Bob Geiger has an upsetting piece at Huffington Post about something called the "Widow's Tax," a government practice that financially penalizes surviving spouses of soldiers killed in battle.
Kristen Fenty knows a thing or two about pain and struggle.
Like all Gold Star Wives -- women whose spouses have died or been killed while on active duty in the U.S. military -- she has learned to live with the grief of losing her life partner, the disintegration of the life she imagined and, like so many war widows, the burden of instantly becoming a single parent and shepherding a child through the loss of her father.
What Kristen Fenty didn't expect was six years of getting raked over bureaucratic coals in simply trying to receive and keep the benefits to which surviving military families are entitled.
Fenty, whose husband Army Lt. Col. Joseph Fenty Jr. was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2006, is fighting just such a battle and has become an activist on behalf of other surviving military spouses grappling with a system that seems geared toward nickel and diming widows who have already sacrificed so much.
"It was a very difficult time," Fenty said of the time immediately after Joe was killed. "And I had just had a baby 28 days before my husband's death."
At issue is a byzantine parsing of government programs that essentially eliminates one survivor's benefit for another, despite the distinct purpose of each and their origin in entirely separate entities. Specifically, Fenty and Gold Star Wives are fighting a government practice that offsets payments from the Defense Department's Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) -- a survivor benefit collected through death in service or purchased through post-retirement premium payments -- with the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) death benefit, paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs to spouses who have lost a husband or wife at war.
What Fenty and so many others have discovered is that, according to the U.S. government, receiving payments from both programs constitutes a kind of double-dipping and that a dollar-for-dollar offset must take place to prevent that.
To civilians, this is analogous to someone telling us after losing our spouse that we can have his or her retirement money or their life insurance -- but not both. Of course, this would be considered an outrage and an earned-benefits rip-off, but for military families, this evidently makes complete sense to the government.
It really is a crazy system, and it's even more infuriating when you see posturing politicians slashing programs for the poor to protect the military budget. I guess they just mean the part that goes to wastefully expensive military toys (and returned to them via campaign contributions), and not the very real human needs of the people who serve in the military. The part that really makes me angry? Congress says they "don't have the money" to fix this. That's baloney. Always money for war, always money for banks?but never enough money for those inconvenient people who get caught in the wheels.
Here's the craziness of this system:
Supporting our troops?and their families? Doesn't sound like it.
Wednesday did not have an absurdly high volume of polling, but what we saw could most definitely elicit a little sideways glance, and a quick scratch of the head.
Is it possible that there are nineteen points of difference between Barack Obama and Shelley Berkley in Nevada? Rasmussen says so.
Is it possible that, after every political observer has written his obituary, that 6-term Sen. Dick Lugar survives next week, after all? A new poll says that it is, indeed, possible.
Is it possible that over $8 million hasn't been enough to save GOP "superstar" (as he was hailed in a local daily here in Los Angeles) Gov. Scott Walker? A new poll still puts him in extreme danger.
This was just one of those days with data that gave you a real sense of anticipation about what lies ahead. Here are the numbers:
(GOP) PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY POLLS:
NATIONAL (YouGov): Romney 49, Gingrich 17, Paul 16PRESIDENTIAL GENERAL ELECTION TRIAL HEATS:
NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Romney d. Obama (46-45)DOWNBALLOT POLLING:
NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Obama d. Romney (47-44)
NATIONAL (YouGov): Obama d. Romney (48-43)
MONTANA (PPP): Romney d. Obama (48-43); Romney d. Obama and Libertarian Gary Johnson (43-41-8)
NEVADA (Rasmussen): Obama d. Romney (52-44)
WISCONSIN (Marquette Law School): Obama d. Romney (51-42)
IN-SEN?R (Magellan Research for a PAC supporting Dick Lugar): Sen. Dick Lugar 44, Richard Mourdock 42A few thoughts, as always, just past the jump.
NC-GOV?R (PPP): Pat McCrory 66, Jim Harney 4, Scott Jones 2, Jim Mahan 2, Paul Wright 2, Charles Kenneth Moss 0
VA-SEN (PPP): Tim Kaine (D) 46, George Allen (R) 45
WI-GOV (Marquette Law School): Gov. Scott Walker (R) 48, Tom Barrett (D) 47; Walker 49, Kathleen Falk (D) 42
WI-GOV?D (Marquette Law School): Tom Barrett 38, Kathleen Falk 21, Doug LaFollette 8, Kathleen Vinehout 6
Multiple reports say the gunman in a mass killing and suicide in Arizona today was neo-Nazi border vigilante J.T. Ready. For background on Ready see our previous reporting here and here. [...]
Read The Full Article:
Off the release of his new publication, OCCUPY (Occupied Media Pamphlet Series), Laura Flanders (GRITtv) sat down with MIT professor Noam Chomsky to reflect on the grim state of America, and the role activists have to play in turning it around.[...]
Read The Full Article:
Suspicious ...So apparently conservatives have found their next hot conspiracy theory, given that it's been picked up by both Fox News and the Washington "Bat Boy" Times. Here's the National Review version, which is the most to the point:
?Forward,? that is. I knew that sounded awfully familiar. From Wikipedia:All right, so here's the portion of our political day dedicated toward that most ancient of political questions: "Are you shitting me? I'm pretty sure you're shitting me."Vorwärts (?Forward?) was the central organ of the Social Democratic Party of Germany published daily in Berlin from 1891 to 1933 by decision of the party?s Halle Congress, as the successor of Berliner Volksblatt, founded in 1884.Vorwaerts lives on today as the house organ of Germany?s leftist SPD; you can read all about its illustrious history here (in German).
Friedrich Engels and Kurt Tucholsky both wrote for Vorwärts. It backed the Russian Marxist economists and then, after the split in the Party, the Mensheviks. It published articles by Leon Trotsky, but would not publish any by Vladimir Lenin...
And if you don?t think David Axelrod doesn?t know this, you really ought to think again.
The specific premise is that using a word suggesting progress in the frontfacewardish direction is Marxist, and is like pre-Hitler Germany, and that this is not coincidental or batshit crazy because David Axelrod no doubt intended to link the campaign to scary European Marxism as a secret message to conservatives that Obama was all secretly European and Marxist and stuff. I think. It might instead be suggesting that what's needed to clean this rampant Marxism up is a good old fashioned Hitler, but we'll give the benefit of the doubt on that one.
Oh, and you could point out that the word "forward" seems to come up in lots of situations that do not seem especially Marxist. But that would be cheating. And very naughty:
The twisting tale of Chinese dissident and activist Chen Guangcheng’s refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing just keeps getting more complicated. Adding to the already divergent versions of events given by Chen and U.S. officials, Chen said, in CNN correspondent Stan Grant’s words, he “feels he’s been let down by the United States.” Chen reportedly said he didn’t get the full story from U.S. officials as to the events around his family, such as his wife being bound and interrogated by Chinese authorities in their home. Chen said, according to CNN, that he was “encouraged to leave without all the information, and now he wants to get out of China.” Separately, a Chinese-language website published what English-language Twitter users said were pictures of Chen’s supporters being arrested outside the hospital where he’s been since leaving the U.S. embassy. Watch the CNN report:
Forget the polls; if millions of Obama voters arrive on Nov. 4 only to be told they cannot vote because they lack the specific, rare and expensive proof of identification local repugs demand, then Mitt Romney and the repugs will take this country in a silent coup.
Turnout is everything - and voter suppression is how repugs win turnout.
The good news is that the Obama campaign appears to be actually fighting back against repug election fraud.
And speaking of the states, anyone interested in politics at all should read Michael Shear's rundown in the New York Times about the Obama campaign's plans for counteracting the effects of new voter ID laws and other elements of the GOP's ongoing "war on voting." It's in theory a Plan B, since many of these laws are being challenged in the courts. But given the tendency of the courts to give states considerable leeway in this area, it's a Plan B that we might as well expect to be executed.
Here's a taste of what the Obama ops are dealing with in three battleground states:In Wisconsin, where a new state law requires those registering voters to be deputized in whichever of the state's 1,800 municipalities they are assigned to, the campaign sent a team of trainers armed with instructions for complying with the new regulations.
In Florida, the campaign's voter registration aides traveled across the state to train volunteers on a new requirement that voter registration signatures be handed in to state officials within 48 hours after they are collected.
And in Ohio, Mr. Obama's staff members have begun reaching out to let voters know about new laws that discourage precinct workers from telling voters where to go if they show up at the wrong precinct.
And these issues are just the tip of the iceberg, with restrictions on early voting opportunities, fights over the voting rights of ex-felons, funding shortages (real or contrived) for election administration all in play. That's before, of course, we even get to the usual last-minute shenanigans-registration list "purges," last-minute changes in polling places, voter disinformation and intimidation schemes-Republicans have routinely deployed in recent elections to keep down the vote, particularly in minority precincts.
We keep hearing that the Obama campaign's ace-in-the-whole this year is its heavy investment in field infrastructure, especially as compared to a late-starting Romney campaign heavily reliant on Super-PAC funding mostly earmarked for attack ads. Looks like they will need every bit of it.
Applewhite, a 93-year-old widow in Pennsylvania, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil-rights movement, has voted in nearly every election for the last-half century.
She will not, however, be allowed to cast a ballot this year because Pennsylvania Republicans have created a voter-ID law -- and after her purse was stolen, Applewhite doesn't have the proper materials she never needed to vote before. She's now working with the state ACLU to challenge the state's voting restrictions.
As contemptible as this is, especially given the mountains of evidence that voter fraud is a minuscule problem in America, this article exposes the flip side of all this: more than likely, the Republican plan to suppress voter turnout won't work in the long run. The effect of these laws is fairly small in the first place, and even that small effect will probably melt away as Democrats chahttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifnge their voter registration tactics. In states that require photo ID, Democrats will get aggressive about making sure potential voters have ID. In states with new restrictions on early voting, Democrats will change their tactics and concentrate more on election day. Etc.
None of this lets Republicans off the hook for their frankly loathsome efforts to suppress the votes of groups they don't like. But it does mean they're probably wasting their time. In the end, the impact is likely to be pretty small.
But a less well-known phenonmenon might be called "bankrupting the vote," as states and localities (particular cities with heavily Democratic electorates) struggling with fiscal crises simply can't afford to adequately staff and administer elections.
Patricia Zengerle of Reuters has a must-read report on this phenomenon:In Detroit, the city clerk warned last week that the Rust Belt city would have trouble holding the November 6 presidential election under a slimmed-down budget the mayor proposed to address years of deep financial problems.
In Jefferson County, Alabama, the local government was so short of cash for elections that it used road repair crews to staff the state's Republican presidential primary last month.
And in South Carolina, a $500,000 shortfall after the state's Republican primary in January led elections officials to consider a sponsorship deal with comedian Stephen Colbert, who plays a mock conservative pundit on his late-night TV show.
With cities and counties across the United States in dire financial straits, many local officials are struggling to come up with the millions of dollars they will need to hold the November 6 elections. That is likely to mean fewer election workers and long lines for voters, which could reduce turnout.
It is a problem that could affect candidates and political parties in November but particularly President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats, who are relying on support from big cities such as Detroit.
Worse yet, the "war on voting" can immensely increase the financial pressures on local voting administration, enhancing the suppressive effect.New, stricter voter registration laws in some states such as Florida could exacerbate the problem by raising the need for more elections workers to verify voters' eligibility.
Local governments across the nation are planning to shift costs - putting off road repairs for a few days while transit crews work on elections, or borrowing workers from other departments to help count votes.
But they also are laying off staff who would have helped with voter questions, and cutting back the hours that polls are open.
Besides raising constitutional questions about whether some people will have enough opportunity to vote, the situation could have an impact on close elections, analysts say.
No kidding. I try not to be a broken record on this, but this country's failure to do anything after 2000 to significantly reduce state and local disparities in how elections are conducted invites another Florida disaster. Indeed, with Rick Scott's Florida at the center of the "war on voting," Florida could well produce another Florida.
But it's particularly interesting to watch Republicans simultaneously promote austerity policies for state and local governments and new restrictions on voting. Many conservatives favor the former as an end in itself, but are receiving a sort of bonus as competent election administration becomes one of those luxuries many jurisdictions can't quite afford.
What to do when they're trying to drive you down: Rise up! In response to GOP efforts, primarily through "Voter ID" laws, to disenfranchise groups of voters more likely to vote Democratic, volunteer organizations in WI, TN and CO are fighting back in very effective ways. Their successful efforts that others can adapt and implement in their own communities and other states are featured in this report made available by Common Cause, Fair Elections Legal Network, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, and Demos.
Click here to view this media
Republican Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is asserting that forced ultrasounds are "the way to go" if they stop women from having abortions.
"I said, you can't make somebody watch it," the governor explained. "You can put the monitor in front of them but you can't make them watch it."
"I think we have over 30,000 abortions a year in Pennsylvania," he continued. "When you see that kind of number, if an ultrasound, which is not invasive at all, would convince somebody maybe to carry that baby to term and give it up for adoption and save that life, I think that?s the way to go."
An ongoing study at the University of California, San Francisco indicates that forcing a woman to view a sonogram often does not impact her decision on whether or not to have an abortion.
"Women do not have abortions because they believe the fetus is not a human or because they don?t know the truth," Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences assistant professor Tracy Weitz explained in a 2010 presentation previewing the study.
In fact, she found that 60 percent of abortion patients had previously delivered a child and most women ?have abortions because of the material conditions conditions of their lives.?
(h/t: Think Progress)
Thanks for the update, Siun. Some time ago, IIRC, you posted the number for the Bahrain Desk at the State Department. Can you post the number again? Perhaps it's time to go jam up the lines? I doubt State gets very many calls, so maybe we could get enough people calling to make an impression?
Read The Full Article:
Rudy 911 (Craig Michaud/Wikimedia)When we last checked in with former New York city mayor and past Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, he was screaming "911!" at passing cars while rattling a tin cup. Not much has changed since, but here's what he has to say about Presumptive Candidate Mitt:
?It?s a war that continues that we have to still be vigilant about,? Giuliani continued. ?Governor Romney certainly understands that and has from the very beginning been a leader in the effort to make certain that America remains safe.?Wait, what? Gov. Romney has been "a leader" in the effort to make America safe? Not to get all technical here, but how do ya figure, sport?
Was it the Bain Capital days that established Mitt Romney as an anti-terrorism leader? Did he issue a slew of makin'-America-safe resolutions as Massachusetts governor that the rest of us never quite heard about? Maybe it was the Olympics; there's a whole lot of ethnic people in the Olympics, so maybe that counts as foreign policy experience. Or his innovations in high-speed pet quarantine? Is his Cayman Islands money secretly an elite team of terrorist-thumping commandos that sneak out of their vaults every night to hunt down members of al Qaeda and give them really nasty paper cuts? Help us out, Rudy, you're going to have to be a bit more specific here.
Yes, Mitt's the nominee now, but I think any efforts to build up his foreign policy credentials maybe ought to be a wee less hamhanded than Giuliani's attempt. Given that Mitt's recent expressions of expertise in the subject consist of "whatever Obama did, I wouldn't have done that" and "don't hire a gay foreign policy spokesman because it makes my base very, very crabby," I'd say those attempting to flatter Mitt on the subject have their work cut out for them.