YOUR SOURCE FOR TRUTH

Monday, January 30, 2012

Candlelight vigil, memorial for accident victim

Saige Bloom Update:

A candlelight vigil has been planned for Monday night, January 30, 2012, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Attendees will gather at the Walmart intersection.

Saige's memorial service will be held this Saturday, February 4th beginning at 2:00 p.m. at Mountain Bible Church, Building A, Worship Center. There will be a light luncheon in the Ramada following the service. All are welcome and invited.

High on the Mainstream Embankment

 "If loss of your moral compass is a necessary qualification for luxuriating in the surging current of the Mainstream, more than a few of us will be happy to view the entire proceedings lounging high on the embankment." 

By Will Durst
San Francisco Chronicle

29 January 12 - As rare and mythical as the unicorn, it too cavorts amongst the clouds with double rainbows birthing from its unfathomable depths. But instead of worshipful 12 year-old girls, it is conservative politicians who tack drawings of this inamorata on walls above their beds. We're talking about the legendary… Mainstream.

The message is relatively straightforward. Inside the Mainstream, you will rub elbows with everything that is good and right and true and just about America. Families have 2.4 children, none of whom sport barbed wire piercings or dragon neck tattoos or ever talk smack back. Lawns are broad and green and crabgrass free. And children are cheerfully shuttled to school in orderly processions of grey and beige Minivans. The place to be.

Outside the Mainstream, red turbo hybrids prowl discordantly with hip hop infused rock and roll blasting from after market Korean stereo systems. Uncomfortable shoe choices are flaunted by pregnant teenage girls, while Steve Jobs' subversive acolytes encourage impressionable minds to "think differently," actively disrupting the carefully nurtured herd mentality. The place to flee.

Dedication to Mainstream purity extends to within the holy liquid circle as well. Newton Leroy Gingrich castigated Ron Paul for being "totally outside the Mainstream of every decent American." And Ron Paul is a medical doctor. Apparently the Coast Guard patrolling the Mainstream is ever vigilant.

Then Willard Mitt Romney went and said pretty much exactly the same thing about Newt, which must mean he considers poor Dr. Paul dying of thirst two counties away in some desert of his own moistureless making. And President Obama? Forget about it. He can't even see the hint of a whisper of a shadow of dampness due to the curvature of the earth.

The obvious intention of Team Romney is to plant Mitt in the soft squishy loam as the sole candidate an ordinary person could expect to meet up with in the middle of the flood plains of normalcy. Preserving the Mainstream as a very exclusive territory. A restricted tributary complete with velvet rope and a couple of hulking bouncers protecting it from the dinghies of the hoi polloi. Sort of a watery gated community. Behind which the Governor seems plenty comfortable.

Only proper God-fearing decent Americans are allowed to soak in the aqueous chestnut that is the Mainstream. The rest of us boundary crossing reprobates are prohibited from enjoying the divine waters and directed to spend summer afternoons splashing each other in shallow muddy puddles.

Of course, even to those who can afford the initiation fee, recent responses from Republican debate audiences indicate that voyaging down the Mainstream is a very expensive way to travel. Exacting heavy- duty psychic dues.

First, crowds booed a gay soldier, then cheered the death of an unfortunate who couldn't afford health insurance, and finally leapt to their feet to applaud one of the grandstanding creekside tide surfers who ridiculed food stamp recipients.

If loss of your moral compass is a necessary qualification for luxuriating in the surging current of the Mainstream, more than a few of us will be happy to view the entire proceedings lounging high on the embankment. Besides, we have better picnic spreads.

And for those who do decide to soak in the narrow- minded current, you might want to invest in a heated wetsuit because that menacing red tide torrent of the Mainstream looks to be mighty cold.

The New York Times says Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst "is quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today." Check out the website: Redroom.com to buy his book or find out more about upcoming stand-up performances. Or willdurst.com. Or don't.
   RIM COUNTRY POETRY   

A statue in Bonaventure Cemetary in Savannah, Ga.
became famous as a result of a book and movie:
"In the Garden of Good and Evil."
It was later moved to a museum in a neighbor county. 

The Bird Girl of Savannah
By Noble Collins

“Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time”
John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn


For years, among the ancient oaks,
you danced your chaste ballet
to silent music -
your lithe Glissade unseen
beyond the reach of Bonaventure.

With each demure Plie,
gray ringlet curtains of old moss
made way
in glad anticipation of your entrance on the stage.

A place of long forgotten life briefly heartened,
stirred for a moment
thrilled to Terpsichore
as your unfettered dance
breathed sweet warm youth to old earth.

A gentle curtsy, then, you made
to faint applause of Live Oak leaves,
as Tybee’s breezes rustled through the wood.

But on a day when you were resting,
hushing secret longings from dark vaults,
they captured you and gave you to the crowd -
bound those dainty feet,
and placed you on the cover of a book,
an icon for a sordid tale.

Soon, came leering groups
to gawk and whisper, trespass sacred grounds,
so you were moved,
no longer Chatham’s ward but Telfair’s,
behind museum walls

And here, in cold beauty,
resigned,
obliging,
poised in First Position
you wait for new music. 

(Send your original poetry to peoplesgazette@gmail.com)


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Buffet Rule would raise $50 billion from .08%

By Pat Garofalo
THINKPROGRESS

When President Obama announced his latest vision for the so called “Buffett rule” — a 30 percent minimum tax on millionaires — during his State of the Union address this week, Republicans were quick to criticize it. For instance, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) derided the proposal as a “political gimmick.” “It’s a smokescreen,” added Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA).

However, as a new analysis from Citizens for Tax Justice pointed out, the Buffett rule as laid out in the speech could raise up to $50 billion per year to pay down the deficit, while affecting just 0.08 percent of taxpayers:

"Citizens for Tax Justice has calculated that President Obama’s 'Buffett Rule' would, if in effect this year, raise $50 billion in a single year and affect only the richest 0.08 percent of taxpayers — that’s just eight percent of the richest one percent of taxpayers. [...]

"To calculate the $50 billion figure, we assumed that there would be a minimum tax that applies to adjusted gross income (AGI) minus charitable deductions. (We’ll call this modified AGI.)

"We assumed that a taxpayer with modified AGI greater than $1 million would face a minimum tax of 30 percent of modified AGI. The taxpayer would pay whichever is greater, their personal income tax under the existing rules or this minimum tax."

Obviously, $50 billion by itself won’t balance the budget, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. At the same time, the Buffett rule will aid in correcting some of the problems in the tax code — like one quarter of millionaires paying lower rates than millions of middle class families and some millionaires paying no income tax at all — that have helped drive income inequality up to a level not seen in the U.S. since the 1920s.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

If we only knew what we wanted...

     COMMENTARY:     
   GEORGE TEMPLETON  

By George Templeton
Gazette Columnist

Metaphor

I was in Pune, India, working on a technical problem involving auto-rickshaws. My Hindustan taxi-cab left in the night. There were no lights of any sort, including signs, street lights, and home lights because all the electric power was allocated to industry. Holy cows and people wandered everywhere in the town’s dirt streets without accident. As my taxi proceeded out of town, the dust poured up forming a blanketing fog-like haze obscuring vision. We approached a large truck that was decorated like a surrey with a fringe on the top. It had a sign on the back proclaiming, “Horn please”. My driver hit the horn and suddenly pulled onto the other side of the road to pass, accelerating as fast as he could. From my window I could see the tires of the truck, as high as the roof of the taxi, and headlights of cars coming head-on from the opposite direction. I said a silent prayer as we rocketed by and I began to appreciate more deeply John’s description of Jesus as the light of the world. It must have been like this in the time of Christ after dark. I don’t think John was talking about the local torch vendor when he used this description. The power of the metaphor is that it is a truth universally, deeply, and instantly recognized by everyone and that it talks to each individual in the most important and uniquely personal way.

Affective Domain

I spent my life in an occupation that was not intuitive or visible. No one sees electrons or the Fermi level. An amazing and fascinating reality that could make predictions was ever present. Measurable objectives and results are king in business and education, but I have come to think that the most important things in life are not measurable or quantifiable.

Seven

Ron Paul said that you can’t legislate morality. Creative finance, internet gambling, and Darwinian capitalism are proof. We owe to Catholic consciousness the touchy-feely concept of the seven deadly sins. They did not come from lawyers. It is easy to change the minds of men, but difficult to change their hearts. We have all passed a school course, but that does not mean that we have internalized it, and can generalize and apply it in a variety of circumstances. When it was pointed out that a commercial sponsored by the Republican National Committee misrepresented the facts, an official declared: “Since when is a commercial supposed to be accurate?” Let the buyer beware is the American ethos. Manipulation, misrepresentation, and deception are accepted in business and politics and they thwart attempts to get the truth.

Family Values

John Wesley, a founder of the eighteenth century evangelical movement, maintained that all economic problems are primarily ethical and therefore religious. He believed that we should gain, save, and give abundantly. However, it is often forgotten that he also maintained that one should not harm their neighbor, or sell anything that impairs health.

Ad Hominem

A bumper sticker attacks the person rather than the policy claiming: “We hate everyone who isn’t us”. Romney commented that social support programs replace ambition with envy not realizing that he already has that problem. How many people have an undue concern about his taxes and would not support him simply because he is rich?

More Freedom

The Republicans claim they will give you more freedom. They would eliminate the consumer protection agency to help those friendly loan stores, already more common than taverns on a Milwaukee street intersection. Preventing fraud, identity theft, and educating the public on financial literacy threatens them. They would usurp the EPA under the guise of facilitating energy development, manufacturing, and employment. H. R. 2401 adds a dozen bureaucrats to make certain that environmental regulations do not encumber coal-fired power plants who would like to continue their emission of toxic mercury. You can be free of OSHA and safety regulations, free to breathe toxic air, drink poisoned water, free of food nutrition labels, free of the minimum wage and government support to health care and retirement. You won’t have to press one for English or worry about discrimination and fluorescent light bulbs and your children can consume nicotine candy and catch infectious diseases from unvaccinated classmates. You will be free from government but not from private power. You won’t be free of responsibility for consequences.

When Governor Perry spoke of Romney’s Bain Capital business as “vulture” capital instead of venture capital it showed that serious moral clarity contemplates shades of ethical behavior. Hillary Clinton claimed, “The market knows the price of everything but the value of nothing”. The problem is, free enterprise is not free, at least when the mortgage investment business is involved.

Thirty years of deregulation, tax cuts, and easy credit, brought on the Bush bail-outs, stimulus, and recession. The colossal fire spread around the world and it is still burning in spite of everyone’s efforts. We can’t believe Newt Gingrich’s assertion that President Obama “put” people onto food stamps. The unfortunate requested help. They could only hang on so long and should not feel ashamed about that. In the meantime, we are wasting immense amounts of money on political gossip ads.

Republicans blame the problem they caused on President Obama and claim that even more deregulation will restore the economy. For many retirees, the crash destroyed the equivalent of saving five years of their entire peak income assuming that they invested all of their earnings and used none of it to live on. The statistical models that optimize profit and encourage gambling are still in use. There is a new addition to the mix and it isn’t getting any better. It is the computing cloud. Some claim that with enough data the future can be predicted. But sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. The data gets in the way. Wall-Street executives claim that they were doing God’s work and that creative financial transactions had to be hidden. Like casino gambling, it is an illusion that the little man can win in the long run. If you are fifty years old or more you should be concerned about how stimulating the economy by deregulation might impact your retirement.

Fundamentals

Constitutional fundamentalism centers on a revision of history, the ability to “channel” the ghosts of our Founding Fathers, the portrayal of the constitution as an anti-government manifesto, the belief that nothing has changed since 1781, and the desire to undo 100 years of interpretation by the courts. Federal government is “evil” but state government is “constitutional”. Consequently we must privatize schools, ignore Supreme Court decisions, call justices before congress to justify their decisions, and make roads, forests, and disaster relief up to the states. It has become a destructive Tea-Party cultural war, not politics, and not caused by President Obama.

Jimmy Carter’s book Our Endangered Values describes a religious fundamentalism that Liberals identify with. Whether some of us have doubts about the talking snake in Genesis misses the important point of the story. However, when congress picks pseudo-scientists and quacks to represent their politics and mislead the public we all are hurt. It is not a matter of unbelief, but rather whether our children will turn from science, thinking that it is an immoral heathen darkness put upon them by elite intellectuals.

Scientific Religion

Religion is about why things are. Science is about how reality works. They are not in conflict. There is a difference between belief and facts. The role of science in society is to provide the facts, the church to provide values, and policy makers to make the decisions. They must be kept free and separate. When the Ethics and Public Policy Center claims in its mission statement that “science must be thoughtful about the problems it provokes”, it fails to make this distinction. They would write you a ticket because you were going to speed. They would shoot the messenger because they did not like the message.

Political agenda can wear religious clothing. There is a danger when science becomes politics, beliefs become facts, and spirituality becomes apostate. There is a danger when religion becomes a sanctimonious face for policies that favor the rich and powerful. Religion and ideology combined can create its own reality. Power and ideology can mold the nature of truth itself.

Empathy

We can’t stand to see pain. It’s the Republican refrain. So, darlings, please don’t get hurt, because we will have to leave you lying there in the dirt! When welfare has no personal face and becomes just individual responsibility we can be proud, disrespectful, and demeaning. We think we don’t use it. But we don’t see the hidden government subsidies that benefit us. We think that we earned Medicare and are entitled to it forgetting that many receive more than they contributed.

Christians for a Sustainable Economy argues that the poor need to be protected from unwise, uncompassionate, and unjust federal welfare programs that demean them, destroy their families, trap them in poverty, dependency, and despair for generations. So, food stamps, school meals, head start, Medicaid, and children’s health insurance can now be seen as a conspiracy to oppress the poor!

Conclusion

The values of kindness, cooperation, humility, respect, competition, and meaningful personal contribution guide us to where we want to go, a less desperate, more hopeful world, if we only knew what we wanted.

Low IQ, conservative beliefs linked to prejudice

OCCUPY DUMB STREET: Klansmen display their affinity for the days of the Confederacy, February, 19, 2010. (photo: Ian Butterbaugh/Media Matters)

By Stephanie Pappas
LiveScience.com

28 January 12 - There's no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience.

"Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood," he said.

Controversy Ahead 

The findings combine three hot-button topics.

"They've pulled off the trifecta of controversial topics," said Brian Nosek, a social and cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia who was not involved in the study. "When one selects intelligence, political ideology and racism and looks at any of the relationships between those three variables, it's bound to upset somebody."

Polling data and social and political science research do show that prejudice is more common in those who hold right-wing ideals than those of other political persuasions, Nosek told LiveScience. [7 Thoughts That Are Bad For You]

"The unique contribution here is trying to make some progress on the most challenging aspect of this," Nosek said, referring to the new study. "It's not that a relationship like that exists, but why it exists."

Brains and Bias

Earlier studies have found links between low levels of education and higher levels of prejudice, Hodson said, so studying intelligence seemed a logical next step. The researchers turned to two studies of citizens in the United Kingdom, one that has followed babies since their births in March 1958, and another that did the same for babies born in April 1970. The children in the studies had their intelligence assessed at age 10 or 11; as adults ages 30 or 33, their levels of social conservatism and racism were measured. [Life's Extremes: Democrat vs. Republican]

In the first study, verbal and nonverbal intelligence was measured using tests that asked people to find similarities and differences between words, shapes and symbols. The second study measured cognitive abilities in four ways, including number recall, shape-drawing tasks, defining words and identifying patterns and similarities among words. Average IQ is set at 100.

Social conservatives were defined as people who agreed with a laundry list of statements such as "Family life suffers if mum is working full-time," and "Schools should teach children to obey authority." Attitudes toward other races were captured by measuring agreement with statements such as "I wouldn't mind working with people from other races." (These questions measured overt prejudiced attitudes, but most people, no matter how egalitarian, do hold unconscious racial biases; Hodson's work can't speak to this "underground" racism.)

As suspected, low intelligence in childhood corresponded with racism in adulthood. But the factor that explained the relationship between these two variables was political: When researchers included social conservatism in the analysis, those ideologies accounted for much of the link between brains and bias.

People with lower cognitive abilities also had less contact with people of other races.

"This finding is consistent with recent research demonstrating that intergroup contact is mentally challenging and cognitively draining, and consistent with findings that contact reduces prejudice," said Hodson, who along with his colleagues published these results online Jan. 5 in the journal Psychological Science.

A Study of Averages

Hodson was quick to note that the despite the link found between low intelligence and social conservatism, the researchers aren't implying that all liberals are brilliant and all conservatives stupid. The research is a study of averages over large groups, he said.

"There are multiple examples of very bright conservatives and not-so-bright liberals, and many examples of very principled conservatives and very intolerant liberals," Hodson said.

Nosek gave another example to illustrate the dangers of taking the findings too literally.

"We can say definitively men are taller than women on average," he said. "But you can't say if you take a random man and you take a random woman that the man is going to be taller. There's plenty of overlap."

Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that strict right-wing ideology might appeal to those who have trouble grasping the complexity of the world.

"Socially conservative ideologies tend to offer structure and order," Hodson said, explaining why these beliefs might draw those with low intelligence. "Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice."

In another study, this one in the United States, Hodson and Busseri compared 254 people with the same amount of education but different levels of ability in abstract reasoning. They found that what applies to racism may also apply to homophobia. People who were poorer at abstract reasoning were more likely to exhibit prejudice against gays. As in the U.K. citizens, a lack of contact with gays and more acceptance of right-wing authoritarianism explained the link. [5 Myths About Gay People Debunked]

Simple Viewpoints

Hodson and Busseri's explanation of their findings is reasonable, Nosek said, but it is correlational. That means the researchers didn't conclusively prove that the low intelligence caused the later prejudice. To do that, you'd have to somehow randomly assign otherwise identical people to be smart or dumb, liberal or conservative. Those sorts of studies obviously aren't possible.

The researchers controlled for factors such as education and socioeconomic status, making their case stronger, Nosek said. But there are other possible explanations that fit the data. For example, Nosek said, a study of left-wing liberals with stereotypically naïve views like "every kid is a genius in his or her own way," might find that people who hold these attitudes are also less bright. In other words, it might not be a particular ideology that is linked to stupidity, but extremist views in general.

"My speculation is that it's not as simple as their model presents it," Nosek said. "I think that lower cognitive capacity can lead to multiple simple ways to represent the world, and one of those can be embodied in a right-wing ideology where 'People I don't know are threats' and 'The world is a dangerous place'. ... Another simple way would be to just assume everybody is wonderful."

Prejudice is of particular interest because understanding the roots of racism and bias could help eliminate them, Hodson said. For example, he said, many anti-prejudice programs encourage participants to see things from another group's point of view. That mental exercise may be too taxing for people of low IQ.

"There may be cognitive limits in the ability to take the perspective of others, particularly foreigners," Hodson said. "Much of the present research literature suggests that our prejudices are primarily emotional in origin rather than cognitive. These two pieces of information suggest that it might be particularly fruitful for researchers to consider strategies to change feelings toward outgroups," rather than thoughts.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ban on texting while driving advances

By SARA SMITH
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX – Responding to arguments that outlawing texting while driving would create a “nanny state” and burden law enforcement, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee said Thursday that government has a duty to protect citizens.

“This is a place where government should be regulating and should be concerned,” said Rep. Vic Williams, R–Tucson. “The numbers don’t lie. Statistically we have problems with people driving distracted.”

The committee voted 6–2 to endorse HB 2512, authored by Rep. Steve Urie, R–Gilbert, which carries a fine of $50 for those caught texting while driving and $200 if a texting driver is involved in an accident.

Thirty–five states have laws against texting while driving. Phoenix approved a ban in 2007, and the Tucson City Council is considering a similar measure.

Urie told the committee that a law would prevent a patchwork of ordinances around the state.

“The state needs to get out in front of that and set the precedent,” he said.

The bill, which applies to handheld wireless communication devices, includes exceptions for emergency vehicle drivers and law enforcement officers using “necessary equipment,” drivers reading or selecting telephone numbers and those whose vehicles aren’t moving.

Stuart Goodman, a lobbyist for AAA Arizona, said text messaging increases the risk of being in a crash or near–crash by 23.2 times, citing a 2009 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

“Texting while driving is such an egregious distraction compared to the others that exist,” Goodman said.

Rep. Jerry Weiers, R–Glendale, who voted against the bill, said it would be difficult for law enforcement officers to determine who is texting versus someone simply looking at the phone or a GPS application.

“I think a lot of policemen would tell you that it’s unenforceable,” he said.

Rep. Karen Fann, R–Prescott, who also opposed the measure, said there are other distractions as bad or worse than texting.

“Rather than just do texting, I would like to see us have a good law that addresses all distracted driving,” she said.

Rep. Steve Farley, D–Tucson, who has authored similar bills in previous sessions, said the tragic results of accidents caused by texting outweigh potential gray areas.

“The types of things you do when you’re texting are horrific, whether you’re running into the sides of moving trains, which has happened, or crossing over a center line and hitting a mom head-on, leaving her kids without a mom, which happened in this state in July 2007,” Farley said.

Other driving-related bills:

SB 1056
• Author: Sen. John McComish, R-Ahwatukee
• Key provision: Would ban those with learner’s permits and minors who have had their licenses for six months or less from using cellphones for any purpose while driving.
• Status: Approved 23-6 Thursday by the state Senate and forwarded to the House.

HB 2312
• Author: Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson
• Key provision: Would prohibit driving while distracted in any manner.
• Status: Assigned to the House Transportation Committee.

Jan Brewer, classless nitwit

(Gazette Blog editor's note: We tried to stay out of this one.  Really.  We have friends who are Republicans.  But then the following by Charles Pierce came along, with dozens of comments from readers across the country.  Only the first few are reprinted here.  Folks, this woman is killing us.  If you disagree, send us your comments - if you dare.  We'll post each one along with another comment from Pierce's readers.  Should be fun.  And no, we will not dignify what Brewer did by running the wagging finger photo here.)

By Charles P. Pierce
Esquire Magazine

26 January 12 - Let it now be said that, when it comes to expressing disapproval of the incumbent president of the United States, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas did it with much more class - and, dare I say it, respect - than did Jan Brewer, the half-cracked yahoo governor of Arizona.

Thomas just declined to show up for a photo-op. Brewer, last seen drifting off into the Phantom Zone at the beginning of a debate - and try to ignore her being called a "gladiator" by Diane Sawyer, a/k/a Nixon's Last Sucker - decided to create a photo-op of her own by jabbing (and jabbering) at the president as he arrived in Phoenix late Wednesday.

The president engaged her for a while and then politely walked on, as we all try to do when confronted by crazy people at places like airports and bus terminals.

The wingnut-o-sphere is, of course, well over the freaking moon at all of this. And here's Mr. Murdoch's startlingly advertising-free little political fanzine, adding some background by believing everything written by Bobby Jindal.

Maybe the president's wrong for confronting people who write what he believes are lies about him. ("Punching down," Howard Fineman called it last night, although at whom a president could "punch up" remains a mystery.) What I do know is that the Bruins should trade Tim Thomas to the Phoenix Coyotes immediately, so he can run for governor and give that great state the dignity it now lacks.

Comments

+204 # Barbara K 2012-01-26 10:24
This snarly-mouth nitwit is such an idiot and lacks respect for anyone. Not only that, she is a crooked liar. Just see how she is involved in the Prisons for Profit in Arizona. I hope smart Arizonans get rid of her before she destroys the state completely, I know several people who will not visit Arizona. No, they are not Mexicans and neither am I.

NEVER VOTE REPUBLICAN !!

our future is at stake

+92 # LessSaid 2012-01-26 11:45
I don't (think) there are enough smart Arizonans to get rid of Brewer. I was blown away that they voted to keep her over just the immigration thing. This woman is crazy and stupid and the voters kept her. They most likely would vote for her just because (of) how she spoke to the President. Stupid people are in office due to stupid voters voting them in office.

+49 # bugbuster 2012-01-26 12:05
I think it's the desert heat. I remember when Arizona was all googly-eyed about Barry Goldwater, the first real wingnut in my memory, and not nearly as wingnutty as what we have now.

+40 # Muffy787 2012-01-26 12:48
I think there finally are a good group of Democrats who have had it with her and the rest of the crooks. We are working hard to get some elected this year.

We have a wonderful, young Democratic Chairman who is dynamic and has a fabulous resume. I have high hopes for him to run for House or Senate and WIN. GOD willing, I hope.

+29 # photonracer 2012-01-26 17:21
Dear Less You are quite right. Being a native Arizonan I recognize what I am dealing with is an artificial transient population of Republicans who just happen to be residing here at election time. We locals are supposed to be benefiting from their largesse of purchases, property taxes and increased employment. That ain't happening! The old barfly with the shaky finger keeps giving away the farm while imprisoning the darker skinned workforce. In return she getting campaign support and money from the private prison industry. Arizona is a classic Republican SNAFU. Don't even get me started on that nitwit sheriff.

+14 # Todd Williams 2012-01-26 13:34
True. I would drive around Arizona if it were in my direct route to California. This woman is off her rocker and a crook, to boot. How dare she wag her finger at the President. Obama should have grabbed the digit and broken it in half!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bill would give incentive for marriage course

(Gazette Blog Editor's note: Finally, a good idea from one of our state legislators, and a Republican no less.  We must note, however, that she is a woman and she represents Tucson, our right wing state's liberal bastion.  Thank you, Rep. Proud.  Now let's see if the Republican-dominated legislature will make it law or if they're too busy allowing guns in classrooms to bother with it.)

By CONNOR RADNOVICH
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX – To motivate couples to learn more about marital issues before tying the knot, a Tucson lawmaker is sponsoring a bill that would cut the price of marriage licenses in half if couples take a premarital course covering subjects including conflict management to parenting responsibilities.

Republican Rep. Terri Proud, who is divorced herself, said these classes help keep marriages together and that HB 2217 would give couples a financial reason to take a course.

“There is nothing out there (as) incentive for couples to find out how marriage works before jumping in,” Proud said. “I do wish something like this had been around a few years ago.”

Proud’s bill would require counties to provide a 50 percent discount on marriage licenses for taking a premarital course. A marriage license costs $72 in Maricopa County, for example.

To qualify for the discount, the course have to include instruction on conflict management, communication skills, finances and parenting.

Proud didn’t take a course like the one she is suggesting before she married. But several years ago she took a class through her church to see how they work and came away impressed.

“I wish I would have taken these courses before getting married,” Proud said. “Hopefully it’ll get them to think and develop tools that will help them throughout the years.”

According to a 2009 U.S. Census Bureau report, nearly 11 out of 1,000 men and 12 out of 1,000 women in Arizona reported getting divorced in the previous year. That was slightly higher than the national average.

At least six states have enacted similar laws. In Florida, couples who take a course of at least four hours can have $32.50 taken off the cost of a marriage license. Minnesota provides an $75 discount on licenses for completing a 12-hour premarital course.

Proud’s bill doesn’t specify a length for the course, just that a member of the clergy or marriage counselor certify that the couple sat through a program.

“It’s a great idea, but it’s really hard to get these bills passed,” said Diane Sollee, founder and director of smartmarriages.com, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition dedicated to marriage, family and couples education.

A major reason these bills are difficult to pass, Sollee said, is because counties don’t want to lose any of the revenue they get from licenses, especially during tough economic times.

But, she said, these courses help couples understand the problems they will face in marriage and prepare for the challenges.

Calls to the Arizona Association of Counties seeking comment on the bill weren’t returned by Tuesday evening.

About HB 2217
• Author: Rep. Terri Proud, R-Tucson
• Provision: Would cut cost of marriage license in half if couples take a premarital course.
• Course requirements: In order to qualify for the deal, the course couples take would have to cover conflict management, communication skills, finances and parenting.
• Precedent: Several states have similar laws, including Florida, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Texas.
• Status: Currently not assigned to committee.

Bill could clear lunch plates at AZ schools

Creative Commons photo by Karen Blumberg

By Kellie Mejdrich
Arizona-Sonora News Service

Wednesday, 25 January 2012 20:48 - Could 50,000 Arizona schoolchildren be going without lunch?  That’s the fear some people are expressing if the state legislature passes and the governor signs a bill under consideration.

SB 1061, sponsored by Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, waives a mandate that kindergarten through eighth grade public school districts participate in the National School Lunch Program, a federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches to children through cash subsidies.

While many Republican legislators laud the bill, saying it promotes “local control,” the bill baffles nutritionists and educators who say it attacks a federal program that provided Arizona more than $340 million in cash for lunches last year.

The program, called the “Healthy Hunger Kids Act,” was unveiled in detail Wednesday by First Lady Michelle Obama, detailing the increases of fruit, whole grain, and cut in sodium and trans fat—a $3.2 billion program to be implemented over the next five years.

School officials like Nutrition Director Karen Johnson of Yuma Elementary School District, is baffled as to why this bill is even necessary, calling the National School Lunch Program “a federal program that works.”

“He’s trying to plug a leak in a dam that’s not leaking. There’s no leak here,” Johnson said. Johnson fears this bill could leave some kids, even a small number, with no way to pay for or receive a lunch.

“To me, if one school drops off the program, and if there’s one child that’s going to go hungry that day, we’ve done an injustice to that student,” Johnson said. “I know people don’t think that will happen, but it could happen. And to me, “could” is something that I have to pay attention to.”

Stacey Morley, director of policy development and government relations with the Arizona Department of Education, believes public outrage would likely keep food on the plates of Arizona’s poorest.

“What school board is going to vote not to feed kids? Imagine that headline.” Morley said.

She imagines the situation Crandall is envisioning is one where a school with a low percentage of children eligible for free and reduced children finds the program too expensive. But even then, they’d have to provide the meals themselves, she said.

But there’s no guarantee in the bill that this happens.

Crandall refused to provide language in the bill guaranteeing children receive a free or reduced lunch absent the federal program, something Jennifer Loredo, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Education Association, requested.

“I won’t replace one mandate with another,” Crandall said.

Crandall doesn’t believe his bill will leave kids hungry, and he doubts anyone will go off the program.

“No one will be going off of the National School Lunch Program unless the new federal rules cause them to lose their shirt financially and they opt for a different way to feed children,” Crandall said.

But nothing in the bill says they have to “opt for a different way.”

Crandall said he wants to provide these schools with the same level of “local control” that charter and high schools enjoy in the state. He is against new federal regulations that require more fruit be served because students who pay full price will now have to pay more.

However, many educators and operators of school lunch programs are baffled as to the relevance of the bill.

In 2010, Arizona received $343 million in cash subsidies for the National School Lunch Program, cash that was used to feed, on average, more than half a million children in the state every day, according to statistics provided by the Arizona Department of Education.

Crandall thinks that new regulations within the congressional “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” passed in 2010 could become a financial burden for schools.

However, these new regulations will take time to be implemented and likely won’t cause drastic change, Johnson said.

One of the main provisions of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” Crandall said he took issue with was the requirement lunchrooms raise their prices to match the subsidy for a free lunch child. That means over time, a lunchroom would have to raise its full-price lunch rates to around $2.77 or $2.79 over time, depending on the income level of their schools. Right now, many schools in Arizona charge lunch prices as low as $1.

“So those who get hurt the most is that middle income,” Crandall said. “People who don’t qualify for free lunch but are just above it.”

But that increase in price only has to happen by 10 cents a year, the federal law states.

Johnson, whose district right now charges only $1 for a full-price lunch, isn’t worried about the requirements since the increase would be so gradual, she said.

Johnson just doesn’t understand why Crandall thinks the bill is necessary, she said.

“It’s a mystery to me,” she said. “It’s really a program that should be it’s accessible for all children.”

Crandall contends the bill involves a “one word change (shall to may)” to participate in the NSLP “allows district K-8 grades to have the exact same flexibility that Arizona high schools and charter schools enjoy.”

However, statistics show that more students in Arizona qualify for free or reduced lunch than those who can pay full-price—leaving them statistically more at risk.

According to March 2011 data from the Arizona Department of Education, more than half the kids in Arizona qualify for free lunch. Seven percent of students qualify to pay less than full price.

Click chart for more info.

Nutrition Director Johnson doesn’t buy Crandall’s argument that the bill is a one-word change, though.

“I just have a hard time changing the word from “shall” to “may” in the program,” Johnson said. She’s worked in education for 35 years—in the nutrition department for 24. “Those aren’t baby words, they’re huge words.”

Even in a district like Tucson’s Catalina Foothills, Morely said, with 8.8 percent on free and reduced, it’s highly unlikely those children would go without lunch. That would leave the school no other option but to feed them out of pocket.

Others are skeptical that schools would make free lunches on their own dime if they opted out of the program.

“Really?” Johnson asked. “Is somebody just going to sit back and make sandwiches for 10 percent of your students?”

Mejdrich is a senior at the University of Arizona and is the Bolles Fellow this semester covering the Legislature. The fellowship was named to honor former Arizona Republic investigative reporter Don Bolles who was assassinated in the line of duty.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Green Party's Stein gives alternative address

(Gazette Editor's note: There is an alternative this election year.  Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein delivered a "Peoples State of the Union" address in response to the Democrat and Republican versions.  Here is an abbreviated version.  It's still long, but we think it's well worth a read.)

A PEOPLE’S STATE OF THE UNION:
A GREEN NEW DEAL FOR AMERICA

Presented by Dr. Jill E. Stein, Green Party presidential candidate, January 2012 ~ www.JillStein.org

Good evening and thank you for this opportunity to talk with you tonight. We’re here to talk about the actual state of our nation, and how we can reclaim the promise of our democracy and the peaceful, just green future we deserve. We have heard President Obama deliver his State of the Union Address. And we heard the Republican response. Each claims to have the answer, and that the other was an obstacle to progress.

But the truth is both sides – despite the rhetoric – are responsible for the harsh policies driving our economy and our democracy into deep crisis. Simply put, they place the interests of Wall Street ahead of the needs of everyday people and the long term welfare of our nation.

So tonight, we are going to talk about the major problems that are not being solved by the political establishment. And we will focus on key game-changing solutions that have been kept off the table for too long.

As we speak tonight, our economy is not working for the vast majority of Americans.

One hundred and forty-six million people – that’s nearly one in every two Americans – is now living below or near the poverty level. The stress falls hardest on our most vulnerable and disadvantaged, with the majority of children, half of our elders, three quarters of Latinos, and two thirds of African Americans living in or near poverty.

Last year, one million Americans lost their health insurance, raising the numbers of the uninsured to almost 50 million of our people. Over 6 million Americans have lost their homes to foreclosure.

Thirty million college students and recent graduates are trapped in the financial prison of student loan debt. Most students must take out costly loans to meet the skyrocketing cost of tuition. Yet paying off those loans is almost impossible as young people face double-digit unemployment and much lower pay – 40% less – than their parents’ generation received for the same work.

Overall, nearly 25 million Americans are unemployed or unable to find full time work. And even those who have jobs are struggling, because wages have been declining for American workers, and are now lower on average than in 1996. Household income has fallen faster since the official end of the recession than during the recession itself, because the so-called “recovery” is made up of mostly low paying jobs.

Over seven million are under "correctional supervision", 10 times greater than in 1965, as incarcerating poor people – disproportionately of color - has become big business with the failed war on drugs. And more African American males are now locked up in US prisons than were slaves in 1850.

America’s creed is “With Liberty and Justice for All.” That is a creed of Equality. But right now we are experiencing the worst economic inequality in our nation’s history. The gap between the very rich and the many poor has never been so great. The wealthiest 1% in America now own as much wealth as 90% of all Americans. Those over 65 hold, on average, 47 times as much wealth as heads of households who are under 35. White families own, on average, twenty times as much as Black families. Such inequality is unacceptable, unconscionable* and un-American.

While the economy does not work for the vast majority, it does work for a few; at least for now.

The owners of the big corporations are enjoying historic profits, with a record $2 trillion in cash reserves at home and $1.4 trillion overseas. Though the corporate elite are richer than ever, they are contributing less than ever to the tax base that keeps the infrastructure going that their profits rely on – schools, transportation, clean air and water, safe food, the legal system, the police, and the military. In fact, 30 major corporations paid no corporate income tax at all over the last three years, despite making $160 billion in profits. And the big banks – whose fraud and greed crashed the economy to start with – are bigger than ever, with the six biggest banks now controlling capital equivalent* to 60% of all economic activity in this country.

To be clear: the greed for record profits is what got us into this mess in the first place. Of course it wasn’t greed alone. It was the capture of both political parties by Wall Street and other powerful corporations that buy influence with campaign contributions and lobbyists. Using this routine currency of American policy making, Democrats and Republicans alike dismantled protections against waste, fraud and abuse by Wall Street.* This bipartisan cooperation enabled greed to crash the economy. That not only killed jobs, it also depressed tax revenues – which has been one of the biggest drivers of the federal deficit. That deficit has also been made worse by unconscionable spending choices: notably the 4 trillion dollars spent on the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and trillions more spent on the bloated Pentagon budget, tax giveaways for the wealthy, and bailouts for Wall Street.

And now, the political establishment in the White House, Congress, and state governments are making matters far worse, doing the opposite of what we need, by inflicting needless, harsh austerity policies on the country.

It is time to break free from the old economy, and the old politics.

It’s time for a Green New Deal for America.

A GREEN NEW DEAL

The Green New Deal is an emergency four part program of specific solutions for moving America quickly out of crisis into the secure green future.

We call these solutions a Green “New Deal” because they are inspired by the New Deal programs that helped us out of the Great Depression of the 1930s. And these solutions are “Green” because they create an economy that makes our communities sustainable and healthy.

First, we will guarantee the economic rights of all Americans, beginning with the right to a job at a living wage for every American willing and able to work.

Second, we will transition to a sustainable, green economy for the 21st century, by adopting green technologies and sustainable production.

Third, we will reboot and reprogram the financial sector so that it serves everyday people and our communities, and not the other way around.

Fourth, we will protect these gains by expanding and strengthening our democracy so that our government and our economy finally serve We the People.

THE ECONOMIC BILL OF RIGHTS

For this reason, The Green New Deal begins with an Economic Bill of Rights that recognizes our rights to an economy that serves people. This means that everyone willing and able to work has the right to a job at a living wage. All of us have the right to quality education, health care, utilities, and housing. Each of us has the right to unionize, to fair taxation, and to fair trade.

This means that everyone willing and able to work has the right to a job at a living wage. All of us have the right to quality education, health care, housing and utilities. Each of us has the right to unionize, to fair taxation, and to fair trade.

We will end unemployment in America once and for all by ensuring a job at a living wage for every American willing and able to work. This includes jobs that improve our environment, like clean manufacturing, organic agriculture, public transportation and clean renewable energy. It also includes jobs that provide urgently needed social infrastructure – for public education, health care, child care, elder care, youth programs, and arts and culture.

Our Full Employment Program will create 16 million jobs through a community-based direct employment initiative that will be nationally funded, locally controlled, and democratically protected against conflicts of interest and pay-to-play influence peddling. The program will directly create jobs in the public and the private sector. Instead of going to an unemployment office when you can’t find work, you can simply go to the local employment office to find a public sector job.

The Green New Deal’s Full Employment Program will change what it means to be a working person in America. It ends the agonizing wait for a business recovery that’s not in the cards. It creates jobs that can never be produced by trickle-down giveaways to the rich. And it will move our economy decisively because it will put paychecks back in people's pockets and put customers back in stores. And all by meeting needs of our communities and making them healthy, just and sustainable.

Full Employment is the first, and central part of the Green New Deal’s Economic Bill of Rights. But life is more than work and paychecks. We must fulfill the full promise of the Economic Bill of Rights.

Therefore, my administration will honor the right to quality health care through an improved Medicare for All program. This will provide comprehensive care for all. It will be free to consumers at the point of delivery, but will save money overall by reducing the massive wasteful health insurance bureaucracy and by stabilizing medical inflation. And it restores freedom of choice so you pick your health care provider, and your care is decided by you and your provider– not by a profiteering insurance executive. This will be federally financed and democratically controlled.

We will honor the right to a tuition-free, quality public education from pre-school through college at public institutions. And we will forgive student loan debt left over from the current era of unaffordable college education.

We will honor the right to decent affordable housing, including an immediate halt to all foreclosures and evictions. We will create a federal bank with local branches to take over homes with distressed mortgages and either restructure the mortgages to affordable levels, or if the occupants cannot afford a mortgage, rent homes to the occupants. We will expand rental and home ownership assistance, create ample public housing, and capital grants to non-profit developers of affordable housing until all people can obtain decent housing at no more than 25% of their income.

We will honor workers rights, including the right to a living wage, a safe workplace, to fair trade, and to organize a union at work without fear of firing or reprisal. The idea that the Bill of Rights does not apply to you when you enter your workplace is an idea that says that you are only free when you are not working. That’s not acceptable in America.

We will honor the right to accessible and affordable utilities – heat, electricity, phone, internet, and public transportation – which will be made available to all through democratically run, publicly owned utilities that operate at cost, not for profit.

We will honor that oldest of American rights, the right to fair taxation that’s distributed in proportion to ability to pay. And we will make any corporate tax subsidies transparent by putting these subsidies in public budgets where they can be scrutinized, not hidden as tax breaks in complicated tax codes.

A GREEN TRANSITION

The second priority of the Green New Deal is a Green Transition Program that will convert the old, gray economy into the new green economy. We will do this by shifting to green technologies and sustainable ways of making things. We must do this right now because the environment is the foundation for our economy – and for life itself. And that environment is deeply imperiled.

The benefits we get from the environment dwarf those that come to us from human economic activity – even when measured strictly in dollar terms. What we usually call “the environment” is really another word for Mother Nature’s economy. A business model that destroys our forests, our fisheries, our topsoil, our water supplies, our health, and our climate – is a business model that will inevitably collapse upon itself. And an economy that is addicted to ever-increasing supplies of oil is not only doomed, it is a national security disaster just waiting to happen.

If you are someone who wants to start a small business or cooperative in the green economy or in providing for other vital community needs, you will find an ally in the Green Transition Program. Right now, our federal government subsidizes the rich agribusiness corporations and the oil, mining, nuclear, coal and timber giants at the expense of small farmers, small business, and our children’s environment. We spend tens of billions every year moving our economy in the wrong direction. We will instead redirect that money to the real job creators who make our communities more healthy, sustainable and secure at the same time.

The Green Transition Program will provide grants and low-interest loans to grow green businesses and cooperatives, with an emphasis on small, locally-based companies that keep the wealth created by local labor circulating in the community rather than being drained off to enrich absentee investors. These types of businesses provide a solid foundation for our prosperity – a prosperity that will not be offshored, outsourced or downsized, and that will be unaffected by the collapse of foreign credit markets.

This Green Transition Program will also redirect research money from fossil fuels and other dead-end industries toward for research in wind, solar and geothermal. We will invest in research in sustainable, nontoxic materials, closed-loop cycles that eliminate waste and pollution, as well as organic agriculture, permaculture, and sustainable forestry.

The 16 million jobs created by the Full Employment Program mentioned earlier will be the core of the Green Transition Program. It will provide jobs in sustainable energy, transportation and manufacturing infrastructure: clean renewable energy generation, energy efficiency retrofitting, intra-city mass transit and inter-city railroads, weatherization, “complete streets” that safely encourage bike and pedestrian traffic, regional food systems based on sustainable organic agriculture, and clean manufacturing of the goods needed to support this sustainable economy.

A new world really is possible. We can, and must, shift to an economy in which 100% of our electricity is generated renewably. We can and must leave the old economy behind – which was based on mining, extraction, and dirty dangerous expensive nuclear power. We can and must stop poisoning ourselves, our children, and other living beings.

When we make the investment required to clean up our emissions and waste, our economy will be revitalized by the wealth that stays in America rather than being sent abroad to buy foreign oil. Our national security will no longer be vulnerable to disruption of oil supplies, and we won't have to send our people abroad to fight wars for oil. Health care costs will go down because the foundations of a green economy – clean energy, healthy food, pollution prevention, and active transportation – are also the foundations of human health. Or to put it another way, greening our economy also reduces the drivers of preventable chronic disease, which consume a staggering 75% of health care costs. All in all, this is an investment that will pay off enormously as we build healthy, just, sustainable communities.

REAL FINANCIAL REFORM

Speaking of investments, the takeover of our economy by big banks and well-connected financiers has destabilized both our democracy and our economy. We do not need and should not tolerate the dictatorship of bankers and financiers who manipulate money without doing productive work and who enrich themselves at the expense of real businesses and real working people. It's time to take Wall Street out of the driver’s seat and to free the truly productive segments of working America to make this economy work for all of us.

That is why a third priority of the Green New Deal is real financial reform, beginning by breaking up the big banks and retaking our monetary policy from the Federal Reserve Banks. We will reboot and reprogram the financial sector so that everyday Americans no longer need to live in fear of periodic crashes that are not of our making.

Currently U.S. banks and corporations have huge cash assets that are badly needed for business expansion. Yet lending and investment for business expansion is stagnant. Meanwhile, financial institutions are profiting from speculative trading in stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, and derivatives. They are rearranging who owns existing productive assets instead of investing to create new productive assets. The rich get richer while the economy stagnates, unemployment persists, and needed investments in infrastructure and production are not being made.

The greed, speculation and fraud that crashed the economy continues unabated as we suffer through a recovery for the 1% alone. And it continues to threaten further recovery with backdoor bailouts, and the very real potential to tank the economy again.

It's time to really reform Wall Street so that working America has a chance. Here is what the financial reforms of the Green New Deal will do.

First, the debt overhang holding back the economy must be deleveraged by reducing homeowner and student debt burdens. An immediate halt to all foreclosures and evictions - as called for in the Economic Bill of Rights – will be coupled to the creation of a federal bank with local branches to take over distressed mortgages and either restructure the mortgages to affordable levels, or if the occupants cannot afford a mortgage, rent homes to the occupants. Forgiving student debt will be coupled to tuition-free higher education on the model of the post World War II GI Bill, which has paid for itself more than seven times over in increased government revenues from higher productivity, according to a study by the congressional Joint Economic Committee in the 1980s.

We will democratize monetary policy to bring about public control of the money supply and credit creation. This means we’ll nationalize the private bank-dominated Federal Reserve Banks and place them under a Monetary Authority within the Treasury Department, along the lines proposed in the National Emergency Employment Defense – or NEED - Act of 2011 (HR 2990), sponsored by Representatives Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers.

Through the Green New Deal’s financial reforms, the federal government will retake its powers to create money, as granted by the Constitution in Article I, Section 8.
That’s just a beginning. Through the financial reforms of the Green New Deal:
• We will break up the oversized banks that are “too big to fail.”
• We will end taxpayer-funded bailouts for banks, insurers, and other financial companies. We’ll use the FDIC resolution process for failed banks to reopen them as public banks where possible after failed loans and underlying assets are auctioned off.
• We will adequately regulate all financial derivatives and require them to be traded on open exchanges.
• We will restore the Glass-Steagall separation of depository commercial banks from speculative investment banks.
• We will establish a 90% tax on bonuses for bailed out bankers.
• We will support the formation of federal, state, and municipal public-owned banks that function as non-profit utilities.

Under the Green New Deal we will start building a financial system that is open, honest, stable, and serves the real economy rather than the phony economy of high finance.

A FUNCTIONING DEMOCRACY

We have addressed the first three elements of the Green New Deal:

First, an Economic Bill of Rights, beginning with a Full Employment Program.

Second, a Green Transition Program to create a sustainable economy with green technologies and sustainable ways of making things.

Third, real financial reform that reboots the financial sector.

We won’t get those vital reforms without a fourth and final set of reforms to give us a real, functioning democracy. We don’t have that in America today. And so, just as we are replacing the old economy with a new one, we need a new politics to restore the promise of American democracy.

When corporations and big money dominate our elections, government of, for, and by the people cannot take root. For this reason, we urgently need to Amend our Constitution to make clear that corporations are not persons and money is not speech. Those rights belong to living, breathing human beings like you and me - not to business entities controlled by the wealthy.

The executive branch does not have much of an official role in constitutional reform. But a president certainly can, and should, use the bully pulpit to overturn the Un-American idea that the 1% have rights as a class that the rest of us are denied. And a president can, and should, support Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s proposed “Right to Vote Amendment,” to clarify to the Supreme Court that yes, we do have a constitutional right to vote.

The Green New Deal also requires the enactment of the Voter Bill of Rights. This 10-point platform is the calling card of the modern day voting rights movement, and became a consensus agenda in the years following the stolen presidential election of 2000. Enactment of the Voter Bill of Rights will guarantee us a voter-marked paper ballot for all voting, and require that all votes are counted before election results are released. It will also:
• Replace partisan oversight of elections with non-partisan election commissions.
• Celebrate our democratic aspirations by making Election Day a national holiday.
• Bring simplified, safe same-day voter registration to the nation so that no qualified voter is barred from the polls.
• Do away with so-called “winner take all” elections in which the “winner” does not have the support of most of the voters, and replace that system with instant runoff voting and proportional representation, systems most advanced countries now use to good effect.
• Replace big money control of elections with full public financing and free and equal access to the airwaves.
• Guarantee equal access to the ballot and to the debates to all qualified candidates.
• Abolish the Electoral College and implement direct election of the President.
• Restore the vote to ex-offenders who’ve paid their debt to society.
• Enact Statehood for the District of Columbia so that those Americans have representation in Congress and full rights to self rule like the rest of us.

Democracy doesn’t just happen in our political system. It happens in our economy, every day. Today, more than 500,000 American workers are employed by cooperatives, over 120,000,000 people are member-owners of consumer cooperatives, nearly 40,000 businesses are organized as cooperatives, and another 11,000 which are not coops are employee-stock-owned companies known as ESOPs <>. Coops have been shown to be very effective producers of jobs and wealth. Yet the federal government does not reward cooperative development in the same way it supports private business corporations; the corporations have their U.S. Department of the Treasury, while coops have no such entity.

The Green New Deal creates a Corporation for Economic Democracy, a new federal corporation (like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) to provide publicity, training, education, and direct financing for cooperative development and for democratic reforms to make government agencies, private associations, and business enterprises more participatory.

And speaking of the public broadcasting, the Green New Deal strengthens media democracy by expanding federal support for locally-owned broadcast media and local print media.

Finally, we must protect our liberty from those who would frighten us into surrendering our freedoms in the name of security. The Green New Deal will repeal the Patriot Act and those parts of the National Defense Authorization Act that violate our civil liberties. It will prohibit the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI from conspiring with local police forces to suppress our freedoms of assembly and of speech. And it will end the war on immigrants – including the cruel, so-called “secure communities” program - which is terrorizing millions of Americans, both citizens and non-citizen immigrants, on no basis other than their perceived immigration status.

Protecting our liberty requires one additional, important step. Washington and Eisenhower, both generals who became president, warned us about the military industrial complex. They warned us about the dangers of empire.

The Green New Deal includes a 50% reduction in military spending and the withdrawal of U.S. military bases from the over 140 countries in which our military is now located. It calls for restoration of the National Guard as the centerpiece of our system of national defense. It creates a new round of nuclear disarmament initiatives. Overall, it requires shifting from an economy in which the majority – the majority – of our discretionary budget is spent on war and the occupation of other countries, to an economy that provides the secure, just, peaceful future we all deserve.

COURAGE FOR THE URGENT TASKS OF THESE TIMES

Securing the Green New Deal depends not on me or the Green Party or some professional politician we see on television. It depends on all of us standing up and declaring that we’ve had enough of the insider-run big money politics that rules Washington. And it depends on each of us using our concern, our energy, our intelligence to find ways to improve the lives of our community.

This change will never come from the top. It never ever comes from the career politicians or the powerful Washington lobbyists. Real change has to come from the grassroots - from people who work hard every day pounding nails, driving trucks, changing sheets, teaching children, plowing fields, and making the real economy work.


Let us not rest until we have pulled our nation back from the brink, and until we have secured the peaceful, just, green future we all deserve.