Supreme Court backs independent election panels

One other bit of good news out of the U.S. Supreme Court recently, in addition to marriage equality for all and the continuance of the Affordable Care Act, the high court also backed Arizona’s citizens wanting an independent election commission to determine voting districts.

A Washington Post article states:“A divided Supreme Court on Monday said voters concerned that partisan gerrymandering is creating unfair elections are entitled to take reapportionment away from state legislatures.

The court ruled 5 to 4 that the Constitution does not give legislatures exclusive control over congressional redistricting and said voters may vest the power in independent commissions by ballot initiative, where this option exists….

The Republican-led Arizona legislature had objected to the plan the commission drew, and pointed to the Constitution’s Elections Clause to contest the validity of the district map. The clause states that the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.”

The court’s usual suspects were on either side of the issue, but the prevailing side wrote that “legislative leaders may comment on the plans the commission draws up, but they cannot alter the maps, nor can the governor veto them.”

Which will be good for the voters in that their voice was heard and will be heard when they go to the polls.

 

 

Pres. Obama shifts gears on overtime

Pres. Obama recently mentioned to a news outlet that he is amending rules concerning overtime, something that hasn’t been done for decades, even for inflation.

A writer for the Washington Post writes that millions of workers will be helped by this legislation. Raising the ceiling of earnings so not just people making around $23,000 will be helped, but up to $50,000, will be eligible for overtime.

The piece states: Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers have to provide overtime pay (usually time and a half) to employees who work more than 40 hours a week, but executives and managers are exempt from the requirement, as are those who make higher salaries. The trouble is that the rules don’t account for inflation, and so over time, what constituted a higher salary became absurdly low. The threshold has been raised only once since 1975, when it covered nearly half of U.S. workers; today it stands at less than $24,000, or lower than the poverty level for a family of four. (This document from the Economic Policy Institute offers some background on the regulation if you’re interested.)”

And Pres. Obama is also taking into account future inflation, and including adjustments based on a per cent of income.

So those persons “designated” as a manager and expected to work 50-60 hour weeks for a business so the business can get by on the cheap, will now be able to claim overtime and be paid. Or maybe work 40 hours and have more time for their family.

NJ newspaper writer calls Christie a liar

Star Ledger editorial board writer Tom Moran says he has been covering New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for 14 years. And he said the one thing he learned during those years is that Christie lies.

Moran leaped into his piece stating: “My testimony amounts to a warning: Don’t believe a word the man says.

If you have the stomach for it, this column offers some greatest hits in Christie’s catalog of lies.

Don’t misunderstand me. They all lie, and I get that. But Christie does it with such audacity, and such frequency, that he stands out.”

He continues: “He’s been lying on steroids lately, on core issues like Bridgegate, guns and that cozy personal friendship with his buddy, the King of Jordan. I’ll get to all that.

But let’s start with my personal favorite. It dates back to the 2009 campaign, when the public workers unions asked him if he intended to cut their benefits.

He told them their pensions were “sacred” to him.

“The notion that I would eliminate, change, or alter your pension is not only a lie, but cannot be further from the truth,” he wrote them. “Your pension and benefits will be protected when I am elected governor.”

He then proceeded to make cutting those benefits the centerpiece of his first year in office.

This, we know now, was vintage Christie. Other lying politicians tend to waffle, to leave themselves some escape hatch. You can almost smell it.

But Christie lies with conviction. His hands don’t shake, and his eyes don’t wander. I can hardly blame the union leaders who met with him for believing him.”

If this is so, it will be interesting to see what lies lay ahead for those Republicans that listen.

 

Recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings refreshing

Not much needs to be said about recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings as they have been extensively covered by local, regional and national media. If not the rulings themselves, the reaction to the rulings by people on both sides of the cases.

Moderates and liberals can enjoy a small satisfaction of deeds accomplished. But current Republican presidential candidates and a certain known Iowa congressman have vowed to fight these decisions. So the work is not yet done.

But approval of gay marriage nationally and of the Affordable Care Act shows the country, well most of it, is moving the country forward and the high court wants to see fairness to all citizens.

And now the Supreme Court says that independent panels can draw election district lines, meaning that political parties can be kept from gerrymandering election outcomes.

The story states:

“The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Monday that independent commissions may draw electoral district lines.

The case arose after Arizona voters opposed to congressional gerrymandering had taken the power away from state legislators.

The Supreme Court has largely stayed out of partisan gerrymandering cases, unable to agree on a test that would allow the court to discern when expected political maneuvering rises to the level of being unconstitutional.

Arizona voters tried to take care of the problems themselves in 2000, when they turned over redistricting to an independent commission. But Republicans who control the legislature say the Constitution gives them the right draw congressional districts, and they cannot be cut out of the power.”

But by a 5-4 decision, the Republican dominated legislature and governor are told to keep their hands off. And citizens of that state can have election district lines fairly applied and not rigged to keep a certain party in office.

 

Cong. King not a darling of GOP leadership

In a recent article posted to The Hill’s website, “The dozen rebels targeted by GOP leaders” the writer does short vignettes about what kind of retaliation the GOP leadership took against outliers in the Republican party.

Iowa’s 4th District congressman was among the group singled out.

Revoked travel privileges

House GOP leadership aides say that taxpayer-funded travel is “a privilege and not a right.” At least three conservatives who frequently oppose leadership — Reps. Steve King (Iowa), Ted Yoho(Fla.) and Louie Gohmert (Texas) — learned the lesson the hard way. The Speaker’s office informed King of his revoked funds just a few hours before his flight was set to depart for a congressional delegation to Egypt. Yoho, one of the three long-shot Republicans to challenge Boehner for Speaker, was removed from a spring congressional delegation to attend the Summit of the Americas in Panama. And Gohmert was removed from scheduled trips to Egypt and Africa earlier this year.

Outcome: King ultimately went on the trip to Egypt anyway with his own money and “literally reached into my kids’ inheritance.” Yoho kept quiet about the revoked travel privileges until this week when he felt compelled to speak out in the aftermath of recent retribution for voting against a procedural motion for the trade package this month. Gohmert remained defiant: “As a result of [Boehner] canceling my trip this weekend, I get to be on Fox News,” he declared on the House floor in March. Still, it’s a lot harder for these lawmakers to join colleagues for expensive foreign trips when it’s on their own dime. “

During a recent outing in Iowa Cong. King told constituents and supporters that he may offer a bill that strips funding away from the Supreme Court to reign in those rogue judges, which he said even lowly plumbers could see was wrong.

He also took issue with the upholding of the Affordable Care Act telling his constituents that government is taking away your choice to decide your own health issues. Mmmmmmm? Like the choice of a woman to go to Planned Parenthood to seek prenatal care?

Like the choice of a woman not to have an invasive hand put inside her to tell her she has no choice but to also have an ultrasound and to seek counselling about any decisions she may want to make.

Cong. King said the federal government should not be dictating your health choices. He must have missed that part of his party’s platform.

 

 

Fox News still acting irresponsible

A recent clip posted online shows the result of a Fox News personality throwing a double-bladed axe and nearly cutting the arm of a drum corp member playing nearby on national TV.

Did the personality run over to see if everyone was alright and offer assistance?

No. He cowered and walked away. Not only are they irresponsible with their words, but their actions as well.

And this “incidence” was referred to as a news blooper. Someone falling down, etc., during a live segment is a blooper. Someone throwing a hand axe and hitting someone else is not.

Yes it was an accident, but a mighty dumb one with severe consequences.

Seems like someone might be paying someone else’s kids college bill for such an act.

GOP candidates stumble to respond

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent wrote a recent piece about the current crop of GOP presidential contenders, and how none of them seemed very presidential when it came to addressing the current situation involving the massacre shooting at a church in Charleston, SC, in what has been described as a racist hate killing.

He references another piece by two other Post reporters who did a story about the shooting: “The massacre last week at a church in Charleston, S.C., opened a leadership opportunity for the nearly two dozen politicians running to be the next president.

But few stepped forward to seize it.

The Republican hopefuls mostly stammered and stumbled in response to the shootings. At first, some resisted calling the massacre racially motivated, only to reverse course when it became obvious it was.

Most stopped short of calling for South Carolina leaders to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state capitol in Columbia. Some, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, declined to comment at all. Only after South Carolina’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley, emotionally declared Monday that the flag should come down did most GOP candidates join the chorus.”

Sargent continues writing:

“David Axelrod, a longtime adviser to President Obama, said, “Presidential races are full of these unexpected moral tests and tests of mettle. It’s generally the person who rises to them who ends up winning the day.”

For Republicans especially, rising to the occasion has proved difficult. The candidates have been balancing the political imperative to present a welcoming face to minority and moderate voters with hesi­tancy to turn off conservative white voters who see the Confederate flag as a representation of their family heritage and Southern traditions.

The result has been timid, measured responses. It is telling that the most unambiguous Republican statement came from a non-candidate; 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney tweeted Sunday, “Take down the #ConfederateFlag at the SC Capitol.”

It seems these presidential wannabees are not willing to take a risk. But should any of them become president, they will have to make tougher calls and take bigger risks, than possibly offending someone in their party. And heaven help the rest of us should that happen.

 

 

Rand Paul’s selective facts supports a criminal

In a recent article by the Washington Post, the writer talks about Rand Paul’s deceptive use of facts.

Paul is quoted at the beginning of the article:

“Over 40 years, we now define pollutants as dirt and your back yard as a navigable stream. It wouldn’t be funny if we weren’t putting people in jail for it. Guy named Robert Lucas, down at the southern part of Mississippi, 10 years ago was 70 years old. He was put in prison for 10 years. He just got out. Ten years without parole. Ten years without early release. He was convicted of a RICO conspiracy. RICO’s something you’re supposed to be going after gangsters for. You know what his conspiracy was? Conspiracy to put dirt on his own land. We’ve gone crazy. We’ve run amok.”

The article backgrounds the story that Paul told.

“The saga dates to around 1994, when Lucas, a southern Mississippi real estate developer, began buying land for his 2,600-acre property for mobile home lots.

In 1996, state and federal inspectors began telling Lucas that he did not have proper permits and warned him against developing more of his land. Lucas was told that nearly half of his property, Big Hill Acres, was federally protected wetlands — meaning he could not develop, drain or fill the land (with dirt, cement, pipes, debris or other items) without federal approval. But he continued to build and fill the land, despite cease-and-desist orders.

He hired an engineer to design and approve sewage systems, which were installed in the soil and then covered with topsoil (i.e., “dirt”). Inspectors warned Lucas that sewage systems in wetlands need to meet state and federal standards, so that waste is properly filtered and disposed without contaminating drinking water.

But no one had applied for or received any such permit, according to the 2004 grand jury indictment.

Big Hill Acres then was advertised and sold mostly to low- or fixed-income families. Lucas represented to potential buyers that the lots were “habitable and suitable for home sites when in fact they were not,” the indictment said. Some residents later testified that they were not told that their homes were on wetlands.

The area was prone to seasonal flooding. So homes flooded during major rainfalls, while raw sewage seeped up from the ground, and flowed through the subdivision.

Federal prosecutors accused Lucas, his daughter (who sold real estate) and the engineer of 41 counts of conspiracy to defraud, environmental violations and mail fraud (over the delivery of payments for the properties by mail). Prosecutors said Lucas, his daughter and the engineer knowingly sold properties with illegal and malfunctioning septic systems, and built and filled federally protected wetlands despite numerous warnings.”

Later in the story it is reported that a jury found the man, his daughter and the engineer working with them guilty. So much for government bullying when a jury of the man’s peers found him guilty of fraud.

If Paul were elected President, there would be no expectation that he would tell the truth to the public or that his team would research issues well enough to represent this country to the best of his ability. And if this is the best of his ability, his supporters should start worrying.

 

Can Republicans be hypocritical about Confederate flag?

It’s sad when every day a person picks up the paper to read about violence occurring in the U.S. Sadder still when the violence is due to hate, racial hate.

One could only hope these incidences are behind us. But they are not.

And now the GOP faithful are still sitting on the fence about the fate of the Confederate flag.

In this article from Yahoo you find both Pres. Obama and Mitt Romey agreeing.

“To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred,” Romney wrote on Twitter. “Remove it now to honor #Charleston victims.”

It’s one issue Romney and President Barack Obama, who defeated the former Massachussetts governor in the 2012 presidential election, can agree on.”

If someone had gone into a synagogue and gunned down Jewish worshippers, you know the Republican faithful would say it is a hate crime and for someone flying the Nazi flag as despicable.

So it’s unbelievable that these same Republicans can not see that the Confederate flag is the same as the Nazi flag.  It represents hate and is a banner that reminds people the only intent of the rebellious South was to continue its ways of using slavery to enrich itself and repress others.

Like Germany has done with its past, the South needs to do the same. Lay to rest the hate and bigotry that the Confederate flag represents to so many people. Like in Germany, there will still be those that cling to hate and bigotry, believing themselves righteous and above anyone else.

Until the Republicans can move beyond this and deal with the hate of its past and some of its constituency, it will never appeal to a broader audience.

And maybe that is what the Republican party wants, just to represent a select few, and its vision of the “ideal” America, much like some wanted during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.

But if history teaches us anything, the Republicans are on the wrong side of right.

 

Senseless shooting tragedy and Republican denial

The recent shooting of people in a church, and let’s be specific, Black people, in their church, by someone who is a hater. A white hater of black people, and possibly any person of color.

This tragedy is terrible. Unimaginable, and yet, it happens again. and the sad thing about it is that one political party in the U.S. is a party of deniers. That would be the Republican party.

Fox News spin team did its best to deflect any thought that this shooting was racist.

Fox & Friends insist shooting about religion, not race host Steve Doocy stated that it was extraordinary the massacre was being labeled a hate crime, positing, “It was a church, so maybe that’s what they’re talking about” and citing “hostility towards Christians.” Guest Bishop E. W. Jackson agreed that “most people jump to conclusions about race,” and that “we don’t know why he went into a church, but he didn’t choose a bar” or “basketballc ourt.” Later, frequent Fox guest and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani theorized that “we don’t know the motivation of the person who did this,” saying “maybe he hates Christian churches.” And later that day on Fox News Radio, Brian Kilmeade speculated that maybe the shooter “hates Christian churches” or possibly just the state of South Carolina.”

Why is it that Republicans appear to always be in denial? Why can’t this party ever accept the fact that there are fringe elements that hate. It gives the appearance that Republicans really like no one other than white people.  That or they are very very dull-witted sorts. And that is not true. To see the extent they go to deny race being a factor of a hate crime. Why?

Then there is Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, ever the sensitive type when it comes to either not caring or not knowing, and it would be hard to believe the latter is true.

During a recent stop in Iowa, stumping for his next job, Sen. Cruz made with the jokes reported in a recent article.

“Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) dropped a few gun control jokes during his latest swing through Iowa, days after the shooting deaths of nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church.

“You know the great thing about the state of Iowa is, I’m pretty sure you all define gun control the same way we do in Texas — hitting what you aim at,” Cruz said at a town hall meeting Friday in Red Oak.”

This remark was made shortly after the shooting in South Carolina. Yes it is politics, and one would be certain that if white people had been killed, especially white Republican people, there might be a different take. Yes it is politics, but there is no shame.

But then you have an Australian comedian who takes on the senseless killings here in the U.S. And he doesn’t pull any punches or mince any words. There is some obscenity.

 

It appears it takes a non-U.S. citizen to really say what we should all be saying. There is just so much hate, but evidently it is okay by the Republican party. It just makes one wonder why it is okay.

 

 

 

Woodbury County Democrats, promoting democratic ideals and greater participation.