Cartoon of the day

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 07/01/2018 - 12:00am in

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Cartoon of the day

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 01/01/2018 - 12:00am in

The Republican Long Game

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/12/2017 - 8:48am in

It isn’t easy watching the country you love fall down a black hole from which it is not likely to emerge, but that is precisely what happened this past week with the Senate passage of the so-called “tax reform” bill. Bernie Sanders spoke for many when he said it will “go down in history as one of the worst, most unfair pieces of legislation ever passed.” Continue reading

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Prager University Tries to Argue the Alt-Right Is Left-Wing through Semantics

This is another great little video from Kevin Logan. This time he’s attacking Prager University, which, as he points out, isn’t actually a university, but a right-wing propaganda site on the Net. It pumps out Christian fundamentalist, militaristic, neocon, reactionary propaganda.

They’re one of the various groups on the American right, who’ve tried to discredit Socialism by claiming that the Nazis were also socialists, because they had the word in their name. I’ve already put up several pieces about that, reblogging material showing that Hitler deliberately put the term ‘Socialist’ in the party’s name as a provocation to the genuinely socialist left. The Nazis, of course, were very definitely anti-Socialist, and the decision to adopt the word ‘socialist’ was strongly opposed by many in the early party, including its founder, Anton Drexler. Going further back, the nationalist intellectuals in the 1920s, who began publishing books about how the First World War was an ennobling experience, and who looked forward to a coming Reich, did indeed talk about ‘socialism’, but they made it clear that they were talking about the integration of the individual into society, in which people would work for the good of the great whole. They called it the ‘socialisation of men’, which they carefully distinguished from the socialisation of property and industry.

Apart from rounding up genuine socialists, communists and trade unionists as ‘Marxist Socialists’, along with other left-wing radicals, the Nazis also strongly supported free enterprise. They privatised a number of state enterprises during the Third Reich, and hailed the business elite as the biologically superior type of human, who had won their right to rule through the forces of Darwinian selection in the business world.

They were not at all socialist.

Now Prager U tries the same trick with the Alt-Right. The argument runs that because the ‘Alt’ stands for ‘Alternative’, it is therefore different from traditional American Conservativism, and so has more in common with the left. This is another lie. As Kevin Logan here states, the Alt-Right are just an even more poisonous version of Conservatism, and have nothing in common with the left.

This is just part of a long-running strategy the Republicans have been running for a few years now, in which they’re trying to deny the rampant and very obvious racism in their own ranks, and project it back on to the Democrats and those further left. In the case of the Democrats, this party was indeed the more right-wing of the two originally, and was the party of the Klan. But this was before Lyndon Johnson won over the Black vote by introducing Medicare, Medicaid and other welfare programmes. However, the Republicans have used this to try to argue that ‘progressive’ are responsible for racism, because of the racist history of parts of the Democrat party. Even though this was before Johnson’s reforms of the late ’60s.

K Street Taxpocalypse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/12/2017 - 3:46am in

Neglect founded on hypocrisy regarding the deficit implications of giant tax cuts is not new for the GOP.

How Access to Abortion Has Been Federally Limited

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/11/2017 - 4:51am in

 Guttmacher Institute

When Roe v. Wade made abortion legal for all women in 1973, Medicaid covered abortions just like other health care procedure. But three years later US Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), an abortion foe, attached an amendment to a Department of Health and Human Services appropriations bill to ban the use of Medicaid funds to provide abortions.

Hyde knew this would put abortion out of reach for many low-income women. “I certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion — a rich woman, a middle-class woman or a poor woman,” Hyde said at the time. “Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the … Medicaid bill.” In the 1990s three very narrow exceptions were added to Medicaid coverage of abortion: if a woman’s life is at risk, or if her pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

The Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funding for abortion services, was passed in 1976 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 1980. The legislation affects low-income women and particularly women of color who depend on Medicaid, the joint federal-state program that provides basic health-care services to people with limited resources. It is no accident that the most vulnerable women have the least choice.

Women of Color More Likely to be Uninsured or Covered by Medicaid, 2012 — Graph from Kaiser Family Foundation

The Hyde Amendment impacts all federal programs that provide or pay for women’s reproductive health services, including federal prisons and ICE detention centers; the Peace Corps; Indian Health Services; the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program; and the US military’s TRICARE program. There is also language in the Affordable Care Act that restricts the abortion coverage in plans sold through the marketplace and for women who receive federal income-based subsidies to buy private health insurance.

When women are denied abortion coverage by federally funded health-insurance programs, they often don’t have the money to pay out-of-pocket. In-clinic surgical abortions can cost up to $1,500 in the first trimester, or $3,000 in the second trimester. The cost in a hospital is often more. The abortion pill, known as a medication abortion, can cost as much as $975. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the average cost of a first-trimester surgical abortion in 2011 was $480, and an early medication abortion was $504. Nearly 60 percent of the women who delayed their procedures said it was because they had to raise the money or search for a low-cost provider. Others divert money that they and their families need to live on. In addition to the expense of the procedure, there is the cost of travel and missing work. One in four women is forced to carry her unwanted pregnancy to term.

The Hyde Amendment added a temporary “rider” to the Medicaid funding bill that is approved by Congress every year. And every year low-income women in general, and low-income women of color in particular, are disproportionately denied coverage to end unwanted pregnancies, except in extreme cases. Medicaid is the largest source of health-care funding for low-income and poor people in the United States. One in five of all women of reproductive age depend on Medicaid’s sexual and reproductive health services. In 2015, 31 percent of this group was black, 27 percent was Hispanic and 16 percent were white.

State Funding
While the Hyde Amendment bars Medicaid from using federal funds to cover abortion, states may use their own nonfederal funds. Seventeen states have a policy requiring the state to provide abortion coverage under Medicaid, but according to the Guttmacher Institute, just 15 states appear to be doing so in practice. In September 2017, Illinois became the first state in decades to enact a law that expanded Medicaid and state employee insurance to cover abortion.

Sixteen percent of the US military — more than 355,000 individuals — are women, most of whom are in their childbearing years. According to a military study last year, the rate of unwanted pregnancy in the armed services ranges from 50 to 62 percent, the same as in the civilian population.

TRICARE, the military health care program for service members, reservists and dependents, is supposed to cover birth-control pills and other forms of contraception, but access can be challenging. A study conducted in 2013 found that, among the women they surveyed, one-third could not get the birth control they wanted before deploying, and 41 percent had trouble refilling prescriptions while on duty. Getting pregnant is taboo “in theater,” when a woman is actively deployed, and it can derail her career. Even so, Congress made the ban on funding abortion services for servicewomen and their dependents permanent in 1984, except for life endangerment. An amendment introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in 2012 extended the coverage to cases of rape or incest. In all cases, the Department of Defense bans military treatment facilities from performing abortions, even if the patient pays out of pocket.

Indian Health Service
Some 2 million Native Americans get their health care from the Indian Health Service (IHS), which is funded through the Department of Health and Human Services. The IHS is often the only option on a remote reservation, but the federal government will allow abortion coverage only if a woman’s life is at risk or in cases of rape and incest. Even then, according to a 2014 report, 85 percent of the IHS Service Units the researchers contacted were out of compliance with the IHS abortion policy. Many IHS clinics do not have abortion facilities at all. For rural Native women the trip to a city to terminate a pregnancy can be prohibitively expensive, requiring transportation, often a waiting period, and overnight lodging.

Peace Corps
There are some 7,200 US citizens who volunteer for the Peace Corps. Of them, 63 percent are women. But until recently the federal government has prohibited coverage, with no exception, for abortion services requested by volunteers or trainees — many of whom live on a monthly stipend of $250 to $400. In 2015, coverage was expanded to include cases of rape, incest or life endangerment. If a volunteer decides to pay out-of-pocket for an abortion, however, there are no restrictions on funding a medical evacuation to a location where abortions are legal and there are adequate medical facilities.

Financial Help
For women struggling with the financial burden of an abortion procedure, there are organizations that offer help.

Although Medicaid covers abortion procedures in certain states, for most, that is only the case when a woman seeking an abortion became pregnant as a result of rape or incest, or is in a life-threatening health condition as a result of her pregnancy.

Clinics offer some financial assistance and there are local organizations in many states that offer help. The National Network of Abortion Funds helps women cover the cost of an abortion in 38 states. Some of the financial help NNAF provides is for the costs associated with an abortion beyond the procedure itself, such as travel, child care, lost work hours, feminine pads and pain medication for the recovery period.

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The GOP’s Big Problem Is Big Money

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/10/2017 - 3:05am in

This post originally appeared at The American Prospect.

There are lots of explanations for why Republicans have backed themselves into a corner both legislatively and politically, unable to either enact an agenda or to contain a populist uprising that now poses as great a threat to GOP incumbents as it does to Democrats. The most obvious issue is that the GOP’s intransigence, anti-government attacks and culture wars have unleashed a monster that Republicans can no longer control. But another, less apparent, problem that helps explain the GOP’s vicious cycle of paralysis and unpopularity has to do with big money.

As the champions of campaign-finance deregulation and unrestricted corporate spending, Republicans on Capitol Hill are now more in tune with their billionaire conservative donors than with the average GOP voters who rallied behind Trump. This shows up in both the shelved GOP health-care bill and in the pending Republican tax overhaul, which both cater to ultra-wealthy donors while ignoring that most Republicans actually support Medicaid and do not favor cutting taxes for the rich.

RELATED: Democracy & Government

Demonstrator Randall Grey protests a taxation of the wealthy during a rally at Occupy Wall Street San Diego on Oct. 13, 2011 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Corbis via Getty Images)

How Did We Become A Billionaires’ Republic?

BY Jedediah Purdy | July 21, 2017

Ousted Trump strategist Steve Bannon gestured to Republicans’ money problem on Tuesday, when GOP incumbent Luther Strange lost the Alabama primary to Christian conservative zealot Roy Moore in a stunning rebuke to the party establishment. Big spending outside groups allied with McConnell had spent more than $10 million to defeat Moore. “Who’s sovereign, the people or the money?” Bannon asked at Moore’s victory party.

Moore’s upset doubly stung Republicans because Trump had backed Strange, and because it coincided with the demise of GOP senators’ latest bill to repeal Obama’s signature health-care law. Both the primary and the GOP health-care failure are emboldening ultra-conservatives bent on challenging Republican incumbents in Senate primaries. This could make it easier for Democrats to pick up seats in the 2018 midterms, since some far-right Republicans could win primaries but prove too conservative to win a general election.

Vulnerable Senate Republicans, such as Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Dean Heller of Nevada, already face primary challenges from the right. Nasty and potentially costly primary battles could also be shaping up in Mississippi, Texas and Tennessee, where incumbent Sen. Bob Corker announced his retirement last week. Waiting in the wings to bankroll some of these challengers are deep-pocketed conservative donors like hedge-fund tycoon Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, a part owner of the far-right Breitbart News Network. The Mercers backed Moore in the Alabama primary, though they spent far less than McConnell and his allies.

This probably isn’t what McConnell had in mind when he helped convince the Supreme Court in 2010 to lift all limits on corporate political spending in its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.

This probably isn’t what McConnell had in mind when he helped convince the Supreme Court in 2010 to lift all limits on corporate political spending in its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling. The GOP calculus back then appeared to be that Republicans would have an easier time winning over corporate sugar daddies than Democrats would. Now some ultra-conservative billionaires are helping bankroll primary challengers in McConnell’s own party.

Big donors reportedly also played a key role in Republicans’ decision to hustle through a deeply flawed Senate bill to repeal the Obama health care law. Republican lawmakers are fond of warning that GOP voters will punish them if they didn’t follow through on their promises to repeal “Obamacare.” But behind the scenes, disappointed mega-donors appear to be the ones driving the repeal train. GOP governors and voters actually now broadly support Medicaid’s expansion, says Richard Fording, a political science professor at the University of Alabama, who noted that attacks on Obama resonate less with GOP voters now that he is no longer president.

“Just because you promised it six years ago doesn’t mean you have to follow through on it if voters changed their minds,” says Fording of the Obamacare repeal effort. Republicans, he added, “should be concerned about the election that’s happening in 2018, and not the one that happened in 2010.”

Congressional Republicans may also find it hard to sell to their party’s populist wing on a tax plan heavily tilted toward slashing taxes for corporations and the wealthy. The big-spending conservative group Americans for Prosperity, backed by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, is gearing up to spend millions to back the GOP tax overhaul. Yet large percentages of Republican voters favor raising corporate tax rates, not lowering them, and a majority think that taxes for those earning $250,000 a year should either stay the same or be raised.

It remains to be seen whether Democrats can capitalize on Republicans’ self-inflicted legislative failures and intra-party power struggles. Democrats have their own internal battles and cozy ties with big donors, while 10 Democratic senators are up for reelection in states won by Trump last year. But every GOP primary brawl drains Republican resources and creates a potential opening for Democrats. The Democrats’ ridicule of the GOP tax plan as “welfare” for the rich has a populist ring that is tailor made for the growing ranks of GOP primary challengers seeking to oust incumbent Republicans.

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Chris Sterry Reblogs Article in Autism Magazine on How American Parents Can Get Help

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/09/2017 - 1:23am in

One of the great commenters on this blog, 61chrissterry, also blogs himself about disability issues. Looking briefly at his site just now, I found an article he’d reblogged from Autism Parenting, an American magazine for the parents of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. These disorders cover autism, which can vary greatly in terms of severity, and Asperger’s, which is now increasingly seen as simply high-functioning autism. It’s a condition that affects many children. The current policy is to include autistic children, except when severely disabled, in mainstream schools, and teacher training now includes course on special needs children. These include autistic, dyslexic and children with Attention Deficit Disorder. The article in the magazine discusses ways parents can get help. It talks about the social security budget and the available funding for children with autism, and Medicaid. The article is about a course the writer attended in South Carolina.

I don’t know if this will be any help to anyone over the other side of the Pond with an autistic child, or has friends or relatives that do. But I mention it because it might, and it may interest British and European readers, who want to keep informed about what is going on internationally in the way autistic people are being treated by the state.