Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Says it all

Quick post to share with you an item I just got for my car. I wanted something to say:

1. I support our troops placed in an impossible situation

2. I don't have to, by default, support the man in office who never thinks anything through and hasn't been supportive of them at all

3. Shame on those rightwing nuts who try to imply the whole mess was God's will through the divine W

I couldn't find a bumper sticker that said all that, but I found the following magnet that says it all:

God Bless Our Troops
God Forgive George Bush

Blessed Memorial Day for all those who are grieving for their lost sons and daughters. May their sacrifice never be forgotten.

(The rest of the nation greives, even if W never does. Enjoy your upcoming six-week vacation, moron.)

Friday, May 26, 2006

What Seminole Co. Schools are Teaching

Quick Note: 3 new blog posts today. I will be posting shorter blogs but more frequent starting next week.

IF your kid is going to school in Seminole County, you have two options
1. Bite the bullet and have the “talk”, or
2. Move to Orange County

Because here in Seminole, the kids will get misinformation when it comes to sex education. I understand our county is no doubt a red county. (We are making progress, but we got a ways to go). But we are talking about information that could prevent an unintended pregnancy or even save a life. The only information your kids get here is that sex is bad and chastity is a virtue.

Great, problem solved.

Seminole allows outside groups to augment the sex education curricula, which unfortunately includes the JMJ Life Center (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph). This group has been rejected by Orange County because of concerns about the “validity” of their information. Orange County does permit abstinence-only groups in to give presentations, as long as they don't discredit contraception.

According to the Orlando Weekly, discrediting contraception is JMJ's specialty. Planned Parenthood of Orlando, which is allowed to give presentations in Orange County on parenting and preventing teen births, says JMJ only talks about the failure rates of contraception, tries to link breast cancer to abortion (which, by the way, there is absolutely NO proof at all), and claims that condoms don’t prevent the spread of HIV.

Orange County, on the other hand, has a strong abstinence-based curriculum that they insist be taught-- in other words, abstinence is preferred, but the medically correct information about HIV, contraception, and sex is also taught in conjunction. Right now, Orange County is the only Central Florida county to offer comprehensive sex education. Luckily for their citizens, the school board is adamant about teaching the correct information and will not allow groups who use bad data or have a blatant agenda to teach in their schools.

Here in Seminole, we are not so lucky.

The data supports that the vast majority of Americans want comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education, and that abstinence-only sex education doesn’t work. There is no evidence that teens who go through these abstinence only courses hold off from intercourse any more than those who go through the comprehensive courses. HOWEVER, there is evidence that the ones who go through the abstinence-only are LESS likely to use contraception. The thinking goes, “it doesn’t work anyway, so why bother?”.

Giving accurate information on contraception does not promote sex, but it can prevent a nasty, even deadly disease and an unwanted pregnancy. IT does not promote premarital sex any more than discussing drunk driving encourages underage drinking. But if a teenager does ignore your advice and drink, you want to make damn sure they know the dangers of getting behind a wheel—just as I would want to know that if they ignore my advice on premarital sex—they know damn well to protect themselves.

And to those on the religious right who want to replace sex education with sexual ignorance, I would just propose this question: who do you think is really promoting abortion?

Fight back:
Email or call your state legislator and tell them to support the Prevention First Act, which requires all school districts to develop a plan to provide comprehensive, medically-accurate sex education by the 2008-2009 school year.

For more information, go to www.ppgo.org.

Credit Freezing Update

I am one of the 26 million veterans who had his data stolen by government incompetence. I called for Credit Freezing here in Florida in one of my earlier blogs. (It freezes your credit so no one can run a report or get a credit card until you”un-freeze” it—stopping ID theft cold. Sorry for the pun.) I am happy to report that you made your voice heard. A representative from David Mealor’s office contacted me and said that we are joining the 8 states with a Credit Freezing program. The bill passed both Florida Houses and is awaiting JEBBIE’s signature. It is House Bill 37 and you can find it on myfloridahouse.gov

The bill, if signed, will take effect as of July 1, 2006.

The Mr. Jefferson Opportunity

William Jefferson’s arrest, in my opinion, is good for the Democrats if we handle it correctly, as we have so far. IT was Nancy Pelosi, by the way, who insisted on an investigation. Compare THAT to the GOP, who do whatever they can to avoid accountability and even tried to water-down years of established Ethics rules. (They even tried to change the rule that an indicted criminal can still be House Majority leader in an attempt to keep Tom Delay.) It also reaks of partisanship that out of all the republicans sinking in scandal, they choose to raid the lone Democrat under investigation.

By the way, the repubs are not stupid. They are the ones screaming the loudest that the president violated the separation of powers (what is else is new) and ignored 218 years of precedent by raiding a legislator’s office. Why? Because they know that a right-wing nut is not always going to hold the White House. And they are quaking imagining that if their offices get raided under a Dem, whooooooo-boy.

But the Dems need to showcase the difference between how they handle scandal and how the r’s do. If Mr. Jefferson is indicted, they need to drop him and support someone else for the next election. This would contrast to what the GOP would do. Pelosi was right to ask Mr. J to leave a powerful committee post, but if indictments come down, we need to do more.

This is an opportunity for the Dems, or can be if they do the right thing. Americans are sick of corruption, and we are the only hope they have of cleaning it up.

Friday, May 19, 2006

How the GOP Tax Bill Screws Florida

Once again, as our deficit spirals out of control at the same time we are spending half a trillion a year on Iraq with no end in sight, the Republicans in Congress found it prudent to give the wealthiest among us a Huge Tax Break while screwing over the rest of us.

Warning, as you read, you will get angry. But hey, that’s a good thing—maybe you will be motivated to join the regime-change movement. I will start by telling you who this bill will really help, then move on to who this bill will really hurt, and then how it effects Florida. And to pour salt in the wound, what the GOP is planning next session.

Helping the ones who need tax relief the least:
1. Very Wealthy
2. Oil companies

Very Wealthy:
Unless you haven’t seen the headlines in the Orlando Sentinel or haven’t watched any news channel, (and this even includes FOX), you know that this bill overwhelmingly favors the wealthiest among us. In fact, the non-partisan Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center examined its provisions and found that 87% of this bill helps the wealthiest Americans. Those of you who are millionaires will see around $42,000 in tax breaks. But if you MAKE $42,000 a year, you will receive a net total of $17.

Oil companies:
These guys are rolling in the dough thanks to high gas prices. But that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve another handout. GOP leaders dropped a Senate-passed provision that would have closed an inventory accounting practice known as “last in, first out” that is used by oil companies and other businesses to help lower their tax burden.

Hurting those who need it most:

Middle-class: With sky-high fuel prices, a rise in the variable interest rate for mortgages, and massive increases in health-care—they figured 17 bucks would be a fair amount--unless you are a student, or live in Florida. Then this bill is really going to screw you:

Students: The original Senate bill had an extension of expiring college tuition deductions designed to help middle class Americans handle the growing cost of higher education. The GOP leaders asked the two important questions: Does this help the wealthy? Does this help Big Oil? No? Provision dropped.

Florida people: No more state sales tax deductions for you! You moocher! State and local sales tax deductions, which affect 8 states including Florida, expired in December 2005 and the planned 2-year extension for these deductions was dropped by, guess who? The average savings for Florida tax payers was around $500 a year. With the $17 you are getting back, that leaves you owing $488 more than last year.

Oh well, tax breaks are only supposed to help those who need it least. That’s the old theory of trickle-down economics (take from the poor and middle-class and give to the rich), which we thought was put to bed back in the 80s. It didn’t work then either. The GOP has touted how well corporations are doing, and though productivity is up, and the salaries of CEOs and high-level executives are the highest in history, wages have stagnated for the middle-class, the rate of investment is down, and the gap between rich and poor has greatly widened. And they aren’t done yet…

NEXT UP for the GOP:
The permanent deletion of the Estate Tax. This one is down-right blatant. The
estate tax affects only those getting over a 2 million dollar estate!! Repeal of the estate tax will cost the government nearly 1 trillion dollars in much-needed revenue, but the GOP mantra is clear: stop taxing those who can best afford to pay-- at all cost.

Not only is this immoral, it hurts our economy. The GOP outlined their tax cut goals before the election: Significantly lower taxes on capital income, such as dividends and capital gains; create two huge investment shelters; and eliminate the estate (“inheritance”) tax. Almost all tax income would come from paychecks. Those who earn income from investments, the wealthiest of Americans, would not have to pay anything.

The result will be a breed of aristocrats that will be able to inherit millions tax-free, invest it, compound the interest, and pass it to their heirs with no taxation whatsoever. In return, the middle class and poor will have to pay full taxes on everything they make.

According to Newsweek, this is the real hidden agenda. Tax only those who earn a salary or wage while completely abolishing investment income. (Newsweek (04/12/04))
The problem lies in the fact that the majority of the wealth in this nation is held by a very, very small percentage. So if the richest of the rich aren't paying taxes, we have no chance of balancing the books.

But that has never been the GOP’s problem, has it? It’s your problem for not being a millionaire.

Shame on you.

Friday, May 12, 2006

It’s Official: We are Now a Banana Republic

Yet another white house scandal and another NSA surveillance program: this time finding out that the NSA has secretly tried to collect the phone records of every American citizen. (I don’t think I need to inform fellow Dems or thinking people why this is bad with another Ten Talking Points blog, but in case you are one of the 2/3 of Americans who think it’s no big deal:

Yet lost in the story was still yet another scandal: Federal investigators were prevented from investigating the NSA illegal wiretapping program. In an unprecedented move, an office under the executive branch was denied security clearances by another office under the same branch. Never before has a federal investigation been squashed because investigators were denied clearances.

My question is this:
  • If investigations are allowed to be stopped this way,
  • And our constitutional guarantees are continually undermined by a president who thinks he is above the law,
  • And finally, if this GOP Congress can just ignore their duty and not allow any accountability for this president,

Then, what exactly is the check on the president’s power?

Right now, this president is able to do anything he wants at any time. He will not be challenged, he will not be investigated, and there is nothing that can be done about it. This is life under the GOP one-party system.

We are told that only possible terrorists are wiretapped, (just as we were told that NSA spying programs were "targeted", "international", and did not involve "reams of intelligence". Of course, we have to take the president’s word on this since there is absolutely no oversight. Unfortunately, we know that this administration is not above playing politics with national security, (just ask Joe Wilson), and not above lying to the American people (ask our troops).

What is most infuriating is that many Americans still don’t seem to care. (“I got nothing to hide, let them bug me”). Many buy into this administration’s argument that we must be so afraid of terror that we have to give up the essential liberties that make us American. If that is the case, then people should be clamoring to get into the safest nation in the world from terrorist attacks: North Korea. It is consistently ranked the most repressive regime, and the citizens are monitored 24/7. But there is hardly any threat from Al Qaeda.

The apologists for this administration who say that freedoms must be sacrificed because we are at war don’t seem to understand two things:

1. These violations of our freedoms and values are permanent. This “War on Terror” is not going to end in a few years. It will take many years, decades to effectively wipe out terrorism. Our closest reference is the Cold War, which lasted 50 years.

2. A right-wing nut job is not always going to be president. Bush is only in office for 2 ½ more years (thank God), and all of these powers you are granting to the executive branch will apply to future presidents for the time it takes to win this “War on Terror”. Ask your republican friend if they are okay with a left-leaning Democrat having the power to tap your phone or read your email on any person he or she deems an enemy of the state—with no oversight. Yeah? Didn’t think so…

Fight back:
  1. First, contact AT&T and demand they stop helping the government spy on you
  2. Second, contact your Congressman, either D or R, and tell him how outraged you are. If Dem, demand that he or she supports CCR in challenging President Bush's illegal domestic spying
  3. Finally, and this is VERY important, help us win in November! If you do anything, GET INVOLVED!

This is not just another election. We can’t afford to lose—our very freedoms depend on it.

How to Lose in November gives ways to help out. It's time!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

10 Talking Points on High Gas Prices

"Let us rid ourselves of the fiction that low oil prices are somehow good for the United States."–Dick Cheney, October 1986.

High gas prices have certainly benefited Cheney. He made millions when he sold his Haliburton stock which was exploding due to the rising oil and gas prices according to the Associated Press. But Cheney wasn’t the only one to benefit.

When George W took office, (and brought with him a team with more ties to the oil industry than any other in history), he, along with a rubber-stamp GOP controlled Congress, allowed gas prices to spiral out of control. The oil companies were among the largest donors to the GOP, and they have been paid back in spades.

After oil companies raked in record breaking profits over $100 billion, (and their CEOs made obscene abmounts even by today’s outrageous CEO standards), Congress still saw fit to give the oil companies $2 billion in tax breaks -- which even George W. finally had to concede that they didn't need. (Not that it will be taken away.)

I am not partisan nor naïve enough to say that the high cost of gas is completely the result of the bad politicians in Washington, but this administarion and this GOP-controolled Congress have certainly played a huge role in our present oil crisis. And we Dems have an obligation to get the message out! The good folks at MyDCC came up with these ten talking points that we need to get out to our neighbors and friends:

  1. When George Bush took office in January 2001, the average price of a gallon of gas was $1.46. Today, the price is $2.91, a 100 percent increase over the course of the Bush presidency. [AAA Fuel Gauge Report, 4/25/06]

  2. Under Bush’s watch, U.S. dependence on foreign oil has increased by nearly one billion barrels. [ EIA, U.S. Imports by Country of Origin and Annual Energy Outlook 2006]

  3. Senate Republicans killed a Democratic proposal to make gas price gouging a federal crime. Without making price gouging a federal crime, the federal government can only prosecute oil companies if they can prove collusion to control markets, a standard that is nearly impossible to meet. [S. 2020, Vote #334, 11/17/05; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11/18/05]

  4. The Bush Federal Trade Commission has looked the other way when it comes to price gouging. Even during Hurricane Katrina, when price gouging was rather evident, the FTC investigation "found no evidence of collusion among oil companies in the 2005 gas price surge.” [ San Francisco Chronicle, 4/25/06]

  5. The GOP Congress has ignored oil and gas monopolies: Since 2001, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee in charge of overseeing mergers, led by Mike DeWine,has held just one hearing - two years ago - to examine high gas prices.[ USA TODAY, 4/25/06; Judiciary Committee Hearing Schedule, accessed 4/25/06]

  6. The GOP Congress has turned a blind eye to holding executives from the nation’s richest oil companies accountable. In November, when executives from the nation’s richest oil companies testified before the Senate Energy and Commerce Committees, Republican leaders refused to force them to testify under oath. [Cantwell Release, 11/8/05; CNNMoney, 11/9/05; Fox News, 11/17/05, CNN 11/17/05]

  7. Republican lawmakers who crafted the 2005 energy bill showered billions in tax breaks on oil and gas companies that that they later testified under oath they do not need. [Bloomberg, 7/29/05; Video Clip of March 2006 Oil and Gas Hearing, available here]

  8. In December, Senate Republicans – with Cheney casting the tiebreaking vote – adopted a budget package that included $20 million in cuts to Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program. [Vote 363, 12/21/05; House Budget Committee, Democratic Caucus Analysis, 12/22/05]

  9. Oil and gas companies are constantly lining the pockets of Washington Republicans and GOP candidates. In the 2004 election cycle alone, the oil and gas industry contributed more than $20 million to Republican candidates and incumbents. In the 2006 cycle, this number has already topped $6 million. [Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 4/24/06]

  10. The White House’s failure to properly plan for the war in Iraq has caused a disruption in the pre-war supply of 900,000 barrels of oil a day from Iraq, the largest single supply disruption that is leading to spikes in the price of oil. [CERA, 4/24/06]

I would also add that the Democrats have insisted for years, to much GOP resistance, a simple and effective solution: raise federal gas mileage standards! This is a valuable, free-market approach; and it is long overdue: the mileage standards haven’t changed since 1985! (Imagine using a computer or cell phone from that year—-now realize that the fuel-efficiency of your engines hasn't changed since.)

Democrats once again have the high ground, lets get this message out there!