave owners didn’t consider their slaves as “men” or “people’ just as property.  It took a Civil War before this “institution” ended.

We have made small strides in the true concepts of “with liberty and justice for all”.  But, today in 2014, we still have groups of people who are not “free” and do not gain “justice”.  These groups include minorities, women, immigrants and LGBT.  These groups have had their “rights’ trampled on by the far right forever.  All they want is to have equal protection under the law.  Isn’t that what “liberty” really means?

Under the sway of the Conservative Christian Cult, many states are passing very restrictive anti-abortion laws.  The Cult is even fighting against birth control.  I still find it amazing that “contraception” use by women is considered by the Cult as being only for “recreational use”, yet Viagra, and other ED medicines as well as vasectomies are considered for “pro-creation” purposes.  Therefore, these things are still covered under health insurance while many forms of birth control have just be banned by the Supreme Court.

We still have women making anywhere from 80% to as low as 70% of what men make doing the same job.  We have the Cult fighting against such things as violence against women laws, equal pay laws, and ENDA.  We have women all across the nation facing beatings from their husbands just because they are handy.  Women are still victims of rape and yet they are treated as the cause of the rape, not the victim.

The amazing thing is that the Cult is telling women that if they don’t want to get beat or raped, all they have to do is get married.  They claim that feminism is the root cause of all that is wrong with the world.  It is feminism that has caused the decline of the “traditional family”.  Never mind that men set up the “no-fault” divorce clause so they don’t have to pay as much alimony to their wives.  Never mind that it is men who skip out on child support payments.  Hell, there is a misogynist web site called The Red Pill that even offers tips on how to avoid child support payments.  But, no, according to the Cult, it is all the fault of women.

Approximately 40% of all workers in this country work for minimum wage.  That automatically makes anyone with a small family live in poverty.  The Cult and their Republican friends are fighting any move to raise the minimum wage.  They all seem to think that it is perfectly fine for “those people” to work 40 hours per week and live in poverty.  “Those people” don’t do anything meaningful, and should bow down and kiss their employer’s feet for allowing them the opportunity to work and still live in poverty.

Let’s face facts, the only “entitlements” being offered to people in this country are being offered to the super-rich and/or White Christian Men.  We live in a “Corporate Welfare State”.  They are the only people who can even come close to enjoying “liberty”.  That is not what our country is supposed to be.  That is not what I served to protect.  I served, and many others continue to fight for the country that offers “liberty and justice for all”.

While masses of people continue to struggle to survive.  While our Steel Industry faces bankruptcy because of illegal dumping of steel into the country by South Korea threatening over 580,000 jobs.  While our transportation funds, the ones that repair our transportation systems, runs out of money and threatens another 700,000 jobs.  While our military members continue to serve our country, many of them relying on food stamps to feed their families.  Members of the Cult and the Republican Party will give hallow patriotic speeches.

They will loudly use the words of “religious freedoms”, or “liberty from tyranny” or “take our country back”.  But, what they are really saying is if you are not a white male Christian, you have no right to say anything because they believe this is “their” country.  I have seen many political fights in my life.  But, I have never seen such a push to turn back the clock on minority, women, immigration, and LBGT rights like is going on now.  The Cult has all the answers.  It is in “traditional family” where the man is the head of the household and women stay at home.

This gem from Rafael Cruz, Sr., the father of that patriotic Canadian Senator, Ted Cruz says it all:

As God commands us men to teach your wife, to teach your children—to be the spiritual leader of your family—you’re acting as a priest. Now, unfortunately, unfortunately, in too many Christian homes, the role of the priest is assumed by the wife. Why? Because the man had abdicated his responsibility as priest to his family…So the wife has taken up that banner, but that’s not her responsibility. And if I’m stepping on toes, just say, ‘Ouch.’

He believes this philosophy of the man’s role of the priest so much, he has been divorced twice!  Sounds to me that he has abdicated his role, at least when it comes to his marriage vows of “until death do us part”.

No, as long as we have right-wing pundits calling women “sluts” because they favor birth control or abortion.  As long as these same right-wing pundits are praising right-wing militia groups as “patriots” and not the domestic terrorists they are.  As long as the right-wing opposes immigration reform.  As long as we allow this income inequality and war against the poor and women.  As long as we have powerful groups like the Cult and their financial backers like the Koch Brothers, we will continue to live in a fantasy and hallowly say the words “with liberty and justice for all”.

Until the rights of all people, not just the members of the Cult and their allies, are respected and these terrible laws that continue to harm women, minorities, LBGT, and immigrants are overthrown, we will not live in a country of “liberty and justice for all”.  And that is the true American Tragedy!

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