Tag Archive: Congress

Mar 02 2017

Yes, Trump’s Speech Was Normal

Yesterday, pundits were drooling over Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of congress calling his ability to read off a teleprompter without going off script and into a angry rant. They were focused on his tone which sounded “presidential.” The reality is that the substance of his speech was normal for him. It was …

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Dec 12 2016

You Can’t Say You Weren’t Warned

As we’ve reported here, the Republicans want to privatize Medicare by issuing vouchers to seniors to buy health insurance on the open market. Emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, who campaigned on not touching Medicare or Social Security, and the nomination of Representative Tom Price (R-GA) to head HHC, the House put forth a …

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Dec 09 2016

Of Shoes And Ships And Sealing-Wax

The government may be facing a shutdown by the Senate Democrats and with good reason. It seems the House Republicans, in passing a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government operational through April 2017, removed two provisions that could result in a filibuster in the Senate. Those provisions would protect the health coverage of retired …

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Jun 22 2016

Protecting The 2nd Amendment At Any Price

On Monday the Senate voted on four bills on gun control. Needless to say, the wholly owned Senate defeated even the most reasonable measure that would have closed the loop hole in back ground checks at gun shows and on line. Instead Congress panders to the right wing gun lovers and idiots who think that …

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Mar 20 2016

Rant of the Week: Larry Wilmore – Do Your Job, Congress

Larry pleads with members of Congress to do their jobs after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to act on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. I find anyone who has the support of Orrin Hatch unsuitable for any office or position in our government.

Mar 01 2016

Time to Drub Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Out of the Democratic Party

The current chairperson of the Democratic Party, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is part of the reason Democrats are losing in congressional and state races. She exemplifies the truth in President Harry Truman’s statement that “given the choice between a republican and a democrat who acts like a republican, the voter will choose a republican every time.”  DWS …

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Feb 25 2016

Things That Come Back To Bite You

The Republicans, led by former and future House Speakers John “Orange Man” Boehner (R-OH) and Paul “Zombie Eyed Granny Starver” Ryan (R-WI), pushed to fast track the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement because who doesn’t love free trade. Now that the secret negotiations are over and the the full text is now available, the love affair …

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Oct 02 2015

They Need to Do More Than Pray

The mass shooting yesterday at a small community college in Roseberg, Oregon, took the lives of nine people and the gunman, despite the fact that there were students in nearby classrooms who were carrying guns themselves. Despite arguments by gun activists, that didn’t deter or stop the shooter until police arrived. This has become routine in the United States to the point that it should be considered an epidemic. This latest mass murder is the 994th since the mass murder of 26 students and teachers in Sandy Hook, Connecticut in December, 2012. There have been nearly 300 shooting that have taken four or more lives, the FBI criteria for a mass shooting, so far in this year alone. In the face of these horrific statistics what have our government representatives done? Nothing except pray and criticize anyone calling for better gun control laws as politicizing the lives of the victims.

It is not just mass shootings that are the problem:

While conservatives are busying trying to shutdown any debate on gun control following the 45th school shooting this year by yelling about Chicago’s murder rates – apparently unaware that Chicago is the third largest city in the country but not even in the top five cities with the highest murder rate per capita – and reflexively decrying any mention of gun control as a “gun grab,” what if we just entertained their wildest conspiracy theories for just a bit?

A 2015 study found that when guns are used to kill people in the United States, they are overwhelmingly used for murder rather than self-defense. That study found that in 2012, there were only 259 justifiable homicides, or what is commonly referred to as self-defense, compared to 8,342 criminal firearm homicides. In 2008-2012, the report says, guns were used in 42,419 criminal homicides and only 1,108 justifiable homicides.

We are told by pundits and politicians that nothing can be done because of the Second Amendment. That is pure nonsense. Laws requiring strict licensing and ban on ownership of certain weapons, such as semi-automatic assault type weapons, have been on the books in cities like New York for years and have withstood court challenges. Tightening the sale of guns at guns shows and by individuals without adequate regulation and background checks of the buyers needs to be made federal law. Requiring a person to demonstrate that they are qualified to own the weapon they are buying by showing that they have attended classes in safety and handling by a certified instructor would go a long way in curbing some of the accidental incidents as well.

The idea pushed by the NRA and gun manufacturers that better and smarter gun laws won’t make a difference is a myth. Just look what Australia did after a mass shooting that took 35 lives in 1996. They passed 12 new gun laws and regulations within days after the shooting:

The National Firearms Agreement and Buyback Program, as the package of legislation was called, prohibited the sale of shotguns as well as semiautomatic and self-loading rifles. Waiting periods and safety courses became mandatory for new gun owners and limits on the sale of ammunition were imposed.

Most importantly, perhaps, the legislation allocated $250 million for a gun buyback program, allowing for newly outlawed rifles and shotgun to be destroyed by the Australian government. Ultimately more than 640,000 firearms were either purchased by the Australian government or voluntarily handed in.

And it worked.

In the years after the Port Arthur massacre, gun-related homicides decreased 7.5 percent per year while suicide by gun dropped by a whopping 80 percent (pdf) until the the risk of dying by gunshot in Australia fell by more than 50 percent in the decade following the attacks.

It didn’t completely stop the incidents but there have only been six people killed in mass shooting since the laws were passed.

America could do the same if we demand it of our elected officials but first end Americas obsession with guns to debunk the myths of the NRA and gun nuts that guns keep us safer. They don’t.

Full disclosure: I am a licensed gun owner.

Jul 28 2015

Is Congressional Push to Reduce Mandatory Prison Sentences Enough?

Recently President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 46 non-violent drug offenders which was the largest clemency granted since 1960. This was a drop in the bucket considering nearly half of the 207,000 men and women in the federal prison system are serving sentences for drug crimes. Mandatory minimum sentencing arouse in the 70’s and 80’s during the height of the drug epidemic in this country that saw a dramatic increase in crime.

Congress is now considering two bipartisan bills to scale back mandatory sentences.

As senators work to meld several proposals into one bill, one important change would be to expand the so-called safety-valve provisions that give judges discretion to sentence low-level drug offenders to less time in prison than the required mandatory minimum term if they meet certain requirements.

Another would allow lower-risk prisoners to participate in recidivism programs to earn up to a 25 percent reduction of their sentence. Lawmakers would also like to create more alternatives for low-level drug offenders.

While theses bills are commendable they fall far short of addressing the whole problem, John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” points out in this week’s segment:

“Ridiculously long sentences are not a great deterrent to crime,” Oliver said. “Prison sentences are a lot like penises: If they’re used correctly, even a short one can do the trick – is a rumor I have heard.” [..]

There should be a lot more pardons and commutations. But if we really want to address this problem permanently, we need states and the federal government, not just to repeal mandatory minimums going forward, but to also pass laws so that existing prisoners can apply for retroactively reduced sentences.

Because almost everyone has agreed that mandatory minimum laws were a mistake. And we cannot have a system where people are continuing to pay for that mistake  – and where perhaps their best chance of getting out of a prison that they should no longer be in is somehow finding a turkey costume and hanging around the fucking White House at Thanksgiving.

VOX‘s German Lopes has an excellent background article as a follow-up to John Oliver’s segment.  

Jun 23 2015

John Oliver Saves the Chickens

A couple of weeks ago HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver took the chicken industry over the coals for a thorough roasting, uncovering facts that the public may not have known, the exploitation of contract chicken farmers, most of whom living below the poverty line.

Lo and behold, his genius satirical take down had an effect:

Comedian influences Ag Bill, members of Congress say

By Jonathan A. Capriel, Scripts Howard

The Department of Agriculture may be able to protect chicken farmers from industry retaliations in 2016, and satirical news anchor John Oliver may be part of the reason.

A draft of the 2016 Agriculture Appropriations Bill was unanimously approved by a House subcommittee Thursday.

It passed without any amendments that might prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture from punishing meatpacking companies if they use deceptive practices against contract livestock and poultry farmers.

Part of the credit goes to the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” some members of Congress said.

On his show last month, the comedian criticized contracts that poultry producers, including Tyson Foods, Sanderson Farms, and Perdue, have their chicken farmers sign. [..]

These contract farms take out loans to build facilities, buy equipment and chicken feed – usually from the meat processing companies. The farmers are paid to raise the chickens, but they don’t get to sell them. The company owns the animals. Some farmers say they don’t make enough money in this system, but are usually in so much debt they can’t leave it.

The companies also force farmers to compete with each other. Lower-performing farms get less money. [..]

But Oliver also took a jab at members of Congress, who he said, have “fought efforts to protect chicken farmers” by adding riders to appropriations bills.

He told viewers that anyone on the House Appropriations Committee who votes against an amendment giving USDA power to protect farmers was a “chicken f–.” Oliver said this while flashing images of each of the committee members with their states and party affiliations.

The clip has gotten nearly 3 million views on You Tube. [..]

It’s still a long way from passage. The bill still has to pass the full House Committee on Appropriations, where it could be amended. It then must pass the full House and go through the same process in the Senate. If it weren’t fro John Oliver, the bill would never have been written. It’s good to know that someone in Congress watches these left wing programs.

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