By GAIL COLLINS
Published: December 5, 2012
Santorum is still in there swinging. Lately, he’s been on a crusade against a dangerous attempt by the United Nations to help disabled people around the world. This week, he won! The Senate refused to ratify a U.N. treaty on the subject. The vote, which fell five short of the necessary two-thirds majority, came right after 89-year-old Bob Dole, the former Republican leader and disabled war veteran, was wheeled into the chamber to urge passage.
“We did it,” Santorum tweeted in triumph.
Well, it doesn’t get any better than that.
The rejected treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark law Dole co-sponsored. So, as Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts kept pointing out during the debate, this is a treaty to make the rest of the world behave more like the United States. But Santorum was upset about a section on children with disabilities that said: “The best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”
“This is a direct assault on us and our family!” he said at a press conference in Washington.
The hard right has a thing about the United Nations. You may remember that the senator-elect from Texas, Ted Cruz, once railed that a 20-year-old nonbinding United Nations plan for sustainable development posed a clear and present threat to American golf courses.
The theory about the treaty on the disabled is that the bit about “best interests of the child” could be translated into laws prohibiting disabled children from being home-schooled. At his press conference, Santorum acknowledged that wasn’t in the cards. But he theorized that someone might use the treaty in a lawsuit “and through the court system begin to deny parents the right to raise their children in conformity with what they believe.”
If I felt you were actually going to worry about this, I would tell you that the Senate committee that approved the treaty included language specifically forbidding its use in court suits. But, instead, I will tell you about my own fears. Every day I take the subway to work, and I use a fare card that says “subject to applicable tariffs and conditions of use.” What if one of those conditions is slave labor? Maybe the possibility of me being grabbed at the turnstile and carted off to a salt mine isn’t in the specific law, but what if a bureaucrat somewhere in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority decided to interpret it that way?
No one should have to live in fear of forced labor in the salt mine just because she bought a fare card at the Times Square subway station! I want some action on this matter, and I am writing to my senator right away.
But about the U.N. treaty.
In the Capitol this week, disabled Americans lobbied for ratification, arguing, among other things, that it could make life easier for them when they travel. Since more than 125 countries have already signed onto the treaty, there will certainly be pressure to improve accessibility to buses, restrooms and public buildings around the globe. It would be nice if the United States was at the table, trying to make sure the international standards were compatible with the ones our disabled citizens learn to handle here at home.
But, no, the senators were worried about the home-school movement. Or a boilerplate mention in the treaty of economic, social and cultural rights that Senator Mike Lee of Utah claimed was “part of a march toward socialism.”
At least some of them were. There would almost certainly have been plenty of votes to approve the treaty if the Republicans had felt free to think for themselves. The “no” votes included a senator who had voted for the treaty in committee, a senator who had sent out a press release supporting the treaty and a senator who actually voted “aye” and then switched when it was clear the treaty was going down anyway. Not to mention a lot of really depressed-looking legislators.
The big worry was, of course, offending the Tea Party. The same Tea Party that pounded Mitt Romney into the presidential candidate we came to know and reject over the past election season. The same Tea Party that keeps threatening to wage primaries against incumbents who don’t do what they’re told. The Tea Party who made those threats work so well in the last election that Indiana now has a totally unforeseen Democratic senator.
The threat the Republicans need to worry about isn’t in the United Nations.
Appearing on CNN just hours after announcing his pending resignation from the Senate, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) summed up his reason for voting against the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of People with Disability (CRPD). The Tea Party lawmaker complained that members of the international body voted to upgrade Palestine’s status within its halls and explained that he couldn’t trust the U.N. or the treaty.
Proponents, including many Republicans, claim it will help to expand rights and opportunities for disabled people in all nations, but DeMint isn’t buying it.
“When you look at the language in the treaty you realize there are other things at stake here. A lot of language in there that has nothing to do with disabilities and that is likely to push the U.S. toward more international law,” DeMint told WND.
DeMint says the language of the treaty suggests it will promote abortion and chip away at parental rights — particularly the rights of homeschooling parents.
“Homeschoolers are up in arms. We already have some judges in our country that are using international law to change our laws.
“We’re afraid that if the language suggests that parental authority is not absolute, we’re going to have an international body telling our parents they can’t homeschool.”
Senate Republicans defeated a measure to ratify a landmark United Nations treaty banning discrimination against people with disabilities. The final vote was 61-to-38, five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for approval. Republicans objected to the measure by saying it would make it easier to obtain abortions and place restrictions on home-schooling disabled children. The rejection came despite the U.N. treaty itself being modeled on a piece of U.S. law, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Some 126 countries, including Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, have already ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. At the United Nations, Werner Obermeyer of the World Health Organization noted that the treaty rejected by Republicans covers about 15 percent of the world’s population.
During an appearance on Meet the Press, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) reiterated his call for restructuring entitlement programs like Medicare, highlighting the “very painful cuts” he has proposed as part of a package to avert the fiscal cliff. Corker 242-page plan calls for a Paul Ryan-like proposal to transform the guaranteed Medicare benefit into a voucher plan for beneficiaries.
Host David Gregory seemed to agree with Corker’s characterization and pressed fellow panelist Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to accept reforms that will shift health care costs to seniors in order to show that Democrats are “serious” about entitlements.
In October 2012, Paul C. Broun (R-Ga.), who serves on the U.S. House Science and Technology Committee, declared his views in these jaw-dropping terms:
All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it's lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I've found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don't believe that the earth's but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That's what the Bible says.At least one of the recent presidential candidates (Texas Governor Rick Perry) similarly responded when asked how old the earth was: "I don't have any idea, I know it's pretty old," but then added that he wasn't sure whether anyone knew "completely and absolutely" the age of the earth.
Along this line, presidential candidates Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Ron Paul labeled climate change "a hoax," even as the scientific evidence for global warming continues to mount, and the need for world governments to take action grows more pressing.
The two-party duopoly is a common term used to describe the political system in the U.S., in which two political parties—the Republicans and Democrats—dominate government while holding virtually identical positions on most economic and foreign policy issues. Funded by the same corporate interests, these two parties are sometimes together referred to as “Republicrats” because they resemble two wings of a single party whose policies benefit large corporations and the super rich against the interests of the vast majority (despite holding very different positions on cultural issues in which corporations have little or no interest).
Within the two-party duopoly, third parties are shut out of the political process altogether. For example, restrictive ballot access laws require third party candidates to collect tens of thousands of signatures. In addition, they are systematically ignored by the corporate media and excluded from the Presidential debates. (The Commission on Presidential Debates is a private corporation headed by former Republican and Democratic leaders, and funded by big corporate interests.) The “winner take all” voting system used in congressional and state legislative elections also precludes third-party representation, as runners-up get nothing, even when the margin of victory is narrow. Because of this, the vast majority of democracies in the world—including all European countries—use “proportional representation” (PR) voting systems, in which legislative seats are divided proportionally based on the percentage of votes each party receives. Such voting systems give voters more choice, produce multi-party legislatures, and reduce the ability of monied interests to control the political process.
In the U.S., however, the two-party system easily lends itself to corporate manipulation and control. This is particularly true when neither party holds a wide majority, as small margins ensure that lobbyists need only convince a few legislators from one party to vote with their opposition. By funding candidates from both parties, therefore, corporations do not simply purchase loyalty, but they prevent either party from obtaining a continuous, popular majority that might challenge corporate interests. Also, the culture wars between “liberal” and “conservative” value systems conveniently divide the voters between the two parties by providing them with real yet economically insignificant reasons to prefer one party over the other. As political philosopher Sheldon Wolin writes in his book, Democracy Incorporated, “The point about [these cultural] disputes is that they are not framed to be resolved. Their political function is to divide the citizenry while obscuring class differences and diverting the voters’ attention from the social and economic concerns of the general populace.”
The proliferation of corporate-funded “Super PACs” (a result of the 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, which allows corporations unlimited funding of political campaigns) is only the most recent example of corruption within the U.S. electoral system. Elections have long been rigged in favor of the two corporate parties. For third parties to have any real chance of adequate representation, major, systemic reforms are necessary. These include breaking up media monopolies, having purely publicly funded campaigns, instituting PR voting systems, adding a binding “none of the above” option on all ballots, establishing universal voter registration, and much more. Such reforms would weaken if not destroy the two-party duopoly, and will therefore be strongly resisted by current Republicrats and the powerful interests that back them. Only a mass movement of education, protest and civil disobedience that puts tremendous outside pressure upon the corporate state will be capable of bringing about such a fundamental transformation of the electoral system.
References & external links:http://www.fairvote.org
"If America is destroyed, it may be by Americans who salute the flag, sing the national anthem, march in patriotic parades, cheer Fourth of July speakers—normally good Americans, but Americans who fail to comprehend what is required to keep our country strong and free—Americans who have been lulled away into a false security."
—Ezra Taft Benson
"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
- Abraham Lincoln
In the wake of last week's presidential election, thousands of Americans have signed petitions seeking permission for their states to peacefully secede from the United States. The petitions were filed on We the People, a government website.
States with citizens filing include Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Oddly, folks from Georgia have filed twice. Even stranger, several of the petitions come from states that went for President Barack Obama.
The petitions are short and to the point. For example, a petition from the Volunteer State reads: "Peacefully grant the State of Tennessee to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government." Of all the petitions, Texas has the most signatures so far, with more than 23,000.
"To be on the Lord's side, a person must be able to distinguish between programs based on the Lord's plan for freedom, which is the Constitution, and those based on Satan's plan for tyranny...He must inform himself and do his own independent thinking....one of the best sources of information...is the Book of Mormon. A person can learn more about what is really happening in America from the Book of Mormon than he can from...newspapers."
Ezra Taft Benson
The charitable remainder unitrust, as it is known, is one of several strategies Romney has adopted over his career to reduce his tax bill. While Romney’s tax avoidance is legal and common among high-net-worth individuals, it has become an issue in the campaign. President Barack Obama attacked him in their second debate for paying “lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less.”
In this instance, Romney used the tax-exempt status of a charity -- the Mormon Church, according to a 2007 filing -- to defer taxes for more than 15 years. At the same time he is benefiting, the trust will probably leave the church with less than what current law requires, according to tax returns obtained by Bloomberg this month through a Freedom of Information Act request.
In general, charities don’t owe capital gains taxes when they sell assets for a profit. Trusts like Romney’s permit funders to benefit from that tax-free treatment, said Jonathan Blattmachr, a trusts and estates lawyer who set up hundreds of such vehicles in the 1990s.
Barack Obama's WAR ON BABIES
...Then we move onto Obama's war on babies and energy. With his horrible policies and the financing of failed "green energy" companies and attacking oil companies and the fact that his socialist economic policies can't fix the economy....
Obama and the Marxist Democrat’s war on babies continues.
Did you know that Barack Obama's WAR ON BABIES AND WOMEN WHO WANT TO HAVE THEM includes also his very own abortion clinic called the "Presidential Women's Center?
Mitt Romney tells joke
Eric Fehrnstrom reinforced qualms about the campaign with his Etch A Sketch gaffe on CNN. He inadvertently suggested Romney was playing up conservative values for the sake of the primaries: “You hit a reset button for the fall campaign. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.” Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/03/23/romney-aides-gaffe-shakes-up-etch-a-sketch-sales/#ixzz1r2KB4Rkh
Scientists lead many powerful countries, including China and Germany, but they have never gotten a political foothold in the United States.I’ve visited Singapore a few times in recent years and been impressed with its wealth and modernity. I was also quite aware of its world-leading programs in mathematics education and naturally noted that one of the candidates for president was Tony Tan, who has a Ph.D. in applied mathematics. Tan won the very close election and joined the government of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who also has a degree in mathematics. China has even more scientists in key positions in the government. President Hu Jintao was trained as a hydraulic engineer and Premier Wen Jiabao as a geomechanical engineer. In fact, eight out of the nine top government officials in China have scientific backgrounds. There is a scattering of scientist-politicians in high government positions in other countries as well. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has a doctorate in physical chemistry, and, going back a bit, Margaret Thatcher earned a degree in chemistry. One needn’t endorse the politics of these people or countries to feel that given the complexities of an ever more technologically sophisticated world, the United States could benefit from the participation and example of more scientists in government. This is obviously no panacea — Herbert Hoover was an engineer, after all — but more people with scientific backgrounds would be a welcome counterweight to the vast majority of legislators and other officials in this country who are lawyers. Among the 435 members of the House, for example, there are one physicist, one chemist, one microbiologist, six engineers and nearly two dozen representatives with medical training. The case of doctors and the body politic is telling. Everyone knows roughly what doctors do, and so those with medical backgrounds escape the anti-intellectual charge of irrelevance often thrown at those in the hard sciences. Witness Senator Bill Frist, Gov. Howard Dean and even Ron Paul. This showing is sparse even with the inclusion of the doctors, but it shouldn’t be too surprising. For complex historical reasons, Americans have long privately dismissed scientists and mathematicians as impractical and elitist, even while publicly paying lip service to them. One reason is that an abstract, scientific approach to problems and issues often leads to conclusions that are at odds with religious and cultural beliefs and scientists are sometimes tone-deaf to the social environment in which they state their conclusions. A more politically sensitive approach to problems and issues, on the other hand, often leads to positions that simply don’t jibe with the facts, no matter how delicately phrased. Examples as diverse as stem cell research and the economic stimulus abound. Politicians, whose job is in many ways more difficult than that of scientists, naturally try to sway their disparate constituencies, but the prevailing celebrity-infatuated, money-driven culture and their personal ambitions often lead them to employ rhetorical tricks rather than logical arguments. Both Republicans and Democrats massage statistics, use numbers to provide decoration rather than information, dismiss, or at least distort, the opinions of experts, torture the law of the excluded middle (i.e., flip-flop), equivocate, derogate and obfuscate. Dinosaurs cavorting with humans, climate scientists cooking up the global warming “hoax,” the health establishment using vaccines to bring about socialism – it’s hard to imagine mainstream leaders in other advanced economies not laughing at such claims. Often too interested in politics as entertainment, the media is complicit in keeping such “controversies” running. Doing so isn’t hard since vivid, just-so stories and anecdotes usually trump (or should that be Trump) dry, sometimes counterintuitive facts and statistics. Skepticism enjoins scientists — in fact all of us — to suspend belief until strong evidence is forthcoming, but this tentativeness is no match for the certainty of ideologues and seems to suggest to many the absurd idea that all opinions are equally valid. The chimera of the fiercely independent everyman reigns. What else explains the seemingly equal weight accorded to the statements of entertainers and biological researchers on childhood vaccines? Or to pronouncements of industry lobbyists and climate scientists? Or to economic prescriptions like 9-9-9 and those of Nobel-prize winning economists? Americans’ grandiose (to use Newt Gingrich’s malapropism) egalitarianism also helps explain why the eight or nine original Republican presidential candidates suffered little for espousing, or at least not clearly opposing, scientifically untenable positions. Jon Huntsman, the only exception, received excessive kudos for what seems a rather lukewarm acceptance of climate change. To avoid receiving the candidates’ canned responses on these and other issues, I sometimes wish that a debate moderator would forgo a standard question about immigration or jobs and instead ask the candidates to solve a simple puzzle, make an elementary estimate, perform a basic calculation. Of course, the other side of the “two cultures” chasm should bear some of the onus for this lack of communication between politicians and scientists. Too few scientists are willing to engage in public debates, to explain the relevance of their fields clearly and without jargon, and, in the process, to risk some jeering from a few colleagues. Nevertheless, American scientists do more on this front than those in most other countries. Perhaps because the words rhyme, it’s sometimes said that attitude is more important than aptitude in helping to bring about innovation, economic progress and social change. The dubious corollary is that freewheeling Americans who question authority and think outside the box have an abundance of attitude that helps make up for a declining performance in science and technology. Maybe so, but attitude can only go so far. There is certainly no requirement for a Singaporean science background, but scientifically literate government leaders who push for evidence-based policies and demonstrate a scientific outlook are needed more than glib panderers with attitude. John Allen Paulos, a professor of mathematics at Temple University, is the author of eight books, including “Innumeracy” and “A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper.”