Beyond Tea-Party Somnambulism!

The need to organize for social justice continues to be crucial in the efforts to win over money’s influence.

BY JUDY OF OCEAN CITY, MD ON JUNE 7, 2013

This month we remember the lives of Senator Robert Kennedy and Civil Rights Activist Medgar Evers (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medgar_Evers).  Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated forty-five years ago, on June 6, 1968, and Medgar Evers was killed on June 12, 1963.

Medgar Evers is remembered for his brave fight for racial equality. He served in the U.S. Army during WW II and was the first NAACP field secretary for Mississippi. The mission, “Jim Crow Must Go”, resonated through the South during his efforts to end racial discrimination and injustices.

New York Senator Robert Kennedy sought to “address the needs of the dispossessed and powerless in America – the poor, the young, racial minorities and Native Americans”. (rfkcenter.org) At the age of 42, Senator Kennedy lost his life, fighting for social change.

This article, written by Ben Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP (naacp.org),  demonstrates the need to continue organizing for social justice. Money cannot win over dedicated citizens who “step up” to have their voices heard.

http://flcourier.com/2013/06/06/organized-people-can-beat-organized-money-every-time/

The following is a letter-to-the-editor of the Daily Times, Salisbury, MD.  It was written by attorney, Mike Pretl and he has given us permission to post it on Delmarva Progressive.  It is an authentic appeal to look at the IRS issue with a fresh face and to realize that when dealing with the IRS, there are no good guys and bad guys, only well-documented applications and questionable ones.         

Perhaps I am the last person who should be coming to the defense of the Internal Revenue Service, and its Exempt Organization office in Cincinnati.  I have had numerous legal battles – detailed requests for information, and a few arduous audits, initiated by overzealous agents at that office.  Nevertheless, I am convinced that the current “scandal” is overblown and purely political in nature.  I find it incredible therefore that Administration officials are grumbling excuses and apologies, rather than defending themselves by explaining clearly what that office does every day, and is supposed to do.

In 40 years as a Maryland attorney, I have been pleased to create more than 75 nonprofit, tax-exempt corporations.  I have represented nearly all pro bono (without fee).  With few exceptions, all of these groups operate at the progressive end of the spectrum – environmental activists, health care reformers (pre-Obamacare), community organizers, juvenile service providers, charter schools, church-affiliated entities, and “friends” of a scout troop and  child advocacy center.  Exempt status has been sought under various sections of the Internal Revenue Code, chiefly Sections 501(c)(3), (c)(4), and (c)(6).  Perhaps half of all the applications were greeted with IRS questions — a “request for further information” – sometimes elementary, and often  detailed and onerous.  In the past I would tell my clients to expect a determination letter in about 120 days. More recently I have had decisions delayed for months, or for a year or two, always without explanation.

And I repeat, these are virtually all liberal advocacy organizations, and the hassles and delays have occurred during the last seven administrations – four Republican and three Democratic.

In my ongoing role as unpaid counsel to these groups, it is my duty not only to collect data and file IRS applications, but to advise what they can and cannot do to retain their exempt status.  Many leaders of (c)(3) charities are surprised to learn that they may lobby the legislature to a limited extent, in support of their goals, but of course cannot engage in elective politics.  The (c)(4) (“social welfare”) entities are told that they may support candidates who support their goals, but under the IRS Code, elective politics cannot be their “primary” activity, or a “substantial part” of their daily efforts.

Which brings us back to the current “scandal.”  Despite some apparent excesses and unfortunate statements, it appears that the IRS agents have been caught doing just what they are paid to do – enforcing the Code.  Following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2009, numerous organizations were formed, most of them on the right, and sought (c)(4) status so their contributors need not be disclosed.   Many Tea Party chapters and similar groups did not disguise their role as primarily political efforts, however, so the non-political career employees at IRS marked them presumptively ineligible for exempt status.  The agents perhaps went overboard in a few cases – but that zeal hardly suggests a conspiracy.

A final personal story:  A few years ago, the leading Maryland handgun control advocacy group –which had established separate (c)(3) and (c)(4) entities — was wrongly accused of improper election-year activity. IRS auditors promptly served each entity a series of 82 detailed document requests.  The IRS agents were far from friendly, and we spent nearly a year in proving our client not at fault.  At the end, however, we explained to our volunteer board of directors that occasional scrutiny, often unpleasant, is the price we must pay, to secure the invaluable benefits of tax-exempt status.  Perhaps Congressional investigators will soon  get the same message.

 Mike Pretl is a semi-retired attorney, residing in Riverton, in Wicomico County.

This is a letter from Steve Templin, to the Editor of the Daily Times, Salisbury, MD:T

To the Editor of The Daily Times,
This is my response to Garrett Preischs’ letter to the editor, from 5/20.

The “righteous indignation” of the conservatives over the tragedy in Benghazi was predictable and is nothing other than grandstanding partisan brinkmanship. Mr. Garrett Preisch was correct in his letter about Benghazi occurring during the watch of the nations first Black President, while at the same time, incorrect about the sanitizing of the correspondence to protect the re-election of President Obama. The agencies involved were doing, as David Ignatius of the Washington Post wrote on May 17, an exercise in CYA (“covering your ass”).

My question to the conservative is, Where was your “righteous indignation” over the attacks on the US Embassies in Calcutta, India on January 22, 2002, killing five, or Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on December 6, 2004, killing nine? Where was the GOP “righteous indignation” when U.S. diplomat, David Foy, was killed in Karachi, Pakistan on March 2, 2006? Where was this “righteous indignation” when there were thirteen attacks against US embassies during the Bush Administration?

Where was this “righteous indignation” when over four thousand of our sons and daughters were killed, and tens of thousands injured, in Iraq, for a war based on lies, revenge and profit?

Where was their “righteous indignation” when the House Republicans voted for an amendment, in 2009, to cut $1.2 billion from State Department operations, including funds for 300 more diplomatic security positions, and cut embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011, and $331 million in fiscal 2012?

This is an article from Frank Miller, in Talbot County. Frank is a retired school psychologist, activist and supporter of John LaFerla for Congress:

Last December after hearing about the tragic loss of life at Sandy Hook Elementary, my wife Coletta decided we had to do something to show support. She came up with the idea to send a Christmas wreath with 26 angels. We purchased 20 small Serenity Angels and 6 larger ones, and the staff at her elementary school, in Ridgely, Maryland, tied them all on the wreath with white and green ribbons, and signed a card with the wording, “From one elementary school to another.” I made a cardboard box and sent it off to Newtown.

The unbearable grief of one family.

The unbearable grief of one family.

Fearing it might end up in a snow bank, somewhere, I sent it to the Newtown General Store, in the heart of town, a meeting place for kids and adults with colorful candy in clear glass jars, wood floors and a delicatessen as the main draw. The owner called Coletta when it arrived – Brian Williams of NBC News was there when it did we later found out – and displayed it in the store during the holidays. When one of the teachers from Sandy Hook stopped by and saw it, she asked if she could take it to their new building, and that is where it ended up.

For my part, I wanted to organize a project to memorialize the children and their brave teachers. As a graduate of Virginia Tech, suffering a tragedy themselves, I reached out to the editor who put together their memorial issues for the students and faculty who died. He suggested for me to find out what Newtown wanted first, and I later contacted the person in charge of gathering and organizing the tens of thousands of items that arrived in Newtown, in the wake of the tragedy. She was the Human Resources Administrator for Newtown, and despite being buried under an avalanche of cards and letters and paintings and sculptures and quilts and stuffed animals, she was kind enough to return my calls and emails.

On Friday, April 12, my wife and I drove to Newtown to meet with these two wonderful people. We spent over an hour with the HR Administrator in her office. When the mail arrived for the day, it was on a cart, in overflowing plastic USPS boxes. “There’s today’s mail,” she pointed. When we were genuinely surprised, she said, “Follow me,” and took us into the basement of the building, to a secure area filled with cartons of mail, paintings of the children, handmade quilts with their faces, and many other items people had sent to the families of the children. An incredible outpouring of love and support. She allowed us to take photos under the promise not to post them, since the families had not yet seen the offerings. For some it was still too close, too painful.

A very small sample of the expressions of love sent to Newtown.

A very small sample of the expressions of love sent to Newtown.

When we returned upstairs, she picked up her phone and called an associate who was in the process of documenting and cataloging every piece of mail, every piece of artwork, every item sent to Newtown in support of the families. She then directed us to a storefront, across town, where the work was being done, and we headed over there, in awe of the enormity of the project, but even more impressed with the love and dedication of this young woman and her staff of volunteers. Look up “Healing Through the Arts Newtown” (http://www.healingnewtown.org/) to get a small idea of what this work entails.

It was only noon, so we next headed over to the General Store, where we met with the owner and spent the next three hours talking about the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the days that followed, and the months of healing that are now in play. He opened his arms to us, and we felt like we were old friends, coming together again.

What struck us the most, was the kindness and trust everyone showed us, and the prevailing attitude in Newtown that because this act was so horrific, they were determined to make every effort to make sure that everything that followed was driven by love and support for the families, for the children and teachers who died that day, and for anyone else who cried for them and their tremendous loss.

 

We have all heard Rep. Andy Harris recite how much he cares about the people on the Eastern Shore.  Harris is from Baltimore County, but a large part of his Congressional District is on this side of “the Bridge.” (See http://harris.house.gov/)

Harris defeated Kratovil with support by Koch brothers and Club for Growth

Harris defeated Kratovil with support by Koch brothers and Club for Growth

With huge out-of-state support, by right-wing extremists, Harris was able to defeat Frank Kratovil and Wayne Gilchrest, representatives who lived and worked here on the Delmarva Peninsula, and who represented our best interests.  On the other hand, we now have a representative who is from Baltimore and contrary to his rhetoric, cares little for Eastern Shore people or the Bay.

You don’t need to take my word for it; let’s look at his record.  While in the Maryland State Senate, Harris had one of the worst environmental records, and his lack of interest in helping to save our greatest natural resource, the Chesapeake Bay, was well-known.

His position hasn’t changed.  In fact, if Harris gets his way, instead of wind turbines off the shore of Ocean City, there will be oil rigs.

Oil Rig On Fire In Gulf. Is Ocean City Next?

Oil Rig On Fire In Gulf. Is Ocean City Next?

Yes, just as in the Gulf of Mexico, we will be creating an environmental disaster, just waiting to happen.  Can we imagine the devastation even a small spill would cause to the beaches and resort areas along Maryland and Delaware shores?  Such a catastrophe will make Hurricane Sandy seem like a non-event.

Speaking of Hurricane Sandy, which he referred to as an “historic storm”, what was Harris’ response to the record flooding and damages in Crisfield, Smith Island, Marion, Fairmount, Deal Island, Ocean Pines and Princess Anne? He, again, turned aside the interests of the Eastern Shore, and instead, voted “No” on the Sandy Relief bill. Even worse, he voted on a doomed bill that would provide $17 billion in aid, but only if it was offset by cuts elsewhere, something that had never been required in catastrophic emergencies like this. He knew it wouldn’t pass, but he and his Tea Party allies pointed to it, saying, “We tried!”

Farmers here on the Eastern Shore, also found out the truth about Harris, when he voted “No” on the extension of the Farm Bill (actually, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012), even though it had come out of the GOP-led Agriculture Committee.

Harris cons 1st Dist Farmers, while voting 'NO' on Farm Bill

Harris cons 1st Dist Farmers, while voting ‘NO’ on Farm Bill 

Harris cons Women while voting 'NO' on VAWA

Harris cons Women while voting ‘NO’ on VAWA

Women, too, were brushed aside by his “No” vote on the Violence Against Women Act. Even though VAWA has been proven beneficial and effective, reducing violence by 50% – 67%, since its passage in 1994. What was Harris’ excuse for his “No” vote?  He released statement said, the bill didn’t contain a “conscience provision” for “religious organizations that want to help prostitutes but don’t want to tell them about abortion.“  So, instead, he is content with 1,200 women killed and 2 million injured, in domestic violence, annually.  According to the CDC, 25% of all US women are subjects of some domestic abuse.

As I said, the record speaks for itself. Of course, I don’t have room to report all of Harris’ “No” votes, from education to jobs, Medicare to veteran benefits. Stay tuned, because I will be exposing Harris’ record from now until 2014, showing why he is no friend of the Eastern Shore or America.  We deserve better than a puppet to out-of-state puppet masters, interested more in profits than people.  Shouldn’t it be People Over Politics? That’s what I was taught, anyway!

 

I know it should be obvious, but so many people STILL don’t understand the benefits we derive from paying our fair share of taxes.  A senior sent a letter to the Daily Times, where he complained about the “tax and spend Democrats” and finally declaring, “we have not gotten much return from our spending.”  I beg to differ; and although we know all the programs that the government runs, we sometimes forget, ourselves.  Here is just a tiny sampling, in my response to this gentleman’s letter:

To the 70-year old Grapevine writer, who says, “we have not gotten much return from our spending”, I must ask: Do you receive Medicare, Social Security, or Medicaid benefits? Has our military kept us safe from foreign attack? How about the men and women at the FBI & CIA: have they stopped terrorists from blowing up another skyscraper? At your advanced age, I guess you don’t think about what it costs to send a child to college, and how important financial aid is these days. Have you thought, lately, about the water you drink and the air you breathe, and how both have gotten better over the past 40 years, thanks to the EPA? Or, how factory workers have fared since OSHA was created? Have you visited any of our national parks and enjoyed the beauty of America?

Hopefully, you are a healthy 70-year-old, but if you happen to take any prescription drugs, you should be grateful to the FDA for keeping an eye on their creation, testing and manufacturing. If you were a farmer, you should be thankful for the federal assistance programs for agriculture. At 70 years, you probably still drive, right? Are you thankful that the roads and bridges you drive on aren’t collapsing (yet) under the weight of your SUV? We are still No. 1 in auto-making, thanks to our government.

Ida May Fuller, the first recipient

Ida May Fuller, the first Social Security recipient (Photo credit: Wikipedia) 

It’s great that you don’t have to worry much about the world around you anymore…you’ve gotten to a place where you are content; however, you’ve also gotten to a place where you refuse to see the connection between government, taxes and the many services provided by both. WE demanded these services; we pay for these services and WE are the beneficiaries of these services. If you were to wake up tomorrow morning without them, I dare say, that you would be one of those in line, demanding to know, “Why haven’t I received my government services today?”

The following is the response I gave to an Editorial in the Cecil Whig (Cecil County, MD). The editorial was written in response to Governor O’Malley’s push to repeal the death penalty in Maryland, and the passage of such legislation by the State Senate.  The House is now reviewing it, but it looks as though it will easily pass.  The editor believes that we need to support the death penalty. Why? Not because it is a deterrent or saves money, or any other reason that might carry with it some form of logic or reason; no, the editor believes that it is because most people polled want to retain it.  So, if the majority want to kill off all seniors over 75, should it be the people’s right to vote on it? That’s what the editor seems to be saying!  Here is the link to the editorial, with my response following: http://www.cecildaily.com/opinion/editorials/article_ff2aa1a0-89e9-11e2-bd75-001a4bcf887a.html

I was surprised by how limited your argument is for keeping the death penalty: “The majority wants it!” Nowhere do you present a case that it is a surefire deterrent or that it is cost effective; simply, it seems, you support it because it’s a way to get rid of murderers and the people demand it!

You refuse to even consider what professionals in the corrections field think, including criminal psychologists, corrections experts and those who have shown, study after study, that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to murder.death_penalty_LethalInjection

Further, if you checked out the real cost of the death penalty versus life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, you would have found that it is equal to, if not more than, the cost of life without parole. According to a recent study, performed by John Roman, PhD, Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute and Executive Director of the District of Columbia Crime Policy Institute, et al., in Dec. 15, 2009, entitled “Reassessing the Cost of the Death Penalty Using Quasi-Experimental Methods: Evidence from Maryland,” published in American Law and Economics Association:

“On average, a death notice (by the State) adds about $1,000,000 in costs over the duration of a case (than a non-death penalty case).” Simply stated, the process needed to assure that a person targeted for the death penalty, must be beyond reproach, and so, there are at least three phases of the appeal process involved. This process can take anywhere from 20 to 35 years, depending upon the study looked at. During the appeals process, the victims are waiting for “finality” that rarely comes.

Let me state one other study, showing the high rate of errors at trial, found on appeal: “The rate of error found in appeals in death penalty cases, from 1976-1995, was 100 percent in three states — Kentucky, Maryland and Tennessee.” This means that in every death penalty-related case, appealed in MD, a serious error at trial level was found, allowing for the conviction to be overturned. This 2000 study was conducted at Columbia University, led by Dr. James S. Liebman.

I haven’t even talked about how DNA evidence is leading to the overturning of murder and other serious offense cases across the country, including MD.

As of Oct, 2012, over 300 people have had their convictions reversed, based on DNA evidence.

As of Oct, 2012, over 300 people have had their convictions reversed, based on DNA evidence.

Finally, you’re argument that the people should decide, is the raving of an uneducated and superficial advocate. There has been a history of issues in our country where “the people” have come down on the wrong side, including slavery, women’s suffrage and civil rights, especially for African-Americans, LGBTs, and others.

When the evidence is clear that the death penalty doesn’t work, people’s emotions should not be the deciding factor. There is too much at stake to allow emotions, alone, to dictate the results. There is no convincing argument for the death penalty, other than revenge and anger; the argument against the death penalty involves logic, reason, analysis and the fear of error, which appears to happen in more cases than we’d like to admit. And for those who believe in the “sanctity of life” for unborn fetuses, shouldn’t that sanctity be applied for those fetuses, once they become viable human beings?

 

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