Sunday, June 26, 2011

If Republicans really wanted to protect the Constitution they'd just do it

The president I voted for is not above the law and it is up to Congress to see it that he obeys the constitution. Under Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution only Congress has the power to declare war. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war.

The United States House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans, has failed to either authorize the war in Libya or to hold President Obama accountable, that makes them both wrong. It seems that Representative Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House and Eric Cantor (R-VA) as majority leader find it more useful politically to complain about the President’s actions than to actually take the steps necessary to do something about it.

This Congress like every other that has had the chance to weigh in on military action since 1973, has abdicated its authority and allowed the sitting president to make war as he sees fit. If the Republican leadership in the House doesn’t have the political courage to force the issue then the cowards should at least stop whining about it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

99.5% pure water can kill you

In his letter “Dismiss Fracking Myths” Eric Milito says that the hydraulic fracturing fluids are “99.5 percent water and sand” or .5% other chemicals. I suppose this is intended to persuade us that regardless of what else is in the fluid it can’t be bad because there is so little in it.

I just checked the packaging on the Amdro I bought yesterday to kill the ants climbing into my home and it says the 99.12% of the material is “inert ingredients” or .88% poison yet the instructions carefully caution the user not to get any on their skin. It also says not to let animals graze on the grass where Amdro is spread and don’t eat vegetables that may have been dusted with it.

One of the contaminants that hydraulic fracturing may let loose is benzene which is a known carcinogen and can cause leukemia among other forms of cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency has set 5 parts per billion as the maximum permissible level of benzene in drinking water. That’s approximately equal to one drop in 8,000 gallons of water or 5 drops in the neighborhood swimming pool.

I don’t know about you but I don’t find Mr. Milito’s nonchalant attitude toward contaminating our water supply all that reassuring.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Weiner resigned now it's time for Clarence Thomas to go also

The media went crazy for weeks over naughty pictures Rep. Antony Weiner (D-NY) sent via twitter and now he has resigned. Why hasn’t the bigger scandal of Justice Clarence Thomas’ unethical and illegal behavior had as much or more attention given the power he has as one of only nine Supreme Court Justices?

52 years ago Justice Abe Fortas resigned in disgrace for accepting gifts from wealthy patrons who had interest in cases heard before the Supreme Court. Thomas has taken gifts valued in the tens of thousands of dollars from Harlen Crow and the American Enterprise Institute just to name a few. Since presenting its gift the American Enterprise Institute has filed three briefs in cases before the Supreme Court and Thomas has ruled in their favor every time. Whether or not it was quid pro quo the appearance of a conflict should have been enough for Thomas to recuse himself but he didn’t.

Clarence Thomas also lied when he repeatedly failed to disclose his wife’s hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings from her job at the Heritage Foundation as he is legally required to do. So why is it that the media in this country is far more interested in satisfying our prurient interests than it is in doing its job as America’s watch dog?

Now that you know about Justice Thomas’ lies, unethical and illegal behavior will you call for him to resign like Anthony Weiner and Abe Fortas before him?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dismantling the Social Safety Net - A Republican Theme

Not only do Lamar Smith (R-TX) and the Republican Party want to destroy Medicare which provides guaranteed health care to millions of American seniors, now Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) has filed a bill to dismantle Social Security as well by turning it into a privatized system. Sessions calls it the SAFE Act but it should be labeled the UNSAFE Act due to its failure to protect seniors by ensuring that they have enough income to avoid poverty in their last years. Just think the benefits guaranteed by our current system would instead become bets in the casino known as Wall Street.

I don’t know about you but my private investments in mutual funds still haven’t fully recovered from the losses caused by the Great Recession. Let’s not forget that these are the same folks who also believe that Wall Street is over-regulated even though we’ve had to jail Bernie Madoff and numerous others for stealing from investors who will never receive full restitution. Even Alan Greenspan now admits that lax regulation of Wall Street didn’t work.

Do you want to trust the financing of your last years to that bunch of sharks? Are you willing to risk having nothing at 78 years old?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Reponse to letter to the editor in the Herald-Zeitung

Arvin Brehm’s recent letter to the editor he says, “Obama took $500 billion from Medicare to pay for the so-called health care bill that the Democrats passed”. That is a patently false assertion, the $500 billion referred to is from restraining growth in spending as shown here by

“Growth in future spending of the program is being restrained to less than it would be under current law, over 10 years. But seniors’ basic Medicare benefits packages wouldn’t be cut – in fact, the law doesn’t allow it: Section 3601 says: ‘Nothing in the provisions of, or amendments made by, this Act shall result in a reduction of guaranteed benefits under title XVIII of the Social Security Act’ (the part of the U.S. Code that establishes the Medicare program).”

The savings comes from reducing payments to for profit insurance companies who offer Medicare Advantage which provides additional benefits and often unnecessary inducements like health club memberships. The insurance companies get an extra 15% above what Medicare would pay for similar benefits.

Brehm also takes issue with my claim that the Ryan plan is terrible but then doesn’t refute any of my reasons for saying that. The Ryan plan makes no provision for requiring private insurers to cover people like me with several chronic conditions or those with a history of heart attacks or other acute medical issues. The Ryan plan would cause millions of seniors to lose access to any kind of health insurance at all.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Religious right wrong again - many faithful support Separation of Church and State

In all of the hullabaloo over prayer at the Medina Valley High School graduation ceremony much was made about the young man who instigated the legal challenge being agnostic. Attorney General Dewhurst was quoted in this paper claiming “Coinciding with these concerns about the erosion of values have been attempts by atheists and agnostics to use courts to eliminate from the public landscape any and all references to God whatsoever”.

Well I’ve got news for your readers while Mr. Schultz is unabashedly agnostic the organization he turned to for help and which eventually filed the lawsuit is headed by Reverend Barry Lynn, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Rev. Lynn supports separation of church and state on the grounds that it protects his faith from interference by government.

Last month the San Antonio chapter of Americans United held a celebration of the First Amendment at which Rev. Lynn addressed Freedom of Religion. In addition to Rev. Lynn there was a panel of members of the San Antonio faith community including Rabbi Sam Weiss, Rev. Paul Zeise (a Lutheran) and Dr. Javier Elizondo, Professor of Biblical/Theological Studies at Baptist University of the Americas. All supported the separation of church and state that Dewhurst and his radical right supporters dismiss.

Next time anyone says that only atheists and agnostics support separation of church and state ask one of the fine members of the local faith community for their view.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Texas Republicans, are they really patriots?

Republicans including our own Representative John Kuempel often talk about being patriots, they talk the talk but do they walk the walk? They’ve cut the budget and setup a tax system in which there is little to be gained by raising local tax rates beyond a certain point because the state will just shift funds away from that district.

One of the grievances against Mexico in the Texas Declaration of Independence says: “It has failed to establish any public system of education, although possessed of almost boundless resources, (the public domain,) and although it is an axiom in political science, that unless a people are educated and enlightened, it is idle to expect the continuance of civil liberty, or the capacity for self government.”

The Texas Constitution, Article 7, Section 1 says “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

It sounds to me like the citizens who wrote Texas Declaration of Independence and the Texas Constitution felt very strongly that educating Texans is an obligation not only to the youth of this state but to all its citizens. People always think protecting freedom is just about the military, but really it starts and ends with free public education for all.

So ask yourselves is John Kuempel really a patriot?