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The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

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Common Sense Wins, Susan G. Komen Foundation Reverses Decision

This morning the Susan G. Komen foundation reversed it’s decision and will honor its pledge to Planned Parenthood and the thousands of women who have no other means of health care.  If some out there question whether Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of social media matter, this is another example that shows the power of the masses.  In the last few months we have seen corporations like Verizon and Bank of America reverse decisions to impose new fees and now this, all based on outrage created online.

Now that people are paying attention, we must ask ourselves why in the United States do some women (or people in general) need to count on charity for health care?

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The Real Susan. G. Komen Foundation

Yesterday I posted on my Facebook page that the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the group that has “The Race For The Cure” and started the pink ribbon campaign, announced they were cutting all the money they give to Planned Parenthood for mammograms and breast cancer screenings.  There is outrage all over the internet that a charity has given in to political pressure.

Planned Parenthood has been on the Republican’s radar since 2010 because they provide abortion services at some of their facilities.  The facts are that only 3% of all of their services have anything to do with abortion, and it is illegal for them to use any of the money they receive from the government to go to those services.  Planned Parenthood is the only health provider for many women in poor urban settings.  Defunding Planned Parenthood, as every Republican presidential candidate says they will do, is taking an essential healthcare provider for women out of the neighborhoods that need it most.

Now let’s get back the Susan G. Komen foundation.  I don’t think we should be surprised by this move.  It fits in perfectly with what the mission of founder Nancy Brinker has been.  Let’s look at some facts about this foundation.

  • Brinker was a top donor to George W. Bush when he ran for Governor of Texas as well as when he ran for President.  As a thank you for her money she was appointed the ambassador of Hungary.
  • The Komen Foundation has lobbied Congress AGAINST a patients bill of rights since the 1980’s.
  • Komen uses lobbyist Rae Evans in Washington.  Evans is also the lobbyist for Brinker’s husband’s businesses which include Chili’s, Steak and Ale, and Bennigan’s.  Evans has said himself he has no use for advocacy or grassroots organizations.  Brinker’s husband, also on the board of the foundation, has used his ties to his business and the National Restaurant Association (now of Herman Cain fame) to lobby and fight again numerous health care bills that would have helped the women the Komen foundation pretends to represent.  The Komen foundation also just happens to own almost $200,000 in Brinker’s husbands restaurant business.
  • In Food and Drug Administration hearings, the Komen Foundation was the only national breast cancer group to endorse the cancer treatment drug tamoxifen despite being opposed by other breast cancer groups because of its links to uterine cancer. The company that produces the drug, AstraZeneca, has long been a Komen supporter, making educational grants to Komen and having a visible presence at the Race For the Cure.
  • The Komen foundation has tried over the years in Washington to deny any link between the environment and cancer even though there are studies that show a link.  Could the reason be that chemical giant Occidental Corporation gives the Komen Foundation 4000 square feet of offices in Dallas?  Publicly the foundation will talk in platitudes about the environment but with Occidental they lobbied in 2000 and 2001 for looser EPA air, water and chemical regulations at the same time government researchers reported auto and industrial emissions caused cancer.
  • Komen’s new VP is Karen Handel.  She is a Republican who ran for Governor of Georgia.  She has always had Planned Parenthood on her radar, and now she has a chance to do real damage.  She said  “I will be a pro-life governor who will work tirelessly to promote a culture of life in Georgia. … I believe that each and every unborn child has inherent dignity, that every abortion is a tragedy, and that government has a role, along with the faith community, in encouraging women to choose life in even the most difficult of circumstances. …since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.”

There are a lot of good people trying to do a lot of good work in defeating cancer and in this case breast cancer.  Many charities have ties to politicians and Washington.  I don’t want to make it sound like the Susan G. Komen foundation is alone in that.  However, they are alone in that they seem to stand with only one political party and with one way of thinking.  Over the last 30 years while giving millions to help women with breast cancer they have used their money and political clout to also setback women’s health at many different turns.  Their board members sit on boards of General Electric, pharmaceutical companies, and companies that have in the past put profits over healthcare.  That is their mission as a corporation, and we can deal with that.  We should not have to deal with charities taking money from well meaning people and giving to the people who at the best are not helping and at the worst may be increasing the amount of cancer victims in the United States.  Do your research and find a charity that gives to the cause you stand for, and we will all be better off for it.

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What Obama Needs To Say Tonight

Tonight is the President’s State of The Union Address. In an election year, you can call this the election kickoff speech. There are some things that he should say that would be a very easy sell to the American people and the right thing.

Let’s start with taxes. This is going to be a huge issue in the election, and all polls show that Obama is on the right side of the issue. He has to sell it. Part of President Obama’s plan is to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire which would raise the top tax rate to 39% from 35%, where it was in the last economic boom of the 1990’s. He also wants to raise capital gains tax to 20% from their current place at 15%. Selling a tax increase is never an easy thing to do, as everyone wants lower taxes. Part of his plan would lower tax rates on the middle class for those earning under $250,000 a year. Mitt Romney releasing his taxes yesterday makes his job a lot easier to do. In a year where he did not work except for running for president, Romney made 20 million dollars and paid a total tax rate of 13% thanks to the Capital Gains tax. The right in our country likes to sell us the notion that if you lower taxes on the wealthy, the money will then trickle all the way down the ladder to the middle class and poor. This model has never and will never work. Why is that? Well just look at Mr. Romney’s returns. He made a lot of money last year and most if it goes right back into his savings. It is not trickling down anywhere. Now what Obama needs to say is that if you cut taxes on the lower and middle class in this country the money will work its way up. If someone making $40,000 a year gets an extra $1,500 a year in tax breaks, where do you think that money is going? It is going right back into the economy because that person needs the money to live. So this person goes to places like Staples and Sports Authority (both business that Mitt Romney and his company have invested in) and spends money. Their profits go up, and their investors make more money. It is a simple economic formula that has worked time and time again. If we continue to cut the capital gains tax we are going to become a country where the wealthy get richer without paying taxes, and the middle and lower class are forced to pay for everything. Mitt Romney last night said he wants to double production of Naval ships for example. Who is going to pay for this if people like Warren Buffett don’t pay the same percentage of tax as a middle class person? We need a tax plan that encourages and rewards work, not inheritance. If you take Gingrich’s tax plan of 0% estate tax and 0% capital gains tax, a person who is left 50 million dollars by his family can get that money and make make 10 to 12 million a year in interest and other dividends and never pay a dime of tax in their life. That is not how a democracy works, that is how you create a system of wealth and serfs.

Other things he should be talking about is the stimulus and car company bailouts. Most economists now agree that the stimulus saved millions of jobs, and stopped the United States from going into a deeper recession or depression. He needs to point out that he only got a percentage of the stimulus through because of the GOP filibuster in the senate. When he took office the United States was losing over 700,000 jobs a month which has now turned into 21 straight months of job growth. He needs to hammer this home and not be shy about it. The people remember the George W. Bush economy and they understand where we were. Obama needs to talk about how we now need to speed up the economic engine, and just come out and say that he is working with a GOP congress that has admitted on the record they would rather the economy tank then Obama get re-elected. He also needs to point out that GM was on the brink of bankruptcy and last month once again became the world’s best selling automobile brand. Again this in stark contrast to Mitt Romney and others in the GOP who have stated over and over again that they would have let GM die. He needs to talk about the United States spending 80% less of GDP then China on infrastructure. He has had a plan that congress won’t even look at. We can’t keep up with the rest of the world without fixing this problem. This would also help create thousands of jobs which has been center to his presidency over the last year.

Lastly he needs to point out how special interests and money are buying our political system. Two years ago he was bold to criticize the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United in his State of The Union. Tonight he needs to use the example of the keystone pipeline. The American Petroleum Institute has paid congressmen millions to pass a bill that forced Obama to give an answer on the pipeline within fifteen days. Why did they do this? Well they wanted it to be forced through before they actually showed where the pipeline would go. Everyone knew the application was a year away from being complete, and most people thought once done Obama’s State Department would approve the deal. However, the API wanted to get this approved so they can put the pipeline through parts of Nebraska that would not be approved by the government. They thought that Obama would not want to be embarrassed politically by denying this request. He stood up for what is right, and he needs to explain his side tonight.

There are other issues he should bring up tonight such as protecting a women’s right to choose against a right wing fringe, he needs to continue down the path away from fossil fuels, he needs to stand up for workers rights that are under attack in states across the country, and most of all he has to just act presidential. In every issue I mentioned polls show the people are with him. Now he just hammer home that he is on the same side. While the GOP is hell bent on beating Obama, one thing they worry about more is losing their own seats. If they see a public tide moving to defeat them, they will be forced to work with the President.

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A Question For All Presidential Candidates, Where do you stand on privacy?

During the GOP campaign for President an issue came up concerning candidate Rick Santorum.  He said:

One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.” And also, “Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.

Santorum then said that he believes that states have the legal right to ban contraception under the US Constitution.  This is the much bigger issue, even more staggering is the man’s personal belief on condoms and birth control pills.  During last week’s debate on ABC, George Stephanopoulos tried to push Santorum and Mitt Romney on the issue. Both candidates played off the question by saying that it doesn’t matter because no state right now is going to try and ban contraception.  In their answers though they both said that the US Constitution does not contain a right to privacy.

This leads to the bigger question, where do candidates stand on the all important right to privacy?  The Constitution contains many parts discussing privacy, but never uses the words “right to privacy” which many conservatives see as a loophole.  The first amendment guarantees us  the right to our beliefs, third amendment guarantees us privacy in our home, the fourth protects our person and belongings, the ninth gives us a more general protection of privacy, and the fourteenth has a liberty clause in it that says “No State shall… deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”.

This whole argument reminds me of a scene in one of my favorite tv shows, The West Wing

Back on November 24, 1999,  an episode of “The West Wing” in which President Bartlet chooses a supreme court nominee. When one of the candidates says there is no right to privacy in the Constitution, an aide played by Rob Lowe says, “In 1787 there was a sizable bloc of delegates who were initially opposed to the bill of rights. This is what a member of the Georgia delegation had to say by way of opposition: ‘If we list a set of rights, some fools in the future are going to claim the people are entitled only to those rights enumerated and no others’.” The judge candidate then demands, “Were you just calling me a fool?” Lowe’s character replies, “I wasn’t calling you a fool, sir, the brand new state of Georgia was.”

The right to privacy has been cited as law by the Supreme Court Of the United States.  It has been the basis for decisions such as Lawrence v. Texas.  The state of Texas tried to prosecute people after they made sodomy illegal.  The Supreme Court cited a right to privacy as one of the many reasons this law was illegal.  In fact going back to the original contraception issue, in 1965 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the state of Connecticut could not ban contraception based on married couples right to privacy.

We are now in the year 2012 and there are a group of men running for president who don’t believe that we have a right to privacy.  In fact every major candidate has said that the Constitution does not have any such guarantee.  This is their argument for overturning Roe. v. Wade and for giving states the right to ban contraception.  Even Ron Paul who claims to be Mr. Liberty is a fraud on real issues of liberty.

There is only one candidate running who has uttered the words that the United States Constitution guarantees us a right to privacy, that candidate is Barack Obama.

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Government Gone Wrong, Censoring the Internet

There is a very important bill in front of both houses of Congress right now.  You may have heard of the house version as it’s been in the news recently.  It is “SOPA” which is the Stop Online Privacy Act.

This bill is written by the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America as a way to stop online piracy.  Most of us understand that there are people that go online to steal copyrighted materials.  Starting with Napster, Kazaa, and then Limewire people were able to get any music they wanted for free.  The problem with the bill is not the claim that some are stealing, but their solution.

Most people don’t understand or need to understand how or why the Internet works.  A simple way to think about this is that every website or location on the web has a phone number called an IP Address.  Instead of having to remember those numbers, you can assign a name to that number to make life easy.  There is then a system that matches up those numbers with names called DNS (domain name servers).  Think of this as the phone book.  You look up a persons name in the white pages and you get their phone number.  It works the same way on the Internet.  When you go to www.google.com, it contacts DNS, it gets the IP address (phone number), and sends your computer to the right place.  There are DNS servers all over the world, and they work by replicating information from each other so they all contain the same and correct information.  (For the geeks out there, I know this is a very simplistic explanation)

If this bill passes, the Internet as we know it is gone.  The record and movie industry are trying to get the government to give them legal power to remove sites from DNS (the phone book) that house copyrighted products.  The industry knows that a lot of material is on servers outside the United States where US Courts hold no jurisdiction.  The only way they see to stop people in the United States from getting to these sites, is to change the way the Internet works.  Now what is the problem with this?  Here is just one example.  Let’s say that Joe Smith in Kansas uploads a copyrighted video onto this Facebook page.  The owner of that video sees it and applies to have Facebook removed from DNS servers in the United States.  Now the entire nation loses access to Facebook.  Before you think this is hyperbole, let’s remember that the people writing this bill have a lot of money and have made it known for over a decade they would like to kill the Internet.

There already is a law on the book in the US that handles these situations. (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)  Well the industry heads don’t think this goes far enough as it uses the courts the enforce copyright law.  They want the ability to censor the Internet on their own.  On top of the censorship, those people that actually created the Internet have come out against this law because it will damage the entire infrastructure and built in security.  Eighty three engineers, including Vint Cerf of Google and Paul Vixie who invented DNS, wrote a signed letter to Congress opposing the bill.

Here’s the letter:
We, the undersigned, have played various parts in building a network called the Internet. We wrote and debugged the software; we defined the standards and protocols that talk over that network. Many of us invented parts of it. We’re just a little proud of the social and economic benefits that our project, the Internet, has brought with it.
Last year, many of us wrote to you and your colleagues to warn about the proposed “COICA” copyright and censorship legislation. Today, we are writing again to reiterate our concerns about the SOPA and PIPA derivatives of last year’s bill, that are under consideration in the House and Senate. In many respects, these proposals are worse than the one we were alarmed to read last year.
If enacted, either of these bills will create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure. Regardless of recent amendments to SOPA, both bills will risk fragmenting the Internet’s global domain name system (DNS) and have other capricious technical consequences. In exchange for this, such legislation would engender censorship that will simultaneously be circumvented by deliberate infringers while hampering innocent parties’ right and ability to communicate and express themselves online.
All censorship schemes impact speech beyond the category they were intended to restrict, but these bills are particularly egregious in that regard because they cause entire domains to vanish from the Web, not just infringing pages or files. Worse, an incredible range of useful, law-abiding sites can be blacklisted under these proposals. In fact, it seems that this has already begun to happen under the nascent DHS/ICE seizures program.
Censorship of Internet infrastructure will inevitably cause network errors and security problems. This is true in China, Iran and other countries that censor the network today; it will be just as true of American censorship. It is also true regardless of whether censorship is implemented via the DNS, proxies, firewalls, or any other method. Types of network errors and insecurity that we wrestle with today will become more widespread, and will affect sites other than those blacklisted by the American government.
The current bills — SOPA explicitly and PIPA implicitly — also threaten engineers who build Internet systems or offer services that are not readily and automatically compliant with censorship actions by the U.S. government. When we designed the Internet the first time, our priorities were reliability, robustness and minimizing central points of failure or control. We are alarmed that Congress is so close to mandating censorship-compliance as a design requirement for new Internet innovations. This can only damage the security of the network, and give authoritarian governments more power over what their citizens can read and publish.
The US government has regularly claimed that it supports a free and open Internet, both domestically and abroad. We cannot have a free and open Internet unless its naming and routing systems sit above the political concerns and objectives of any one government or industry. To date, the leading role the US has played in this infrastructure has been fairly uncontroversial because America is seen as a trustworthy arbiter and a neutral bastion of free expression. If the US begins to use its central position in the network for censorship that advances its political and economic agenda, the consequences will be far-reaching and destructive.
Senators, Congressmen, we believe the Internet is too important and too valuable to be endangered in this way, and implore you to put these bills aside.

There are tons of online resources that I ask you to read to learn more about this.  While this bill could fail, the fight will not end.  The RIAA and MPAA will not stop buying votes in Congress until this is done.  I urge you to call and send letters to your congressperson letting them know you are against censorship on the Internet.  Imagine applying these laws to stores in your neighborhood.  Every retailer knows it’s a reality that a certain percentage every year will be stolen from under their roof.  If we applied the SOPA solution to that problem, each time one item is stolen that store would be forced to shutdown.  The purpose of this legislation is not to stop actual copyrighted materials from being stolen, it is to stop the Internet from working as intended because a few industries see the Internet as dangerous to their bottom line.


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Occupy Wall Street Needs To Expand

Many in the media try to portray the occupy wall street movement as a bunch of hippies who would rather take the money from the rich then work themselves.  This kind of thinking is prevalent with many of my own friends and family.  This could not be further from reality.

Everyone would like to be successful, and there are not protests happening across America because some became wealthy.  There are protests because those that have done well, or in many cases inherited huge amounts of money, are using their money and influence to change the rules to make sure they gain more wealth on the backs of the poor and middle class in this country.

An example of how corrupting the power and influence has become happened just yesterday.  Congress outlined their new Agriculture bill and in it was something that is very disturbing.  The bill classifies one tablespoon of tomato sauce as a full serving of vegetables.  Why is this important?  Well, it will allow schools to count a slice of pizza as a vegetable.  The Department of Agriculture along with the Obama administration has been trying to make school lunches healthier since there is a huge problem with child obesity in the US.  So why would Congress propose such a bill?  How about 6 million dollars spent by the corporations that make the frozen pizza to lobby congress.  It is what most people would call bribery.  Another clear example of this is when I travelled to the Dominican Republic and Canada, I looked on the back of the Heinz Ketchup and noticed the ingredient of sugar.  When I returned home I looked at the ketchup bottle to notice the ingredient of high fructose corn syrup replacing sugar.  You have the agribusiness lobby spending millions lobbying congress and in return they receive over 30 billion dollars in federal subsidies.  There are examples like this going on in every industry, every day.  I only looked at this issue because it was in the news yesterday.  How much do you think oil companies lobby congress to make sure that they not only pay no taxes on their billions in income, but also get a federal handout on top of that?

This leads to my bigger point.  While there is good reason to protest Wall Street.  The problem is much bigger then that building in New York.  Sadly in most instances corporations bribing elected officials to benefit themselves while screwing the majority is legal.  The people in this country need to start occupying congress and the supreme court.  These are two institutions who set the rules that allow this to happen.

The people of the Occupy Wall Street group need to start a political movement that will work hard to vote the crooks out of congress.  They need to get out the message of how congress really works, and needs to fight against pay for play.  It goes across both parties, and legalized bribery needs to stop.  If the people of the Occupy movement want to create a public occupation, it should happen on the steps of the United States Supreme Court.  The court has become the arm of corporate America.  A few years ago the court ruled that limiting corporate money in campaigns is illegal because that would violate the corporations right to free speech.  They ruled that money equals speech and that a corporation is a person.  How can the people of this country making $50,000 a year get their voices heard when companies like Koch Industries are spending a billion dollars in this election year alone?  In case you were not convinced that the Supreme Court is the problem, they are now set to rule on the Obama health care plan.  On the night it was announced that the court would hear the case, Justices Thomas and Scalia were at a dinner hosted by the law firm fighting against the Obama plan.

This is why the people of the occupy movement need to move down to Washington D.C. and occupy the court.  You can’t fix the problem until you cut off the head.  Right now the head of that snake is the United States Supreme Court.

#OccupyCourt

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