Nel's New Day

April 30, 2015

LGBT Community Waits for Marriage Equality Ruling

tevin“I’ve been given a great life,” Tevin Johnson-Campion told HuffPo‘s Josh Zepps. “My parents have always been there for me, and just for someone to sit there and say that we’re less deserving, I definitely feel like that’s offensive,” Johnson-Campion continued about his two fathers, plaintiffs in the marriage equality law suit, Obergefell v. Hodges, that the Supreme Court heard on April 28. (Follow Johnson-Campion’s journey toward marriage quality with his two fathers at his blog.)

The marriage equality case is named after the lead plaintiff, James Obergefell, who was not allowed to have his name listed on his husband’s Ohio death certificate. The court’s job in this case is to answer two questions: do states have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and do states have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in another state?

Opponents to same-sex marriages need to maintain that they have no ill will toward LGBT people to avoid heightened scrutiny. John Bursch, lawyer against marriage equality, failed that test when he said that heterosexual parents would more likely abandon their children if society felt that marriage is just about love. He ignored the four special-needs children of the Michigan plaintiffs who cannot be adopted by both their parents because the women cannot be married. Anthony Kennedy told Bursch, “I think the argument cuts quite against you.”

john_j_bursch_0When Bursch claimed that the banning marriage equality doesn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation, Elena Kagan answered, “If you prevent people from wearing yarmulkes, you know, that’s discrimination against Jews.”

Bursch got into deeper trouble with the swing justices, Kennedy and John Roberts, when he tried the argument that allowing marriage between two people who cannot procreate together leads to more children born out of wedlock and the “reasonable voter” to ban same-sex marriage. “The state doesn’t have an interest in love and emotion at all,” Bursch said. “It’s about binding children to their biological moms and dads.” He went so far as to say that marriage was never intended to be “dignitary [sic] bestowing.” Kennedy disagreed in amazement, saying that he thought this was the entire point of marriage.

same sex marriage drawingAfter a debate on whether couples should be asked if they wanted children before they were permitted to marry, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 82, told Bursch, “Suppose a couple, 70-year-old couple, comes in and they want to get married? You don’t have to ask [the 70-year-old couple] any questions. You know they are not going to have any children.”

To the absurd argument that marriage equality would weaken the institution, Ginsberg responded:

“All of the incentives, all of the benefits that marriage affords would still be available. So you’re not taking away anything from heterosexual couples. They would have the very same incentive to marry, all the benefits that come with marriage that they do now.”

As Roberts and Kennedy fretted about rushing into marriage equality, Ginsburg gave a great tutorial:

“Marriage today is not what it was under the common law tradition, under the civil law tradition. Marriage was a relationship of a dominant male to a subordinate female. That ended as a result of this court’s decision in 1982 when Louisiana’s Head and Master Rule was struck down … Would that be a choice that state should [still] be allowed to have? To cling to marriage the way it once was?”

Bursch said, “No.”

Roberts suggested that LGBT people should keep on persuading people to accept marriage equality and not bother the court. He said:

“I mean, closing of debate can close minds, and it will have a consequence on how this new institution is, is accepted.  People feel very differently about something if they have a chance to vote on it than if it’s imposed on them by the courts.”

By now, over 60 percent of the people have accepted same-sex marriage compared to the mere 20 percent who approved of interracial marriages when Loving v. Virginia made interracial marriage the law of the land.

Defending the nonrecognition laws was Tennessee Associate Solicitor General Joseph Whalen who rapidly found himself in trouble when he tried to defend the practice of not accepting marriages of same-sex couples who wed in other states. Stephen Breyer noted that Washington, D.C., allows federal judges to marry people but New York does not. He asked, “So if I marry two people in Washington, D.C., and they happen to move to New York, you are saying that New York doesn’t have to recognize that marriage?” When Whalen said yes, Breyer replied, “I think there are a few people going to get nervous about this.”

Whalen dug his hole deeper by trying to draw a difference between a judgment and a law after Sonia Sotomayor said that a divorce is a legal judgment. Ginsburg added, “It is odd, isn’t it, that a divorce does become the decree for the nation … but not the act of marriage.”

Samuel Alito asked about a compromise that would allow states to ban gay marriages while at the same time recognizing such marriages performed out of state. One might wonder if he is considering this position.

Roberts appears to search for a way to control his court if Kennedy votes with the progressive justices. He said:

“I’m not sure it’s necessary to get into sexual orientation to revolve this case. I mean, if Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t. And the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?”

Using this rationale wins the battle for marriage equality because the enemy retreats. That decision gives LGBT people no constitutional protections beyond those connected with marriage. It’s also dishonest because the discrimination has been based on sexual orientation and gender identity, not the person’s sex.

Why now? And why are we the ones who should make the decision? That seemed to be the position of the four conservative justices and sometimes Kennedy. Lawyer Donald Verrilli gave the justices the legal reason to the questions why now and why them.

“What these gay and lesbian couples are doing is laying claim to the promise of the Fourteenth Amendment now, and it is emphatically the duty of this Court, in this case … to decide what the Fourteenth Amendment requires.”

The time is now because the plaintiffs came to court, asking for rights for themselves and their children, and the Supreme Court justices are the ones because they represent the law.

The people who think there is no discrimination against LGBT people need to consider the difficulties that just the plaintiffs—only a few same-sex couples—have endured because they cannot be married: no death certificate, no ability to adopt partner’s children, limited parental rights (health care, visitation, etc., etc.), no “interstate travel” with partner’s adopted children, no family health care, no co-ownership of their home without costs for legal contortions, social stigma for children, no adoption for foster children, higher income and estate taxes, more restrict time off work for family care, no medical power of attorney, no Social Security benefits or inheritance rights, and no divorce. It’s more than a yarmulke.

How could the court rule?

It could require states to recognize marriage equality without affirming equal protection by not listing LGBT people among classes of people granted legal protection from discrimination.

It could water down the legal standard necessary to prove discrimination in court.

It could take a state’s rights position and leave everything up to the states.

It could take the Alito compromise by requiring states to recognize same-sex marriage without performing them within the states.

Until the court delivers its decision, probably at the end of June, people will continue to protest—like these people.

April 27, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage = Equal Rights

Forty years ago, a young clerk in Boulder (CO) gave marriage licenses to six same-sex couples before the state attorney general discontinued the practice. Clela Rorex made history, and one couple, Anthony Corbett Sullivan and Richard Frank Adams, made more history when they sued the government after the U.S. government denied an application for Sullivan, an Australian, to stay in the United States although he was married to a citizen. The response on the denial read, “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”

The 9th Circuit Court ruled against Adams’ suit to obtain an immigrant visa for Sullivan, stating that Colorado might recognize the marriage but the federal government would not. The couple did not quit: Sullivan filed a new suit, arguing that his deportation constituted an extreme hardship because ending his relationship with Adams would “cause him personal anguish and hurt.” He also wrote that his deportation to Australia would be an undue hardship “because homosexuals are not accepted in that society and because the members of his own family who live in Australia have turned against him.”

The author of the opinion against Sullivan in the same court was Anthony Kennedy, the same Kennedy who is one of nine U.S. Supreme Court justices to hear tomorrow’s arguments on legalizing marriage equality. Kennedy justified his rejection of Sullivan’s arguments:

“Even if all of Sullivan’s arguments are accepted at face value, they do not necessarily constitute a showing of extreme hardship as the term is defined in the immigration laws. Deportation rarely occurs without personal distress and emotional hurt.”

A dissenting judge explained that this case was different: “Most deported aliens can return to their native lands with their closest companions. But Sullivan would be precluded from doing so because Adams allegedly would not be permitted to emigrate to Australia.” That judge, however, was in the minority.

The story of Adams and Sullivan is the subject of a documentary, Limited Partnership, that airs on public television’s program Independent Lens on June 15, 2015.

The U.S. Supreme Court avoided hearing any same-sex marriage cases until two of them appeared in 2013, one about California’s Prop 8 and the other connected to declaring that New York’s Edie Windsor is legally a widow after her female partner died. Although SCOTUS accepted the 1972 Baker v. Nelson case in 1975 about two Minnesota men suing to be married, it dismissed the suit “for want of a substantial federal question.”

Rorex wasn’t the first clerk to permit a marriage license for a same-sex couple when she started doing this in March 1975. The first recognized marriage license for a same-sex couple was in Maricopa County (AZ) two months earlier when the person behind the counter issued the license because Arizona had no law banning same-sex couples. An Arizona judge declared the license invalid by citing the book of Genesis, and the gay couple did not pursue it further. The Arizona legislature than banned marriage equality.

Adams and Sullivan, however, were the first same-sex couple who took the matter to the courts after their marriage was declared invalid.

Until 1973, when Maryland passed the first ban on marriage equality, no state had any restriction on gender in a marriage statute.

After Rorex started handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a man showed up with his horse, Dolly, and asked for a marriage license for the two of them. Rorex asked the horse’s age and then denied the application because, at 8 years old, Dolly was too young to marry without her parents’ written consent.

Talking about giving same-sex couples marriage licenses, Rorex said:

“If I had the opportunity to do it over again, I would do it with more conviction this time. Then I knew nothing about gay and lesbian relationships. I only knew one gay man. But I knew it was the right thing to do. My only regret in this is that people with long-term loving relationships still can’t get married. I now know several gay and lesbian couples who have been together for years. They reaffirm to me that this is an issue of human rights, civil rights. All the fanatical hatemongering about it is frightening and infuriating.”

A 2011 interview with Rorex, 70, is available here.

Adams leftThe couple denied marriage rights because of Kennedy’s ruling stayed together until Adams (left) died in 2012. Sullivan, 73, still has the license and the “faggot letter.” He tells about pursuing the lawsuit until Kennedy ruled in 1985 that Sullivan could be deported, a decision that led the couple to fly to London and move to Northern Ireland. About their 41-year relationship, Sullivan said, “Not to get sloppy, but he meant everything to me, and I meant everything to him.” This statement resonates with millions of same-sex couples.

An ironic part of Kennedy’s opinion against the couple is that Kennedy went on to author the protection of LGBT citizens in Romer v. Evans (1996); the abolition of anti-homosexual sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas (2003); and the striking down of a vital piece of the federal DOMA in United States v. Windsor (2013).

After trying other methods of keeping Adams in the United States, the couple had gone to Rorex after the Advocate published an article about her giving a marriage license to a gay couple. The newly-hired clerk found nothing in the law to stop her, and a county attorney agreed. She said that she didn’t know anyone from the LGBT community, but she sensed the same discrimination as against women.

At their first news conference after getting married, a reporter asked Sullivan, “Oh, and what is it that either of you do in bed?” He answered, “If you tell me what you and your wife do in bed, I’ll be happy to tell you what we do in bed.”

Lonely for their home in the United States and Adams’ family, the couple moved back to the states where Sullivan lived in what he calls the “immigration closet.” He worked as the building manager and paid his taxes. Sullivan’s immigration status is still unsettled because he refused to marry Adams—again. He maintains that “Richard and I have never budged on the concept that the Boulder marriage was legitimate—it’s still in the books.” Friends persuaded the reluctant couple to go to Washington state for a wedding in December 2012, but Adams died of lung cancer the next day.

Since then, Sullivan received a work permit and later a letter from the government after he wrote President Obama. “I requested, basically for Richard, an apology for the faggot letter, because I felt that as an American citizen, he didn’t deserve to have that on his record,” Sullivan said. “Because he loved his country.” León Rodriguez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the successor to the INS, responded:

“This agency should never treat any individual with the disrespect shown toward you and Mr. Adams. You have my sincerest apology for the years of hurt caused by the deeply offensive and hateful language used in the November 24, 1975, decision and my deepest condolences on your loss.”

Sullivan now has a widower’s petition pending before the agency. He will be in Washington, D.C. tomorrow for the Supreme Court’s marriage equality argument in a case that will decide the fate of millions of people in the United States–same-sex couples and their children. Adams and Sullivan’s story is just one that shows the inequities in marriage.

marriagemap

A patchwork collection of laws from courts, legislatures, and popular vote give rights to some same-sex couples but not all. Today, same-sex couples can be married in 37 states and Washington, D.C. with full state rights and many federal benefits. Some of the other 13 states allow them marital and federal rights if they were married in another states with marriage equality; some of them don’t. The Supreme Court will decide whether all people in same-sex marriages deserve the same rights as those given opposite-sex couples.

Clela Rorex said: “My toes and fingers are crossed,” Rorex says. “It just has to go forward. We cannot have piecemeal civil rights in our country. And to me, marriage equality is a civil rights issue. It’s a human rights issue.”

It’s time for LGBT people to get one of their constitutional rights—legal marriage.

April 26, 2015

Conservatives’ Need for Feelings of Superiority

GOP presidential candidates blame hatred against Christians because the government is trying to provide equality for all. Some of this paranoia is coming to head on Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case about marriage equality.

The basis for conservative arguments against same-sex marriage is the fear of losing superiority. America’s Founding Fathers owned slaves and indentured servants because of superiority. It was perfectly natural for white people to own human beings as property instead of paying them for their work. After the Civil War, white people kept their superiority with “separate but equal” as blacks were forced to use segregated bathrooms, drinking fountains, and lunch counters. Everyone knew that the facilities were not equal–not even the schools–but white people maintained superiority.

Women had to fight for the vote because of male superiority. The same issue kept blacks from voting even after the 14th Amendment to the Constitution extended rights to all male citizens, excluding Native Americans until the 1960s.

In the 21st century, LGBT citizens can vote, but many same-sex couples cannot be legally married in the state where they live. The argument against marriage equality is that LGBT people want “special rights,” which are actually the same rights as the rest of the people in the United States. In a brief opposing marriage equality, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D) argues that his state’s ban on same-sex marriage shouldn’t be considered discrimination because everyone is banned from marrying the same sex, gay and straight alike.

220px-Gadsden_flag.svgSome Tea Partiers who claim that the world discriminates against them more than any other group use the flag with the cry, “Don’t Tread on Me.” It was originally used as opposition to foreign countries but evolved into the Libertarian symbol, and from there it became associated with militia and white supremacist ideology. Jerad and Amanda Miller put the flag on the corpse of one of the two  Las Vegas police officers who they killed. Tea Partiers and other supremacists who oppose rights for all because they don’t want to be treated the same as everyone else.

Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s governor, is currently leading the charge in this need for superiority. In his op-ed for the New York Times, “Bobby Jindal: I’m Holding Firm against Gay Marriage,” he pictures himself as the standard-bearer “advancing the cause of freedom and free enterprise.” He calls on the business community to “stand shoulder to shoulder with those fighting for religious liberty” because “the left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom are the same ones who seek to tax and regulate businesses out of existence.” IBM has already criticized Jindal for supporting legal discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom.” Instead of trying to solve his state’s 19-percent poverty rate and its 17-percent uninsured rate, he focuses on a law based on bigotry and prejudice. As Jindal points out, Louisiana passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits government from unduly burdening a person’s exercise of religion. This 2010 law isn’t enough for Jindal, however. Now he wants the Marriage and Conscience Act:

“The legislation would prohibit the state from denying a person, company or nonprofit group a license, accreditation, employment or contract—or taking other “adverse action —based on the person or entity’s religious views on the institution of marriage.”

Jindal’s rallying cry:

“Those who believe in freedom must stick together: If it’s not freedom for all, it’s not freedom at all. This strategy requires populist social conservatives to ally with the business community on economic matters and corporate titans to side with social conservatives on cultural matters. This is the grand bargain that makes freedom’s defense possible.”

Jindal’s freedom is for those who do the rejecting, not the rejected. It calls for discrimination by those who wish to be superior in the name of Jindal’s freedom. Jindal even tries to show that discriminating against LGBT people isn’t discrimination:

“The bill does not, as opponents assert, create a right to discriminate against, or generally refuse service to, gay men or lesbians. The bill does not change anything as it relates to the law in terms of discrimination suits between private parties. It merely makes our constitutional freedom so well defined that no judge can miss it.”

Jindal justifies his actions through following the consensus of the country, “that marriage is between one man and one women” but acknowledges that “consensus is changing.” He adds, “I will not change my faith-driven view on this matter, even if it becomes a minority opinion.”

Actually, Jindal’s opinion is already a minority opinion: the newest poll shows that 63 percent of “the country” supports same-sex marriage and fewer than 33 percent oppose it. Even states without marriage equality show that a majority approves the right for same-sex couples to marry. As for serving people, 57 percent of “the country” think that business should be required to serve everyone. Among Republicans under 30, 61 percent support marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

Jindal concludes by writing, “A pluralistic and diverse society like ours can exist only if we all tolerate people who disagree with us.” I agree with him: that’s the reason that all people should be served, not just some of them. The law should not make some of the people superior to others.

In the next week, religious zealots will try to flex their muscles of superiority because of the marriage equality arguments before the Supreme Court. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and Family Talk Radio, talks about a second “Civil War,” and Rick Scarborough, Vision America Action, compares his work to that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who resisted the Nazis. Tony Perkins warns of a revolution. Objections to legalized marriage equality in a brief from a conservative religious coalition could be a Christian interpretation of the dreaded Sharia law.

“Should the court require the states and the people to ‘ritualize’ sodomite behavior by government issuance of a state marriage license, it could bring God’s judgment on the nation. Holy Scripture attests that homosexual behavior and other sexual perversions violate the law of the land, and when the land is ‘defiled,’ the people have been cast out of their homes.”

The brief relies heavily on Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 24-30. So much for separation of church and state. More ranting can be found here.

While the superiority toward minorities usually comes from white men, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has developed an unusual argument. In her brief, filed with James Bopp, Jr. and Carolyn McLarty, she argues that women should have to marry men because they have a “socializing effect” on men in marriage.

The three assert, “Marriage helps to focus a man’s energy and aggression to socially desirable ends, providing for and protecting wives and children, making their wives and children feel secure, happy, and loved.” Without the need to support a family men probably wouldn’t even work and would certainly have numerous sexual partners without a women.

The brief continues, “Women are more likely than men to initiate divorce because of their different emotional makeup. The complementary, tempering effect of the opposite sex is simply not present in same-sex marriages.”

Because men are too promiscuous and women are too emotional for successful long-term relationships, “the government has no obligation to recognize or promote same-sex marriage.” That’s Blackburn’s argument for forcing both men and women into opposite-sex marriage.

I give the top award for bizarre arguments against same-sex marriage to the man who claims 100 “scholars” blame 900,000 abortions on legalized marriage equality. The twisted logic posits that marriage equality will make opposite-sex couples think that marriage has lost its meaning. They will then not get married. Few marriages lead to unmarried sex which leads to pregnancies out of wedlock which creates more unwanted pregnancies which causes—are you with me?—900,000 abortions. Gene Schaerr used this argument in his amicus brief although he freely admits that he doesn’t see a cause and effect in his “reasoning.” The lawyer who failed in Utah’s case against marriage equality, Gene Schaerr was once a clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia.

The question during the next few months is whether the Supreme Court will have enough men needing superiority to deny equal marriage rights to LGBT couples.

April 25, 2015

Presidential Campaign Updates

Three declared GOP presidential candidates and almost 20 others are jostling each other with insults and geometrically increasing extremist positions to make them stand out from the crowded field. Most of their speech time is spent condemning Hillary Clinton, the top Democratic candidate at this time, but this is what they have to say in their spare time. Just a peek at how they would act if they were elected President of the United States:

Ted Cruz: “Obama is a … socialist.” Conservatives think the word socialist—actually meaning public ownership of the means of production—is a term for “stuff Republicans don’t like.”  To Cruz, however, it must mean all-time high corporate profits and stock market with the big drop in unemployment based on private-sector jobs. Cruz’s complaint that “the top 1 percent in this country … earn a higher share of our national income than any time since 1928” must mean “an unmitigated socialist.”

Cruz has openly attacked his two declared opponents, Paul and Rubio, for not supporting the Second Amendment. As a blogger wrote, “Let the cannibalism begin.”

Last Wednesday, two wealthy gay business hoteliers, Mati Weiderpass and Ian Reisner, arranged a fundraising dinner; Thursday Cruz rolled out his plan to make marriage equality illegal. The first proposed bill is pretty standard for a Republican: amend the U.S. Constitution to prevent same-sex marriage in any state that doesn’t want it. The second bill, however, is bizarre. It would ban any federal court from issuing a ruling related to marriage equality until the constitutional amendment passed. No mention was made of these proposed bills the night before, but Cruz did say, “If one of my daughters was gay, I would love them just as much.” Reisner and Weiderpass both disavowed Cruz’s position, but they’re taking a lot of heat about the event from their customers.

In the House, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is introducing a bill to keep judges from hearing or deciding “any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, any type of marriage.” Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) has countered with a bill to restrain King from introducing bills and made a statement about King’s long record of outrageous racist and other inflammatory remarks–ending “anchor babies” and describing undocumented immigrants as having “calves the size of cantaloupes” because they were smuggling drugs.”

Cruz may have found his billionaire supporter in Wall Street hedge-fund magnate  Robert Mercer who made his fortune using computer patterns to outsmart the stock market.  Oregonians remember Mercer as the man who bankrolled Art Robinson’s attempt to unseat Rep. Peter DeFazio. Robinson, known for his opposition to scientific viewpoints about evolution, AIDS, and nuclear waste, is now collecting urine samples from people across southeastern Oregon in an experiment about curing cancer.

With the highest percentage of missing votes in the Senate—10.4 percent—Cruz also skipped the vote on Loretta Lynch for Attorney General for a fundraiser in Texas. He also missed the vote on the Keystone Pipeline while fundraising in California. (Rubio is second in missed votes with 8.2 percent.)

Rand Paul: Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are President Obama’s “lapdogs,” said Paul in response to the two war hawks accusing Paul of naivete. from the two war hawks. McCain and Graham are actually contemptuous of the president’s foreign policy because he won’t attack more nations and start more wars: the president is more like Paul until as Paul advocates a huge increase in defense spending and more strikes against ISIL.

Paul is over 50 years old, but he still struts around in his shades trying to look “cool” with his shades. The inclusion of “Rand branded Raybans” in his campaign store, however breaks the law just as Paul’s plagiarism may have. The glasses are gone after a Rayban made a formal request that Paul remove the glasses from the store and “cease any further use of our trademarks.”

Paul’s revelation that he had found a Hillary Clinton scandal so terrible that her campaign would be wrecked fizzled after Peter Schweizer admitted that he had no proof for his allegations in his book, Clinton Cash. Now Paul is begging for information about Clinton scandals on his website and through Twitter.

Paul wants to terminate programs for the elderly such as Meals on Wheels and let old people depend on the “nobility of charity.” He also wants to destroy more federal agencies than Rick Perry did, eliminating all federal funding for education—even school lunches. Privatizing Medicare and Social Security also fits into his agenda.

Paul wrote the piece lauding the Koch brothers on Times’ 100 most influential list, praising their “generous philanthropic efforts” and their consistent lobbying “against special-interest politics.” The brothers developed the pledge “No Climate Tax” to combat climate change, signed by over 450 federal and state politicians including Rand Paul. Thirty-six of 48 Koch Industries lobbyists in 2013-2014 had held government jobs in the past. Here’s a partial list of the special-interest groups that receive millions from the Koch brothers. And they plan to donate almost $1 billion to elect a GOP president in 2016.

Marco Rubio: The $85 billion bailout of GM and Chrysler was not the “right way” for the federal government, but “our auto industry is important.” The bailout actually saved hundreds of thousands of jobs, and the industry bounced back. It was an effective action, but Rubio still thinks that the successful policy wasn’t “the right way to handle it.” Everyone can agree and disagree with Rubio’s statements because he takes both sides with the same breath.

A few other self-avowed “undeclareds”:

Mike Huckabee: “I might suggest to parents, I’d wait a couple of years until we get a new commander-in-chief that will once again believe ‘one nation under god’ and believe that people of faith should be a vital part of the process of not only governing this country, but defending this country.” In other words, Huckabee is telling young people to not join the military in an attempt to weaken security for the United States.

Huckabee claims that the backlash to Indiana’s law permitting discrimination is proof that liberals hate all Christians. He also says that the upcoming Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality will be moot because “one branch of government does not overrule the other two.”

Bobby Jindal: Despite watching the debacles in other states attempting to legalize discriminatory “religious freedom” laws, Jindal wants one of his own. IBM has asked Jindal to change his position because the law creates a “hostile environment” in the state that is already in dire financial straits. Jindal refused and thinks he can solve his fiscal problems with an 82-percent cut for higher education. Louisiana is already in the top ten least educated states in the country and almost last in the annual education report card issued by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. College professors get about $16,000 less than the national average salary. Jindal explains his low approval rate—27 percent—by saying that it’s dropped by 15 to 20 points because he cut spending and took on the teacher unions. That was his campaign platform in a deep red state; he did exactly what he told the voters he would do.

Rick Santorum:  As president, the former senator would force children to read the Bible, force pregnant rape victims to give birth, stop birth control, and keep mothers at home. He thinks that people misunderstood the Crusades, Palestinians don’t exist, and President Obama wants a secular theocracy. It’s an oxymoron: theocracy is a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god, and  secular is not subject to or bound by religious rule.

Scott Walker: Wisconsin’s current governor is such a disaster that his actions require several books to explain, but, using Wisconsin as a model, the U.S. would get higher employment and deficits if Walker were president. From January 2011 to January 2015, Wisconsin was 35th in job growth, compared to a national average of 8.21 percent. (Other governors considering the White House have the same problem: Jindal’s Louisiana is 32nd, and Chris Christie’s New Jersey is 40th.) Walker, with a two-year deficit as high as $2 billion, has cut $300 million for higher education on top billions in previous education cuts. Without a college diploma, he may consider education to be superfluous. In his home state, his disapproval rate is 56 percent.

After the New York Times published an article accusing Hillary Clinton of exchanging favors for donations to the Clinton Foundation, Mitt Romney’s commented, “It looks like bribery.” He missed the facts. As Secretary of State, Clinton had nothing to do with the review of the Uranium One deal, and nine separate U.S. agencies, including departments of Treasury, Justice and Commerce, were part of the process. The donation to the Clinton Foundation occurred in early 2008, a year before Clinton became Secretary of State. As NBC news wrote, “[U]pon reflection, that Times article doesn’t hold up that well 24 hours after its publication.” All the discussion was on “perception” or “narratives.”

Deficits, high unemployment, lack of personal freedom, poor education, corruption, illegal activities, lying, bigotry, war—which one do you pick for president?

April 24, 2015

Campaign Donations – A Murky World

The media is filled with the almost two dozen potential GOP presidential candidates for 2016. Scott Walker is the Koch’s pick–no, they changed their mind and want Marco Rubio. Jeb Bush is leading–no, he’s two points behind Rubio. Hillary Clinton is guilty of fraud–or maybe not. And that’s just in the last few days.

In Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, Peter Schweizer, a Republican researcher, reveals his personal perception of the  correlation between foreign government donations to the Clinton Foundation with favorable State Department decisions while Hillary Clinton was secretary. Although the book won’t be published until May 5, Schweizer has already confessed that he cannot prove his allegations because of his confusion between paid and unpaid appearances. He said that “the errors would be corrected” but didn’t say whether it would be before the publication. With a long history of sloppy research and reporting—even citing a hoax press release in the book—Schweizer admitted he cannot prove the allegations in the book.

“Short of someone involved coming forward to give sworn testimony, we don’t know what might or might not have been said in private conversations, the exact nature of the transition, or why people in power make the decision they do…. We cannot ultimately know what goes on in their minds and ultimately provide the links between the money they took and the benefits that subsequently accrued to themselves, their friends, and their associates.”

While the GOP pushes a possible scandal about Clinton, Jeb Bush’s financial arrangements are decimating the crumbling foundation of campaign limits. After collection tens of millions of dollars while “not-running” for president, he has announced that he will turn over his campaign’s primary functions to a super PAC that can have unlimited funding from unknown sources. The Right to Rise (interesting name!) PAC will not only provide advertising but also carry out duties usually from a campaign, including direct mail and get-out-the-vote drives.

At this time, contributions have three levels: beneficial donations to a candidate have legal caps; donations to a party may not reach the candidate that the donor desires; and super PACs cannot legally coordinate with specific candidates. In the past these PACs have sometimes run counter to the candidates’ wishes.

Jeb claims he can coordinate with his super PAC because he says he’s not even seriously considering a presidential run, using this time to plan future campaign strategy with the super PAC and participate in dozens of fundraisers. Jeb’s tactic may be found illegal. A provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 states that if Jeb—or any other candidate—has a direct or indirect involvement in “establishing, financing, maintaining or controlling” an outside entity—such as a super PAC—that entity cannot receive or spend contributions that exceed the limit on contributions to a federal PAC of $5,000 per donor per year. The provision includes any candidate’s proxies “acting on behalf” of the candidate.

When Jeb announced his federal leadership PAC, the Right to Rise PAC, his “allies” announced the supporting super PAC, the Right to Rise Super PAC. They sound like twins, but they’re actually triplets with the Right to Rise Policy Solutions, formed by a Bush friend and former staffer, that lets Jeb’s supporters make anonymous contributions. The likely leader for the super PAC after Jeb actually declares is Mike Murphy, Jeb’s longtime political confidant.

Although Jeb’s campaign spokesperson stated that he is not really candidate, that claim has been disputed. A complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission at the end of March accused four presidential hopefuls of violating campaign-finance laws by building campaign infrastructure without formally “testing the waters” for a bid. The other three are GOP Rick Santorum, Scott Walker, and Democrat Martin O’Malley.

Senior counsel to Campaign Legal Center said:

“These 2016 presidential contenders must take the American people for fools — flying repeatedly to Iowa and New Hampshire to meet with party leaders and voters, hiring campaign staff and raising millions of dollars from deep-pocketed mega donors, all the while denying that they are even ‘testing the waters’ of a presidential campaign.”

The FEC has three categories: non-candidates, candidates who are “testing the waters,” and formally declared candidates. Those testing the waters can conduct polls, travel, and make calls about a potential run, but candidates who raise more than $5,000 or formally refer to themselves as candidates must register with the FEC and be subject to reporting and disclosure requirements.

Other candidates have strong connections with super PACs. One supporting Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is run by his former campaign manager who is married to Paul’s niece. Another for Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is run by his former chief of staff and campaign manager for his 2010 gubernatorial campaign who is assisted by the campaign manager who ran Walker’s 2014 re-election race. Supporting super PAC for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is led by the co-founder of a political consulting firm with another political operative leading Rubio’s federal leadership PAC.

Early this year, the first criminal conviction for illegal coordination between a congressional campaign and a super PAC came down from the Justice Department after a campaign manager in Virginia pleaded guilty to coordinated campaign contributions and false statements. The DoJ stated:

“The Department of Justice is fully committed to addressing the threat posed to the integrity of federal primary and general elections by coordinated campaign contributions, and will aggressively pursue coordination offenses at every appropriate opportunity.”

Jeb has a history of controlling donations. While Florida governor, he shifted $150 million of pension funds toward his cousin, George Herbert Walker IV, at Goldman Sachs and at least another $1.7 billion of state workers’ retirement money to higher-risk, higher-fee investments at the financial firms that donated over $5 million to the campaign of older brother, George W. Bush.  Jeb is now reaping donations for Walker and other financial firms that received state business from Jeb’s administration.

Even conservatives such as columnist Kathleen Parker have serious doubts about the power of super PACS. In a column on “our corrupt campaign finance system,” she wrote, “There’s nothing free about paid-for elections—unless everybody knows where the money came from.” She expressed two concerns about massive shadow funding that bodes poorly for the GOP. One is the recent trend of large numbers of GOP presidential candidates, each with his or her own billionaire, who stay in an unwinnable race while tearing down an opponent who might have a better chance without the controversy about him that it causes, what Parker describes as “death by a thousand insults.”

Another issue is the “withering” of political parties, dooming “political comity.” To succeed, political parties have to agree within themselves whereas super PACs, unaccountable to no one, “form around extreme ideas” with anonymous donors. Even worse to Parker, the current system takes campaign control from the candidates. (She may have written this before Jeb Bush figured out a way around the problem.)

Parker is right about the destructiveness within the GOP. Talk show host Mark Levin attacked Karl Rove’s super PACs because it’s attacking Rand Paul in favor of Jeb Bush. Levin claimed that they are distorting Citizens United by attacking conservatives. Fox’s allowing Karl Rove to use his position to “clear the field” for Jeb is another Levin gripe. Levin called people like Rove “pretend conservatives, who are really on there with an agenda, and so they sit there, they pretend they’re analyzing…that to me is dishonest, it’s flat out dishonest.” He added, “I am trashing the fools like Karl Rove, who are taking advantage of their positions, pretending on the one hand that they’re analysts and on the other hand, they’re trying to defeat every conservative and clear the field for their Bush family candidate.” (Does the word “irony” come to mind?)

The disastrous Supreme Court rulings in Citizens United and its worse follow-up, McCutcheon v. FEC, have permitted almost unlimited donations for candidates. The first decision opened the donation floodgates; the second one ruled that government may restrict political contributions only to target quid pro quo corruption. This corruption is far more difficult to prove that the former criteria of “the general gratitude a candidate may feel toward those who support him or his allies, or the political access such support may afford.” As a result, 25,000 people made 40 percent of the donations to 2016 campaign funds, compared to the 16 percent of the contributions that came from the elite in 1980. With the advantage of McCutcheon and the high stakes for the 2016 election, the percentage will most likely go beyond 50 percent, giving 25,000 people a greater voice than the other 125 million donors in the United States.

donations chartSheldon Adelson gave over $100 million to 2012 political campaigns. Jeb Bush could give Adelson an estimated $139.7 million tax break by eliminating the federal capital gains tax. Cruz could give him $144.1 million, and Rick Perry could give $141.9 million. Scott Walker would be far more generous in shifting tax liability from the rich to working families. The Koch brothers plan to donate at least $1 billion in the current round. The wealthy look at their donations at merely an investment in future fortunes.

April 22, 2015

Earth Day 2015 – ‘It’s Our Turn to Lead’

Filed under: Environment,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 3:03 PM
Tags: , ,

Twenty million people took to the streets on April 22, 1970, for the first Earth Day. The biggest public demonstration in U.S. history, it turned environmentalism into a mass social movement. The public outcry about smog, trash, and water pollution added to concern about high profile environmental disasters such as the 1969 explosion at an oil rig off  Santa Barbara that spilled millions of gallons of crude into the ocean and washed up on California’s beaches. The Cuyahoga River caught fire from the fouling oil and pollution. Breathing the air in parts of L.A. was the same as smoking a couple of packs of cigarettes each day.

Walter Reuther, United Auto Workers president, was a strong ally who declared, “The auto industry is one of the worst culprits and it has failed to meet its public responsibility.” He proposed a partnership between industry and government to develop the best mass-transit system in the world and wrote a check to the Earth Day organizing committee. Weeks after the first Earth Day, Reuther died in a plane crash.

The momentum of the Ford and Carter administrations stopped with Reagan’s brick wall. The defensive position has lasted through the current Earth Day. After years of climate denial by conservative leaders in the country, another series of disasters—the BP oil spill, Superstorm Sandy, and the California drought, for example—are moving people back to environmental consciousness. Over 400,000 people went onto the streets of New York City last September for the People’s Climate March. Student organizing are leading the fossil fuel divestment campaign on college campuses.

These photographs from Sue Hardesty and Ann Hubard show some of the beauties that we have today that we need to protect.

cannon beach

mt. hood

Reflections most recent

Rody pink dark distant

poppy

Sunrise4

murres

Eagle verticalBlowing seed left vertical

 

Rhody Pink Closeup

 

waterfalls

gorge

Rocks

 

sunrise 1

 

April 21, 2015

Abstinence Sex Ed–One Person Can Make a Difference

alice dregerAlice Dreger, professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University, has been banned from her freshman son’s high school after she sat in on his abstinence-only “education.” During the class, conducted by a visitor from Sexually Mature Aware Responsible Teens (SMART), she sent the following tweets:

 

 

  • They’re teaching “abstinence stories” that worked and non-abstinence” stories that “led to consequences.”
  • The visitor-teacher is telling my kid abstinence education reduces premarital sex. My kid is trying to show her studies that dispute that.
  • She’s being completely condescending. “You can look up anything on the internet” Then refers him to site on abstinence education!
  • The regular health teacher in trying to shut my kid up referred to “LGBYT.”
  • The whole lesson here is “sex is part of a terrible lifestyle. Drugs, unemployment, failure to finish school — sex is part of the disaster.”
  • Now a story about a friend who OD’ed and “was a vegetable 11 years. Tore their family apart.” FFS. Welcome to sex ed.
  • “I finally met a great girl who was brought up in abstinence, and her life was so much better. I put her on a pedestal above everyone else.” (from the visitor leading the class)
  • “You’ll find a good girl. If you find one that says ‘no,’ that’s the one you want.” (also from the leader)
  • She’s now telling story of condom box in which EVERY SINGLE CONDOM HAD A HOLE.
  • “We are going to roll this dice 8 times. Every time your number comes up, in pretend your condom failed and you get a paper baby.” (activity from leader)
  • Paper babies are being handed out to EVERYONE. They have ALL HAD CONDOM FAILURE AND THE WHOLE CLASS IS PREGNANT.
  • “I’m going to collect the babies that you don’t want. We recycle them.”  (leader)

As these tweets demonstrate, the goal of “abstinence-only” is to frighten students, shame anyone who has sex, put down females, and lie to the audience. East Lansing High School Principal Coby Fletcher’s statement to the Lansing State Journal defended his school’s lesson plan because it teaches contraception with its emphasis on abstinence. Dreger pointed out that high school teachers are not necessarily responsible for the horrifying lesson plans in sex ed because lawmakers mandate abstinence-only lesson plans, and schools hire abstinence-only “mercenaries who travel from district to district peddling their bogus (often times overtly religious) agendas.” Dreger is an authority on sex education, but she was banned from school property for saying “fuck” within earshot of students.  The class leader also accused Dreger’s son of “ambushing” him for bringing a copy of an article giving factual information about abstinence-only sex education programs.

Dreger’s 45 tweets went viral, partly through the efforts of Salon and Vox. In the Lansing State Journal, Judy Putnam accused Dreger of having “a mission to criticize from the outset.” Putnam also wrote, “Personally, I don’t have a problem with abstinence education.” The columnist defended the teacher’s claim that condoms have an 18-percent failure rate. According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, “With consistent and correct use, condoms have a failure rate of 2 percent. The typical use effectiveness rate is about 18 percent.” That rate comes from the lack of understanding in how to use condoms, and students aren’t receiving this information.

The federal government spent $1.3 billion on abstinence-only sex education between 1996 and 2009 although a federally funded study in 2007 found the approach had no effect on when students started having sex, whether they had safe sex, or how many partners they had. That was the year that funding for abstinence education tripled to $176 million over the year 2000. Congress has just voted to extend funding for the abstinence education through 2017.

Eighty-six percent of schools still teach abstinence as the best method of avoiding pregnancy and STD prevention. Three states—Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah—require that teachers tell students about the health hazards of homosexuality, and Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas mandate that schools emphasize homosexuality as an unacceptable lifestyle. Students receiving comprehensive sex education are more likely to be white, urban, and higher-income whereas black, rural, low-income, and single-parent students are least likely to have any sex education. States that emphasize abstinence have higher teen pregnancy rates. Other statistics are available here.

SexEdMaps4

After Dreger’s tweets went viral, Michigan state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. took notice of Dreger’s tweets. State law does not mandate any sex ed in public schools, but those that are offered require stress on the false idea that “abstinence from sex is a responsible and effective method of preventing unplanned or out-of-wedlock pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease and is a positive lifestyle for unmarried young people.” Hertel, who serves on the Health Policy Committee, had already met with a student group at East Lansing High School to talk about the problem. After Dreger tweeted her frustrations, Hertel said that he’s especially concerned that the group hired to provide the abstinence presentation that Dreger attended because of its ties to an anti-abortion group. SMART is connected to the Pregnancy Services of Greater Lansing, a right-wing “crisis pregnancy center” that attempts to dissuade pregnant women from choosing an abortion.

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) have a well-documented history of misleading patients about sexual health issues.  While receiving state funding and teaching abstinence-only sex ed, they downplay the effectiveness of birth control, exaggerate the risks of having an abortion, and tell women that they shouldn’t be having sex outside of marriage. Hertel said, “I think that those groups don’t have a great record when it comes to the truth, and I think that using them as a paid expert in our classrooms is a bad situation.”

A year-long investigation of California CPCs discovered that they provide no option except to stay pregnant. In 91 percent of the centers, investigators were told—wrongly—that abortions led to increased chance of breast cancer, fertility, miscarriage, of “post-abortion depression” resulting in suicide. Others were told that they didn’t need abortions because the chance of a “spontaneous abortion” or miscarriage is 30-50 percent—another lie. Information about different kinds of birth control gave no benefits, instead listing only risks, negative side effects, and resulting “medical abortions.” As in the class that Dreger viewed, investigators were told that the way to not get pregnant was to “stop whoring around” because birth control is not healthy.

CPC workers used gruesome and graphic language to frighten women, claiming “they might puncture your uterus and vacuum your fallopian tubes shut” during abortions. One investigator was told that some women are dilated too fast and might continually miscarry because the cervix wouldn’t close. In one case, the CPC required an ultrasound, and the subject was told that her IUD was a fetus. The same situations are prevalent throughout the United States.

Students at East Lansing High School plan to pursue the issue too, joining other students in the country who are beginning to demand medically accurate sex education. In 2013, Katelyn Campbell, a West Virginia high school student, made national headlines in 2013 after protesting a “slut-shaming” abstinence education course, and last year, a Canadian school dropped its course on sexual purity after a teen filed a complaint after it.

 

April 20, 2015

Wisconsin Senator an Example of Uncaring Rich

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who used $8.8 million of his own money to get elected in 2010, was then the tenth wealthiest congressional member with almost $50 million, up from almost $20 million the previous year. By now, he’s gone down to thirtieth wealthiest in Congress but remains in about the top 5 percent within a group of very wealthy people.

One could call Johnson a “self-made” man because his wealth comes from his marriage to University of Minnesota sweetheart, Jane Curler. Her father, Howard Curler, started a company in 1958 with Robert Woods that developed innovative packaging—shrink-wrapped cheese and meat packaging, films for coffee and other products, etc. Almost 40 years ago, Curler created a business, PACUR, for son Patrick that sold its products exclusively to Dad. Son-in-law Ron Johnson joined the company in 1979.

Johnson’s wealth, and the way that he procured it, is not the problem, however. It’s his indifference to the other 95 percent of the people in the United States who haven’t found a wealthy spouse to give them the same opportunities. Recently he agreed with radio host Jay Weber in criticizing the use of “sad sack stories about who’s dying from what and why they can’t get their coverage” to promote “Obamacare.”

For the second time, Johnson has lost a lawsuit to stop congressional members and their staff from getting health insurance subsidies by arguing that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required them to get insurance on their own. In the first judgment against Johnson, U.S. District Judge William Griesbach ruled that Johnson and his aide, Brooke Ericson, lacked standing to bring the suit because they had not been injured under an equal protection theory. Griesbach wrote, “The Constitution wisely cabins judicial authority by forbidding judges from deciding disputes unless the plaintiff is actually injured in some concrete, discernible way.” The George W. Bush-appointed judge added:

“The nation’s system of government doesn’t allow every controversy to play out in court. There is nothing in the Constitution stipulating that all wrongs must have remedies, much less that the remedy must lie in federal court. In fact, given the Constitution’s parsimonious grant of judicial authority, just the opposite is true.”

A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals concurred with Griesbach after Johnson appealed the decision. “Respectfully, we do not see how Senator Johnson’s reputation could be sullied or his electability diminished by being offered, against his will, a benefit that he then decided to refuse,” Judge Joel Flaum, a Reagan appointee, wrote for the panel. The other two judges were appointed for Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton.

Johnson is frustrated because the judge failed “to address the important constitutional issues at hand” although addressing from these plaintiffs would be unconstitutional. After two failures in the courts, Johnson is reviewing the decision before deciding whether to drop the matter, ask the full appeals court to review the decision, or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) called the lawsuit “an unfortunate political stunt” that would cause top congressional staff to quit if Johnson won.

Three years ago, Johnson tried to convince voters of the ACA’s evils by claiming that his daughter’s heart surgery would not have been possible with ACA as the law. He claimed that he ran for the Senate to replace the “healthcare freedom” prior to the ACA. Dr. John Foker disagreed with Johnson’s story. On the other hand, the man who saved the life of Johnson’s daughter is “generally supportive” of the ACA but thinks it doesn’t go far enough. He said, “Unfortunately it was written by the insurance and drug companies, so not so great.” In addition, the surgery was performed at a government-funded medical institution and was developed under the socialized healthcare systems in Brazil and France.

After a GOP president lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and insisted on a multi-trillion-dollar war, Johnson wants to privatize medical care for veterans and run the VA at a profit. This was after he accused President Obama of not keeping enough troops in Iraq. With the Republicans in control of Congress, Johnson’s plan is moving toward fruition after Concerned Veterans for America, funded by the Koch brothers, released a report supporting privatization. Veterans would have a private insurance option, and one-fifth of future veterans might not be eligible for care under tougher enrollment standards. Real veterans’ groups oppose the plan, and this clip from the The Rachel Maddow Show discusses why privatization would be a disaster.

Health insurance isn’t the only thing that Johnson wants to take from people; he wants to force single women to marry. The new chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said that a single woman who wants to “increase her take-home pay” instead of having yet “another child out of wedlock” to increase her welfare windfall should instead “find someone to support her.” He may be projecting his personal experience on the poor.

The idea that women have more children to get more government benefits has been debunked by both Politifact and Washington Post because food stamps, health care and other government assistance don’t come close to covering all the expenses that come with having a child. Johnson also ignores the fact that almost half the children in the current generation will spend at least part of their childhood in single-parent household, most of them headed by women and most not receiving “welfare.”

A recent study shows that almost as many poor or near-poor children are in two-parent families as in single-parents ones. In addition, countries such as Iceland, France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Britain all have higher nonmarital birth rates than does the United States, yet they all have far lower rates of child poverty. As author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich has argued, poverty is not a lack of character, it is a lack of money. The number of “traditional families” idealized by well-funded organizations and Christian ministries is rapidly shrinking although it dominates the U.S. imagination. Johnson and his fellow Republicans are contributing to the number of “poor single women” through their support of rising economic inequality, diminishing numbers of blue-collar jobs, lowered wages, and unbelievably high levels of incarceration in poor communities.

Dozens of studies with thousands of participants throughout the United States show that people’s feelings of compassion and empathy go down as their level of wealth increases. At the same time, higher levels of wealth lead to feelings of entitlement, deservingness, and self-interest, according to Paul Piff, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. Some of these studies are described here. One reason may be that wealth provides the luxury of less dependence on others, thus desensitizing a sense of empathy.

UC-Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner has found that this deficit physically appeared through the vagus nerve which is activated by caring. Images of suffering produced a vagus nerve response in lower-class people that didn’t appear in upper-class individuals. These are the people increasingly making decisions for society as over half the members of Congress are millionaires.

Conservatives who get very riled about these studies could look at the Republicans in Congress. Ron Johnson is just an example of conservative members who take from the poor and give to the rich.

Johnson, the senator who sued to stop ACA for congressional staff and sneered at the “sad sack” stories, is the same person who is afraid of backlash against the GOP if the Supreme Court gives the GOP what they asked for in stripping health care subsidies for millions of people in the United States. The biggest election disaster for the GOP would be in the red states where conservatives can’t—or won’t—set up state-run insurance exchanges if the Supreme Court refuses to recognize the federal exchange for those who live in poverty.

Also in Wisconsin, state representatives Jesse Kremer and Steve Nuss want food stamp recipients to show ID to eliminate the non-existent waste and fraud, forcing them to identify themselves as a lower class. The elderly can forget about asking someone to get groceries for them. Kremer also wants special government-run food pantries for people with food stamps.

The best Wisconsin story from the week: Gov.Scott Walker explained that the U.S. role in the world is “what makes us arguably the greatest nation in history.” This from the party and the person who questions President Obama’s “love for his country.”

April 18, 2015

U.S.-Supported Ukraine Run by Neo-Nazis, Oligarchs

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 9:52 PM
Tags: , , ,

Announcements of presidential candidates, hawks demanding the U.S. declare war on Iran, and the bills giving “religious” discrimination rights to the ultra-conservative have pushed Ukraine off the media. Yet the United States continues to support the neo-Nazi leadership in a country taken over, like the United States, by oligarchs. Yesterday, however, hundreds of U.S. paratroopers landed in Ukraine to train its forces in a fight against “pro-Russian rebels.” Brigade planning officer Captain Ashish Patel said, “This training will help them defend their borders and their sovereignty.” The 173rd Airborne Brigade already trained with Ukrainian forces last September.

The conflict has been going on for 18 months since street protests ousted President Viktor Yanukovych because he prevented treaties with the European Union. In the past year, over 4,800 people have been killed and 1.2 million displaced by the conflict. By July EU nations and the U.S. declared sanctions against Moscow, accusing Russians of supplying rebels with the missile that took down a Malaysian commercial airplane. A ceasefire in September was renewed in February although separatists have reclaimed 200 square miles of land in eight months. A bipartisan group of congressional members, led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), insist on supplying Ukraine with antitank missiles, reconnaissance drones and other arms.

The U.S. allies in Europe—including Great Britain, Italy, and Germany—oppose this move, arguing that Russia will overcome Ukraine and take the weapons. Ukrainians may even hand the weapons over to Russia; espionage shows that Ukrainian forces cannot be trusted with these weapons. Sending the weapons will also increasingly deteriorate U.S. relationship with Russia, driving Putin to join China in an alliance against the United States.

War hawks ignore or deny the part that neo-Nazis played in the February 2014 coup and their subsequent military offensives against ethnic Russians. Fourteen months later, on the 70th anniversary of the conclusion to the Holocaust, the Ukrainian parliament extended official recognition to Ukrainian fascists who collaborated with the Nazis in killing Jews. Any politicians and journalists who criticize the U.S.-backed regime in Ukraine suffer from not only repression but also death.

During World War II, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army joined the Nazis in their mass-murder of Jews, Poles and other minority groups. The Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned both Ukraine’s recognition of the UIA and a second bill that equated Communist and Nazi crimes. Dr. Efraim Zuroff said:

“The decision to honor local Nazi collaborators and grant them special benefits turns Hitler’s henchmen into heroes despite their active and zealous participation in the mass murder of innocent Jews. These attempts to rewrite history, which are prevalent throughout post-Communist Eastern Europe, can never erase the crimes committed by Nazi collaborators in these countries.”

 

After the 2014 coup, neo-Nazi militias attacking ethnic Russian cities in eastern Ukraine wore swastikas and SS symbols, a fact largely ignored in the mainstream U.S. news media. Despite the resurgence of neo-Nazi rioters warring against ethnic Russians in the east, the mainstream U.S. media blames ethnic Russians for not submitting to the post-coup regime in Kiev. Hatred for Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, is so prevalent in the United States that it can be easily used to justify aggression against Russia while actually protecting the Ukrainian neo-Nazi leadership.

 

The Jerusalem Post has written about concerns for the safety of Jews in Ukraine, especially after the discovery that the police chief for Kiev’s province has ties with a neo-Nazi organization. Right-wing

Dimitri Jarosch, official adviser to the army leadership, also organized many of the fighters behind the February 2014 putsch. U.S.-backed Maidan protests against Yanukovych in November 2014 came from neo-Nazi militias trained in western Ukraine and bused to Kiev. Commander of the Maidan forces, Andriy Parubiy, became national security chief and incorporated Maidan militia forces into the National Guard that sent to eastern Ukraine to fight ethnic Russians resisting the coup. The U.S. government and media consistently cheered the openly white supremacist, anti-Semite neo-Nazis who overcame Ukraine. Azov commander Andriy Biletsky, also head of an extremist Ukrainian group called the Social National Assembly, said, “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”

 

Ukrainian officials in Kiev have acknowledged that they knew about the militias’ extremist positions but needed troops who were strongly motivated to fight. Over a year after the coup, mainstream U.S. news outlets claim that any mention of significant neo-Nazi presence in Ukraine is “Russian propaganda.”

Ten opposition figures have mysteriously died in the past few months: some are clearly murders while others are claimed to be suicides by the Ukrainian government. This past week Oleg Kalashnikov, a political leader of the opposition Party of Regions, was shot to death in his home. He had been campaigning for the Ukrainians to celebrate the World War II Allied victory, infuriating western Ukrainians who identify with Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. The next day Ukrainian journalist Oles Buzina was murdered after he protested government censorship on news outlets. Another dissident journalist, Serhiy Sukhobok, was supposedly killed in Kiev, but the Ukrainian government has withheld information about his murderers. If any reports about these deaths emerge in the U.S. media, the killed are called “pro-Russian,” and the U.S. media now avoid any mention of Ukrainian leaders as neo-Nazis.

 

The other rulers of Ukraine are oligarchs, the wealthy businessmen who made their money from privatization during the 1990s. One of them has gone too far even for President Petro Poroshenko, who had appointed him governor. Khor Kolomoisky, who financed volunteer battalions to supplement the country’s army, deployed his personal militia, many of them neo-Nazis, to block regulations on his business interests. The other oligarchs remain, owning and controlling the media and the banks while putting their people into the parliament through a closed party-list voting system. As in the United States, Ukraine’s government is controlled by the wealthy. U.S. media smoothed over the oligarchic control of Ukraine by writing that these men were “too rich to bribe.”

Like the far-right policies in the United States, slash old-age pensions and remove worker protections. They also hiked the price of heating fuel in exchange for a $17.5 billion bailout of the country’s collapsing financial structure.

 

U.S. control of Ukraine is also seen in its Finance Minister, Natalie Jaresko, former chief executive officer of the Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF), created by Congress from taxpayer money in the 1990s to help jumpstart an investment economy in Ukraine. Although her salary was only $150,000, her IRS reporting in 2004 was approximately $450,000. To attain her new position, Jaresko gained Ukrainian citizenship literally overnight; now she is responsible for dispensing $17.5 billion from the International Monetary Fund and billions more from U.S. and European government. Later compensation was removed from public disclosure.

 

Considering Jaresko’s history, there is a question about whether the money she manages will go to the poor Ukrainians or its other oligarchs. Meanwhile the United States is sending paratroopers to the Ukraine to train neo-Nazis who already commit “ISIS-style” war crimes, according to Amnesty International. Ukrainian neo-Nazis want a war with Russia, and the United States plans to give it to them.

April 17, 2015

TPP Fast Track – Horrifying!

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:38 PM

“Deal Reached on Deal Reached on Fast-Track Authority for Obama on Trade Accord.” That’s the most horrifying headline since George W. Bush declared a preemptive war on Iraq over 12 years ago. According to the New York Times, “key congressional leaders agreed on Thursday on legislation to give President Obama special authority to finish negotiating one of the world’s largest trade accords.” Committee votes are planned for the upcoming week, and it may be rushed through the Congress with President Obama sure to sign the bill.

Image: Labor Activists Protests Outside Treasury Secretary's Lew Talk At Miami Dade College

[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty]

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), known as a progressive legislator, has joined highly conservative Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to pass a bill allowing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) a vote in Congress after only 20 hours of debate followed by a simple up-and-down majority vote and no amendments in an agreement that would make the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994 look benign.

It’s an agreement that all the Republicans want, and one that is opposed by trade unions, environmentalists, and Latino organizations oppose. Supporters promise gains for U.S. consumers and the economy, but those who actually benefit are the huge corporations who want more global power and the employers who want to move their companies offshore to pay much lower wages.

President Obama said that TPP “would level the playing field, give our workers a fair shot, and for the first time, include strong fully enforceable protections for workers’ rights, the environment and a free and open Internet.” No one knows how this could possibly happen, however, because everything about the TPP has been carried out in secret. Only a few leaks have given an idea of how bad the TPP will be for most of the people in the United States.

Republicans has supposedly agreed to make the agreement open to public comment for 60 days before the president signs it and up to four months before Congress votes. Failing to meet congressional objectives, the agreement could be shut off the “fast-track” rules and open the TPP to amendments. With the Republicans solidly behind the TPP, finding 60 votes will be impossible.

One argument in favor of TPP is that the U.S. needs to shape trade rules across the Pacific instead of China. For this argument to be credible, the rules must be in the best interests of the U.S. people. According to leaked information, TPP favors corporations:

The TPP controls not only tariff rates but also labor rights, environmental laws, copyright and patent protections, e-commerce, state-owned enterprises, corruption, and government procurement.

The TPP may give corporations control over any U.S. laws: for example, cigarette companies are using global trade rules to stop Australia’s anti-smoking law with the excuse that these laws hurt profits for the corporations.

The TPP permits 9,000 more corporations to rules against the U.S. government in investor-state corporate tribunals: corporate lawyers acting as judges can rule on claims against the federal government to get U.S. tax dollars for any domestic law affecting what companies perceive as current and future corporate profits.

The TPP undermines “Buy America,” “Buy Local” preferences by making these policies punishable in the tribunals.

The TPP undermines energy regulation and the policies necessary to combat the climate crisis.

The TPP, based on NAFTA and the Korea Free Trade Agreement, allows corporations more opportunities to offshore jobs from the U.S. to low-wage countries, many of which are in the TPP.

The TPP’s economic effect would be minimal: the most optimistic estimate shows that TPP would add about $77 billion to U.S. incomes in 2025, less than half of 1 percent of current U.S. incomes.

The TPP would undermine Internet freedom: the copyright chapter contains parts of SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Trade agreements like the TPP have permitted enormous tariffs: that’s the reason for the disappearance of Roquefort cheese, truffles, French chocolate, and other delicacies for most of the people in the U.S. as retaliation for Europe’s banning the sale of the U.S. hormone-treated beef.

The TPP doesn’t allow withdrawal like the Kyoto protocols to reduce greenhouse gases: withdrawal means losing access to foreign markets.

Trade agreements like the TPP may have labor rules, such as the ones included in the 2005 CAFTA-DR agreement between the U.S., the Dominican Republic, and several Central American countries, but the laws lack teeth: a 2008 U.S. complaint about labor rights violation in Guatemala is not resolved after seven years.

The TPP lets pharmaceutical companies act as monopolies to raise drug prices throughout the world: drug companies continue to push for more industry-friendly laws by continuing the incorporation of patent rules into trade deals through the 1994 Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Competing drug companies wanting to introduce biologically similar drugs must wait 12 years before using data from existing clinical trials for the original company’s drug development, requiring higher costs through redundant trials. President Obama is supporting the 12-year wait.

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said that “[corporations] get elevated to nationhood. They get the same status as a nation state to privately enforce the terms of a public treaty. It’s called investor-state dispute resolution.” Corporate attack cases which take sovereign governments to the private tribunal are available here.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) pointed out that NAFTA led to a disastrous series of trade deficits and the loss of 20 million jobs, 5 million of them in manufacturing. Instead of practicing free trade through NAFTA, the U.S. buys goods and services from other countries that then use the U.S. money to buy U.S. assets. The trade deficit leads to the federal deficit for a United States that “is nothing but cheap labor and debt slavery.” Grayson said that he was “the first member of Congress to actually see any part of the TPP.” He explained the limitations of reading the TPP agreement:

“I couldn’t take it home, I couldn’t make notes on it, I couldn’t have my staff present. And here’s the kicker: They didn’t want me to discuss it with the media, the public or even other members of Congress. So it’s a farce. And it’s meant specifically to keep the information away from the American people, because if the American people knew what was going on, they’d recognize that it’s a punch to the face of the middle class in America.”

The process for fast-tracking is almost as secretive as the TPP itself. On Wednesday night, Hatch and Wyden called a hearing, supposedly on “Congress and the U.S. Tariff Policy,” for the Senate Finance Committee. At the beginning of the meeting Hatch announced that the fast-track legislation could come as early as the afternoon and spoke, with Wyden, about the TPP bill. Six Democrats issued a joint statement objecting to the hearing because of the haste and secrecy of the subject. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) asked if they would be voting “on an agreement that we have not yet even seen and that hasn’t been reached.” The same thing happened in the House Ways and Means Committee with equally irritated Democrats.

Given a chance to look at the bill, opponents declared it as bad as earlier versions that had failed in Congress. Disapproval cannot be filibustered, they cannot pull the fast-track authority, and the 60 days to move such a measure comes after the president signs a trade pact. The bill, replicating the failed 2002 and 2014 Fast Track bills, also gives away congressional trade authority over the TPP and grants the next president blank-check authority for any trade agreements. The horrifying details of the bill are here.

The biggest mystery is why Sen. Wyden is leading the charge to pass the TPP agreement in Congress. He said, “I’m proud this bipartisan bill creates what I expect to be unprecedented transparency in trade negotiations.” Transparency is what the TPP agreement process has thus far been seriously lacking.

[Note: These blogs on Nels New Day provide more information:

https://nelsnewday.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/stop-the-tpp/ 

https://nelsnewday.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/stop-the-trans-pacific-partnership-trade-agreement/

https://nelsnewday.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/flush-the-tpp/ 

https://nelsnewday.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/the-internet-makes-a-difference/ 

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