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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

There have been screams from the right for years about how tax-payer money is spent.  They scream about tax-payer money being used to fund abortions for example.  There have also been screams from the right about unions using union dues for campaign contributions.  They want to make sure that any union member can “opt out” of their dues being used to support candidates.  We all know that if unions were endorsing Republican Candidates, this “opt out” wouldn’t be necessary.

Their argument has always been that tax-payer money cannot be used for things like these because everyone doesn’t agree with them.  So, if you disagree with abortion for example, your tax money should not be used to fund abortions, even for military personnel.  On the surface, that seems logical.  But, on the other hand, they have no problem with using tax-payer money to pay for things like Christmas scenes on government property.  They call that religious freedom.

Well, the State of Kentucky has just taken this one step further.  It seems that the State of Kentucky is recognizing a particular religious cult.  They are willing to offer tax incentives and tax-payer money to them to show their support.  Of course, Kentucky is saying they are doing this not to recognize a religious cult, but rather to create jobs.

Here is the story.  Ken Ham and his nuts are planning to build a life-sized Ark based on the biblical story of Noah and the flood.  The Ark Encounter is being built by Answers in Genesis, which also runs the Creationist Museum in Kentucky.  The issue is that this clearly religious organization has been approved by the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority, a state-run agency, for a great deal of state money. Yep, this religious group has received preliminary approval for an $18 million tax incentive.

However, the State is turning a blind eye to the fact that the people who apply for these jobs will be subject to discrimination based on their beliefs. Daniel Phelps, a geologist, president of the Kentucky Paleontologist Society, and vice president of Kentuckians for Science Education, pointed out:

“However, it is apparent that Ark Encounter is likely to discriminate against non-Christians. Moreover, Catholics, mainstream Protestant Christians and some conservative Christians who have different doctrinal beliefs are also unlikely to be hired.

The job description included this statement: ‘Our work at Ark Encounter is not just a job, it is also a ministry. Our employees work together as a team to serve each other to produce the best solutions for our design requirements. Our purpose through the Ark Encounter is to serve and glorify the Lord with our God-given talents with the goal of edifying believers and evangelizing the lost.’”

The entire job description requires a salvation testimony, a creation belief statement and a confirmation of your agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith.  That “Statement of Faith” includes these items.

“Those who do not believe in Christ are subject to everlasting conscious punishment, but believers enjoy eternal life with God.”

And:

“The only legitimate marriage sanctioned by God is the joining of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture. God intends sexual intimacy to only occur between a man and a woman who are married to each other, and has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. Any form of sexual immorality, such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, pornography, or any attempt to change one’s gender, or disagreement with one’s biological gender, is sinful and offensive to God”

And:

“By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.”

It doesn’t take much reasoning to figure out that this Statement of Faith, which is required by anyone who will be employed will lead to discrimination against non-Christians, Catholics, LGBT persons, atheists, or anyone else who does not agree with the Statement of Faith.  Yet, As Phelps put it: “The tax incentive, along with the city tax breaks, and the parcel of land sold to the project at a discount by Williamstown, plus $200,000 cash given by the Grant County Economic Development Commission is clearly a case of government entanglement with religion.”

The State may claim that this tax money is being used to create jobs.  But, it is being used to create jobs for a small minority of people.  It will be used to discriminate against anyone who disagrees with the Statement of Faith but still needs a job.  As a result, there can be no conclusion other than the one that says the State of Kentucky is guilty of “recognizing” a particular religion.  That is an obvious violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that says “the government shall not recognize an official state religion”.

Kentucky, the home of the renowned constitutionalist Mitch McConnel, seems to think that the First Amendment doesn’t pertain to them.  But, that is the way it always works.  Vilify your enemies and reward your supporters.  Even if it breaks the law.

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With the advent of the FOX News Network, and I do use the term ‘News” loosely, there has been a lot of talk about how things have gone from bad to worse.  Especially considering that FOX has a tendency to cleanse things to their liking to prove their point.  This is hardly new information.  And, FOX is not the first of the so-called “conservative” networks on TV and Radio that are guilty of this.

It is not unheard of that both sides are trying to cherry pick the points they want to expose.  It is very easy to take a quote, pick out the parts you like or dislike, and make those small points out to be major problems.  When this type of reporting is done, that leads to misinformation rather than informing the public.  I admit that both sides are guilty of such practices.  However, the length that FOX goes in this is remarkable considering that they not only cherry pick the points they want to make, they then demonize anyone who points out that is what they are doing.

But, FOX is not the leader in this either.  Limbaugh has been lying to his listeners since Reagan did away with the policy of allowing opposing views on any news point.  It used to be that if Limbaugh said something that another group disagreed with, his network was required by law to air an opposing view on the same topic.  Reagan did away with that law, and the lying moved to new heights.

Throughout the past elections, there has been talk about the public being uninformed.  There is a lot of talk about low informed people going to the polls and basically voting against their own interests.  An example are white poor people who continuously vote for politicians who want to take away the very social safety nets these poor people depend upon.  They vote for these politicians against their own interests because the politicians tell them that their plight is the fault of those “other” people.  And, that is what the poor white people want to hear.

This leads us to the mess in Ferguson, MO.  As I have written before, I am opposed to the violence that has occurred there.  Looting and rioting is not the answer to the shooting and killing of a black man who was unarmed.  However, the nice people at FOX seem, at least to me, to want this incident to continue.  It is my opinion that they are helping to foster the atmosphere that usually leads to trouble.

Many of the FOX “reporters” and pundits are making statements like the victim may have deserved to be killed.  They are leaning towards their opinion that the police can never act badly and that the shooting was justified.  Instead of reporting on the facts of the case, they are more interested in reporting that the New Black Panther Party has a couple of their members there.  As if that makes everything the police have done and are doing justified.

When the Ferguson Police released a security video showing a man who looks like the victim robbing a store of a box of cigars, FOX went on the rampage basically saying “see, he isn’t innocent.”  It was much later that the Ferguson police stated that the officer involved in the shooting was unaware that Brown may have been a suspect in the robbery. FOX did not back off though.  They are still saying that the shooting may have been justified.

They keep bringing up the fact that Al Sharpton is in the area.  They keep bringing up that people like Louis Farrakhan have made comments against the shooting.  They keep bringing up that the New Black Panthers have people there.  They even go so far as saying that the reporters who were arrested in a McDonalds deserved to be arrested.  Their argument is that they did not “obey” the police order quickly enough or that videoing them in the restaurant provoked the police.  For a network that claims to be a “News” network, that is a remarkable thing to say.

This is a perfect example of how so-called news reporters can lie and mislead the viewers into believing something based on totally unrelated information.  Rather that reporting the facts, they look for side stories that show the victim is the one to be blamed.  They are actually using the defense too often used by rapists and their lawyers.  The victim wanted or deserved what happened to them.

However, when the “offended” person is white, they call them patriots.  Remember Cliven Bundy?  Here is a freeloader who owes the government about a million dollars for illegally grazing his cattle on government land, and FOX called him a patriot.  Worse, the man in the picture lying flat on the ground of an overpass behind concrete barriers pointing a high-powered rifle at Federal Agents, they call a patriot.  The difference in these cases is that in the second, the government was acting on court orders.  Yet, the criminal was a patriot.  In the first case, a young black man was shot and killed by a white officer.  That makes the victim not a patriot, but a criminal who deserved what he got.

When people hear lies enough, they begin to believe them.  When people already believe that Brown was guilty of something, then the lies are even easier to swallow.  FOX news plays to the hate and bigotry that already exists.  I won’t go so far as to say they make things up, but they do emphasize the points to justify the bigoted beliefs that the victim was wrong.

It used to be that “fair and balanced” meant that all sides of a story would be explored.  That the truth, no matter what it turned out to be was the primary focus of news reporting.  That meant that all sides of a story had to be reported.  FOX News has perverted that phrase of “fair and balanced.”  They have made it to be whatever they deem to be fair, and balanced has nothing to do with reporting the news.

I don’t agree that most Americans are low informed.  I do believe that they are misinformed on purpose for political points.  That is not reporting, it is propaganda.

 

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Maybe we should give half props to FOX News.  For a long time now, they have been crying that there is a war on religion in America.  They are half right.  Of course, they claim it is a war on Christianity.  That is the part they have wrong.  The real war on religion is being waged by the Conservative Christian Cult against everyone else.

The Cult is truly amazing in cherry-picking the parts of religious beliefs that they will accept.  They then denounce everyone else as heretics because their religious beliefs don’t jive with the Cult’s.  There are lots of examples which we will discuss.  The main point is that in their zeal to “convert” the world to their way of thinking, they are willing to shred the right to practice your religious beliefs as guaranteed in the First Amendment.  Some have even gone so far as to say the First Amendment only applies to Christian beliefs.  Even if that were true, which it is not, they are still violating the First Amendment because they continue to persecute other Christians.

This year the Supreme Court ruled that “buffer zones” established by states in front of abortion clinics were not legal.  They believe that if a woman wants to get an abortion, the Cult has the right to attempt to interfere with that process, even going so far as to accost women and employees of the clinic to even get inside in peace.  I suppose that means that if a group of people show up in front of a Cult church and started accosting those attending services, that would also be legal.  I would love to see a group try that angle.

Imagine a group of protesters standing in front of a Cult church screaming to the attendees that they are devil worshipers, or other such nonsense.  Even going so far as to trying to block their entrance into the church “for their own good”.  I don’t think it would be too long before the police were summoned to get rid of the protesters.  The Cult believe they can do whatever they want, but no one else can use their tactics.

The fight over abortion is purely a religious fight.  Whether you believe abortion is “right or wrong” is totally down to religious belief.  The Cult says life begins and therefore the fetus is a person upon fertilization.  Other people with religious beliefs don’t think that way.  That is what the abortion fight is all about.  One narrow view of life against other views of life.

The Cult doesn’t want you to know this.  They try to make it out to be “protecting the unborn person”.  That is what all of these “personhood amendments” they keep trying to get passed is all about.  They are trying to force their religious belief on everyone else.  That in a word is “religious persecution”.

There are a lot of people who consider themselves to be good Christians who favor the right to have an abortion.  But the Cult has labeled them as Christians in Name only.  A favorite catch phrase of theirs.  If a woman’s religious beliefs tells her it is okay to have an abortion, denying her that right is religious persecution.  There is simply no other way to look at it.

There are several states with laws and/or State Constitutional Amendments banning same-sex marriage.  Yet, many churches and religions recognize same-sex marriage.  The Cult says “NO, that is the same as bestiality”.  What nonsense.  The whole premise of the Cult’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriage, is again wrapped up in their narrow view of what is in their beloved bible.  Other Christians and other faiths, don’t subscribe to that narrow view.

Therefore, if two people of the same-sex decide they want to get married, and their religious beliefs say that is okay, denying them the right to be married is religious persecution.  Sorry, but the Cult’s argument that the others are “simply wrong” doesn’t cut it.  They are persecuting other beliefs only because they differ from theirs.  The Cult even tried to get legislation passed that would allow them to discriminate against gay couples in normal business affairs.  Again, religious persecution.

Not only that, the Cult is famous for its hypocrisy.  Take the case of  Tennessee. Rep. Scott DesJarlais who is running for his third term for Congress as a “family values” guy.  He recently won his primary for reelection despite the fact that DesJarlais has a long history showing that while he firmly believes women should have to lose their basic human rights in the name of family values, he, as a man, has never shown any interest in making even the tiniest sacrifice for those same values.

It seems that he believes women who are facing an unwanted pregnancy that could derail their lives should suck it up and be made to suffer in the name of “life.” But when faced with the prospect of an unintended pregnancy that could hurt him, he suddenly became a big fan of abortion. It has been reported that DesJarlais encouraged, some would even say badgered his mistress to get an abortion during his first marriage. He also supported his first wife’s abortions.  Yet, he believes that he can run on a pro-life platform.  Apparently the Cult members in Tennessee agree with him.

The Hobby Lobby case proves this point even further.  The Cult member owners of the company claim to have “deeply held religious” beliefs about certain forms of contraception.  They argued in court that they shouldn’t be required to provide those forms of contraception in their health plans for employees.  SCOTUS said absolutely right.

Yet, there are many women who work at Hobby Lobby who believe all forms of contraception are perfectly fine.  Their religious beliefs do not forbid them from using them.  As a result, these woman are being persecuted for their religious beliefs by a company that claims to have deeply held religious beliefs.  Problem is their religious beliefs trump those of their employees.  What else can you call it but religious persecution?

These are just a few examples of religious persecution that is ongoing in America.  FOX was correct in pointing out that it exists.  They were just wrong in who is actually perpetrating this persecution.  In my view, the fanaticism of the Cult’s persecution of the “non-believers” is very similar to other fanatical groups.  So, the next time you hear the Cult scream about religious persecution, remember it is them waging war against your religious beliefs, not the other way around.

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We have seen the picture way too many times.  It has permeated our society for generations and it doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon.  I am talking about what is going on in Ferguson, MO.  On Saturday, a young black man was shot and killed by a white police officer.  The reason the officer shot Michael Brown is still unclear.  But, one thing is clear, it is being handled extremely poorly by the Ferguson Police Chief.

The police officer, who is yet to be identified, claims that when he attempted to exit his squad car, Brown pushed the door back on him.  He then claims that Brown attached him through the window and tried to get his gun.  There was a gun shot inside the car.  Brown was shot 35 feet away from the car, meaning the officer got out of the car before opening fire again.

On the other hand, a witness, who was with Brown at the time it happened gives a completely different story.  He claims that the officer tried to exit the car next to the two teens.  The door hit them both and ricocheted closed again.  According to the witness, the officer then grabbed Brown by the neck through the window.  After a shot rang out, Brown and his friend started running.  The officer reportedly shot Brown who then turned around with his hands in the air and said “I am unarmed”.  The officer then shot him several times killing him.

The Ferguson Chief claims the officer was treated at the hospital with a “swollen face”.  He doesn’t say how exactly the officer got that swollen face.  But, he implies that it was because Brown attacked the officer.  By the way, the only thing the two boys were doing wrong?  They were walking in the street rather than the sidewalk.

Even if the officer’s claim about being attacked is true, that does not justify lethal action by the officer.  You cannot shoot someone several times simply because he bruised your face.  Especially when that person was unarmed, as alleged by his friend.  In my view, that simply means the officer was wrong in his actions and should be punished.

That brings us to what has happened since.  The residents of Ferguson started rioting.  I oppose violence in all cases and the residents are wrong to riot over the incident.  However, the Brown family, Al  Sharpton and others have criticized the rioting and looting and asked for “peaceful protests”.  The last few nights, the residents have tried to use peaceful protest.

However, the Ferguson Police Department, equipped with all sorts of militarized equipment have met them head on.  Tear gas has been fired at the protesters.  According to one news report on scene, the tear gas was fired just 15 seconds after the police gave an order to move on.  That hardly seems like enough time for everyone to even get the news from the police.

News reporters have been arrested.  Even news camera trucks were ordered out of the area before the tear gas was fired on the crowd.  That brings back memories of the riots in Chicago in 1968 at the Democratic National Convention.  Rather than sitting down with the protesters, especially the family and try to work something out that would help clear the way for an independent investigation into the incident, the Ferguson Police has decided to basically go to war with its residents.

Referring back to the Chicago Convention Riots, Mayor Richard J. Daily said on national television that “the police are not there to cause the riot.  They are there to preserve the riot”.  I was there, I lived there, and I can say that the police did an excellent job of “preserving” the riot.  What we are witnessing in Ferguson is no different.  Except the Chicago Police were not equipped with military equipment like the small town of Ferguson Police are.

There are calls for the people to “trust the authorities” to get to the bottom of this.  How can we trust the authorities when they are the ones who seem to have caused the problem in the first place?  All across the country police departments are getting more and more militarized.  SWAT teams attack people’s homes without warning.  All too often they attack the wrong house and hundreds of people are being injured during these attacks.  Even infants like the one injured by a flash grenade that was thrown into the crib.

This is more than a black/white issue.  This is what happens when any media, conservative or liberal, tries to pedal that one group is better than another.  It is what happens when old white men decide that their power base is in jeopardy and they start demonizing races of people.

This case is another example of the American Tragedy played out before the cameras.  There was no reason I can see why this teen was shot and killed by a police officer.  There is no reason to use this case as an excuse to riot and loot a community either.  The only problem is that far too often, oppressed people believe that when no one listens, the only recourse if violence.  Violence may get people’s attention, but it will also lead to more deaths.  There have been more deaths in Ferguson as a result of the riots.

There is a cry of “no justice, no peace”.  But, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. proved that no peace doesn’t mean violence.  Non-violent protest is also a form of “no peace”.   The Ferguson Police Chief claims the officer involved “is hurt” over the incident.  Maybe, but not as hurt as his victim.  The Attorney General said that the Federal Government will investigate this incident.  Hopefully, the truth will come out, and this officer will be punished for any offense he committed.

But, until we end the era of intolerance perpetrated by the loud mouthpieces mostly on the right, we will have more Ferguson’s in our future.  If we don’t stop demonizing people simply because they are different from us, how can expect anything less?

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Education has been under attack in this country for at least 50 years.  That’s right, 50 years!  Public education in the U.S. was one of if not the best education you could get anywhere.  That is no longer true.  We have slumped to under the top 25 in the developed world.  This fall can be traced back to the 1960s.

When I was in college, there was a lot of talk about ending the grading scale and just use pass/fail.  It was determined that children shouldn’t have the burden of getting higher grades put upon them.  It was considered too much of a strain laced with pitfalls with a feeling of low self-worth if the child got Cs or Ds on their report card.

This philosophy is based on the theory that the real important factor is that a child be able to regurgitate lessons and information so they pass the class they are taking.  However, that is a false premise on which to base education.  Education is not just rote memorization, it is supposed to be a tool that gives the student the ability to critically think.  Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley said, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

That statement from Mr. Riley is true and accurate.  Just look at the technological leaps our society has made in just the last 50 years.  When I was in college, computers were large behemoths that needed data cards to input the information.  There were no desktop computers in those days.  Now we have desktop computers, laptop computers, tablets, and cell phones that are really computers.  New innovative products are still coming out and more are on the drawing board.  This basically proves that Mr. Riley was right.

Unfortunately, at the same time some were proposing pass/fail grading, others were planning on slashing the education budgets.  Many, mostly Republicans but not all, even wanted, and still want, to eliminate the Department of Education.  Many states have slashed taxes thus causing cuts in local budgets that have severely hampered public education.

Rand Paul has a big plan to reform education.  He is “planning a major push on education reform, including education choice, school choice, vouchers, charter schools, you name it.” As one specific example for improving education, Paul suggested that “if you have one person in the country who is, like, the best at explaining calculus, that person maybe should teach every calculus class in the country.” He allowed that “You’d still have local teachers to reinforce and try to explain and help the kids, but you’d have some of these extraordinary teachers teaching millions of people in the classroom.” As an example, Paul lauded the work of Salman Khan, the creator of Khan Academy, a growing vault of education videos aimed to comprehensively cover a wide variety of traditional school courses and other topics as well.

This all sounds good if you believe that education is only rote memorization.  You see, this is not teaching students to problem-solve.  It is merely teaching them to remember something we tell them, and come up with something similar.  When we consider that science, technology, engineering, and math are used to problem-solve problems that may not even exist today, how is rote memorization going to help?  We need to teach our children to think for themselves and give them the tools they need to be more productive at problem-solving.

The attack on education is an ongoing thing.  And, it is always based around money.  Budgets need to be cut in order to afford the massive tax cuts Republicans want to give their contributors.  Just look at Kansas and North Carolina if you want proof.  Both states drastically cut education budgets and their schools have fallen to the depths of poor performance.  Cutting education budgets is not an answer.  It merely makes public education worse than it was.

Yes, there are socioeconomic issues involved as well.  Family participation in the education of children is necessary for the child to succeed.  But, some families are better equipped economically than others to take part in educating their children.  Some people need to work two jobs just to support their family.  That makes it very hard to be a full participant.  These factors need to be considered as well as budgets.

However, the real issue is with our understanding of what teachers actually do.  Unfortunately, most people think that teaching is easy.  We all remember our days as a student, but we never saw behind those doors to the faculty lounge and saw what teachers are required to do before going into the classroom.  There is a lot of work involved in teaching children.  But, it is not a profession that is the same as others.  Teaching is an art form.  It takes very skilled and dedicated people to educate our children.

No two teachers handle their classes the same way.  The best teachers even teach differently depending upon the current student base in their class.  They need to moderate their plans to accommodate different types of children and how quickly they are learning.  Being able to interpret the feedback from your classroom is critical in becoming a great teacher.

If we truly want to improve our education system, we need to attract the best and brightest to the education field.  We cannot do that without paying teachers better than we do.  Yes, there a those who will say that will only “reward” those who are considered “poor” teachers, but there are “poor performers” in every profession.  So that is a lame argument.

By increasing teachers pay, we can attract more of our brightest young people to become teachers.  There are plenty of people I know who would have been great teachers but passed on the field because of the low pay.  It will cost more money in the short-term to do this, but it will more than pay for itself when we have more critical thinkers coming out of our public schools.  These critical thinkers and problem-solvers will be our future growth potential.

There are many fields that pay more than teachers.  I am not taking anything away from any of these professions, but are they really as important to our future than our teachers?  How can expect our public education to improve if we continue to demonize our teachers?  How can education get better when teachers need to buy supplies for their classroom out of their own pockets because the budget doesn’t give them what they need?  How can we improve education when we cut budgets so much classroom sizes increase rather than decrease?

Public education is definitely under attack.  It has been under attack for at least the last 50 years.  Until we come to remember that it was our public education that gave us the scientists who put a man on the moon and return to properly funding education, we will continue on a track that will lead us to third world status.  Education of our children is too important to be a pawn of budgets.  It is too important to be used as any type of political pawn.  It is the future of our children and our country.  It should be our highest priority.

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I regularly read news papers and watch news television during the day.  I need to keep up with what is going on in the world, and I make sure I have different points of view on each story.  Mostly, you can tell a political lean of a news paper or news station easily.  Each side is quick to make sure their like or dislike for something is based on their political view and what is wrong with America.  But, when it comes to rape, I find that none of the mainstream, or non-mainstream media for that matter, really give a shit about rape or the victims.

When rape does hit the headlines the news media is quick to not only say a woman had been raped, but then conjectures on “why” she was raped.  Many have even gone on to write editorials pointing out what they think causes rape.  Naturally, the perpetrator of the crime is never mentioned.  Only the victim.

USA Today was the latest to wade into the foray.  They wrote an op-ed that basically says that rape on college campuses is due to, now get this, “women drinking too much”.  We hear this stupid nonsense all of the time.  It seems that whenever a woman is raped, it is because they either drink too much around men, dress too provocatively, behave improperly, or just use bad judgment when picking their friends.  It always seems to fall back onto the victim not the perpetrator.

How is this even possible?  Why is it that people have to blame the victim for being a victim of an abusive crime?  Why isn’t it the fault of the man who is committing the crime?  There are various opinions as to the cause of the problem, and some people have made very serious suggestions on helping to fix the problem.

For example, Dana Bolger of Know Your IX wrote a rebuttal in the same newspaper that puts the argument of the editorial board to shame.  She wrote:

Rape is a powerful tool of social control, used to keep us in our place. Like rape itself, the endless chorus of “don’ts” keeps us quiet and submissive. But it neither reduces violence nor comes without cost: It keeps us out of public space, afraid to take risks. It does violence’s work for it.

To reduce rape, we can challenge the conditions of inequality that allow gender violence to flourish. Begin consent education in elementary schools, teach boys not to rape, and hold perpetrators accountable in our colleges, churches and families.

The alternative — to deny women the opportunity to move freely and live full lives — reaffirms the very effects of violence it seeks to mitigate.

We continue to have these problems because it has been inbred into our culture.  We have been taught from an early age that women are not to be treated as equals.  We allow the predatory behavior of men towards women simply because it is really controlling them.  Men are entitled to what they want while women are to submit to the will of men.

This is taught everywhere.  Every time an athlete is accused of rape and gets away with it because of his “entitlement” to be pampered we teach our boys that it is okay to rape a woman.  Every time a minister preaches from the pulpit about how women are to submit to the wishes of her husband, we teach boys that it okay to expect whatever they want from women.  Every time someone in the media blames the woman for being raped because of her drinking or how she dresses, we teach boys that it is okay to rape women.

This a real culture that men perpetrate all too often and apparently want to keep.  It is nothing but entitled control over the opposite sex.  Somehow blaming the victim of rape seems to make these men feel really good about themselves.  After all, she must have had it coming.  Of course all of that is total stupidity.

Like most social problems, this one will not go away until there is more done to prevent rape in the first place.  And prevention does not start with blaming the woman.  It starts with respect for everyone.  It starts with educating our boys that rape is a crime and they are not entitled to have sex with a woman if she does not consent.  I am sick and tired of hearing about that “poor boy” or “poor man” and what the crime will do to his life.  I am more interested in what the crime will do to the woman’s life.  She was the one attacked, not him.

Rape is a vicious horrible crime.  What is even worse, is making the victim the cause of this crime.  If you ask any man who has a daughter or wife what they would do if their daughter or wife were raped, you will probably hear the same response.  “I will kill the SOB that did it.”  But, if it is his son who committed the crime, you will usually hear that “she probably had it coming”.  Until that second response changes, the problem of rape will continue and women will continue to be blamed for being attacked!

Sometimes I wonder if man really evolved, or if we are still in the cave.

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The much ballyhooed, long-awaited announcement came on July 30, 2014.  Remember that date.  That is when Trey Gowdy announced that his House Select Committee will begin holding hearings in September on the Benghazi scandal.  That’s right, in September we will uncover all of the nasty, devious conspiracies that triggered the death of four Americans including our Ambassador to Libya.

We have all waited for this to begin.  We also knew that it wouldn’t start until after the August recess to put it front and center just before the mid-term elections.  But, there is no politicking here, please move on.  Mr. Gowdy has said over and over that there are still unanswered questions about what really happened that night.  He is sure he will be able to flush out the truth and lay bare the conspiracy he knows existed.  How does he know?  Because he is the biggest conspiracy theorist on Capital Hill.

There is another date to remember.  That date is July 31, 2014.  That is when the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence voted to release its unclassified portion of their investigation into Benghazi.  There is something else to note about this report.  It was unanimously approved by the committee.  There were 12 Republicans on the committee.  Surely there must be something that Mr. Gowdy can use in his investigation.

Well, according to reports, the House Permanent Select Committee found no conspiracy.  They found no cover-up.  They found no proof of a “stand-down” order.  Basically, they found nothing.  The Democratic Ranking member,  Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger. released a statement:

The report also shows that the process used to develop the talking points was flawed, but that the talking points reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis. Finally, the report demonstrates that there was no illegal activity or illegal arms sales occurring at U.S. facilities in Benghazi. And there was absolutely no evidence, in documents or testimony, that the Intelligence Community’s assessments were politically motivated in any way.

Adam Schiff, another top Democrat on the committee, issued a statement saying:

The initial talking points provided by the intelligence community were flawed because of conflicting assessments not an intention to deceive, that there was no stand down order, that the diplomatic facilities lacked adequate security, and that our personnel at the scene acted bravely and appropriately.

Yes, it is possible that the Democrats are putting on a nice spin from the report.  But, even if they are, they fall in line with a report from the House Armed Services Committee that also found that there was no intelligence pointing to an imminent threat in Benghazi, and there was no “stand down” order.

Benghazi has been investigated by no less than a dozen committees.  Most of them in the House where the Republicans hold sway.  Yet, none of the reports from any of these investigations show any conspiracy on that fateful day.  So, why so many investigations?  Because the Republicans cannot take no for an answer.  Their tilted view of the world says there had to be a conspiracy, and by god they are going to find one, even if they have to make it up!  Besides, when you think there is a conspiracy around every corner, facts mean nothing.

But then again, if you are a Fiscal Conservative, as the Republicans say they are, what is another $3.5 million tax dollars spent on another political stunt in Congress?  In their mind wasting tax dollars on meaningless investigations is far better than helping the poor and elderly.

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School’s out for the summer!  Our wonderful Congress has taken their usual August recess.  That is a normal thing this time of year.  These politicians will go back to their districts and hold town hall meetings and espouse their wonderful achievements.  Problem is, they don’t have any wonderful achievements to espouse.

The previous two Congresses were the least productive in modern history.  The current Congress is on track to even beat those two in futility.  I know it is hard to believe, but that is the fact.  Congress has left town in a rush to get “reelected” to their meaningless position.  There was a time when holding public office was an honorable endeavor held by people who wanted to make the country better.  The current crop of legislators are anything but honorable.

As the children take their usual recess, huge problems still face this country.  We still have a mess on the border.  There are still thousands of undocumented children waiting for their “cases to be heard” as the 2008 law says they must.  What has Congress done about this humanitarian problem?  Nothing!  Yes, the House passed a bill, but they added so many inhumane elements to it that it will never get through the Senate.  That is once the Senate comes back in September.

Some of these elements do not even include anything to do with the humanitarian problem at the border.  They deal with things that are best covered in a comprehensive immigration reform bill.  But since the House has no intention of even talking about comprehensive immigration reform, they tack on objectionable amendments to laws just so those laws can be killed.

There are still millions of people working 40 hour work weeks for below poverty pay.  There is still an attack on any religious beliefs that to not follow the “white” Christian beliefs.  There is still no immigration reform.  There is still no national marriage equality.  There are still voter suppression laws on the books in several states.  There are still millions of people without health care because Republican states refuse to expand Medicaid.  There are still way too many people out of work.  Our infrastructure is still falling down around our ears.

They did manage to pass a bill that will allow the VA help our veterans better.  But, as usual, they have nothing in it that will address the over 1 million homeless veterans.  Nothing that will address the fact that millions of veterans need food stamps just to survive, which the Republicans want to cut even deeper.  They have basically put a band-aide on a gaping wound our veterans suffer from every day.  They authorized about half of the money the VA really needs.  They say they will address the rest in the “normal budget process”.  Which means the VA won’t get any additional money they need because the Republicans will insist on cutting other safety nets to “pay” for any additional money for the VA.

The one piece of legislation the House is very proud of is the one authorizing the Speaker to sue the President.  That is one bill that every Republican in Congress could get behind.  Wasting millions of tax dollars on suing the President as a political stunt is something they are very proud of doing.

It has been often said that allowing the inmates to run the asylum is a bad idea.  Yet, Mr. Boehner has allowed just that to happen.  The inmates in the GOP are now running the asylum.  Thanks in large part to Mr. Boehner’s inability to actually “lead”.  As a result, a “junior Senator from Texas” has become the de facto Speaker of the House.  Way to stand up to the inmates, Mr. Boehner!

If it was just the inmates in Washington that were running the asylum, I wouldn’t be so worried about it.  But, the inmates are running the asylum in many of the states as well.

The party that says it wants “government out of our lives” are very willing to put government into our lives if it will force everyone to think as they do.  They want “government in of the lives” of the poor by killing social safety nets and making sure they can’t vote because they believe the poor are just not smart enough to trust to vote Republican.  They want “government in the lives” of women and their reproductive choices because they don’t think women are smart enough to make their own decisions.  They want “government in the lives” of LGBT community because they must make sure they don’t have equal rights as the rest of the “normal” world as they see it.  They want “government in science” so they can foster the myth of creationism as the “real” science simply because it doesn’t interfere with profit-making for their big donors.   They want “government in the lives” of the working poor by saying that a Federal Minimum Wage is “hurting” their chances to move ahead.  They want “government in children’s lives” by making sure they don’t learn anything while allowing for profit school companies to make millions in profits without having to actually teach anything viable.

In a time when the country faces many challenges, we are stuck with school children who cannot make decisions.  We are stuck with a group  whose only real concern is hate for anything that doesn’t look or think like they do.  We are stuck with the inmates running the asylum.  I have always been an optimist when it comes to the future of our country.  I must admit, that with the current crop of school children in Congress, my optimism is shaky.

There is one bright side.  With school out for the summer, they can’t pass anymore bills that harm the country.  But, then, they don’t pass bills at all, so maybe that is a good thing too.

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As we move deeper into the sixth year of President Obama’s administration, stalemate is still the issue.  Many people claim that this stalemate is due to the right wing’s obsession with just hating the President.  They are partly right.  However, the biggest reason we have been mired in this stalemate is a lack of leadership.

Both in and out of the military, I was an instructor.  I even taught Leadership and Management courses.  One of the tools I used to help show the different types of leadership skills was the movie “12 O’clock High”.  If I were still teaching this course, I would put together a clip of John Boehner’s flip-flopping as a prime example of what happens when there is no leadership.

Speaker Boehner has allowed a minority of his own party to kill every single piece of meaningful legislation he has dared to offer.  He has allowed “outsiders” to run roughshod over his caucus which has basically “scared the living shit” out of normally reasonable thinking men and women.  His lack of courage to stand up to these misfits has led to the stalemate we have had to endure.

For example, John Boehner and Eric Cantor were prepared to introduce a continuing resolution to fund the government through December. It included a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act, but was structured in a way that would have allowed Senate Democrats to strip that provision, pass the rest of the bill, and send it to the White House. Ted Cruz and his emissaries warned the House conservatives of the ploy, support collapsed, and the bill was pulled.  After that, Boehner was forced to go along with conservatives’ plan to hold a firm defund-Obamacare line, and a government shutdown ensued.

Earlier this year the House Republican leadership introduced its “principles” as an opening volley in the chamber’s comprehensive immigration reform debate. Boehner introduced the principles at a retreat in late January, and initially, the plan had some support among House Republicans.  But then, Cruz stepped in, again.

House Republicans who supported the “principles” of immigration reform floated by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, late last month grumbled Tuesday that the plan was dead on arrival because Cruz blasted it as “amnesty,” spurring a blizzard of negative phone calls to House Republicans.

“After that it was ‘We’ll get back to you on immigration reform,’ ” said one Republican congressman who declined to be identified. [...]

Finally, A House working group led by Rep. Kay Granger unveiled its legislation to address the border crisis, with only a week-and-a-half left to get something done before Congress adjourns for the August recess. The bill only allots $1.5 billion in spending to address the issue — well below President Obama’s asking price and Senate Democrats’ $2.7 billion proposal — not great, but at least it is a starting point.

But the great Canadian Senator wasn’t pleased with this.  He actually held a confab with House conservative members a full hour before this legislation was even unveiled.  He was “urging House Republicans to reject legislation addressing the border crisis, arguing that passing a bill through the lower chamber would play into the hands of Senate Democrats.”   Since that intellectual thinker Rep. Steve King agrees with the Canadian Senator, this bill will likely die before it comes to a vote as well.

Why is this happening so often?  For one, Mr. Boehner doesn’t have the courage to tell the Canadian Senator to stay the hell out of House business.  If he is opposed to something the House is passing, he will have his opportunity to kill it in the Senate.  Mr. Boehner seems happy to allow Cruz to act as the de facto Speaker of the House.

One of the things that makes a leader is the ability to make a decision!  Mr. Boehner has shown time-and-again that he lacks that ability.  This is because Mr. Boehner wants to be “liked” by his caucus.  A leader is not going to be “liked” by everyone.  A leader needs the courage to step on some toes once in a while.  That is part of the job of being a leader.  That courage is something that Mr. Boehner is sorely lacking.

Until the Speaker is willing to step up and be a real leader in the House, we will continue to have this stalemate.  By refusing to do “what is right” regardless of political outcry, Mr. Boehner is no more than a shell in a suit.  That has allowed Cruz to become the de facto Speaker of the House.  Something he was NOT elected to be.

The Republican Party has a lot of problems as we know.  They can’t get out of their own way when it comes to diversity.  They can’t help but think the only way to win an election is to repress the vote.  They apparently hate women, blacks, Latinos, LGBT, and anyone who is not a White Evangelical Christian.  But, the real problem in the Republican Party is that its so-called “mainstream Republicans” lack leadership and courage.  As long as that persists, we will not see an end to the stalemate anytime soon.  And, We the People, will continue to suffer.

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We are a few month out from the scandal that rocked the VA.  The legislation that would have pumped an additional $30 Billion into the VA to help alleviate the waiting times by veterans seeking treatment from private doctors is stalled in Congress.  So what else is new.  The administration has also asked for an additional $18 Billion so the VA can hire more doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and lease new facilities to reduce overcrowding.

Of course there are a lot of reasons that this legislation has bogged down.  One big reason is that it is an election year, and no one wants to be blamed for its failure.  But, on the other side of the coin, no Republican wants the administration to be able to take credit for helping to fix a real problem either.  That means, the Republicans in the Senate have tried to introduce “amendments” to the bill that would certainly doom it.  For example, they want an amendment to put more sanctions on Iran.  Apparently, they don’t believe that Iran is negotiating faithfully.  Even if that is true, how does that help our veterans getting the help they need.

Obviously, this is simply a ploy by the Republicans in the Senate to kill a needed bill that will help the millions of veterans who need the help.  They just don’t want to come out in an election year and say as much.  Once veterans are no longer useful on the battlefield, they become expendable.  That has been the case since the country was founded.

The one part of the fight I find completely detestable is the argument that “it needs to be paid for”.  Really?  We sent millions of our finest young men and women into war, without paying for it, and now we say that those same people who desperately need our help can’t get it unless it is “paid for”.  Senator Lindsey Graham is one of the leading critics of this “paid for” mantra.

Okay, how about this for your thought Mr. Graham.  The veterans have already paid for the aid they need.  They paid for it with their lives, blood, and sanity!  They are the real patriots who stood by this country in time of trouble.  They are the ones who put everything on the line for their country.  How dare any politician who has sat safely in the capital even dream of using the words it must be “paid for” when it comes to veteran benefits?

Using comments like that is nothing more than a slap in the face to every man and women who has served this country!  Anyone using those words should resign their seat in the Congress.  It is more than shameful.

So, here is a way to “pay for” the aid our brothers and sisters need.  Let’s tax all of the money corporations have hidden overseas for the purpose of not paying taxes.  With the estimated trillions of dollars these corporations have hidden overseas, we could easily pay for these necessary benefits with a simple 10% tax on all of that money!

But, no, the Republicans won’t bite the hands that feed them.  They would rather treat the veterans like second-class citizens who, in their thinking are no better than the so-called 47 per centers.  In their minds, veterans who need the help the VA can provide them are merely seeking handouts from “uncle sugar”.

It is time for Congress to stop mistreating our veterans.  It is time for them to do their job!  I call on every veteran to make it to the polls this November and vote out anyone who is even trying to stop this bill.  Our veterans deserve better from our representatives.

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