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The Supreme Court has taken another cap away from donors to political campaigns.  This was expected.  The conservatives on the Court seem to think that money is free speech.  That is how they base their decisions anyway.  So, looking forward, finance reform in our political system seems dead.  Except, there is a way we can eliminate the need for mass amounts of money in campaigns.

One aspect of the ruling that I still find hard to swallow is the idea that an individual can give money to whomever they wish.  Meaning, that a person in Texas can spend money in North Carolina campaigns.  I understand the free speech thing, but how can an election in North Carolina possibly be of any interest to someone who lives in Texas?  Unless the Texan wants to “buy” the candidates vote on certain legislation.

With that thought, maybe we could pass a law that you can only give to political parties, PACs, and candidates in your state.  I know that the parties and PACs will spend the money wherever they think it is needed, and I don’t have a real problem with that.  But, for someone outside the state to give money to a local candidate, even if that person is running for Congress, is ridiculous.  That person will not be “representing” the donor.  So, there is no apparent policy concern for the outsider.  Only a desire to control as many elected officials as possible.

But, we all know that the number one factor in the large amounts of money being spent in campaigns is for TV and Radio advertisements.  Both sides spent an obscene amount of money in the last election on advertisement.  The best way to reduce spending on campaigns is to eliminate advertising fees.  Of course, the stations carrying these advertisements wouldn’t like the idea of losing money like that.  So, in fairness to them, the number of advertisements each station is required to carry should be limited.  But, both side should get the same amount of air time.  Plus, no one will be able to “purchase” more air time than allocated.  These restrictions would have to include PACs as well.

By eliminating the cost of advertising, we would reduce the amount of money each candidate would need to effectively run a campaign.  By limiting each side to specific numbers of advertisements, we would ensure fair and balanced advertising on behalf of both parties.  That might actually allow voters to hear both sides of the equation before going to the polls.  Besides, with the number of television stations now, between on-air and cable/satellite, there will be lots of air-time for both sides to use.

To help protect private citizens from being overwhelmed by “robo-calls”, it should be part of the “do not call list” law that these calls are included.  We can already use the list to stop nuisance calls from other telemarketers, we should be able to block these political robo-calls as well.

There are a lot of other areas that require spending.  Like travel for the candidates, printing costs, etc.  But these are relatively small compared to the advertising budgets.  Once we get rid of spending on advertisements and make sure each side gets the same amount of time on-air, we can then look at other areas as well.

It is already nearly impossible to charge someone with bribery when they contribute to campaigns.  Just look at the infamous “Norquist Pledge”.  This is an open, and by most politicians own admission, quid-pro-quo contributions.  That constitutes bribery.  Yet, prosecutors are hesitant to pursue such corruption because of the difficulty in prosecuting the culprits.

As a result, since the Supreme Court thinks that giving money to outside elections is free speech, the only way to take money out of politics, is to eliminate as much money as possible from the process.  Otherwise, we will be faced with a small group of corporate billionaires “buying” the elections.

A little covered story has the potential of helping to raise the issue of false allegations being made by right wing nuts.  Maybe, just maybe if we are lucky, it will also spell the doom of one of the biggest ranting bafoons on air.  Unfortunately, I am not referring to the fat drug addict.  I am instead talking about that wonderful liberty loving Glenn Beck!

Abdulrahman Alharbi has filed a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Beck in Boston.  For those who have the good sense to stay from this moron’s radio show, here is a little brief background on the matter.  Mr. Alharbi was standing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon when the attack took place.  He was injured by the blast.

In the days after the explosions that killed three people and injured more than 260, Beck “repeatedly and falsely identified Mr. Alharbi as an active participant in the crimes that were committed on April 15, 2013, repeatedly questioned the motives of federal officials in failing to pursue or detain Alharbi and repeatedly and falsely accused Mr. Alharbi of being a criminal who had funded the attacks at the Boston Marathon,” the lawsuit alleges.

Since, Alharbi has been called a “murderer, child killer and terrorist” based on Beck’s statements, the suit says.  When he spouted his vile accusations against Alharbi, Beck had no evidence for his accusations.  I guess having a middle-eastern name was all he needed.  Alharbi, as mentioned, was injured in the explosion.  Authorities did question him, they even searched his apartment.  As a result, the authorities came to the conclusion that he had no involvement in the attack.

So far, neither Mr. Beck or any of the stations included in the lawsuit have commented on the matter.  Not surprising.  Besides, what would they say?  “Yes we lied to get higher ratings.”

This is a great example of an individual standing up to one of these lunatics.  When the fat drug addict called Sandra Fluke a “slut” and suggested she “tape her sexual activities so we could all watch” I thought she should have sued him.  Maybe, if more people stand up to these bullies, we may finally get some common decency in our political system again.

Making a living by spouting made-up information is reprehensible enough.  Calling someone a murderer on air thinking your “free speech” will protect you is abhorrent.  These clowns only think about how much money they are making.  Maybe a win in this case will help show them enough is enough.  Let’s hope that Mr. Alharbi wins his case.  Let’s also hope the penalties for Mr. Beck and the stations that put him on air are severe enough to finally shut the ignorant pig up!!!  One can only hope.

There is another attempt to circumvent the law by claiming religious freedom.  This time though, it is something that could lead to a potential public health crisis.  The “vaccine truthers” are now trying to get public school immunization laws “exempted” for anyone who does not wish to immunize their children.  Of course, they are claiming “religious freedom” or “philosophical belief” for their excuse, which is a total canard.  People who are claiming vaccines are prohibited by their religious or philosophical beliefs usually still seek modern medical treatment like chemotherapy or insulin.

There is evidence that these so-called “truthers” have already hurt the public health.  Endemic measles which is still considered eliminated in the U.S. saw record numbers of new outbreaks last year, and this year has already seen several new outbreaks.  If this trend continues, how long will it be before we see new outbreaks of small pox, chicken pox, or polio.  Frankly, not immunizing your children from deadly diseases is immoral, to me.

These people have been saying for years that vaccines cause other problems like autism.  There is no proof or even a shred of evidence to support their claims.  Frankly, I find this argument personally offensive.  I have an autistic grandson.  He did not get his condition through any vaccine.  Using “talking points” to prove your theory is not science.  It is voodoo.

But, in fairness to these wonderful people who are willing to risk their children’s health, there is a solution to the problem.  If someone wishes to not immunize their children, they should not be allowed to send their children to public schools, or any private school that follows the immunization laws.  They should be forced to attend schools with like-minded children.  WITHOUT VOUCHERS FROM THE STATE TO PAY FOR IT!

Schools are the one place where children are brought together with others in a closed environment.  That makes them more open to contagion.  The children with immunization should be protected, but there are no guarantees in life.  We should not expose them to someone not protected and very vulnerable to these diseases.

If we force the children of parents who do not immunize their children into private institutions of like-minded people, at least we can contain whatever outbreak occurs.  We should not allow the general public to be endangered by these people.  Nor, should we be forced to pay for their education with vouchers or any other financial aid.  Anyone who decides not to follow standard immunization laws, should be allowed to do so at their own expense and at their own risk.

Frankly, if I owned a Health Insurance Company, I would seek permission to charge these people more in premiums, too.  They are opening their children to contagious diseases that are preventable.  Why should they get the same rates as people who are protecting their children?  If you want to take the risk of your child being infected with a potentially deadly disease, that is your risk, not ours.  Our children deserve better protection from society.

The union organizing at Northwestern University has a lot of people up in arms.  To recap, the football players at Northwestern University want to form a union.  They claim that they are employees of the university.  They receive compensation for their play on the field in the form of scholarships.  The generally work 40-60 per week at their trade, plus go to school.  They are under the control of or monitored by, the coaching staff, and school administrators. These are policies that they have to follow – social media policy, maintaining certain weight, going to class, staying above a certain GPA level.

In order to gain status as “employees” of the university, the players had to show the NLRB they meet these requirements.  The Chicago office of the NLRB ruled that they did meet these requirements, and thus were entitled to form their union.  To coin a phrase “all holy hell broke out” after the decision.

Sen. Lamar Alexander said, “Imagine a university’s basketball players striking before a Sweet 16 game demanding shorter practices, bigger dorm rooms, better food and no classes before 11 a.m.” He added, “This is an absurd decision that will destroy intercollegiate athletics as we know it.”   A lot of others cried that the players were simply trying to get high salaries for playing at the university.  Some of these may sound reasonable, but let’s look at what the players are asking for.

There are three major areas of concern for the players:

No. 1 is medical protections … extending past the end of a player’s eligibility …

No. 2 is to see concussion reform. Concussion prevention and concussion research in the NCAA, and these schools making great strides to protect these players’ brains.

No. 3 is extended academic support. If you only play three or four years because you didn’t red-shirt, you’re not going to have the opportunity to have one year of your grad school paid for like you would if you did red-shirt.

There are a lot of things that the general public does not know about how these athletic scholarships work.  For one, each scholarship is for one year.  That means the university can pull the scholarship from an athlete for a number of reasons.  For example, if a player has a career ending injury, the university can pull that person’s scholarship.  Even though he suffered the injury at the university.

Once a player leaves school, any residual effects from injuries are no longer covered by medical insurance.  If a player receives concussions while playing for a university, there is no medical insurance for lingering effects of those concussions.  It is up to the player to pay for any medical expenses he endures as a result of these concussions.

Scholarships do not cover the entire cost of attending college.  There are a lot of expenses that are required by the university during each semester that scholarships do not cover.  These are paid by the student-athlete out-of-pocket.  Since many athletes, both black and white, are from poor families, this creates a burden on them and their families.

Naturally, this situation is going to take a lot of time to settle.  Northwestern University and the NCAA are fighting this ruling.  The next stop will be at the NLRB in D.C.  If either side does not get what they want, it will probably go the route of the courts.  Maybe even to the Supreme Court.

This whole scenario does serve as a looking-glass on the rest of society.  These students are demanding that they have a voice at the table concerning their education, their workplace conditions, and future.  They know full well that only about 50% of their fellow student-athletes in D1 sports actually graduate from college.  They also know that 99% of all student-athletes never get to the professional level.  They also know that once their playing days are over, they are abandoned by the university in terms of health coverage for lingering injuries going forward.

I would think that if Northwestern University would actually approve this ruling, and support their athletes, it would give them a tremendous edge in recruiting new players.  What player would not pick a university that supports its players in the fashion the current players are demanding?  Though I cannot believe that the NCAA wouldn’t find some way to discipline the university if they did support the ruling.

Only time will tell how this plays out.  I can see changes in the “student-athlete” status coming no matter who wins.  The NCAA is not the most popular organization around.  Whether the Northwestern University football players ultimately win or lose, it should at least bring about meaningful changes to the NCAA.  No matter where you stand on this issue, we should all applaud these players for having the courage to stand up for their rights.

The Honorable Representative Darrel Issa,

Sir,

I am completely in favor of the Oversight Committee looking into corrupt operations that may be occurring in the Government of the United States.  Because I served in the Armed Forces of the United States, I believe that it is imperative that our representatives conduct themselves in a proper way.

It is because of this concern for proper conduct by members of Congress I request that your committee immediately open an investigation into what I believe is a case of bribery that has affected politics in this country for several years now.   I am referring to the Norquist Pledge.

From everything I have read about the Pledge, people running for office in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are signing this pledge.  In return, Mr. Norquist has promised to supply their campaigns with financial support.  Some of this support is “hard money” directly contributed to the campaign.  Other support is in “soft money” used to run ads against the opponents of the signees.

It is also my understanding from my research, that such an arraignment constitutes a bribe.  When a candidate or member of Congress agrees to vote a particular way on particular pieces of legislation for financial aid, that constitutes the crime of accepting a bribe.  There is no way around this issue.

Currently, there are over 170 members of Congress who have signed this pledge.  That means over 170 members of your institution has accepted a bribe from Mr. Norquist.  This may not have been the case if Mr. Norquist had provided financial aid to members who have not signed the pledge.  But, he only provides financial aid to those who have signed the pledge.

If you are truly interested in rooting out corruption in government, this should be an easy investigation to conduct.  Many of these members who signed the pledge have admitted doing so.  They also have admitted that they knew at the time they signed the pledge that they would only receive this financial aid if they signed.

It is not a crime to provide financial aid to campaigns.  Money is a necessary evil in our electoral process.  However, only giving money in return for a signature on a “pledge” to vote only one way on pieces of legislation is not a political contribution, it is a bribe.

I would certainly expect that your zeal to root out corruption and uncover any conspiracies in government will force you to immediately look into this matter.  With this being an election year, it is imperative that you open your investigation into this matter as quickly as possible.  The Federal Election Law makes it a felony to “buy votes” through bribes.

I look forward to seeing your investigation into this matter.

Sincerely,

Mark

There has been a lot of discussions recently about religion and its effect on politics.  There has also been a lot of surveys pointing out that religion is losing ground to the secular part of society.  Salon the other day had an article about how Millineals are “turning their backs on the faith of their parents”.  As if this is something new.  It isn’t.  It has been going on for generations.

The real question isn’t how many people are turning away from religion, it is why are they turning away from religion?  I cannot speak for others, but I know why I have.  It isn’t even so much that I turned away from religion, it is more that I was driven away from religion by the very people who want us all to “believe”.

It would not be fair to say that I am an atheist.  Like many people who got surveyed, I am more what is now called a “spiritualist”.   Most of the people I know in this “category” do believe in god.  We simply don’t believe in the god of the major religions.  I believe that god was made up by people in order to justify their own bigotry and hatred.  I find that not something of which to be proud.

It is often said that we are the “product of our times”.  That is partially true.  Like many who grew up in the 50s and 60s, I was raised in a religious household.  My family are deeply rooted Catholics.  I was sent to private Catholic Schools during grade school and high school.  As we all were, I too, was involved in the church.  That means I should hold to these same beliefs, but I do not.

In these private Catholic schools I had to attend religion classes.  During these classes we were taught that god created the world in six days.  The funny thing about it was, neither the nuns nor priests who taught these classes ever said these six days were 24 hour days.  We were taught about evolution in our science classes.  Somehow, my teachers in these schools seemed to believe that evolution made the creation that much more interesting and that, to them, it did not disprove god’s existence.  The one thing we were taught was to think for ourselves.

My change was not sudden.  It was a very gradual process.  During these time the Civil Rights Movement went into full mode.  The Viet Nam was raging.  And people of my generation began to question why either of these were necessary.  Civil Rights should have been covered in the Constitution and there shouldn’t be any discrimination.  The war was never really explained as to why it was necessary.  To us, the argument that if “we don’t stop the Commies there, we will be fighting them in California next” just didn’t seem to hold water.  Like China was going to take a shortcut through Viet Nam to get to us.

Many things were going on that seemed to question long-held beliefs.  An entire generation began to question things.  More and more of the so-called “hippie” generation began to “drop out”.  That, to me was not the answer either.  Being active in the fight for civil rights and against the war were the right thing to do.  But, that also brought me into conflict with many people who claim to hold the same religious beliefs that I did.  I didn’t understand the hate towards blacks.  I attended an integrated high school.  Everyone performed well in class regardless of who or what they were.

As I went through high school and college, I began to realize that all major religions were false pretenses to make you feel better than everyone else.  They taught you that you were better because of your beliefs.  They taught you that it was okay to discriminate because someone else believed differently, looked differently, or acted differently.

More importantly to me was the fact that the god these religions worshiped seemed very tyrannical.  How could people worship a deity that threatened their very existence if they did not do exactly as told.  Were we to only gain eternal life through fear?  We were taught that god was our father.  I never feared my father, so why should I fear god?  Somehow that didn’t seem like a viable way to live one’s life.

When I was in school, I was taught that Jesus gave us two commandments.  Love god and love your neighbor.  If religion was being used to discriminate against others, how could any Christian claim to be following these commandments?

It doesn’t matter which religion you look at.  All of them have the same premise.  You can hate your neighbor if they don’t believe what you do.  You are special because your are “god’s chosen people”.  If you consider someone else to be a “sinner” you can kill them with god’s blessings.  You can look at all of the religious texts you want, and you will find the same logic in all of them.  Even in Genesis the Jews “put to the sword all living things, men, women, and children” under the “order of god”.  Is that what we are supposed to worship?

When I entered the Coast Guard, I realized that it doesn’t matter what religion you follow, or what color you were, or where you came from,  we worked as a team.  Our job was to save the lives of anyone in pearl on the seas.  Never once did I ask what nationality someone was before going out on a rescue mission.  That is what we are supposed to do as people.  Help others!

As time passed, I began to realize that these religions offered nothing but separation.  On one hand they taught to love thy neighbor, but on the other hand it allowed you to slaughter everyone else not like you.  I began to realize that these religions offered nothing different than ancient pagan religions, except that they worship one god instead of many.

If we are all children of one god, how can we hate another person?  If we are all children of one god, how can we justify the killing of someone else because they believe differently?  If we are all children of one god, how can we let someone else starve to death or live in poverty or deny them their civil rights?  How do all of these square with those beliefs?  They don’t, and that is the problem with religion.

Yes, I believe in a god.  But, I do not believe in the Judeao/Christian/Muslim/Hindu/Buddhist god of terrorism.  If you wage war in the name of god, or say god is on our side, you worship a god of terrorism.  If you can discriminate against another because of race, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation then you worship a god of terrorism.  Sorry, I cannot worship a god of terrorism.  For that matter, I do not worship any god.

In the movie Inherit the Wind, the sarcastic journalist said “When man crawled out of the cave, he look up and saw the stars.  He thought they were something to eat.  When he found he couldn’t reach them, he figured they were the groceries of a bigger being, and god was invented”.  Maybe, he isn’t far from the truth.

So the Conservative Christian Cult are arguing that corporations are people with deeply held religious beliefs.  And, as such, should be able to “opt out” of the contraception mandate of the ACA.  They are now arguing that Public Education is a “handout” to poor people and should be privatized.  In order to make their point, they are pushing vigorously for “voucher programs” which will take tax dollars earmarked for public education and offer them as sort of “scholarships” to private schools.  Of course, their argument is that public education is failing.

In 2012 Bobby Jindal introduced such a voucher program in Louisiana.  One problem, only about 8,000 poor students in the entire state were admitted into these private schools.  Furthermore, the data from the LEAP testing done each year showed that those students in the private schools scored drastically lower (40% at or slightly above grade level) than the state average (69%).

Not to be outdone, Milwaukee Wisconsin also has a voucher program.  Research shows that just 13 percent of voucher students scored proficient in math and 11 percent made the bar in reading this spring. That’s worse on both counts than students in the city’s public schools.  It would appear that vouchers do not improve the education of students, but rather drag it down.  How could this be?  In the past, private schools had a reputation for providing excellent education.  So what happened?

What happened was that many of these private schools have adopted the A Beka Book curriculum.  I already wrote once about how they teach creationism rather than evolution.  They even villanize scientists and mathematicians.  But, that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Here are some wonderful things your children are being taught if they attend a school that uses these text books.

According to their book titled:  America The Land That I love In Christian Perspective the following are taught as “fact”:

The Great Depression was made up in order to spread Socialism.  That’s right, the Great Depression didn’t happen at all.  It was a left leaning propaganda ploy to spread socialism in America.  The book says:

“Some people wanted to create an imaginary crisis in order to move the country toward socialism. They spread rumors of bank mortgage foreclosures and mass evictions from farms, homes and apartments. But local banks did all in their power to keep their present tenants. The number of people out of work in the 1930s averaged about 15 percent of the work force; thus 85 percent continued to work. Most had to take a pay cut, but prices also declined during the Depression, enabling people to buy more for their money.”

What’s more, in the Propaganda section, students learn:

In 1939, John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath. This novel described the plight of the Okies, farm families from Western Oklahoma who went to California in search of jobs. Most families who went west did not experience the hardships that Steinbeck presented in his novel. Steinbeck openly supported labor violence and strikes instigated by socialist groups to keep the Okies from earning a living as migrant farm laborer in California…. Socialist photographers and artists produced misleading pictures of the… mountaineers of Appalachia. These mountaineers did not have the modern conveniences of homes in the town or cities but they did not consider themselves to be poor. The Depression actually had little effect on their lives.

They also teach that Carl Marx and Darwin brought the German people Hitler and the Nazis.  The book teaches, “as a socialist, Hitler believed that the government should own the nation’s industries and take responsibility for its people.” Through socialism, the book tells us, Hitler became “the absolute dictator of Germany. By embracing socialism, the German people lost their freedoms to a tyrant.”  They fail to mention that Hitler did not nationalize German industries and that many German Industrialists got very rich during his reign.

Freedom of Speech was the Gateway to Porn.  According to them,  “Pornographic films and books were legalized under the guise of ‘freedom of speech’.”  So even if you think Freedom of Speech is a good thing, according to these texts, it is really a freedom that is a dangerous gateway.

Other wonderful things they teach include little tidbits like the Clintons were Draft-Dodging, Economic-Crisis-Creating, Joint Presidents, or that George W. Bush was an awesome President because he invaded Iraq and saved mid-born babies, or that 2008 was a terrible year for America because Barak Obama a Marxist-Nazi-Muslim-atheist-homosexuality-approving Kenyan, was elected president.

Finally, private schools are not required to provide special education to anyone with physical or mental disabilities.  Therefore, they don’t have to take these children into their schools.  Nor, are they required to accept anyone who is not a member of their church group.  Or, if they do accept them, they charge significantly higher tuition.  Naturally, they don’t have to accept LGBT students either.  On top of all of that, if a student doesn’t measure up to their “standards” they can refuse to let them back in.

All the while, public school funding is being drained by the voucher programs.  Because the money intended to provide public education to everyone is being used as “scholarships” for these private schools, up to 65% of public school funding is going to voucher programs in many states.  That leaves practically nothing for everyone else.

If you want your children to attend one of these “so-called schools” by all means send them there.  But, I find it very offensive to expect me to pay for their lack of education.  Private means Private.  Private Schools are to be funded by students, not the tax payer who may or may not agree with their “ideology”.  Stop voucher programs wherever you can and give all of our children the opportunity of a good education!

 

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