Nel's New Day

June 30, 2013

Christians Respond to SCOTUS DOMA Ruling

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 2:29 PM
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The repeal of DOMA has filled the news during the past week, with Christians taking a big part in responding to the news that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Congressional law mandating marriage to be between one man and one woman.

An Arizona reader of the blog sent me the following communication from her church. She also said that St. Augustine’s Church “rang the church bells … and all the bells and gongs they could find.”

Dear People of God,

I rejoice, along with our LBGT brothers and sisters, over the Supreme Court decisions this morning. Our country has come one step closer to that freedom and justice are for all its citizens. Many LBGT people I know who are my age have commented that they would have never believed that equality under the law would happen for them “in our lifetime.” I can only begin to imagine the full extent of their joy today.

Our country has come closer to a truth which has been ours as Christians from the beginning, that God loves everything and everyone God has made, and that we are called to reflect God’s love for us in how we love each other. Our country is now one step closer to making that possible for everyone. Today Love won.

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Kirk Stevan Smith

Episcopal Diocese of Arizona

Below is one couple who Smith is describes. Thanks to photographer Ann Hubard, who took this picture at the DOMA Decision Celebration in Portland (OR).

Annies two guys

Despite the support of marriage equality for all from the majority of voters in the United States, there was a dark side as the conservatives expressed themselves with great fear and fury.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) originally agreed with Glenn Beck that the Supreme Court ruling might result in people marry animals. After Paul’s bizarre claim hit the Internet, he must have decided that it might hurt his possibilities of becoming president in 2016 and withdrew his statement. No one, however, can ever erase their stupidity from the web.

Mike Huckabee, former presidential wannabe, was brief in his first tweet: “Jesus wept.” Later he elaborated by accusing the Supreme Court of declaring itself “ bigger than God.” Unfortunately for Huckabee, Jesus said absolutely nothing about marriage equality, but he did say lots about poverty and money-changers.

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) declared that “society itself is at risk and cannot continue.” At the same press conference, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said that same-sex marriage was “usually tried at the end of a great civilization.” Both comments echoed House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) when he said that “preserving the institution of traditional marriage is crucial to the stability of our society.”

Ralph Reed, leader of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, viewed that SCOTUS’ action as “an Orewellian act of judicial fiat” in its threat to federalism, rule of law, and Western civilization.

The National Organization for Marriage blamed a conspiracy of “homosexual” and “liberal” lower circuit judges for the Court’s rulings. In a peculiar blend of mixed metaphors, Brian Brown, NOM’s president said:

“There is a stench coming from this case that has now stained the Supreme Court. They’ve allowed corrupt politicians and judges to betray the voters, rewarding them for their betrayal.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) declared  that “no man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted.”

Tim Wildmon, president of American Family Association, used the myth that the United States is only a Christian country: “We are deeply saddened by today’s decision to not only allow but encourage same-sex marriage in our country—a country that was founded on biblical principles.”  Once again, Mr. Wildmon, most of the founders were Deists.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) hated the possibility that he might be a bigot, the way that the SCOTUS ruling indicated. “It is … my hope that those who argue for the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex marriage will refrain from assailing the millions of Americans who disagree with them as bigots.”

Chris Joseph’s strong satiric channeling of Rubio in the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, was in response to his “I’m not a bigot” statement:

“Those of us who oppose gay marriage aren’t bigots, bro! We’re TOTALLY about constitutional provisions and laws. This has NOTHING to do with our own religious beliefs and us wanting to force those beliefs on other people. That would be wrong. No, no. I’m just about tradition, and not at all involved with gay-hate groups, or basing my reasons on my personal belief that you will burn for all eternity if you’re a gay. I mean, just because one believes that another person is doomed to an eternal place of darkness to suffer forever doesn’t make me hateful at all! Pffft.”

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) opposed the SCOTUS ruling against DOMA by saying, “I think children will be hurt.” He used as the basis for his myth the erroneous belief that decades of social-science research have “shown that every child deserves a mom and dad.” These lies by people in a situation to help children not only damage the children of same-sex couples but also demonstrate the hypocrisy of conservative lawmakers. If they cared for children, they would not take away their food, shelter, education, healthcare, emotional support, etc.

Pennsylvania Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R) is a leading example of the legislators who don’t understand the First Amendment’s position of freedom of religion that some people describe as the separation of church state. When openly gay Rep. Brian Sims (D) tried to speak on the legislature floor about the SCOTUS ruling on DOMA, Metcalfe stopped him because Sims’ comments would be “open rebellion against God’s law.” Metcalfe also stopped two other lawmakers from talking about DOMA.

Despite all these cruel, narrow-minded statements from religious conservatives, there was much joy and a good bit of humor, including from John Oliver, the summer replacement for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

The most important response came from the President of the United States:

“I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

“This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents’ marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better.

“So we welcome today’s decision, and I’ve directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.

“The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.”

Now we wait to see the implementation of the court’s rulings.

[The following was posted on Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s (D-OR) website.]

77441506_24_13_Supreme_Court_Equa_Earl_Quote

June 29, 2013

Gregory Accuses Journalist of ‘Aiding and Abetting’

When Tim Russert was the host of NBC’s Sunday morning political show, Meet the Press, he was so respected that the network added his name to the name of the program. Moved from chief of the NBC News’ Washington bureau to take this leadership in 1991,Russert moved the program’s length from 30 minutes to an hour and initiated in-depth interviews following his extensive research. Russert used old quotes or film clips inconsistent with the guests’ more current statements and then ask them to clarify their positions. In 2008, the year he died, Time named Russert one of the most 100 influential people in the world.

After his death, the respected Tom Brokaw acted as an interim appointment before David Gregory became the permanent host. His conservative bias was obvious from the beginning when he interviewed Mark Sanford, the South Carolina governor just come back from Argentina, that he called the Appalachian Trail. The media had been clear about his lying to the state and disappearing without leaving anyone in charge. Gregory promised Sanford that his coming on his new show “puts all of this to rest” because “it allows [Sanford] to frame the conversation how [he] really wants to … and then move on.”

I confess that I watch Meet the Press because the re-run is at 11:00 Sunday night, and it puts me to sleep. Yet he frequently annoys me, for example when he gives Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) a pass for his creating scandals just to bring down the president. Last Sunday, Gregory brought a great deal of well-deserved criticism down on him for his question at the end of an interview with Glenn Greenwald.

After discussing Greenwald’s involvement with Edward Snowden, the man declared either a hero or a traitor for telling the world that NSA is collecting metadata on all U.S. citizens, Gregory finished with this question: “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?”

Greenwald replied that it was “pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies,” and that there was no evidence to back up Gregory’s claim that he had “aided” Snowden. Gregory replied that “the question of who’s a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you’re doing,”

Frank Rich, respected investigative reporter and writer for The New York Times for almost three decades shredded Gregory and his accusations.

“Is David Gregory a journalist? As a thought experiment, name one piece of news he has broken, one beat he’s covered with distinction, and any memorable interviews he’s conducted that were not with John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Dick Durbin, or Chuck Schumer. Meet the Press has fallen behind CBS’s Face the Nation, much as Today has fallen to ABC’s Good Morning America, and my guess is that Gregory didn’t mean to sound like Joe McCarthy (with a splash of the oiliness of Roy Cohn) but was only playing the part to make some noise. In any case, his charge is preposterous.

“As a columnist who published Edward Snowden’s leaks, Greenwald was doing the job of a journalist–and the fact that he’s an ‘activist’ journalist (i.e., an opinion journalist, like me and a zillion others) is irrelevant to that journalistic function. If Gregory had integrity and guts, he would have added that the journalist Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, who published the other set of Snowden leaks (and arguably more important ones), aided and abetted a crime. But it’s easier for Gregory to go after Greenwald, a self-professed outsider who is not likely to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and works for a news organization based in London.

“Presumably if Gregory had been around 40 years ago, he also would have accused the Times of aiding and abetting the enemy when it published Daniel Ellsberg’s massive leak of the Pentagon Papers. In any case, Greenwald demolished Gregory on air and on Twitter (“Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?”). The new, incoming leadership of NBC News has a golden opportunity to revamp Sunday morning chat by making a change at Meet the Press. I propose that Gregory be full-time on Today, where he can speak truth to power by grilling Paula Deen.”

Activist Carl Gibson asked why there should be reporters if those who report on leaked government secrets are labeled as criminals. As all of us know, the drive to sell advertising has overcome much of news reporting, but even worse, corporations own almost all the media now.

Follow the money. Meet the Press is sponsored by Boeing, that owns NSA contractor Narus, an Israeli company that makes the rapid interception technology used by the NSA. Boeing is also a member of the corporate coalition for “Fix the Debt,” a sham organization funded by Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson. That organization hope to destroy Social Security and Medicare, which may explain why Gregory has framed the decimation of those two programs as the best way to deal with the country’s debt. Gregory has never mentioned that companies like Boeing pay a “negative” federal income tax.

When journalists discovered that the Obama administration had seized phone records of AP reporters without their knowledge, fellow journalists were incensed. Yet Gregory has joined the intimidation of journalists by asking Greenwald if he is a criminal.

David Sirota on Salon asked more questions. Mother Jones’ David Corn asked why Gregory had not addressed the same question to reporters at the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Bloomberg News after they, too, publicized similar leaks.

Trevor Trimm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation asked if Gregory himself should be prosecuted because “when interviewing Greenwald, he repeated what government officials told him about classified FISA opinions.”

A year ago, the New York Times’ Jo Becker and Scott Shane published an article about President Obama’s so-called “kill list” based on leaks of classified information by White House officials. Also an Inspector General report documented then-CIA director Leon Panetta’s possibly illegal release of top secret information to filmmaker Mark Boal for the film Zero Dark Thirty. Should Gregory ask whether the authors of these if they “should be charged with a crime” for publishing secret information?

After National Intelligence James Clapper and NSA Chief Keith Alexander lied in their testimony before Congress, should they be prosecuted for perjury in the same way that major league pitcher Roger Clemens was?

Since the time that Daniel Ellsberg revealed information and now, when Edward Snowden did the same thing, the White House has declared war on any people who tell the public about its covert—and possibly—illegal surveillance. Why has the media transferred its obsessive attention to where Snowden might be at any time instead of the NSA’s crimes against millions of people in the United States. Why do media outlets view the NSA’s actions being legal when they “intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress,” according to the New York Times?

Speaking about Snowden to Jay Leno on his show, Gregory said:

 “You know, there are people who give him credit for sort of forcing this debate out into the country. I think it’s deeply disturbing when someone takes it upon him or herself to decide they’re uncomfortable with some program and they decide they want to undo a government program. I don’t think that’s what the founders of the country envisioned and it’s not a real way to do that.”

I tend to be suspicious of people who channel the “founders of the country,” but it might be useful to read a few of their statements:

 “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”—James Madison

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”—Benjamin Franklin

In the Washington Post, Eric Wemple wrote about the 2001 case Bartnicki v. Vopper in which the Supreme Court ruled that an illegal recording or great public consequence that a media outlet had only received but not participated in the recording of, was protected by the First Amendment. Greenwald did not aid and abet Snowden in obtaining the information or ask him to break the law. Gregory didn’t do his homework when he slandered Greenwald by his accusation that the journalist had “aided and abetted Snowden.”

I’ll watch Meet the Press tomorrow because both Rachel Maddow and Wendy Davis, the woman who filibustered the Texas Senate for almost 12 hours last week, will be on. But also on is Jim DeMint, new leader of the Heritage Foundation ultra-conservative political organization. Hopefully, Gregory won’t decide to pander to DeMint and declare Davis a terrorist the way that one of her GOP colleagues did.

June 28, 2013

‘Moral Monday’ Gives Hope

While legislators in North Carolina have systematically taken state resources from most of the taxpayers and transferred tax cuts to the wealthy, a group of protesters have continued to make their objections clear during the past two months, even to the point of being arrested. Called “Moral Monday,” the protest gathered the largest crowd this past week, about 5,000 people gathered. Of those 120 were arrested.

Although the GOP legislators would like to dismiss these protesters as “crazies,” many of them do their organizing in mainstream churches. Volunteers hand out green strips of fabric for people who are willing to be arrested. Those who have already been arrested are discouraged from signing up for arrest because of the weightier charge for repeat offenders.

For the most recent protest, Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the Moral Monday protests, asked during his invocation, “How do you say cutting 500,000 people’s health care is the moral thing to do?” He continued, “When you hurt the poor, you are not faithfully executing the constitution.” All the people standing behind him in this photo were arrested last Monday.

Armenta Eaton spoke about the reason that her 92-year-old mother, Rosanell Eaton, was willing to be arrested for her protests:

“What brought her out was the possibility of requiring voter ID. She was required when she was 21 years old to repeat the preamble to the Constitution in order to register. She did it! She didn’t even know she had to do it, she was just smart. They would yank you around back in those days. She was valedictorian of her class, she knew all that stuff. It’s what she had to go through. She thought things were smooth sailing. She’s seen the good, bad, and the ugly. Now she’s seeing the ugly again. She fought for civil rights, she was a civil rights worker, and now she sees that it’s going backward.”

Chris Carter talked about how the rules protecting water quality have been “stripped away and are under attack.” Darlene Burns said she was doing it for her grandchildren.

“I want a better state for them to grow up in. I’ve got three that are still in the public schools. They’re decimating education and it’s not fair to the kids. It’s attacks on the unemployed, it’s turning down the Medicaid. It’s too many things to list. I’m nervous. I’ve never done this before. But it’s too important not to.”

Charles Warren explained that “it’s about the cause. So much to hurt the middle class, the unemployed, taking Medicaid away from 500,000 people, reducing unemployment. This is terrible for our state. Terrible for the people who’re going to be laid off. I’m really in favor of kicking all these legislators out.”

One man explained that next week 71,000 North Carolinians will lose federal extended unemployment benefits because of a new state law that reduces the maximum benefit an individual can receive. North Carolina is the only state to reject these federal benefits, which come at no cost to the state.

Sen. Thom Goolsby (R) calls them “Moron Mondays,” and Gov. Pat McCrory (R) accuses protestors of not being from North Carolina. McCrory and the legislature rejected an expansion of Medicaid in their state, despite the fact that the federal government would be footing the bill. As a result, 500,000 poor North Carolinians will not receive health insurance.

In 2010, one person was largely responsible for giving both houses of the North Carolina to the legislature for the first time since 1870.  Jane Mayer reported for the New Yorker in 2011, “three-quarters of the spending by independent groups in North Carolina’s 2010 state races came from accounts linked to” wholesale baron Art Pope. When McCrory replaced Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue last January, the GOP had total control of the state.

Here are Art Pope’s dream bills going through the legislature:

Voter Suppression: In addition to requiring voter ID, the state cut early voter hours and eliminated voting on the Sunday before Election Day. Another bill would raise taxes on families with college students if the child registers to vote at school rather than at home. The state would no longer consider the child a dependent even though the parents pay all the bills.

Fewer Taxes for Wealthy: The bill would erase all individual and corporate income taxes and replace them with higher sales taxes that disproportionately burden lower-income taxpayers. A similar bill in Louisiana would raise taxes for 80 percent of the people while giving those in the top 1 percent an average tax cut of $25,423.

Anti-Abortion Moves: New restrictions such as requiring doctors to have admitting privileges in a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic would seriously hamper the work of the clinics. Conservatives claim that this is a safety measure, but hospitals refuse these doctors privileges. Also the House has just passed a bill requiring teachers to tell their students that abortions will increase risks of future premature births, despite the fact that this is a lie.

Anti-Worker Constitutional Amendment: Legislators want to lock the prevention of collective bargaining into the state constitution, making it even easier for companies to pressure workers against unionizing.

Subsidizing Home Schooling: A bill would give families a $1,250 per semester tax subsidy if they home school their children.

Judges for Sale: The bills would allow attorneys and special interest groups the ability to provide campaign funds for judges.

State Sponsored Religion: A GOP-backed resolution proclaimed that the U.S. Constitution “does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional,” and then decreeing that North Carolina could establish its own state religion. That one failed, but it didn’t put anything into effect even if it passed.

Climate Change Denial: The state is banned from basing coastal policies on the most recent scientific predictions of sea level rise.

There are many more laws, some of them very strange, including preventing Tesla Motors from emailing its customers and banning “foreign law” in the state. Fracking in the state is legal now, however, because an exhausted senator pressed the wrong number. State law prevents her from changing her votes if it changes the result of the vote.

Only a few hundred protesters could fit inside the building. Orders of magnitude more waited outside. The others waited outside. Inside, people chanted, sang songs, and gave speeches.

North Carolina has no collective bargaining rights in North Carolina, even for public employees unions. One police officer thanked those arrested at the detention center for helping him get more overtime pay. Another officer described protesters as “very nice,” “orderly,” and “great to deal with.”

After the first bus headed off to jail with protesters, the crowd chanted, “You’re gonna need another bus ’cause baby there are more of us.” Some of the protesters went back to the church where they had gathered earlier for a potluck and planning for next week.

bus

Eaton was released from the detention center at around 9pm as well-wishers cheered her on. Many protesters returned to the Pullen Baptist Church afterward for a potluck where they traded stories and began to think about what more they can do next week.

The first people arrested on Moral Monday over eight weeks ago were to appear in court last Monday and expected to plead not guilty. Almost all the protesters have been charged with second-degree trespassing, failure to disperse, and violating building rules. NAACP legal advisor Irv Joyner, also a law professor at N.C. Central University, said that many of those charged with breaking building rules by displaying signs were not holding one. He also said:

“On public property, people can’t be directed to disperse or leave unless someone is engaged in unlawful activity. You can apply the same rational to the trespassing charge, which is the same idea. If you have a right to be there, that’s not trespassing.”

In addition, building rules allow visitors to move about freely unless they create disturbances.

Moral Monday gives me hope for change in this country.

June 27, 2013

Senate Moves, House Sits, Texas Goes Backward

The Senate actually did something, which happens occasionally. This afternoon it passed its immigration reform bill with a vote of 68-32. Not that this is necessarily a good thing because of the emphasis on border security and the requirement that all employers used the error-ridden E-Verify to check up on any applicants. Of the 32 GOP senators who opposed the bill, two were presidential wannabes, Ted Cruz (TX) and Rand Paul (KY). No GOP Senate leader voted in favor of the bill.

At least the Senate did something.

On the House side, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that they would create their own immigration bill. Thus far they’ve made no move toward it. They also haven’t done anything about the doubling of interest on student loans this Monday or overcome the sequester that’s biting into the economic recovery. Their only actions have been to re-overturn Obamacare and pass another anti-abortion bill, neither of which the Senate will support.

The House is also avoiding climate change. In describing his agenda for this , President Obama said, “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.” Majority House Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) switched the subject to jobs, complaining about the president is “harming innovation [in a] direct assault on jobs.” No answer from the House about how to provide more jobs.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is hiding from the IRS debacle. The GOP has continually whined about the IRS targeting Tea Party groups. Yet Issa asked that the IRS limit its information to these audits, requesting investigators to “narrowly focus on tea party organizations,” according to spokesman for Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George.  Progressive groups got the same treatment as conservative Tea Party groups. The liberal group Catholics United, for instance, waited seven years before receiving tax exempt status, far longer than any tea party group had to wait.

There is a question about whether Issa was the instigator in concealing information from the public about the “inappropriate criteria” used to single out tea party groups–so-called “Be On the Look Out” (BOLO) memos–that also singled out progressive and “Occupy” groups.

George, a George W. Bush appointee, may be at fault. When asked last month if any progressive groups were targeted, he said that the IRS had not. Since then, he’s changed his mind. Also one of the main author’s of George’s report was relieved of his previous position as head of the special investigations unit at the Government Accountability Office because he wrote an incomplete report and was accused by a colleague of “pursuing overly sensationalist stories.”

After Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel appeared at the House Ways and Means Committee today, all the Democrats on the committee sent a letter to House Republicans demanding that they call the author of the audit report to return and testify under oath to explain why the report failed to tell the House that progressive groups were also targeted.

Issa has abandoned the IRS scandal that he created and gone back to investigating Benghazi.

Yesterday’s ruling that struck down DOMA has energized at least one member of Congress. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) claims that he and other lawmakers will revive the Federal Marriage Amendment. “A narrow radical majority of the court has, in my opinion, substituted their personal views for the constitutional decisions of the American voters and their elected representatives,” Huelskamp said. It’s almost a case of “the pot calling the kettle black” except the obstructionist GOP “narrow radical majority” isn’t really the majority—just the vocal.

One faint gleam of hope appeared after SCOTUS erased the Voting Rights Act  two days ago. Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), instrumental in the 2006 VRA, is urging his colleagues to restore the provisions to protect voters. GOP Reps. Steve Chabot (OH) and Sean Duffy (WI) have declared support for a renewed VRA. After the Democratic caucus met to discuss the possibility of a new Section 4 to VRA, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that she likes naming it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

One of the 13 original Freedom Riders in the early 1960s, Rep. Lewis (D-GA) was beaten by angry mobs, arrested, and sent to jail—several times. In response to the egregious SCOTUS decision giving all states the right to discriminate in any way that the GOP leaders wish, Lewis said:

“These men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines. They never had to pass a so-called literacy test. It took us almost 100 years to get where we are today. So will it take another 100 years to fix it, to change it?”

At the same time that state GOP legislators are working day and night to alienate women through their anti-abortion bills, the Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus is kicking off an initiative tomorrow that he says is “designed to advance the role of women within our party.” He will be joined by a few female lawmakers—perhaps because he could find only a few female GOP lawmakers.

Called Women on the Right Unite, the project was announced the same day that a Texas GOP lawmaker described state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) and her allies as terrorists. Davis’ act of terror was to filibuster an evil anti-abortion bill during a special legislative session. The GOP lawmakers failed to get the bill passed before the deadline so they lied about when the vote was completed.

The GOP refuses to change its policies of similar legislation in other states and at the federal level. Republicans won’t stop mandating unnecessary medical procedures not recommended by women’s physicians, making idiotic comments about rape, and opposing pay equity. The party wants women to buy into their antediluvian view of the differences between the genders. While the GOP talks about uniting women behind their view, they will also continue to drive more and more women into poverty. That, however, won’t be part of the discussion.

According to the press release, tomorrow’s news conference will follow a strategy session at RNC headquarters, where committees and elected officials will discuss “how to better engage and support Republican women.” I’m guessing that there are several hundreds of women in Texas who could contribute to this discussion.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also took on Davis in his halting speech at the National Right to Life Conference when he described her as a teenage mother and the daughter of a single woman. “It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters,” Perry said.

As governor, Perry executed his 262nd person, a 52-year-old woman, yesterday.  On the same day he signed into law the new gerrymandered map redistricting the state so that minorities can be disenfranchised.

Three cheers for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) after Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto accused her of declaring a “war on men” and trying “to criminalize male sexuality.” McCaskill’s sin, according to Taranto, was to put a hold on Lt. Gen. Susan Helms for vice commander of the Air Force Space Command because Helms had reduced the conviction of aggravated sexual assault to an indecent act without having watched the trial. Taranto blamed the assaulted women for drinking and then getting into a car with a man; the columnist claimed that she “acted recklessly.”

Current military law allows Helms to substitute her personal judgment for that of a jury that she selected. As McCaskill wrote Taranto:

“What [Helms] did was not a crime. But it was an error, and a significant one. I’m hopeful that our work this year will remove the ability of a commander to substitute their judgment, and sometimes also their ingrained bias, for that of a jury who has heard the witnesses and made a determination of their credibility and the facts of the case.”

The entire letter is well-worth reading because it shows how well the people of Missouri are represented by this senator.

Another woman to watch is Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) when she takes down federal contractor, Braulio Castillo, who claimed his foot injury (possibly sprained ankle) at a military prep school gave him special status as a “service-disabled veteran-owned small business.” Some of you may remember that Duckworth lost both her legs in the Iraq War when her helicopter was shot down.

Castillo’s company, Strong Castle, won contracts with the IRS worth as much as $500 million. Duckworth’s disability rating is 20 percent; Castillo gets (at least until now) a 30-percent disability for his twisted ankle.

The tape is 8 minutes long, but it shows how well another Democratic woman serves the country.

June 26, 2013

SCOTUS Awards LGBT Rights; Davis Fights for Women’s Rights

Forty years ago, homosexuals were mentally ill. Ten years ago gays and lesbians were criminals. Today LGBT people can legally marry the people they love. Yesterday was the day that my partner and I celebrate as our anniversary because marriage equality is illegal in Oregon. It was our 44th anniversary. Without the same Social Security benefits that legally married people receive, my partner has lost well over $100,000. We don’t know how much we have lost in other benefits because of the discrimination against same-sex couples.

The Stonewall riots, hailed as the dawning of the gay rights movement, started in New York’s Greenwich Village on June 29, 1963, also 44 years ago. But today is a new day because the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1996 federal statute defining marriage as between one woman and one man.

Listening to the U.S. Supreme Court as they dribbled out their rulings for the past session was exactly like riding a rollercoaster: yesterday, they destroyed the voting rights of almost half the people in the country, and today they gave federal rights to all married same-sex couples. They also refused to allow standing of those protesting marriage equality in California so that same-sex couples there might have the right to marry. If that is true, one-third of people in the U.S. will live in a jurisdiction that has legalized marriage equality.

In its traditional 5-4 vote, SCOTUS ruled that, for federal purposes, marriage as defined as being between one man and one woman is unconstitutional. This ruling was in response to a case about Edie Windsor, who was charged federal estate taxes after Thea Spyer, her partner of 44 years, died. Yet they let stand Section 2 of DOMA permitting each state its own definition of marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the 26-page opinion, and dissenters Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia, mostly joined by Clarence Thomas, wrote another 47 pages.

Kennedy wrote that DOMA “violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the federal government” and intrudes on the states’ traditional role in defining marriage. His opinion also stated that the law “instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others.”

Confusion will undoubtedly reign after the ruling because Kennedy also wrote, “This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages,” possibly just those authorized by the state of New York. Yet he also said, “The federal statute [DOMA] is invalid.” This is a very broad ruling, which is why Scalia, in particular, was apoplectic.

Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas opined that the court should not have taken the case because the House of Representatives had no right to appeal lower court decisions after President Obama stopped defending DOMA. Justice Samuel Alito disagreed, saying Congress did have that power. Whether or not it had any right to appeal, the House spent $2.3 of taxpayers’ money to support DOMA in the courts.

The majority did rule on the lack of standing in the case about California’s Prop. 8, stating that the private proponents of the measure, many of them living outside California, lacked the legal right to defend the proposition in federal courts. Supposedly, this ruling from SCOTUS did not change the district judge’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also declared Prop 8 unconstitutional. Dissenters in SCOTUS on the Prop 8 case were an odd mix: liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito in disagreeing with the majority that included the ultra-conservative Scalia.

Although there may be more litigation regarding Prop 8, the governor told clerks that they would start issuing marriage licenses after the 9th Circuit Court takes care of its paperwork by lifting a year-long order that stopped the ban from going into effect until the Supreme Court reviewed the case. There might be a question about whether District Court Judge Vaughn Walker had the right to overturn Prop 8 for the entire state or for just his jurisdiction. The only definite conclusion is that the two couples in the Prop 8 case before SCOTUS will receive marriage licenses from the Clerks of Alameda and Los Angeles Counties.

How people would vote today in California, no one knows, polls show a movement toward majority acceptance of marriage equality; many people voted in favor of Prop 8 because of the lies from supporters about effects of marriage equality; and the Mormon Church, that paid as much as 70 percent of the campaign funds to support Prop 8, may not be as generous another time around.

With California now considered to accept marriage equality, 13 states and a few other jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C. and Native American reservations, have legalized same-sex marriage. This is one of the best maps describing the different same-sex couple laws across the U.S.

The hope is that same-sex couples may now start having rights in the military and in immigration that were prevented before this ruling. As Kennedy said in his ruling, “Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways…from the mundane to the profound. He mentioned healthcare, tax preparation, Social Security, and other benefits—even a person’s child can legally be kidnapped by an unmarried spouse.

A New York City immigration judge immediately stopped the deportation proceedings of Steven, a Colombian man legally married to Sean Brooks. The Center for American Progress has 14 fact sheets showing federal benefits that legally married same-sex couples will now have.

One expects crackpot responses to SCOTUS, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) may have achieved the strangest one in a performance on the Glenn Beck when the presidential wannabe asked of marriage, “Does it have to be humans?” (I’ll have another batch of crazy comments in my upcoming Sunday “religion” blog.)

The DOMA and Prop 8 rulings overshadowed a mind-blowing event in Texas. State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-TX) filibustered an unbelievable vicious, evil woman-hating anti-abortion in the state’s Senate. The bill stops abortions at 20 weeks as well as closes 37 clinics, leaving only five clinics that provide abortions throughout a state that is 773 miles wide and 790 miles long. Some of the 26 million people would have to drive 600 miles in order to have the opportunity to comply with a federal law.

The term “filibuster” has gained a benign connotation because of the U.S. Senate rules that allows one senator to call from his comfortable couch to say “I filibuster” and then return to the sports channel. Filibuster in this case means that Davis stood–with no support, no leaning, no bathroom breaks, no food, no liquid, no nothing—for almost 12 hours and talked about the bill and nothing else. She even got one violation for talking about sonograms although that’s part of the anti-abortion game in Texas.

Davis had to last until midnight to keep the chamber from voting before the deadline of the special session. Her third “violation,” another being when a colleague touched her when fascinating her a back brace, came before midnight, but hundreds of protesters disrupted the vote, shouting “Let her speak,” so that the vote could not be started until after the deadline.

At this time, events become even more bizarre. The vote on the bill wasn’t finished until a few minutes after midnight. In their eagerness to terrorize women, however, Republican senators changed the time stamp to before midnight, thinking that this would pass the bill.

After images of both the before and after images of the stamp change were posted on the Texas Tribune’s live blog showing the accurate time stamp of 12:02 am, the Senate went into a closed-door caucus. At 3:00 am, they said that the bill did not pass because Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst didn’t have time to sign it before midnight. Nothing about changing the time stamp.

In an ironic twist, Davis could be redistricted from her Fort Worth area after SCOTUS ruled yesterday that Texas can do gerrymandering districts. The state failed earlier because of the now-overturned Voting Rights Act.

More than 150,000 people watched the livestreamed session. Even President Obama tweeted his support for Davis. Gov. Rick Perry has declared a 30-day special session starting on July 1 to “address” the anti-abortion bill because the legislature needs to maintain “decency.” Nothing about the “decency” of illegally changing the timestamp for the vote.

It’s the GOP strategy: vote; if it fails, cheat; if that fails, hold another vote. The House has done it 37 times on Obamacare.

June 25, 2013

SCOTUS Accelerates ‘War on Voting’; Displays ‘Hubris’

The Supreme Court has delivered its long-awaited decision on the Voting Rights of Act of 1965 that required some jurisdictions to obtain “pre-clearance” from the Department of Justice before changing their voting laws. The conservative majority, except Clarence Thomas, agreed that the U.S. praised the VRA because racial prejudice still exists. Yet its 5-4 ruling struck down Section 4, considered out of date, as unconstitutional, leaving Section 5 intact.

It’s an odd twist: Section 4 provides the formula and the locations for Section 5. That means that the pre-clearance directive remains but without any criteria. SCOTUS suggests that Congress pass a different formula for Section 5.

A competent Congress could do this, but the current federal legislative branch has an extremist caucus that uses of extortion, hostage-taking, and inertia to control those who actually wish to govern. The House cannot even pass a farm bill. With the GOP in the majority of many states, particularly the South, Republicans will avoid any voting legislation. To restrict voting rights will bring down the wrath of the Justice Department; to allow minorities an equal right to vote will result in the wrath of the conservative electorate.

VRA was used to block more than 1,000 proposed changes to voting laws between 1982 and 2006, over 80 percent of them on the local level. Last year, the act stopped a voter identification law in Texas and elimination of early voting days in Florida. The case that SCOTUS heard from Shelby County (AL) tried to eliminate the only black city council in Calera. Just five months ago, a majority of the states in the nation worked to suppress votes from minorities and the poor.

Surveying data on racial stereotypes from the 2008 election, law professors Christopher Elmendorf and Douglas Spencer found that it is consistent with “the geography of anti-black prejudice.” In one day, SCOTUS destroying the progress of the past 100 years, repeating the failings of Giles v. Harris that upheld poll taxes and literacy taxes 110 years ago. The burden of proof has moved to those who are discriminated against, rather than those performing the discrimination. The next step will be to erase the rest of VRA.

Almost six months ago, Ari Berman described the problems:

“a whiter, more Southern, more conservative GOP that has responded to demographic change by trying to suppress an increasingly diverse electorate; a twenty-five-year effort to gut the VRA by conservative intellectuals, who in recent years have received millions of dollars from top right-wing funders, including Charles Koch; and a reactionary Supreme Court that does not support remedies to racial discrimination.”

Within an hour of the ruling’s announcement, Texas moved forward with its voter ID law that can disenfranchise 800,000 voters, according to Attorney General Greg Abbott. They will also put into effect the gerrymandered redistricting maps to ensure that each district has sufficient GOP voters to keep that party in control of the state legislature and the U.S. representatives.

Mississippi and Alabama will move forward with their voter ID law. Alaska has also targeted blacks, Hispanics, and native Americans in its restrictive laws. Among the 31 states requiring voter ID are WisconsinOhioNorth Carolina, and Michigan.

 

These voting restrictions will continue to cross the nation:

Strict voter ID laws:  For example, Virginia will abandon the DOJ-required flexible law for the much tougher 2013 photo ID-only restrictions. Any challenge to the law must require a disenfranchised voter to sue and prove injury.

Racially-gerrymandered legislative maps:  When Texas based its redistricting plans on race, it was blocked because of racial gerrymandering. Judge Thomas Griffith, appointed by George W. Bush, said that black districts were cut off from representatives’ offices while districts of white Congress members were either not touched or “redrawn to include particular country clubs and, in one case, the school belonging to the incumbent’s grandchildren.” Again, Texas is is not unique. A study shows that gerrymandering is the reason that Democrats won the popular vote for House candidates but the majority of representatives are GOP.

Blocking grassroots get-out-the-votes efforts:  Arizona Republicans are ready with their proposal to undermine voter turnout efforts in Latino communities by making it a felony for anyone working or volunteering on behalf of a political committee or other organization to deliver mailed ballots to a polling place. In the last election, Sheriff Joe Arpaio won by a narrow margin after a large number of Latino ballots were considered provisional, meaning that the state would not count them.

Chris Hayes described the decision as “one of the most stunning exercises in ‘judicial activism’ ever.” This term was coined by the far-right to complain about any decisions that they didn’t like, but there’s a different definition. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act and then re-approved it four more times, each time with large bipartisan majorities. In 2006, the Senate, in a unanimous vote of 98-0, and the House, in a vote of 390-33, renewed the VRA until 2031. Presidents from both parties have also supported VRA. SCOTUS’ ruling said that the country needs this guidance but they don’t approve of where the guidance is being applied. That’s judicial activism.

Constitutional Accountability Center’s David Gans explained another indication of “judicial activism.” He said that Chief Justice John Roberts described Section 4 of the VRA as unconstitutional without explaining how this was true. Roberts’ opinion stated that the VRA provision is not consistent with the “letter and spirit of the Constitution” and wrote about state sovereignty. Yet the Fifteenth Amendment gives Congress the power to prevent racial discrimination in voting.  In fact, the ruling seems to unconstitutional in itself: the VRA is legal. It’s just that Roberts has hated the Voting Rights Act for over 30 years when he worked for Ronald Reagan.

President Obama made the following statement this morning:

“I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today. For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act–enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress–has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent. As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists. And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg summarized the ruling: “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) wasted no time in declaring that Congress will take action:

“Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has protected minorities of all races from discriminatory practices in voting for nearly 50 years, yet the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the coverage formula effectively guts the ability of Section 5 to protect voters from discriminatory practices. I could not disagree more with this result or the majority’s rationale. The Voting Rights Act has been upheld five times by the Supreme Court on prior occasions, and Section 5 was reauthorized and signed into law by a Republican President in 2006 after a thorough and bipartisan process in which Congress overwhelmingly determined that the law was still vital to protecting minority voting rights and that the coverage formula determining the jurisdictions to be covered was still applicable.

“Several lower court decisions in recent years have found violations of the Voting Rights Act and evidence of intentional discrimination in covered jurisdictions. Despite this sound record, and the weight of history, a narrow majority has decided today to substitute its own judgment over the exhaustive legislative findings of Congress.

“As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I intend to take immediate action to ensure that we will have a strong and reconstituted Voting Rights Act that protects against racial discrimination in voting.”

What are potential solutions to this destruction?

 A New Act of Congress:  As we have said, this will be difficult.

“Bail-In” Lawsuits: Section 3 of the VRA allows federal courts to put jurisdictions back into pre-clearance if it finds violations of Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendment. It has rarely been used, meaning that it has little precedent.

Fixing The Judiciary: Another difficult fix, this requires approval of nominations by the Senate.

The right wing has accused the Voting Rights Act of using a hatchet instead of a scalpel to fix laws that eviscerate voting rights for minorities. With yesterday’s and today’s decisions against minorities, the Supreme Court is guilty of using a hatchet to murder any way that minorities and women can find recourse through the courts for wrongs against them.

Meanwhile Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has dropped his investigation into the IRS and the privacy of the press scandals and gone back to Benghazi. With this SCOTUS ruling, I think that he’s not going to get much publicity.

June 24, 2013

SCOTUS Decisions, Immigration Reform Amendment, Texas Anti-Abortion Continue

Although the Supreme Court did not deliver its rulings about marriage equality and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 today, they did divulge other decisions. SCOTUS did deliver a non-ruling on affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Texas. In the question of whether a white student suffered racial discrimination at the University of Texas, SCOTUS rejected a lower court’s approval of the school’s affirmative action plan but said that it will have to evaluate it again.

The constitutionality of race in university admissions, however, survived with the ruling that race may be considered as a factor as long as the policy is “narrowly tailored.” If “‘a nonracial approach . . . could promote the substantial interest about as well and at tolerable administrative expense,’” then the university may not consider race.

When states have banned affirmative action, the number of minority has drastically dropped. Today’s ruling allows universities to continue implementing diversity plans, but it does not preclude these state bans. In its next term, SCOTUS will review a Michigan ban that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down.

In his opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas compared any affirmative action to slavery. He has also said that he would vote to overturn the case next year upholding the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action policy. That means he doesn’t need to listen to arguments next year because he’s already made up his mind.

Courtesy seems to have disappeared in SCOTUS. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented to the racial discrimination ruling, asserting that the lower court ruling should have been upheld. She also read a dissent to the case (below) which makes racial and sexual discrimination easier by raising the level of proof to establish retaliation for complaining about discrimination.

Part of Ginsburg’s dissent was a “hypothetical” (meaning drawn from a real case) when a female worker on a road crew was subjected to humiliations by the “lead worker” and who now has no remedy because of the court ruling. According to Garrett Epps, Justice Samuel Alito pursed his lips, rolled his eyes to the ceiling, and shook his head “no.” There are no cameras to show the incident, but Epps reported that the audience made audible gasps.

SCOTUS gave sexual and racial harassment a boost up in the workplace through today’s 5-4 ruling in Vance v. Ball State University. Thanks to five Supreme Court justices, a “supervisor” is defined as having the power to make a “significant change in employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a significant change in benefits.”

The definition eliminates all the people who still maintain power over employers through reporting their actions to employers—excuse me “supervisors.” One of these “non-supervisors” is a senior truck driver who coerced a female subordinate into having unwanted sex with him. Justice Elena Kagan also described the secretary whose boss “subjects that secretary to living hell, complete hostile work environment on the basis of sex.” That person is not a “supervisor” because it’s the “Head of Secretarial Services” who would fire her.

In University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, the five conservative justices also allowed employers a greater right to retaliate against victims of discrimination who report that they have suffered discrimination.

The Senate is working hard to discriminate against immigrants through its reform bill. In a desperate attempt to pass the bill, the Senate passed a motion to debate an amendment by 67-27 with 15 GOP “yes” votes that would ostensibly make the bill more palatable to conservatives. It’s a Christmas gift to Halliburton, as  Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, because of the requirement for another 700 miles of fencing. Another piece of the amendment was doubling the number of border patrol agents to 40,000—one for each 1,000 feet of the southern border of the United States. The party that wants less government and spending cuts now helps support a bill that would cost an additional $46 billion.

Most of the publicity for the amendment came from the border security, but Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) managed other offensive provisions. One prohibits undocumented workers from counting past wages toward Social Security eligibility, and another prevents the government from providing welfare to immigrants until they become citizens. The provisions also called for an additional five-year ban on federal health subsidies under Obamacare for unauthorized immigrants who get a green card and tried to ensure these immigrants pay back taxes and penalties on any wages they earned while in the country illegally.

There may be more news about what’s buried in the 1,200-page amendment before the vote on Thursday or Friday.

Meanwhile, Texas GOP members are using a special legislative session to push through more restrictive anti-abortion regulations. (What happened to their love for small government?!) The proposed law would criminalize abortions after 20 weeks and shut down health clinics, leaving no place in western Texas—a very large area—to obtain an abortion. Women would have to travel at least 600 miles to get an abortion for any reason.

In a peculiar quirk, the bill’s sponsor, Jody Laubenberg (R) refused to support an exemption for rape because—ready for this?—she thinks that the rape kit, used to collect forensic data on the rapist for a prosecution, causes abortions. She said, “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.” Laubenberg has displayed an even greater ignorance then Congressional legislators.

Someone needs to explain to Laubenberg that this is the procedures for use of the rape kit. A victim enters the hospital; staff collect bodily fluid, residue under the victim’s nails, and any relevant blood or hair samples for an investigation. Nobody gets “cleaned out.” States with abstinence-only sex education, such as Texas, have highly uneducated people, even elected legislators.

A survey found that 63 percent of registered voters don’t want any more anti-abortion laws, and 71 percent think that the legislature should worry about the economy and jobs instead of policing women’s reproductive rights. Almost three-fourths think that personal medical decisions about abortions should be made by a woman and her doctor, not by politicians. Also, 57 percent said that they don’t trust the governor or the legislature to make choices about women’s health care. Eighty percent think that anti-abortion should not be legislated in special session. And this opposition is from both parties and the independents.

The Texas Assembly passed the bill at 10:40 am today. Legislative rules require a 24-hour wait until the Senate can bring it up. The Texas legislature has until tomorrow night to get the bill passed.

This last weekend, dozens of people stood in line in Atlanta to buy exclusive LeBron James sneakers. When a man carrying a gun harassed them, a man in line pulled his gun and fatally shot him. The shooter then got back in line to wait for his sneakers. Some of the people thought that he wanted to rob them. A witness said about the dead man, “Sounds like he brought it on himself.”

Nobody said anything the man being dangerous, just that it was okay to kill him. Police have said they will not be charging the shooter because it was “self defense.” No need to wound him or feel any remorse—just kill him. This is the gun culture of the United States. 

June 23, 2013

Religion, Hate, and Hope

“Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it. If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.

“Ultimately, peace is just not about politics. It’s about attitudes; about a sense of empathy; about breaking down the divisions that we create for ourselves in our own minds and our own hearts that don’t exist in any objective reality, but that we carry with us generation after generation.”

This is what President Obama said on his visit to Northern Ireland. And this is what the conservative media translated his words into because they know that conservatives won’t bother to read exactly what the president said:

Drudge: President Obama made an “alarming call” for an “end to Catholic education.”

The Washington Times: An 800-word article began with this statement: “The backlash, which has grown steadily since Mr. Obama made the comments Monday, once again has put the commander in chief at odds with the Roman Catholic Church.”

Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter: The president’s remarks are proof of the president “attacking America while he’s abroad.”

David Limbaugh (Rush’s younger brother):  It was “unbelievable” to see the president “attacking Catholic schools.” He added, “How much evidence do people need to understand the breadth and depth of Obama’s radicalism?”

As Michael McGough, a Roman Catholic, wrote in the LA Tmes:

“Northern Ireland Society in Northern Ireland is much more stratified, and the role of religiously defined schools more problematic. You can be perfectly comfortable with the role of Catholic schools in the American context and worry about their contribution to estrangement between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.”

The hate just keeps coming toward the president. From American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer:

“The thrill is gone from Barack Obama. What you’re about to see is Barack Obama is going to be kicked to the back of the Democratic bus. This guy has now become a liability … and the Democratic Party is going to tell him to sit in the back of the bus; the front of the Democratic bus belongs to the white person, Hillary Clinton.”

From another fundamentalist Christian corner, End Times radio host David Wiles complained about the responses he received to the clips that Rachel Maddow replayed describing radical views supported by some GOP congressional leaders. In Conservative Land, Wiles is known for having called the president a “foreign plant,” a “manufactured person,” and a “devil from Hell.” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) agreed with Wiles that Congress should look into Obama’s “validity.” Wiles said that emails sent him were from “people who are demon-possessed” and serve as further proof that an anti-Christian holocaust is coming to America. He continued:

“The people who do watch [The Maddow Show] have a visceral hate for Jesus Christ and Christians.  In fifteen years of full-time ministry, I have never read or heard such ugly, hateful, threatening, vulgar, obscene, blasphemous messages in my life. Ever.

“The spirit of Antichrist is loose in America …. It is the same spirit that rose up in the Nazis in Germany towards the Jews. This time it will be the Christians in America who are locked up or put to death.”

In Oklahoma, Keith Cressman, a Methodist pastor, is suing the state because the license plate carries the image of a Native American shooting an arrow into the sky. According to Cressman,  it violates his religious liberty because it makes him be a “mobile billboard” for a religion that promotes pantheism and animism. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, 2-1, that his case can proceed.

The statue called “Sacred Rain Arrow,” part of the state’s heritage and sculpted by the late Oklahoma artist Allan Houser, was used for the image. The case was dismissed two years ago, but the 10th Circuit Court reinstated it.

Another lawsuit regarding religion this week was against Grace University, a conservative Christian college in Nebraska. After it expelled Danielle Powell for being a lesbian, the school charged her $6,300 for what they said were federal loans and grants before they would forward her transcripts to another school.

Ralph Reed’s shindig last weekend indicates that the far-right Christians are losing their grip on politics. Media made it appear that his annual Faith & Freedom Coalition conference, “Road to the Majority,” had thousands in attendance, but here were actually fewer than 400 in attendance, a fraction of those who, years ago, thronged to Pat Robertson’s  annual Christian Coalition “Road the White House.” Of the top tier of 2016 presidential hopefuls–Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Ted Cruz (TX), and Marco Rubio (FL) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker—only two even spoke. Walker didn’t even bother to attend, and Cruz was only at a reception.

There were the usual suspects, however. Friday banquet keynoter Donald Trump lambasted not only the Dems but also Karl Rove, Mitt Romney, and Rubio. Sarah Palin’s solution to the Middle East crisis is  “let Allah sort it out,” and her description of immigration reform was “a pandering, rewarding-the-rule-breakers, still-no-border-security, special-interest-written amnesty bill.”  Herman Cain had his “ETA” plan, “enthusiasm, targeted races and activists” but nothing about helping the country.  No ideas for improving the country—just get rid of the opposition. Texas Gov. Rick Perry    confused Lebanon with Libya when he referenced the assault at the U.S. consulate.

A new figure at the conference was E.W. Jackson, top Virginia bigot and GOP candidate for lieutenant governor. He redefined freedom for the “freedom coalition”:

“Freedom doesn’t mean ‘Do whatever you want.’ It’s the pursuit of character, integrity, decency, honor. Now we’re being told freedom is license.”

Jackson has said that the government is worse for black families than slavery. He said that his ancestors were born into slavery and that their families were more intact than black families are today.

The happy ending for the next story may be the bad publicity that immigration authorities received. A 64-year-old atheist and permanent U.S. resident for over three decades, Margaret Doughty, was told that her application for naturalized citizenship would not be accepted until she officially joined a church. Doughty stated on her application that she objected to the pledge to bear arms in defense of the nation due to her moral opposition to war. Immigration authorities originally said that she could object to war only because of religious beliefs.

Thirty-seven years ago, a Christian-based organization called Exodus started its mission to “cure” homosexuals of their sexual orientation. After a unanimous board decision this week, it closed its doors and its president, Alan Chambers, apologized to gays and lesbians for the group’s abuse. Last year California became the first state to ban “ex-gay” therapy. Chambers admits that he is still attracted to men and now  “accept[s] these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there.”

Because far-right Christians are busy putting up monuments about their religion on public land across the country, Florida members of American Atheists got permission to build a 1,500 granite display in Bradford, a small town in the northern part of the state. Placed next to the year-old display of the Ten Commandments, it will feature secular quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Madalyn Murray O’Hair on a four-foot-high panel next to a bench opposite the five-foot Christian monument. It also has a quote from the Treaty of Tripoli, a 1796 peace treaty between the U.S. and North African Muslims.

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The county attorney said that the Ten Commandments monument was not intended to sponsor any religion. County requirements for monuments are non-permanent commemorations of “people, events and ideas which played a significant role in the development, origins or foundations of United States of America or Florida law, or Bradford County” that are not “libelous, pornographic or obscene.”

To finish off the religion portion of my blog, I want to provide two beautiful photographs from my wonderful partner Sue. Whether you think that they came from a god or science—or both—they are magnificent.

Poppy%20002

Poppy%20004

June 22, 2013

Psychopaths Cluster at the Top

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:32 PM
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Research shows more and more how leaders in the banking industry are destroying our economy. Other researchers have determined that politicians and CEOs present the same psychologist characteristics as psychopaths. Mitchell Anderson looks at this in his article, “How to Stop Psychopath CEOs from Looting and Destroying Their Own Companies.”

Corporate fraud, rogue traders, rate fixing, money laundering. Why have these crimes become more prevalent in the 21st century? After the Great Depression, the people of the United States seemed to settle into a society that supported one another with the bill to help veterans after World War II, the development of the country’s infrastructure during the 1950s, and the growth of the unions and increase of salaries in the 1960s that strengthened the middle class.

Communal citizenship peaked in the early 1980s immediately before Ronald Reagan decided to move the wealth to the wealthiest, and the plight of the bottom 90 percent in the country has continually grown worse since that time. Five years ago, the worst recession since the Depression erased $14 trillion of household assets. Instead of learning a lesson from this disaster, the world’s financiers are proudly displaying their lack of integrity and honesty.

Anderson writes, “Perhaps expecting normal human behavior from many of these individuals is unrealistic because they are not normal–they are psychopaths.” In his analysis, regulation is futile. What is needed is psychological screening to keep people from positions of trust if they are medically unqualified.

Psychopathy is not insanity, and it’s not treatable. Linked to physical abnormalities in the amygdale region of the brain—the lizard part—it can be described as “emotional deafness.” Psychopaths pretend human reactions for the purposes of manipulation but feel nothing but self-interest. Ayn Rand’s heroes in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead represent psychopathic behavior because they are parasites, just like about one percent of the general population.

Recently scientists have developed reliable screening testing, widely adopted in the criminal justice system, to ascertain who has this emotional disability. Dr. Robert Hare, a leading researcher in this area, said, “Not all psychopaths are in prison. Some are in the boardroom.” According to Dr. Clive Boddy, increasingly fluid corporate career paths help psychopaths conceal their disruptive workplace behavior and ascend to previously unattainable levels of authority. They gravitate to the banking sector because of their attraction to money, status, and power, even self-identifying as “masters of the universe.”

People with psychopathic traits are five times more common in senior management than the general population. While they are tireless self-promoters, they are also poor performers and toxic managers. In a study by Dr. Paul Babiak of 203 senior managers, those with psychopathic scores on screening tests scored lower on leadership, team building, performance, and effective management. They are also 25 times more likely to engage in workplace bullying than normal humans.

Because they are ignorant of psychopathic behavior, many employers think that psychopaths have the strength to be “cool under fire.” Babiak’s study concludes:

“Our finding that some companies viewed psychopathic executives as having leadership potential, despite having negative performance reviews and low ratings on leadership and management by subordinates, is evidence of the ability of these individuals to manipulate decision makers. Their excellent communication and convincing lying skills, which together would have made them attractive hiring candidates in the first place, apparently continued to serve them well in furthering their careers.”

Psychopaths not only fail to act in the interests of their employees but also cannot act on behalf of their clients. Banks may be actively searching for this characteristic.

Brian Basham said a banking colleague once confided to him, “At one major investment bank for which I worked, we used psychometric testing to recruit social psychopaths because their characteristics exactly suited them to senior corporate finance roles.” Insurance companies also suffer from the psychopaths in their leadership.

Although senior managers of banks and insurance companies have “fiduciary duty”–a legal obligation to act in the best interests of their clients and investors—psychopaths cannot do this because medically they are hardwired to act in their own best interests.

Those who promote free capitalism don’t understand that the system is operating on aberrant brain chemistry. The system fails because psychopaths have the most important roles in institutions of controlling the distribution of money. Government is left to clean up when the system fails, and statistics indicate that an inordinate number of politicians are psychopaths. Financial institutions mess up the economy, and politicians don’t care about cleaning it up.

Insurance companies lose 5 percent of revenues to employee fraud–$400 billion in the U.S. and $3.5 trillion worldwide, according to a 2012 study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Scams from executives and owners are three times costlier than by managers and nine times more than those from employees. Banking and the financial sector suffer more from fraud than any other industry. Between 2008 and 2009, fraud in the workplace increased by 55 percent with 49 percent greater losses. Experts expect these levels to continue rising.

Babiak, author of Snakes in Suits, said, “Lack of empathy, remorse and guilt are some of the defining features of a psychopath, whether they are incarcerated, out in public or working for an organization. They also lack honesty, modesty, empathy, and conscience. At the same time they are impulsive and have an anti-social lifestyle.

Other signs of psychopaths:

  • they consistently present in a smooth, polished and charming way;
  • they redirect conversations to focus around them;
  • they discredit or put others down in an attempt to enhance their own status and reputation;
  • they lie with ease to colleagues, clients and business associates; and
  • they create internal power networks in the organization and use them for personal gain.

If you think that you know someone who is a psychopath, you might want to look at a more complete list of characteristics.

One percent of the population classified as psychopaths doesn’t seem that dangerous. But another 15 percent are classified as “almost psychopaths.” That means that one in every six or seven leaders and/or politicians fits this classification.

It’s my guess that most psychopathic politicians have collected in red states and the GOP part of Congress.

June 21, 2013

The IRS Argument Deflates

The GOP has been working the IRS manufactured scandal hard for the past month, trying to convince people that President Obama was directly responsible for the use of the term “tea party” to audit organizations in the 501(c)4 category.  Fox and GOP minds ignored the fact that many other organizations—including progressive ones—were audited,  many of the groups audited were certainly political, and that Fox was so eager to disenfranchise progressive groups with the IRS that they asked viewers to file fraudulent complaints.

But the House Oversight Committee, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) charged along, inciting the base and cheering them on.  On a Sunday ABC news panel before the case had been investigated, George Will promoted the idea of impeachment by equating President Obama and Richard Nixon and reading a passage from Nixon’s articles of impeachment. He wasn’t alone in his suggestion.

Issa thought he had the proof to back the president into a corner. Weeks ago, he promised to release the full transcripts from the IRS controversy hearings in the Oversight Committee. Then he leaked edited pieces and said he wouldn’t release the rest of them for a very long time, giving the impression that he didn’t have the goods to blame the president.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) took offense at the way that Issa was trying to smear the president with the edited transcripts and asked him to release the full ones. Issa sent Cummings a letter scolding him for getting out of line, Cummings responded by saying that Issa had to release transcripts by last Monday or he would, Issa didn’t do it, and Cummings released the full transcripts on Tuesday, leading to Issa’s anger.

The release of the full transcripts backed Issa into a corner. They show that the White House had no involvement in any of the audits.

Although Issa did start his attempt to make hay out of straw in the IRS controversy until a few weeks ago, he knew about the issue years ago. He also knew that a George W. Bush appointee was head of the IRS at the time that he raised the issue with the IRS. But nothing appeared before the presidential election last fall.

Issa’s recent history of manufacturing scandals in the hope of creating problems for President Obama include Solyndra’s loan guarantees, “Fast and Furious,” Benghazi—all Issa’s inventions. What many know less about is Issa’s past.

During his meteoric rise to wealth and power, he was indicted for car theft, arrested for illegally carrying a concealed weapon, and accused of arson. The accusations of deliberately burning down a building for profit and threatening a former employee with a gun did not result in formal charges, but there is enough information to substantiate some of his criminal actions. After Issa was in a car accident, he told the woman he had hit that he didn’t have time to wait and left before police arrived. The woman had to be hospitalized. There were no charges, but he made an out-of-court settlement after being sued.

The chair of the House Oversight Committee entrusted with investigating government wrongdoing and lying claimed to have the “highest possible” ratings during his Army career. In truth, he “received unsatisfactory conduct and efficiency ratings and was transferred to a supply depot.” He also lied when he said that he provided security for President Nixon in 1971 and won a national Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Once Issa’s allegations were punctured, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) picked up the IRS scandal banner.  At the conservative American Enterprise Institute today, he admitted the president was probably not directly responsible for the audits. Yet in covering for Issa, McConnell tried to connect the president with the so-called scandal by accusing President Obama—wrongly—of personally trying to prove he was innocent. Then McConnell claimed that the situation is part of a government assault on free speech as part of a “culture of intimidation.” Somebody has to be blamed for these audits, so McConnell picked the unions as the responsible party.

McConnell cherry-picks the Constitution like some people do the Bible. In his concern about free speech and intimidation, he ignored the House Rules Committee’s rejection of an amendment that would cut back the NSA’s ability to collect data on U.S. citizens. First Amendment protecting speech good; Fourth Amendment guarding against search and seizure bad—according to the GOP. Although the GOP isn’t happy with the other part of the First Amendment that protects freedom of religion.

The Tea Party bitterly complained—and the GOP House members picked up the cudgel—that more of them had been targeted than progressive organizations. That’s true, mainly because there were far more conservative groups wanting non-profit status for their political spending than progressive ones. The percentage for both sides was most likely the same. But conservatives have succeeded in making the IRS afraid. The GOP doesn’t want justice; it wants destruction of anyone who opposes it.

Now that GOP House members may have to give up salivating over the possibility that they could bring down President Obama with their IRS accusations, they should be concerned with IRS reform. After the Supreme Court gave people what seemed to be unlimited donation power with Citizens United, the criteria for 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofits got even fuzzier. Frustrated by the flood of applications from the so-called nonprofits, some IRS low officials decided that using terms to find these would be useful.

The ambiguity of rules saying “social welfare” is okay but “political intervention” isn’t, gave a great deal of discretion regarding approval to these low-level staffers. The group can be tax exempt if political activity “less than primary.” Staffers had jurisdiction to decide what “primary” is. The inability of the Federal Elections Commission to be effective threw election law oversight into the IRS ball court.

What the GOP managed to largely conceal in all the discussion is that the groups claiming to be social welfare consistently got involved in politics with 80 percent of the advertising money from these groups going to Republican candidates and issues. No wonder, the House GOP has so diligently tried to protect them. In examining over 100 applications for IRS recognition, ProPublica found—surprise!—that the applications consistently said they were not spending money on elections and then did just the opposite. The American Future Fund, a conservative, self-identified nonprofit, spent millions of dollars on campaign ads since 2008—even before it mailed is fraudulent application.

The real disgrace—read “scandal” is not the Tea Party situation. It’s the fact that the IRS favors the wealthy. As Donald Dayen wrote in Salon:

“IRS audits of the largest and richest corporations have steadily declined since 2005, down 22 percent in the ensuing four years and even more from 2011-2013. In the same period, the agency accelerated its scrutiny of small and midsize corporations. Since 2000, the IRS has been more likely to audit the working poor, individuals and families making under $25,000 a year, than those making over $100,000 annually. The middle class received disproportionately more audits throughout the past decade as well. An IRS unit formed in 2009 called the Global High Wealth Industry Group, designed to give special attention to tax compliance of high-wealth individuals, performed exactly two audits in 2010 and 11 in 2011.”

Since 2002, the IRS budget has shrunk 17 percent while being saddled with more responsibilities, including Obamacare and offshore accounts. The indiscriminate 5 percent sequester cut will make the IRS problems only worse. One answer when employees are to do more work with fewer resources is shortcuts to keep up with the workflow. If the GOP wants the IRS to do their job, they should give them the funding to do this. The money spent in that area will help reduce the deficit. But the GOP wants to benefit the wealthy so they will keep the IRS from successful audits of them.

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