4/11/14

What Do the Koch Brothers Want?

Here is a very interesting article about the infamous Koch brothers, fossil fuel barons who aim to own America.
Thanks to Bill Moyers for sharing this article from Senator Bennie Sanders.


What Do the Koch Brothers Want?

As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires and large corporations can now spend an unlimited amount of money to influence the political process.

Perhaps, the biggest winners of Citizens United are Charles and David Koch, owners of the second-largest privately run business in America Koch Industries.

Among other things, the Koch brothers own oil refineries in Texas, Alaska, and Minnesota and control some 4,000 miles of pipeline.

According to Forbes Magazine, the Koch brothers are now worth $80 billion, and have increased their wealth by $12 billion since last year alone.

For the Koch brothers, $80 billion in wealth, apparently, is not good enough. Owning the second largest private company in America is, apparently, not good enough.  It doesn’t appear that they will be satisfied until they are able to control the entire political process.

It is well known that the Koch brothers have provided the major source of funding to the Tea Party and want to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

What else do the Koch brothers want?

In 1980, David Koch ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 1980.

Let’s take a look at the 1980 Libertarian Party platform.

Here are just a few excerpts of the Libertarian Party platform that David Koch ran on in 1980:

“We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”

“We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”

“We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”

“We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”

“We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.”

“We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence.  Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.”

“We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”“We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”

“As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”

“We support repeal of all law which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.”

“We advocate the complete separation of education and State.  Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”

“We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”

“We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.”

“We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”

“We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”

“We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.”

“We demand the return of America's railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”

“We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called "self-protection" equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.”

“We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.”

“We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”

“We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”

“We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”

“We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.”

“We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”

“We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”

“We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”

In other words, the agenda of the Koch brothers is not only to defund Obamacare.  The agenda of the Koch brothers is to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country.

It is clear that the Koch brothers and other right wing billionaires are calling the shots and are pulling the strings of the Republican Party.

And because of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, they now have the power to spend an unlimited amount of money to buy the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the next President of the United States.

If they are allowed to hijack the American political process to defund Obamacare they will be back for more.

Tomorrow it will be Social Security, ending Medicare as we know it, repealing the minimum wage.  It seems to me that the Koch brothers will not be content until they get everything they believe they are entitled to.

Our great nation can no longer be hijacked by right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers.

For the sake of our children and our grandchildren, for the sake of our economy, we have got to let democracy prevail.

4/2/14

Vegan/Paleo Update

I've been promising an update for several months regarding our conversion to a Paleo-ish diet two years ago from 31 years of vegetarianism, the last 25 of them as mostly raw, vegans.

Since my veganism ended as is reported by most long term vegans, with immune system failure - my wife and I both were hit with rheumatoid arthritis - you just wake up one day and you have it (!) - I have had trouble writing.

At first I couldn't type, write or hold on to anything.  So I had to hold a glass with both hands and really focus on it.  Life was pretty horrible.  Until my wife started having the same kind of symptoms, I had thought I had damaged a major nerve trimming trees, though there was no actual incident.

I have since also had exams that have shown no actual nerve damage, so that was pretty amazing to me, especially when it started to look like it was veganism that was the culprit.

So, I am sorry that I have not been able to write much and I am grateful to all the other people who have let me share their writing with you over the last few years when I could not write (or hardly think) myself.

One thing that has improved dramatically since we started our experiment - mostly following the guidelines from the Weston-Price Foundation was that our RA started getting better instead of worse - pretty much right away and now more slowly continues to improve.

Gratefully, I can type and write again.  I'm not quite as fast as I used to be, but my speed and accuracy gradually has been improving really a lot - so that makes me feel more up to the job of trying to have my fingers keep up with my thoughts again.

Also, I have been able to play guitar again.  As a singer-songwriter who generally has played guitar 3-6 hours daily for about 30 years, it was devastating to arrive here in the Detroit area where I had an agent who had been waiting 3 years to represent me here (and promised very steady work locally) to wake up one day and not be able to hold much less play a guitar.

I put all my guitars up for sale.  Of course, 4 years ago the economy was still in such free-fall that everyone was selling everything they owned and the demand for used music equipment was about zero. 
So that period was both painful and frustrating.  It's hard to let go of an instrument you love and have years of your life invested in and extra painful to then find nobody wants it.

Thankfully, a few months after we started our changeover, I found that I could play a little.  That was about  two and a half years after I had lost my ability.  I was really surprised.

I still couldn't make a fist so both my fingering and picking were very slow, deliberate and most often misplaced, but after a little over two years (I usually don't count that first transitional year where we were so emotionally traumatized by our new food that we did a lot of backsliding) I can play well enough to enjoy it a bit now and I make many fewer mistakes.

I really thought I would never play again, so I am very happy about this and I credit my natural diet completely.

I am considering the possibility that I might be able to record or even perform again - perhaps even within the next year!

Well, this was a short update.  That is probably the best kind for me right now.

I will be trying to write more myself here from now on and will include many more diet updates as well as my thoughts about religion and government.

I know everyone will be very interested in my report on what happens to poop when you make such a drastic dietary change - I'll be trying to get up the nerve to post that sometime.



3/24/14

Gay Marriage, Abortion, Contraceptives - Some Christians Say No Love For You!

So :"gay" rights are being supported all over the place recently and the "religious right" are fairly freaking out but not giving up their fight to have rights for themselves that they deny to others.
Michigan, where I live, just had their marriage ban declared unconstitutional, and in spite of supporting what is right - equality - our attorney general is hot to fight against it.
So, in light of all the change in the country to acceptance of recognition of equal rights for all, what is the TeaPartyChurch up to?
Two cases going up to the Supreme Court have big potential to sink them or set all of us up to live under fascism.

Thanks to Think Progress.
http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/03/24/3416549/hobby-lobby-they-have-a-plan/

AP Photo/Randy Squires, File

"Read This One Document To Understand What The Christian Right Hopes To Gain From Hobby Lobby"

By Ian Millhiser on March 24, 2014

2009 was a grim year for social conservatives. Barack Obama was an ambitious and popular new president. Republicans, and their conservative philosophy, were largely discredited in the public eye by a failed war and a massive recession. And the GOP’s effort to reshape its message was still in its awkward adolescence. If the conservative movement had a mascot, it would have been a white man dressed as Paul Revere and waving a misspelled sign.
Amidst this wreckage, more than two hundred of the nation’s leading Christian conservatives joined together in a statement expressing their dismay at the state of the nation. “Many in the present administration want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development,” their statement claimed, while “[m]ajorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views.” Meanwhile, they feared that the liberals who now controlled the country “are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”
The signatories to this statement, which they named the “Manhattan Declaration,” included many of America’s most prominent Catholic bishops and clergy of similar prominence in other Christian sects. It included leaders of top anti-gay organizations like the National Organization for Marriage, and of more broadly focused conservative advocacy shops such as the Family Research Council. It included university presidents and deans from Christian conservative colleges. And it included the top editors from many of the Christian right’s leading publications.
Perhaps most significantly, however, the document’s signatories includes Alan Sears, the head of one of the two conservative legal groups litigating what are likely to be the two most important cases decided by the Supreme Court this term. Indeed, the Manhattan Declaration offers a virtual roadmap to understanding what religious conservatives hope to gain from Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius, two cases the justices will hear Tuesday which present the question whether a business owner’s religious objections to birth control trump their legal obligation to include it in their employee’s health plan.

The Roadmap

“[F]reedom of religion and the rights of conscience” the Declaration claims, “are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.” In the eyes of the Declaration’s signers, liberal forces had captured the arms of government and they were now prepared to use their political dominance to force conservative Christians to betray their own moral values. And the signatories were particularly concerned about two items — abortion and gay rights:
We see this, for example, in the effort to weaken or eliminate conscience clauses, and therefore to compel pro-life institutions (including religiously affiliated hospitals and clinics), and pro-life physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals, to refer for abortions and, in certain cases, even to perform or participate in abortions. We see it in the use of anti-discrimination statutes to force religious institutions, businesses, and service providers of various sorts to comply with activities they judge to be deeply immoral or go out of business.
Remember last month’s fight over whether anti-gay business owners in Arizona could invoke “religious liberty” and get away with denying services to gay people? Look no further than the Manhattan Declaration to find the intellectual origins of the bill that would have given those business owners that right.
Similarly, while the Declaration refers explicitly to “abortions,” the document calls for a vision of religious liberty that extends to birth control as well. According to Hobby Lobby’s brief in the Supreme Court, the company filed its lawsuit because it objects to “four drugs or devices that can prevent an embryo from implanting in the womb—namely, Plan
B, Ella, and two types of intrauterine devices.” Hobby Lobby’s owners believe that these drugs and devices “risk killing an embryo,” and that providing a health plan which covers these services “makes them complicit in abortion.”
It’s should be noted that Hobby Lobby’s concerns are not grounded in science. As a brief filed by multiple health provider groups — including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — explains, “there is a scientific distinction between a contraceptive and an abortifacient and the scientific record demonstrates that none of the FDA-approved contraceptives covered by the Mandate are abortifacients.” So Hobby Lobby isn’t just claiming the right to object to abortion, it is claiming the right to label many common forms of birth control a form of “abortion” and object to those as well — even though drugs and devices don’t actually cause abortions.
The Manhattan Declaration, in other words, predicts both of the major fights over “religious liberty” that confront the nation this year. While the Declaration warned about “anti-discrimination statutes” forcing business owners to take actions they object to on religious grounds, one of the leading lawmakers backing the Arizona bill admitted that it was intended as a response to instances in other states where anti-gay business owners were “punished for their religious beliefs” because they denied service to gay customers in violation of those states’ anti-discrimination laws. Similarly, where the Declaration speaks of conservative Christians being forced to “participate in abortions,” Hobby Lobby claims that the law is making it “complicit in abortion.”

The Firewall

In case there is any doubt, the Manhattan Declaration is a stunningly radical document. It opposes not just abortion and marriage equality, but also “non-marital sexual cohabitation” and “the discredited idea of unilateral divorce.” The Declaration also ends with a pledge to openly defy the law. “[W]e will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions . . . nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships [or] treat them as marriages or the equivalent[.]”
Shortly after Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) vetoed the Arizona bill, however, one of the nation’s most prominent social conservatives explained that conservative objections to reproductive liberty and marriage equality do not necessarily need to end in civil disobedience. Marriage equality, the New York Times‘ Ross Douthat claimed, is inevitable. Yet, when it comes, Douthat also hoped for a world where, if “a Mormon caterer or a Catholic photographer objected to working at a same-sex wedding,” the rest of the country would allow them to “opt out” of any legal obligation to comply with anti-discrimination laws.
Douthat framed this kind of arrangement as the terms of social conservatives’ “surrender,” although it is a weird kind of surrender that allows the losing side to dictate terms to the victors at the moment that society has recognized many of their longstanding views as abhorrent. If Brown v. Board of Education had followed Douthat’s logic, it would have said that segregated schools violate the Constitution — except that whites-only schools are fine in Alabama and Mississippi.
Nevertheless, Douthat’s column provides a helpful window into the kind of reasoning that animates the Hobby Lobby litigation, the bill Brewer vetoed and the Manhattan Declaration. The logic of all three is that religious conservatives must comply with the law — but only up to a point. When the law asks employers to cover abortions that aren’t actually abortions, or when it asks them to treat gay men, lesbians and bisexuals as if they are human beings entitled to the same dignity as straight men and women, then the Christian right must be given a special right to defy the law. And if the courts won’t give it to them, then the Manhattan Declaration calls upon conservative Christians to refuse to comply with the law regardless.
If Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood lose, then it remains to be seen whether either of them will actually take up this call for disobedience. Should they win, however, there should be no doubt what the Christian right’s next move will be. The Manhattan Declaration lays out two foes: reproductive liberty and gay rights. Hobby Lobby asks the Court to take care of the former. The next lawsuit will target the latter — and it will be able to cite Hobby Lobby as a powerful precedent supporting anti-gay discrimination.
Ian Millhiser is ThinkProgress’ Justice Editor. You can follow him on Twitter at @imillhiser.