Nel's New Day

September 30, 2015

What Has Hillary Clinton Accomplished?

Because the GOP thinks that Hillary Clinton’s email problems aren’t enough to destroy her as a presidential candidate, the House of Representatives created a special committee to investigate the four deaths at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. It follows six other committees, all of which exonerated Clinton from blame. Lest people doubt that the purpose of the current committee is to smear the former Secretary of State, Clinton, House Majority Whip and potential future House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) clarified the goal of Benghazi investigations that have cost taxpayers $4.5 million:

“What you’re going to see is a conservative Speaker, that takes a conservative Congress, that puts a strategy to fight and win. And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”

The GOP also brags about how they have slimed Clinton in the Benghazi committee by drilling about her emails. Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said, however, that no emails reviewed by the committee have “anything of consequence” about Clinton’s role in Benghazi. Republicans were simply using the horrible deaths of four people to make political hay.

In the most recent GOP presidential debate, candidate Carly Fiorina defied any Democrat to list Clinton’s accomplishments because Fiorina thinks that the former First Lady and Secretary of State has none. Here are a few that the Fox networks has listed:

Advocate for women and children: Clinton has fought for women’s reproductive rights, family values, and after-school programs for almost one-fourth of a century.

Equal-pay proponent: A strong supporter for equal pay, Clinton has continued to campaign on this issue.

Women’s safety: Clinton had a large role in creating the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women and made the cause a significant Clinton Foundation priority.

9/11 redevelopment. Working closely with senior New York senator, Charles Schumer, Clinton helped secure $21.4 billion in funding for the World Trade Center redevelopment.

Middle East ceasefire. Secretary of State Clinton brokered a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas in November 2012.

Iranian Nuclear Deal. Clinton took proactive steps to negotiate a viable deal to placate Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Free-trade agreements. Clinton’s role in many U.S.-led bilateral trade agreements included a deal brokered between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Minimum wage. Her presidential platform and legislative record show Clinton’s support for raising the federal minimum wage.

Human Rights. During her long career, Clinton has worked to ensure labor and sociopolitical protections throughout the world.

Gun control. NRA advocates have long opposed Clinton on her push to keep guns off the streets and her advocacy for a national gun registry.

Other media sources and politicians have provided more Clinton accomplishments:

Bill Burton:

  1. Her China speech on women.
  2. Her role in killing Osama bin Laden.
  3. Management of the State Department during which time we saw a 50 percent increase in exports to China, aggressive work on climate (particularly at Copenhagen), and the effort to create and implement the toughest sanctions ever on Iran—helping to lead us to the agreement currently on the table.

Howard Dean:

“Hillary Clinton was the principal author of the sanction on Iran that brought them to the table. We cannot afford any Know Nothings like Carly in the White House.”

Harry Reid:

“She took the reins from a Bush administration that had left America’s reputation deeply damaged and planted the seeds for the foreign policy successes we see today. From the agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, to the landmark normalization of relations with Cuba, nearly every foreign policy victory of President Obama’s second term has Secretary Clinton’s fingerprints on it. Her accomplishments extend to health care, as well. As First Lady, she helped create and guide through Congress Children’s Health Insurance Program, a key program that brought health care coverage to millions of children. As a Senator, she worked across the aisle to provide full military health benefits to reservists and National Guard members.”

Anita Dunn:

“After universal health care failed in 1994…, then-First Lady Hilary Clinton ended up being the White House ally and inside player who worked with Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch to create SCHIP [State Children’s Health Insurance Program] in Clinton’s second term, which expanded health coverage to millions of lower-income children.”

Chuck Schumer:

“She fought tooth and nail to protect the first responders who rushed into danger when the towers collapsed and was pivotal in the passage of legislation that helped those first responders who got sick get the care and treatment they deserved. She worked night and day to protect and create jobs in New York, whether that was at the Niagara Falls Air Force base or the Center for Bioinformatics at the University of Buffalo. She also led the charge on the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Equity Act, which is now the law of the land.”

Chris Dodd:

“The first thing that came to mind was her authorship of the Pediatric Research Equity Act. This law requires drug companies to study their products in children. The Act is responsible for changing the drug labeling of hundreds of drugs with important information about safety and dosing of drugs for children. It has improved the health of millions of children who take medications to treat diseases ranging from HIV to epilepsy to asthma. Millions of kids are in better shape and alive because of the law Senator Clinton authored.”

Paul Begala:

“Iran sanctions. Secretary Clinton accomplished the nearly impossible mission of getting China, Russia, the European Union and the civilized world on board with crippling sanctions against Iran. This is what brought Iran to the negotiating table.”

A few more that haven’t been mentioned:

  • Instrumental in the creation of the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Foster Care Independence Act.
  • Helped increase research funding for prostate cancer and asthma at the National Institute of Health (NIH).
  • Spearheaded investigations into mental illness plaguing veterans of the Gulf War, Gulf War Syndrome.
  • Worked out a bi-partisan compromise to address civil liberty abuses for the renewal of the U.S. Patriot Act.
  • Proposed a revival of the New Deal-era Home Owners’ Loan Corporation to help homeowners refinance their mortgages in the wake of the 2008 financial disaster.

What has Carly Fiorina accomplished? She has incessantly lied, fired 30,000 employees while heading up a major U.S. corporation that evaded U.S. sanctions by selling hundreds of millions of dollars of computer products to the terrorist regime in Tehran, and then got fired herself. Not much of a resume for the President of the United States.

September 29, 2015

What John Boehner Hath Wrought

Filed under: Congress — trp2011 @ 7:43 PM
Tags: , ,

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will disappear from controlling every law in the United States at Halloween, and representatives will select another person to determine what bills are permitted on the floor of the House. Millions of paper reams and billions of Internets bits have assessed the reason for his disappearance, but the best may be Paul Krugman’s column about what Boehner has done to the U.S. for almost five years. The only definite conclusion is that the situation in the country can—and most likely will—get worse.

150925_POL_BoehnerPope.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

From Paul Krugman:

John Boehner was a terrible, very bad, no good speaker of the House. Under his leadership, Republicans pursued an unprecedented strategy of scorched-earth obstructionism, which did immense damage to the economy and undermined America’s credibility around the world.

Still, things could have been worse. And under his successor they almost surely will be worse. Bad as Mr. Boehner was, he was just a symptom of the underlying malady, the madness that has consumed his party.

For me, Mr. Boehner’s defining moment remains what he said and did as House minority leader in early 2009, when a newly inaugurated President Obama was trying to cope with the disastrous recession that began under his predecessor.

There was and is a strong consensus among economists that a temporary period of deficit spending can help mitigate an economic slump. In 2008 a stimulus plan passed Congress with bipartisan support, and the case for a further stimulus in 2009 was overwhelming. But with a Democrat in the White House, Mr. Boehner demanded that policy go in the opposite direction, declaring that “American families are tightening their belts. But they don’t see government tightening its belt.” And he called for government to “go on a diet.”

This was know-nothing economics, and incredibly irresponsible at a time of crisis; not long ago it would have been hard to imagine a major political figure making such a statement. Did Mr. Boehner actually believe what he was saying? Was he just against anything Mr. Obama was for? Or was he engaged in deliberate sabotage, trying to block measures that would help the economy because a bad economy would be good for Republican electoral prospects?

We’ll probably never know for sure, but those remarks set the tone for everything that followed. The Boehner era has been one in which Republicans have accepted no responsibility for helping to govern the country, in which they have opposed anything and everything the president proposes.

What’s more, it has been an era of budget blackmail, in which threats that Republicans will shut down the government or push it into default unless they get their way have become standard operating procedure.

All in all, Republicans during the Boehner era fully justified the characterization offered by the political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, in their book “It’s Even Worse Than You Think.” Yes, the G.O.P. has become an “insurgent outlier” that is “ideologically extreme” and “unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science.” And Mr. Boehner did nothing to fight these tendencies. On the contrary, he catered to and fed the extremism.

So why is he out? Basically because the obstructionism failed.

Republicans did manage to put a severe crimp on federal spending, which has grown much more slowly under Mr. Obama than it did under George W. Bush, or for that matter Ronald Reagan. The weakness of spending has, in turn, been a major headwind delaying recovery, probably the single biggest reason it has taken so long to bounce back from the 2007-2009 recession.

But the economy nonetheless did well enough for Mr. Obama to win re-election with a solid majority in 2012, and his victory ensured that his signature policy initiative, health-care reform — enacted before Republicans took control of the House — went into effect on schedule, despite the dozens of votes Mr. Boehner held calling for its repeal. Furthermore, Obamacare is working: the number of uninsured Americans has dropped sharply even as health-care costs seem to have come under control.

In other words, despite all Mr. Boehner’s efforts to bring him down, Mr. Obama is looking more and more like a highly successful president. For the base, which has never considered Mr. Obama legitimate — polling suggests that many Republicans believe that he wasn’t even born here — this is a nightmare. And all too many ambitious Republican politicians are willing to tell the base that it’s Mr. Boehner’s fault, that he just didn’t try blackmail hard enough.

This is nonsense, of course. In fact, the controversy over Planned Parenthood that probably triggered the Boehner exit — shut down the government in response to obviously doctored videos? — might have been custom-designed to illustrate just how crazy the G.O.P.’s extremists have become, how unrealistic they are about what confrontational politics can accomplish.

But Republican leaders who have encouraged the base to believe all kinds of untrue things are in no position to start preaching political rationality.

Mr. Boehner is quitting because he found himself caught between the limits of the politically possible and a base that lives in its own reality. But don’t cry for (or with) Mr. Boehner; cry for America, which must find a way to live with a G.O.P. gone mad.

Comment from Scott: When I look at the current version of the Tea Party faction of the GOP, the parallels to ISIL are simply astounding: The absolute unwillingness to compromise, the subjugation of women, the willingness to watch innocents suffer, the desire to destroy the system and rebuild under a theocratic regime that they, alone, will decide.

Comment from John Townsend: The GOP’s presidential candidate in the 2012 election (Romney) won 24 states:

– 9 of the 11 Confederate states

– 8 of the 10 states with the lowest population density

– 0 of the 10 best educated states (based on percent of population with a college degree, median household income and percent of population below the federal poverty line)

– 9 of the 10 least educated states

– 1 of the 10 healthiest states

– 9 of the 10 least healthy states

– 10 of the 10 weakest gun control states

– 0 of the 10 strongest gun control states

– 9 of the 10 largest net recipients (“takers”) of federal money states.

In a piece for The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin addresses Boehner’s cowardice while Speaker. Despite the knowledge that Hispanic voters are vital to the success of the GOP, “dedicated party man” Boehner appeased extremists in the House to keep his position and therefore refused to take the Senate immigration reform bill to the House floor for a vote. Allowing himself to be bullied, he suffered more bullying and kept the popular infrastructure bill off the floor. His adoption of the mis-named Hastert rule, named for the Speaker who is under indictment for blackmail payments and requiring a majority of GOP voters for a bill to reach the floor, made more problems for Boehner because he allowed 50 Tea Party members to control the House.

The only bills reaching the floor under Boehner’s rule were instant failures, such as repealing the Affordable Care Act or defunding Planned Parenthood, because the president would veto them. In his departure speech, Boehner could only brag that he kept the government open (despite the 16-day closure in 2013), a very low bar for success. Boehner caved in to the Tea Party on everything and still lost his job. That is his legacy.

September 28, 2015

Looking for ‘Character’ in GOP Presidential Candidates

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 9:58 PM
Tags: ,

“One of the benefits of a presidential campaign is the character and capability, judgment and temperament of every single one of us is revealed over time and under pressure.” That was Carly Fiorina’s introduction to the second GOP presidential debate on September 16, illustrating the flaws in all the GOP candidates. Even the conservative Washington Post wrote that Fiorina “couldn’t just admit she made a mistake but instead doubled down and worsened the falsehood [about Planned Parenthood.” She insists on describing a scene in the highly doctored, false videotapes of Planned Parenthood that doesn’t exist and continues to digging her hole deeper while demanding a government shutdown. The last debacle, two years ago, cost $26 billion, but she was “not aware of any hardship to anyone, other than the veterans trying to get to the World War II memorial.”

In an increasingly strident voice, Fiorina delivers graphic details about abortions from these fabricated videos debunked even by the Fox network. By now, Fiorina and other GOP presidential candidates claim that women are deliberately having abortions to “harvest their brains and other body parts.” Marco Rubio goes so far as to say that women deliberately get pregnant to make money from having abortions. He said that women “look forward to” getting abortions. Fiorina also lies about taxpayers paying for abortions. The Hyde Amendment forbids it, and every state investigating Planned Parenthood has found that government money doesn’t finance abortions. The question is what happens to Fiorina’s popularity when voters discover that she chaired Good360, a charity that gave $18,022 in goods to The Abortion Access Network of Arizona.

Lying about her business record also keeps getting Fiorina into trouble. She claims that she doubled Hewlett-Packard’s revenue, but that’s only because she merged with Compaq which HP dumped in a few years as a failed company. She claimed that she tripled the number of patents per day, but that also came from the merger. HP doubled the number of patents after she left. The public announcement that she was fired caused HP’s stock to go up six percent the next day, adding $3 billion in value to the company. Before she left, however, she artificially inflated HP stock illegally during a tax holiday bill with profits funneled to Fiorina and shareholders. Her mishandling of the company caused 30,000 employees to be laid off—although she tried to claim that they just moved to Texas because it had a better business climate. Fiorina’s layoff, however, gave her a $21 million severance package.

Jeb Bush stays out of the abortion debate but gets in trouble with his tax plan, something that even Fox calls “voodoo economics.” With Bush’s plan, the rich get richer and the poor stay poor, as shown by Bush personally gaining at least $3 million with his plan. Chris Wallace pointed out that “four conservative economists … said that [Jeb’s plan] would increase the deficit between 1 and 3 trillion dollars over the next ten years.” The top 1 percent would get an after-tax increase of 11.6 percent in their income. Bush also assured his mostly-white audience in South Carolina that he wouldn’t be giving black people any “free stuff.” He seems to be emulating Donald Trump’s success in bigotry:  while campaigning in Iowa, Bush said, “We should not have a multicultural society.”

Bush argues that his tax plan helps the economy in the same way that his brother’s two massive tax breaks did. Yet the Bush/Cheney era averaged about 1.6 percent in economic growth, slower than President Obama’s post-recession era and much slower than during the Clinton era.

Donald Trump joined the tax-cut bandwagon with his plan to give $3.48 billion to his children in estate taxes. He said that the hedge fund managers are “getting away with murder,” but he would reduce their tax rate from 23.8 percent to 15 percent. Trump’s plan would cost the country $1 trillion every year for the next ten years while Bush only adds $340 billion to the deficit each year.

While Trump rants, Ben Carson’s speech patterns are guaranteed to put people asleep while he spreads his bigotry. Jake Tapper grilled Carson about his position that a Muslim shouldn’t be president if that person practices the Islamic religion, but Carson continued to claim that the constitution doesn’t fit Islamism. Carson escaped when a disembodied voice stated, “This interview is over.” and Carson was gone. Fox’s conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer called Carson’s religious bigotry “morally outrageous”:

“His reason is that Islam is incompatible with the Constitution. On the contrary. Carson is incompatible with a Constitution…”

The extremely conservative Values Voter Summit seems to bring out the worst in people, and Ted Cruz is no exception. He promised to not only rip up the Iran agreement but also kill Iran’s agreements. The speech brought standing ovations and won him the Summit for presidential candidate for the third year in a row.

Tear up the Iran agreement? That’s what most of the GOP presidential candidates are promising if they are elected. While in the United States recently, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani commented that several of the candidates don’t even know where Iran is. He then compared the GOP threats to another Middle East leader: “This is something that only the likes of Saddam Hussein would do.”

Scott Walker is gone from the GOP list because God told him to lead by resigning, Jim Gilmore is running but not campaigning, and three more candidates—Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Rand Paul—are on the chopping block. The GOP will never vote for Pataki because he claims that climate change is scientifically proven. That leaves an even dozen to spread their lies at the October 28 debate and show us their “character.”

Here is the yesterday’s average of 171 polls from 30 pollsters, a great site to follow:

 

  • Donald Trump                    26.9%
  • Ben Carson                         16.6%
  • Jeb Bush                              8.7%
  • Carly Fiorina                       8.7%
  • Marco Rubio                        7.6%
  • Ted Cruz                              5.8%
  • Chris Christie                      3.4%
  • John Kasich                         3.0%
  • Rand Paul                            2.7%
  • Mike Huckabee                   2.6%
  • Rick Santorum                   0.7%
  • Bobby Jindal                       0.5%
  • George Pataki                     0.4%
  • Lindsey Graham                 0.2%

 

 

September 27, 2015

GOP in More Trouble

Less than a year ago, the conservatives were crowing about being in the catbird seat after taking over Congress: the GOP majority was the largest in 84 years. They planned to wipe out all advances during President Obama’s six years and take the country back a century ago before human rights in the United States.

The first 100 days of the 114th Congress, however, did not go well. John Boehner (R-OH) was re-elected speaker but only after the biggest revolt in 150 years. The House argued about deporting children and threatened to close the Department of Homeland Security. They couldn’t even pass an anti-abortion bill and almost failed to pass a bill against human trafficking. Their priorities were passing an oil pipeline that created 35 permanent jobs, again trying to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, and pushing the usual tax breaks only for multi-millionaires and billionaires. Most of the few successful bills were supported by Democrats, and the chamber refused to discuss taking action against ISIS while it address—again—the Benghazi deaths. Within the first 100 days, two newly elected representatives resigned in disgrace.

A prime embarrassment for the GOP-led Senate was its delay in confirming Loretta Lynch as Attorney General in the longest wait for any recent AG nominee. They all agreed that she was eminently qualified, and the GOP was eager to get rid of Eric Holder in that position. Yet the GOP-led Senate stalled for 165 days, including the entire first 100 days of the 114th Congress.

The Senate decided to take over the job of determining foreign policy from the president by sending a letter to Iran, declaring that the U.S. wouldn’t live up to its agreements. Boehner invited Israel Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress in an effort to override President Obama’s Iran negotiations and started another lawsuit against the president for his executive orders. By the end of the 100 days, President Obama’s approval rating rose ten points to 50, its best level since 2013.

As disastrous as those first 100 days, they could not begin to match the debacle for Republicans during the past week. Three huge, intersecting events created more problems for the rigidly conservative GOP agenda: Pope Francis’s speech to Congress; China’s decision to create a cap-and-trade policy that the U.S. GOP has rejected; and Speaker Boehner’s unexpected resignation the House of Representatives at the end of October.

As was expected, the pope’s positions made conservatives squirm. His defense of “human life at every stage of its development” was followed by advocating “for abolition of the death penalty,” a blow to conservatives who love the idea of killing people. GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz didn’t go quietly in his response to the pope: he called the use of capital punishment a “recognition of the preciousness of human life.”

The pope spoke against “deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society” and added that the money gained from these sales were “drenched in blood, often innocent blood.” By far the largest arms supplier in the world, U.S. domestic manufacturers sold more than $23.7 billion in weapons to almost 100 countries during just 2014—weapons that included cluster bombs and other munitions used to destroy densely populated areas, schools, and even a Yemen camp for displaced people.  U.S. taxpayers subsidized a large piece of these sales, especially to Israel and Egypt. Members of Congress make $150 million a year from the arms industry.

The pope pushed for the support of immigration by saying that we are all immigrants:

“Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”

Environmentalism has been high on the pope’s list, so much so that far-right pundit George Will wrote that “Americans cannot simultaneously honor [the pope] and celebrate their nation’s premises.” Pope Francis urged Congress and corporations to “redirect our steps” to address “environmental degradation caused by human activity.” Jeb Bush accused the pope, who has a degree in chemistry, of being wrong about climate change because “he’s not a scientist.” [Jeb Bush is definitely not a scientist.]

In rejecting unfettered capitalism, the pope chose Dorothy Day as one of his four examples because of “her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed.” Her Catholic Worker Movement was a model of community organization that helped lift thousands out of poverty. Basically, Day was known as a radical social activist, a pacifist, feminist, socialist, and union supporter—all hated by Republicans.

Throughout his speech, Pope Francis expressed his concern for the poor and his dismay at growing income inequality. Like Day, he supports a just distribution of income and a “modern, inclusive and sustainable” economy. His message for lawmakers urged them to pay attention especially to “those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.” According to Francis, “the fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts.”

Last February, conservatives were livid about President Obama’s statement at the National Prayer Breakfast that while many faith communities around the world are “inspiring people to lift up one another,” we also see “faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge – or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon.” The same listeners heard the same message from the pope when he said, “We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.”

Conservatives, who claim to support religious freedom, failed to support a House resolution honoring the Pope “for his inspirational statements and actions” as well as his goals to ameliorate inequality and promote solidarity. Only 19 of the 221 co-sponsors are Republicans.

The announcement from Chinese President Xi Jinping about his country adopting a program to curtail emissions erases the argument that the GOP uses against the a cap-and-trade program in the U.S. Whenever the program has been suggested, conservatives say that it will do no good because China doesn’t have the program. Xi also pledged aid for low-income nations, a request that President Obama made to Congress for the international Green Climate Fund. During the first 100 days of the new Congress, 81 of the 144 Senate bills proposed increasing pollution.

The biggest shocker to the nation last week, however, was Boehner’s resignation.  He claimed that it was to meliorate the turmoil, but there is no doubt that his action will heat up the firestorm between Tea Party and more establishment Republicans. A bill to pass the budget may avert a government shutdown on October 1—just four days away—but the issue will arise in late November because the bill is good for only two months. A new speaker may actually support a government shutdown at that time.

The question now is who will be selected to be two heartbeats from being President of the United States. Josh Israel has named four likely suspects:

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): The House Republican Majority Leader would be the obvious choice in saner times despite his lack of political ability. Although he seemed more moderate toward immigration, his opposition to fight climate change gives him some cred among Tea Party members. McCarthy is notable for being the least experienced person of all time for the position that he holds. During the almost decade he’s spent in Congress, McCarthy has managed to pass only two bills that he sponsored, both of them renaming places in his district.

Steve Scalise (R-LA): The third-ranking Republican in the House spoke at a white supremacist rally in 2002 and was one of a few legislators to oppose making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a Louisiana holiday in 2004. He claims that immigration reform would “actually force” non-citizens who did not want to become citizens “onto an amnesty track.” This fan of debt-ceiling crises has refused to deny he wants to impeach President Obama.

Jim Jordan (R-OH): A major supporter of defunding the Department of Homeland Security also pushed to overturn DC’s same-gender marriage law and stated that the country’s founders wanted to prohibit abortion. Jordan is fully committed to defunding Planned Parenthood even if it shuts down the government.

Jeb Hensarling (R-TX): The defender of recessions as “a part of freedom” also denounces Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as “cruel Ponzi schemes.” In the House since 2003, he has the longest tenure of these four representatives. His opposition to raising the debt ceiling could also lead to more government shutdowns. As co-chair of the failed 2011 “supercommittee,” he promised to oppose “any penny of increased static revenue.”

Tea Partiers don’t want any of these possibilities, but they haven’t found anyone with enough votes to overcome the above “less radical” candidates above. Many of the crazies want the position; time will tell. While the House is in chaos, GOP presidential candidate Bobby Jindal, supported by other ultra-conservatives, called for Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to step down as Senate Majority Leader. The congressional Republicans are in for a rocky fall season.

September 19, 2015

‘Persecution’ of Christians

“I don’t think there is any question that the Supreme Court’s decision goes against the natural law. That’s not the way nature functions. So as a result of that, I think Kim Davis and everybody else has the obligation to oppose it.” That’s GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s take on how his perception of “nature” supersedes constitutional rights for U.S. citizens.

The Rowan County (KY) clerk is now out of prison because she’s reluctantly allowing deputy clerks to issue licenses to same-gender couples. Now her lawyers can’t follow the law. The 6th Circuit Court rejected her appeal to overturn a judge’s order to issue marriage license because the lawyers did not go through U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who had ordered Davis to be detained. Lawyers maintained that they skipped that legal step because of the judge’s “extraordinary doggedness.”

Another court may be hearing another case that uses the excuse of religious belief to disobey the law. In defiance of the Supreme Court legalization of marriage equality, Washington County (AL) Probate Judge Nick Williams filed a petition to protect him and anyone else who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Williams said about the Supreme Court’s ruling, “I’m quite sure they broke several constitutional amendments in that ruling.”

Before Justice Antonin Scalia decreed that the corporation Hobby Lobby is a person with religious rights in denying its women employees their lawful contraception, the ultra-conservative Scalia wrote about religious exemptions in Employment Division v. Smith (1990) that rejected a petitioner’s request to use peyote in a sacrament:

“The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind—ranging from compulsory military service, to the payment of taxes, to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, and traffic laws; to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws, and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races.”

Smith was not about Christianity, which may be why Scalia supported the state of Oregon and not religious rights. The ruling also led to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 which “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected” and opened up all the religious protesting of the past few years. Even so, Scalia suggested that no country would allow religious exemptions on such a grand scale.

Scalia said that he would retire before being forced to rule against his Catholic beliefs. Kim Davis is not as ethical. She refused to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples, went to jail for a few days because she refused to follow a judge’s order to do so, and now hides in her office allowing deputies to issue licenses but claiming that they are all invalid because they lack her signature.

Twenty-five years ago, Scalia recognized the current problem, that there is no logical stopping place to “religious exemptions.” People claim the religious right not to dispense birth control, photograph same-gender weddings, bake celebratory cakes, etc.  As Jeffrey Toobin wrote in The New Yorker:

“The principle [of religious exemption is] a troubling one—that religious belief carries with it a shopping-cart approach to citizenship. You can choose some obligations but not others, while the legislators and judges figure out which ones are really mandatory. It’s a recipe for further division in an already polarized society—and the prospects, in Kentucky and elsewhere, are for more conflict, not less.”

GOP Mike Huckabee claims that God returned to Earth in the form of Kim Davis. Her compulsion to follow her bible may require her to post a list of couples (or more than couples) who can and cannot get licenses from her county:

  • No – A  license for a man with a consenting woman who doesn’t have her father’s permission – Numbers 30:1-16.
  • Yes – A license for a man and a nonconsenting woman if her father gives her in marriage or sells her to a slave master – Exodus 20:17, Exodus 21:7.
  • Yes – A license for a married man and three other women – 1 Timothy 3:2.
  • No – A license for childless widow and her husband’s reluctant brother because a man has the responsibility to seed children for his deceased brother – Matthew 22:24-28.
  • No – A license for a Christian and a Hindu because they are, according to Paul, “unequally yoked” – 2 Corinthians 6:14.
  • Yes – A license for a soldier and a virgin prisoner of war but only with written instructions on the purification ritual required before bedding her. Also if she fails to “delight,” he must set her free rather than selling her – Deuteronomy 21:10-14.
  • Yes – A license for a rapist and his victim with the father present who has been paid 50 shekels ($580) for the damage done to the father. Also no divorce – Deuteronomy 22:28-29.
  • Yes – A license for a man and his wife’s indentured/undocumented servant but only if the man is reminded that marriage is not required for sex because of community property laws apply and any offspring is owned by the man’s original wife, not the indentured woman – Genesis 30:1-22.
  • Probably not – A license for a man and his mother, sister, half-sister, mother-in-law, grandchild, or uncle’s wife although the decision changes throughout the Bible—siblings okay in Genesis but not later in the text – e.g. Lev. 18:7-8; Lev. 18:10; Lev. 20:11; Deut. 22:30; Deut. 27:20; Deut. 27:23.
  • Absolutely no – A license for a black woman and a white man, or vice versa – Gen. 28:6; Exod. 34:15-16; Num. 25:6-11; Deut. 7:1-3; Josh. 23:12-13; Judges 3:5-8; 1 Kings 11:1-2; Ezra 9:1-2, 12; Ezra 10:2-3, 10-11; Neh. 10:30; Neh. 13:25-27).
  • Also no – A license for a gentile and a Jew – Deuteronomy 7:3-4.
  • Yes – A license for a man and a sex-trafficked teen he bought from a gangster if Kentucky legalizes sex trafficking although Kentucky may not have to pass a law because, according to Davis and others, —but God is higher than the law, according to people like Davis. – Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17.

Most of these directions are in the Old Testament, but so are the Ten Commandments, commonly posted inside and in front of public buildings when Christians have their way.

A billboard posted in Davis’ town also tries to be helpful in explaining marriage and the Bible.

billboard

Religion in health care also causes a serious problem for women after the Catholic Church has taken over large numbers of hospitals in the U.S. Just one example is 33-year-old Jessica Mann, who is pregnant with her third child and needs a Caesarean for the birth. She also needs a tubal ligation to prevent further pregnancies because she has pilocytic astrocytomas, a brain tumor which can cause blindness and paralysis. At least 30 percent of women choose this procedure, but Genesys Hospital in Grand Blanc Township (MI) refuses to do the contraceptive procedure, calling it “intrinsically evil.” Of the nation’s 25 largest healthcare systems, ten of them are funded by Catholics and receive public dollars while denying some reproductive healthcare. More than 50 percent of obstetrician-gynecologists who work in Catholic Hospitals say that hospital religious policies have directly conflicted with their ability to provide patient care.

Many Christians, primarily those who are fundamentalists, bitterly complain about the persecution that they suffer. The law forces them to serve LGBT people, same-gender couples can legally get married across the United States (if they can get served!), and people want to keep religion out of government. Persecuted Christians can check the following questions to see how severe their persecution is, how much liberty they have lost. Anyone who answers “no” to one of these questions should go the ACLU for help. Otherwise ….

  1. Can you choose to go to any religious service?
  2. Are you allowed to pray in the privacy of your own home? Without worrying about being arrested?
  3. Can you read, buy, and/or own religious books or materials with no threat of imprisonment or death?
  4. Can your religious group build a house of worship in your community? Without protests or denial of building permits based on religion?
  5. Can you teach your children about your faith at home?
  6. Is your religious group allowed equal protection under the establishment clause without giving another religion preferential treatment?
  7. Do you suffer violence or injury or death because of your beliefs?

Christians in the United States can answer “no” to the above questions, but many people of other faiths cannot, both in other countries and within the United States. More and more, political candidates are leading people in the belief that the Christian god is higher than the law of the land. Freedom of religion should be freedom for all, not just for “freedom” to have Christianity rule every person’s life.

My Favorite Religious Story of the Week: Giovanna Sforza shipped 20 pagan books from Arizona to North Carolina. When she opened the box, the pagan books had been replaced by a Baptist hymnal—presumably in a post office.

September 16, 2015

Condemned Man Granted Two-week Stay

Richard Glossip was scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma at 3:00 pm (CT) this afternoon. Yesterday, I wrote a blog about why his execution should be stayed because new evidence might prove his innocence. Less than three hours before Glossip’s time of death, a two-week stay of his execution was announced. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals “reset” his execution to September 30 so that it could reconsider a last-minute petition filed by Glossip’s new attorney. On or before that time, the court can either grant or deny the additional requests with the possibility of further delaying Glossip’s execution.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who had refused to stay his execution, said that she will abide by the court’s decision.

As I wrote yesterday, Glossip was convicted of a murder with no forensic evidence and extremely poor defense at two different trials. The prosecution’s entire case relied on testimony from 19-year-old Justin Sneed, who was given a plea agreement if he implicated Glossip. After “persuasion” from law enforcement, Sneed admitted to beating Van Treese to death with a baseball bat and taking about $4,000 out of his car but said that he did it because Glossip told him to do it.

More information about Glossip’s case came out last night when it was reported that prosecutors destroyed a box of evidence in 1999 before Glossip’s first appeal had been heard and his conviction overturned. The box reportedly held financial records that Glossip claimed would prove that he wasn’t embezzling money. The defense was not notified about the destruction of the evidence and may not have even known that the evidence existed—a serious violation of prosecutorial conduct. That doesn’t prove Glossip’s innocence, but the charge is to prove him guilty. The other question is whether the state will execute a person with this much uncertainty.

The testimony from “jailhouse snitch,” Justin Sneed, leaves many questions. In the first trial, he claimed that Glossip offered him $7,000 to kill Barry Van Treese; by the trial in 2004, Sneed said it was $10,000. At first, Sneed said that he had met Glossip only a few times, but by 2004, Sneed claimed that Glossip had told him to kill Van Treese “five or six times” by the time he actually did it. In a videotape, never presented in court, Sneed said he was coming off a meth binge when he killed Van Treese. It also shows interrogators telling Sneed that they had arrested Glossip although Sneed gave a different testimony in the 2004 trial.

Despite the emergence of new evidence, Fallin and the DA who convicted Glossip, Bob Macy, claimed that it was “nothing but a publicity campaign by death penalty—anti-death-penalty activists to try to bring down the death penalty in Oklahoma and in the United States.” There was no concern about whether they might be responsible for executing an innocent man.

Glossip has always maintained his innocence, even rejecting a plea deal to take him off death row.

September 15, 2015

Will Oklahoma Execute an Innocent Man?

Filed under: Capital punishment — trp2011 @ 8:03 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Imagine committing no crime but ending up on death row—for 18 years. That may be what happened after Richard Glossip, now 52 years old, was accused in 1997 of hiring Justin Sneed to kill Glossip’s employer, Barry Van Treese, after Glossip embezzled money from his boss. Physical evidence put only Sneed at the murder, according to Glossip’s original defense. Van Treese’s brother also testified that the shortages used to prove the embezzlement were insignificant. No DNA or fingerprints linking Glossip to the murder, and prosecutors admitted in Glossip’s 2004 retrial that “the physical evidence doesn’t directly implicate Mr Glossip.” All the evidence pointed only to Sneed. Yet Glossip was judged guilty in both the original 1997 trial and the retrial.

Glossip’s first trial was overturned by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in 2001 because of inadequate and since debarred counsel, Wayne Fournerat, and suffered from another inadequate public defender in the 2004 trial. Glossip’s attorneys never introduced the videotape of Sneed’s interrogation as leading questions cajole Sneed into blaming Glossip. At the trial, Sneed even added premeditation on the part of Glossip to his narrative. Even Sneed’s daughter, O’Ryan Justine Sneed, wrote that Glossip didn’t do what her father claimed and that he is still afraid of recanting his story because he might get the death penalty.

The actual murderer, 19-year-old Sneed, first said he didn’t know Van Treese, then he didn’t kill him, next he killed him accidentally during a robbery, and finally he admitted he killed him intentionally. Richard A Leo, a professor at the San Francisco University School of Law, said that the investigators’ behavior is “substantially likely to increase the risk of eliciting false statements, admissions, and confessions.”  Investigators who “presumed the guilt of Richard Glossip from almost the start and sought to pressure and persuade Justin Sneed to implicate Richard Glossip” initiated Glossip’s guilt, according to Leo.  Sneed testified against Glossip and saved himself from a death penalty in a plea deal.

Now a legal team is arguing that prosecution framed its case on the testimony of murderer Sneed, whose changing retelling was not adequately disputed in the trial. Attorney Donald Knight said that Glossip’s defense failed to prepare for trial; they didn’t even question key witnesses such as D-Anna Wood, Glossip’s girlfriend, who could have provided alibis for Glossip. Nor did the earlier defense lawyers challenge gruesome evidence about Van Treese taking eight hours to die when new evidence found that death came within 30 minutes. Jurors had considered the length of time as important in their decision.  Asking for 60 more days before execution to gather more evidence, Glossip’s new attorney, Donald Knight, said:

“Richard is sentenced to death because he’s poor. Not very many people can afford a death penalty defense. That should scare everyone.”

Other new evidence, according to Knight, is a witness report that Sneed was addicted to drugs and fed his habit by breaking into cars and hotel rooms. A man who served time with Sneed in prison also said that he overheard Sneed saying that he set up Glossip.

Glossip received a stay one day before his scheduled execution in January because his name was part of the Supreme Court appeal regarding the lethal injection drug midazolam that resulted in several botched executions. The high court ruled that the drug’s use was constitutional, and Glossip’s new execution day was scheduled in July for tomorrow, September 16, 2015, at 3:00 CT.

Even former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) signed a letter with high-profile legal experts urging a stay of execution. They wrote:

“Unless you act, the State of Oklahoma will put Mr. Glossip to death for the murder of Barry Van Treese. Justin Sneed–who, by his own admission, beat Van Treese to death with a baseball bat–will not meet that fate.

“The writers of this letter have a wide range of professional backgrounds and political perspectives. But we share a deep concern about the integrity of the criminal justice system in Oklahoma and throughout the United States. We are particularly concerned about the danger of executing an innocent man.”

Oklahoma Gov. has thus far refused to stay Glossip’s execution despite the strong possibility that he is innocent. You can call her at (405)521-2342. Both options are #1. Of the 112 executions in Oklahoma since 1976 and 49 inmates currently on death row, the state has had 10 death row exonerations. That failure rate alone should give Richard Glossip another 60 days.

The National Registry of Exonerations lists 115 defendants sentenced to death but later exonerated and released after the discovery of new evidence of innocence was discovered. Of those 115 innocent inmates on death row, one-fourth of them, 29, were convicted after a suspect in the murder gave a confession that also implicated the innocent defendant. Last year a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that 4.1 percent of defendants who are sentenced to death in the United States are innocent. Most of them, like most of all defendants who are sentenced to death, have not been exonerated or executed. They remain in prison or have died of other causes.

Quality of representation may be the most important factor in the death penalty for a crime. Almost all defendants in capital cases need public defenders who are overworked, underpaid, and/or lack trial experience for these cases. Sometimes appointed attorneys drink alcohol before they come to court or fall asleep during the trial. In 2001, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said:

“People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty . . . I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial.”

Alabama has the highest per capita rate of executions in the United States; the state has no public defender system, and 95 percent of its death row occupants are indigent.

Texas has the largest total number of executions; almost one-fourth of the 461 condemned inmates were represented by court-appointed attorneys who have been disciplined for professional misconduct. According to an investigation, death row inmates today face a one-in-three chance of being executed without having the case properly investigated by a competent attorney and without having any claims of innocence or unfairness presented or heard.”

Washington state has 84 people who faced execution between 1980 and 2000; one-fifth of them were represented by lawyers who had been, or were later, disbarred, suspended or arrested. (The state’s disbarment rate for attorneys is less than 1%.)

These statistics are not unique across the nation.

Support for the death penalty is at its lowest point in 30 years: 52 percent of people in the United States advocate life in prison instead of execution. The strongest support for killing inmates comes from evangelical white Protestants and Republicans as well as states that still have the death penalty. Recently, Nebraska joined Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico and New Jersey to repeal the death penalty since 2007.  The governors of Colorado, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington have each indefinitely suspended future executions.

Death Penalty Map

The death penalty has become less common. Last year saw the lowest number of executions in 20 years, 35, and the fewest new death sentences in 40 years, 73. Just 62 counties of 3,000 nationwide are responsible for the majority of death sentences. Half of all new death sentences between 2004 and 2009 came from less than 1 percent of the country’s counties; all the new death sentences came from fewer than 2 percent of the counties.

executions by region

Proponents of the death penalty claim that its purpose is deterrence. There is no evidence supporting that premise, and the vast majority of top criminologists disagree with the theory. In addition, the death penalty costs state and local governments millions of dollars more than life in prison without parole.

Gov. Mary Fallin has no reason to let the state kill Richard Glossip.

September 12, 2015

Too Many Charter Schools for Profit Only

Filed under: Education — trp2011 @ 10:05 PM
Tags: , , , ,

In his push toward replacing all public schools with privately-managed, public-funded charter schools, Jeb Bush has become the sugar daddy of big business that makes big money off depriving young people of an education. The GOP presidential candidate opened the first charter school in the state when he was governor and increased it 56 percent annually during his first administration. By the time that he left office in 2007, the number had grown from 30 to 300 and since doubled to over 600. There would be more, but poor planning and management has caused the closure of another 308 schools so far this year. His first school closed in 2008.

Jeb Bush got the charter school ball rolling by maintaining that they would save students from failed public schools. By 2009, he sang another song—that charter schools are “a great opportunity… a half billion dollar opportunity.” Investors immediately showed interest in the lucrative possibilities. Bush has kept lobbying for these schools: almost all the classrooms with happy children in his campaign videos “are at schools operated by Academica, [Florida’s] largest for-profit charter school management company,” according to BuzzFeed reporter Molly Hensley-Clancy.

Academica has almost 100 schools in Florida and over $150 million in annual revenue along with being the subject of “an ongoing federal probe into its real estate dealings,” as reported by the Miami Herald in 2014. Charter schools must be overseen by a non-profit board of directors, but corporations make their money from everything else—payroll operations, food services contracting, textbook sales—as well as hiring personnel and controlling curriculum.

Another way that companies like Academica make profits is state grants, loans, and tax credits for building the school before charging the school district massive rents and leases to use the buildings. Charter Schools USA charged one school $2 million rent, 23 percent of its budget. Charter companies also get the profits if they sell the buildings to another entity. Within the last two years, only charter schools received capital outlay for new construction, and charter school companies are now going after local property taxes.

Although Florida districts traditionally decide when and where a new school is needed, charter schools can open up at the company’s volition without permission from a school district. Laurie Rich Levinson, a school board representative, said, “We must approve them even when we don’t know where exactly they’ll be located,” she says. Charter schools are also not subject to traffic restrictions, building codes, and other regulations mandated for other businesses and institutions.

Companies closing charter schools also punish communities through charges. When local officials in Florida tried to get $400,000 back from two closed schools, the companies had either moved the funds or had them frozen by liens. The Sun Sentinel reported, “County schools may have to repay $1.8 million owed by two closed charter schools.” The schools didn’t keep accurate counts of enrolled students; therefore money already collected will be withheld from future payments to the district.

Florida is not alone in its problems with charter schools. Claims that charter schools provide superior education have been debunked in other states. A report on Pennsylvania’s charters a year ago indicated that only one in six of these schools is “high-performing” and none of the online ones is “high-performing.” Charter schools weed out students based on characteristics such as those with special needs and low test scores. In many cases, English learners and children in poverty need not apply. The result is higher segregation in schools.

In many charter schools, cost-cutting curriculum limits students to little more than reading and mathematics test preparation, inexperienced teachers with high turnover, and products that line the pockets of board members. At the same time, the schools are used as cash cows.

Publicly-funded charter schools act like private entities, denying such basic information as salaries. In 2012, Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett and the GOP-controlled legislature tried to introduce a bill that exempted all charters from the state’s sunshine laws. Companies have argued in California courts that they are private entities and cannot be treated as public institutions.

The drain on real public schools is tremendous. For example, charter tuition payments cost Pittsburgh $53 million in just one year. In order to make more money for their companies, charter corporations are working to close traditional public schools. Pennsylvania forced districts to approve new charters while slashing the budget and closing more schools.

Big donors for John Kasich during his 2014 run for Ohio governor were charter school operators and companies. He vowed to clean up charter schools after cutting money from public schools and to show how well the charters were doing with a public site to compare their performance with public schools. The upgrading of charter facilities and increase in their budgets cost Ohioans well over one billion dollars so far this year while public schools lost one-half billion dollars. Last month, David Hansen, state director of school choice, resigned after he admitted charter schools looked much better because he omitted poor grades for online and dropout-recovery schools. Kasich probably won’t be talking much about charter schools on the campaign trail.

One state has declared that giving public school funds to charter schools is unconstitutional. Washington state Supreme Court spent almost a year of deliberation before he overturned a narrowly-passed ballot measure in 2012 allowing publicly-funded, privately-operated schools. Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that charter schools aren’t “common schools” because they’re governed by appointed rather than elected boards. Therefore, “money that is dedicated to common schools is unconstitutionally diverted to charter schools,” she wrote. A coalition filing the suit asked for this ruling because these schools are “improperly diverting public-school funds to private organizations that are not subject to local voter control.” The nine schools planning to open this fall will not close but instead plan to rely on private funding.

In 1992, democratic socialist Sweden began distributing vouchers to parents to send their children to any school, private or public. Companies were permitted to operate for-profit schools, and private equity firms ran hundreds of schools. The result:

  • Test scores fell consistently starting in 1995.
  • Social stratification and ethnic and immigrant segregation increased.
  • Better teachers went to schools with students of higher socio-economic status.
  • One of the biggest private education firms declared bankruptcy in 2013. About 1,000 people lost their jobs, and the company’s unpaid debt is about $150 million.
  • A convicted pedophile legally set up several schools.
  • The system found no impact on medium or long-term educational outcomes such as high school GPA, university attainment or years of schooling.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 2,486 U.S. charter schools closed between 2001 and 2013. [Check here for an interactive map of these closures.] Charter school students are two and a half times at risk of having their school closed, causing a disruption in their education and decreasing high school graduation rates by almost 10 percent.

Unknown millions of dollars of the $3.3 billion spent by the federal government went to schools that never opened to students. The Center for Popular Democracy documented more than $200 million in fraud, waste, and mismanagement in the charter school industry in 15 states alone. Wisconsin was given $69.6 million between 2010 and 2015, but one-fifth of the charters opened in the first two years of grants have closed. Indiana was given $31.3 million because the schools are exempt from democratic oversight by elected school boards.

Failed charter schools may cost about $1.4 billion in 2015. This waste hasn’t stopped the Department of Education. Secretary Arne Duncan asked for a 48-percent expansion of the program and refuses to release any information about grants or their applicants.

Fraud, lack of transparency, lower achievement—these are a few of the problems in many states that allow these schools to be controlled by profiteers. People in every state should look into laws for charter schools to make sure that they don’t have the same problem.

September 9, 2015

What GOP Means When They Say …

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 8:26 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

[From joelgp]

In conservative lexicon:

  • “small businesses” =  large corporation
  • “simpler tax” = more tax cuts for the wealthy
  • “secure medicare” = destroy it
  • “repair and replace obamacare” = destroy it
  • “secure the borders first” = treat Hispanics as second-classed citizens
  • “all lives matter” = we need to shut-up and take our murders like men
  • “horrified by planned parenthood” = I really need evangelicals in my camp
  • “take America back” = get them AAs out of our White House!
  • “the economy is in turmoil” = President Obama saved America from a great depression
  • “I won’t lead from behind” = I’m starting wars with Iran, Syria and maybe Russia too
  • “the party of the middle class” = no unions and no increase in minimum wage

Frank Luntz prides himself in tutoring conservatives on how selling their opinions through the use of emotion. In fact, he re-creates definitions for negative terms describing Republicans for a positive twist. One example is describing “Orwellian” as speaking “with absolute clarity” instead of the traditional definition from the novel, 1984, as destroying a free and open society. Luntz’s coining the term “Obamacare” was brilliant: for years almost twice as many people in Kentucky opposed Obamacare as the Affordable Care Act although they are identical.

Other conservative twisted terminology:

  • “government takeover” = health care reform
  • “energy exploration” = oil drilling
  • “freedom” = no government support
  • “tax relief” = lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy
  • “personal accounts” = privatizing Social Security
  • “babies” = fetuses
  • “immigration reform” = build walls and throw out all undocumented Hispanics in the U.S.
  • “UN reform” = get rid of the United Nations
  • “class action reform” = don’t allow this in courts
  • “war on terror” = attacking countries in the Middle East
  • “activist judges” = those who rule against conservative ideals
  • “class warfare” = opposition to extreme income inequality
  • “Fairness Doctrine” = removing public airways from regulations
  • “right-to-work laws” = lower salaries and no benefits
  • “reparative therapy” = telling LGBT people that they are unworthy and can change their biology
  • “dividing America” = any criticism of conservatives, the wealthy, or their policies
  • George W. Bush’s “Healthy Forests Initiative” = widespread logging
  • Bush’s “Clear Skies Initiative” = remove clean air standards
  • “the takers” = poor people
  • “accountability” = punishment for those who need help (instead of for the failed missile defense system)
  • “bipartisanship” = willingness for Democrats to follow Republicans
  • “deregulation” = letting big business do anything it wants
  • “discrimination” = asking white males to sharing of money and power with the poor, women, and other minorities
  • “disorderly conduct” = any legal protest including Freedom of Speech
  • “faith-based” = religious action that may violate the First Amendment
  • “family values” = justification for intolerance, fear, and bigotry
  • “routine military operation” = sneak attack by an overwhelmingly superior force
  • “special interest” = any citizen or group of citizens who express concerns to their government
  • “strict constructionist” = position taken by conservative judges to justify rulings that roll back progress on civil rights, women’s rights, environmental protections, and defense citizens from arbitrary government actions while simultaneously claiming to be “above politics.”
  • “unconstitutional” = anything not in keeping with conservative thought

And much more here.

Over the past 40 years, Republicans have put billions of dollars into creating this language. After Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell wrote in 1970 that the best students became anti-business because of the Vietnam War, wealthy conservatives set up professorships, institutes, and think tanks to change the viewpoint. By 2003, they had 1,500 conservative radio talk show hosts. Through this network, they established the GOP opposition to the progressive approach of “nurturing parent” assuming that the world is good and empathy will make it better. Most Democrats believe in helping people through a safety net, regulations, education, civil liberties, public service, and equal treatment for people.

The authoritarian parent model followed by the GOP takes the position that the world is dangerous and children, born bad, must be made good. The strict parent is the moral authority who tells his family what to do, often through painful punishment. Children who don’t become independent as adults must be freed with no support. The only purposes of the government are to maintain order, conduct business in an orderly fashion, and punish people. Actions are carried out without permission or discussion with force and authority.

Conservatives have a number of code words for racism that would be benign on the surface but are actually triggers for hate. “Illegal aliens” refers only to Hispanics coming across the nation’s southern border, and “states rights” legitimizes racism, sexism, and homophobia. Rep. Paul Ryan used “inner cities” to denigrate blacks, and “Sharia law” evokes a sense of fear not created by “Christian law,” although both are unconstitutional. Ian Haney López, author of Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, writes about how a speaker can use racist language and still deny that any reference to race.

Sometimes terminology suffers a fast death among conservative politicians. For example, GOP presidential candidates started using the term “anchor babies”—legally born infants in the U.S. becoming citizens—after Donald Trump began the trend. The massive criticism across the nation for people like Jeb Bush quickly closed down the usage.

In 1996, Newt Gingrich wrote a memo about how language is “a key mechanism of control.” It lists the words to be used by politicians to strengthen their message and the ones to be used for opponents. “Cheat,” “lie,” “stagnant,” and “status quo” are just a few of these.

Over a year ago, Bill Maher discussed the GOP success with language:

“Being a Republican means starting with a bedrock principle, like rich people shouldn’t pay taxes, or black people shouldn’t vote.  And then, figuring out how to sell it to low-information voters, otherwise known as Americans.  Did I say ‘don’t tax rich people’?  I meant ‘encourage the job creators.’ Did I say ‘don’t let black people vote’?  I meant ‘clamp down on voter fraud.’ Did I say ‘bring back slavery’?  I meant ‘phase out race-based freedom quotas.’”

It’s time for Democrats to increase its own messaging. Here’s a start:

Republicans are legislating a Daddy State: Conservative state and federal legislators reach into all parts of personal life—restricting access to health care, giving employers the right to snoop into personal medical records, regulating women’s health care, controlling our choice of marriage partners, etc. In the words of Rep. Steve King (R-IA), this is a gross violation of the freedoms and liberties that we love about living in the United States. We need to stop “the man of the family” from setting the rules and punishing us when they think that we’re “bad.”

Republicans are the Party of Gut and Spend: Conservatives gamble with wars to increase income for the wealthy and then gut services to the poor and needy. Gut and Spend takes money from hard-working families, decimating the middle class, and gives it to the rich and powerful. Low-income families suffer deep cuts while no entitlements for the wealthy are eliminated. The program is a Path to Poverty and bad for America.

Republicans are the Party of Large Corporate Government: Instead of a smaller government, the GOP wants an Unelected Corporate Government that takes away the rights for people to have a say in education, prisons, and the military. Turning our government over to Unelected Corporations is anti-Democratic and un-American.

People who control language control the agenda. As George Orwell’s 1984 inquisitor, O’Brien, said, “The whole aim of Newspeak [precursor to “doublespeak”] is to narrow the range of thought. In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

September 8, 2015

Davis’ Rejection of LGBT Rights Not Unique

Chuck Todd celebrated his first year’s anniversary on Meet the Press last Sunday with more misinformation. In the interview with Colin Powell, one of George W. Bush’s Secretaries of State, cogently explained why the United States needs to follow through with the proposed Iran agreement. At the show’s end, however, came a discussion about U.S. cause célèbre, Kim Davis, the county clerk who become famous for her refusal to follow the land of the law.

Once again Todd showed his inability to do his research:

“This is the only place in the country that we’ve had this. Meaning that I think a lot of people thought there would be more clerks that wouldn’t do this.”

Doris Kearns Goodwin followed Todd’s lead and said, “All of our country, and other registrars, in other counties, people have gone issuing marriage licenses. And that’s the important thing to understand, that that social movement created an acceptance.” Even revered television journalist Tom Brokaw expressed ignorance about marriage-equality problems since the decision:

“I think acceptance of same-sex marriage is so outrunning the opposition that it’s game over, quite honestly. This was an exception down there.”

What makes Kim Davis unique is that she is the only person who went to jail because of her refusal, contempt of court for not following a judge’s order. Across the nation, however, government officials are refusing marriage services to same-gender couples. Both North Carolina and Utah allow judges to not perform any marriages if same-gender ceremonies violate the judges’ “religious beliefs.” An Oregon judge, Vance Day, is also refusing to perform marriages. He is not required to do so by state law, but he clearly stated that he had stopped marrying people because of his “religious” opposition to same-sex marriages.

Alabama Probate Judge Nick Williams ordered his deputies in Washington County not to issue any licenses at all since the court’s June decision. In Pike County (AL), Probate Judge Wes Allen said that the law does not require county officials to issue marriage licenses.

Immediately after the Supreme Court ruling, Texas AG Ken Paxton told government officials that they could refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples on religious grounds. Granbury (TX) lost $43,872.10 in attorney’s fees because Hood County Clerk Katie Lang refused to issue a license to residents Joe Stapleton and Jim Cato, partners for 27 years. A federal court judge forced Lang to issue the license, but the settlement of the case cost the taxpayers. Lang’s website states that she doesn’t agree with same-sex marriage, but she is now allowing deputies in her office to issue the licenses.

In Texas, two counties have not confirmed that they will issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. “We are not going to discuss marriage policy over the phone. If a couple comes in to apply, we will discuss it at that time,” said Molly Criner, a clerk in Irion County, 200 miles northwest of Austin.

Several Kentucky clerks initially refused to issue any marriage license, included the president of the Kentucky County Clerks Association. By now the number is probably down to two clerks—both named Davis. Casey County Casey Davis said that he might be willing to die to avoid issuing a marriage license to a same-gender couple. Kentucky considers it a Class A misdemeanor, a first-degree official misconduct, if “a public servant … refrains from performing a duty imposed upon him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.”

Fifty years ago, white people dominated the media, and black issues were largely underrepresented. On Meet the Press, three straight people decided that discrimination against LGBT people is “game over.” Same-gender couples face discrimination across the nation, and the mainstream media doesn’t report it because journalists are ignorant.

Several GOP presidential candidates have rushed to support Kim Davis. Yet a Supreme Court decision in Garcetti v. Ceballo (2006) limited free speech protections for government employees when they are on the job. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that a public official is only protected only when engaged in an issue as a private citizen, not if it is expressed as part of the official’s public duties. Government employers must comply with the central duties of their jobs. As for the states with laws that permit judges their choices of whether to comply with their responsibilities, Katherine Franke, a Columbia University law professor, said that government officials “don’t have a First Amendment right to pick and choose which parts of the job they are going to do.”

cruzDetermined to out-perform Donald Trump, both GOP presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz rushed to Grayson (KY) when the judge announced he was releasing Davis if she performed her job. Huckabee was front and center while one of his aides blocked Cruz from speaking to the media. (A video of the encounter is available here.)

In releasing Davis, the judge mandated that she “not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.” According to Davis’ lawyer, Davis would go back to work on tomorrow or the next day and “would not violate her conscience.”

More legal problems may come from the rally. Composers for rock band Survivor were offended by the use of “Eye of the Tiger” in the Grayson circus without permission. Jim Peterik wrote:

“I was very surprised and dismayed at the misuse of the song I co-wrote with Frankie Sullivan for Rocky lll. The song has motivated thousands through the years to reach beyond their limits. Its use for the release of Kim Davis does not support my views or my politics. I have contacted my publishers to make sure this usage is stopped immediately.”

Sullivan was more blunt in his Facebook post: “NO! We did not grant Kim Davis any rights to use ‘My Tune — The Eye Of The Tiger.’ I would not grant her the rights to use Charmin!” In 2012, Sullivan sued Newt Gingrich for using the piece during campaign events.

Even Fox network disagrees with Kim Davis’ position. A panel of legal experts agreed that Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver, is “ridiculously stupid” for his claim that the Supreme Court cannot legally strike down same-sex marriage bans. Trial attorney Chip Merlin said that anyone who violates a judge’s order should “expect to be thrown in jail.” Criminal defense attorney Sharon Liko added, “She’s applying for the job of a martyr. She wants to practice her faith by not issuing marriage licenses. Yet, she will not agree to let the deputy county clerks issue marriage licenses even if it’s okay with their faith.”

Fox News host Gregg Jarrett explained:

“When she took the job she swore to uphold the law. We rely on government officials to do that. They can’t just pick and choose what laws they like, which ones they don’t. If they were allowed to do that, wouldn’t that lead to chaos, anarchy and so forth?”

The consensus was that Davis “can either follow the law—she can do her job—or she can get out.”

Staver went on Wallbuilders.com to rile his followers and said that marriage licenses for same-gender couples will “grant a license to engage in pornography, to grant a license to sodomize children or something of that nature.”

Kim Davis is not paying fines or legal fees, and she’s getting her usual salary. Yet the conservative anti-marriage equality group National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is using her name for fund-raising. The group’s statement began, “I am writing you today with a more personal request, something unrelated to NOM. Kim and her family face a very uncertain future.” It goes on to explain that NOM has joined ActRight.com  “to create a special crowdsourcing fund whose proceeds will go directly to Kim Davis” and asks for “a generous contribution to the Kim Davis Fund.” It promises to make funds “available” to her and “to support her family while she sits in jail.” [And continues to draw her salary for not doing her job.

During live coverage of Davis’ release from jail, anchor Shephard Smith spoke up with an amazingly rational assessment of those who support her refusal to issue marriage licenses:

“They set this up as a religious play again. This is the same crowd that says, ‘We don’t want Sharia law, don’t let them tell us what to do, keep their religion out of our lives and out of our government.’ Well, here we go again.”

Discussing the Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage equality, he said, “This is not unprecedented. They did it when they said black and white people couldn’t marry.”

He concluded, “Haters are going to hate. We thought what this woman wanted was an accommodation, which they’ve granted her, something that worked for everybody. But it’s not what they want.”

 

Amazing!

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