Tag Archives: congress

Dr. Monica Wehby, the Hollow Candidate

22 Aug

Monica WehbyThe 2014 mid-term elections have conservatives salivating, and the Tea Party holds out hope they can gets folks to drink their rancid brew. With many Congressional Democrats retiring and a handful of red-state Democrats seen as highly vulnerable, the GOP is working hard to retake the Senate. If they succeed, President Obama’s final two years in office will make his first six look like a productive picnic. Despite the friendly playing field, conservative operatives are trying not to take anything for granted, noting the many deeply flawed candidates that have cost them probable seats in the past two cycles. (Remember these charm free folks: Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle?) To hedge their bets, they’re looking at less likely pickups and dumping huge amounts of money on some long-shots. The amount of money being poured into GOP hopeful Monica Wehby’s campaign is disturbing. I suspect there are many countries that run on budgets that are much less than what the Koch brothers are pouring into campaigns such as Wehby’s.

The support for Wehby is perplexing. She’s running against Senator Jeff Merkley, the first man to receive the Marilyn Epstein Pro-Choice Champion Award from the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, who is finishing his first term. He’s popular, effective, and honest, but as a Freshman may be vulnerable. Despite the conventional wisdom, Oregon is NOT a blue state, but rather a very purple state with a slight Democratic edge in statewide races. The Koch Brothers and their ilk (The top 1%) have decided that this makes Oregon a potential pickup, so they found themselves a candidate.

Sadly, they did a worse job of vetting their pick than Sen. John McCain (R – Angrytown) did when he chose half-term half-wit Sarah Palin as a running mate. Dr. Monica Wehby is a surgeon and a political newcomer. In a “throw the bums out” year with Congressional approval ratings at an all-time low, this telegenic candidate seems promising. Until she tries to pick a position on, well, anything. Sadly, a number of advertisements against Senator Merkley  are already in full swing.

Before winning the GOP primary, Wehby made headlines for her history of stalking ex-boyfriends. She spun that as proof that she’s a determined person who would work hard to get what she wants in the Senate. The two different and independent stalking cases are pretty serious and my first thought was: “Oy! I only hope she does not have a gun on her.”  She also gained some notoriety for fleeing press conferences and debates once she’d used up her carefully crafted talking points. When pressed about LGBT rights in a TV interview, she kept talking about marriage equality, even though the question was about anti-discrimination laws. She says she’s pro-life but would support a woman’s right to choose while celebrating laws like “partial birth” abortion bans. She says she supports equal pay for women while saying that laws that actually enforce equal pay are bad because they would make employers hire more men to avoid lawsuits. Really. Stammering, stunned, and wide-eyed, she clearly isn’t comfortable taking a position that hasn’t been fed to her by the Kochs and their cronies. Again, I am reminded of Charles Durning’s performance of Dance A Little Sidestep from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

Suddenly that Koch money is showing up on the airwaves. Wehby’s new ads are everywhere, trying to make her sound like a smart fiscal conservative. She attacks Sen. Merkley for voting to raise the debt ceiling and for opposing a balanced budget amendment. With a homey but deeply flawed analogy between the Federal budget and household money management, she manages to avoid any real fiscal facts. Raising the debt ceiling was critical to avoiding another, worse financial meltdown if the US were seen to ignore its obligations. The debt that Sen. Merkley wisely voted to keep paying is mostly the result of the fiscal ineptitude of George W. Bush and two pointless, costly wars. The balanced budget amendment is a nightmarish concoction that would hamstring the government. Economists both liberal and conservative decry it as a disaster that should be avoided at all costs. As an experienced legislator, Sen. Merkley knows this. I continue to be shocked and mortified that such falsehoods are allowed to be aired!  I know that in Georgia the Koch money is spreading lies and attacking Democrat hopeful Michelle Nunn. Koch money is fueling elections across the entire country.

It’s clear that Dr. Wehby is intended to be the anti-Merkley. That’s certainly true. Sen Merkley is an experienced, talented legislator with a deep understanding of the issues and a true passion for the needs of Oregon’s citizens. Monica Wehby is a shallow political puppet pursuing a Senate seat just because. Oregon’s choice this November is clear.

Update: Wow! I’m rather appalled and nonplussed to see Ben West doing a commercial supporting Wehby. Mr. West, I’m curious as to how you would support Wehby when she was NOT pro-marriage equality until after it was a fait accompli?  I’m also curious that she was not at Gay Pride nor has she attended a Basic Rights Oregon function?  In the commercial you assert that she is for all families, but it seems rather obvious that she is only for white wealthy families, and now you her token gay friend.

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Hero of the Week Award, November 1: Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey

1 Nov
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Democrats in Congress have been demonstrating some real leadership for a change. Ever since the GOP/TeaParty overplayed its hand and forced a painful and unpopular government shutdown, Democrats have been holding together as a caucus and demanding that GOP obstruction and game-playing be called out.

This week’s GOP circus was the hearings on the rollout of Healthcare.gov, the federal portal to get insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Since they weren’t able to defund the ACA, the GOP are trying to hide its benefits by highlighting the current bugs in the website. Fed up with the hypocrisy and obstruction, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D – NJ) called the GOP out on its bad behavior.

Despite Democrats opposition to Part D ten years ago we committed to making the best of the program. … We lost the policy fight. And what did we do? We went back to our districts. And we told our seniors although we voted no, we personally believe and would work with the Bush administration to make it work.

He’s exactly right. When the Democrats lost the fight on Medicare Part D, they worked to make the law better and more effective. They did not waste millions of taxpayer dollars trying to repeal it. That’s good governance.

Rep. Tim Griffin (R – AR) responded with typical Republican talking points about alternative plans, trying to duck the issue. Pascrell would not allow it. He stood up from his seat and held the GOP accountable.

Are you really serious; after what we have gone through over the last three and a half years? You can sit there and say that you had a legitimate alternative after these years? We’ve gone through 44 votes, 48 votes now of you trying to dismantle this legislation. You call that cooperation? I don’t.

Let’s talk. Let’s not water the wine here. Let’s say it like it is. You refuse to expand many of these governors’ Medicaid, they refuse to set up state marketplaces.

He called out all the obstruction and asked what Griffin and his ilk propose. Sadly, Griffin and most of the GOP/TeaParty need a loud strong reminder that they are civil servants–they are to serve all Americans, not just the 1%.

What are you going to do about the approximately 17 million children with preexisting conditions who can no longer be denied health insurance coverage? You wanna go back? You wanna say ‘you are no longer covered any longer?’  You going to tell the parents of those kids? Which one of you is going to stand up and tell the parents of those children the game is over, sorry that was just a phase.

Nicely done, Rep. Pascrell. Thank you for standing up to the ridiculous and harmful games the GOP is playing. Let’s hope the American people are listening.

Congressional GOP Gets Lost in Oz

16 Oct

ScareBoehner copyToday’s post will be greatly enhanced if you start humming the wishful tunes of Dorothy’s stalwart companions. The Shutdown has already cost close to 5 Billion Dollars thus far. As the government shutdown enters its third week and the debt ceiling looms, Republicans in the House and Senate seem to be searching for a brain, a heart, and some courage.

IF I ONLY HAD A BRAIN! Sadly, the longer the shutdown continues, the more absurd the claims of individual GOP Congresscritters gets. Initially, the refusal to fund the government was presented as a “principled” stand against the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare.”) When their bullying demands were met with stern resistance by Senate Democrats and President Obama, the House GOP got confused very quickly. They still stand for something, they assure us, and they’ll be sure to let us know what it is… as soon as they figure it out.

Almost daily, Speaker John Boehner hints at a new plan, lets a few details leak, holds a short press conference, and fails to bring anything to the floor. Apparently he left the shared brain with Mitch McConnell, who needed it to try to reason out a compromise that might pass the Senate. In the meantime, the usual crew — Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, Louis Gohmert, Mike Lee, and all the rest of the lollipop guild — keep changing their off-kilter tune. The fight isn’t really about health care (except when it is), it’s about the size of government (except when it isn’t). Forced to abandon their thinly-veiled racist rants against the president’s signature accomplishment, they just don’t know what to do.

IF I ONLY HAD A HEART! Members of Congress continue to draw their salaries while hundreds of thousands of federal workers go without. There’s still no guarantee that retroactive pay will be part of any deal. Even more dramatically, nearly SEVEN MILLION FTE worth of government contractors are without work during the shutdown and have no chance of retroactive pay. All this ignores the thousands of kids turned away from Head Start, the millions deprived of food, medical, and housing care, the thousands more who are just waiting for funds to run out one program at a time. If the shutdown continues to the end of the month, there will be no money to pay out Social Security or Veterans’ Benefits. And, just to prove how heartless they are, GOP leaders in both chambers of Congress are proposing to strip health benefits from their staff, driving them (ironically) to the ACA exchanges without an employer subsidy. You can bet all those staffers would like to drop a house on the leaders of the House.

IF I ONLY HAD THE NERVE! The media still spin this as a problem coming from the far right of the GOP (when they aren’t falsely laying blame on the President). It may be that the loudest voices from the fringe started the shouting, but in every vote so far the Republicans have voted as a tight bloc, more evidence of the GOP sharing one brain. All the so-called moderates have refused to stand up for what’s best for the country. In the Senate, the GOP managed to filibuster a clean debt ceiling bill. If there are voices of reason in the party, they refuse to speak. Sadly, the Gerrymandering of House districts leaves too many representatives sheltered from reality. GOP ratings in polls are dropping like the Wizard’s balloon but most House members can rely on at least a slim majority to return them to office.

CALL TO ACTION: We live in the United States, not Oz. We need elected officials who take their responsibilities as civil servants seriously and who govern with compassion, reason, and courage. Republicans should look seriously at their Representatives and find ways to support new voices in Congress that will bring true compromise and balance. Democrats should take courage and support challenges to GOP folks that seemed undefeatable. The people are paying attention, and the next election should be a clear message about what we really need.

Congress Cashes In While Country Crashes

4 Oct

dimeI need to thank my friend Sarah B. for some of the research done here. If you are not outraged with the GOP/Tea Party, you are not paying attention. There is a great economic and emotional cost to this government shutdown–the brunt of the cost is being paid by the workers, the middle class, and lower classes of the country.  While millions of Americans in the United States are having to go without a salary and resources, John Boehner , Ted Cruz, and all the others drinking the Kool Aid are GETTING PAID while they devastate the country.  It is difficult to believe there is not a sad and disgusting thread of racism as part of what is motivating the Teahadists.

Let us look specifically at just some of the direct costs of this horrific behavior:

Furloughed Employees:

  • Over 800,000 Federal employees have been furloughed and will not be paid.

Head Start:

  • Up to 19,000 children are unable to attend head start programs, depriving them of early childhood educational opportunities and leaving their parents scrambling for childcare.

Cancer Patients Turned Away:

  • Cancer patients trying to enroll in clinical trials at NIH have been turned away until the shutdown ends.

No Flu Outbreak Monitoring:

  • Monitoring of Flu outbreaks nationwide has been crippled, with only cursory examinations and no “in-depth” investigations of potential outbreaks.

Assistance for low-income families comes to a halt:

  • The WIC program, which provides food assistance to families with children, has shut down. Some states are not accepting new applicants, and other states are running on reserves which will last mere days.

Colorado Springs:

  • Over 18% of the workforce in Colorado Springs, CO (55,000 workers) are on furlough and won’t be paid.

Highway Investigations:

  • Incidents like the deadly bus crash in Tennessee cannot be investigated because the staff at the National Traffic Safety Board are furloughed.

As of today, the cost of the Shutdown is now well over 1 Billion Dollars and all because a bunch of wealthy congressmen (who have full health care and are still collecting a salary) want to get rid of the much-needed Affordable Care Act, which they are calling Obamacare.

Here is where the GOP/Teahadists need to catch a clue and pay attention.  The Affordable Care Act is a huge success in just four days.  Millions of people are enrolling and for many this is the first time they have had health insurance in years. Enrollment is so vigorous that it is crashing web servers.  Now tell me again why the Affordable Care Act is a bad thing?

As programs continue to shut down when their existing funding ceases, the crazed militants in the House speak about the situation out of both sides of their Tea-holes. While many Republican members of the House laugh and call the situation “fun” and “the best part of my job,” others bemoan aspects of the shutdown that inconvenience them. (Yes, Rep. Neugebauer (R, TX), who publicly shouted down a park ranger who wouldn’t let him into a closed memorial, we’re talking to you.)

While it is great to see the President and the Democrats united in standing up to this bullying, the impact on the country is horrific. How long will the so-called “moderate” and “rational” Republicans be cowed by the fringes of their party? Until enough members of the House agree to do their jobs, the most vulnerable citizens of our country will continue to suffer.  Sadly, Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell (two Madhatters) were caught on mic with their despicable behavior.  Click here to see them.

Bigot of the Week Award: May 3, the Broken U.S. Congress

3 May
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

The entire U.S. Congress managed to earn this week’s BWA as they ignored the plight of millions of Americans and adjusted the federal budget for their own convenience. As the idiotic budget sequester continues to pinch government agencies, many people are suffering. Clinics have reduced hours, education programs are being cut, and seniors in some locations are losing meals on wheels due to the across-the-board cuts that should never have happened.

Republicans in the House and Senate have been whining for weeks about the sequester, blaming the President for actually following a law that they passed. This week, however, things got really ugly. Because of the blindly even cuts, the FAA has had to reduce air traffic control. This has resulted in some flight delays, with a ripple effect that has inconvenienced many travellers. Frequent fliers — like lobbyists, the wealthy, bankers, and members of Congress — are particularly inconvenienced. So this week the Senate unanimously approved a bill to change funding for the FAA; the House overwhelmingly approved the bill, with 92 Democrats jumping on board.

President Obama called Congress out for their hypocrisy. He declined to veto the bill given its probability of passing again and wasting legislative time, but insisted that lawmakers fix the whole problem, not just a small piece that makes them sad. What a pathetic display of classism and callous disregard. Apparently America continues to become the land of the Rich and Privileged. Adding this to the gun control failure makes me itch for the next election.

Dishonorable mention goes to two very different men this week. First up is ESPN commentator Chris Broussard. Responding to NBA player Jason Collins’ coming out interview, Broussard injected his narrow KKKristian values into the story.

If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.

I just loved Chris Broussard  when he was on Saturday Night Live as the Church Lady!

Professional conspiracy hack Alex Jones joins the bigot parade as well. Known for his anti-Muslim rantings and bizarre theories, Jones showed an even uglier side. Arguing — for no apparent reason — against what he calls “fake rights” for transgender Americans, he uttered this gem.

I don’t want my daughters growing up in a country where some transvestite comes walking into the thing [bathroom] hopped out of their brain on drugs vomiting and crapping all over the place.

I don’t want any children growing up in a world where Alex Jones has any say in it whatsoever.  What kind of monster is Jones?

Government Of the Gun Lobby, By the Gun Lobby, For the Gun Lobby?

3 Apr
That's not how I remember it...

That’s not how I remember it…

Just over 100 days ago, Adam Lanza killed his mother, took two guns from her house to Sandy Hook Elementary School, and killed two dozen people there, most of them children under the age of eight. This horrific shooting capped a year with dozens of deaths in public shootings. Public sentiment quickly turned to the need to revisit gun control legislation.

Two basic proposals have massive support, even four months later. Universal background checks for gun purchases enjoys between 80 and 90 percent support cutting across party lines and declared political ideology. Bans or restrictions on certain assault weapons and high capacity clips (the things that made Lanza’s killing spree possible) enjoy 60 to 70 percent support, including a plurality of Republicans. The people want things to change.

Congress has done nothing. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D – CA) sponsored an assault weapons ban. Sen. Charles Schumer (D – NY) led a bipartisan attempt to craft background check legislation. Everything is stalled out in the Senate and the House has made it clear that no action is forthcoming. Why won’t Congress listen to the will of the people? Apparently they are more afraid of the NRA than they are interested in doing their jobs.

Since Sandy Hook, public opinion of the NRA has plummeted. Lunatic spokesman Wayne LaPierre’s bizarre rants and proposal to arm every school have been met with scorn and disapproval. Somehow, however, the fear that the NRA will fund opponents of gun control has Congress paralyzed. The myth of the power of the Second Amendment and the very loud “out of my cold, dead hands” minority are ruling the day.

There has been a little progress. Connecticut (not surprisingly) is poised to pass sweeping new gun regulations; New York already has. So has Colorado, long a bastion of Western libertarianism and gun freedom. In the special election to pick the Democrat to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. in Illinois, Robin Kelly ran on a strong gun control platform. Despite NRA resistance, she won handily, speaking to the needs of the district. These should be lessons.

Instead, judges who have ruled for reasonable gun restrictions are filibustered and no reasonable laws are moving. The American people overwhelmingly want action. We need to speak up. Contact your Representative and Senator. Insist that they take action and remind them that the will of the people is bigger than the NRA’s purse. It’s time we ensured that our representative government really represents us.

MLK Holiday 2013: A Conversation Around Race

21 Jan

martinlutherI’m glad that we have a National holiday honoring civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  What troubles me is how far we have yet to go in the civil rights movement.  I hear people talking now about the March on the Mall in Washington, yet they don’t know the March was organized by the openly gay Bayard Rustin.  Hearing so many people purporting to have been present during King’s I Have a Dream speech, also leaves me a bit bothered. We like to pretend that we are not a nation continuing to struggle with racism; I have even heard people use the phrase “post-racist” society as though that was something real and already achieved.  Yet we have no further to look than the numbers.

Let us start with the Senate.  Of the 100 Senators currently serving, only one of them is African-American (and he was appointed to his current office).  Moving on to the House of Representatives (note the word Representatives), of the 435 civil servants (albeit 433 right now due to current vacancies), only 41 are African-American.  Of the 50 Governors only one is African-American. Of the nearly 8300 U.S. mayors, only about 650 are African American. This disproportionality in representation and leadership clearly speaks to how far we have yet to go.

As one can see the power structure is still fundamentally white, male, Christian, and heterosexual.  Whether we want to admit it or not, most people still benefit from institutionalized racism.  I am not saying most people are racist, in fact, I would assert that most people are not racist (save for the Tea Party), yet we have a mass of people who are the beneficiaries of racism.

I am grateful for the significant strides being made for civil rights and social justice, but let us acknowledge there is still much work to be done around people that are marginalized and how we treat people that are not part of the institutional power structure.  Dr. King’s voice of advocacy for civil rights has room for many others to join the choir and push back against how we “other” people and strip populations of their dignity–now is not the time to be satisfied:

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity…–I Have a Dream, Dr. King

TSM also wants to wish a heart felt congratulations to President Obama on his second inauguration! I hope everyone gets to see the amazing Myrlie Evers deliver the Invocation.  I also want to note that the openly gay  Latino Richard Blanco is the inaugural poet–nice choice.

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