Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mormons eschew religious bigotry.

We Mormons know what the Muslims are going through. I attended a meeting in Fallbrook where local residents were objecting to a new chapel planned in their community. It didn't reach the level of hatred that the Muslims are seeing but the fears were just as ungrounded.

We also know what it is like to be hated because of your religion. I had relatives in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1838, when Lilburn Boggs, Governor of Missouri, issued an order for the Mormons to leave the state or be exterminated.

The Muslim Church did not run the airplanes into the WTC, a handful of Muslim criminals did. The Christian Church did not destroy the Murrah building, a couple of Christian criminals did. The Christian Church did not kill 6 million Jews in Germany, an insane Christian did. Telling the Muslims they cannot build a community center near "Ground Zero" is, in addition to being a gross violation of the Constitution, makes as much sense as denying the Mormon Church or the Catholic Church from building a church two blocks from the Murrah building site.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It isn't even a mosque. It's a community center.

Brooks -

Over the last week we've heard a lot from DFA members around the country asking for action to protect the rights of religious freedom for all Americans and I couldn't agree more.

I don't get upset much. I mean, I get ticked off at Republicans and Democrats (and at really bad customer service!), but that's why I work with you at DFA. Because when we get upset, we don't stew in it and hope it goes away. We do something about it.

The controversy around the building of a Muslim Community Center at 51 Park in New York City should upset all of us. It definitely upsets me. Shortly after the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks, much of this country came together. But there were a number of other, smaller tragedies occurring all over the country as a result of the attacks. People who "looked like terrorists" were victims of harassment, intimidation, and outright violence.

That includes me, and every member of my immediate family in different instances. My response was to protest the coming wars. My family did something different, though. They started going to Mosque. It did more than renew their faith -- it provided a sense of community and safety during a very dark time for us. But for the last nine years, at least, people have been trying to block the construction of mosques all over the country.

Now, let's be clear, the subject of the highest profile Muslim structure, 51 Park in New York City, will have a basketball court and a culinary school. Two floors will have a prayer room. The other eleven will host movie nights, performances, group dinners, etc -- it's basically a Muslim YMCA, open to everyone. These moderate Muslims are doing everything we could ask of them. They're trying to build a bridge in the communities they live in, trying to show the world that Muslims are cool and interesting and diverse, and proving that being a Muslim does not equal being a terrorist.

But they're being thrown under the bus by our elected leaders, egged on by some of the ugliest elements of the right-wing. Well-intentioned leaders of the Democratic Party are getting caught up in the fray as well, some of them seeking to find common ground with an implacable opposition. It's not helping.

This isn't just a Manhattan problem. Right now, there is opposition to mosques in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Southern California, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois, and dozens of other locations across our nation. Where would they move? If public pressure can be brought to bear to take down the most high-profile Muslim community center in liberal NYC, then these other places don't even have a chance, Ground Zero connection or not.

Frankly, this isn't about Ground Zero. This is about America. This is about freedom. This is about people and there seems to be no place that Muslim people can go without being harassed.

The harassment has to stop, and that starts with you and me.

I think most people agree that Muslims have the right to worship. But these efforts to harass Muslims are based in fear, prejudice, and ignorance. Removing a community center doesn't solve these problems. But talking about religious freedom -- really engaging people -- can open people's minds, and blunt the prejudice.

I pledge to do it myself.

I pledge today to stand up for religious freedom right now. We cannot wait another day to defend the rights of all Americans to worship if they want, where they want, and when they want. I will not wait for the conversation to come to me; I will start the conversation now.Please join me in making the pledge to fight for our universal American values of acceptance and respect for religious freedom.

I need you, in your community, to have those challenging conversations with people you know.

Take the pledge right now.

It's time to be pro-active in support of the values that define what we stand for and who we are as Americans. After you take the pledge, please follow up and share the conversations you've had. I think we'll all find them inspiring to share.


Arshad Hasan, Executive Director
Democracy for America

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Double Social Security payments

Thom's blog
Don't Take Away Social Security - Double it Instead!
A New America Foundation study is not calling for Social Security to be cut back but to double it. With the crash of private pensions, homeownership and personal savings in the footsteps of this Republican Great Recession, Social Security becomes central to the historic "three-legged stool" of American retirement security. Yet Social Security now only brings in only a about a third of the money needed for retirement. This study recommends doubling social security payments, and funding it by lifting the cap so millionaire banker, who right now pay a paltry 1%, pay the same 12.4% that a carpenter or firemen does. Add to that a social security tax on billionaire hedge fund managers and others who make their living through sitting on their butts, around the pool, waiting for the interest or dividend check to arrive in the mail, and you can not only double current social security payments, but the system is solvent forever.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Health Insurers held accountable!

Guess which party opposed this!


Washington, DCThe National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) today took an initial step toward comprehensive federal rules that determine whether health insurance companies spend an appropriate share of premium dollars on patient care rather than profits, CEO pay, lobbying and administration. The association approved a set of disclosure forms that will be filed by health insurers. Still, much remains to be done to ensure that the NAIC’s final product and subsequent federal rules are not weakened by the health insurance industry, which has spent more than $769 million on lobbying since 2007.

Today’s vote affects how companies calculate the medical-loss ratio (MLR), which is the percentage of premium revenue spent on actual medical services. The Affordable Care Act, enacted on March 23, 2010, requires insurers to spend on patient care and quality improvement at least 80 percent of health plan premiums collected from individuals and small employers and 85 percent of premiums from large employers.

Here is a statement on today’s NAIC vote from Ethan Rome, executive director of Health Care for America Now:

“Today the NAIC took a step toward ending the health insurance companies' stranglehold on our health care. The top state insurance regulators from across the nation voted to put patient care above insurance company profits. This decision moves us closer to more affordable health care for families and businesses and will help ensure that the new health care law fulfills its promise. Advocates have battled every step of the way to hold the insurance companies accountable, and we will continue to do so.

“Many challenges remain before we can declare victory in the MLR fight. Pivotal aspects of the technical rules discussed today in Seattle remain unresolved, including crucial decisions on how to treat federal taxes and agent/broker fees. The NAIC still has work to do, and it should finish its deliberations soon so the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) can swiftly develop final rules that take effect on schedule for 2011 health plans.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The reason for German recovery

Thom's blog
German Economy Leaping Forward as Americans Fall Behind
The official figures are showing that the German economy has leaped forward by 2.2% in the three months to the end of June, its fastest quarterly growth in more than 20 years. The German national statistics office said, "Such quarter-on-quarter growth has never been recorded before in reunified Germany." The higher-than-expected growth was due to strong exports, helped by a weaker euro. The eurozone economy grew by 1% during the quarter. Another big factor in the continuing growth of the German economy is that during the Great Recession German workers never saw layoffs or significant reductions in pay. This is because all German corporations are required to have a board of directors comprised 50% of workers, and that during the financial crisis the German government filled in the pay gaps of workers working fewer hours. Thus demand never dropped in the German economy, because workers always had a good paycheck, and so their economy continues to be robust.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Newt the epitome of phony!

Thom's blog
"Family Values" Don't Apply to Newt Gingrich...
"Family values" apparently don't apply to Newt Gingrich. Marianne Gingrich, the second of Newt's three wives, sat down for a rare interview with Esquire and talked about Newt cheating in their marriage. The article said, "When Marianne confronted Newt about his cheating, he had just returned from a speech where he spoke of the importance of family values. Yet he asked her to simply tolerate the affair. She refused, and asked him how he could give high-minded speeches while simultaneously running around on his wife. "It doesn't matter what I do," he answered. "People need to hear what I have to say."
Well, so much for family values when it comes to the Newtster. But this really raises two larger issues. First is the obvious one, that some politicians particularly on the right, believe that the end justifies the means, and will lie enthusiastically to accomplish what they think is a noble goal. The second is the issue of morality, which is where this will most seriously bite Newt in the butt.
While liberal morality usually focuses on society - we can't call ourselves a moral people if there are hungry among us, homeless among us, or sick among us - Conservative morality usually focuses on the individual. Because conservatives are more interested in, and worried about, who's is sleeping with whom, and how, and when, Newt's conservative bas - which largely doesn't give a damn about the hungry, homeless, or sick among us - will probably be quite upset that he cheated on both his ex-wives while giving high brow speeches about family values and lead the prosecution of Bill Clinton for having sex in the White House.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The problem is the professional right, Mr. Gibbs

The Real Problem is the Professional Right...
The after effects continue from White House spokesman Robert Gibbs's attack on the "professional left" yesterday. Rep, Keith Ellison (D-MN), a member of the Progressive Caucus, slammed Gibbs remarks. "Why would he confuse legitimate critique with some sort of lack of loyalty," Ellison said. "Isn't this what the far right does? Punishes people who are not ideologically aligned with President Bush?" The real problem is Pres. Obama and Mr Gibbs, his spokesman, have, is not the professional left, it's the professional right. A little over a year ago, Obama pushed through a stimulation package which has actually done tremendous good in the US and in many ways prevented a recession form turning into a depression. But because of the messaging incompetence of Mr Gibbs in the White House, and the cacophony of voices from the professional right, polls show that fewer than 5% of Americans know the difference between Obama's acutely effective stimulation plan and Bush's insane bank bail out plan. If Mr Gibbs and Pres. Obama are concerned about getting the message out, they need to look at their own messaging performance as well as starting to aggressively punch back on the professional right.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Disappearing Middle Class

Thom's blog
Do you want fries with that?
The Commerce Department said yesterday, that personal incomes took a dive across the U.S. last year except in areas with high volumes of federal government and military jobs. This comes on the heels of an article in the Financial Times, where Edward Luce picked apart the American Dream, reporting, "The annual incomes of the bottom 90% of U.S. families have been essentially flat since 1973 -- having risen by only 10% in real terms over the past 37 years. That means most Americans have been treading water for more than a generation. Over the same period the incomes of the top 1% have tripled. In 1973, chief executives were on average paid 26 times the median income. Now the multiple is above 300." The simple reality is that while every industrialized country in the world has a solid safety social safety net, made up of robust programs like social security, medicare, unemployment benefits, and welfare for those unable to work, the historic social safety net for the United States - because these programs are quite minimal in the US - has been a well paying, unionized, manufacturing job. But 30 years of Reaganomics, Clintonomics, and Tom Friedman, Flat Earth insanity has moved those jobs to China, Vietnam and India, leaving American workers to say, "Welcome to Wal-Mart" and "Do you want Fries with that?" Until we bring our jobs home and re-empower our unions we are left with a frayed and largely ineffective social safety net - and even that safety net itself is under attack from conservatives and big business. This is why the average American working family is one paycheck away from living on the streets.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Unions=strong middle class=strong America

Thom's blog
The Power of Labor Balances Money
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka indicated on Wednesday that his union will let certain endangered Democrats fend for themselves and maybe even lose their seats in the upcoming November elections due to their anti-labor voting. He's not writing anymore blank checks to the party. President Obama spoke to the AFL-CIO Executive Council on Wednesday, urging attendees to recognize that his agenda is far more in line with their interests than the Republican alternative. His most welcomed "line" focused on the Employee Free Choice Act -- the stalled-in-the-Senate measure that would make it easier for workers to form unions. "We are going to keep on fighting to pass the Employee Free Choice Act," Obama said at one point. "Getting EFCA through the Senate is going to be tough. It has always been tough... But we are going to keep on pushing," That earned him a standing ovation. The power of labor organizing in the workplace can balance the power of money and help bring America's middle class back to the economic stability enjoyed by citizens of countries like, for example, Germany where over 80% of Industrial workers are unionized and the law requires that every corporation's board of directors be 50% derived from the ranks of workers.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Corporations buying elections is not in Constitution

Thom's blog
The Financial Campaign Reform is Facing a Setback
Those of us who want financial campaign reform are facing a setback as Senate Republicans locked arms and filibustered the Disclose Act. The Disclose Act is a basket of campaign finance reforms that includes not allowing foreign entities to spend money on American political campaigns, prohibiting certain contractors who get large sums of government money from lobbying from buying campaign ads or supporting candidates, and requiring candidates and groups to disclose their funding in campaign materials. The Supreme Court, in a series of decisions over the past 130 years, has brought us to a truly bizarres place. When Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and Madison shepherded through the constitution, they were clear that they were creating a government of, for and by, "we the people," and by people, they meant human beings. But starting in the late 19th century the Supreme Court began to give these rights and powers of citizenship and personhood to entities such as corporations and churches - a proposition that would have horrified the founders. No congress has ever proposed that corporations should have the power to participate as persons in elections, and no president has ever proposed or signed such legislation. This is entirely a creation of the activist judges on the supreme court, and now that legislators are trying to soften it's effects, Republicans are siding with the Supreme Court to keep corporations as people.

Monday, August 2, 2010

That sucking sound is the American Middle Class disappearing.

Thom's blog
Who Does our Economy Serve?
Ed Luce with The Financial Times' has documented the "crisis of middle-class America." He notes the "median wage stagnation" that has hit most American families, and writes, "the annual incomes of the bottom 90 per cent of US families have been essentially flat since 1973....That means most Americans have been treading water for more than a generation." At the same time, the Financial Times notes, America's CEOs have seen their compensation go up over a hundredfold. The result is a level of inequality not seen in this country since 1929, and the conversion of the middle class of 1940 to 1980, into the terrified working poor of the post Reaganomics era, the vast majority of whom live paycheck to paycheck, with no significant savings, and only a job loss and a few weeks from being homeless and on the streets.
The new GDP report shows our economic growth slowed to a 2.4 percent rate in the second quarter, too slow to put Americans back to work. Much more worrisome are details in this report pointing to a continued slowdown this year. According to a recent survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, workers are cashing in their retirement plans just to stay afloat. Their grim statistics show the percentage of American workers who have less than $10,000 in savings grew to 43 percent in 2010. Almost 25% of all workers have postponed their planned retirement in the past year. A survey reports that 61 percent of workers are now living paycheck to paycheck, as compared to 43 percent in 2007. Meanwhile, Bankers at the big Wall Street banks wrapped up their best month in a year. This begs a question. Economic activity happens in America because government authorizes corporations and gives substantial benefits and limitations of liability to those few individuals who own most of corporate America. Thus the question: Is this economy our Government has created here to serve the wealthy people who own it, or did we bring it into being and do we support and maintain it so it can benefit average working people, and thus Democracy?

Perspective for Novermber

Health Care reform passed. Coverage extended to 32 million Americans. Many think it didn't go far enough. Fact is, it didn't but it is still much better than it was. Why didn't it go further? GOP (Group Of Phonies) with the help of a couple of DINOs, threatened to kill it with the filibuster; almost worked.

Stimulus bill passed. The free-fall was stopped and economy is recovering. When Obama was inaugurated, we were losing 800,000 jobs per month. We are now adding jobs...but not nearly fast enough to reach full employment. The stimulus bill was just too small. Why? Again the Group Of Phonies threatened a filibuster.

The strongest financial reform legislations since the Glass/Steagall act was passed. Most of us on the left feel it was too weak. It is too weak but why isn't it stronger? You guessed it; the GOP threatened to filibuster.

Group Of Phonies also held up extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans because "it wasn't paid for." Fact is, if it were "paid for" by spending cuts, the net effect to the economic recovery would be zero. At the same time, these same phonies are pushing for a tax cut for the upper end of the income people with no need for "paying for it." Their argument is that tax increases (especially for the rich) will stimulate economic activity. It's as if they never heard of John Maynard Keynes and 1929 had never happened. The irony is that many poor working slobs have bought into the trickle down theory. They are waiting with their hats in their hands on the bottom floor waiting for the elevator that the rich folks promised them would return and pick them. THE ELEVATOR AIN'T COMING!!!!

To sum it up, the Group Of Phonies, who ran the boat aground and who are responsible for it not being totally afloat yet, are asking for the wheel again....still with the same broken compass. Sad news is that the voters, who can't remember anything more than a month old and never read anything more complicated than the bumper sticker on the Humvee in front of them may just give them back the wheel. It would be easy to say, they will get what they deserve but the problem is that the rest of us, who don't deserve it will be in the same rudderless boat.