Helen of Marlowe's Blog

American Theocracy — A Tiresome Re-run

Posted in "North Carolina", Government, Government Politics, Local Government, NC, Politics, Religion by helenofmarlowe on February 21, 2012

Not to be outdone by Forsyth County Commissioners, who spent many thousands of dollars and much county time litigating a losing battle which was finally settled by the U.S. Supreme Court,  Rowan County (NC) County Commissioners have apparently decided to fight the same fight.

SALISBURY, N.C. — Commissioners in one North Carolina county plan to continue offering Christian prayers at public meetings, regardless of a letter from a civil liberties group citing a recent Supreme Court action upholding a federal court’s ban on the practice.

The Salisbury Post reported (http://bit.ly/xtafV5 ) that a huge crowd turned out for the Rowan County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night to offer their support to the elected officials, who say they’ll defy a decision by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down so-called sectarian prayer, or prayer that’s explicitly linked to a particular religion, such as Christianity.

“If they tell county commissioners they can’t pray, soon they’re going to be in my church telling me I can’t pray in the name of Jesus,” said Terry Brown, a county resident who came to the meeting.

The appeals court’s ruling was in the case of the Forsyth County Board of Commissions. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by that board, letting the Fourth Circuit’s ruling stand. Since then, the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has contacted 25 and 30 government bodies in North Carolina in response to complaints from residents about sectarian prayer.

Only one of about two dozen members of the public who spoke Monday night argued that prayers offered to a specific deity don’t belong in government meetings.

“I think what’s going on right now is a clear example of why we need this law, and why it should be obeyed,” said Salisbury resident Chris Crowell, who compared the atmosphere of the meeting to a religious revival.

Rowan County residents might as well gear up for a long and losing battle.  For a preview of what they have to look forward to, here’s how it went in the Forsyth County Commissioners meeting two years ago, when the Commissioners, in defiance of all good sense and good law, decided to appeal two lower court rulings and send their case to the Supreme Court.

Can’t these benighted North Carolina citizens look around the world and see what it’s like to live in a theocracy?   Is that really what they want for our nation?

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Free Lunch

Posted in Economy, Government, Government Politics by helenofmarlowe on November 16, 2011

I am reading Free Lunch, by David Cay Johnston.

Mr. Johnston’s book is not making me happy.  Maybe it’s not the best choice for bedtime reading.

 There’s not a whole lot in there that I don’t already know in theory, but it sure can get me riled up when I read the details.

If you’re not already supporting the Occupiers,

if you’re not quite as disgruntled as you ought to be about the Supreme Court ‘s ruling in Citizens United and you don’t really think corporations are people, and if you haven’t signed the petition for a constitutional amendment taking the money out of political campaigns at  http://www.getmoneyout.com/

then try reading Free Lunch.

It is hard to be optimistic about the future of this nation.

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It’s Move Your Money Week! And so I did.

Posted in "North Carolina", Economy, Government, Government Politics, Local Government, NC, Politics, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on November 11, 2011

This is Move Your Money Week. And so I did.

 I’ve been happy with Wachovia for more than 30 years. But Wachovia is no more, and Wells Fargo, nee Wachovia, is now charging fees that Wachovia never charged while, according to Reuters, Wells Fargo paid Chief Executive John Stumpf compensation worth $21.3 million for 2009. A year ago, Wachovia/Wells Fargo began charging me a $25 fee for my unsecured line of credit. I’ve had that unsecured $15k for thirty years, never paid for it, and never used it except occasionally due to carelessness – it’s my overdraft protection.

Maybe Mr. Stumpt is worth $21million a year, every year. It doesn’t really look like much when compared to the $43.7 billion in taxpayer bailout funds that went to Wells Fargo. And the $25 annual fee for an unsecured line of credit that I almost never use isn’t going to make a difference in my vacation plans.

But our country’s rising income inequality troubles me. Increasingly wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few, and not because they have worked harder, but because they have influenced the laws that rig the rules. We like to think of America as the land of opportunity, and that once was true. But for the last three decades, economic mobility has become harder in the US than in Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany or Spain.

Much is amiss in the rigged and under-regulated economy that has seen corporate taxes as a share of the nation’s tax revenues plunge from 28 percent in 1956 to only 11.8 percent in 1996 and to below 10 percent in the early 2000s.

The share of all property taxes paid by corporations dropped from 45 percent in 1957 to 16 percent in 1995 (more recent figures are hard to find, as most states have changed their accounting rules to not break out corporate from personal tax payments, in response to lobbying pressures from corporations).

After decades of campaign contributions from lenders, legislators have re-written the banking rules to favor the banks over the people. Much of this corporate-friendly legislation was even written by the Corporations, instead of by the legislators whose job it is.  (See  http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed  — ALEC Exposed.) So today I moved my checking, savings, money market and credit card to the State Employees Credit Union. And as soon as I’m sure all my charges have cleared, I’ll cut my Bank of American credit card and mail it – or maybe take it – to the bank that notoriously took bail-out funds, gave CEOs huge salaries, and paid no taxes.

It isn’t that hard to Move Your Money, and it will help the economy of your own community.

How Do They Fool So Many Voters?

Posted in "North Carolina", Economy, Government, Government Politics, Local Government, NC, Politics, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on October 10, 2011

I’ve never known anyone over the age of 13 to be as obsessed with sex as the current NC Republican legislators. They were hired to create jobs and improve the economy, but they’ve done nothing so far except insert themselves into the private lives of citizens. They’ve cut the budget so severely that the UNC system has had to cut more than 3,000 positions. This, they think, creates jobs? They’ve cut and closed government offices, putting many thousands of public employees out of work. Do they think that moving people out of jobs and into the un-employment lines is good for the economy? Our NC – DOT has just cut 400 positions. Will putting those 400 people onto the un-employment rolls help the economy? Our NC Republican legislators have passed laws curtailing women’s reproductive rights to a degree not seen (correct me if I’m wrong, anyone) in any other state, and approximately equal to the reproductive rights of the most restrictive theocracies. Not because they care about babies — I see no evidence that they care a whit about babies — but because they want to abolish the individual right to privacy. They are now spending their (our?) time and energy and tax money working on passing a Marriage Amendment to the NC constitution. Yep, not just a law, but a Constitutional Amendment! To strengthen it, I believe, against a possible newly elected and saner legislature changing that in future.

And this is the party that claims it wants to get big government out of our private lives. It’s clear their main goals are 1) causing as much damage to the economy as possible, so as to ensure our president will not be re-elected, and 2)  control the private lives of individual citizens.  How is it that they can fool so many voters?

US Uncut – Coming Soon to a City near You

Posted in Economy, Government Politics by helenofmarlowe on March 2, 2011

US Uncut!

As everyone in the house that night will attest, I got pretty excited when I read about UK Uncut in the January 21 issue of The Nation.   I fervently hoped this movement would cross the ocean.
To summarize (and oversimplify) the article (read Johann Hari’s article in The Nation!),  UK Uncut began when a group of British citizens in a pub wondered why the new Conservative government in Britain is imposing the most extreme cuts to public spending since the 1920s.  Among their many observations was this:  All the cuts in housing subsidies, driving people out of their homes, are part of a package of cuts to the poor, adding up to 7 billion pounds. Yet one of Britain’s leading cellphone firms, Vodafone, owed an outstanding bill of 6 billion.
So if this one company had been made to pay its taxes, these people would not have been forced out of their homes.
These people announced a national day of protest, and soon, so many British citizens were staging protests that several Vodaphone stores were shut down.   My favorite line in this story:

“Prime Minister David Cameron wants axed government
services to be replaced by a Big Society, in which volunteers
do the jobs instead.  So UK Uncut announced it was the Big
Society Tax Collection Agency.”

The movement has indeed jumped over the ocean.  See http://usuncut.org/

In the US, $100 billion annually is lost because of corporations putting their money into offshore tax havens.   Instead of cutting funds to schools and libraries and CPB, why not just collect the  $100 billion owed to the US by corporations.

One thing you may not know, if you get your news from mainstream media (or from Fox Broadcasting, heaven forbid) — or even from NPR, which has now become dependent upon corporate sponsors — is that in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker — who has been in office only five weeks! — inherited a state budget surplus.  In five weeks  Governor Walker  turned the surplus into a deficit.

The governor called a special session of the state legislature and signed business tax breaks  that lower  tax revenues.  These tax breaks were not offset, and this helped turn a surplus into a deficit.  As Brian Beutler  writes in Talking Points Memo, “public workers are being asked to pick up the tab for this agenda.”  These acts by Governor Walker  turned Wisconsin’s surplus into a deficit.

Now this quote comes not from a liberal source, but from the respected financial publication  Bloomberg Businessweek:

Walker and other Republican leaders in the state have made a big deal of the “gold-plated pensions” of state workers, yet median state and  local pensions in Wisconsin are less than $23,000. Fewer than 2 percent receive pensions of $100,000, the threshold bantered around in the ress as commonplace. These pensions are most likely the managers and top administrators, as well as senior police and firefighters, who, coincidentally, are excluded from Walker’s draconian legislation.

According to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, 83 of the top 100 publicly traded corporations that operate in the US exploit corporate tax havens. Since 2009, America’s most profitable companies,  including Exxon, GE, and Bank of America such all paid a grand total of $0 in federal income taxes to Uncle Sam.

I hope this movement swells beyond containment.   I will not start a chapter in Winston-Salem, but if one does form I will join it.


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