Editorial Board,

GAINSVILLE SUN
Published: Tuesday, April 28, 2015
What is going on in the Florida Legislature right now is morally and fiscally indefensible and threatens the well-being of Florida and its people.

It isn't complicated but has been made so by ideologues with power. The state has more than 800,000 people who are uninsured because they do not qualify for Medicaid or cannot afford insurance. The federal government has a contract with Florida, as with other states, to provide what is known as Low Income Pool funds to pay for hospital charity care when the poor go to an emergency room.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration told states the LIP money would be going away and urged them to replace it with a Medicaid expansion plan. So far 28 states have done so. The idea is it is more efficient medically and economically to provide regular health care to the poor somewhere besides a hospital emergency room.

The Florida Senate understood. So did Florida's major business groups, hospitals organizations and voters. A Senate Medicaid expansion plan calls for recipients to be working or in school and pay a small monthly premium. The plan, approved by Washington, would provide more care at less cost - saving an estimated $1.7 billion over five years - and create tens of thousands of jobs and pump tens of billions of dollars into Florida's economy over the next decade.

The Florida House leadership, however, has opted to play politics. Anything tied to Obamacare is anathema. From the start, Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt island, and his lieutenants have stubbornly refused to even discuss Medicaid expansion. At all. Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott, who should be providing leadership toward compromise, is only exacerbating an already horrible situation. Not only is he opposing Medicaid expansion - after he was for it - he is suing the federal government for the LIP money, a case he is almost sure to lose on our dime. Scott says he does not trust the feds to provide the Medicaid expansion money - even though it is codified in the ACA law - but instead is demanding the feds keep the LIP money flowing. His stance is weak and hurts Florida and its residents.

But the damage does not stop there. Now the House and the Senate cannot complete a state budget - their singular constitutionally required task - by the end of the legislative session Friday. Their budgets are $4 billion apart, largely because of the health care impasse, and new funding for education, mental health care and new prison guards as well as some modest tax cuts are all at serious risk.

All so Scott, Crisafulli and Co. can make some ideologically driven political point that ultimately hurts real people.

Thank goodness for the adults in the Florida Senate. What Scott and the House membership are doing is endangering the health and well-being of Florida, which, contrary to the governor's economic hosannas, is still limping out of the recession.

Giving poor people access to health care while at the same time saving the state money and boosting its economy is good public policy.

Refusing to even discuss it is simply morally and fiscally indefensible.
 
 
 
 
Leslie Salzillo 
Daily Kos member
For most of his life, Jimmy Carter has been an advocate for human rights. In 1982, one year after leaving the Oval Office, the former US President and his wife Rosalynn Carter, founded the Carter Center, dedicated to advancing peace and health worldwide. Still an activist at 90, Carter has authored 28 books, including a new book in 2014 called, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power.

Over the years, Jimmy Carter, a devout Christian, has become a very strong proponent of women's rights, to a point where he has spoken out against the falsehoods and extremism we see within the 'religion' of Christianity today. In 2009, he penned an open letter, severing ties with the mega SBC/Southern Baptist Convention, after being a member of the Convention for 60 years. Carter said the decision was difficult and painful, yet 'unavoidable,' after the Convention leaders chose to take bible verses out of context and claim 'Eve' was responsible to for 'original sin,' and thus all women must be subservient to men. In Carter's aforementioned open letter, he expands on his reasons and concerns:

This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us.

Carter states how the subjugation of women was not always a part of Christianity.  

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths 

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn't until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

In his letter, Carter discusses the independent group of global leaders to which he belongs, called The Elders. Founded by the late Nelson Mandela, the members have come together on this issue and collectively published this statement to all religious leaders around the world:"The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable." This discrimination can and must end says Carter. He believes it's within our power:

The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Thank you, Mr. Carter, not only for the work you do for the sake of our daughters, our granddaughters, and their daughters, but also for our sons, grandsons, and the whole of humanity. Thank you, to you and Rosalynn for creating The Carter Center. And thank you for living by example. You are a good and true man, and this world is a better place by your presence.


Special thanks to Indiana Progressives on Facebook for sharing the original piece inTheAge.com, and to Sixty-Something, Leevank and the Daily Kos community for helping to make this story stronger.


ORIGINALLY POSTED TO LESLIE SALZILLO ON THU APR 23, 2015 AT 05:55 PM PDT.
 
 
Hillary Clinton’s announcement video that kicked off her 2016 presidential campaign will go down as one of the great works of political advertising and strategy in modern history. Decades from now Poli-Sci majors will be writing papers about that piece and what it meant to the 2016 election.The candidate doesn’t even appear in the ad for the first 90 seconds. The visuals are a snapshot of very likable people, your fellow Americans, going about their daily lives. The mix of people is diverse, middle class and represent broad archetypes that will resonate with the average viewer. The characters depicted are real, approachable and totally believable. These people are your friends and your neighbors and they slip Hillary Clinton, someone who is most definitely not middle class, into this river of average Americana. Yet, for all its technical perfection, that’s not the real brilliance of the piece.

The real brilliance of this piece is that it’s inviting Republicans to stick their head in a noose. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Republicans will respond with attack ads. By being so consistent, the GOP has made themselves predictable and this ad is calculated to capitalize on the contrast.

Instead of coming back with their own positive vision for America and actually arguing issues, Republicans will come back with attacks. That will be a strategic a blunder of monumental proportions and the announcement ad is engineered with that response in mind from the very first frame. The great thing about Republicans as an opposition is they can be counted on to shoot themselves in the foot and the extremist faction of the party, which can’t keep their mouth shut on a good day, will rise to the bait starting on Monday morning. Instead of talking about the issues, Republicans are going to spend all of next week talking about Hillary Clinton.

What the ad did is put Clinton in the midst of a crowd of Americans and makes her campaign about them. So when Republicans start attacking her, by extension, they’ll be attacking their fellow Americans.

The ad is also overwhelmingly positive so the contrast between Clinton’s positive message and the Republican response will be immediate and glaring. Part of the handicap Republicans are faced with is they have no positions to run on. Gutting Social Security and Medicare isn’t much of a platform and the public is finally catching on, after only 40 years, that supply side economics is a sham and tax breaks for billionaires don’t buy us anything. Bombing Iran is not going to play well next to that ad.

Since they don’t have any issues to run on, the billionaire’s club that the GOP has become will almost certainly go negative in a big way. They can’t help themselves and don’t have a lot of options in either respect.

The smart response would be for Republicans to ignore Clinton altogether. Acknowledge she’s in the race and go back to their business. That would be smart, so there’s no real threat Republicans will do that. They’ll stick their head in the noose and climb over the rail because that's who they've become.

Whether you like Clinton or not your choices in this election are not going to be between competing policy ideas. Your choice in the 2016 race is going to be between crazy and not crazy. You can vote for the nice lady in the Clinton ad or the nutcase behind Door Number 2. For the overwhelming majority of Americans that choice is going to be a no brainer.

 

God Speaks

04/13/2015

 
 
 
John Nichols on April 7, 2015 - 1:18 PM ET
US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) formally announces his candidacy for president during an event in Louisville, Kentucky, April 7, 2015. (Reuters/John Sommers II)

Dick Cheney does not approve of Rand Paul, which is certainly a strong recommendation.

But not strong enough. The senator from Kentucky’s occasionally expressed doubts about the national security state and wars of whim and folly may offend the delicate sensibilities of the former vice president, who has made no secret of his disdain for the Republican presidential prospect. But the truth is that Paul still fits rather too comfortably into the autocratic mainstream of Cheney’s Republican Party.

There is no question that Paul is more interesting than the other Republicans who will join him in the race for the 2016 primary contests. His objections to Cheney’s over-the-top militarism are worthy of note, and even sometimes of praise. And he deserves at least some credit for recognizing that the party has a grumpy-old-man problem. “I think Republicans will not win again in my lifetime for the presidency unless they become a new GOP, a new Republican Party,” said the senator, as he prepared the way for his entry into the race for the party’s nomination. But what makes him genuinely interesting is that he can be rather specific regarding his stylistic concerns with the curse of Cheneyism: declaring that the GOP must undergo “a transformation, not a little tweaking at the edges.” Paul wants the party to start talking about dialing down Ronald Reagan’s “war on drugs,” with an acknowledgement that “it’s disproportionately affected the poor and the black and brown among us.” He reminds his fellow partisans that serious conversations about “big government” must deal with the looming presence of the military-industrial complex.

He even suggests that the party, which has grown increasingly meddlesome when it comes to restricting rights and preempting local democracy, needs to do a better job defending—as opposed to merely talking about—liberty.

Unfortunately, the supposedly “different” Rand Paul talks a better line than he delivers.

When it counts, Paul reveals himself as an rather too predictable contemporary Republican. He is not interested in winning the battle of ideas. He is simply interested in winning—and if that means using the power of big government to thwart the legitimate and honorable democratic aspirations of citizens, so be it.

This inconvenient truth will frustrate Americans who array themselves on various positions along the political spectrum. There were a good many good citizens—on the right and the left—who have entertained the notion that the son of former Congressman Ron Paul (who frequently stood on principle against his fellow Republicans) might get the Republican Party to abandon the authoritarian tendencies that have come to dominate its platforms and political strategies. This prospect has attracted considerable attention for his 2016 bid, which Paul announced Tuesday with an amusingly populist slogan: “Defeat the Washington machine. Unleash the American dream.”

Unfortunately, Rand Paul is on the side of the machine he claims to oppose.

Paul, like so many of his Republican colleagues, has turned out to be the worst sort of big-government man.

While libertarians and many progressives believe in decentralizing power and making sure that the most authority is rested in the hands of the most people, Paul wants the federal government to dictate policies and procedures to Americans—even when that undermines the ability of those Americans to spend tax dollars as they choose.

The senator made this abundantly clear several years ago when he blocked action on theDistrict of Columbia Budget Autonomy Act, a power-to-the-people measure designed to give the voters of Washington, DC, and their elected representatives more authority over the spending of locally raised tax dollars.

Instead of embracing the decentralization plan, the senator used his position to derail it.

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee had planned in the summer of 2012 to begin the process of moving the DC Budget Autonomy Act toward passage. But Paul used his senatorial privilege to stall action on the measure with a series of schemes, including proposals for amendments designed to weaken the district’s gun laws and ban local spending for reproductive health services. He even sought to impose anti-labor “right to work” rules to the city with an amendment providing that “membership in a labor organization may not be applied as a precondition for employment” in the District of Columbia.

Paul made no secret of his intention to use the power of the federal government to impose his will on the residents of Washington, DC, a majority-minority city that ought to be a state.

“I think it’s a good way to call attention to some issues that have national implications,” the senator explained to The Washington Post. “We don’t have (authority) over the states but we do for DC”

Paul succeeded in thwarting local democracy and local control.

The Post reported: “D.C. budget autonomy bill pulled after Rand Paul offers amendments on guns, abortion, unions.”

An analysis by DC public-radio station WAMU announced: “Senator Rand Paul Derails D.C. Budget Autonomy Momentum.”

Even a year later, as Paul was trying to soften his image and suggest that he was flexible, the group DC Vote reminded everyone that, when it mattered, “Rand’s personal agenda on guns and abortion doomed chances for the bill.”

That authority is no small matter for the residents of the District of Columbia.

“Budget autonomy is critical to the District’s future,” explains the Council of the District of Columbia, which notes that “On all but three occasions since 1990, Congress has approved the District’s budget after the fiscal year was already underway. This creates great difficulty and uncertainty in the District’s budgeting process, and increases short-term borrowing costs. Additionally, since our schools’ budget year is tied to that of Congress, we are forced to face the costly and illogical situation of having the all-important ‘back to school’ season fall during the very last weeks of their shared fiscal year.”

“The issue is clear: dollars that are raised locally should be allowed to be spent locally without the need for Congressional involvement (although Congress would retain decision-making on federal funds),” argue the elected leaders of Washington, DC. “The Council, the Mayor, and 83 percent of District voters are on record supporting this view.”

This is a basic local control issue, a basic liberty issue. It is exactly the sort of issue that a different kind of Republican, a “new” Republican (or a very old Republican of the “Party of Lincoln” school) should have gotten right.

But Rand Paul got it wrong. And there is a lesson in this. The Paul cannot be counted on to stand on principle when his party is wrong. And he cannot be counted on to lead in a “new” direction.

Decrying “Sen. Rand Paul’s stunning hypocrisy,” Ilir Zherka, executive director of the group DC Vote, complained, “He preaches about restraining the power of the federal government, but uses that same power to impose his own, narrow political agenda on residents of the District of Columbia.”

That’s the right analysis.

But it should not be coming only from DC activists.

It should be coming from everyone who thinks that government—big or small, local or national—is supposed to serve the people, not impose the will of petty politicians on the great mass of citizens.

Rand Paul may claim to believe in the principles of self-government, as outlined by Jefferson and Madison.

But that is not the case.

When it matters, he’s just another top-down, autocratic, big-government Republican.