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Wednesday
Jul162014

Which is Worse - Government or Corporate Bureaucracy?

From Thom Hartmann

Libertarians have been saying for a long, long time that if we just get rid of government, everything will run a whole lot better. But if you get rid of government, corporations step in to fill the gap left by government. And the truth is, corporate bureaucracy, the kind of bureaucracy people have to deal with every day when they try to do something as simple as pay their credit card bill is just as bad - or even worse - than any government bureaucracy.

If you don't believe me, do yourself a favor and listen to Ryan Block's now-viral experience with Comcast customer service. All Block wanted to do was cancel his cable account and get on with his life, but the Comcast retention agent he was speaking to just wouldn't take "no" for answer." The conversation kept going on just like that for another eight minutes!

The amazing thing about this is that it's not amazing at all. I'm guessing pretty much everybody in America has had an experience like this with their cable company, bank, phone company, or some other giant, monopolistic entity. I know I have.


Tuesday
Jul082014

WA CD-3 Congresswoman Herrera Beutler: Moderate or Disengaged?

During the time she has been in Congress, Representative Herrera Beutler has had little success in legislating. She has cosponsored the following handful of bills which have become law. The vast majority of cosponsored bills (see below) are non controversial.

The congresswomen has been described as a moderate; however, it seems that she has made a conscious decision to engage in few, if any, courageous decisions that will benefit the majority of her constituents.

In 2011, Herrera Beutler chose not to cosponsor the Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who deliver Infants Early Reauthorization Act or the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act. However, after her child was born, she joined a "bipartisan group of lawmakers to advance care for children with complex medical conditions".

The Associated Press reports that her child "was born prematurely in July 2013 with Potter’s Syndrome, a kidney and lung condition that’s typically fatal. She received dialysis treatments at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., and will eventually need a kidney transplant."

H.R. 3187 (112th): March of Dimes Commemorative Coin Act of 2012

Sponsor: Rep. Bob Dold [R-IL10, 2011-2013]

Introduced: Oct 13, 2011

Signed by the President: Dec 18, 2012

H.R. 2453 (112th): Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act

Sponsor: Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer [R-MO3]

Introduced: Jul 07, 2011

Signed by the President: Dec 04, 2012

H.R. 2139 (112th): Lions Clubs International Century of Service Commemorative Coin Act

Sponsor: Rep. Peter Roskam [R-IL6]

Introduced: Jun 03, 2011

Signed by the President: Oct 05, 2012

H.R. 1905 (112th): Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012

Sponsor: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R-FL27]

Introduced: May 13, 2011

Signed by the President: Aug 10, 2012

H.R. 2527 (112th): National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act

Sponsor: Rep. Richard Hanna [R-NY22]

Introduced: Jul 14, 2011

Signed by the President: Aug 03, 2012

H.R. 886 (112th): United States Marshals Service 225th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act

Sponsor: Rep. Steve Womack [R-AR3]

Introduced: Mar 02, 2011

Signed by the President: Apr 02, 2012

H.R. 3421 (112th): Fallen Heroes of 9/11 Act

Sponsor: Rep. Bill Shuster [R-PA9]

Introduced: Nov 14, 2011

Signed by the President: Dec 23, 2011

H.R. 674 (112th): To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the imposition of 3 percent withholding on certain payments made to vendors by government entities, to modify the calculation of modified adjusted gross income for purposes of determin

Sponsor: Rep. Walter “Wally” Herger [R-CA2, 1987-2013]

Introduced: Feb 11, 2011

Signed by the President: Nov 21, 2011

H.R. 4 (112th): Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011

Sponsor: Rep. Daniel Lungren [R-CA3, 2005-2013]

Introduced: Jan 12, 2011

Signed by the President: Apr 14, 2011

H.R. 3370: Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014

Sponsor: Rep. Michael Grimm [R-NY11]

Introduced: Oct 29, 2013

Signed by the President: Mar 21, 2014

H.R. 3658: Monuments Men Recognition Act of 2014

Sponsor: Rep. Kay Granger [R-TX12]

Introduced: Dec 05, 2013

Signed by the President: Jun 09, 2014

H.R. 685: American Fighter Aces Congressional Gold Medal Act

Sponsor: Rep. Sam Johnson [R-TX3]

Introduced: Feb 14, 2013

Signed by the President: May 23, 2014

H.R. 324: To grant the Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the First Special Service Force, in recognition of its superior service during World War II.

Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller [R-FL1]

Introduced: Jan 18, 2013

Signed by the President: Jul 12, 2013

H.R. 360: To award posthumously a Congressional Gold Medal to Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley to commemorate the lives they lost 50 years ago in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where these 4 littl

Sponsor: Rep. Terri Sewell [D-AL7]

Introduced: Jan 23, 2013

Signed by the President: May 24, 2013

H.R. 1036: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 103 Center Street West in Eatonville, Washington, as the “National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson Post Office”.

Sponsor: Rep. David Reichert [R-WA8]

Introduced: Mar 07, 2013

Signed by the President: Jun 09, 2014

H.R. 1209: To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II members of the “Doolittle Tokyo Raiders”, for outstanding heroism, valor, skill, and service to the United States in conducting the bombings of Tokyo.

Sponsor: Rep. Pete Olson [R-TX22]

Introduced: Mar 15, 2013

Signed by the President: May 23, 2014

H.R. 2019: Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act

Sponsor: Rep. Gregg Harper [R-MS3]

Introduced: May 16, 2013

Signed by the President: Apr 03, 2014

On 7/28/2011— H.R. 2679 was introduced with 63 Democratic and Republican cosponsors. Congresswoman Herrera Beutler did not join as a cosponsor.

Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who deliver Infants Early Reauthorization Act or the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act - Amends the Public Health Service Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), acting through the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to expand, intensify, and coordinate NIH activities with respect to research on the causes of preterm labor and delivery, tools to detect, prevent, or reduce prevalence of preterm labor and delivery, and the care and treatment of preterm infants.

Establishes within NIH a multicenter clinical program to investigate problems in clinical obstetrics, improve the care and outcomes of neonates, and enhance the understanding of DNA and proteins as they relate to the underlying processes that lead to preterm birth.

Requires the Director to award grants for planning, establishing, improving, and providing basic operating support for transdisciplinary research centers for prematurity.

Requires the Secretary, acting through the Surgeon General, to establish and implement a national science-based provider and consumer education campaign on promoting healthy pregnancies and preventing preterm birth.

Reauthorizes provisions related to research on prematurity and preterm births and sets forth specific areas for such research.

Requires the Director of the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth to award grants to establish demonstration projects for: (1) obstetrical services for high risk women of child bearing age remotely using telehealth; and (2) educational activities regarding risk factors for preterm birth.

Expands a demonstration project to inform health care providers and the public and improve treatment and outcome for babies born preterm.

Requires the Secretary to establish the Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality.

Requires a study on hospital readmissions of preterm births.

From GovTrack.us

Tuesday
Jul012014

Yearning for Democracy

HONG KONG — Huge crowds of people held one of the largest marches in Hong Kong’s history on Tuesday to demand greater democracy, defying intermittent tropical downpours and Beijing’s dwindling tolerance for challenges to its control.

Monday
Jun302014

New Blueprint to Strengthen American Democracy

Press Release from Bipartisan Policy Center

Washington, D.C. - A bipartisan commission of former members of Congress, cabinet secretaries, governors, local leaders, and advocates unveiled a new blueprint to strengthen American democracy today. In a time of deep ideological divide in Washington and around the country, the commission’s more than 60 recommendations aim to increase confidence in U.S. elections, restore congressional debate and deliberation, and embrace Americans’ enthusiasm for public service.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform is co-chaired by former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and Trent Lott, former Senator Olympia Snowe, former Secretary Dan Glickman, and former Governor Dirk Kempthorne, and includes 24 other leaders from diverse professional and political backgrounds.

“With such deeply held contrasting principles, we as a country must ask: ‘Can our democracy function effectively in such a partisan era?’ We believe the answer is yes,” said the co-chairs in the report. “We come here today with the hope that our democracy will once again be able to respond to national challenges, despite our ideological differences.”

The report, Governing in a Polarized America: A Blueprint to Strengthen our Democracy, proposes redistricting commissions that have bipartisan support from the legislature and the electorate. The report also calls on states to increase the number of voters who cast ballots in primary elections from 20 to 35 percent of eligible voters by 2026, to create a common congressional primary date in June, to conduct more open primaries, and to eliminate low-turnout methods of candidate selection, like caucuses and conventions.

Through these reforms, the plan would tackle the sense of distrust that permeates the electoral process and reverberates into legislating in Washington.

Congressional gridlock is weakening America. The commission offers several reforms to encourage Congress to govern despite the sharp divisions between the parties. These include concurrent five-day work weeks for the House and Senate, a strengthened role for congressional committees, and a biennial budget process. To reorient the rules, procedures, and precedents of the body to improve deliberation, the commission calls for guaranteed consideration of a minimum of ten amendments offered by the majority and the minority and eliminates the filibuster on motions to proceed.

“The polarization in the United States runs deeply through its institutions, affects the ways Americans elect political leaders and how the institutions of government operate, and even puts in danger Americans’ deep-seated desire to serve their nation,” according to the report. “Engagement by the American people will be necessary to encourage policymakers to solve problems,” continued the co-chairs.

To engage more people in civic life, the commission encourages all Americans ages 18 to 28 to commit to one year of service that could be met by serving in programs like Americorps and the Peace Corps, running for political office, or serving in appointed office. The federal government must leverage additional resources to increase the supply of available positions in successful government-service programs that currently turn away countless applicants.

The administration should also open political appointments to the widest possible pool of applicants and not impose undue burdens on those seeking positions in public office. For federal appointees, only the top policymaking roles in the various departments and agencies should require confirmation by the Senate. To ensure that efforts are made to foster young leaders in politics, ample training and resources should be provided to young candidates running competitive races at the local, state, and federal level.

“We present a series of ideas that can generate true bipartisan support while remaining mindful of the political divisions that define the country and the political imperatives that influence the decisions of elected leaders,” writes the commission. “Taken together, these recommendations have the potential to transform the nation’s politics and civic life. The result will be a stronger, more united country that is better equipped to meet the challenges of our times.”

Monday
Jun302014

Can Eva Longoria Start a Latino Political Movement?

Press Release published by the Washington Post

Building on record-breaking fundraising numbers, an expanded donor base and a historically high number of Latino voters in the 2012 presidential election, a progressive Latino group is set to officially begin efforts to expand the reach of Latino voters and candidates in the 2014 cycle and beyond.

Founded by actress and advocate Eva Longoria and Henry R. Munoz III, a businessman and finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the Latino Victory Project includes the Latino Victory PAC, a political arm that will back a slate of candidates who embody “a pro-Latino agenda and values” on issues such as immigration reform, the environment, the economy and health care.

“We want to build political power within the Latino community and institutionalize what happened in 2012. There needs to be a movement right now,” Longoria said. “We can really exercise the potential, because people see the demographic shift and are now saying, ‘Hi, Mr. Garcia. Hi, Mrs. Lopez.’ We want to make sure the names on the ballot reflect that power.”

To that end, the PAC will back a slate of seven Latino candidates — Reps. Joe Garcia (Fla.), Pete Gallegos (Tex.) and Raul Ruiz (Calif.); Amanda Renteria, who is running for Congress in California; and Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, who is running for lieutenant governor; Texas state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, who also is running for lieutenant governor; and Angel Taveras, the mayor of Providence, R.I., who is running for governor.

Charlie Crist, who is running for his old job as governor of Latino-heavy Florida, also will receive the group’s support.

Although 11 million Latinos cast ballots in the 2012 election, about 12 million stayed away, and Latinos still vote at a lower rate than any other group. That same year, Latino elected officials did make gains nationwide, in state legislatures and in Congress, with a record 31 now serving in Congress, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Yet their representation in Congress is below 17 percent, the make-up of Latinos in the general population.

“The disparity is so stark and that’s why we have to begin developing the pipeline now, not only for 2014 but laying groundwork that will take us to 2016 and then to 2020,” said Cristobal Alex, president of the Latino Victory Project. “That is the year for us when Latinos will be in a position to influence the Oval Office. Our vision for 2020 is that we will have a record number of Latino voters to help influence redistricting and to help drive and influence policy for the balance of the century. This will take some time.”

But, Longoria pointed out, Latinas remain especially under-represented.No Hispanic woman has ever been elected to the U.S. Senate, nine currently serve in the House, and Republican Susana Martinez of New Mexico is the only Latina in the United States to be elected governor.

“It’s bad for Latinos overall, but Latinas are almost nonexistent in the political world,” she said. “It is my personal mission to make sure that Latinas are in the pipeline.”

The stepped-up emphasis on candidates and turnout come as both parties are clamoring for female voters and as the American electorate is on the cusp of a massive demographic shift, with non-whites set to become the majority by 2050, and Latinos, who could be 30 percent of the population if current trends continue, accounting for much of the growth.

More immediately, Democrats face an uphill climb in rallying the young, black and brown voters who made up the winning coalition for President Obama, with key Senate races being fought in red states, and few issues resonating viscerally with voters in the way that the Affordable Care Act has for Republicans.

But Republicans face their own challenges in broadening their appeal beyond the older, whiter more Southern demographic that powered a GOP wave election in 2010 and remains crucial to the party’s chances in November.

In addition to backing its own candidates, the Latino Victory Project will spend $20 million to target Republican candidates who face a sizable Latino electorate, yet oppose comprehensive immigration reform.

The group grew out of the Futuro Fund, which raised $30 million for Obama’s reelection and created a new cadre of high- and low-dollar donors, with 150,000 Latinos contributing.

Among the specific initiatives is a program called “The Firsts,” which will focus on Latinos who are the first in their families and communities to reach educational and professional milestones, a designation that often falls to the eldest daughter, who Alex said is often the “CEO in the family.”

“By 2016, we want 100,000 of the firsts,” Alex said. “And they will elevate the first Lucy Flores, the first Leticia Van De Putte.”

Indeed, sparking the kind of movement Longoria envisions means engaging Latinas.

“Women definitely make the household decisions, economic decisions, educational decisions, and in turn, that correlates with the political decisions,” she said.

For Flores, running in Nevada and generating buzz in the Beltway as Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D) eyes the playing field for 2016, the support of a high-profile group with Longoria’s imprimatur is likely to expand her reach.

“One of the tough things about being a woman and a woman of color is that the infrastructure isn’t always there, and especially someone like me, who doesn’t come from a political family,” sid Flores, who campaigned for Obama with Longoria in 2012. “Having the Latino Victory Project provides support and structure. I think that the way it’s going to be most beneficial is that it’s going to provide a platform in Nevada and nationally to get my name out there and really help the momentum and the fundraising that the campaign needs.”

Longoria has nearly 7 million Twitter followers and has used her Twitter feed to promote “Devious Maids,” a show on Lifetime that she produces, and also to promote politics. She recently retweeted Van De Putte, whom she has supported in Texas in the past.

But she’s aware that Hollywood doesn’t always play in Texas, where Van de Putte, a longshot, lags in fundraising and in the polls.

“I am very, very careful about not falling into the ‘What does that Hollywood actress think?’ trap,” she said. “But I remember somebody coming up to me during the president election and saying that they didn’t know who Newt Gingrich was until I said his name on Twitter. So the reach that I have is very different from the candidate.”

Texas, with its 38 electoral votes, remains the biggest political prize for Democrats, yet the Lone Star state has remained solidly red. The state’s brightest stars are Latinos, among them Sen. Ted Cruz; George P. Bush, who is running for Texas land commissioner; and twin brothers Joaquin Castro, a congressman, and Julian, who is mayor of San Antonio.

In Texas, Democrats don’t have a solid lock on Latinos; 40 percent backed Gov. Rick Perry in 2010.

Van de Putte, said in the long term, the PAC’s efforts will help lay the groundwork for a more sustained effort among Latino voters that could also boost her chances in November.

“This helps me make contact with Latinos who don’t know that Leticia Van de Putte is actually Leticia San Miguel Van de Putte,” she said. “I’m going to need that core support from Latinos and to up that participation rate.”

Thursday
May082014

Voting Rights Update

From the Brennan Center for Justce

Arizona/Kansas – A federal judge this week refused to suspend his order restricting registration rules in Arizona and Kansas. The Brennan Center and other voting rights groups are appealing the ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If the order goes into effect, voters in both states will need to provide proof of citizenship when signing up using a federal registration form. The Center represents the League of Women Voters U.S. and its state affiliates in the case.

Arkansas – A state judge twice ruled a voter ID law unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court stayed the decision, however, meaning the requirement will be in effect for the May 20 primary. The litigation is expected to continue this summer.

California – A county judge Wednesday ordered the state to restore voting rights to tens of thousands of Californians who had been “illegally stripped” of their rights two years ago.

Missouri – Early voting supporters claimed they turned in more 300,000 signatures — nearly double what is required — for a ballot initiative establishing early voting. Republican lawmakers are also pushing an early-voting initiative, but their version includes fewer early voting days. Both plans could appear on the November ballot, and if they’re both approved, the one that receives the most votes would become law.

Nevada – A state court judge this week rewrote the description of a ballot initiative to amend Nevada’s constitution to require a photo ID to vote. Opponents had challenged the language, arguing it “failed to inform voters of possible costs and didn’t specify the types of identification that would be necessary,” the Associated Press reported.

Ohio – The ACLU and several other groups challenged Ohio’s curbs on early voting and same-day registration, arguing the restrictions violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because they discriminate against minorities. “In 2012, 157,000 Ohioans cast ballots during early voting hours eliminated by the Ohio GOP,” wrote The Nation’s Ari Berman. “Blacks in Ohio were far more likely than whites to vote early in 2008 and 2012.” There also may have been a partisan motive in choosing which voters to educate about the new rules, according to documents revealed this week by Salon. Emails show officials in the secretary of state’s office discussed sending voter education materials only to GOP-aligned groups and excluded minority groups.

Pennsylvania – A state court judge last week declined to reconsider his January ruling striking down the state’s photo ID law. If the governor appeals, the suit will head next to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

More information at brennancenter@nyu.edu

Tuesday
Apr292014

Unified Solutions. National Impact.

From the Bipartisan Policy Center

A healthy, civil debate among those with differing viewpoints is the engine of our democracy. In the face of growing polarization, BPC remains steadfast in its mission to demonstrate the possibility and power of bipartisan solutions.

Download the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) 2013 Annual Report to see highlights of their recent work and accomplishments:

http://bipartisanpolicy.org/2013-annual-report?_cldee=cmlnaHQyYmhlYXJkQGdtYWlsLmNvbQ%3d%3d&utm_source=ClickDimensions&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2013%20Annual%20Report

BPC exists to advance the debate by digging deeper and pressing further and faster than is often possible inside government. They then provide space for policymakers to engage in ideas that stray from single-party orthodoxy. Their efforts demonstrate what can be accomplished when experts and passionate advocates are brought together in an environment that enables constructive deliberation.

 

 

Monday
Apr212014

Playing Politics With the Pay Gap

...the 77-cents figure (often used by the White House) is not a statistic comparing men and women’s salaries for doing the same work. It is an aggregation of salaries for all full-time men and women. And the same is true for the 88-cents figure that Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn used for the White House. That’s what women earn for every dollar men make for all positions, not for doing “comparable work.”

Read what Robert Farley at factcheck.org says about disparity in pay by gender at http://www.factcheck.org/2014/04/playing-politics-with-the-pay-gap/ before arguing your position. The links provided, by this website (in the upper right column), will help the reader research facts.

 

Saturday
Apr122014

Rand Study Confirms 9.3 Million Newly Insured

The long-awaited Rand Corp. study of Obamacare's effect on health insurance coverage was released Tuesday (April 8, 2014) and confirmed the numbers that had been telegraphed for more than a week: At least 9.3 million more Americans have health insurance now than in September 2013, virtually all of them as a result of the law.

That's a net figure, accommodating all those who lost their individual health insurance because of cancellations. The Rand study confirms other surveys that placed the number of people who lost their old insurance and did not or could not replace it -- the focus of an enormous volume of anti-Obamacare rhetoric -- at less than 1 million. The Rand experts call this a "very small" number, less than 1% of the U.S. population age 18 to 64.

The Rand study was eagerly anticipated in part because of the dearth of hard information from other sources, including the federal and state governments, which are still compiling their statistics and may not have a full slate for months.

Michael Hiltzik
http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-rand-20140408,0,6208659.column#ixzz2ygf88NJk


Thursday
Jan302014

Two Bills in Washington Legislature Could Impact Supreme Court

From the Brennan Center for Justice

Two bills affecting the Washington State Supreme Court made progress last week. Gavel to Gavel reports that a public financing bill was introduced in the Washington legislature last Monday. State lawmakers have tried repeatedly to pass various public financing bills since 2007, but efforts were “stymied by a state law that required tax increases receive a 2/3rds majority of the House and Senate.That 2/3rds requirement was struck down in 2013 and now the effort for public financing has returned as HB 2525 of 2014.”

The public financing bill introduced in the 2009-2010 session was effectively killed when the Lieutenant Governor, acting as Senate President, ruled that the law’s $3 filing fee was technically a tax, and therefore subject to the 2/3rds requirement. Legislation submitted in 2011-2012 did not even make it out of committee, and no public financing bills were introduced in 2013. HB 2525 is scheduled for a public hearing on January 31st before the House Committee on Government Operations & Elections.

Additionally, the state Senate’s Law and Justice Committee heard testimony last Wednesday on a bill that would shrink the Supreme Court from nine to seven members. “The timing of this bill isn’t entirely coincidental,” said Senator Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane). “It was developed partially in response to the recent egregious examples of the court inserting itself into the budget-writing process of the Legislature.”

Two years ago, the Court ordered the Legislature to spend more on K-12 education. Senator Baumgartner added, “We’re on a very slippery slope with the court inserting itself into the domain of the Legislature.” The senator argued Washington justices have the lightest workloads in the county, so there is no need for the two extra seats that could save $2 million annually if cut. Larry Shannon of the Washington State Association of Justice worries the proposed cuts could damage the independence of the judiciary. “Washington’s supreme court is recognized as one of the most independent in the country and I believe there is a direct correlation between the size of the court and the degree of its independence.”

 

Sources: Bill Raftery, Washington State Supreme Court ruling is putting public financing of Supreme Court races back on legislative agenda, Gavel to Gavel, January 24, 2014;  HB 2525 - 2013-14, Washington State Legislature; Jeff Rhodes, Baumgartner hoping to cut Supreme Court down to size, The Olympia Report, January 23, 2014.