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Blog, Featured: Fifth Annual Poetry and Prose Writing Competition

The Tenth Dems Community Connection 5th Annual Poetry and Prose writing competition invites high school students in Waukegan, North Chicago and Zion Township to submit original, unpublished entries on the theme of “Hope.” Awards will be presented to the winning entries at the Poetry/Prose Contest on Thursday, April 14, from 7:00 – 9:00 pm, at the Ramada Waukegan/Gurnee, 200 N. Green Bay Rd., Waukegan. Space is limited! To RSVP to attend the contest, click here, contact us at 847-266-VOTE (8683) or by email at events@tenthdems.org.

Click here to download the application for the Fifth Annual Poetry and Prose Writing Competition:  Submission Application (2) (PDF Reader required).

TDPP FLYER 2015

Blog, Featured: Mark Kirk Meltdown: From “Coffins” To Clean Bill?

After Mark Kirk took heat for his inflammatory remarks that Republicans “should build a number of coffins outside each Democratic office”if there was a terror attack during a potential DHS shutdown and that “all the dead Americans from [an attack] should be laid at the feet of the Democratic caucus,” it seems he has changed his tune after seeing some brutal poll numbers.

A new poll yesterday showed that voters in Illinois and several other key Senate battleground states were inclined to vote against Kirk and others who are driving the government towards a potential DHS shutdown. 47% of Illinois voters said they’d be less likely to vote for Kirk for tying DHS funding to immigration policy.

After seeing the polling, Kirk now “generally agrees with the Democratic position.”

Is he serious?

“After despicably remarking just yesterday that Republicans should build fake coffins in the event of a terrorist attack to score political points, Mark Kirk is clearly floundering as he attempts to change his tune on a clean DHS funding bill,” said Sadie Weiner, National Press Secretary at the DSCC. “Apparently it takes a day of bad headlines and some brutal poll numbers to convince Mark Kirk to stop being irresponsible, but the fact remains that Kirk has been along for the ride as the GOP majority has plowed ahead with absolutely no plan to fund DHS. Illinois families deserve better than a Senator like Mark Kirk who callously lobs political attacks in the face of a DHS shutdown then changes his tune the moment he fears for his reelection.”

Blog, Featured, Newsletter Articles: PTSD, Guns, the NRA, and the Ku Klux Klan – A Very Lethal Cocktail

By Steven Gan

Ongoing news streams throughout my day. Like many of you, I glance at some of it for only a few nanoseconds. In other cases, I’ll actually put my work aside and read through the news bulletin.

So it was back in mid-December that I was surprised to read that after a 17-month delay, largely due to resistance from the National Rifle Association (NRA), the Senate confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy as the U.S. Surgeon General. The NRA opposed Dr. Murthy because he believes that gun violence is a public health issue.

As I read about Dr. Murthy’s confirmation, I learned that in October 2012 he had tweeted, “Tired of politicians playing politics w/guns, putting lives at risk b/c they’re scared of NRA, Guns are a health care issue.” Sadly and very ironically, two months after this tweet, 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, were brutally massacred by a gunman with a history of mental illness. Although the incident ignited the national debate about gun control with a new sense of urgency, Congress still has failed to take meaningful steps to reduce access to firearms to the mentally ill, or even to study how guns affect the health of U.S. citizens. Too many members of Congress fear the repercussions of standing up to the NRA.NRA PTSD

One huge reason for the absence of any study of the effects of gun violence on our citizens is that the premier public health research organization in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been operating for almost two decades under a ban against such a study. In the 1990s, the NRA persuaded Congress to pass legislation forbidding the CDC from using federal dollars to promote or advocate gun control. The restriction has since been interpreted to mean that no government research can be conducted on how guns affect health, placing an effective chokehold on any such work at the CDC. This is but one stunning example of the power of the NRA. (See Paul D. Thacker, “How Congress Blocked Research on Gun Violence,” Dec. 19, 2012.

Right after I read about Vivek Murthy’s appointment, my regular subscription to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) newsletter arrived in my inbox. It’s always sobering to read this publication and learn about the ongoing hate in this country and how over the past three decades the SPLC has been aggressively fighting back against homegrown terrorist groups. As much as we shake our heads about the radicalism running rampant through Al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, and other groups in the Middle East, we’ve got plenty of bigoted and racist crazies who would like to take over our government right here in the United States.

One of America’s original hate groups that just won’t die is the infamous Ku Klux Klan. Over the last 150 years this group has grown, then almost shrunk to nothing, and then revived. It has reinvented itself many times over. These days, although the Klan is a shadow of its once monolithic self, several chapters have been trying to make a comeback. From handing out free bags of candy stuffed with anti-immigration literature to appearing in robes on the U.S.-Mexican border to protest President Obama’s executive action on immigration, the Klan continues to be an unusually weird and still dangerously viable organization.

The December SPLC newsletter included a very sad and frightening link to a three-part video about how a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in Tupelo, Mississippi, is making an effort to recruit veterans. This campaign is not only because of veterans’ military training and expertise, but also because many vets return from war zones feeling lost and in need of “a family” of people who understand them. The KKK’s recruiting of veterans is not new, but what is different this time around is the knowledge that vets with PTSD make much easier, better, and more lethal Klan members. (See http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2014/12/18/vice-ku-klux-klan-recruiting-veterans-to-boost-numbers/)

Without long-term treatment, PTSD can cause severe delusions, schizophrenia, paranoia, and the like. With the VA’s backlog of treatment to our vets, many may “self-medicate” with alcohol and drugs, and some may be vulnerable to that camaraderie of KKK brothers who claim to “understand” them.

Those in our society with mental disorders who could have a violent mental meltdown at any time, including veterans suffering from PTSD, are the absolutely last people who should have access to guns—for their own safety, for their families’ safety, and for society’s safety. Is this not just common sense?

Unfortunately, common sense does not always rule. No matter how many people suffer from mental illness, no matter how hard hate groups like the KKK try to recruit veterans with PTSD, the NRA continues to ensure that the right to bear arms trumps all. Even though we’ve finally gotten a new surgeon general, the NRA’s stranglehold on our Congress blocks the very government-funded research that could lead to solutions that would make us all safer.

Blog, Featured, Newsletter Articles: Congress Watch: Cong. Bob Dold Firmly on Board With House’s Right-Wing Agenda and Limiting a Woman’s Right to Choose

This will be a fascinating two years for Congress Watch.  Republicans not only control the entire 114th Congress; they also have increased their majority in the House. But we hope that will change in 2016.

Republican Congressman Bob Dold, who recaptured the seat he held in the 112th Congress, will have to face 10th District voters again in two years.  Former 10th District Congressman Brad Schneider has yet to say whether he will run again; and Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rodkin Rotering is seriously considering running for the seat.

Republican Senator Mark Kirk, now in the Senate majority, also will face a Democratic challenger in 2016.  According to the Chicago Tribune, 8th District Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth is seriously considering running against Kirk.  The Hill reports that although Duckworth may “clear the field,” 17th District Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, 11th District Congressman Bill Foster, and state Sen. Kwame Raoul also have expressed interest in challenging Kirk.  There are also reports that 2nd District Congresswoman Robin Kelly is considering a run.

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This column plans to keep a close watch on Dold and Kirk.  When they campaign for reelection, we intend that readers of this column know exactly what relation the things these politicians say to voters bears to the things they actually do in Washington, D.C.

 

 

Dold

In the first three weeks of the 114th Congress, as of January 22, the Republican-dominated House has passed 12 bills.  Five of those passed with virtually unanimous votes; they related to such noncontroversial issues as terrorism risk insurance, FEMA response to wind storms, protection for emergency responders, suicide prevention for veterans, and incentives for private employers to hire certain veterans.

So let’s look at the seven bills the House passed over the opposition of most Democrats.  Bob Dold voted for six of them, as did virtually every other Republican member of Congress.  Specifically, this newly-elected Republican representative for the 10th District voted to shift funding for health care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) from corporations to taxpayers, to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, to weaken government regulation of private industry in general and the financial industry in particular, to make granting permits for natural gas pipelines the default, and to restrict women’s access to reproductive health services like abortion by prohibiting anyone from receiving tax credits under the Affordable Care Act if the insurance they purchase covers abortion services.  President Obama already has signaled his intention to veto some of these measures:

  • The “Save American Workers Act” continued the Republican effort to chip away at the ACA.  It will change the IRS definition of full-time employee from one working at least 30 hours to one working at least 40 hours a week.  Under the ACA, workers earning less than an amount calculated as 400 percent of the official poverty level may receive federal subsidies to purchase health insurance if they do not have employer-furnished health insurance. By excusing employers of 50 or more workers from providing health insurance to those working less than 40 hours a week (instead of only those working less than 30), the effect (and, likely purpose) of this legislation is to shift the cost of health insurance for more working Americans from private employers to the federal government – that is, us taxpayers.  All but 12 Democrats voted no; Republicans unanimously voted yes, including Dold.
  • Next, Dold joined every other Republican in voting to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, a measure opposed by many environmental groups, among others.  The President has said that he will veto this bill.
  • Dold also agreed with every other Republican to amend existing legislation so as to make it more difficult for all federal agencies to promulgate regulations and easier for regulated businesses to challenge federal regulations.
  • He also joined every other Republican to make requests for permits for natural gas pipelines deemed approved if not disapproved within 30 days.
  • Dold voted with his fellow Republicans to weaken Dodd-Frank, the legislation passed early in the Obama administration to curb some of the dangerous practices in the financial industry that contributed to the 2008 Great Recession.  The bill will delay the effective date of the Volcker Rule and allow large banks to hold on to certain risky securities until 2019. It also exempts private equity firms that conduct securities transactions from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s regulatory authority. And the bill makes risky derivatives trading less transparent.
  • Finally, despite his campaign claims that he supports a woman’s right to choose, on January 22, Dold joined every Republican but one and voted for the “Prohibit Taxpayer Funded Abortions Act.”  This bill prohibits individuals from using federal tax credits to pay for any health insurance plan that covers abortion.  In addition, any plan that offers abortion coverage would have to prominently display that information.  

This provision would have the effect of keeping health insurers from providing coverage for any abortion services.  A large number of those who purchase health insurance are eligible for tax credits to reduce their premiums, and under this bill they could not use the tax credits if the plan they chose offered abortion services.  This means that any insurers that wanted to remain competitive would have to eliminate abortion services from their plans or risk not selling any policies.

You may recall that just last November Dold ran as supporting a woman’s right to choose.  Here is what he said on his campaign website: “Protecting a woman’s right to choose is critical and I have a strong record of safeguarding women’s healthcare rights (and protecting their right to choose) during my time in Congress.”

It has taken newly-elected Congressman Dold just three weeks into his term to give the lie to this claim.

The single Republican bill Dold has not supported to date would tie funding of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to a number of anti-immigrant measures.  For example, the bill would void DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program instituted by President Obama to protect Dreamers from deportation.  Broadly, Dreamers are certain immigrants who entered the United States before age 16, live law-abiding lives, and are in school or serve in the military or hold a high school diploma or GED.

The President surely would veto this measure if it ever came to his desk.  However, it almost certainly won’t, even though Republicans control both houses of Congress.  This is because the bill is so extreme, and its tie to DHS funding so controversial—especially in the wake of the spate of terror incidents and threats in January in Western Europe and the U.S.—that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unlikely to bring it to the floor.  According to pundits, Boehner only brought it up in the House in the first place to satisfy the diehard anti-immigrant sentiment in his caucus.

Kirk

On January 12, Illinois Senator Mark Kirk voted with every other Republican, and 10 Democrats, in favor of cloture on the bill, already passed by the House, to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline.  As noted, the President has already said he will veto this bill.

Sen. Kirk is also promoting legislation in the foreign affairs arena that the President surely would veto.  Although, with Democratic Senator Bob Menendez as a cosponsor, it has a bipartisan imprimatur, the bill in question, “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015,” is seen by many as calculated to undermine the Obama administration’s ongoing effort to forge an international pact that will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

International negotiations with Iran are proceeding within the framework of an interim agreement under which Iran has largely frozen its nuclear program in exchange for relief from some international sanctions.  The interim agreement was negotiated in November 2013, between Iran on the one hand and the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany on the other.  The Kirk-cosponsored legislation would impose new U.S. sanctions on Iran if, upon expiration of the international interim agreement, there is no long-term agreement in place to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

According to the Obama administration, a U.S. law threatening new, unilateral sanctions would threaten the unity of the international coalition that has been working to force Iran to make concessions in exchange for sanctions relief.  Tenth Dems’ own Steve Sheffey, whose writing on this subject has been published in The Hill (Preventing Iranian nukes without further sanctions), as well as The Times of Israel (Iran Sanctions: Not a litmus test and Just say no to new Iran sanctions), wrote on January 18 in his weekly Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update, “Passage of such a bill would be viewed by Iran and our allies as needlessly provocative and as a sign of bad faith.”  Sheffey also quotes British Prime Minister David Cameron as saying that passage of this legislation “would ‘fracture unity’ among the international coalition that is confronting Iran.”

Thus, the question is not, as Kirk would have it, whether new sanctions would be advisable should negotiations end without an agreement that keeps Iran free of nuclear weapons.  Rather, the question is what good threatening such sanctions now could do, especially weighed against the harm that could ensue from unilateral U.S. action, whether to the negotiations themselves or the international coalition aligned against Iran.

 

On January 27, Sen. Menendez and other Democratic proponents of this bill withdrew support for Congress’ considering it any sooner than March.

Blog, Events: Tenth Dems FUN-RAISER with Capitol Steps

When: Sunday, January 25, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Where: Center East Theatre in Skokie, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie

What: Tenth Congressional District Democrats (Tenth Dems) invites you to join us at a laugh-filled performance of the political satire comedy troupe Capitol Steps. More details to follow.Capitol-Steps-2015_-300x300

Individual tickets are $50 and sponsorship levels are available at $75, $250, $500 and $1000. Purchase your tickets and sponsorships here or send checks payable to “Tenth Dems” to P.O. Box 523, Deerfield, IL 60015. Tickets will be available at a table marked “Tenth Dems” by the box office. If you plan to pay by check, please call 847-266-VOTE (8683) or send us an email in order to confirm availability.