It is a time of fear in the face of freedom, a time of an emptying country and swelling cities, a time for the widening of previous roads and the opening of new paths, yet a time when these paths are mined by knowing algorithms of the all-seeing eye. It is the time of the warrior's peace and the miser's charity, when the planting of a seed is an act of conscientious objection. These are the times when maps fade, old landmarks crumble and direction is lost. Forwards is backwards now, so we glance sideways at the strange lands through which we are all passing, knowing for certain only that our destination has disappeared. We are unready to meet these times, but we proceed nonetheless, adapting as we wander, reshaping the Earth with every tread. Behind us we have left the old times, the standard times, the high times. Welcome to the irregular times.
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on The People’s Budget – a package crafted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus that would lower taxes for working Americans, close loopholes exploited by corporations, increase domestic spending, reduce military waste, and increase federal workers’ wages. The deal was introduced by Representative Keith Ellison on behalf of Raul Grijalva and the rest of the caucus.
It’s expected that the House Republicans would vote against this budget. They want special favors for corporations and financial elites, more cash for war, a low minimum wage, and a bigger economic burden on working Americans.
What I didn’t expect to see in today’s vote was opposition from nearly half of the House Democrats. 47 percent of House Democrats voted against this progressive legislation.
Here’s the roll call of how Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives voted on The People’s Budget:
Democrats Who Voted For The Progressive Caucus Budget:
Doyle, Michael F.
Johnson, E. B.
Luján, Ben Ray (NM)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Democrats Who Joined The GOP To Vote AGAINST The Progressive Caucus Budget:
Boyle, Brendan F.
Lujan Grisham (NM)
(Six other Democrats didn’t even have the guts to vote one way or the other. They were: Hinojosa, O’Rourke, Payne, Ruiz, Sewell (AL), Smith (WA))
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate dealt with amendments to S. Con. Res. 11, a resolution establishing the budget for the federal government in 2016. Within these amendments, two stood out as progressive pieces of legislation.
One, S. Amdt. 471 by Ron Wyden, sought to “create a point of order against legislation that would cut benefits, raise the retirement age, or privatize social security.” Another, S. Amdt 323 by Bernard Sanders, would have established a national job program to repair and enhance infrastructure, funded by the closure of tax loopholes exploited by corporations.
Both amendments were rejected. Democrats mostly supported the amendments, and Republicans mostly opposed them. There were some notable aisle-crossings, however, on the issue of Social Security. Democrat Mark Warner voted against Ron Wyden’s amendment to prevent the privatization of Social Security. Republicans Dean Heller, John Hoeven, Mark Kirk, John McCain, and Rob Portman supported the measure.
There is now a generation of Americans who are lucky not to remember what it was like to live during the Cold War, with the threat of nuclear annihilation always looming over us. But then, those of us who grew up during the Cold War have perhaps become smug in our assumption that the threat of massive nuclear war is over. In fact, the United States and Russia both retain enough nuclear weapons to devastate human civilization all over the planet.
15 Democrats and 1 independent in Congress have not forgotten the threatening shadow cast by our country’s nuclear arsenal. Yesterday, in both the House and Senate, they introduced the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures Act. The SANE Act would save $100 billion dollars over the next decade by prohibiting the purchase of new nuclear missiles, ending the construction of new long-range nuclear bombers, and reducing the number of nuclear-armed submarines in the U.S. military.
Senator Ed Markey, speaking of his sponsorship of the SANE Act, explained, “It makes no sense to fund a bloated nuclear arsenal that does nothing to keep our nation safe in the 21st century. We should cure disease, not create new instruments of death. We should fund education, not annihilation.”
The following are the members of Congress who support the SANE Act:
U.S. House of Representatives
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Is this slack work ethic and distracted sense of ambition in accord with the qualities we need in the President of the United States?
What will happen next? Will Ted Cruz, after he is elected President of the United States, decide that what he really wants to do is to become a musician, and stop showing up for work in the Oval Office so that he can practice the oboe?
If Ted Cruz really wants to become the next President of the United States, he should resign from his job in the U.S. Senate, so that someone who really wants that job can take it.
“We’ll repeal Obamacare and get rid of any idea that you have to have abortion coverage and contraceptive coverage. One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about is, I think, the dangers of contraceptives in this country. The whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” — Rick Santorum, October 21 2011
“I’m not a believer in birth control, uh, artificial birth control. Again, uh, I think it goes down the line of being able to do whatever you want to do without having the responsibility that comes with that. And I don’t think it — it breaks the, what I, this is from a personal point of view…. I don’t think it works. I think it’s harmful to women. I think it’s harmful to society to have a society that says that, you know, sex outside of marriage is something that should be encouraged or tolerated.” — Rick Santorum, August 2006
“We’re seeing our birthrate is now below replacement rate for the first time in our history and in all of these programs — look what’s going on in Europe. They’re collapsing. You see all of these countries in horrible situations. Why? Because their birthrate is 1.2. You need 2.1 children per woman of childbearing age to maintain your population, and in France and Italy it is 1.2, 1.3, so they’re collapsing and we are going in the same direction.” — Rick Santorum, March 29 2011
Rick Santorum wants to get rid of abortion and contraceptive coverage. Rick Santorum doesn’t want society to tolerate birth control or sex out of marriage. Rick Santorum blames Europe’s “collapse” and “horrible situations” on women having too few babies.
The thing is, Rick Santorum is right that Europe, and now the United States, has a small number of children per woman of childbearing age. And Rick Santorum is right that a low birthrate has an effect on the shape of the population structure of a country over time. Just look at trends in the United States:
Look, it’s the emergence of a veritable demographic reservoir tip!
Ted Cruz announced yesterday that he is campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. So now, as we have with other candidates, such as Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Jim Webb, Irregular Times offers the following consideration of the pros and cons of the Cruz for President campaign:
– Ted Cruz supported a somewhat compassionate immigration policy… until pressure from GOP activists caused him to reverse his position and support extremist anti-immigrant policies
– Ted Cruz has never been arrested for selling illegal drugs
– Ted Cruz voted against legislation that would have shifted some of the expense of climate change from the American public to the polluting corporations that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases
– Ted Cruz claims that there has been no global warming over the last 17 years
– Ted Cruz voted to double the interest rates students pay on their college loans
– Ted Cruz wants to privatize Social Security
– Ted Cruz chose to give his opening speech at a university that teaches its students that the planet Earth is 6,000 years old and that biological evolution through natural selection is a hoax
– Ted Cruz introduced legislation to reduce worker pay, allowing the federal government to begin a race to the bottom, driving income down by paying workers below the local prevailing wages
– Ted Cruz believes that Islamic Sharia law is being imposed on communities by the government across the United States
– Ted Cruz introduced legislation to create a separate and unequal Jim Crow marriage system, in which Americans married in one state could have their legal rights denied in other states within the USA
– Ted Cruz wants to dramatically increase Pentagon spending
– Ted Cruz seeks to use the power of the federal government to promote his own religious beliefs
– Ted Cruz voted against confirming a leader to administrate Medicare and Medicaid services, even though the nominee had the support of the majority of both Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. Senate
– Ted Cruz supports national “stand your ground” laws that enable people to legally shoot each other with guns with alarmingly low standards of evidence of any actual threat
– Ted Cruz wants the federal government to sell off national parks to private landowners to be used for ranching and mining operations
If you’ve been following changes to American surveillance law since 2001, you’ll know that most of the U.S. government’s surveillance activities are propped up by two laws: the USA Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act. The Patriot Act authorized agents of the United States government to seize information about the activities of law-abiding Americans — their spending habits, their reading habits, their travels, their offices — without a search warrant. The FISA Amendments Act retroactively legalized an explicitly illegal and unconstitutional electronic surveillance dragnet that grabbed data from private cell phone calls, email, gps devices, financial transactions, and other online activity – all without a search warrant. These surveillance activities were not limited to the Republican presidential administration of George W. Bush; they continue under the Democratic presidential administration of Barack Obama. They continue to violate the explicit requirement of the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution that no searches of a person’s property, papers or effects shall occur without a specific warrant issued describing probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and describing a specific, particular subject and place for a search.
H.R. 1466, introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of last week, is a bill that would repeal both the USA Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act. But as of right now, the bill has just five official supporters: only one principal sponsor and four cosponsors have signed their names on in support of the bill. They are:
This bill’s introduction is particularly timely, considering that important provisions of the USA Patriot Act are scheduled to expire June 1, 2015 without congressional action. That’s in just 2 1/2 months — have you heard anything about that? Some members of Congress plan to try to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act quickly and quietly — but public recognition and debate of H.R. 1466 would make that subterfuge impossible. So Take Action Today – Call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your U.S. Representative. Leave a message at his or her office explaining why you do not support the USA Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act. Request politely but firmly that your Representative cosponsor H.R. 1466.
Six years ago, CafePress slashed the income of a huge number of independent designers when it announced that, in order to be listed on the CafePress marketplace, designers would have to agree to take only 10 percent of the profit on the gear featuring their designs.
Now, CafePress has done it again. CafePress announced last week that designers who choose to retain a place on the CafePress marketplace will now only receive 5 percent of the profit from the sale of its gear. That’s a 50 percent pay cut.
This decision comes in the wake of news last month that its fourth quarter sales, typically the strongest sales quarter of the year, were in decline last year.
Undercutting the designers who make its business run isn’t likely to help CafePress reverse that decline.
At Irregular Times, we pulled our shops from the CafePress marketplace years ago, when CafePress announced that it would seize the rights to sell marketplace-listed designs on any product it wanted to. This resulted not only in some quite inartful displays, but also forced CafePress designers to allow their marketplace designs to be sold on products that were produced in sweatshops.
For shop owners who keep control of their designs by withdrawing them from the marketplace, terms are unchanged from when they last were changed in 2013.
U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, who has become infamous for his association with racist extremists, having taken money from white supremacists, spoken as an honored guest at a convention of neo-Nazis, and met multiple times with KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, is accusing President Barack Obama of being a dangerous radical.
Yesterday, Scalise condemned an update by the Bureau of Land Management to federal rules on hydrofracking on federal and Native American lands. The Hill explains that these rules “set standards for well construction to minimize the risk of groundwater or other contamination, strict requirements for disposal of the fluid that flows back out of the well and a mandate to publicly disclose the chemicals drillers use in them. In addition, disposal fluid must be stored in covered, above-ground tanks.”
Scalise called these rules “yet another attack on American jobs by President Obama”.
Hydrofracking is a method that forces the release of methane from shale formations by injecting fluids with a chemical composition that is unknown to the public, cracking the ancient sedimentary rock. Methane is a fossil fuel that itself contributes even more strongly to global warming than carbon dioxide, and also produces large amounts of carbon dioxide when it is burned. Corporations that conduct fracking have long sought to keep the chemical composition of their fracking fluids secret from the American public.
The lands impacted by these rules make up only 17 percent of methane extraction in the United States, so the rules higher standards for well construction and disposal of fracking wastes wouldn’t singificantly impact the fracking industry. If anything, these requirements would create new jobs for people who engineer a new generation of fracking equipment and ensure compliance.
The only measure in these rules that will affect the fracking industry as a whole would be the required disclosure of the chemical contents of fracking fluids. So, this must be the measure that has pro-fracking Republicans like Steve Scalise truly concerned.
How will American jobs be reduced if fracking companies are forced to tell the public what they put in their fracking fluids? I suppose a few lawyers, whose job it is to file paperwork to defend frackers’ secrets, may be put out of work if the composition of fracking fluid is finally divulged, but no one else will lose work…
… unless we all learn that fracking fluids are so highly toxic that a public outcry will require an end to fracking.
If this is the case, America will be losing only jobs that involve the massive pollution of huge areas of the United States. These are the kinds of jobs our country can do without. We need more Americans working in jobs that keep us informed and maintain protection from toxic substances. Steve Scalise’s fossil fuels friends won’t give us that kind of work.
Liberal Buttons, Political Bumper Stickers and Sweat-Free Shirts
To keep our voices independent of moneyed interests, the writers of Irregular Times have never accepted money for advertising on this website. But we still have to pay the bills! To help cover our expenses, we sell our own designs of liberal activist bumper stickers, buttons and sweatshop-free shirts.