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Can you buy alcohol and tobacco with an EBT?

The question is not as simple as it seems.

As stated, the answer is no.  Purchasing alcohol and tobacco products is specifically prohibited under theSupplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known by its acronym –  SNAP.

However, it appears to be possible to make use of an Electronic Benefits Transfer  card to buy items specifically prohibited from being purchased with it.

SNAP replaced the Food Stamp Program.  Those eligible for help are issued an EBT card, which replaces paper food stamps and is considered safer, faster and more convenient than cash or checks.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, which administers the program:

SNAP benefits can only be used for food and for plants and seeds to grow food for your household to eat. SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy:

  • Any nonfood item, such as pet foods; soaps, paper products, and household supplies; grooming items, toothpaste, and cosmetics
  • Alcoholic beverages and tobacco
  • Vitamins and medicines
  • Any food that will be eaten in the store
  • Hot foods

In addition, EBT cards can be used only in certain grocery stores and farmers markets and may not be used for online purchases.

However, some states permit EBT cards to be used by those in cash assistance programs to receive cash advances. In addition, a federal program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) also permits use of the EBT to obtain cash.

Sources where cash advances may be obtained are limited, and specifically do not include liquor stores.

However, it appears to be entirely possible to use an EBT to obtain cash from an authorized source,  then buy beer and smokes  from the liquor store next door.

It’s important to note, though, that while the number of Americans receiving aid is at an all-time high, food-stamp overpayments have dropped to record lows, and the amount of food-stamp spending lost to fraud and abuse is only about 1 percent of expenditures.

Source:  Food-Stamp Overpayments Drop With Record Usage: BGOV Barometer – Bloomberg

KochBros funding climate denial had nothing to do with Arctic Ocean Oil

Did you know that:

Koch companies have been in the petroleum business since 1940, growing our refining capacity more than 80-fold. Today these companies engage in petroleum refining, chemicals and base oil production, crude oil supply, and wholesale marketing of fuels, base oils, petrochemicals, asphalt and other products.

“Flint Hills Resources LLC, through its subsidiaries, operate refineries in Alaska (North Pole), Minnesota (Rosemount) and Texas (Corpus Christi), with a combined crude oil processing capacity of more than 800,000 barrels per day.

Koch Alaska Pipeline Company, LLC owns an approximate 3 percent interest in the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. Another Koch company has a 28 percent interest in Colonial Pipeline Company, owner and operator of the world’s largest-volume refined products pipeline.”

 Koch Industries

Did you know that:

The Heartland Institute (is/was) the world’s most prominent think-tank promoting scepticism about man-made climate change…”

The Economist

Did you know that:

Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch have a vested interest in delaying climate action: they’ve made billions from their ownership and control of Koch Industries, an oil corporation that is the second largest privately-held company in America (which also happens to have an especially poor environmental record).


Did you know that:

“The inner workings of a libertarian thinktank (Heartland) working to discredit the established science on climate change have been exposed by a leak of confidential documents detailing its strategy and fundraising networks.”

The Guardian

Did you know that:

The Koch-funded Heartland Institute was also connected to the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).


Did you know that:

The Arctic is warming at an alarming rate – twice as fast as the rest of the planet – and according to a new report, those changes will be a key driver of geopolitics in the coming years.

As the rapidly melting ice unlocks commercial opportunities in shipping, tourism and oil and gas extraction…”


Did you know all that? I didn’t know all that.

 I’m sure the Koch brothers didn’t know all that when they funded climate denial.

They probably never thought of the fact that it would open the Arctic Ocean to oil and gas exploration.

 I’m sure none of that ever occurred to them. 

Aren’t you?

There’s (still) a Churchill bust in the White House

The Daily Telegraph told a half-truth last week when it accused the Obama White House of returning to Britain a Jacob Epstein sculpture displayed in the Oval Office under George W. Bush.

In a story carefully crafted to conceal it’s error, the Telegraph admitted that there are, in fact, two matching Churchill busts by Epstein, one of which remains in the White House.

The one displayed from 2001 – 2009 by Mr Bush, was indeed returned, along with all other art lent to him, as his presidency came to an end.

The other, given as a gift to President Lyndon B Johnson in 1965 by a group of Atlanticist diplomats and military officers, remains in the White House residence.


Plain talk for OWS, Anons, and Greens

Both candidates are the same.

 Both parties are corrupt.

 They get the same money from the same people.

 Dogs and cats are the same.

 Wait. How are these statements the same? They are generalized opinion statements, unsubstantiated – in any meaningful way – by facts.

Dogs and cats are similar. They are both animals, both mammals, and some people keep them as pets.  But they are not the same.

The two major Party candidates relate in the same way. They are both married males,  fathers, and running for President.  But they differ greatly in political philosophies and their visions for America.

That there is corruption in both their Parties doesn’t mean that both parties are totally – or even equally — corrupt.

The two candidates do receive contributions from some of the same sources. But relatively few of their donors are the same, or contribute  to them equally.

Electing one or the other will greatly affect the course of US history – for better, or for worse.

In the history of the United States, no third-party candidate has ever come close to winning a presidential election. If you don’t vote this year, or if you vote for a third-party candidate, your vote will help elect one of the major party candidates.

If you’re a member of #OWS, Anonymous, or the Green Party, your vote may help elect Mitt Romney.   But there’s an even scarier scenario.

In the case of an Electoral College tie, the presidency would be decided in the Republican dominated House of Representatives by people like these:

Michele Bachman, Joe Barton, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Darrell Issa, Steve King, Ben Quayle, Joe Walsh, Allen West and Joe Wilson.

 You can find the full list here:  http://www.gop.gov/republicans/name

A president selected by the right-wing political and religious extremists in this House, could be worse – a lot worse — than Mitt Romney.

The next President may shape SCOTUS decisions for decades

William O. Douglas spent more than 36 years on the US Supreme Court.  No one has served longer.  But he is one of 14 Justices who served more than 30 years.

In the history of the country, only 112 persons have been appointed to the court.  Putting those facts together, 12.5 percent of the justices ever appointed to the Court served more than 30 years.

Forty-two of those appointed, 37.5 percent, served more than 20 years. Well over half (62) served at least 15 years.  Fifteen years is almost the duration of four presidential terms of office.

The Court’s current caseload totals more than 10,000 cases per year. The caseload has been increasing in recent years, but if it stabilized at the currnt level,  a justice serving 15 years would have an opportunity to hear and help determine the outcome of 150,000 cases.

Four of the current Justices are at an age where they might begin to consider retirement. Stephen Breyer is only 74 (as of August 15). Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy are both 76. Ruth Bader Ginsburg turns 80 next March.  The average age for retirement, according to a study in 2006, is 78.7.

Scalia and Kennedy are both Reagan appointees. Breyer and Ginsburg were appointed by Bill Clinton.  While Scalia is a deeply conservative “originalist”, Kennedy has tended to be a swing vote. Breyer and Ginsburg anchor the more moderate wing. Arguably, no current Justice could be called  a “liberal” in the mold of former Chief Justice Douglas, who led the Court in 1954, when it ruled that segregated schools were inherently unequal.

Many recent decisions have been decided by a 5-4 split, so if the next president names even one new member to the Court, it will be a crucial  appointment, strengthening either the moderates or the conservatives.

As Reuters reported April 19, 2012:

“… Romney has pledged to nominate judges in the mold of the Supreme Court’s four most conservative justices, and he has said the court should overrule Roe v. Wade, the 1973 opinion that said women have a right to an abortion.

Romney formed a committee of lawyers in August 2011 to advise him on court nominations and on legal policy questions led by prominent conservatives such as Robert Bork, whose conservative views led Democrats to block his 1987 nomination to the court.”

So, a Romney appointment could make the Court the most conservative in history.How would it rule on marriage equality?  We could find out next year.

Other issues almost certainly to destined for challenge in the future include the abridgement of abortion rights,  voting rights, access to birth control, hidden campaign donors and other consequences of Citizens United, plus issues related to immigration.

But who can predict the crucial issues to be decided during the 20 years or more likely to be served by  any justices appointed  by the next President of the United States? If you care about the consequences of decisions both now and  in the future, the Supreme Court becomes one of the most important issues to be considerd before casting your vote November 6.

Has the GOP changed? Ask these Republicans.

“Frankly, one of our political parties is insane, and we all know which one it is.”

Bruce Bartlett, former advisor to President Ronald Reagan


To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots… But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.

Mike Lofgren, former GOP congressional staffer


“Some of my Republican friends ask if I’ve gone crazy. I say: Look in the mirror.”

David Frum, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush


I’ve become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy.”

Reagan-appointed Judge Richard Posner

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A Sermon from the Book of Romney

AND seeing the dominionists, Christian reconstructionists, Mormons, and members of The Family, he went up into the mountain : and when he had sat down, the disciples of Ayn Rand came unto him.

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying,

3 Blessed are the wealthy : for theirs is the power of superPacs and the kingdom of heaven on earth.

4 Blessed are they that mourn : for they shall be comforted by BigPharma products that control, rather than cure their depression, increasing profit.

5 Blessed are the meek : for they are easily frightened and controlled.

6 Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after what we call “righteousness” : for they shall be filled with a desire to abolish birth control, abortion, female sexuality, homosexuality, science, and critical thinking.

7 Blessed are the merciful : for they shall obtain “mercy”, by which I mean “no mercy”, as advocated by St Ayn.

8 Blessed are the prurient in heart : for they shall see us defeat the homosexual agenda and establish Old Testament law in America.

9 Blessed are the Colt Peacemakers : for they and all rifles, pistols and shotguns shall be called “needed to stand your ground”.

10 Blessed are they that have been persecuted for what we call “righteousness’” sake : for we have a “final solution” planned for our persecutors.

11 Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you,  accurately, but without understanding that being one of God’s favorites, you were entitled to screw them.

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad : for great is your reward in heaven : for so persecuted they the Robber Barons which were before you.

13 Ye are the rulers of the earth : but if the ruler has lost his will to remain in power, wherewith shall he exercise repression? He is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the foot of  unbelievers.

14 Ye are the fright of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid, and we can bomb it.

15 Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under the bushel, but on the stand ; and it shineth unto all that we wish to intimidate.

16 Even so let your light shine before  non-Christians everywhere, that they may see your power, and quail before it.

17 Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets : I came not to destroy, but to establish it as the Law of the Land in America.

A dangerous ménage à trois

You may never have heard of Rousas John Rushdoony or Francis August Schaeffer, but their profound influence on religion and politics could determine whether you and your children will continue to live in a democratic republic.

Adherents of Rushdoony’s Christian Reconstructionist movement are working doggedly to create conditions conducive to establishment of a theocracy based on Old Testament law. Under that law, you could be sentenced to death for any of the following offenses:

Kidnapping, rape, incest, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, witchcraft, idolatry, apostasy, public blasphemy, false prophesying, bearing false witness in a capital case, or lying about your virginity.

Schaeffer was influential with the politically active leaders of the Christian Right, including Randall Terry (Operation Rescue), James Dobson (Focus on the Family), Pat Robertson (the 700 Club), Charles Colson (Prison Fellowship), Tim LaHaye (Left Behind) and Jerry Falwell (Moral Majority). It is to Schaeffer, primarily, that we owe the current fundamentalist obsession with abortion.

Both Rushdoony and Schaeffer studied under the Calvinist theologian Cornelius Van Til.  They differed on some theological points, but both endorsed biblical inerrancy, as did founders of the Dominionist movement, whom they influenced.

Dominionists, according to sociologist Sara Diamond, believe the Bible requires them to “occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns”.

Democracy, for Rushdoony, was “heresy”. He characterized it as “the great love of the failures and cowards of life”’. Christianity, he insisted, is committed to “spiritual aristocracy”. He maintained that Christianity and democracy are “inevitably enemies”, because democracy “puts the will of the majority before the will of God”.

Some amalgam of Rushdoony, Schaeffer, Dominionist ideas now seem to dominate and define the religious Right in the US.  These include biblical inerrancy, opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, and establishment of a “Christian nation”.

Here are some reasons why they might succeed:

  • Their movement has been gaining strength and momentum for almost 50 years. It began with the conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1960s.
  • Preachers from small rural churches to urban mega-churches now promote the idea of “Christians first, citizens second” and teach the “inerrancy” of the Bible, “theologically, historically and scientifically”.
  • Teachers in  the burgeoning homeschool movement once promoted by Rushdoony indoctrinate students with the same ideas.
  • Reconstructionist/Dominionist ideas now permeate the Republican Party base, some of the Republican members of Congress, and Republican candidates for offices ranging from school boards to the US presidency. Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum all led during some part of the 2008 or 2012 races for the Republican presidential nomination. Sarah Palin was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2008.
  • The economic program advocated by the Reconstructionists aligns with the extreme libertarian ideology and the economic interests of far-right billionaires, such as Charles and David Koch, who have shown themselves willing to spend whatever it takes to achieve their goals. Rushdoony even called himself a “Christian libertarian”. He also was an admiring student of Ludwig von Mises who, along with Friedrich August Hayek, are the economic philosophers of the far right.
  • Representatives of the Religious right, such as the Rev. Richard Lee, founding pastor of First Redeemer Church in Atlanta, serve alongside politico-economic ideologues on the secretive Council for National Policy, which influences Congress, vets high-level GOP candidates, and – individually, if not collectively – contributes to their campaigns and PACS.
  • They have a television network, radio hosts and multiple right-wing publications to disseminate their ideas.
  •  The rest of the corporate media tend to ignore the situation, lest controversy lessen the bottom line.

That leaves it up to the rest of us to choose.

Do we want to remain a democratic nation? A secular nation with a clear separation of church and state?

Do we want it badly enough to become informed and politically active? To speak out? To demand public discussion of religious issues that affect politics and government?

If it isn’t too late already, our time to reach a decision is growing short. The Republican Party, Ayn Randian libertarians and theocratic Calvinists are on the march. And they’ll be voting for Mitt Romney in November.

A vice-presidential sieve: Part IV – Portman

John McCain has suggested a running mate for Mitt Romney.

“I think it should be Sarah Palin”, he told CBS April 4.

It is presumed McCain was joking. Fear of Palin within a heartbeat of the presidency may have cost him the election in 2008.

It is because McCain chose the Palin for political reasons, without vetting her for suitability and qualifications, that political calculations will take a back seat in the vice presidential selection process in 2012.  Demographic appeals to race or gender will be far less important than whether the nominee would be able to transition seamlessly into the presidency should the need arise.

That has been the message coming out of the Romney camp, and spokespersons now are downplaying even the idea that a woman on the ticket might bolster its appeal. An article in The Boston Herald April 7 quoted Jennifer Horn, identified as a Romney “grass-roots organizer”, as saying:

“I think that gender politics are beginning to fall flat. The American voters and people recognize that the same issues are important to all of us. Women and men will look for Romney to choose a VP who is highly qualified. There are certainly ample strong women candidates, just as there are ample strong men candidates. It’s more important to women voters that he chooses the most qualified candidate.”

If true, that should raise the stock of Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. And, as of Easter weekend, his prospects on Intrade were rated at 11.1 percent – behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 25.2 percent, but ahead of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie  at 10.7 percent.

US Sen Rob Portman (R-OH)

Portman’s qualifications are the main reason why Major Garrett, a congressional correspondent for National Journal (but writing in The Atlantic) stated flatly April 5 that:

“Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee, Wisconsin sealed the deal, and he will pick Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio as his running mate.”

Garrett disclaimed any inside information, but he argued that:

1. Romney and Portman have “genuine rapport”.

2. Portman endorsed Romney before Ohio’s March 6 primary, and some credit him for Romney’s win there.

3. Portman is the best vetted of those mentioned, because:

He served in the White House Counsel’s Office and the Office of Legislative Affairs under President George H.W. Bush.

He served in two cabinet positions under George W. Bush – US trade representative in 2005 and Office of Management and Budget director in 2006.

He currently is the junior senator from  Ohio, so

4. He is the best qualified of those mentioned.

But he also has a reputation for something less than an electrifying personality, so

5. Romney “won’t suffer charisma comparisons”.

Does this paragon have any flaws? Garrett notes them:

“Portman’s a bore, and their ticket would be boredom squared, or squares squared; he offers nothing to women voters or Latino voters; he carries the taint of Bush-Cheney policies; and he’s not conservative enough for the Tea Party.”

Not exciting enough, either, according to Christine Morabito, executive director of the Greater Boston Tea Party.  The Boston Herald article quoted her as saying:

“He needs someone exciting that conservatives can really get behind. I think if he had that, any issues with women would resolve themselves. Romney has the experience. He needs the excitement factor.”

Stephen Koff of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, agrees with Garrett about Portman’s qualifications. He even adds some very important ones:

“Portman knows how to campaign and debate. Garrett didn’t note this, but Portman has been a go-to guy for Republicans preparing for high-stakes, televised presidential debates.”

Here’s another important consideration: While not a popular governor from a swing state, he is a popular senator from a swing state. Ohio has 18 electoral college votes.

It may be a little early to hand him the vice presidential nomination. But certainly Rob Portman should be on anyone’s short list.

More interesting than the question of whom Mitt Romney will pick as a running mate is this: Will he get to pick his running mate?

Delegate tracking in the New York Times as of Easter weekend gave Romney only 660 of the 1144 votes needed to win the GOP presidential nomination. Rick Santorum had 281, Newt Gingrich 135,  and Ron Paul 51. Those totals included the preferences of superdelegates.

So, in the final 19 primaries between April 24 and June 26, Romney must win 484 of the 989 delegates remaining – 49 percent. If the other three candidates remain in the race, that seems unlikely. The vice presidency could become a bargaining chip.

But if he does win enough delegates, and if they all actually do vote for him on the first ballot, the choice for vice president may be Mitt’s. Whom would he choose? And why?

In previous posts, I’ve explained that, after careful vetting, the nod could go to a popular swing-state governor like New Mexico’s Susana Martinez, who might also help Romney with two demographic groups feeling estranged from the GOP — women and Latinos.

While neither group constitutes a monolithic bloc, and New Mexico has only five votes in the Electoral College, Gov. Martinez  is one of the top six candidates on whom people are putting their money at Intrade, coming in ahead of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan April 7 at a probability of 7.8 percent.

Here’s the list:

Marco Rubio 25.2%
Rob Portman 11.1%
Chris Christie 10.7%
Bob McDonnell 9.0%
Susana Martinez 7.8%
Paul Ryan 7.5%


Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, of course, is a Tea Party favorite who could excite the GOP base and Latino voters, as well.  Michael Crowley, writing in TIME magazine April 6, described Rubio as “a compelling option: young, telegenic, Hispanic and from a critical swing state.”

Sen Rubio is Cuban-American, however. The 2010 census numbered Cuban-Americans at 1,785,547, or 3.5 percent of the total latino population in the US. The census counted 31,798,258 Mexican-Americans – one of them Gov Martinez — and they constituted 63 per cent of the total latino population.

That is a major reason why Crowley, (after looking at Intrade, perhaps) concluded that Rubio’s “political stock is over-valued”.

There is another reason to downgrade the Rubio stock, though, and the stock of Chris Christie even more:

The qualities that led to Crowley’s initial glowing description would overshadow the stiff, awkward manbot at the top of the ticket.

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