Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Where is all that Koch money going, Marilinda?

District 2 Congressional candidate Marilinda Garcia is reportedly on the Koch gravy train. She sure isn't spending it on her headquarters. Those window signs aren't readable from the street. Just the sad lawn sign sort of hanging there. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Senator Ayotte Calls Refugee Children Illegal Immigrants

No, Senator. You are not alarmed "like me." I wish you were. 

July 25, 2014
Dear Ms. Bruce:
Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding the illegal migration of unaccompanied children from Central America across the U.S.-Mexico border.  I appreciate hearing from you.
Like you, I am alarmed by the influx of unaccompanied children, which is overwhelming our nation's border facilities and resources and creating a humanitarian crisis.  Many of these children are being raped, beaten, or abused by their smugglers during their dangerous journey to the United States, and we need to act now to stop this migration.  I support legislation that would make it easier to send unaccompanied minors back to their home countries as quickly and safely as possible.  I am cosponsoring the Children Returning on an Expedited and Safe Timeline (CREST) Act, which would change current law to require the mandatory, expedited return of unaccompanied children, expand the capacity of immigration courts to reduce case backlogs, establish requirements to ensure individuals appear at court proceedings, set conditions on foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and penalize smugglers.  The Senate should consider this legislation as soon as possible to effectively address the ongoing crisis.
You may be interested to know that on July 9, I questioned Customs and Border Protection and law enforcement officials about this issue at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing focused on the border crisis. The video can be found at the following link:  I also recently joined senators from both parties in calling on the president to clarify U.S. immigration laws and work with our foreign counterparts in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to stop this migration.
The combination of a porous border and lax immigration enforcement has made the United States a magnet for illegal immigration, and the status quo - with millions of illegal immigrants living in our country without any consequences - amounts to de facto amnesty and is unacceptable.  That is why I supported legislation last year that would finally secure our borders and fix our broken immigration system.  It includes sweeping border security and enforcement provisions, and it would double the number of border agents at the southern border, double the amount of border fencing, and ensure that the most advanced border surveillance and security technology is in place to prevent future waves of illegal immigration.  The bill also requires full implementation of an electronic entry-exit system to monitor, deports those who have overstayed their visa, and mandates that all employers use E-Verify to ensure that our workforce is here legally.
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me.  As your Senator, it is important for me to hear from you regarding the current issues affecting New Hampshire and our nation.  Please do not hesitate to be in touch again if I may be of further assistance.

Kelly A. Ayotte
U. S. Senator

Thursday, July 24, 2014

You Break It, You Own It

An immigrant is a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country. They migrate and settle.

A refugee is forced out of their country to escape violence, persecution, war, or natural disaster.

These words mean very different things. Since the flood of child refugees knocking on the US door began, the word “immigrant” is being used instead of the proper term, which would be refugee. It’s often preceded by the word “illegal.” The average age of these children is eleven.

The same people who are desperate to force white women to serve as involuntary incubators because they venerate “life” so much are the same crew who are now shrieking and name calling about these children. Apparently the lives of imaginary white fetuses are far more important than the lives of brown children fleeing violence, traffickers, and rape.

The reporting on this topic is dreadful. The response is dreadful. The commentary from the far right fringe is dreadful. What these children have experienced already is worse than anything the US xenophobes could possibly say.

Last week I spoke with Jen Smyers of Church World Service. CWS is a group of religious denominations that came together to help refugees after World War II. This is their mission. Jen told stories about the violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – the countries these children are fleeing. They aren’t leaving their families by choice. Their families are sending them away in order to save their lives. Their families have been targeted for violence, and the governments of their countries are either unable or unwilling to protect them. The average age of these children is 11.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. Since the military coup in 2009 the violence has gotten worse. The coup was brought about by military forces that trained at the School of the Americas in Georgia, where we’ve been training the future despots and dictators for Latin America since 1946. The US supported the 2009 coup, and we continue to send military aid to Honduras, even though they’re murdering and terrorizing their citizens. In the 1980’s in Guatemala, the US financed counterinsurgency campaigns with forces trained at the School of the Americas. Ronald Reagan supported the regime of Rios Montt, claiming he got a “bum rap” for his massacres of indigenous populations. Reagan also interfered in the civil war in El Salvador, providing exorbitant military aid to the nationalists, who used death squads to make people disappear. When Salvadorans attempted to flee to the US, we sent them back. Many of them were never seen again.

In short, we helped create this mess. Remember what Colin Powell told President Bush about Iraq, “you break it, you buy it?” We’ve never applied that standard to US interference in Central America. Now we have angry white people yelling at buses full of children in California. We have Rick Perry sending the Texas National Guard to the border. That should be a big help in dealing with traumatized children. And in NH, we recently had a group of yahoos on a highway overpass in Rochester, bellowing about illegal aliens.

They were headed up by Jerry DeLemus of Rochester, who most recently covered himself with glory out at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada, where he defended the fraudulent claims of Cliven Bundy, welfare rancher. It was Jerry DeLemus who sent Jared and Amanda Miller away from the Bundy Ranch. After leaving, they headed for Las Vegas, where they killed 2 police officers and a civilian. DeLemus said he sensed something wrong with them, but naturally he didn’t bother to report that to law enforcement, seein’ as how he and the boys had their guns trained on the legal authorities.

DeLemus claims to be a Christian, and his wife wears a cross large enough to ward off even the most persistent vampires. Susan DeLemus distinguished herself while serving in the legislature by bellowing at an assistant AG during a ballot law hearing on whether Obama should be on the NH ballot. Mrs. DeLemus is a birther and one assumes that so is Mr. DeLemus. They’re both opposed to a woman’s right to medical privacy and bodily autonomy. Yet, there he was, on an overpass with Billy Baer, who most recently achieved renown for engineering his own “on camera” arrest over a book his daughter was reading at school. The daughter was at this protest. Apparently she was too delicate a flower to learn about date rape, but hardy enough for white supremacy.

Jason Margolis, writing about this for PRI, mentioned a protestor named Desiree Tumas. She believes that the gubmint is secretly bringing in “illegals” to the US and placing them in NH. The far right fringe thinks that Obama is bringing the children here to vote Democrat. The average age of the children is 11. Tumas also bemoaned the idea of bringing in children when “we can’t take care of the homeless people we have.” The rest of the year homeless folks are filthy moochers, but suddenly, Ms. Tumas and her ilk are feeling all warm and fuzzy toward them. I’m certain that warmth has a very short half-life.

The most disturbing aspect of the PRI story was the quote from a 12 year old that has already assimilated the lessons she has been taught. She told the reporter that these children (many younger than she is) should be sent back because otherwise little boys and girls in NH will be kidnapped or killed because of “the illegals.” The average age of these children is 11.

These people aren’t brave enough to call themselves white supremacists. Just as well. They have no reason to feel superior. Teaching intolerance, cruelty, and hatred for children is unfathomable.

In NY Harbor, the Statue of Liberty hangs her head in shame. 

© sbruce 2014
Published as a biweekly column in the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Not Very Welcoming Is It?

That's the sign on the front door of the rest area on Route 2 in Shelburne, NH. Apparently winter lasted longer than anyone could have predicted. 

The building appears to be in good repair.  

There are plenty of picnic tables and what look like pits for grilling. 

While I was there, a woman out for a hike came by and asked me what this place was. I explained that it was a rest area. She said, "It's not very welcoming is it?"

Rosalind is visiting from New Zealand, staying at a hostel up the road. A tourist. A delightful tourist. A delightful tourist who would have availed herself of maps, information, and probably the bathroom. Instead, she got this. 

There was a lot of traffic on Rt. 2 today.  Tourism is NH's second largest industry. 

Nothing says Welcome to NH quite like this. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Immigrant is not the same as Refugee

  1. im·mi·grant
    1. a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.
      • BIOLOGY
        an animal or plant living or growing in a region to which it has migrated.

  1. a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
    "tens of thousands of refugees fled their homes"

One of these things is not like the other. It seems our friends at  Fosters  need to get out their dictionaries:

More than 25 protestors stood on an overpass off Exit 15 of the Spaulding Turnpike Friday morning to make a stand against illegal immigration.

“The goal is to make the American people aware that there are people opposed to illegal immigration,” said event organizer Jerry DeLemus during the protest. “And also let our government know.”

The children who are appearing at our border are refugees. They are coming from Central America where they are fleeing violence and unimaginable horror. It's typical of the fringe right that they're unable to distinguish the difference. It's also unsurprising that they're disinterested. Jerry calls himself a Christian. He opposes a woman's right to bodily autonomy and medical privacy. But when it comes to brown kids, all that concern for LIFE goes right out the window. 

Ole Billy Baer who attempted to make a big name for himself a few months ago was at this protest with the daughter he was trying so desperately to protect from learning about date rape. He apparently has no problem exposing her to racism, bigotry, and ignorance:

Baer said the blame for the illegal immigration problem lies with the president.

“The Obama administration has basically not enforced immigration law,” said Baer.

“We're becoming a lawless society functioning with a lawless government.”

These guys sit around watching wingnut conspiracy videos all day. What they don't do is bother to find any credible information:

Since taking the oath of office, Obama has deported immigrants at a faster rate than any other president in US history, nearly a record 2 million people. On a typical day, there are over 30,000 immigrants imprisoned in the world’s largest immigration detention system. Most deportees never see an attorney or have a hearing before a judge before they are expelled from the country. 

Oops. Of course DeLemus and Baer couldn't ever applaud Obama, because they're both birthers. Even though the Black Guy in the White House is deporting more people than the last White Guy did, they'd never be able to acknowledge it. 

Both of these guys would force white women to serve as involuntary incubators, in the name of LIFE - because imaginary LIFE always trumps all. The inconvenience of brown refugee children fleeing countries devastated by US foreign policy in Central America is a different matter entirely. Their lives are of no consequence. 

It's Sunday. Somewhere both of these hypocrites are praising Jesus. 

History and background of US conduct in Central America.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Scott Brown Hides in the Bathroom

Poor Scott Brown. He doesn't really seem to be enjoying life in his new state. Last week he was mocked (by me anyhow) for a UL story (that seems to have disappeared) on how much he likes retail campaigning. The story is gone, but some of it remains on Brown's blog:

When Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown campaigned in the state’s North Country last week, he stopped and knocked on the doors of every Pittsburg house that he saw showing one of his lawn signs.
“They said ‘What are you doing here?’?” Brown recalled in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News, noting how much he enjoys the state’s famed retail politics, although he admits he was skeptical until he began this campaign.
I hope someone lets him know that knocking on the doors of supporters is NOT retail politics. It's knocking on the doors of supporters. 

At the end of last week, our new resident was campaigning in Carroll County. A reporter from the UK had some interesting moments with the Brown campaign. 

Paul Lewis in The Guardian

I found Brown at a table at a restaurant called Priscilla's, introduced myself as a Guardian reporter and enquired if I could ask him some questions. Brown smiled nervously and replied: "What do you want to ask me about?"
"Hobby Lobby? That would be a start," I said.
“I’m all set," he replied. "We’re enjoying ourselves right now.”
“But you’re standing for Senate. It is routine for journalists to ask you questions and usually the candidates answer.”
“Not without notifying my office."
Brown stood up, walked to the back of the diner, and took shelter in the bathroom. A campaign aide, Jeremy, looked bewildered. He lingered beside me for a few moments, before politely excusing himself – “Nice to meet you” – and joining his boss in the bathroom.
I decided to wait in the parking lot for Team Brown to emerge into the sunlight. Four minutes later, a white SUV swung round and parked next to the steps of the diner. Brown came out with a phone pressed to his ear. "Get in! Get in!" said a campaign worker holding open the car door. Another man asked me to leave. “You’re getting in the face of people that don’t care to talk to you,” he said.

There's more. At a stop in West Ossipee the Brown campaign called the cops. All because Scott Brown didn't want to answer a reporter's questions. 

He's so cowardly that he hid in the bathroom to avoid answering questions, but he thinks he should be our next US Senator?

Tell this wuss to pack his carpetbag and return from whence he came. 

h/t to Peter Sullivan for the Brave Sir Robin reference.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Faith Based Initiatives: Buckets O'Money and No Accountability

You have to read this piece titled, "Obama's Evangelical Gravy Train." It's in The Nation, and written by an investigative journalist named Andy Kopsa. 

We all hope (and pray?!) that there still are journalists doing the kind of work Andy is doing. Even though this story made me want to set my hair on fire, I'm glad she wrote it. 

Our tax dollars are funding the work of faith groups working to (allegedly) fight AIDS in countries like Uganda. 

An excerpt:

On a hot but breezy day in August 2012, I visited New Hope. The clinic is located in Kampala’s Naguru district, on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, and is funded by PEPFAR to provide care and treatment for people with HIV and AIDS. The clinic is also tasked with implementing an HIV prevention program to include comprehensive sexual education and access to condoms.
A few minutes into our chat, I asked the clinic administrator about condoms. She paused. Finally, she said, “We are very suspicious of those.” When I asked whether the clinic provided comprehensive sex education—including instruction on the correct and consistent use of condoms—she said she didn’t know for sure and left to find a more senior clinic employee.
That employee arrived, but was no more able to answer my questions. All she could do was show me was a spot in a three-ring binder where she swore sex-ed materials were supposed to be and a big empty cardboard box labeled “CONDOMS,” which was relegated to a back hallway of the clinic. PEPFAR guidelines stipulate that grantees make condoms available and distribute them as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy.
This clinic has gotten $1 million in faith based funding. 
There is more. So much more. From pray-the-gay away groups, to abstinence only programs, what Andy found is nauseating. In Mississippi, surplus TANF funds (intended to help poor families) go to fund abstinence and marriage programs. How can there be such a thing as surplus TANF funds in MISSISSIPPI? 
It's shameful stuff we're funding. Crisis pregnancy centers. Franklin Graham's group Samaritan's Purse, which puts Bibles in "hygiene kits" that are dropped in to Muslim countries. (Wash your body and your brain!)
Billions of our tax dollars are going to these organizations that appear to have absolutely no accountability. 
One State Department staffer, who asked not to be named, said moving federal grant money away from groups like CAF and Samaritan’s Purse, hand-picked by Bush officials to run HIV/AIDS programs abroad, would be difficult. By the time Obama entered office, the staffer said, these groups were so entrenched in the service delivery infrastructure, right down to the village level, that it was easier for the administration leave the money in their hands.
It's easier to just waste the money on groups that aren't doing what they're supposed to, because changing things would be so much work. 
Read this. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby. 

Andy Kopsa is a freelance investigative reporter based in New York City. She has written for Al Jazeera, The Atlantic, Talking Points Memo, Ms. magazine, and many other publications. She was awarded a 2012 Society of Professional Journalists Award for investigative reporting and was a 2013 recipient of a Knight Grant for Reporting on Religion in American Public Life from USC Annenberg.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hear the Tumbrels in the Distance?

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

...At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when....

Read more:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Latest Skirmish in the War on Women

As we get closer to the midterm elections, the rhetoric is ratcheting up. Americans for Prosperity (aka the Koch brothers) is continuing to run their ridiculous ads stating that Jeanne Shaheen cast THE DECIDING VOTE for Obamacare. In other states, the name is changed to fit the candidate the Kochs are working against. My question is this: why don’t the Koch brothers want non-wealthy Americans to have health insurance?

I’ve never been a fan of the Affordable Care Act. I was unhappy when single payer advocates weren’t even given a seat at the table when it was being discussed. I was unhappy there was no public option. I’m downright peeved that this mess was a project of the Heritage Foundation, something that all those who bark about “socialism” either don’t know or don’t care to acknowledge.

The ACA has meant the end of the pre-existing condition. That is an incredibly good thing. It has given young people the option of staying on their parents insurance longer. It has also meant that a lot of people who couldn’t afford insurance before are able to afford it now. The GOP rumblings of “free market solutions” ought to be met with derision. They had decades to create those solutions, and they never did. The only plan the Kochs and their acolytes have for the non-wealthy can be summed up in one word. Die.

The reasons we need a single payer system in this country were made clear in the recent Supreme Court decision on the Hobby Lobby case. Hobby Lobby is a family owned company. They have a chain of stores that sell craft supplies. They are apparently a religious family, and they were miffed that the ACA meant they were mandated to provide insurance to their female employees that covered all forms of birth control. It offended their religious sensibilities, they claimed, so they took it to SCOTUS, and the Roberts court, ever happy to rule against women, did so.

Prior to the ACA, Hobby Lobby stores offered insurance that covered the same forms of birth control that they suddenly got religion over when Obamacare came along. Remember all the people who wailed about putting the gummint between people and their doctors? They are now oddly silent at the ruling that puts employers between women and their doctors. After all, who better to make women’s health care decisions than purveyors of cheap craft supplies imported from China?

Good news for men though. Your erectile dysfunction drugs, penis pumps, and penile implants will continue to be covered by all forms of insurance. The religious do not want you to believe that your impotence is God’s will. God, it seems, is only intent on legislating the uterus.

There are a number of reasons we need single payer health care. The first is to eliminate employers from the equation. Health care should not be tied to employment. Health care should not be employer approved or supervised

Hot on the heels of the Hobby Lobby decision came the Wheaton decision, where a religious college in Illinois decided they didn’t want to fill out waiver forms for Obamacare that stipulated they were too religious to provide whore pills for their female students. Naturally the male members of the Supreme Court thought that was just fine. Now Gordon College in Massachusetts (a small, non-profit Christian school in Wenham, MA) has decided to seize the moment. They’ve signed on to a letter asking President Obama to exempt them from an executive order (that hasn’t been put into effect yet) banning discrimination in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation. Apparently nothing says, “we are followers of Jesus Christ” quite like discrimination.

I have written before that here in the US, we’ve stopped thinking about or planning for the future. In fact, our heels are dug in, and a great many of our leaders are working to turn the clock back, to an imaginary time of great happiness for them. The 1950’s. (Or for some, the 1800’s.) In the 1950’s women knew their place. They were at home, cooking, cleaning, caring for the kids, and voting the way their husbands told them to. They didn’t have many birth control options.  If they got pregnant and couldn’t afford another baby, they had back alley abortions and some of them died. Those who favor the 1800’s would prefer to go back to the days when women were essentially chattel. They couldn’t own property, sign contracts, vote, or have any legal voice in the lives of their children. They were the property of fathers, brothers, or husbands. A number of conservatives these days publicly yearn for the days when women couldn’t vote. David Barton the fauxhistorian claims that denying the vote to women kept families together. Ann Coulter doesn’t seem to understand that without suffragists, she’d be home birthin’ and scrubbin’.

The birth control pill changed everything. That and the decision in Roe v. Wade. Suddenly women had control over their own bodies! They were no longer hostage to their reproductive organs and the men in their lives. Naturally, this displeased a number of men. It still does. They’ve been trying for decades to turn the clock back, and eradicate any gains made by women. Pretending concern for life is one of the most hypocritical. The same men who rail against abortion are at the borders turning away buses filled with refugee children. The deeply religious folk at Hobby Lobby, Gordon College, and Wheaton aren’t filling buses, hitting up the ATM, and heading down to the border to care for those same children. The terrorists and “sidewalk counselors” who harangue women entering health clinics aren’t interested in caring for actual children. For all of these hypocrites, it’s all about imaginary fetuses. Imagine how much better children’s lives would be if the focus were on the born instead of the not even conceived? 

As for the ongoing war on women, the question is simple. Are women fully equal human beings with the same right to bodily autonomy and medical privacy as men? Yes or no? 

© sbruce 2014. Published as a biweekly op-ed in the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

h/t to patriotboy for GOP Jesus, and Mike Thompson for Blasphemy.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Free State Project Exploits Keene Suicide

On Tuesday night (July 1) Keene police were attempting to arrest Matthew Snow on a bench warrant for violating parole and receiving stolen property. He had a gun. There was a stand-off that lasted for hours. Finally, Snow shot himself in the chest, and later died at the hospital. 

The Free Staters in Keene were there, trying to insert themselves into the process somehow. One of them was arrested for refusing to stay behind police lines. James Cleaveland, who fancies himself A) Robin Hood and B) a journalist, had a little tantrum and was arrested. 

Free Keener Garret Ean, seen in the above meme, was there, filming away. The video of Matthew Snow's death is posted on their website. I am not linking to it. One hears the gunshot clearly, sees Snow's body fall, and moments later one sees the bloody exit wound. 

The Free Staters/Free Keeners posted this on their website. Members of Matthew Snow's family have asked them to take down the video. They have refused. 

Obviously, this is in the worst possible taste. Obviously, by refusing the family's request to take it down, they lose any claim to having pretensions of being human beings, never mind "journalists." 

What is most abhorrent is this - they're exploiting this man's suicide. They're bleating about "the state" and "the police" and blaming them for a situation they know little or nothing about.  

The FSP didn't know or care about this man, and they have refused the Snow family's request to take down the video. These selfish sociopaths will exploit anyone and anything to further their agenda. 

I urge you not to go to their website. Don't give them the page views, or the satisfaction. They're going to use this (the way they use everything) to raise money. It's a whole new level of vile. 

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Knitting Needles, Coathangers, and Black Market Drugs

Erica Hallerstein's excellent story called "The Rise of the DIY Abortion in Texas" was in The Atlantic last week. It's an important and well written story - of what the future looks like for women in states where they have no rights when it comes to their own reproduction. 

The future will contain knitting needles and coathangers - and it will also contain black market drugs. 

I thought we'd moved past all this, didn't you?

This is great work by Erica Hellerstein. Read it. Pass it on. Thank her on twitter at @E_Hellerstein, and listen to the podcast of her interview with Arnie and I on WNHN.