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The Republican Party is full of contradictions.  As we know, they claim to be for “the rule of law”.  They claim to support the Constitution.  They claim to be all for the First Amendment.  They always talk about “liberty”, “freedoms”, and “personal rights”.  As we move toward the Republicans controlling the whole Congress in 2015, we are beginning to see just how disingenuous they really are about these claims.

Before the election I wrote that we had a choice between keeping our democracy or moving to an oligarchy.  Most Americans didn’t believe me apparently.  Only about 1 in 3 registered voters voted in the mid-term elections.  That is probably the most pathetic turnout I have seen in my lifetime.  As a result of those numbers, Republicans gained control of the Senate which gives them control of Congress.  As a result, they have the ability to pass legislation that will seriously affect our freedom, liberty, and personal rights.

The Republicans have in their platform a “pro-life” stance.  However, “pro-life” is a misnomer.  They aren’t talking about life in general.  They are only talking about whether or not a woman has the right to determine if she wants to continue with a pregnancy or not.  If they were truly “pro-life” they would be against the death penalty.  They would be all in favor of universal health care because there is nothing more “pro-life” than saving people from disease and death.  But, they are not in favor of health care nor are they against the death penalty.

How can a party be “pro-life” and ignore the devastating effects of global warming?  How can a party be “pro-life” and ignore the devastating effects of pollution to the health of our people?  Yet, they continue to say global warming is a myth.  They continue to fight against pollution control.  They continue to fight against ensuring clean water for everyone.

If Republicans were truly interested in civil liberties, they would be all in favor of fixing our broken immigration system and not fighting any reforms.  They would realize that deporting parents of U.S. Citizens because the parents are not citizens, goes against all of their “family value” rhetoric.  But, since these people aren’t white, they don’t have the same “family values” as we do so they can be punished and their children government made orphans.

The incoming leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is all in favor of passing a law that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.  A similar bill passed the House in 2003.  That bill was called the Pain Capable Unborn Protection Plan.  That bill was based on the false pretense that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks of gestation.  Of course science has debunked that notion, but as usual science doesn’t exist in the Republican brain so they can ignore it.

But don’t think that will be the end of their attacks.  They are planning attacks on reproductive rights in general.  Especially birth control.  Their lame excuse is that they believe birth control pills should be available over the counter not as a prescription.  Sounds very nice indeed.  However, there are other factors that they fail to mention.  The reason the want “over the counter” accessibility is so their money backers don’t have to provide birth control in health plans.

There is nothing in their articulation of this plan to keep the pill affordable for everyone.  Nor, do they mention the fact that like other medications, it is necessary to monitor the health of the woman taking the pill for possible side effects.  I guess that will be something else that won’t have to be covered in health plans.

On another front, since the courts have overwhelmed the right with their decisions that same-sex marriage should carry all of the same rights as heterosexual marriages and banning them is unconstitutional, there will certainly be legislation trying to rein in those nasty gay people and their marriages too.

See, they get away with all of this in the name of liberty!  They cry that if someone wants to be in a same-sex marriage, those people are taking away the liberties of heterosexual marriages.  They are forcing heterosexual marriages to fail because we all know the “gay agenda” is to make everyone in America gay.  They try to use “tradition” as a means of proving they are right.

They are continuously saying that America was intended to be a Christian Nation and that secularists and atheists have forced us to abandon that intention of the Founding Fathers.  One example they love to use are the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance.  Most people do not remember or even realize that those words were added in 1954 during the Big Red Scare.  They were not in the original pledge.

The Republicans, and especially the far right-wing of the party, still are living in those days.  Communism is still the biggest bogey man hiding in the shadows.  Fair tax plans where people pay their fair share based on income is Communism to them.  Allowing people to have their own religious beliefs about abortion is Communism to them.  Allowing people the same protections under the law in marriage regardless of sex is Communism to them.  Enforcing the Separation of Church and State as provided for in the First Amendment is Communism to them.

But why would they continue to use the Red Scare to pass these anti-liberty pieces of legislation?  Because their base are the people who lived through those times.  I remember once in Chicago when I was in college a Republican Politician telling the audience that the difference between us and Communist Russia was our religious beliefs.  As the joke of the day went, “Russia is a Communist country so they don’t believe in religion.  That means they have seven days a week to plot our overthrow.  While we here in America use the seventh day to go to church and pray they don’t come up with something.”

Our country has fought through upheavals before.  We have fought very corrupt governments before.  We have fought for civil rights before.  But, as you can see, those fights do not stop.  In order to keep our form of government, we must continue to fight for those rights.

As we move into the fanatics reign of power for the next two years, I only hope we can survive until the next election cycle.  Maybe these two upcoming years will convince the American voters that their votes really do matter.  Then they might actually turn out to get the fanatics out of office.

Eight months ago, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted to release its report of the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”  Since then, the Senate has been in negotiations with the CIA over its release.  Last week, Secretary of State, John Kerry, telephoned Sen. Dianne Feinstein and asked that she delay the report’s release.

Bloomberg reported “His call came after an interagency process that decided the release of the report early next week … could complicate relationships with foreign countries at a sensitive time and posed an unacceptable risk to U.S. personnel and facilities abroad.”

Of course, Fox News has outlandish headlines reporting “US posts on alert over potential backlash from CIA report, lawmaker warns of ‘violence’.  Needless to say that “lawmaker” who wars of “violence” is none other than House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich.

“I think this is a terrible idea,” Rogers said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Foreign leaders have approached the government and said, ‘You do this, this will cause violence and deaths.’ Our own intelligence community has assessed that this will cause violence and deaths.”

Of course, the fact that the CIA used “enhanced interrogation techniques” to garner information from detainees is nothing new.  This has been reported on ever since 2002.  The report does not actually break ground in reporting these techniques such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, or confinement in small spaces.  All intended to “break” the detainee.  The problem is that none of these techniques proved to be useful in obtaining any information that couldn’t have been gotten through normal interrogation methods.

I have no doubt that releasing this report will casus violence in parts of the world.  I also believe that American diplomats and personnel need to be on high alert to protect themselves from such violence.  Remember, it was a stupid internet movie about Islam that caused violence in Arab nations in the Mideast and Africa in 2012.  Radicals are always looking for tools to use to recruit new terrorists.  This report would obviously be used for those purposes.

But, the release of the report means more to this country than to others.  During this shameful period in our history, the government actually “sanctioned” these “enhanced interrogation methods” against detainees.  That sanctioning was in direct violation of our own Constitution.  Something the right claims to want to uphold.  Releasing the report may help to heal the wounds caused by these actions.  It should also make it more difficult for future administrations to follow such practices.

This report is basically a 480 page executive summary of the final report of over 6,000 pages of still classified documents.  The right is fully against the release of the report because it will expose George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for their complicity in these illegal acts.  Don’t forget, no one has ever been brought to trial for these shameless acts.  No one has even been held accountable in any way for them.

I think the report should be released for one simple reason.  How can we as a nation supposed to support law and order be kept in the dark about possible violations by our own government of that “law and order”?  How can we continue to espouse we are a nation of laws, liberties, freedom, and rights while hiding a past that violates those very tenets we supposedly hold dear.

By releasing the report, we will also be showing the world that we won’t hide our heads in the sand when our government does something wrong.  We are willing to air our dirty laundry to show that we are fallible.  That we know the difference between right and wrong.  That we are willing to accept when our government breaks the very laws they are supposed to uphold.

What could say more about a people than to admit our wrongs and to work diligently to ensure those wrongs are never repeated?  Evil things were done in our name.  We have a right to know the depths of those wrongs and who were responsible for committing them.  That is what democracy is about.  That is what America is supposed to be about.

If release of the report is held up until the next Congress goes into session, it will never see the light of day.  Republicans will never allow its release because it will shoot holes in their “uphold the constitution” mantra.  War crimes do not uphold our constitution.

 

Retirees are once again under attack from lawmakers.  There are a lot of things going on that are not being reported on by our great news media.  For one thing, lawmakers are again fighting to reduce the Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLA) for millions of Americans.  These COLA cuts will affect recipients of Social Security, Military Pensions, and other government pensions.  That means as we get older, we will receive less in increases to our pensions.  Meaning, of course, that we will continue to get poorer.

People in public pension funds like teachers are trying to find out the conditions and fees that their pension funds are paying to private equity firms.  In Kentucky, the State refused to release this information about their teachers pension fund to a teacher.  Kentucky is not alone in this refusal either.  Illinois, Rhode Island, and other states have refused to release this information citing “proprietary secrets” in the contracts.

In a recent essay, Steve Judge, president of the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, wrote that secrecy is necessary and appropriate to protect the financial industry’s commercial interests.

“The argument that [agreements] should be accessible to the public is akin to demanding that Coca-Cola publish its famous and secret soda recipe,” he wrote. “Like Coke’s secret recipe, [agreements] contain proprietary and commercially sensitive trade secret information that, if disclosed, could undermine a private equity fund’s ability to invest and generate high returns for its limited partners.”

This issue isn’t just in the public sector either.  There is another battle quietly underway about private pension funds.  Basically, funds that are “multi-employer” pension funds.  These funds mostly cover unions, but private companies also join in the multi-employer pension funds.

What is happening is that these private funds are running out of money.  This lack of money is the result of lower union membership caused by states passing right-to-work for slave labor pay, and the underfunding by their employers to these funds.  For instance, Hostess underfunded their pensions for years, and then declared bankruptcy and then abandoned the pension funds.  As a result, they want to reduce the pension payments to people who have already retired.  Meaning that millions of people will receive less payments than they planned to get.

However, lawmakers on Capital Hill need to get involved in this as well.  See, in 1974 there was a law passed that a person who retires cannot have their pensions reduced.  If they were promised a certain amount of money during retirement, the company cannot reduce those payments.  This bill was modified in 1980 and this section was strengthened.

There is a federal fund that guarantees these funds.  However, if a pension fund goes defunct, the payments from the federal guaranty is about half of what the retiree should be getting.  This has caused several funds and lawmakers to get together and figure out a way to pay the pensions at a reduced rate that is higher than the guaranty.  But there is nothing in the bill that would force these funds to at least attempt to become solvent first.

There has been a principle in this country that any changes to retirement plans DO NOT AFFECT those already retired.  Any changes effect only those who are still working.  This bill in Congress will change that principle and basically screw those retirees who are counting on their pension to survive.

This is the real problem behind pension funds and how they are managed.  After all, with many high-fee Wall Street firms failing to deliver returns that beat low-fee stock index funds, investors like Warren Buffett are saying public pension systems shouldn’t be plowing retirement savings into hedge funds, private equity and other so-called “alternative investments.”   That is an especially powerful argument when such investments keep allowing the financial industry to charge ever-higher fees in near-total secrecy.

This problem isn’t just with public funds or multi-employer funds either.  Do you know exactly how much your 401K is paying in fees to the Wall Street Bandits?  How come if you are unhappy with low results from your funds, you cannot decide to reduce the fees you are required to pay?  Why are there no clauses protecting the investors when these firms fail to deliver on promised results?  We are all being ripped off by Wall Street companies and probably don’t even know it!

It was once said that we live in a “throw-away” society.  We don’t hold on to things as much as people in the past.  These pension fund problems are proving that the real part of our “throw-away” society is not goods, but people.  Especially elder people who worked a lifetime and then see the pensions they earned under constant attack.

Since pay is so low to begin with, I am willing to bet that at least 80-90 percent of the retired population must have their pensions in order to just survive.  As AARP said, the average senior lives on $20,000 per year.  With all of these proposed cuts to current retirees, that figure will decrease dramatically.  I once heard that “growing old was a bitch.”  I didn’t realize that was because we are expected to die soon after we retire.  That is the ultimate equation in our “throw-away society.”

The year is coming to an end.  The government is going to run out of money on December 11, just eight days from now.  The economy is still recovering, but not for the middle class or the poor working class because their wages have been flat since about 1980.  Bills that could kick-start the economy in a big way, and actually pay for themselves have all been shelved by the House Republicans.

In the last four years, our legislative body in Congress has been the least productive in the history of our country.  No major legislation has even been voted on in the House, including bi-partisan bills like immigration reform which did pass the Senate.   With all of this what is John Boehner worried about?  He is worried about his legacy!

See, John Boehner doesn’t want to go down in history as the Speaker of the House who ruled over the least productive Congress in history.  He doesn’t want to go down in history as the Speaker of the House who shut down the government.  He wants to be remembered as a great legislator.  You know this from his comment about “don’t judge us on what we pass, judge us on what we repealed.”  Actually, he did neither.  Nothing significant has been passed and nothing significant has been repealed.  Guess he failed, again.

With the President issuing his Executive Order on immigration reform, Boehner is faced with his usual right-wing nuts who want to shut down the government over that action.  So, if they get their way, again, he not only will be remembered for last years shutdown, he will be remembered for multiple shutdowns.  As a result, Boehner is floating a plan that will help him overcome his ultra-conservative radicals.  He wants what is becoming known as “Cromnibus”.

This one is really brilliant.  Remember, the Republican Party is all in favor of securing our borders.  They are all in favor of stopping terrorists from entering the country.  They are all in favor of “protecting the American People” from all sorts of bad guys.  So, here is their plan to stop another government shutdown.

They plan to fund the entire federal budget for a full year, except the Department of Homeland Security!  They plan to fund DHS only through March of 2015.  That means there would be another budget fight in the spring over DHS’s budget.

That may seem like a reasonable solution to Mr. Boehner’s problem.  But, DHS includes agencies like the U.S. Coast Guard, the FBI, ICE, DEA, the Border Patrol, and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies.  All of which are responsible for securing our borders and keeping terrorists out of the country.  Everything they are supposed to be in favor of doing.  Their reasoning in doing this is they want to “punish” the President for his Executive Order.  What sound judgment!

The other thing they want to do is to expand some tax credits to major corporations and small business.  These tax credits are usually passed every two years or so.  But, they run out this year and the Republicans want them extended.  But, they don’t want to extend the tax credits to people who have been laid off and pay for their own health insurance.  However, they think it is okay for banks and other financial institutions to shield foreign profits from U.S. taxes.  These tax breaks will ADD $45 Billion to the deficit which they also claim to be against.  Where is the “pay for” action they demand for other bills.

Plus, they refuse to talk about raising the minimum wage which would increase pay for millions of Americans who work for minimum wage, reduce dependency on social safety nets, increase tax revenue, and help the rest of society in getting higher wages for their toils as well.

Mr. Boehner is already saying that nothing will be done about Immigration Reform until at least next year.  So, the President’s Executive Order will remain in effect because Boehner doesn’t want to talk about it.  The House has refused to vote on any job creating bill other than tax reductions for the wealthy which we know from past experience are not job creating measures.  They refuse to vote on anything to do with infrastructure or transportation updates.  Basically, they refuse to talk about anything meaningful.

Still, Mr. Boehner thinks that he will be able to control the House nut jobs next year and pass legislation.  He hasn’t been able to rein in his caucus wackos yet, what makes him think that he will next year?  Mr. Boehner’s problem is that if he really wants to pass meaningful legislation that the President will actually sign, he needs to compromise with the President.  That is something his wacko caucus is totally against.  As a result, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Yes, Mr. Boehner is worried about his legacy.  He shouldn’t.  If things keep going according to the Republican Plan to stagnate the government and America’s middle class, his legacy is already written.  He will go down as the worst Speaker of the House we have had in our 200-plus year history!  Congratulations John.  You are definitely number 1!

We have known for several generations that conservatives simply do not understand the racial divides confronting our country.  The fiasco in Ferguson is proving that point more and more every day.  Conservatives are actually claiming that police officer Darren Wilson was “exonerated” by the Grand Jury hearing.  Apparently conservatives do not understand the Justice System at all.  Darren Wilson was not exonerated by the Grand Jury hearing.  This was not a trial.  No verdict was handed down.  It is possible that a Special Prosecutor could be named by the Governor of Missouri and then bring charges against Wilson.  There is no double-jeopardy because there was no trial.

The latest outrage from our conservative numbskulls is over the St. Louis Rams Players who entered the game with their hands up.  The “hands up, don’t shoot” motion has become the face of not only this case in Ferguson, it has become the face of unarmed people all across the country who are being gunned down by police.

As in any profession, there is a small number of Police Officers who fall into the “bad” category.  Most Police Officers actually try to act according to the law.  Most are friendly and will do what they can to assist people in need.  But, as usual, it is the bad segment that is casting a pall over the entire law enforcement profession.  Just like the small group of looters in Ferguson are casting a pall over the protesters who are not there to cause violence.

However, even taking that into consideration, conservatives, especially those at FOX News are backing the wrong horse, again.  They are in violent attack mode against anyone who has read the transcripts of the Grand Jury testimony and come to the conclusion that this hearing was a travesty at best.

I haven’t read everything yet, but what I have read so far indicates to me that the whole purpose of the Grand Jury hearing from the prosecutor’s point of view was to not bring any indictments against the police officer.  The only real hard questions in the cross-examination part of the hearings were toward those who did not agree with Wilson’s version of what happened.  Wilson was never asked any hard question trying to trip up his testimony.

One piece of evidence that was missing was there were no fingerprints taken from Wilson’s gun.  If Brown had tried to grab the gun out of Wilson’s hand, there would have been fingerprints to show where Brown grabbed the gun.  But, no prints were ever taken so we will never know if Brown actually tried to grab the gun.  That is a critical piece of testimony given by Wilson.

Getting back to the players.  At no time did the players state anything about Brown or Wilson.  They simply did a gesture that is intended to show their support for meaningful changes in how police are looked at when shooting a suspect.  Yet, the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association had a real hissy fit.  They even went so far as to say that the players should be punished by the team and the NFL for their “outrageous” behavior.

In a statement, the SLPOA said:

All week-long, the Rams and the NFL were on the phone with the St. Louis Police Department asking for assurances that the players and the fans would be kept safe from the violent protesters who had rioted, looted, and burned buildings in Ferguson … then, as the players and their fans sit safely in their dome under the watchful protection of hundreds of St. Louis’s finest, they take to the turf to call a now-exonerated officer a murderer, that is way out-of-bounds, to put it in football parlance.

According to the SLPOA, the action of the players called a police officer a murderer.  Not only that, they are calling a “now-exonerated officer a murderer.”  It would appear that even the association representing the St. Louis Police Officers do not fully know what a Grand Jury hearing is.  They are calling it a trial that basically said Wilson was innocent of any charges, which is not the truth.

Of course Bill O’Reilly had to weigh in as well.  According to the self-anointed prophet the players were not saying “all cops are bad”, he just thinks that the players “aren’t smart enough to know what they are doing.  I absolutely don’t think they are smart enough to know what they are doing.”

Let’s face facts.  All cops are not bad.  All cops are not going around trying to kill all minorities.  But there are some cops who are bad.  There are some cops that are willing to kill any minority.  The problem is that we, the public, do not know which are which when confronted with police officers.  If you are minority, that leads to even more worries and fears.  When you couple that with the fact that conservatives are willing to defend even the bad cops, the situation will never improve because the bad cops will remain on duty.

It has always been amazing to me how conservatives will wail against teachers and tenure because they want “bad” teachers fired.  Yet they are unwilling to get rid of “bad” cops who shoot unarmed citizens.  Yes, bad teachers should be weeded out.  We need quality people to teach our children.  But, we need bad cops weeded out even more.  They kill our children.  I was able to help my children overcome a bad teacher.  I would not have been able to overcome a bad cop who wanted to shoot my unarmed child to death.

That is what I see the Rams players protesting against.  Until we realize that, we will continue to have bad cops shoot our children.  And, we will continue to have conservatives hold those bad cops up as heroes.

Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas Season has officially begun.  Being of sound mind and body, I decided not to partake in the madness of Black Friday.  As a matter of fact, I make it a point to stay away from any shopping area during the Thanksgiving weekend.  If the right-wing news media wants to show rioting, they just need to show up at places like Wal-Mart and film the raucous behavior of the shoppers.

Now that the madness of Black Friday weekend is over as well, most of us will settle back into our lives.   We will begin to make our “wish lists” for gifts we hope to get.  And, we will eventually head to the malls and do our shopping, if we don’t shop online.  Again, personally I prefer to shop in local stores rather than online.  I try to purchase from local stores and only go to national stores when I can’t find what I want at local merchants.  I prefer spending my money in my community, where I hope it will stay.

As we move along during this festive season, the right-wing will begin its obnoxious rantings about how Christmas is under attack.  The Self-Anointed Prophet Bill O’Reilly and his cronies will begin their “War on Christmas” in earnest.  We will hear how it is offensive to wish someone Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.  Even though Christmas is not the only holiday celebrated at this time of year.

O’Reilly will pontificate about the true meaning of Christmas and how the left is trying to do away with Christmas and with Christianity itself.  He will wail about how you can no longer have the government pay to put up religious scenes on public property.  He will cry about how other religious groups can put up displays next to Christmas displays in parks as long as they pay for them.  You see, it is all a conspiracy created by the President to make America a heathen country with no religion, or worse yet, a Muslim country.

The Conservative Christian Cult will join in the chorus of complaints.  They will wail about how LGBT groups are making it difficult for “normal” people to celebrate Christmas.   They will tell us that allowing LGBT people to raise children is an aberration that is killing religion and Christmas in the country.

The right-wing of the Republican Party will have their own versions of how those “others” are killing our family values and our traditions.  Christmas will be high on their list of things that those “others” are trying to eliminate.  We will hear time and again how the U.S. was “founded using Christian Principles” by our Founding Fathers.

All the time, these people will be wailing against everyone who is not what they consider to be a “real Christian” but rather a “Christian In Name Only”.    The right will be wailing against everyone who is not in their camp.  They will scream about anything they feel is a slap to their beliefs.

The questions we should ask ourselves though is what are these people actually trying to get done with their “War on Christmas?”  Are they really afraid that Christmas is going away?  Are they really afraid that Christianity is going away?  What are they really afraid will happen?

We will be able to answer those questions simply by looking at what they have and are trying to pass as legislation.   They have passed, and are still trying to pass, legislation that would allow you to discriminate against anyone you wish simply on religious grounds.  They passed legislation, and took a fight to SCOTUS to keep “religious companies” from having to include birth control in their medical plans.

They have been passing legislation with the sole intent of making abortion illegal.  They are telling everyone that if a woman gets raped, she must have “invited” the rape by her actions.  They have fought legislation that increases the penalties for domestic abuse and child abuse.  They have, and will continue to introduce legislation that will force their religious beliefs on the rest of society.  They call this “freedom of religion” all the while denying others their religious freedom.

What these people are actually doing is making the divide in our country even bigger.  They are preaching to the older generation (unfortunately, my generation) about how life used to be and how things are changing.  As a result, their quiet little lives are under attack by all of those “others” who are out to get them.  The problem is that the older generation is falling for their gimmick.  They all seem to have forgotten about the changes we fought for in the 60s.  They fell into their own little world and basically checked out of society.  They lost their dreams and their Christianity.  Yes, hippies were mostly Christian.

As a result, the very people who fought for social change in the past, are now the ones afraid of change in the future.  The Cult and the far right-wing wackos are taking advantage of this amnesia to take over the country and form their little theocracy.

Our country was founded to be a secular nation.  “The government shall endorse no religion” is very prominent in the First Amendment.  Freedom of Religion means we all have the right to live our lives believing in any religion we choose.  Or, to live our lives NOT believing in any religion at all.  And, with no fear that the government will interfere with those rights.

Which brings us back to the celebration of Christmas by Christians.  If the Cult and their lackeys on the far right are against religious beliefs they do not agree with, are they really Christians?  If they believe that discriminating against someone they consider to be “sinful” is legal, don’t they go against Christian teachings?  If they believe that their wealth is the result of god favoring them, doesn’t that go against Jesus saying “give up all you have and follow me?”  If they are against the social safety nets that help the most needy in our society, doesn’t that put them at odds with “whatever you do to the least of you, you do to me?”

So, when the Cult ramps up their rhetoric about the “War on Christmas” and the “War on Christianity” remember it is they who are the real attackers of both.  They are the ones who claim to be Christians but defy all of the Christian teachings.  Sorry, but the Cult is anything but Christian.  They are anything but Americans, either.  Their real Christmas Wish is to have enough power to make America a white, Cult country where everyone else is a second-class citizen.  In their power-hungry, crazy thinking, that is celebrating the real meaning of Christmas!  After all “Peace On Earth” and “Goodwill Towards All” are just left-wing words against the real spirit of Christmas.

 

According to the stories, Native Americans helped the first white settlers of America.  They taught the white settlers how to farm in America and introduced them to American products to help with their crop output.  Thus, the first harvest dinner, we now call Thanksgiving, the settlers invited the Native Americans to help celebrate.

Somehow after that first dinner, things went downhill between the white settlers and the Native Americans.  In the next two hundred years, white America waged what can only be described as a war of genocide against the Native Americans.

If we read our history, the first real transgression was the forced evacuation of Native Americans from their homelands in the East to Oklahoma Territory.  This was the narrative behind the “Trail of Tears” that Native Americans were forced to undertake.  Then, there were the “Indian Wars” against tribes that resisted whites taking their hunting grounds and land away from them.

Yet here we are over a hundred years removed, and Native Americans are still being held back both economically and socially.  There are a lot of reasons, but the main factor is the reservations or “tribal lands” that the majority of Native Americans still live on.

We have placed Native Americans in economic limbo by law.  Tribal lands are held in trust by the federal government, so tribes are unable to levy property taxes, and imposing income taxes is rarely feasible. Thus, unlike states and cities, reservations have a hard time funding basic government services.

Because of the federal title to most tribal lands, banks cannot use the same foreclosure policies they can elsewhere which dissuades them from offering mortgage lending on reservations.  Only about 1.5% of reservation Native Americans who have sufficient income to qualify for a mortgage have one.  Resulting in depriving them of the main engine for economic growth among the middle class.

A 1978 Supreme Court ruling said that tribes are legally barred from prosecuting non-Natives for crimes committed on reservations. This has helped produce crime rates, including the rape of Indian women—most often by whites, much higher than other ethnic groups—and rates of child sexual abuse that run as high as two and a half times the rates they do elsewhere.

The 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act tried fixing some of this, beginning to restore sentencing authority to tribal courts. But, as usual with Republican supported bills it did nothing to fund its implementation. According to the Act, in order to prosecute non-members, a tribal court must establish a detention facility and an experienced judiciary, and must provide public defender services. A truly functioning public defender’s office costs about $350,000 per year. Add in the other costs and you’re looking at upwards of a million dollars annually.  Since tribes can’t levy most taxes, this becomes a significant hurdle in complying with the Act.

The 2013 Violence Against Women Act went further, recognizing tribal criminal authority over non-Natives for the first time since 1978 for domestic violence.  It did not include crimes of child sex abuse, nor most other crimes.  It only is applied to reservations that can meet the Tribal Law and Order Act and other standards. To date, none of the reservations have met these standards.  When you consider that more than half of reservation residents are now non-Native, this presents a real problem.  The vast number of Congress who voted against this Act did so because they did not believe that non-Natives should be prosecuted in Tribal Courts.

There are also jurisdictional conflicts that impair prosecutions even of Indians by their own tribes. If an Indian batters his wife, for example, the tribe usually cannot compel the off-reservation hospital doctors who treated her injuries to testify, nor the white friend who witnessed the battery. If the man moves to a town just off the reservation, he can’t even be arrested by tribal police (unless cross-deputized—yet another complication).

All of these problems may want you to ask why the Federal Government doesn’t do more to provide judicial services on the reservations?  That would be a fair question since the Federal Government holds title to most reservation land.  But, you also have to remember that most budget-strapped U.S. attorneys rarely see political or career benefit in prosecuting crimes like rape or assault on sparsely populated reservations hundreds of miles from their offices.  As a result, more that half of all major crimes reported on the reservations go unprosecuted.

Because these flaws exist, the effect has been turning reservations into havens for non-Native sexual predators and other criminals. For example, mid-level non-Native drug dealers who aren’t large enough to attract federal prosecution can operate with relative impunity on many reservations, because neither tribal nor state law enforcement has authority to touch them.

These problems were not created by Native Americans.  They were created by the catch-22 that we have created, in which we deny them the ability to provide economic opportunity and justice, while failing to provide it ourselves.  When the allies won World War II, they worked to provide the losers with economic growth and opportunity.  We have failed to do the same for Native Americans even hundreds of years after the wars were over.

But, as the arguments against the Violence Against Women Act shows, there is still a lot of prejudice against Native Americans.  Why would anyone argue against Tribal Courts having the authority to prosecute non-Natives for rape or domestic violence against Native Women?  The only reasonable explanation is that these members of Congress have a bias against Native Americans.

The prejudice is shown again in the fight against the Washington Football Team changing its name.  Sorry, but I will never understand how using a racial slur for the name of a sports franchise can be interpreted in any way as “respecting” Native Americans as the owner claims.

We have had civil rights fights since our country was founded.  African-Americans and Latino Americans are almost always at the forefront of these fights, and that should be.  But, one “race” we seem to always forget about are the Native Americans.

These problems will not go away anytime soon.  When political parties use the “us v. them” meme for political gains, minorities are always “them”.  And, since Native Americans are rarely even thought about by white America, they suffer the most in the shadows of society.  That is not just a shame, it is criminal.

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