26 July, 2014

IF - Inclusive


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all people doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build them up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Monarchs---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all persons count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---among them all you’ll be the one! 

According to Wikipedia:

"If—" is a poem by British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, written in 1895[and first published in Rewards and Fairies, 1910. It is a tribute to Leander Starr Jameson,and is written in the form of paternal advice to the poet's son. As poetry, "If—" is a literary example of Victorian-era stoicism.
The well-known Indian historian and writer Khushwant Singh claims that Kipling's If is "the essence of the message of The Gita in English."

As a trifling few adjustments make obvious, IF is not applicable only to males. The message it conveys is pertinent to and valuable for any human being.

24 July, 2014


“Two Republican judges on the D.C. Circuit Court have ruled that the equivalent of a typo is enough to strip health care subsidies from up to 5 million people, dealing what would be a death blow to the Affordable Care Act if the decision is allowed to stand. The one Democrat on the panel dissented.”  

This blatantly partisan action reveals that the judicial appointees of the last few Republican presidents cannot discharge their duties in a manner commensurate with the dignity of their office and ideals of equal justice under law. It may be asked why this same verdict is not rendered upon judicial appointees of Democratic Presidents and that is a fair question.

Using this recent decision of a three judge panel of the D C Circuit Court as the launching pad, there are several reasons to label many Republican appointed judges as partisan hacks. First, Obamacare is a colloquial term for both the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA). These two laws are printed on a total of 961 pages have a total of approximately 381,517 words. The decision by the two Republican appointed judges essentially turned on a single word of two letters in length.  These judges emphasized this phrase from the law as the basis of their ruling “a federal Exchange is not an 'Exchange established by the State.”  The crucial word is by. If that word had been in, the entire argument would have collapsed.  Therefore, in order to reach their conclusion, these two judges had to willfully ignore everything else in the law and the legislative history of the law. Second, every member of Congress involved in drafting the law affirmed that this wording reflects a typographical error. They also attested to the fact that they had no intent to exclude federally operated exchanges from the subsidy provisions of Obamacare. Third, Carter-appointed Judge Harry T. Edwards correctly observed, the Appellants filed the suit in a not well veiled attempt to sabotage Obamacare. He called the majority’s interpretation that Congress planted "a poison pill to the insurance markets in the States that did not elect to create their own Exchanges,” is surely is not anything Congress intended.”  In this context, it bears mentioning that all votes for the health care reform came from Democrats.  It defies rational belief that Democrats would embed a seed of destruction into a major legislative achievement they took all the risk to enact.  Fourth, the interpretation relied on by the Republican judges to explain their ruling is a complete fabrication by the Appellants and it is utterly fantastic. The Appellants contended “Congress wanted to incentivize states to create their own exchanges and withhold financial assistance for residents of those states that didn't.”  In response to this Judge Edwards wrote: "The simple truth is that Appellants’ incentive story is a fiction, a post hoc narrative concocted to provide a colorable explanation for the otherwise risible notion that Congress would have wanted insurance markets to collapse in States that elected not to create their own Exchanges." It is clear that Judge Edwards is on point. The contention that intended states to have the ability to destroy the law they worked so hard and risked so much to enact is ludicrously laughable. Finally, in order to reach their decision by focusing on the word by, the Republicans needed to ignore another word in a different section of the law if a state does not establish an exchange “the federal government shall establish and operate such exchange." In this context it should be recalled, such means “of the kind specified.” In short the law stipulates the federally established and operated exchanges are of the kind specified as state exchanges. The reasoning of the Republican judges is fallacious on every count. 

The only absolute requirement for judges to discharge their duties honorably is that they be judicious.  In other words, judges must act in a manner characterized by good or discriminating judgment so that their actions seem to be wise, sensible, or well-advised.  It is not which party they favor or how they dress during hearings and trials. The essential qualities judges must exhibit are discernment and logical, evidence-based adjudication. Focusing on one two-letter word out of nearly 400,000 and accepting a contention that is wholly unsupported and dubious on its face are not actions showing discernment and logical, evidence-based adjudication. Such actions exhibit the opposite of judiciousness.  Such actions are injudicious; they are irrational and unwise. These actions are tantamount to conduct unbecoming in judges.

There are huge practical consequences if this injudicious decision is allowed to stand. The map below shows the scope of the havoc that could result.

Without subsidies, private insurance become unaffordable for many people who have already enrolled. Although the judicial process is still playing out, a recent analysis from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation indicates this decision could affect over 7.3 million people expected to receive federal subsidies in 2016.

“If the plaintiffs prevail and subsidies are withdrawn, healthy people would drop their coverage, and only the people who are very sick — and therefore very expensive to insure — would keep their plans.
This sets up the classic insurance "death spiral". By putting coverage out of financial reach for so many people, it would undermine the entire purpose of the Affordable Care Act.”

In a final bravura performance of injudiciousness, the Republicans asserted: That “after ruling to overturn the law passed by both chambers of Congress, they did so in order to defend the principle of legislative supremacy." If it had been debatable previously, their injudicious behavior is now revealed in its full oligarchic, partisan splendor by their own brazen hypocrisy.

In order to drive home the plutocratic oligarchic nature of this duos ruling consider these statistics:

“Compared to people living in states that set up their own exchanges, the residents of states with federally established and operated exchanges are also more likely to report that they are unable to see a doctor due to cost, more likely to have been diagnosed with diabetes, more likely to be overweight, and more likely to live in communities identified as medically underserved because of poverty and limited access to primary care. On top of all of that, these states are home to 68% of the America’s uninsured, including 84% of all uninsured low- and moderate-income African Americans, and 60% of such Hispanics.”

Apparently these judges believe if you are poor, Black or Brown then don’t hang aroun’.  It is supremely difficult to get more plutocratic and oligarchic than that.

Our response to this D C Circuit Court panel’s decision should be guided by Elie Wiesel’s cogent observation. “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Citizens - arise!

17 July, 2014

Arise My Sisters!

I make no presumption, but I cannot be silent in the face of evident foolishness, duplicity, and apparent betrayal.

"Buzzfeed recently featured women holding signs that explain why they don’t need feminism.

Some of the reasons these women stated they don’t need feminism:
- They are not victims.
- They don’t blame men for everything.
- They respect all humans, not just one gender.
- They don’t feel the need to demonize men."

Then, an elected Republican member of Congress, Renee Ellmers declared:

“Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level… Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they've got some pie chart or graph behind them and they’re talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that. …
We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and what everything that she is balancing in her life — that’s the way to go.”

There is something happening here; what it is - is exactly clear! Various female Americans are misrepresenting most female Americans in order to advance an ideology and agenda that denies the full-fledged citizenship and equal humanity of American women.
For a long while, the true story of Women's Suffrage was told in high school history or civics classes.  Over the past four plus decades, the tortuous struggle for unimpeded, unmediated access to safe, legal abortion services and effective contraceptive medicines and methods has been obscured while these same gains have been under stealthy, but relentless attack.

"Women’s health clinics have been closed because Neoconfederate evangelicals falsely assert they are nothing more than abortion mills. Elected officials say that women are dependent on government because of our out-of-control libidos. They say our bodies can naturally reject a rape pregnancy. They have also said that a baby that is created out of rape is something that God intended – all in an effort to ban choice," or even to deny access to effective contraceptive medicines and methods. Those who seek to return America to the 1850's claim contraceptive pills and devices cause abortions when they do not and the Supreme Court declares that the absurdity of this assertion does not matter if those making it believe their falsehood is true.

Representative Ellmers experienced blow back on her ludicrous remarks and declares her: “comments were ‘taken completely out of context’ in the Examiner story. ‘I am a woman, and find it both offensive and sexist to take my words and redefine them to imply that women need to be addressed at a lower level,’ she wrote, blaming ‘certain leftist writers’ for engaging in ‘gotcha’ journalism." She then accuses a former Heritage Foundation writer to be a leftist.

My sisters, as women, are you okay with the fact that in many states, pharmacists can deny your prescription of birth control because they say it is against their religion?  Are you on board with the right of rapists to sue their victims for custody and visitation rights in at least 30 states, if a baby is born as a result of the rape? Do you think employers should have the right to impose their religious strictures on any employee especially female employees regardless of what the employees think? Are you okay with employers being allowed to discriminate based on gender because there is purportedly nothing in the Constitution that specifically mandates equality for males and females?

Looking back in history, we can thank so many women for their struggles and their bravery.  Harriet Tubman risked her life to free slaves and she was a fierce advocate for women’s suffrage. Gloria Steinem was the first female journalist to write about having an abortion and Malala Yousafzai took a bullet in the head because she was determined to get an education – and she still fights. How can you say this is victimhood?

I choose to fight for all women. I want all of us to be recognized as equal in the constitution. I choose to fight so the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) will be ratified. If you are not familiar with the text, have a look:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Although, I believe the Fourteenth Amendment has settled the question of equal rights for all persons born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction of its laws, the reprehensible state of practice makes it clear that the intent has not been carried into anything like full effect. Therefore, let us join together and strive to pass a Twenty-eighth Amendment that will make the equality of rights for all unmistakably clear. 

Let us come together as sisters and brothers and fulfill the definition of feminist stated by Gloria Steinem: “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”  For me, labels are only important insofar as they are informative. If asked, I would characterize myself as a humanist: one who believes human dignity, interests, well-being and fulfillment in the natural world through the application of reason, scientific inquiry and constructive benign action. As Ms. Steinem makes evident, the two terms are highly compatible.

That being the case, let us call one another brother and sister and go forward arm in arm to make the assertion of human equality uttered so long ago in such audacious confidence the truly exceptional attribute of America in her third full century.


04 July, 2014

We Are American Girls!

We fell in together at a parking lot
Sat on a car and talked and thought
We spoke of our dreams and how we would make them all  
Come true one day, even if on the way, we had to rise after a fall
We don’t need men or mommies getting in our way
But if you have open minds then we can play
Just remember if you think we are haughty
We each control our own body
We won’t stay if you’re snobby
And we'll risk being called naughty

Yes, we are proud to be American girls!
Hot blooded and raring to go and make our way in the world
Hot blooded, all American girls - we were raised with a vision    
Every day we’re on a mission with or without your permission!

We want to reach for the stars and go were few have yet been                    
We have bold, young hearts and many successes to win
Cause we’re born in a free country and we can try anything
We don’t bow to a preacher, a teacher, a parent or a king                              We each control our body; if we choose we’ll be naughty                               Though some may say we’re haughty, we won't listen to drivel                 
Or to blaming and shaming. Nor will we ever quaver or snivel

Yes, we are proud to be American girls!
Hot blooded and raring to go and make our way in the world
Hot blooded, all American girls - we were raised with a vision                         E
very day we’re on a mission with or without your permission!

We're going to shine, oh so bright and we won’t hide our light       
We're going to keep up the fight                                                                    We’re going to strive to do right and share some of our grace             
We know we’ll be all we can be and we won’t be put in our place            
We’re not ashamed of our beauty 
So don’t you berate or get snooty.         
If you can’t handle our pride,                                                  
Step right off to the side - because we’re undaunted American girls!

Yes, we are proud to be American girls!
Hot blooded and raring to go and make our way in the world
Hot blooded, all American girls - we were raised with a vision
Every day we’re on a mission with or without your permission!

Happy Birthday, America!         Rock on, American Girls!

Larry Conley, 4 July 2014

03 July, 2014

The Opposite of Progress


A joking, anonymous quote, asks "If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of Progress?" As often happens, things said in jest convey a good deal of truth.

The only problem is flippancy is not a guarantor of accuracy. Congress has institutional and procedural characteristics that make it susceptible to paralysis, but it also has many dedicated public servants who sincerely struggle to do what needs to be done. Unfortunately, the good intentions and worthy efforts of these people can impaired, impeded, or thoroughly invalidated by the actions of a fractious faction that seeks not to actualize government of, by, and for the people, but to maximize their own or their parties gain.

In the 21st century battle lines have been drawn along partisan lines. The Republican Party has become the party of NO. NO in this context means – no legislation; no cooperation; no constructive engagement; no partnership in governance. The Democratic Party is not without flaws, but it is the party of governance and it tries almost to a member to govern. For all its scars and all its shortcomings, it is the only national political organization regularly trying to implement governance of, by and for the people.

If Congress is to be anything but an imprecise punchline, filibusters must be curtailed and the Hastert Rule must be scrapped. Filibusters are far more likely to be used by Republicans when they are in the minority in the Senate. The Hastert Rule is a creature of the Republican Party entirely. More than these procedural details, however, the Republican ideology has become virulently anti-government. This is shown by the number of Congressional Republicans who consider default on the full faith and credit of the United States a trivial matter and who urge shutting down the government whenever they are not catered to. As President Clinton has said, “A major American political party is for the first time rooting for the American government to fail.” 

As things now stand, Congress could shed the characterization as the opposite of progress by attending to six critical items. 

1.    Restore Employees’ Right to the Free Exercise of Religion
90 percent of corporations are considered to be "closely held." In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that "a corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends" and claimed there was nothing radical about extending rights "whether constitutional or statutory" to for-profit secular corporations. His opinion conflated these businesses with non-profits just as right-wing media had urged. The religious rights of employees are now held hostage by their employers' moral objections, but this did not appear to make much of an impact on the Court's conservative majority. It was enough for Alito that the Greens "sincerely believed" that the contraceptives at issue in the case are "abortifacients" -- echoing right-wing media's constant confusion of the two -- even though they really, really aren't.

2.    Restore the Voting Rights Act
As of now, a few months before the 2014 midterm elections, new voting restrictions are set to be in place in 22 states. Ongoing court cases could affect laws in six of these states.  Unless these restrictions are blocked, citizens in nearly half the nation could find it harder to vote this year than in 2010. Partisanship played a key role. Of the 22 states with new restrictions, 18 passed entirely through GOP-controlled bodies, and Mississippi’s photo ID law passed by a voter referendum. Race was also a significant factor. Of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, 7 have new restrictions in place. Of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010, 9 passed laws making it harder to vote. And nearly two-thirds of states — or 9 out of 15 — previously covered in whole or in part by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because of a history of race discrimination in voting have new restrictions since the 2010 election. Social science studies bear this out. According to the University of Massachusetts Boston study, states with higher minority turnout were more likely to pass restrictive voting laws. A University of California study suggests that legislative support for voter ID laws was motivated by racial bias.

3.    Enact Principled, Humane Immigration Reform
President Obama said he Speaker John Boehner last Tuesday at a White House event honoring professional golfers, said he would not be bringing an immigration bill to the floor “at least for the remainder of this year.”  Speaker Boehner’s office confirmed the discussion. House Republicans are aware of the problems with existing immigration laws but are unwilling to take action. This dishonors fundamental American ideals and cause real and severe problems for both immigrants and American citizens.

4.    Expand and Improve Veterans Benefits
Senate Republicans derailed a sweeping $21 billion bill that would have expanded medical, educational and other benefits for veterans — in another chapter of the ongoing feud over amendments, spending and new sanctions on Iran. Democrats came up four votes short of the 60 needed to keep the bill moving forward on a procedural budget vote, 56-41. This stalling and obstruction simple exposes the hypocrisy of many members of Congress who seek to use veterans and active duty military personnel as props at photo opportunities, but do nothing to help them or their families. Let us care for those who have borne the brunt of battle!

5.    Restore Emergency Unemployment Compensation
In December, Congress allowed federal unemployment benefits to expire, cutting off aid to more than 1 million people who had been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.
Since then, that number has tripled to 3 million Americans who would qualify for the jobless benefits, creating an economically marginalized and increasingly desperate subset of people struggling to make ends meet as the economy slowly recovers.

6.    Ensure the Ongoing Solvency of the Highway Trust Fund

The Department of Transportation (DOT) predicts that the Highway Trust Fund, which has traditionally drawn its revenue from the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, will be depleted by late August. The funding that states get from the federal government for highway projects - about 45 percent - will start to shrink. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx warned that letting the account expire could lead to 700,000 Americans losing jobs in road work, bridge-building and transit maintenance as 112,000 highway projects and 5,600 transit projects underway will come to a screeching halt. This will be economically disruptive and will endanger people who travel on deteriorating and structurally unsound roads and bridges. 

It is not that these six things would address all the pressing issues that rile and rend our society now, but they would keep us from perpetuating gross insults to our most fundamental ideals in the first three, and bolster economic activity in the last three. If the Republicans in Congress would abandon their relentless obstructionism and perform the duties they swore a solemn oath to as faithfully and well as they are able, real progress toward being one nation, indivisible with equality, justice, liberty, and prosperity for all could be enabled.