Congress is lower than cockroaches, found one poll six months ago. The nation’s legislative branch isn’t doing any better now; it’s at the bottom of 16 institutions—for the fourth consecutive year. Only 10 percent of the respondents had confidence in Congress, almost 25 percent down from last year. The rating is the lowest level of confidence that Gallup has ever found for any institution on record.
Despite the low rating, there is some good news, some of it from Congress itself. The 60-vote GOP mandate in the Senate has bitten the party that has obsessively used this super majority. The GOP-proposed amendment to immigration reform that border security must satisfy them for at least six month before any other action got only a 57-43 vote today. Two Democrats voted against tabling the amendment, and five Republicans joined the Democrat majority to vote it down.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who introduced the amendment, said, “This vote proves this ‘open and fair process’ is a farce. The majority is afraid of having a true vote on my amendment.” His problem is that the GOP senators have blocked almost all action in the Senate for year, excessively using this mythical super majority mandate.
The bill already has provisions for border security, requiring apprehension of 90 percent of people trying to cross the southern border illegally. In addition, the bill has very restrictive conditions. If the immigration reform bill were to become law, undocumented people in the U.S. could not approach legal status for at least 13 years. That could only happen after people undergo a background check, pay a fine and back taxes, learn English, and wait in line for a green card.
While Congress remains inert, the courts are moving forward. With less than two weeks to deliver all its decisions for the past session, the Supreme Court announced a unanimous ruling that companies cannot patent parts of naturally-occurring human genes. This reverses almost 30 years of the lucrative practice of awarding gene patents, which included one company controlling the test on a genetic disposition toward breast cancer. Myriad Genetics was sued because its ownership to the human gene kept other companies from developing tests.
Surprisingly, the silent Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the decision that maintained laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas are not patentable. The court did throw companies a bone, ruling that they could patent synthetically-created DNA.
SCOTUS still has not announced before they recess, possibly on June 27. A year ago, the most waited-for decision, Obamacare, came out at the end of the court’s year, giving Chief Justice John Roberts a chance to get out of the country a few days after he voted on what the conservatives perceived to be the wrong side. The marriage equality decisions will probably be announced immediately before the end of June as was the June 26, 2003, decision on Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state laws banning same-sex intimacy. 2003.
A recent federal court decision involving the Supreme Court may be appealed to SCOTUS. Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled against the law that bans organizing protesting and signs in front of the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional, calling the 1949 legislation passed by Congress “unreasonable” and “substantially overbroad.”
Charles A. Whitehead, founder of the Rutherford Institute, said about the decision:
“Judge Howell’s frank, no-holds-barred ruling affirming the Supreme Court plaza as a free speech zone throws a lifeline to the First Amendment at a time when government officials are doing their best to censor, silence and restrict free speech activities.”
Another First Amendment right, separation of church and state, is being celebrated this week in the 50th anniversary of School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp. This case stopped daily Bible readings and saying the Lord’s Prayer in schools, declaring the practice unconstitutional. In the past few years, the Pennsylvania legislation has regressed, having declared the year 2012 as “The Year of the Bible,” October 2012 as “Prayer Month,” and May 3, 2012 a “Day of Prayer.” William Penn, early champion of religious freedom, probably wouldn’t agree.
On the negative side, however, the lizard part of conservatives’ brains promoting bigotry was active two days ago:
George Zimmerman’s murder trial: Discussing jury selection for the man who stalked, shot, and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, former NYPD detective Harry Houck said, “Listen, Trayvon Martin would be alive today, okay, if he didn’t, alright, have a street attitude.” This is the excuse for someone who ignored a 9/11 dispatcher’s order to stay in his car before he followed his prey.
The Boy Scouts of America’s decision to permit gay members: On his 700 Club show, televangelist Pat Robertson said:
“[The LGBT community is] willing to rip apart the framework of traditional marriage, to rip apart an organization that has done so much good for young people… All for one thing, that the way they do sex will be accepted in the mainstream of society… It’s been a marvelous institution, and to see that torn up in order to accommodate a few kids who want to do sex with each other, I mean, it boggles the mind.”
Muslims’ complicity in extremist terrorism: Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) said on the House floor that Muslims in the United States did not condemn acts of Islamic extremist terrorism against the U.S. and are therefore complicit in attacks, past and future. Accusing them of deafening silence, he himself did not hear the ways that Muslim leaders and communities have condemned the terrorists’ violence and extremism. For example, immediately after the Boston bombers were identified as Muslim, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a statement:
“As Americans, we are a united force against any form of tyranny, whether it be in the form of terrorism or otherwise…Terrorism has no allegiance to faith or ethnicity, and we have been witness to that over the past few years. What happened in Boston and Watertown last week does not reflect on anyone except for those who carried it out. It is not a reflection of ethnic identity, religion, or national affiliation.”
The Obama administration’s announcement that it will not block access to Plan B for any woman or girl: Laura Ingraham angrily responded, “It’s a good deal for pedophiles, a good deal for people who commit statutory rape against young girls.”
The virulent attack against an 11-year-old boy through Twitter: Singing phenomenon Sebastien de la Cruz (pictured above with his parents), featured on America’s Got Talent, gave a beautiful rendition of the national anthem at the San Antonio Spurs game. The unleashing of racist hate was unforgivable as shown by two of the disgusting tweets:
“This lil Mexican snuck in the country like 4 hours ago now he singing the anthem” –@A2daO
“Who let this illegal alien sing our national anthem?” –@MCyrus2
De la Cruz, the son of a Navy sailor, was born and raised in San Antonio. With grace, he answered the rants:
“People don’t know, they just assume that I’m just Mexican. But I’m not from Mexico, I’m from San Antonio, born and raised; a true Spurs fan.”
This response shows that there is hope for the future.