Weekend Reading List

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

gun violence don't shoot

For this weekend’s reading list we have articles about the daily death toll from gun violence, how austerity has failed in England, the successful litigation strategy for promoting LGBT equality, a debate over debt forgiveness, and a profile of the leader of the Buy Nothing Christmas movement.

 

Slow-Rolling Massacre Unfolds in the Shadow of Shocking High-Profile Shooting Sprees – a moving reminder that the problem of gun violence is about not just the mass killings that garner high-profile media attention, but also about the daily killings that take lives and rip at the fabric of society in communities throughout the country.

God Save the British Economy – an in-depth report on how austerity economic have failed in England and the efforts of Adam Posen, a member of that nation’s Monetary Policy Committee, to get the word out.

Getting Nearer and Nearer – a celebration of the progress that has been made towards achieving LGBT equality, and a rebuttal to critics who argue that the movement’s litigation strategy is flawed.

Sweet Forgiveness - a series of essays debating the fairness and effectiveness of debt relief and mortgage relief for underwater homeowners as a means for helping our economy recover.

The War Against Too Much of Everything – a profile of Adbusters and its leader, Kalle Lasn, that, among other things, is promoting an anti-consumerism message with their Buy Nothing Christmas campaign.

The Democrats’ Progressive Party Platform and the Issues at Stake This November

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Somewhat overlooked in the excitement generated by powerful speeches given by Michelle Obama, keynote speaker Julian Castro, Lily Ledbetter, Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA), and others, was the fact that the Democratic Party yesterday also approved a progressive party platform that stands up for Medicare, Social Security, the right to organize, marriage equality, and many of the other policies and values that make this country great.   The contrast with the reactionary platform that the GOP approved at their convention last week illustrates well the fundamental differences between the two parties and the critical issues at stake this November.

Here are some of the highlights from the 2012 Democratic Party platform, and key places where that platform is diametrically opposed to the GOP’s agenda:

Medicare

The Democratic platform vows to defend Medicare as a guaranteed, universal program for seniors, stating:

Democrats adamantly oppose any efforts to privatize or voucherize Medicare; unlike our opponents we will not ask seniors to pay thousands of dollars more every year while they watch the value of their Medicare benefits evaporate. Democrats believe that Medicare is a sacred compact with our seniors.

By contrast, the Republican platform specifically calls for ending Medicare as a “defined-benefit entitlement” and replacing it with inadequate vouchers.

Worker’s Rights

In an age of increasing attacks on working people and labor unions, it is refreshing to see the Democratic platform include a ringing endorsement of the right to organize, stating:

Democrats believe that the right to organize and collectively bargain is a fundamental American value; every American should have a voice on the job and a chance to negotiate for a fair day’s pay after a hard day’s work. We will continue to fight for the right of all workers to organize and join a union. Unions helped build the greatest middle class the world has ever known. Their work resulted in the 40-hour workweek and weekends, paid leave and pensions, the minimum wage and health insurance, and Social Security and Medicare – the cornerstones of middle class security. We will fight for labor laws that provide a fair process for workers to choose union representation, that facilitate the collective bargaining process, and that strengthen remedies for violations of the law. We will fight for collective bargaining rights for police officers, nurses, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, teachers, and other public sector workers – jobs that are a proven path to the middle class for millions of Americans. We will continue to vigorously oppose “Right to Work” and “paycheck protection” efforts, and so-called “Save our Secret Ballot” measures whenever they are proposed.  We will raise the minimum wage, and index it to inflation.

By contrast, the GOP platform promises to continue the attacks on labor unions that have been carried out by GOP Governors, and calls ultimately for a national right-to-work-for-less law.

Campaign Finance

The Democratic platform calls for reducing the corrupting influence of money on our political system and echoes President Obama’s recent suggestion that a constitutional amendment to allow us to take back our democracy may be necessary:

We support campaign finance reform, by constitutional amendment if necessary. We support legislation to close loopholes and require greater disclosure of campaign spending. . . . . We support requiring groups trying to influence elections to reveal their donors so the public will know who’s funding the political ads it sees.

The GOP platform reiterates that party’s opposition to even such basic steps as the DISCLOSE Act, which would require disclosure of donors to SuperPACs and other groups that try to influence elections.

Taxes

The Democratic platform sets forth President Obama’s call for billionaires and big corporations to pay more of their fair share, stating:

We support allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest to expire and closing loopholes and deductions for the largest corporations and the highest-earning taxpayers. We are committed to reforming our tax code so that it is fairer and simpler, creating a tax code that lives up to the Buffett Rule so no millionaire pays a smaller share of his or her income in taxes than middle class families do. . . . . The Democratic Party opposes efforts to give additional tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class and investments in our future.

The Republican platform calls for further tax giveaways to the wealthy, including elimination of the estate tax, and consideration of repealing the 16th Amendment, which allows for a federal income tax, in favor of a regressive national sales tax.

Reproductive Freedom

The Democratic platform strongly endorses reproductive freedom, stating:

Democrats support access to affordable family planning services, and President Obama and Democrats will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers.

. . . .

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way. We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.

The GOP platform calls for passage of a “human life amendment” to the Constitution, which would apply the 14th Amendment to unborn fetuses and effectively outlaw choice even in cases of rape and incest, and repeats the false claim that abortion “endangers the health and well-being of women.”

Equality

The Democratic platform strongly supports equality for women and LGBT Americans, stating:

We are committed to ensuring full equality for women: we reaffirm our support for the Equal Rights Amendment, recommit to enforcing Title IX, support the Paycheck Fairness Act, and will urge ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

. . . .

We support the Employment Non- Discrimination Act because people should not be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

. . . .

We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law. We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.  We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.

The GOP platform describes approval of marriage equality as an “assault on the foundations of our society” and calls for a Constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality.

Climate Change

The Democratic platform acknowledges the threat that is climate change and the need for action, stating:

We know that global climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation – an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making. We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.

The GOP platform is silent on the issue, which I suppose is better than joining Mitt Romney in echoing the false claims of climate deniers.

 

Party platforms are, of course, not binding documents and, as such, there is no guarantee that the policies set forth in either party’s platform will come to fruition.  But the platforms do provide a good sense of the agenda each party would pursue if they were to be in power, and offer an important look at the values and goals that motivate the people who would assume positions of power if their party wins.  And what the Democratic and Republican platforms shows is that under a Democratic Administration with a Democratic Congress , political debates would revolve around deciding the best ways to enact the types of progressive policies and goals that are set forth above, rather than having to spend four years playing defense on issues like Medicare, choice, LGBT equality, etc. As such, the Democrat’s 2012 platform draws a clear contrast between the retrograde and reactionary policies and values that today’s GOP is offering, and demonstrates well why all of us progressives need to stand up and fight for our President over these next two months.

Does Mitt Romney Support the GOP’s Rabidly Reactionary 2012 Party Platform?

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Consistent with the steady rightward march of today’s Republican Party, the 2012 Platform that the GOP finalized yesterday is a document filled with reactionary ideas and policy proposals.  Conservative activists have responded gleefully to the platform.  For example, as the New York Times reported:

Several prominent conservatives and conservative groups praised the new platform. FreedomWorks, an advocacy group associated with the Tea Party movement, applauded the Republican Party for adopting much of what it called “the Tea Party’s ‘Freedom Platform.’ ” Phyllis Schlafly, a longtime conservative icon, wrote in The Washington Times that this year’s Republican platform “may be the best one ever adopted.”

The important question for voters, who polls show are more interested in the GOP’s platform than they are in Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech, is whether Multiple Choice Mitt would seek to implement the reactionary ideas included in the 2012 GOP Platform or at least not try to stop them if a Republican-control Congress were to pass them.  As such, we have reviewed the Platform and have the following questions for Romney about that document, which we hope that the media will ask and voters will demand answers to:

* Does Romney support the Platform’s call to eliminate the estate tax, which applies only to the estates of billionaires and millionaires and is the fairest and most meritocratic tax of all

* Does Romney agree with the Platform that the approval of marriage equality “is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values”?

* Does Romney support the Platform’s call for a Constitutional amendment that would ban marriage equality by “defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman”?

* Does Romney support the Platforms’ call for ending Medicare as a “defined-benefit entitlement model” that provides guaranteed and universal health insurance coverage to America’s seniors, and for replacing it with a “defined contribution model” that would leave seniors with only inadequate vouchers to try to purchase insurance in the private insurance industry market?

* Does Romney agree with the Platform that last year’s budget sequestration legislation that requires reductions in military spending starting next year is a “disaster for national security, imperiling the safety of our servicemen and women, accelerating the decline of our nation’s defense industrial base, and resulting in the layoff of more than 1 million skilled workers”?  If so, why did Romney select a running mate, Paul Ryan, who voted for those military spending sequestration cuts?

* Does Romney share the Platform’s opposition to the DISCLOSE Act, which would require disclosure of the identity of major donors to super PACs?

* Does Romney share the Platform’s desire to return to the system where the federal government subsidized private banks for providing student loans?  In 2010, President Obama and Congressional Democrats saved $68 billion over 10 years by ending those subsidies and having the federal government originate the student loans itself.

* Does Romney agree with the Platform that “family planning” programs for teens should be replaced “with abstinence education which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior, despite strong evidence that abstinence-only programs do not work?

* Does Romney agree with the Platform’s opposition to legislation that limits the capacity of gun clips or magazines or restores the assault weapon ban?

* Does Romney share the Platform’s support for “a human life amendment to the Constitution and [ ] legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children,” without any mention of exceptions to a ban on abortion in cases of rape, incest, or where the health of the mother is in danger?

* Does Romney agree with the Platform’s opposition to federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, which holds promise for finding cures to various diseases?

* Does Romney agree with the Platform’s call for a study of returning to a “fixed value for the dollar,” i.e. the gold standard, which would be economically disastrous.

* Does Romney support the idea that “in any restructuring of federal taxation . . . any value added tax or national sales tax must be tied to the simultaneous repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which established the federal income tax”?

The Republican’s 2012 Platform is a document filled with reactionary positions on both social and economic issues.  It is beyond time for Multiple Choice Mitt to come clean and publicly commit to whether he supports such reactionary positions, or whether he will oppose them.

If you want to make sure that Romney is never in a position to try to implement the reactionary ideas in the GOP’s 2012 Platform, please write a letter to your local newspaper editor, and sign up to volunteer for President Obama’s re-election campaign.

Weekend Reading List

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list, we have articles on the right wing effort to build an army of poll watchers to try to steal the election this fall; efforts to approve of marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, and Washington; the economic struggle of the middle class, how big corporations are increasingly running state courts, and Paul Ryan’s other radical guru.

 

How the Right is Building its “Poll Watcher” Network for November - the story of how the right-wing organization True the Vote is working to build an army of “poll watchers” to help suppress voting this November.   To help counteract this effort and make sure that every eligible voters gets to cast their vote this November, please volunteer for the Democratic National Committee’s voter protection effort.

The Future of Marriage Equality – a report on the fight for marriage equality in three states – Maine, Maryland, and Washington – where the issue will be on the ballot this November.  Here are links to support the effort in Maine, Maryland, and Washington.

The Lost Decade of the Middle Class – a comprehensive review of the economic blow that the middle class in America has suffered over the past decade, with stagnant income and declining net worth.  Most Americans accurately identify Congress, banks and  financial institutions, big corporations, and the Bush Administration as the primary culprits in causing this economic decline.

Big Business Taking Over State Supreme Courts - a report on how a tidal wave of money is allowing corporate interests to get an increasingly tight stranglehold on court systems in the 39 states where judges are elected rather than appointed.

Prime Time for Paul Ryan’s Guru (the One Who’s Not Ayn Rand) – a look at the radical views of another person who Paul Ryan identifies as a guru on his economic and budget policies – Friedrich von Hayek.

 

Weekend Reading List

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list we have the story behind the “Black Power” salute at the 1968 Olympics, a review of the history of America’s obsession with guns, a look at poverty in the 50 years after the publication of Michael Harrington’s The Other America, an investigation of how the religious right is spreading homophobia in African nations, and a report on the impact of GOP obstructionism on the federal court system.

 

Fists of Freedom: An Olympic Story Not Taught In School – the story behind Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ human rights salute at the 1968 Olympics, in which those two American athletes, along with Australian Peter Norman, risked ostracism and rejection by standing up for human rights and racial equality.

Battleground America – an in-depth review of the history of gun laws, gun ownership, and the rise of the NRA in the United States, which is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world (Yemen is second).

Poverty in America 50 Years After Michael Harrington’s The Other America – a look back at Michael Harrington’s seminal book on poverty in America, which was published 50 years ago, and an evaluation of how issues surrounding poverty have and have not changed since then.

Colonizing African Values - a report on how the U.S. Religious Right is promoting the spread of homophobia and anti-LGBT legislation in numerous African nations, and a discussion of how we can fight back and promote human rights instead.

The State of the Judiciary – a report on how unprecedented GOP obstructionism of President Obama’s judicial appointees has left us with a judicial system that is understaffed, and has delayed or even prevented the appointment of eminently qualified jurists.

 

Weekend Reading List

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list we have articles on climate change, the shady business dealings of a Republican sugar daddy, the hurdles erected by GOP-backed voter suppression laws, the first same-sex civil union to occur on military grounds, and the $1.5 billion fleecing of American taxpayers by Mitt Romney’s 2002 Winter Olympics.

 

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math – Bill McKibben’s latest essay on the numbers behind the rapidly growing problem of climate change, and how the fossil fuel industry is stopping us from taking action to address the problem

Inside the Investigation of Leading Republican Money Man Sheldon Adelson – an investigation documenting apparent shady business dealings by Sheldon Adelson, the multi-billionaire who bankrolled Newt Gingrich’s Presidential campaign and is now trying to help Mitt Romney buy his way into the White House

The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification – a report documenting the hurdles that people face in getting the photo IDs that Republican-backed voter suppression laws require people have to vote

The Wedding – the story of the first same sex civil union to occur at a chapel on a US military base, between Tech Sgt. Erwynn Umali and Will Behrens in June 2012

Snow Job – the story of how the 2002 Winter Olympics that Mitt Romney led turned into a $1.5 billion fleecing of American taxpayers

Explaining Extreme Events of 2011 From a Climate Perspective - climate scientists explain how six extreme weather events from last year can be explained from a climate change perspective