Nel's New Day

November 29, 2015

Conservative ‘Christians’ Wage War on the United States

 

Black Friday, traditionally known for store sales putting them into the “black,” can now be known for the most recent mass shooting in the far-right “Christian” war on the people of the United States. A 57-year-old white man killed three people, including a policeman, and injured nine more at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. He was heard to yell “no more baby parts.” The right-wing first called the attack a bank robbery and then said it was done by a “mentally disturbed individual.” The Washington Post called him “adrift and alienated,” and the so-called liberal New York Times called the killer an “itinerant loner.”

The first two GOP candidates who made any comments about the attacks—Ted Cruz and John Kasich—waited for a day and then just prayed for the victims. Cruz had spread anti-PP propaganda and led the charge to close down the government to stop its funding. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul remained quiet and advertised clothing for sale on their websites. Ben Carson was busy visiting a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan where he said that Middle East countries should absorb the refugees who he had called “rabid dogs.” Other predictable comments from GOP candidates trickled in two days later on the Sunday news talk shows. Mike Huckabee who agreed that the killings were domestic terrorism, but he claimed that it was against Planned Parenthood for making pro-life people look bad. He said:

“I don’t know of any pro-life leader—any—if you can tell me one, please correct me — but I don’t know of anybody who has suggested violence toward Planned Parenthood personnel or some act of violence towards their clinics. I’ve not heard that, not from one single pro-life person.”

Out of many, one example is when a pro-lifer shot Dr. George Tiller in the head while Tiller was in his own church. In another, Huckabee proposed using physical force from federal troops to keep women from entering Planned Parenthood.

All terrorists are Muslims, according to conservatives led by Huckabee and Cruz. Jeb Bush said the Middle East had no Christian terrorists. Politicians use the Paris attacks as an excuse to close down the refugee program that saves Syrian people from the jihadists. Donald Trump said that PP is like an abortion factory, and Carly Fiorina joins him in spreading lies about the contents of falsified videos about PP. Rubio tells the world that women get pregnant “just to sell their fetuses to Planned Parenthood,” and Cruz blames the Obama Justice Department for not investigating “Planned Parenthood because they’re a political ally of the president.”

At first, right-wing media declared that the attack’s target was a bank. Deciding the killer started with PP, conservative pundits and their respondents praised the killer as a “hero.” While the tragedy was ongoing, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said that anti-abortion fanatics have “legitimate concerns” about Planned Parenthood.

Declining to admit that the killings were domestic terrorism, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chair of the House committee for Homeland Security, labeled the PP killings as “a tragedy… It’s, I think, a mental health crisis.” Six years ago, the House GOP members forced Daryl Johnson, the leading expert on right-wing terrorism in the U.S., to resign from Homeland Security because his research was not in accord with conservative beliefs.

Meanwhile, police are calling on Congress for help with domestic terrorism. In his appearance on Meet the Press a week ago, New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton expressed his opinion about accepting Syrian refugees that is supported by police officers across the nation:

 “[If] Congress really wants to do something instead of just talking about something, help us out with that terrorist watch list, those thousands of people that can purchase firearms in this country. I’m more worried about them than I am about Syrian refugees to be quite frank with you.”

The man who was legally able to have an assault rifle to kill and wound people at the Planned Parenthood has a record of traffic violations, voyeuristic stalking, and domestic violence. After he hit his wife and pushed her out a window, she filed a police record but didn’t press charges. A neighbor woman later filed a restraining order against the man in 2002 because he hid in the bushes beside her house to watch her. He also abused an animal and threatened another neighbor. Thanks to the lax laws in Colorado (and other parts of the nation), he can openly carry an assault rifle because he hasn’t been convicted of these crimes. Earlier this month Colorado laws allowed a man to murder four people before being apprehended.

The right-wing is frantically trying to erase any idea that the killings were religiously and politically motivated, using quotes from his neighbors that the killer wasn’t at all political. Yet he claimed that “Obama is ruining America,” wanted him impeached, and tried to hand out anti-Obama leaflets to people. His cabin sported a cross, and a posting on his Facebook urged people to “Accept the LORD JESUS while you can.”

“Right-wing terrorism is terrorism motivated by a variety of far right ideologies and beliefs, including anti-communism, neo-fascism, neo-Nazism, racism, xenophobia and opposition to immigration.” A large majority of domestic terrorists in the U.S. connect these beliefs to the “Christian Identity” ideology. Like Adolf Hitler, the leaders of the movement persuade followers to commit evil acts in the defense of their God and religion. Rubio’s comments on the Christian Broadcasting Network a week ago represent the prevailing guidelines of the “Christian” conservatives:

“We are clearly called, in the Bible, to adhere to our civil authorities, but that conflicts with also a requirement to adhere to God’s rules. When those two come in conflict, God’s rules always win. In essence, if we are ever ordered by a government authority to personally violate and sin, violate God’s law and sin, if we’re ordered to stop preaching the gospel … we are called to ignore that. We cannot abide by that because government is compelling us to sin.”

The real heroes of the shooting are the people who go to work every day—including the day after the most recent attack—despite the possibility that they may be killed. They are the ones who continue to care for people’s health needs in clinics that can be attacked at any time. Since 1993, eight doctors have been killed; since 1976, over 200 crimes of bombing or arson have occurred at clinics. Since the release of the fraudulent videos, four Planned Parenthood clinics were burned to the ground, and others were damaged or vandalized. This is not a “lone wolf” situation; this is terrorism—Christian radical terrorism in the United States.

A 2012 study by Arie Perliger, professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, shows that “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.”  The toll increased since the study’s release: 305 mass shootings—four or more people shot—have occurred this year as of mid-October. Refusal to recognize Christian terrorism in the United States is killing people.

The GOP Congress legitimizes pro-lifers such as Troy Newman who campaign for violence against women’s clinics and medical people who perform abortions. Donald Trump’s racist remarks have led to attacks and beatings on people of color, and the mainstream media criticize him. Yet the GOP incitement of religious violence continues putting the blame on the perpetrator without recognition of how they provoke these violent acts. Political and religious leaders in the United States routinely call for executing LGBT citizens, Muslims, immigrants, abortion providers, liberals, etc. while allowing unfettered gun ownership. As a result, people in the U.S. live in a terrorist-occupied war zone. Armed and dangerous U.S. citizens represent far more menace in this country than ISIS does.

Of the dozen people shot at Colorado Springs’ Planned Parenthood, several had nothing to do with the clinic. Any one can be impacted by the violence even if they are not a member of a targeted group. Two weeks ago, the GOP candidates were cheering about the attacks in Paris because they thought that the opposition to ISIS would put them in control of the country. Now they have the fallout of domestic terrorism after months of virulent rhetoric. Meanwhile other killings go on as if usual. In the early morning hours before the killings in Colorado Springs, a man shot a waitress in the head after she asked him to put out a cigarette. The woman is dead, and the former firefighter is in a Biloxi (MI) jail.

Those who criticize the “politicization” of the PP travesty fail to understand that they are the ones who surrounded PP with poiltics. After the most recent mass killings, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted, “I hope people realize that bitter rhetoric can have unintended consequences,” Republicans, words matter!

[Meet the Press update:  Today Donald Trump stood by his statement that Muslims in New Jersey cheered as the Twin Towers came down on 9/11. On this morning’s news talk show, Trump and Todd devolved into an argument of “I’m right” and “You’re wrong.” Yet neither one alluded to the record of five Middle Eastern men who celebrated the tragedy. All five were Israeli Jews, speaking Hebrew. Another religious group that traditionally celebrates 9/11 is the membership of Topeka (KS)-based Westboro Baptist Church. These Christian terrorists describe 9/11 as “a gift from God” and honor its “anniversary.” Todd wants Trump to tell the “truth,” but he doesn’t bother to find itself for himself.]

November 22, 2015

‘Religious Freedom,’ Safety from GOP Point of View

Seven GOP presidential candidates gathered last week at the “presidential family forum,” hosted in Iowa by the far-right fundamentalist Christian group called The Family Leader.

Republican presidential candidates, from left, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, moderator Frank Luntz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum stand on stage during the Presidential Family Forum, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

From left: Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, moderator Frank Luntz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

When seven contenders were asked who they would first call after hearing about a terrorist attack, Fiorina and Huckabee said they’d fall to their knees and pray. Messages from GOP presidential candidates, including these seven, don’t fit the positions that Jesus espoused.

Donald Trump’s first wanted to put surveillance on mosques but moved on to agreeing that Muslims should be forced to wear identifying marks because of their Islam religion. He’s disagreed that he said this, but there’s video of the interview. This morning he doubled down on his call to keep Syrians out of the United States and added that he would torture Syrian refugees.

Marco Rubio goes beyond Trump: “it’s about closing down any place—whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an internet site—any place where radicals are being inspired.” He said on the Fox network this morning that the attacks on Paris were a “positive development.”

John Kasich, sometimes considered a more reasonable GOP presidential candidate, wants a new government agency to push Judeo-Christian values throughout the world—specifically in China, Iran, Russia, and the Middle East. He said:

“I will consolidate [U.S. Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting] into a new agency that has a clear mandate to promote the core Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share.”

Questions about his approach:

  • Will he use public money for this endeavor, contrary to the constitution’s First Amendment?
  • Why is Iran not included in the Middle East?
  • Does he want to get rid of all other religions in China with Muslims only 1.7 percent of its population?

A day later, public opinion “softened” his approach to assigning Voice of America to spread his “Judeo-Christian Western values.” Kasich tried to walk back his Christian-only views on this morning’s Meet the Press by saying that the “Western ethic” is “about life … about equality of women … about the freedom of religion.” First, these are not necessarily the ethics of the U.S.; and second,  he assumes that only the Judeo-Christian world has these values.” When he says “they don’t want to negotiate,” he could be referring to the U.S. Congress instead of Muslims.

Ben Carson joined Trump this morning in calling for torturing Syrian refugees. Carson’s advisor, retired US Army Maj. Gen. Robert Dees, also promotes the creation of a Christian active duty military that will “indoctrinate” the people in the United States. In a 2007 video, Dees said:

“We’re in twenty different countries around the world, recognizing that if you could possibly impact the military, you can possibly impact that whole nation for Jesus Christ and for democracy and for proper morality and values-based institutions.”

After Carson compared Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs,” he called on a gigantic database on everyone in the U.S. According to Carson, Syrian refugees should be left where they are because of his human brain’s “big frontal lobes, as opposed to other animals, because we can engage in rational thought processing.” Still looking for an answer to the problem, he explained that his brain allowed him to “extract information from the past, present, process it, and project it into a plan” while “animals, on the other hand, have big brain stems and rudimentary things because they react.”

Carson’s answer to the Israel/Palestine problem is to leave the Israelis where they are in Palestinian territory and “just slip [the Palestinian territory] into Egypt.” Chris Matthews broke up reading the quote on MSNBC’s Hardball, and Trevor Noah used the clip for part of his takedown of the hapless candidate. While Trump keeps approximately one-third of the GOP support in various polls, Carson has slipped to third in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Mike Huckabee uses food analogies in comparing refugees to “tainted milk,” Chipotle’s problem with E.coli, huge bags of peanuts with ten poisoned ones, etc. He also can’t imagine anyone other than extremist Muslims targeting innocent civilians. Yet in the decade after the 9/11 attacks, Christian terrorists have averaged 337 attacks in the U.S. per year, killing at least 254 people. The death toll increased after the release of the study in 2012. During the same time, an average of nine U.S. Muslims were involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots in the U.S. The 20 plots carried out in fewer than 14 years had 50 fatalities.

A few extremist Christian terrorist actions in the U.S.:

The Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church Shooting: On July 27, 2008, devout Christian Jim David Adkisson killed two children and wounded seven other.

Christian Terrorism against Doctors Who Perform Abortions:  Dr. Richard Gunn was killed in 1993, Drs. John Britton and James Barrett were killed in 1994, Dr. Barnett Sleipan was killed in a home in 1998, Dr. George Tiller was shot dead in his church in 2009, and many other doctors were wounded by Christian terrorists in the U.S. because of religious beliefs–17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, 13 wounded, 100 butyric acid attacks, 373 physical invasions, 41 bombings, 655 anthrax threats, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers since 1977. All these were by extremist Christian terrorists on U.S. soil.

The 1995 Oklahoma City Bombings: Member of the Seventh-Day Adventist splinter group Branch Davidians, Timothy McVeigh, killed 168 people when he detonated a fertilizer bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Another 648 were wounded.

Ku Klux Klan: For the past 150 years, the terrorist extremist Christian groups has terrorized people in the name of Protestantism and racism against blacks, Jews, immigrants, LGBTs, and Catholics. Only two weeks ago, Frazier Glenn Cross, the leader of the Carolina Knights of the KKK, was sentenced to death by lethal injection for murdering a 14-year-old girl and two seniors outside the Overland Park Jewish Community Center in Kansas City. He said, “Jews are destroying the white race” but didn’t realize until afterwards that none of his victims was Jewish.

The Massacre at Zion Emmanuel AME Church (Charleston, SC): An extremist Christian white man killed nine black worshippers.

Ted Cruz is willing to take in Syrian refugees as long as they are proved to be Christians. Without the refugee program, the United States would not have Cruz because his father, Rafael Cruz, was granted asylum in the U.S., but the elder Cruz wants radical Christianity imposed on the entire United States while eliminating atheists and LGBT people. Cruz  also asked for more “tolerance for civilian casualties” in President Obama’s airstrikes (aka let’s kill more innocent people) and joined Huckabee in ignorance about extremist Christian killings in the United States.

Jeb Bush, like Cruz, can’t find any Christian terrorists but couldn’t find words when he was asked how to prove that the refugees are Christians. He finally said, “You know, you err on the side of caution.”

Rand Paul introduced a bill to stop refugees from 34 “high-risk” countries and an amendment to a housing and transportation funding bill barring federally-funded social welfare assistance for any refugees from those same “high-risk” nations. Libertarian policy experts oppose discrimination against people from specific countries. Paul’s office calls it a “careful balance of libertarian principles,” meaning that any non-libertarian view is a “balance.”

Rick Santorum opposes bringing Syrian refugees to the United States. Instead, he wants them put into resettlement camps somewhere in the Middle East. Trump made the same suggestion.

Carly Fiorina just keeps doing what she does best—lying. “The vast majority of these refugees are young, able-bodied men looking for work,” she said, perhaps hoping that the media wouldn’t pick up on her false statement. According to a UN database of 4 million registered Syrian refugees, most of them are children under 18. Geoffrey Mock, a Syrian country specialist for Amnesty International USA, said, “The priorities go to torture survivors, people with serious medical conditions, children and teens on their own, and women and children at risk.” Of the 10,000 refugees who President Obama proposes to bring to the U.S., only 22 percent are “young able-bodied men”—2,200.

Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s almost-gone governor and the latest GOP presidential candidate dropout, told Fox that his state will ban Syrian refugees and that he’s “ordered the state police to track the ones that are already in Louisiana.” Doug Cain, spokesman for the state police, said that this statement isn’t true. He added, “We are just keeping an open line of communication with federal authorities to make sure everyone is safely settled.”

At the close of the religious gathering in Iowa, Cruz made a prophetic statement:

“If conservatives come together and stand as one, it’s game over.”

Cruz was correct in a very twisted way: the United States may be entering a darker period than even during George W. Bush’s reign—unlimited torture, surveillance by profiling, banning refugees, religious discrimination and forced Christianity, concentration camps, and World War III.

November 21, 2015

Christians Discriminate against Muslims in U.S.

 

Firefighter. let it burnThree Muslim-American students were murdered in Chapel Hill last February. Christian white people in the U.S. wanted to call this hate crime a matter of a parking dispute, but the three young people were lined up on the ground, kneeling, and shot in the back of their heads execution style. It was a Christian terror attack. A few days later, the Quba Islamic Institute in Houston, storing religious books, was completely destroyed by fire last February because of arson. Dustin Herron, a retired Houston-area firefighter who volunteered at the time for Crystal Beach Fire & Rescue posted the following:

“Let it burn … block the fire hydrant.”

That summarizes the conservative response since the attacks in Paris.

Indiana’s governor Mike Pence, who might have run for president if his state hadn’t tried to pass an anti-LGBT “religious liberty” law, told two Syrian refugee families that they cannot come to his state. He also told two religious charities, Exodus Refugee Immigration and Catholic Charities, that no other families will be allowed in Indiana. One of the families waited for three years in Jordan before the vetting process was completed.

In Rhode Island, state senator Elaine Morgan suggested segregated camps for Syrians after calling on state governments to refuse any Syrian refugees in the country. She thinks refugees are part of a plan “to spread out their people to attack all non Muslim persons.” One U.S. human rights abuse was the internment of about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, some of the U.S. citizens, in abusive camps during World War II.

According to the annual Hate Crimes Statistics Report, the number of the hate crimes in 2014 decreased for every minority group except Muslims. The increase of 14 percent against Muslims may be under-reported because they tend not to report these crimes. The rise of these crimes against Muslims parallels the increase in the number of hate groups formed in the U.S., most of them based on conspiracy-based and virulent anti-government leanings. Christian attacks have moved from LGBT people to Muslims.

Following the tragedy of hate in Paris last week, Christian people in the U.S. immediately responded—with more irrational hate. Gunshots at mosques and private homes, threatening phone messages, hate graffiti, Islamophobic statements at community meetings—these are only a few of the occurrences during the past week. The Islamic Center of Pflugerville (TX) was vandalized with feces and torn pages of the Quran.

In contrast to the bigoted reaction from conservatives, seven-year-old Jack Swanson took his piggy bank to the Pflugerville mosque and gave them all the contents of $20.

The day before the killings in Paris, ISIS killed 45 people and injured another 200, some of them critically, in Beirut (Lebanon). The death toll would have been much higher if a man had not thrown himself on a bomb to save his son. A terrorist group left 147 people dead and 79 injured at Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya last April, a tragedy that barely grazed the U.S. news media. A terrorist bomb on an airplane between Russia and Egypt killed 224 people. Only the attacks in Paris affected people in the U.S.

The U.S. concern primarily for people in France and not those on other continents might come from experiencing human empathy for only victims similar to themselves. Studies show that individuals focus more on their “ingroup,” creating an “empathy gap” among victims in attacks. The media obsessed with the attacks in Paris but gave little attention to other attacks.

Some people in the United States see every one of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as connected to the Paris attacks. These facts might give a different perspective:

  • Worldwide the 1.6 billion Muslims are expected to increase by 35 percent by the year 2030.
  • By 2050 the number of Muslims in the world will match the number of Christians.
  • Only 20 percent of Muslims live in the Middle East.
  • The majority of people who follow the Islamic religion, more than 60 percent, live in the Asian-Pacific region.
  • Muslims have lived in China for more than 1400 years.
  • Less than 15 percent of the world’s Muslim population is Arab.
  • Two-thirds of the U.S. Arab population is Christian, not Muslim.
  • The most common name in the world is Muhammad.
  • All Muslim women do not wear hijabs.
  • The percentage of women in government in Muslim-majority countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Sudan and Saudi Arabia, is higher than in the United States.
  • The youngest female president in the world, Atifete Jahjaga, the president of Kosovo, is a Muslim woman.
  • Muslims give twice as much to charity as Christians.
  • When Columbus came to America, he may carried a book written by Portuguese Muslims who had navigated their way to the New World centuries before him.
  • Muslims may have settled in America before the Europeans did.
  • The first wave of Muslims to the U.S. was African slaves; at least 25 percent of the slaves violently kidnapped from their homes and families by white men were Muslim.
  • About six million Muslim live in the United States; about one-third are black.
  • Muslims range from highly orthodox to moderate to secular with many different interpretations of their religion.

The United States is not and never has been a Christian nation. On June 10, 1797 the United States signed a compact of friendship with the Muslim population living along the Barbary Coast. The Treaty of Tripoli was commissioned by President George Washington. It was unanimously approved by the United States Congress. It was signed by the country’s second President, John Adams. Of special importance is Article 11, which reads:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen (Muslims); and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan (Mohammedan) nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

How far will GOP politicians go in using the Paris attacks? Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) blamed the current distrust of Syrian refugees on President Obama’s handling of the 2011 terrorist attack in Benghazi. Yes, Benghazi. Again. Buck believes that the White House covered up some imaginary scandal, leading to U.S. distrust and making the Benghazi tragedy responsible for hostility toward refugees from a different country. (An aside about the recent 11-hour Benghazi hearing: Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) said that Hillary Clinton laid “a trap” for the committee by making her appearance go “as long as possible.”

States_that_have_surrendered_to_ISIS

The above map shows which states have embarrassed the people of the United States by surrendering to ISIS. All the “red states” have GOP governors except New Hampshire. Since the map was published on November 16, 2015, Oregon has joined the green section.

What problems have we had from refugees in the U.S.? Since 9/22, 750,000 people have come into the U.S. as refugees. The following chart shows the number of refugees arrested on domestic terrorism:

refugees arrested

That’s right: zero.

The people happiest about conservatives’ rejection of Syrian refugees are members of ISIS. They hoped for this reaction, and they got it. ISIS isn’t a country: it’s an idea. Propaganda spreads this idea, and ISIS has succeeded. The more conservatives spew their hatred, the more ISIS can persuade people that peace is impossible. Rejected by the U.S., people are sent into the arms of ISIS.

November 20, 2015

LGBT Equality Only Partial

Many same-gender couples will spend their first Thanksgiving as married couples after the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. Yet Obergefell v. Hodges has not made LGBT families secure throughout the nation because of a myriad of roadblocks in many states.

An early obstruction came in Rowan County (KY) last summer when the county clerk, Kim Davis, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. After her contempt of court kept her in jail for a few days, she said that the county deputy clerks could issue the licenses but only after she changed the wording of the license forms and removed her name and that of Rowan County. She also ordered her deputies to sign the forms as “notary publics” instead of deputy county clerks.

Although Gov. Steven L. Beshear declared last month that the marriage licenses were valid, he has now submitted a brief with the U.S. District Court that states his office does not have the authority to determine whether these licenses are valid. Couples have filed a brief in U.S. District Court supporting their prior assertion that the Rowan County clerk’s office failed to comply with orders directing deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses without interference by Clerk Kim Davis.

ScaliaSupreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia angrily spoke about losing Obergefell during a speech to first-year law students at Georgetown last week. Scalia said that determining which minorities deserve protection should be made through the democratic process rather than a court decision. According to Scalia, only political and religious minorities are protected by the constitution.

Last summer’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges may have changed the perception of due process. According to Kenji Yoshino, the case may displace five decades of the high court’s substantive due process decisions. For a half century, the Court used tradition, specific definition rather than general abstraction, and the willingness to protect negative “freedom from” rights rather than positive “freedom to” rights to determine due process. Almost two decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Washington v. Glucksberg that due process did not cover the right to assistance in committing suicide. In Obergefell’s dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts, who declared that the majority “effectively overrule[d] Glucksberg, the leading modern case setting the bounds of substantive due process.”

The marriage equality ruling has replaced a rigid ruling on due process, according to Yoshino, with the common-law approach voiced in Justice John Harlan’s dissent for Poe v. Ullman (1961). He supported a balance of individual liberties against government interests without being “shackled to the past.” Tradition, to Harlan, was a “living thing,” a concept that Scalia despises. Instead of opposing marriage equality because of the long historical tradition against same-gender marriage, the Court majority considered the “right to marry.” The question for the future is whether Obergefell will be used to make future decisions about due process or whether the Court will revert to the past as it has many times since Roberts became chief justice.

For now, some courts and legislatures are giving same-gender couples a “partial equalty”—really an inequality—that will require the Supreme Court to take up more litigation. Custody, adoptions, fostering children, and couples’ rights after separation are most likely the next fights for same-gender couples.

Hoagland.PeirceIn Utah, Judge Scott N. Johansen ordered a nine-months-old child removed from a lesbian couple because it was “not in the best interest of children to be raised by same-sex couples.” Public outcry led to his rescinding the order, but the judge left open the possibility of removal at a December 4 hearing. Fortunately for the child, the judge has now recused himself “and refers all pending matters to be assigned by the presiding judge.”

Utah began placing children with same-gender couples after the Supreme Court decision last summer, and an infant girl was placed with married couple Rebecca A. Peirce, 34, and April M. Hoagland (above left), 38, and their two biological children in August. On November 10, 2015, the two women attended what they thought was a regular hearing, but Johansen ordered that the baby be removed within a week and given to a heterosexual couple. The Division of Child and Family Services said that it was “in the child’s best interest” to stay with the two women. Even the GOP governor joined in the protest for the judge’s decision. Gary R. Herbert said, “He may not like the law, but he should follow the law.”

As in Kentucky, the current obstacle is not necessarily the law but the attitude of government employees who discriminate against LGBT people. In the hearing, the judge said “that research has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home,” but he refused to cite any sources. At this time, research is on the side of the same-gender couple with no current credible study supporting the judge’s bias.

Justice Anthony Kennedy clearly listed adoption among the rights associated with marriage, but he didn’t mention foster parenting. Until recently, most states prevented child placement with same-gender couples who were not married, and the law prevented many of these couples from being married. Several states permit private placement agencies to discriminate against same-gender couples, but Mississippi is the only state that flagrantly enforces a state law banning adoptions by same-gender couples.

smith and Phillips adoptionFour couples are challenging the Mississippi ban on adoptions by same-gender couples, including Janet Smith and her wife, Donna Phillips (right). The state is blocking Smith’s adoption of Donna’s eight-year-old daughter, Hannah Marie. The two married women are raising Hannah together, but Smith has no legal status in regards to their daughter. Phillips, a captain in the Mississippi Air National Guard, is “concerned about legal aspects for Jan” if she is called or activated. This lack of legal recognition puts children at risk of losing both their parents and ending up in foster care if something happens to their birth parent and their other parent is not legally recognized.

Last year, 29 percent of Mississippi’s same-gender couples were raising children younger than 18, the highest percentage of any state. A year ago, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves found the adoption ban to be unconstitutional, but the decision was stayed pending action by the Fifth Circuit and then the Supreme Court. Ronnie Musgrove, the governor who signed the ban into law 15 years ago, has written that he regrets his action. “As I have gotten older, I came to understand that a person’s sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with their ability to be a good parent.”

Another Mississippi couple, Kathryn Garner and Susan Hrostowski, has waited 15 years for a second-parent adoption of the child they raised together since he was born just six weeks before the ban went into effect. Two other couples, also plaintiffs in the case, want to adopt children from foster care. Kari Lunsford and Tinora Sweeten-Lunsford wanted to take a child with special needs who could not be matched with other foster parents. They were told that they would have to live apart for at least six months during a home study, and only one of them could adopt the child.

The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review an Alabama case in which judges refuse to recognize an adoption granted in another state. A lesbian known in court filings by her initials V.L. helped raise the children, now ages 10 to 12, but has no visitation rights since the couple separated. During their 16-year relationship, the two women had three children from sperm donors, and a Georgia court approved V.L.’s adoption of the children in 2007. In September 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court struck down the woman’s visitation rights and ruled the adoption invalid, saying the Georgia court was wrong under that state’s adoption laws to grant it. Earlier this year, the same court directed probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to same-gender couples even after a federal judge ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

The case involves a constitutional provision requiring one state to respect court orders of other states: Article IV’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. Lawyers for V.L. wrote that the decision “would create a massive loophole in the Full Faith and Credit Clause.”  They added, “There is no legal or practical basis for singling out adoptions as uniquely unworthy of full faith and credit.” If states don’t recognize adoptions from other states, LGBT parents can lose their parental rights when they travel, for example the inability to make medical decisions for their children if they are in an accident. V.L.’s attorneys have also applied to the Supreme Court for a stay of the Alabama’s ruling so that she can visit the children during the appeal. Justice Clarence Thomas, the justice with jurisdiction in Alabama for emergency actions, has called for E. L., the biological mother, to respond to the stay applications by November 30.

LGBT discrimination

Despite last summer’s ruling that same-gender couples can marry, 61 percent of the LGBT population “will continue to live in states with medium or low legal protections—or that have outright hostile laws,” according to the report Mapping LGBT Equality in America, released earlier this year. Since this map was released in early October, all of Houston (TX) LGBT people lost their rights in the November election.

November 19, 2015

Koch Brothers Worse Than We Thought

The Koch brothers, long vilified for their strong support of extremist right-wing positions, want to be liked. Upset about being seen as billionaires who purchase GOP politicians to make money and destroy the environment, Charles and David consented to a joint interview on MSNBC’s conservative Morning Joe show. They may have also appeared on the program to tout older brother 80-year-old Charles’ new book, Good Profit. James Davis, spokesman for the Koch brothers’ Freedom Partners, said that the men “benefit all Americans.”  The good part—they want to lighten prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. On the other side, they want to slash taxes (certainly for the wealthy), cut government spending, and reduce regulations for businesses (like their own extensive gas and oil companies).

While the brothers claim they aren’t involved in “politics,” they donate millions to the NRA, Americans for Prosperity, Chamber of Commerce, Generation Opportunity (for young voters), Americans for Tax Reform, Heritage Foundation, American Energy Alliance, and others. They also pay for “business schools” at respected universities to promote their far-right policies that have led to the massive income inequality in the U.S. Thanks to two Supreme Court decisions, the Koch network of non-profit groups and for-profit companies can accept unlimited cash without disclosing donors and faces few spending restrictions.

Charles Koch did admit in the interview that billionaires expect a return for their donations to political campaigns. This isn’t a problem, according to Koch, as long as those generous donors have the right intentions. Considering the Joe Scarborough’s fawning approach, he might have received something from the Koch brothers. Scarborough and his co-host did go to a private donor conference earlier this year and praise the Kochs as “awesome” and a “godsend.” Nobody is saying who paid the expenses.

During the interview, the brothers complained about the government’s picking winners and losers in politics. Massive donations allow the brothers to take over that role. This infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars make them a third party: they spent  more than the RNC is the last go-round and plan to spend much more this time. Their position is that political spending is basically “free speech” instead of an intention to “slant [the political system] your way.” The “free speech” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court passed with five justices in favor; two of them, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, had attended Koch billionaire meetings.

Agreeing with the Koch brothers, Marco Rubio has just acquired his third billionaire, Frank Vandersloot, founder of Melaleuca nutritional supplements and worth over $1.2 billion. (Mother Jones wrote about how Vandersloot sued after one of their articles described how Vandersloot, virulently anti-LGBT, “bashed” and “publicly out[ed] a reporter.”) According to Rubio, those big donors don’t want anything in return for their millions.

Maybe it’s not a “slant” of the political system, but Charles Koch said, “I expect something in return. … I want the government to require that companies only profit by making other people’s lives better.” The definition of “better” was left up in the air. Even if he is anywhere near right, policy priorities of elected officials track those of the bankrollers rather than the general public. When Paul Ryan says that he doesn’t want “the people” to pay for paid sick leave and a higher minimum wage, he means “the wealthy people.” The general public wants a higher minimum wage, but Charles wants to eliminate it entirely.

Charles claims that their only goal is to end corporate welfare. Koch Industries has received at least $195 million in state and local subsidies, plus $6.3 million more in federal loan guarantees.

Profits from the Kochs’ multi-billion-dollar energy empire are threatened by renewable energy, so they pour millions of dollars to stop the development of clean energy. Organizations financially backed by the Koch brothers and electrical utilities and led by the mis-named Consumers for Smart Solar are promoting an anti-home-solar amendment in Florida. Homeowners’ ability to contract for the no-upfront-cost installation of solar on their homes led to an 80-percent increase in these installations last year. The Koch brothers consider consumers with solar as “free riders on the system.”

A general belief that climate change is caused by humans threatens Koch Industries profits so they pay tens of millions to groups and politicians to continue denying the science related to climate change. Their spending has led GOP leaders to block actions to save the planet.

Despite the Koch brothers’ attempts to look “liberal” and accepting, they have given millions of dollars to be fed through other groups donating to anti-LGBT and anti-abortion organizations.

In a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 69 percent of voters agree with the statement that they “feel angry because our political system seems to only be working for the insiders with money and power, like those on Wall Street or in Washington, rather than working to help everyday people get ahead.” Republicans and Democrats in 16 states and almost 700 communities across the country have enacted referenda opposing Citizens United and big money in politics. The day after the Kochs spoke on Morning Joe, voters in Maine and Seattle approved initiatives to limit the influence of big money in elections and empower average citizens.

As people fight against the Koch brothers policies, Charles and David are watching them. They claim that all their political activities are open and aboveboard, but Politico reporter Kenneth Vogel found a high-tech surveillance and intelligence-gathering business, Koch Intelligence Agency, that tracks liberal and Democratic groups for the two men who promise to spend almost $1 billion in the 2016 elections. The 25 employees, including one who worked as an analyst for the CIA, harvest geodata from social-media posts of the Koch opponents. Managed by a limited-liability partnership called American Strategies Group, LLC, the company describes itself as a “business league” in order to legally hide the identities of its members.

Tracking labor unions, environmental groups, and liberal big-donor groups is probably nothing new for the Kochs. Their past surveillance included watching brother Bill when they fought for control of the family business and fortune. Those who have challenged the Kochs—federal officers, members of the press, and private citizens—have suspected that the brothers are watching them. Angela O’Connell, lead federal prosecutor in an environmental-pollution case against Koch Industries in 1995, said that she “operated as if everything she said and did was being monitored.” A lawyer in another case against Koch Industries found his office bugged. During a senate investigation into Koch Industries, its operatives delved into personal lives of the committee’s staffers.

Most people think of elections in terms of candidates and ballot measures. The Kochs aim to realign U.S. government, politics and society that will benefit wealthy people and corporations. To do this, they must neuter progressive super PACS, unions, and people who they consider to be academics and elites. In that way they can destroy all regulations giving them the opportunity to greatly add to their $60+ billion assets and continue to add to their oligarchic ambitions. You can better that they aren’t really interested in making our lives “better.”

November 18, 2015

Ryan Abandons Promises, Moves Bill against Syrian Refugees

Filed under: Immigration — trp2011 @ 10:00 PM
Tags: , , ,

ryan

How long does it take for the new House Speaker to break his promises? It depends on how long Congress is in recess. In this case, Paul Ryan (R-WI) started his job by leading a fairly quiet session for the first week of November. Dana Milbank wrote, “It was nice while it lasted.” I’m now at the place where I appreciate recesses because the GOP seems to cause less damage when they wandering around trying to look important rather than making stupid decisions.

While campaigning for the job that Ryan said he didn’t want, Ryan promised “regular order”: the House of Representatives would operate by deliberation rather than fiat, and the House members could amend and shape legislation. Ryan said, “The committees should retake the lead in drafting all major legislation…. When we rush to pass bills, a lot of us do not understand we are not doing our job.”

After a week off, the members returned day before yesterday. Last night Ryan put a “rush job” onto a bill to keep Syrian refugees out of the United States.   At 10:15 pm, House leaders presented a brand new piece of legislation, written during the day, to rewrite mandates for the U.S. refugees from Syria and Iraq. No hearings, no expert testimony, no consultation with any agencies, no committee action, no amendments, nothing. The vote is planned for tomorrow.

In his first address as speaker, Ryan said:

“The House is broken. We are not solving problems. We are adding to them. … We are supposed to study up and do the homework that [the people] cannot do. So when we do not follow regular order—when we rush to pass bills a lot of us do not understand– we are not doing our job. Only a fully functioning House can truly represent the people.”

H.R. 4038, the “American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act” (SAFE Act because the GOP loves to give things the opposite name of what they mean) may make people feel “safe” because of new vetting requirements. Yet current rules demand an 18-to-24 month rigorous examination of refugees to certify that they are not security threats. Is the new one better? No one knows because there have been no hearings. The new bureaucracy of the proposed SAFE Act , however, shuts down the refugee program for years. This from the party that hates federal intervention.

President Obama has promised to veto the bill, which would first need to survive the Senate, so the GOP “emergency” is simply to get push more Republicans into getting elected in 2016. Ryan refused to allow a vote on an alternative Syrian refugee bill.

Today House and Senate negotiators gathered together to somewhat harmoniously blend their versions of a transportation bill. The bill had cleared the House by a large majority during Ryan’s first week when he permitted over 100 amendments. Actually compromising on bills with amendments and hard work is exhausting, which may be why Ryan made the Syrian refugee bill the 45th “closed rule” of the year, establishing a record for the number of bills on the House floor without the possibility of amendment.

Ryan is following the leadership style of former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who resigned as of Halloween. Boehner’s promises of “regular order” also began with allowing over 100 amendments on a bill before he broke this promise of “openness.” Ryan made promises to get his job—such as refusing to work with the president on immigration reform—but his only vision was what he wouldn’t do. On Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked Ryan what the one thing he could accomplish in six months. Ryan detoured the question by talking about working families falling behind and the disaster of “Obamacare.”

One thing Ryan did accomplish: he gets to go home every weekend to be with his family instead of doing the Speaker’s job of fundraising and campaigning for GOP congressional candidates. Family values are important to Ryan unless they include paid child care, sick leave, and maternity/paternity care for people in the United States, one of just three countries–out of 185—without guaranteed paid maternity leave. Amanda Marcotte wrote that Ryan “sees a family life as a privilege for the elite, instead of a right for all.” Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, who expressed herself as a feminist in her book Lean In, praised Ryan for his desire to parent. Only the wealthy deserve such advantages as family time, according to the powerful.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., arrives at a news conference following a House Republican meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Ryan told GOP lawmakers that he will run for speaker, but only if they embrace him by week's end as their consensus candidate, an ambitious bid to impose unity on a disordered and divided House. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Not every GOP House member was pleased with Ryan’s demands. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) compared Ryan to a maid applying for a job who says “I don’t clean windows, I don’t do floors, I don’t do beds, these are the hours I’ll work.”  For many years, the Speaker was a prestigious job; now it’s comparable to being a “maid.”

Before the faux crisis of the Syrian refugees, the House had passed another partial repeal of The Affordable Care Act, but the Senate has had to shelve it because he may not be able to get even 51 necessary signatures. Of the 54 GOP Senators, three of them may refuse to vote against it because the House bill defunds Planned Parenthood, and other object because it doesn’t repeal the entire law. Even the House members who voted in favor of the bill are having buyers’ remorse because it repeals only six of the 419 provisions—1.4 percent of the law.

Next year, Congress will have less time to mess up: they’ve assigned themselves a two-day work week with only 111 days in session. That’s over $1,500 a day for all those GOP legislators who think that $15 an hour is too much for hard work. The GOP must become the “proposition” party; it’s not enough to be an opposition party, said the new speaker. He’s found his vision and “proposition” in trying to keep all desperate Syrian refugees out of the United States. And he may get the bill passed in two days, leaving him another 109 days to save the United States.

Ryan called the attacks in Paris “an act of war” and said that the annual National Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday requires the president to have a plan to defeat ISIS. The U.S. Constitution requires Congress to authorize the president to engage in war, something that this Congress has avoided for over a year. If the House can put together a bill to stop Syrian refugees from coming into the country in less than a week, they have time to work on a plan of “war.”

In the past, the Speaker of the House of Representatives sometimes served all the people in the United States, not the GOP. It’s time to return to that practice. Ryan is right: the House is broken. And with Ryan at the helm, it’s still broken.

November 16, 2015

How the World Got ISIS

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 8:46 PM
Tags: , ,

The U.S. war hawks are picking the bones of the nation’s involvement in the Middle East after the tragedy in Paris, hoping that the fear that they engender can get them elected. For those who blame the current administration for the mess in the Middle East, here’s a little background.

Although Middle East problems go back a century because of our drive to take oil out of the region, it was largely contained until the Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush to the presidency. In 2012, Kurt Eichenwald wrote about the August 6, 2001, daily brief with the headline, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S,” given to Bush, 36 days before 19 terrorists attacked the United States. The Bush White House claimed that it wasn’t a warning, but other documents prove them wrong.

Warnings began earlier, on May 1, and another daily brief on June 22 reported that the strikes could be “imminent.” The CIA analysis pleaded with the White House to accept the danger that they reported, and more warnings were issued during that summer. On July 1, the brief to Bush stated that the operation “will occur soon.” Bush officials tried to justify not paying attention because the warnings didn’t give them the exact place and date. During this time two co-conspirators were stopped coming into the U.S. or arrested.

Recently, former CIA Director George Tenet and counter-terrorism chief Cofer Black confirmed that the Bush administration ignored warnings in May 2001 about an imminent terrorist attack. Tenet said that the CIA presented a plan, the “Blue Sky” paper, to deal with these threats and was told to shelve the plans and hide the paper trail proving the warnings to the Bush administration. Cofer said that the information about the terrorist attack in the U.S. from the CIA’s Al Qaeda unit was “absolutely compelling [and] multiple sourced”—and was ignored.  Nineteen volunteers and a budget of $500,000 destroyed the World Trade Centers, killed thousands of people in the U.S., and cost U.S. taxpayers trillions of dollars in two wars that have led to increased terrorism in the Middle East.

Bush’s advisors had long wanted to take over leadership of countries in the Middle East, as far back as 1992, and their fixation on this approach led them to ignore the warnings. Even after 9/11, they could not believe that terrorists could operate without government sanction, leading them to start a war in Afghanistan and then Iraq although the latter country had no relationship to 9/11. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on that date were Saudi Arabia citizens, yet Bush allowed Saudis in the United States to leave the country while all other flights were grounded. Osama bin Laden, blamed for perpetrating the attacks in the U.S., wasn’t killed until May 2011, during President Obama’s first term.

Emails released because of the Benghazi investigation show that Bush plotted with then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to invade Iraq in April 2002, almost a year before the actual invasion. Blair also colluded with the Bush administration to fabricate and sell “evidence” of the non-existent weapons of mass destruction and false plans to strike the United States. Bush also used spies in the British Labor Party to manipulate public opinion in favor of the war.

Bush’s decision to attack Iraq in March 2003 and kill Saddam Hussein led to a power vacuum in the Middle East that was filled by terrorists. The U.S. installation of Ahmed Chalabi, considered a “Western stooge” by his constituents, was a failure, and U.S. appointed head of Iraq, Paul Bremer, passed the de-Baathification law, barring 400,000 Iraqi members from government employment and driving them into becoming insurgents and terrorists. The training that they received and the guns that they were allowed to keep made them deadly. Almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, and they also bring the smuggling networks from avoiding sanctions in the 1990s to now facilitating the group’s illicit oil trading.

As far back as 2006, the media reported that Bush’s wars were recruitment vehicles for terrorists with numbers increasing faster than the rest of the world could reduce the threat. A National Intelligence Estimate cites the Iraqi invasion as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks united by an anti-Western agenda. The situation in Iraq worsened the U.S. position. NIE issued the report at the same time that Bush bragged about how he “removed terrorist sanctuaries … and stopped new attacks.” The terrorist networks spread and decentralized because U.S. invasion and torture alienated possible allies and led to radicalizing Muslims.

In this clip from the last June’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart shows why the growth of ISIS is not the fault of President Obama. He also shows how the president’s failure to arm Syrian rebels kept U.S. arms from the terrorists.

In their effort to place blame for the rise of ISIS during and after the Iraq War on the Democrats, Republicans are intent on accusing President Obama of withdrawing the troops too soon. The current president took office on January 20, 2009, 37 days after George W. Bush signed the Status of Forces Agreement requiring that “all the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.” In her 2011 book, No Higher Honor, Condoleezza Rice wrote that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki insisted on “the withdrawal of all U.S. forces by the end of 2011.” Bush agreed. Negotiations to change the agreement broke down in October 2011 over whether U.S. troops would be shielded from criminal prosecution by Iraqi authorities.

Republicans ignore the U.S. Constitution that makes Congress, not the president, responsible for authorizing war. GOP congressional members continually dodge their responsibility. Their last vote in this issue was last June when a House committee passed a measure stating that “Congress has a constitutional duty to debate and determine whether or not to authorize the use of military force” against ISIS. Twenty-two  Republicans voted against the nonbinding amendment. There has been no debate. President Obama’s airstrikes are done under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. After lawmakers disputed the point, the president sent them a proposal last February—nine months ago—and asked for a vote on it. Then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) ignored the proposal.

While the GOP avoids their responsibilities, they protest any Syrian refugees being allowed in the U.S. Ghaled, a 22-year-old dentistry student forced to flee to Germany, gave a perspective from the refugees about the tragedy in Paris. “We are with them right now, just to help them with this crisis. What’s happening to them is happening every day in Syria, 100 times per day for five years, so we know what that means.” The Syrian refugee, who walked for 17 days to escape his country, was talking about the 210,060 people, an average of 144 people each day, who died in Syria since the beginning of its civil war four years ago, at least half of them civilians.

In a poll taken last weekend after attacks in Paris, 65 percent of people in the United States oppose sending troops to the Middle East.

GOP presidential candidates are following Jeb Bush’s declaration on Meet the Press when he said, “You destroy ISIS.” They just don’t say how. They pretend that ISIS is a country and not a terrorist group found around the world. Keep Syrian refugees out of the U.S., they cry because the terrorists left a Syrian passport, perhaps on purpose, near one of the bomb strikes. Three of the seven perpetrators were French nationals, and others came from Belgium. Ben Carson called for a coalition to fight ISIS, but he couldn’t name even one ally when Chris Wallace pressed him for specifics during the interview on Fox network. Carson admitted that Hillary Clinton had the experience to keep the people in the U.S. safe.

Those who believe that ISIS attacked Paris think that the reason was France’s interference in the Middle East. Marco Rubio says that ISIS hates us because women can drive cars and because we are “tolerant.” (That last part is subject to disagreement.) Peter Beinart wrote, “Women drive in Costa Rica too, but the Islamic State is unlikely to attack it, because Costa Rica is not contesting ISIS’s control of the Middle East.” ISIS isn’t jealous of the U.S.; it just wants us out of the Middle East. Congress might want to stop trying to stop Planned Parenthood and start trying to stop ISIS.

As neocons continue to call for expulsion of Muslims to the Middle East and refuse to accept refugees who are running from ISIS, they create hundreds and thousands of more ISIS members. The past 15 years give a history to why ISIS has bloomed. If we ignore this history, we are doomed to face even greater devastation to the world.

November 15, 2015

From Red Cups to Paris

starbucks_red_holiday_cups_2015What a difference a day makes! Media during the last two days has been consumed by the attacks in Paris, but for several days last week, a religious argument in the nation surrounded the red cups that Starbucks uses for the winter season. For those who missed the brouhaha, Starbucks decided to use only its logo on the cups for the “holiday season” instead of snowflakes and snowmen. An Arizona “pastor” known for hateful videos carried his gun into Starbucks and made a video claiming that their red cups are not Christmas enough and that the coffee chain “hates Jesus.” He also brought his gun into Starbucks when he made the video. His production went viral in a “War on Christmas.”

The main character in the fiasco, self-proclaimed evangelist Joshua Feuerstein, gained fame in the past by protesting an Orlando bakery that wouldn’t fill a fake order for an anti-LGBT cake. Facebook posts lead to death threats for the bakery owners until clients raised cash for the business’s losses and found new customers.  Feuerstein, who receives money from his wealthy parents, raises money on the net for things that he never buys. He also has a website where he charges $50 a month to help people not commit suicide.

The next farcical figure to enter the scene was Bristol Palin, who complained about the “liberal media” making a big deal about Feuerstein’s video. She accused the mainstream media of using “one small group’s opinion about the cups” and “attributing it to all conservative Christians.” The first announcement actually came from Breitbart with this headline:

WAR ON CHRISTMAS: STARBUCKS RED CUPS ARE EMBLEMATIC OF THE CHRISTIAN CULTURE CLEANSING OF THE WEST

Conservatives shared the Breitbart article over 40,000 times on Facebook and retweeted it over 1,500 times before the “mainstream” Fox network picked it up.

Unhappy that he wasn’t getting enough attention, Feuerstein came out with another video in which he asserted that the bitter flavor and high prices of Starbucks’ coffee is connected to Planned Parenthood. He called it the “taste of abortion” and maintained that the costs to toward the “murder of innocent babies.” His conclusion:

“Starbucks stands against pretty much everything that Jesus stood for…. Then again, Christians today aren’t worried about pleasing Jesus.”

Feuerstein must have been so busy waving his gun and making his video that he missed the chance to buy Starbucks Christmas Blend Coffee, Starbucks Advent Calendar, Starbucks ‘Merry Christmas’ Gift Card, Starbucks Christmas Tree Ornament, and Starbucks Christmas Blend K-Cup Packs.

dunkin1The next piece of the red cup story came from Dunkin Donuts that released its  “Christmas cup,” much to the delight of “War on Christmas” announcers. The warriors evidently associate “Joy” with “Jesus.”

A real pastor, Jim Rigby at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin (TX), had his say about the Starbucks’ red cup.

“The message of Christmas is already lost on much of the church whether or not the season has “Merry Christmas” stamped on it. At this point, the birth of a poor child in the cold darkness is celebrated by lights, glaring music and by the biggest shopping season of the year. Nothing could silence the message of Christmas more than how it is already celebrated.

“Let’s be clear, if the spirit of Christmas is under attack this year, it is by capitalism which has turned the holiday into a commodity like it does everything else; and by selfish Christians who refuse to obey Jesus’ command to be a good neighbor to those who walk different paths.

“As we wander through the mockeries of this holiday season, this Christian is lifting a holiday cup to honor my atheist, Jewish, Muslim, pagan as well as Christian neighbors who share the same hope of “peace on earth and goodwill to all.””

“There is no war on Christmas. Unless someone is personally coming into your home or church and preventing you from worshiping in the way you want to, then you really need to cool your jets and focus on the bigger picture.”

Ellen DeGeneres has solved the problem for people who want to see Christmas everywhere. For the low, low price of $99, which, according to Ellen, is less than a venti frappuccino, you can see Christmas everywhere you look. This pair of glasses has all the snowflakes and other parts of the Bible that Starbucks won’t put on its cup. DeGeneres did say, however:

“Remember: Don’t wear them when you’re driving. If you do, let Jesus take the wheel.”

ellen glasses

Starbucks is actually celebrating the holiday season by helping people.

In Seattle, the coffee chain is partnering with the city’s police department’s Safe Place Program (SPD) by training 2,000 Starbucks’ employees on how to respond to and engage with LGBT victims of violence and report hate crimes to police. Among homeless teens, 40 percent identify as LGBT, usually because their parents reject them on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and 21 to 40 percent of homeless youth are sexually abused, compared to 1 to 3 percent of the general youth population.

Last year, Starbucks offered all their workers two years of free undergraduate college tuition and then extended it to a four-year college degree for everyone working at least 20 hours a week. Now, these educational benefits are extended to the spouse or child of any veteran or active military reservist employed for 20 or more hours a week. Starbucks also pays up to 80 hours per year for service obligations of employees who are active duty or reservists in the U.S. Armed Forces or National Guard. The company is almost halfway to its goal of hiring 10,000 veterans by 2018, and on Veterans Day, the chain gave a free tall Starbucks coffee to all veterans.

The so-called Christians involved in claiming a war against them at Christmas—or any other time—are participating in the culture of victimization to get pity for something that isn’t a problem. The real war on religion happens in places where people are actually persecuted for their religion when they are beaten, imprisoned, or murdered because they are a religious minority and cannot defend themselves. Muslims suffer this in the United States because of profiling—not looking at a person but at a stereotype of the U.S. culture.

In 1625, Francis Bacon said, “There is nothing makes a man suspect much, more than to know little.” This is still true today. Among our “paranoid politics” is the belief that Shariah religious law will take over legal proceedings in the United States. Basically, Shariah is an Islam code of ethics for living morally to achieve salvation used just as Christian or Jews use codes for private contracts.

The bills preventing Shariah law that have been presented to almost three dozen states come from David Yerushalmi, a 59-year-old Hasidic Jew and lawyer, “with a record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.  He works with Pamela Geller to demonize the Islamic faith.

The bigotry continues through Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain into today’s presidential campaign when Ben Carson declares that no Muslim should be president and Carly Fiorina ignores a man who called President Obama who called President Obama a “dictator” and a “black Muslim.” In 2012, Ted Cruz described Shariah as “an enormous problem.”

Eight states have actually passed useless measures to prevent Shariah law from being used in U.S. courts, but no states have prevented Christian-Judeo guidelines from being the basis for laws. Supposedly religious law could not supersede U.S. law, but Christians are working hard to change this by basing law on the Bible.

In another religion, the love of guns, many members of the John Birch Society and the NRA believe that the government  is coming to grab their guns that they need to fight off government tyranny. Without those guns, so says the gun religion, any resisters will be put away in secret government-run concentration camps built by FEMA. They even claim that some of these have gas chambers, and railroad boxcars are ready to ship people to camp or mass graves.

To those following the religion, every mass shooting is set up to terrify people into gun control measures that will take all their guns. They fabricate the myth that Hitler imposed gun control to become dictator, but his 1938 German Weapons Act dramatically loosened a gun control regime forced on the country after Versailles—except for Jews who represented less than 1 percent of the population of 67 million. In 2013, Rand Paul said that President Obama was working with the UN that was plotting a U.S. gun confiscation.

And so it goes. It starts with red cups and ends with killing the Muslims.

November 14, 2015

Fear, Hatred Make People Victims of Terrorism

Filed under: Terrorism — trp2011 @ 8:43 PM
Tags: , , ,

People around the world are still reeling from yesterday’s attack on Paris that killed at least 129 people in a coordinated attack on several targets including a musical performance, a soccer game, and restaurants. Juan Cole writes that a surviving radio and television professional reported that he heard the attackers say to the hostages, “It is [President Francois] Hollande’s fault, it is the fault of your president, he should not have intervened in Syria.” They also spoke of Iraq. ISIS, which holds territory in Syria and Iraq, has already taken responsibility for the attacks. Another possibility is the Support Front (al-Jabha al-Nusra) in Syria, but it does not have territory in Iraq, and France has not specifically targeted it in the west of Syria. Cole wrote:

“When I was in France in mid-October, I was told by a former diplomat that President Hollande had decided to begin flying missions against ISIL in Raqqa, Syria, last September because French intelligence had learned that ISIL was planning to hit France. It is estimated that there are some 3,000 radical French Muslims fighting in ISIL (though remember that this number is proportionally tiny, since there are on the order of 3 million French Muslims, some 5% of the population– and the majority of them is not religious)….

“The French air force has been inflicting substantial damage on ISIL in Raqqa and its hinterlands. On Tuesday, AFP reported that France launched a fourth wave of airstrikes on Daesh targets in Syria, targeting the oil infrastructure that is a source of much of ISIL’s budget.”

The attacks may be an attempt to replicate the 2004 Madrid train bombings which also aimed at “soft targets” and persuaded Spain to withdraw its troops from Iraq. Attackers tend to perform their acts for a goal, not just from generalized anger. The “war on terror” has made little distinction between noncombatants and alleged militants with a shrug of the perpetrators toward “collateral damage,” killing hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

The GOP has reacted to the attacks by peddling more fear and hatred. The right-wing media latched onto the jihadists’ action by claiming that all Muslims are responsible for last night’s atrocities. In tonight’s Democratic presidential debate, all three candidates agreed that they would not use the term “radical Islam” because it insinuates that all 1.7 billion Muslims in the world are affiliated with these violent groups. Hillary Clinton said, “We are not at war with Islam or Muslims. We are at war with violent extremism.” Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley argued a better term would be “radical jihadists.”

President Barack Obama said last February that he refuses to say “radical Islam” because the term grants them a religious legitimacy they don’t deserve.

“They are not religious leaders; they are terrorists. We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is “desperate” to portray itself as a group of holy warriors defending Islam. It uses to recruit and radicalize young people. He added:

“They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills in the name of Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism. No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.”

GOP presidential candidates called the Democrats’ positions one of “weakness.” [As you read the following comments, please note that President Obama said that he wanted his team to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the upcoming fiscal year. He did suggest 83,000 refugees, but most of these would be from other countries. The numbers over 200,000 Syrian refugees came from a right-wing parody news website. “RealNewsRightNow”–not to be confused with the respected TheRealNews.com–is not at all “real.”]

Donald Trump: “It was just reported, one [attacker was] from Syria. Our president wants to take in 250,000 from Syria.

Rick Santorum: “ISIS is a creation of a political decision by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to abandon Iraq — against all of our generals’ recommendations, against all of the policy recommendations.” [Actually, George W. Bush made the arrangements to leave—or “abandon”—Iraq.)

Carly Fiorina: “I am outraged because the murder, the mayhem, the danger, the tragedy we see unfolding in Paris, throughout the Middle East, around the world, and too often in our own homeland are the direct consequence of this administration’s policies.”

Mike Huckabee: “During the debate last week, I stated that we should not admit those claiming to be Syrian refugees and was condemned by the left for that position. I was right, and the events in Paris affirm that …. It’s time for a President who will act to protect Americans, not just talk and protect the image of Islam.”

Ted Cruz:  “I call on Congress to pass the Expatriate Terrorist Act. We should not allow jihadists to come back to America using U.S. passports to murder innocent men and women. We are at war.” “We need to immediately declare a halt to any plans to bring refugees that may have been infiltrated by ISIS to the United States.” [That to Cruz is probably all of them.] He also wants to kill more civilians: “The radical Islamism … will not be deterred by targeted airstrikes with zero tolerance for civilian casualties, when the terrorists have such utter disregard for innocent life.”

Ben Carson: “I think America’s involvement should be trying to eliminate them, completely, destroy them. Boots on the ground would probably be important.” “If we’re going to be bringing 200,000 people over here from that region—if I were one of the leaders of the global jihadist movement and I didn’t infiltrate that group of people with my people, that would be almost malpractice.”

Jeb Bush: “This is an organized effort to destroy Western civilization [and the U.S. should] re-garner the alliances, fortify those alliances, reconnect with our counterintelligence and intelligence capabilities with our European allies, and engage in the Middle East to take out ISIS.”

Marco Rubio: “We must increase our efforts at home and abroad to improve our defenses, destroy terrorist networks, and deprive them of the space from which to operate.”

John Kasich: “You know, our thoughts and our prayers go to the people of France but that’s not enough. Action is required. Time is of the essence. Negotiation, ambivalence, or delay, are not acceptable,” he said in a speech that focused entirely on the terror attacks.”

Eschewing the hateful feedback from GOP presidential candidates, including immediately blocking the Iran agreement, President Rhouhanni of Iran sent this message to France:

“In the name of the Iranian people, who have themselves been victims of terrorism, I strongly condemn these crimes against humanity and offer my condolences to the grieving French people and government.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari declared that the extremist death cult does not “believe in ethical principles” and is “not loyal to any type of divine religions — including Islam.” Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo called for International cooperation to fight terrorism, and the leaders of Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia called the attacks “heinous” and “criminal.” They called for an end to the “plague” of terrorism.

Conservatives delight in their misrepresentation of President Obama’s statement about having “contained” Isis, but he mean that the terrorist group had not gained ground in Iraq. Donald Trump doubled down on his position, which he first stated in January after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, that gun control doesn’t prevent the violence. Yet one suicide bomber stopped by guards at the stadium location turned away before he detonated his bomb.

On Fox, people like Bill O’Reilly and Brian Kilmeade push the myth that  “all terrorists are Muslims.” Terrorists in the U.S. are usually Christians, but Fox fails to identify them as such.

People need to deny that the attacks are related to religion. Muslims are not terrorists. Terrorism has no religion. We need to repeat this over and over. If we let unreasonable hatred take over our lives, then we are the victims of the attackers.

November 13, 2015

GOP: Women Too Stupid to Make Choices for Themselves

The recent National Religious Liberties Conference had three GOP presidential candates–Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal appeared on the stage demanding that LGBT people be rounded up and executed, much in the same way that ISIS does. Approached about his participation in this bath of hatred, Huckabee said he had no idea that Swanson had these views, despite an earlier call for him to not participate in the event. Religious right radio host Michael Brown tried to explain away the candidates’ appearance despite Jake Tapper’s telling Cruz about Swanson’s views before the conference.

With insistence on genocide, however, was the call to eliminate women’s rights.The theme of the conference was freedom, but Geoff Botkin delivered the message that the Disney movie Frozen is evidence of its “spirit of licentiousness.” Botkin compared Frozen’s song “Let It Go” to Eve’s temptation by the serpent in the Garden of Eden and called it “Satan’s rebellion anthem” corrupting children. The song is about a woman who decides to break away from the directive to treat her talents as a curse and make her own decisions. Botkin was not alone in his claims at the conference: Swanson has frequently declared that Frozen will cause little girls to become lesbians.

Several conference speakers have connections to the “biblical patriarchy” or Quiverfull movement, which fights to roll back women’s rights to use contraceptives. To them, birth control access is a threat to the family and liberty because Christian families must return to traditional gender roles in order to bear and raise as many children as possible. At one time, the move to deny birth control was considered a fringe movement, but the Supreme Court legitimized it in the Hobby Lobby case that recognized restriction of birth control as well as abortion. To many fundamentalist Christians, all birth control that stops pregnancy is considered murder. By recognizing Hobby Lobby’s misrepresentations of this position, the Supreme Court put into law the falsehoods about contraception leading to abortions.

Conservatives also use the myth of “abortion regret” to push a doctor’s claim that he can “reverse” abortion by injecting women with unnecessary shots. Women do not regret abortions. A recent study of women who got abortions shows that 95 percent of women who get abortions say, both right after the abortion and years after the fact, that it was the right decision for them. The political propaganda of “saving” the “baby” comes from the misguided theory that women are too stupid to be trusted with legal abortion. The state must make decisions for these women, because no woman really wants an abortion.

Forced pregnancy is a way to protect women, according to conservatives, because, deep down, all women really want to have those babies. Justice Anthony Kennedy enshrined this belief in Gonzales v. Carhart (2007) when he wrote that the right to choose should be narrowed because “some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.” The opinion moved medical decisions for women from doctors to federal and state legislators. This ruling upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 by claiming that it did not impose an undue burden on the due process right of women to obtain an abortion.

Sheva Guy, 23, disagrees. She was forced to either drive 300 miles from Ohio to Chicago for an abortion or deliver a stillborn child. At 22 weeks, her ultrasound showed a fatal spinal abnormality in a female fetus preventing its survival. Under Gov. John Kasich, a GOP presidential candidate, Ohio dropped abortion clinics from 14 to nine with an abortion ban after 24 weeks. Guy wasn’t even allowed to take her fetus home to Ohio.

The late great journalist, author, and commentator Molly Ivins wrote in 1996:

“There’s something very wrong in our discussion of this. If there’s anything that late-term abortion is, it is not an easy call. And I just want to say, that perhaps, I almost get the impression that somebody thinks women don’t have no moral sense at all. No woman who is seven months pregnant, ever waddles past an abortion clinic and says, ‘Darn, I knew there was something I’ve been meaning to get around to.’ This is ridiculous.

“You have those late-term abortions, because either the mother is going to die, the child is going to die, or both are going to die. These procedures are incredibly rare. I only know of two in the state of Texas since Roe v. Wade was passed. They were both what they call cases of babies with no brain. The brain, the child’s brain stem had developed, but then something went horribly wrong and these children literally had no brains. Now, is that an easy call? Is that simple to you?”

Missouri Republicans are so afraid of abortion research that they are threatening to defund the University of Missouri if Lindsey Ruhr continues her doctoral dissertation on the effects of the 72-hour waiting period before women can have abortions. Despite a Missouri law banning universities from “encouraging” abortions, state senator Kurt Schaefer, chairman of the anti-abortion Committee on the Sanctity of Life, maintains that Ruhu is biased although he has not seen her methodology.

Republicans’  history of banning research includes funding about gun violence because “guns don’t kill people—people do,” according to former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) last summer. He said that “a gun is not a disease,” and the topic outside of the CDC’s research domain. Scientists are also prevented from studying right-wing terrorism in the United States.

Even women conservatives want stupid women. According to Phyllis Schlafly, men are smarter than women. She suggests admissions quotas, eliminating student loans, and reinstating all men’s sports canceled by Title IX to prevent women from attending colleges and universities. Schlafly, a retired constitutional lawyer, believes that fewer women would be raped if they didn’t go to college.

Conservatives’ denigrating statements about women and rape accelerated during the 2012 election campaigns and have increased since then. George Will called being a rape victim a “coveted status,” and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), another GOP presidential candidate, minimized rape as a “definitional problem.” Many state legislators claim that women typically lie about being raped to avoid consequences of consensual sex. Former presidential candidate and Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, insinuated that rape victims who need abortions after 20 weeks are either lazy or stupid—certainly undeserving of compassion.

The police chief of Georgia’s Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Bryan Golden, told the school newspaper that “most” sexual assaults aren’t sexual assaults at all — women just feel “guilty” about their “consensual” actions. “That’s being stupid,” he added. Golden was briefly suspended without pay, but he’s back on the job, investigating sexual assaults.

During the present term, SCOTUS will hear a case that may bring back the theme of women’s stupidity. Whole Women’s Health v. Cole resulted from the Texas law that tried to shut down at least nine of the 19 remaining abortion clinics in the state with 27 million people, almost half of them women. The term “abortion clinics” is really a misnomer because these women’s clinics provide far more health services than abortions.

None of the legal requirements for these clinics protects women—although legislators claimed that it does—but has everything to do with restricting abortions. Then-governor Rick Perry said in 2012 that until the world is without abortions, “we will continue to pass laws to ensure that they are rare as possible.” The question in front of the Supreme Court is whether it will uphold 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe v. Wade, or decide that women are too stupid to make decisions about their own bodies.

In Casey, Justice Anthony Kennedy, most likely the swing decider on the court, wrote that a woman’s right to an abortion involves “the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the 14th Amendment.” Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said:

“Access to health care should not depend on a person’s income, where they live or their ability to travel to another state. It’s time for the Supreme Court to send a clear message that these dangerous laws create an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.”

Quote from Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence:

jennifer Lawrence

Oral arguments on Women’s Heath v. Cole are scheduled for Spring 2017; a decision will probably not be handed down until the end of next June.

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