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Friday, June 19, 2015

The Daily Drift

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Here are 9 things many Americans just don’t understand — compared to the rest of the world

by Alex Henderson
Grunge ripped paper American flag (Shutterstock)
To hear the lunatic fringe ideologues of Fox News and AM talk radio tell it, life in Europe is hell on Earth. Taxes are high, sexual promiscuity prevails, universal healthcare doesn’t work, and millions of people don’t even speak English as their primary language! Those who run around screaming about “American exceptionalism” often condemn countries like France, Norway and Switzerland to justify their jingoism. Sadly, the U.S.’ economic deterioration means that many Americans simply cannot afford a trip abroad to see how those countries function for themselves. And often, lack of foreign travel means accepting clich├ęs about the rest of the world over the reality. And that lack of worldliness clouds many Americans’ views on everything from economics to sex to religion.
Here are nine things Americans can learn from the rest of the world.
1. Universal Healthcare Is Great for Free Enterprise and Great for Small Businesses
The modern-day Republican Party would have us believe that those who promote universal healthcare are anti-free enterprise or hostile to small businesses. But truth be told, universal healthcare is great for entrepreneurs, small businesses and the self-employed in France, Germany and other developed countries where healthcare is considered a right. The U.S.’ troubled healthcare system has a long history of punishing entrepreneurs with sky-high premiums when they start their own businesses. Prior to the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, many small business owners couldn’t even obtain individual health insurance plans if they had a preexisting condition such as heart disease or diabetes—and even with the ACA’s reforms, the high cost of health insurance is still daunting to small business owners. But many Americans fail to realize that healthcare reform is not only a humanitarian issue, it is also vitally important to small businesses and the self-employed.
In 2009, the Center for Economic and Policy Research published a study on small businesses around the world and found that “by every measure of small-business employment, the United States has among the world’s smallest small-business sectors.” People in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Belgium and other European countries are more likely to be self-employed—and the study concluded that universal healthcare is a key factor. According to CEPR’s study, “High healthcare costs discourage small business formation since start-ups in other countries can tap into government-funded healthcare systems.”
2. Comprehensive Sex Education Decreases Sexual Problems
For decades, social conservatives in the U.S. have insisted that comprehensive sex education promotes unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. But in fact, comprehensive sex education (as opposed to the abstinence-only programs that are common in the American Bible Belt) decreases sexual problems, and the data bears that out in no uncertain terms. Public schools in the Netherlands have aggressive sex education programs that America’s Christian Right would despise. Yet in 2009, the Netherlands had (according to the United Nations) a teen birth rate of only 5.3 per 1,000 compared to 39.1 per 1,000 in the U.S. That same year, the U.S. had three times as many adults living with HIV or AIDS as the Netherlands.
Switzerland, France, Germany and many other European countries also have intensive sex-ed programs and much lower teen pregnancy rates than the U.S. Still, far-right politicians in the U.S. can’t get it through their heads that inadequate sex education and insufficient sexual knowledge actually promote teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases instead of decreasing them.
3. American Exceptionalism Is Absolute Nonsense in 2015
No matter how severe the U.S.’ decline becomes, neocons and the Tea Party continue to espouse their belief in “American exceptionalism.” But in many respects, the U.S. of 2015 is far from exceptional. The U.S. is not exceptional when it comes to civil liberties (no country in the world incarcerates, per capita, more of its people than the U.S.) or healthcare (WHO ranks the U.S. #37 in terms of healthcare). Nor is the U.S. a leader in terms of life expectancy: according to the WHO, overall life expectancy in the U.S. in 2013 was 79 compared to 83 in Switzerland and Japan, 82 in Spain, France, Italy, Sweden and Canada and 81 in the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Austria and Finland.
4. Adequate Mass Transit Is a Huge Convenience
When it comes to mass transit, Europe and Japan are way ahead of the U.S.; in only a handful of American cities is it easy to function without a car. New York City, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, DC are among the U.S.’ more mass transit-oriented cities, but overall, the U.S. remains a car culture—and public transportation is painfully limited in a long list of U.S. cities. Many Americans fail to realize that mass transit has numerous advantages, including less air pollution, less congestion, fewer DUIs and all the aerobic exercise that goes with living in a pedestrian-friendly environment.
5. The Bible Was Not Written by Billionaire Hedge Fund Managers
Christianity in its various forms can be found all over the developed world. But the U.S., more than anywhere, is where one finds a far-right version of white Protestant fundamentalism that idolizes the ultra-rich, demonizes the poor and equates extreme wealth with morality and poverty with moral failings. The problem with hating the poor in the name of Christianity is that the Bible is full of quotes that are much more in line with Franklin Delano Roosevelt than Ayn Rand—like “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25) and “The love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).
6. Learning a Second or Third Language Is a Plus, Not a Character Flaw
In the Netherlands or the Scandinavian countries, becoming proficient in two or three foreign languages is viewed as a sign of intellect and sophistication. But xenophobia runs so deep among many neocons, Republicans and Tea Party wingnuts that any use of a language other than English terrifies them. Barack Obama, during his 2008 campaign, was bombarded with hateful responses from Republicans when he recommended that Americans study foreign languages from an early age. And in the 2012 GOP presidential primary, Newt Gingrich’s campaign ran an ad in South Carolina attacking Mitt Romney for being proficient in French.
In February, an eighth-grade girl who was studying Latin in Vermont received equally clueless responses when she wrote to a state senator suggesting that Vermont adopt a Latin motto in addition to its English-language motto (not as a replacement). The wingnuts went ballistic, posting on the Facebook page of a local television station that if the girl wanted to speak Latin, she should move to Latin America.
7. Union Membership Benefits the Economy
In 2014, a Gallup poll found that 53% of Americans approved of labor unions while 71% favored anti-union “right to work” laws. Union membership is way down in the U.S.: only 6.6% of private-sector workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, belonged to unions in 2014 compared to roughly 35% in the mid-1950s. The U.S.’ overall unionization rate (factoring in both public-sector and private-sector workers) is 11.1%, which is quite a contrast to parts of Europe, where overall union rates range from 74% in Finland and 70% in Sweden to 35% in Italy, 19% in Spain and 18% in Germany. That is not to say unionization has not been decreasing in Europe, but overall, one finds a more pro-labor, pro-working class outlook in Europe. The fact that 47% of Americans, in that Gallup poll, consider themselves anti-union is troubling. Too many Americans naively believe that the 1% have their best interests at heart, and they fail to realize that when unions are strong and their members earn decent wages, that money goes back into the economy.
8. Paid Maternity Leave Is the Norm in Most Developed Countries
The U.S. continues to lag behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to maternity leave. Paid maternity leave is strictly voluntary in the U.S., where, according to the organization Moms Rising, 51% of new mothers have no paid maternity leave at all. But government-mandated maternity leave is the norm in other developed countries, including the Netherlands (112 days at 100% pay), Italy (140 days at 80% pay), Switzerland (98 days at 80% pay) and Germany (98 days at 100% pay).
9. Distrust of Oligarchy Is a Positive
In February, the Emnid Polling Institute in Germany released the results of a poll that addressed economic and political conditions in that country: over 60% of the Germans surveyed believed that large corporations had too much influence on elections. ThE survey demonstrated that most Germans have a healthy distrust of crony capitalists and oligarchs who take much more than they give. Meanwhile, in the U.S., various polls show a growing distrust of oligarchy on the part of many Americans but with less vehemence than in the German Emnid poll. A 2012 poll by the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research showed that while 62% of American voters opposed the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision, only 46% strongly opposed it. And in a 2012 poll by the Corporate Reform Coalition, most Americans agreed that there was too much corporate money in U.S. politics—although only 51% strongly agreed.

For The First Time Ever, A Republican Is Going To Prison For Abusing Super PACs

As the power of dark money in our political system rapidly grows and the Koch Brothers prepare to dump $900 million dollars into Republican Cabal coffers this next election cycle, the Department of Justice has decided to make a strong statement to remind everyone that while the FEC is crippled by partisanship, someone is still watching.Tyler Harber, a Republican campaign manager for Chris Perkin’s campaign to unseat Rep. Gerry Connoley (D-VA), was convicted to two years in prison by a federal court for simultaneously coordinating an election campaign and a Super PAC at the same time. Harber shamefully admitted that “I did it, it was wrong when I did it, and I knew it was wrong when I did it.”
But in an alarming statement, Harber added that “it was something I had seen other people do. … These folks didn’t get caught.” It will come as no surprise to find this illegal practice widespread on the Republican side of politics, where corruption has penetrated the very party culture.
Leslie R. Caldwell, assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, made it clear that Loretta Lynch’s DOJ is watching: “As the first conviction for illegal campaign coordination, this case stands as an important step forward in the criminal enforcement of federal campaign finance laws. Illegal campaign coordination can be difficult to detect, which is why we strongly encourage party or campaign insiders to come forward and blow the whistle.”
It’s vitally important that the DOJ takes up the mantle of defending our democracy, as candidates like Jeb Bush cheat the system and unofficially campaign around the country, collecting millions unrestricted by campaign finance limitations and allowing his Super PAC to manage his campaign. We can’t let the Republicans buy themselves a Presidency with dark money and illegal coordination. .

Science: If Your State Government Is Pro-Environment, You’ll Have Cleaner Air

FAIL: California Republican Distracted By Facebook Forgets To Obstruct, Votes Yes For Democrats’ Budget

FAIL: CA Republican Distracted By Facebook Forgets To Obstruct, Votes Yes For Dems’ Budget
You mean to tell us a Republican wasn’t doing his job?! 

Neil Young Sends A Big F-U To Music Thief Donald Trump By Endorsing Bernie Sanders

Neil Young's manager has confirmed that Donald Trump used his song Rockin' In The Free World without his permission. Neil Young has also endorsed Bernie Sanders. …
Neil Young’s manager has confirmed that Donald Trump used his song Rockin’ In The Free World without his permission. Neil Young has also endorsed Bernie Sanders.
One of the weirdest moments in a very weird speech came when Donald Trump announced that he was running for president looked up at the ceiling and then Rockin’ In The Free World started playing.
At the time, I wrote that Trump was using Young’s music without his permission. Neil Young’s music has a strong liberal message, so there was zero chance that Young gave racist bigot Donald Trump permission to use his song.
Sure enough, Neil Young’s manager Elliot Roberts issued a statement to Mother Jones confirming that Trump did use the song without his permission, “Donald Trump’s use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” was not authorized. Mr. Young is a longtime supporter of Bernie Sanders.”
Not only will Donald Trump be getting a cease and desist letter in the mail shortly, but Neil Young has also endorsed Bernie Sanders.
Donald Trump is worse than an idiot or a buffoon. He is a thief, who took the work of another human being and attached it to his presidential campaign. Even worse, Trump had no idea that the song is critical of the very policies and belief system that he is running for president on. The phrase Rockin’ In The Free World is not a flag waving Republican anthem. It is a sarcastic takedown of Republican values.
Neil Young supports Bernie Sanders, and there is no way in hell that he would ever support Donald Trump or let him near his music.

Fox News Hack Throws Hissy Fit When Hillary Clinton Won’t Give Him The Time Of Day

Fox News Host Throws Hissy Fit When Hillary Clinton Won’t Give Him The Time Of Day (VIDEO)Like a toddler in the sandbox who didn’t get the toy he wanted…

John McCain Says American Workers Shouldn’t Be Protected If We Can Get Cheap Goods

McCain defended his support for the TPP, by arguing that cheap goods are more important than protecting American workers.…

Darrell Issa Throws A Tantrum After Getting Kicked Out Of Benghazi Deposition

darrell-issa-angryDarrell Issa threw a tantrum after he was escorted out of the room for trying to crash a closed-door deposition before the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The Hill reported:
Former House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) tried to crash former Hillary Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal’s deposition before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Tuesday.

Issa marched into the closed-door deposition and remained inside for about a minute before he was escorted out by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).
The pair briefly exchanged hushed words in a nearby hallway before Issa stormed off, throwing an empty soda can into a nearby trash bin.
Rep. Issa tried to crash the deposition that he was not invited to because he is still bitter about John Boehner kicking him off the Benghazi investigation. Issa responded to Boehner’s decision to no put him on the House Select Committee investigating Benghazi by trying to sabotage the investigation last year. In May of 2014, Issa went to the media and discussed a confidential State Department memo that debunked a big piece of the House Republican Benghazi conspiracy theory.
At the time, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) explained why Issa keeps trying to muscle in on the Select Committee, “I think the Speaker has lost control of Issa. Mr. Issa’s trying to interject himself into the Select Committee’s business. Keep in mind, Wolf, when the Select Committee was formed what the Speaker said was everything comes under the Select Committee. Now, here we have Mr. Issa trying to bring the Secretary in, and the Secretary is saying, you know, I’m going to come, but I’m just going to come one time. This is it. By the way, Wolf, it undermines the Select Committee. It undermines them. This is the very thing they were worried about.”
Issa is completely out of control. He is crashing depositions and meetings that he has no right to be in. Things have gotten so bad that his fellow Republicans are removing the Benghazi crasher. Darrell Issa is still bitter and angry that Boehner took Benghazi away from him. Issa used Benghazi to boost his own fame and fundraising.
Darrell Issa is throwing a fit because he has had his favorite toy taken away, and Republicans are letting him crash their Benghazi party.

The shrub Claims He Won The Iraq War… Again, But Suggests We Invade It… Again

George W. Bush Claims He Won The Iraq War… Again, But Suggests We Invade It… Again
Once again, the shrub declares victory/war on Iraq.
Read more 

Another Wingnut Moron Utterly Fails In Explaining Why We Have The Court System

Featured image creator unknown. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Capsteps.jpg#/media/File:Capsteps.jpg Tom DeLay has proven that his vast knowledge of the Constitution, and basic civics, is completely on par with that of Mike Huckabee....

Why should some Native Americans have to drive 163 miles to vote?

Why should some Native Americans have to drive 163 miles to vote?

After Cutting Taxes On The Rich, Kansas Will Raise Taxes On The Poor To Pay For It

Texas creates state-run gold depository beyond the reach of federal ‘confiscation’ — is secession next?

Gold bars - Shuttertsock
The state of Texas is demanding the Federal Reserve in New York repatriate $1 billion in gold bullion after Greg Abbott signed a bill establishing a state-run gold reserve in the Lone Star state.

Florida Republicans pass tax cut for rich people who spend more than $1 million on yacht repairs

Florida lawmakers pass tax cut for rich people who spend more than $1 million on yacht repairs

Do the Supreme Court justices even understand how Obamacare works?

There are four who do not - that is a fact!

Chris Hayes Beats Down Ex-Senator's ACA Lies With Facts

Watch: Chris Hayes Beats Down Ex-Senator's ACA Lies With Facts.

Too Bad Scott Walker, SCOTUS Doesn’t Think Forced Ultrasounds Are Cool

What makes this decision particularly noteworthy is that the Justices agreed with a Circuit Court ruling that disabused evangelical Republicans, and theocratic governors from North Carolina and Wisconsin,…
Walker McCrory
For any American woman, or any American man that cares about women, whether it is their mother, sister, wife, daughter or any other female relative, there has been absolutely no good news over the past few years. If women are not being deliberately paid less than a man by Republican design, or are forced to allow men, evangelical Christian men, to make their reproductive health decisions, or even be subjected to rape by medical instrument, there has been no good news for America’s women.
Nearly a year ago, the Supreme Court made two obscene rulings based on evangelical demands that the court forbid women from making their own reproductive health decisions whether it is using contraception or safely seeking family planning assistance without being assaulted by evangelical malcontents. However, finally and at long last, there is good news for women and believe it or not it came in the form of a decision by the Supreme Court. What makes this decision particularly noteworthy is that the Justices agreed with a Circuit Court ruling that disabused evangelical Republicans, and theocratic governors from North Carolina and Wisconsin, of the idea that forcing women to undergo rape by medical device is not, as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker claims, “just cool.”
The High Court refused to review North Carolina’s ‘forced ultrasound’ law and effectively “rendered it unenforceable.” The North Carolina law is very similar to Scott Walker’s Wisconsin law and was given the bovine excrement title “A Woman’s Right to Know Act.” The law forces a  woman to  undergo an ultrasound, but Republicans could not force her to look at the ultrasound screen and she was permitted to plug her ears to avoid hearing the religious script doctors were legally required to recite or risk losing their license to practice medicine. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down the law, and the Supreme Court upheld, said the doctor-recited script was nothing more than “an ideological (Christian) message in favor of carrying a pregnancy to term.” However, that was most certainly not the sole reason the High Court refused to review the sane appellate court decision.
It is likely that the Justices on the Supreme Court believed the Fourth Circuit’s decision was more than apropos; particularly after reading the ruling that debunked the theocratic law’s so-called “concern” for American women; particularly claiming that forced ultrasounds and an evangelical sermon were in any way related to “medical informed consent.” The Fourth Circuit Court explained what “informed consent” really means, and how North Carolina and Wisconsin’s forced ultrasound laws are really state-sponsored “moral condemnation.”
The Fourth Circuit’s ruling stated; “Informed consent frequently consists of a fully-clothed conversation between the patient and physician, often in the physician’s office. It is driven by the ‘patient’s particular needs and circumstances’ so that the patient receives the information he or she ‘wants’ in a setting that promotes an informed and thoughtful choice. This provision, however, finds the patient half-naked or disrobed on her back on an examination table (with her feet in stirrups and knees up around her ears) with an ultrasound probe inserted into her vagina. Informed consent has not generally been thought to require a patient to view images from his or her own body much less in a setting in which personal judgment may be altered or impaired. Yet this provision requires that she do so or ‘avert her eyes.’
Rather than engaging in a conversation calculated to inform, the physician must continue talking regardless of whether the patient is listening. The information is provided irrespective of the needs or wants of the patient, in direct contravention of medical ethics and the principle of patient autonomy. Forcing this experience on a patient over her objections in this manner interferes with the decision of a patient not to receive information that could make an indescribably difficult decision even more traumatic and could ‘actually cause harm to the patient.’ And it is intended to convey not the risks and benefits of the medical procedure to the patient’s own health, but rather the full weight of the state’s moral condemnation.”
Now that the High Court put a stop to evangelical Republicans’ forced ultrasound laws, the 10 Republican states that have them on the books, including Wisconsin, will have to put a stop to what is obviously state-sponsored torture as well as state-sponsored evangelical moral condemnation. Walker thinks forced ultrasounds are “just a cool thing,” and regardless how cool he thinks it is to force women, and doctors, to participate in a costly and unnecessary medical procedure, his fun is at an end. Walker has boasted about just how cool his forced ultrasound law is during an interview with conservative Dana Loesch.
Walker said that as an evangelical tyrant, “I’ve passed pro-life legislation. I’ve defunded Planned Parenthood, I’ve signed a law that requires an ultrasound. Which, the thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea. Most people I talk to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time who’ll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, you know we still have their first ultrasound picture. It’s just a cool thing out there. I just knew if I signed that law, if we provided the information, that more people if they saw that unborn child would, would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child.”
The truth is that Scott Walker is as ill-informed  about forcing women to undergo ultrasounds as he is a Koch puppet and an evangelical tyrant because “cool” or not, forced ultrasound laws do not change women’s minds about abortion. They do, however, make the procedure prohibitively more expensive, and more traumatizing, for women who are stripped naked, bound spread-eagle on a table in stirrups, forced to endure penetration by medical instrument, and feel as if they are being judged and condemned by their doctor who is forced by Republicans to read an evangelical sermon about the glory of giving birth. It is particularly offensive to women who fall victim to such torture, shame, and judgment, only to give birth and then discover that the same evangelical Republicans shaming them into delivering a baby hate the child because it drew a breath, became a living being, and was no longer a fetus.
Although they can no longer force women to undergo an ultrasound, North Carolina Republicans passed another abortion restriction that Republican McCrory signed forcing women to endure a 72-hour waiting period between doctor visits. According to McCrory, the new law is “a reasonable process that protects women’s health to ensure there will be no further restrictions on access.” No further restrictions indeed. Instead, what Republicans are doing is increasing the cost to women, in time and money, seeking an abortion by making them wait three days after visiting a clinic if they can find one nearby; but at least thanks to the Supreme Court they will not have to undergo a forced medical procedure and sermon from their doctor.
During his 2012 gubernatorial campaign, McCrory did what Republicans do pathologically and lied when he pledged that there was no way he would “support any new restrictions on access to abortions;” something the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reminded him about in calling for him to veto yet another “restriction on access.” Apparently, being an evangelical Republican means adhering to anti-women ideology with no biblical basis, and yet not adhering to the ninth of the Ten Commandments that prohibits lying. However, McCrory cannot be accused of being unfaithful to the biblical admonition for men to control women; something the Supreme Court generally upholds as a matter of course.
It was surprising good news that the High Court did, at least this one time, agree with a lower court that any state can no longer compel women to undergo forced ultrasounds and listen to sermons shaming them into giving birth was unconstitutional. It was good news for America’s women, but for North Carolina Republicans it was just an inconvenience the new 72-hour waiting period resolved and for anti-choicer Scott Walker, it was a sign that no matter how cool he thinks ultrasounds are, they cannot legally be forced on American women.

Kansas Republican whines online about ‘twisted’ world where transgender is in and trans fats are out

Rep. Tim Huelskamp speaks on House floor
Tim Huelskamp (R) made the offensive tweet early Tuesday morning, writing, “Twisted world: transgender and transracial are ‘in’; and trans fats are out! #jenner #dolezal.”

Wells Fargo Won’t Bow Down To Bigots, Will Keep Running Lesbian Ad

Wells Fargo Won’t Bow Down To Bigots, Will Keep Running Lesbian AdKudos to Wells Fargo for refusing to bullied by Franklin Graham and his band homophobic bigots.