Archive for June, 2013

The Divided States of America

Monday, June 24th, 2013

In the midst of dramatic demographic and social change, America is quickly becoming divided into two separate nations. One is a progressive nation striving to move forward for change while another is woven of regional rigid politics driven by hatred, racism and conservative “close minded” dogma.

A recent public opinion study from the PEW Research Center found that:
“Americans often say they want their elected representative in Congress to put the country’s need over local concerns. But findings suggest the opposite. Members of Congress who place their district or state over those of the country are rewarded while those who place the welfare of the nation over local issues will be punished.”
The nation has become polarized by rigid ideological rhetoric generated in Republican controlled “red” states. Shifting demographic and cultural changes threaten to make our tribalism permanent.

There is currently an explosion of minority populations and stagnation in white populations. Recent gerrymandering efforts by Republicans will only delay the inevitable; either conservatives change or they will drown in a sea of minority “new majority”. The evidence was clear in the last Presidential election— nationally, Republicans have lost the popular vote in four of the last five Presidential elections.

A 2009 Pew Research Center report found, “While top earners (those earning $100,000 or more) were almost evenly split among Democrats, independents and Republicans, the lowest earners (those making $20,000 or less) were more than twice as likely to be Independents than Republicans, and were nearly three times as likely to be Democrats than Republicans.” This is why a growing number of political observers point to a future of Democratic dominance; especially in light of Republican and conservative refusal to change.

Other studies point to changes in marriage or the decline of marriage. New definitions of family are emerging in America. Other data noted changing birth rates in the different areas of America. But in almost every case, the blue states that went for Barack Obama in 2012 had the higher ages of first marriage, and the red states that went for Mitt Romney had lower ones.

More notable changes are also occurring in America. American’s affiliation with churches has fallen from 68% in 1975 to 48% in 2013. On the moral front – the majority of American’s are becoming more liberal – supporting same sex marriage — while Americans in the red states condemn same sex marriage.

Other notable changes are seen in the growing confidence of the military which has exploded from 58% in 1975 to 76% in 2013. This may explain the shocking point that recent government ease dropping on Americans doesn’t sound as many alarms as it should. Is individual liberty and collective good less important than personal responsibility and social responsibility?

On a growing number of issues, conservative arguments on many issues no longer resonate nationally and that spells bad news for Republicans. The potential voters from Republicans are shrinking while the demographics of potential Democratic voters are exploding.

This may explain Republican’s stand on extreme issues on voter suppression, racism, closed borders, abortion, immigration, the war on women and minority groups – all designed to slow the growth and expansion of liberalism and Democratic control.

How long will these failing efforts by the Republicans delay the death of conservative power and Republican national prominence? Will Republicans change or will they drown in the tidal wave of demographic and social change.

VW Demand in Tennessee: Seat Labor at Table or No Expansion – No New Jobs

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

In March of 2009 Volkswagen (VW) came to Chattanooga, Tennessee. This was welcome news for the Tennessee economy and job creation. Volkswagen has been a good company creating thousands of jobs. The EPA recently honored them for being a leader in Green Power. VW America is the largest automotive maker in the US using solar power and the largest of any industry in Tennessee.

VW has created jobs which has been invaluable to Chattanooga. In March, VW announced they would add 800 to 1000 more jobs by the end of 2013 bringing the employment to 3500. They also want to have labor represented at the table and insist this must happen or they won’t expand their plant in Chattanooga.

A top global official for the VW works council says the group will block the automaker’s expansion in Chattanooga unless a labor panel is implemented. A German newspaper reported that VW Group deputy council chief Stephan Wolf said, “We will only agree to an extension of the site or any other model contract when it is clear how to proceed with the employees’ representatives in the United States.”

The Republicans and Chamber of Commerce have maintained that government should stay out of private business; yet, they are not doing so in this case. Their contempt for the American worker is obvious that their love of big corporations is stronger than their desire to keep government out private business. Both the Chattanooga Chamber and Republican Gov. Bill Haslam have criticized the effort to include labor at the table. Obviously the TNGOP war on labor continues.

It is refreshing to see a company display real corporate leadership and class.

Farm Bill Defeat: Democrats Refuse to Cut Food Stamps

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Washington – Thursday, the farm bill was defeated in a shocking lack of leadership by the Speaker, John Boehner of Ohio. The defeat highlights the division between the teabagger conservatives in Congress and their leadership.

The vote against the bill was 234 to 195 as conservatives were not pleased with the weak cuts in the bill, while Democrats voted against the bill because of the cruel cuts in the food stamp program. The current bill, as it stands, would cast over 2 million Americans into a food crisis.

The defeat was a major blow to the speaker of the house who has been reduced to weak figure head. His main purpose is protecting his position as speaker. Boehner continues to fail at any attempt to pass major legislation.

The farm bill has traditionally passed easily with bipartisan support. But, since the wing-nut teabaggers come to town, all attempts to pass legislation have come to a complete stop. They have basically shutdown the government.

Conservatives insist of massive cuts to the farm bill that will fall squarely on the backs of the poor by slashing $20.5 billion from the food stamp program.

Conservatives were successful in passing two amendments, one to require food stamp recipients to meet federal welfare work requirements, and another to allow states to drug test food stamp applicants. Obviously, it remains a high priority with conservatives and Republicans to punish and attack poor people.

Several of the Republican members of Congress who voted to cut food stamps receive farm subsidies themselves. It is shocking that conservatives and Republicans insist on making cuts for those who are suffering the most.
Unfortunately, poor people are unable to fill the pockets of the greedy conservatives and Republicans. Teabaggers remain loyal to their wealthy owners.

Unicoi County Democratic Party FDR Fundraiser: September 21st

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Tickets for the Unicoi County Democratic Party FDR Fundraiser are now on sale. Tickets are $10.

The event will include lunch catered by Jason Howze, live entertainment (Tommy White, soloist from Bean Station, TN.), and a silent auction. The keynote speaker will be Democratic Representative, and candidate for Freshman Tennessee Legislator of the year, Gloria Johnson of Knoxville.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, September 21st at 11:00 am at Erwin Town Hall on Main Street in Erwin Tennesssee (across the street from WalGreens). Carry out Barbeque lunches will be available for $10. The public is welcome to attend. All proceeds will go to fight for the middle class.

NSA’s PRISM Into Your Life

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Patriot-ACTEdward Snowden, 29, is the source of leaks over an NSA surveillance program. He’s a defense contractor, a high school dropout, and he worked his way into the most secretive computers in U.S. intelligence – now he is on the run for blowing those secrets wide open. He may never live in the United States as a free man again.

In a recent interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, Snowden revealed himself as the source of outing the massive effort by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to track cell phone calls and monitor the e-mail and Internet traffic of virtually every Americans.

Snowden said his conscious was bothering him and he just wanted the public to know what the government was doing.

What’s next for Snowden as a hell storm encircles him? Some are calling him a traitor, others consider him a hero. One thing for sure, his revelations has stirred a firestorm about the secretive PRISM government program.

Another important question relates to trusted companies like facebook who have basically lied to their customers and quickly gave private customer information to the government. How safe is your personal information entrusted to various companies?

“Even if you’re not doing anything wrong you’re being watched and recorded,” he said. Snowden told The Guardian he had access to the full rosters of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community and undercover assets around the world. These facts have moved some in congress to call for his head, as they claim, this information is an attack on the United States.

Snowden fled to Hong Kong three weeks ago after copying one last set of documents.

133604_600Before his leak of U.S. intelligence, Snowden worked for a major U.S. government contractor, in Hawaii, earning a $200,000 salary and enjoying the beautiful state with his girlfriend.

He told The Guardian, “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

Many disagree and point out that we expect the government to honor our privacy, but we also expect the government to protect us from more terrorist attacks.

President Barack Obama insists his administration is not spying on U.S. citizens; it’s only looking for information on terrorists. Wing-nuts and Obama/Government haters are using the incident to wave the anti-Obama and anti-Government banner. The ACLU is leading the fight in regards to violations of civil liberties.

Snowden is hopeful that Hong Kong’s climate of free speech will protect him, but there’s no guarantee he won’t be sent back to the United States and face a lifetime in an American prison. Have we traded civil liberty for security?

NOTE: Since this story was posted, Snowden has been held up in Russia for months.

The Patriot Act: An Attack on Civil Liberties

Friday, June 7th, 2013

The Patriot Act http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriot_act is a U.S. law passed in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Its purpose was to strengthen domestic security and broaden the powers of government agencies with regards to identifying and stopping terrorists. In the wake of recent events, a firestorm of concern once again surrounds the Patriot Act.

The Patriot Act remains extremely controversial but those with civil liberty concerns have always been trumpted by its supporters. Supporters claim that it’s been instrumental in investigations and arrests of terrorists, while critics claim the act gives the government way too much power, as it threatens civil liberties and undermines the very democracy it seeks to protect.

The Patriot Act’s full name is Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001. It’s divided into 10 different sections, and it covers a lot of ground. A summary follows:

Title I – This section [attacks] pertains to the protection of civil liberties. It authorizes federal money to accomplish much of the act’s provisions and authorizes the Secret Service to create a nationwide electronic crime task force.

Title II – This section expands the authority of law-enforcement agencies to conduct [unconstitutional] surveillance on agents [including American citizens] of foreign powers.” It allows the interception of communications if they’re related to terrorist activities and allows law-enforcement agencies to share information related to terrorist activities [anything deemed as such] with federal authorities. Title II authorizes [secret] roving surveillance by any means available to intercept a person’s communications [Facebook, personal e-mail, Internet, personal records, etc.], Further, it allows the government to order files from your communications services such an Internet service [IP addresses, login times and sites visited]. It also allows delayed notification of search warrants, including searches of your home [while you are not present] and you would not be notified of the search until after it was carried out.

Title III – This section of the Patriot Act is aimed at cutting off the financial support of terrorist groups.

Title IV – This section has provisions that strengthen border security.

Title V – The most important part of Title V is the use of National Security Letters (NSL). An NSL is a demand for the release of information and paperwork related to a person under investigation. The Patriot Act makes NSLs much stronger [and unconstitutional], and allows them to be used against U.S. citizens and contains a gag order preventing the target of the NSL from ever knowing about it or telling anyone else about it. There is no judicial review or need for probable cause when an NSL is requested and issued. This was used in attempts to try to force four librarians to turnover library records of Americans.

Title VI – This section contains provisions for providing financial compensation to victims of terrorism and their families.

Title VII – Authorization and budgeting for increased sharing of information between law-enforcement agencies and jurisdictions are contained in this section.

Title VIII – This portion of the Patriot Act adds several crimes to the list of things considered acts of terrorism.

Title IX – This section creates a method for the sharing of national intelligence information between government agencies.

Title X – The final section of the Patriot Act contains a number of relatively minor, miscellaneous provisions.

The Patriot Act has come under fire for a number of obvious reasons. It was passed too quickly (just over a month after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks), with little Congressional time reading and debating the act. By some accounts, less than 48 hours passed between the presentation of the bill’s final wording and the law passing in both houses of Congress. It doesn’t appear the act was actually read by members of Congress. Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, was the only senator to vote against the act, while several members of the House of Representatives joined his dissent. Most critics contend that such a crucial and sweeping piece of legislation deserved more thorough deliberation but those claims have fallen on deaf ears.

The Patriot Act reduces and/or destroys many of the civil liberties enjoyed in the United States and guaranteed by the Constitution. The biggest infringements dismantle the right to privacy and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. The act gives expansion of the government’s ability to conduct wiretaps and perform searches without notification. The detainment of material witnesses and terrorist suspects without access to lawyers violates/erodes the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, rights of due process and trial by jury, respectively.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was created in response to ongoing activities by President Bush that threatened civil liberties. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was created to oversee requests for surveillance warrants against suspected [foreign] intelligence agents. Activities of this court tend to be rubber stamped and are seldom denied. In light of the current data mining of mass information of Americans, the power amassed by the court is chilling. It is also interesting to note that [Americans] are the new target of the data collection activities of the NSA.

Critics correctly charge that the Patriot Act unfairly expands the powers of the executive branch and strips away many crucial checks and balances. The creation of the National Security Agency (NSA) and its overreach is chilling. The use of the FISA system threatens the freedoms of Americans.

The Patriot Act and its use by the NSA pose the largest threat to civil liberties in recent times. The longer this law is permitted to stand, the more a serious threat is posed to our democracy.

Where was the outcry from Republicans when they quickly “rubber stamped” approved the Patriot Act, NSA, FISA and FISC? It is no surprise that it now becomes a problem for Republicans when President Obama uses the power they created.

Need Health Care Coverage?

Friday, June 7th, 2013

If you currently do not have health care insurance, there are some things you can do to get prepared to get coverage. Go to http://www.healthcare.gov/ for more information. Under the Affordable Care Act, you will be able to select affordable health care insurance for yourself and your family by viewing your options and choosing the plan that is best for you during the open enrollment period. You will have affordable health care on January 1st 2014.

Are you one of the millions of Americans without Health Care Insurance? Are you or a member of your family suffering from an illness but your unable to afford health care coverage? If a health care emergency affected you or a member or your family, could you lose everything you own? These are only a few of the serious questions facing millions Americans who cannot afford health care insurance. Affordable health care can now be attained for you and your family. Go to here and see the options for you and your family.

Health care is a fundamental right not a benefit to be enjoyed by the well to do. You and your family do not need to continue to worry about the many problems associated with not having health care coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act, you can now have affordable health care for yourself and your family. Go to healthcare.gov. Beginning October 1st, enrollment of the Affordable Care Act begins. Go to healthcare.gov to get the answers. It is easy to see your options.

Don’t listened to the lies about Obamacare, go and see your options for yourself. Now it is easy to select a plan that is right for you and your family, go to healthcare.gov to see your options.
Healthcare.gov… Enrollment begins October 1st.

You can also visit here to check the options in each state.

The Unicoi County Democratic Party will not be able to assist folks sign up for health care coverage online. We do encourage each person to check out and select the option which is best for them.

There is a good reason ten Republican Governors have signed up for Obamacare…. it works!

The Republican Dilemma: Insanity or Victory?

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

The Republican Party faces a dilemma, a dilemma if must address or become non relevant as a national party. They have lost the popular vote in five or the last six presidential elections. The dilemma is easy to describe but more difficult to solve: How can it broaden its appeal to undecided voters without alienating its wing-nut conservative base?

The solution seems simple, run candidates that appeal to a broader selection of the voting public. But there is a problem with this solution – the neo-con wing of the party base is controlled by teabaggers who refuse to election middle of the road candidates during the Republican primaries. There is no consensus among party leaders on how to achieve this.

There is serious tension between party leadership and party activists. With the next election three years away, Republican leadership is walking on eggs trying to make policy changes. It is virtually impossible to find viable candidates when your base will only elect the most outrageous candidates. There is no desire among party activists to support broad appealing candidates.

Recently, Republican supports are saying, “We have an example of success, Democrats, sick of losing elections and being tagged as out-of-touch liberals, moved their party toward the center and rallied behind Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton in 1992. We need a Bill Clinton type candidate to rally our supporters around a common goal”

The problem with this approach is simple, it is difficult to achieve when you have folks who want nationally unelectable candidates. These two examples are like oranges and apples: Bill Clinton had to win back voters; Republicans need to get voters to join their new coalition, a coalition controlled by right wing extremists.

When your party’s issues include: restricting voting rights, massive tax breaks for the rich, slashing assistance for the middle class, restricting women’s access to health care, dismantling public education, dismantling Social Security and ending ObamaCare… It is going to be difficult to get voters back. Becoming the party of “no” and “obstruction” does not make things any easier.

So here lies the dilemma: Keep bowing to your party’s shrinking loyal base of conservative activists — including evangelical Christians, anti-tax crusaders, teabaggers, racists, Obama haters, and anti-abortion advocates — or loose these groups and appeal to a larger number of voters.

Republicans will go nowhere if they continue to allow hard-core conservative neo-cons to control the party and its message. But they do not appear willing to go with a more moderate message so national losses will probably continue until they face the facts they need to change.

A long post-mortem, commissioned by the Republican Party after Romney’s loss last fall, said the GOP “is increasingly marginalizing itself, and unless changes are made, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.”