Nel's New Day

June 30, 2016

Supreme Court Does a 180 Degree Turn

Supreme Court decisions looked hopeless just six months ago. Many of us feared that women would lose abortion rights, and domestic abusers could stomp around with their guns. Affirmative action, rights of unions, and continued Affordable Care Act provisions seemed impossible. What a difference one person makes! Antonin Scalia’s death in February left only eight justices—for a long time if the GOP has its way—and the tone flipped from devastation to optimism.

The 4-4 ties kept an injunction against the DHS immigration policy but saved public union dues, especially after the court refused to hear the case again. Ties don’t establish the law of the land; they don’t establish precedent. All they do is confirm a lower court ruling. The case about religious objections from Catholic nonprofits refusing insurance coverage for employees’ birth control was returned to a lower court to be fixed. These cases, however, did not destroy a progressive movement; two of these three cases just slowed its progression.

In at least three cases, however, a majority voted in favor of progressives, both times with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote. The zombie case Fisher v. University of Texas, returning from what should have been an earlier death, upheld the school’s affirmative action plan. Race can continue to be considered to increase college admissions of disadvantaged minorities because, as Kennedy recognized, diversity’s educational benefits cannot be reduced to exact numbers. Now affirmative action can be used if race-neutral alternatives are not enough and if race plays only a small part. The only other Supreme Court case, decided in 2003, warned of a 25-year deadline. This ruling has no such warning. The vote in this case was 4-3 because Justice Elena Kagan recused herself. With Scalia’s vote, it would surely have been a tie.

Women are cheering the 5-3 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down faux health requirements and “undue burden” for abortions in Texas. Law required clinic doctors to have “admitting privileges” in nearby hospitals and clinics to meet expensive, and unnecessary, standards for “ambulatory surgical centers” (ASC).  “Undue burden” was a standard set up for abortion restrictions in Planned Parenthood v. Casey almost 25 years ago, but the health issue set new law. Justices warned against state anti-abortion laws that claim to be for health reasons but don’t protect women’s health. Again Kennedy, for the first time supporting abortion rights for women, cast the deciding vote. If he had voted against Whole Woman’s Health, Texas could have kept closing all its clinics—now down to about 20 for 5.4 million of reproductive age.

This ruling affects laws in several states throughout the nation; almost half of them lied about health reasons in restricting abortion rights. The high court announced that it will not consider appeals from Mississippi and Wisconsin on laws similar to those in Texas, ending those unconstitutional laws. Alabama dismissed its appeal to keep its anti-abortion law. Laws are on hold in Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Other states are still fighting: Michigan providers are deciding whether to challenge the state’s ASC law, and Florida’s admitting privileges law goes into effect on July 1.

In question also are other anti-abortion laws such as waiting periods and mandated useless medical procedures preceding the abortion. In Indiana, a judge blocked the state’s new anti-abortion law. Planned Parenthood will work to block anti-abortion laws in eight states.

In Voisine v. United States, two men from Maine whose guns were removed after misdemeanor convictions in domestic violence argued that “reckless” conduct wasn’t enough for them to lose their guns. The high court disagreed, voting 6-2 that “a reckless domestic assault qualifies as a ‘misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”

A little-mentioned Supreme Court decision in the media may have a long-reaching impact. A 4-4 tie in Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians upholds rulings from the higher Tribal court, the District Court, and the 5th Circuit Court that non-Tribal businesses and individuals can legally face civil suit in Tribal courts. Dollar General had signed a contract with the tribe swearing to uphold its health and welfare, and the manager of a Dollar General on the reservation molested a 13-year-old Tribal boy.

Limited authority of Tribal governments frequently leaves little recourse for victims of sexual attacks. Native American women in the U.S. are twice as likely to suffer sexual assault as other women in the nation, and 80 percent of these assaults are by non-Tribal men who can get off free because tribal courts cannot criminally prosecute non-Tribal members not intimately known to the victims. Federal authorities tend not to pursue these rape cases.  This problem was exacerbated 38 years ago by Oliphant v. Suquamish, in which the high court ruled that Tribal courts cannot criminally prosecute non-tribal members even when the crime is committed on the reservation, making race a de jure (legal) factor in these cases.

About Oliphant, Amy Casselman, author and former case work for the Washoe Tribe of California and Nevada, said:

“Reservations became hunting grounds. This creates a lot of different types of crime—drug production, drug trafficking, human trafficking—but the people who disproportionately feel this sense of predation are Native women. Sexual assault in the US is an overwhelmingly intraracial crime, meaning that rape happens overwhelmingly between two members of the same race. Native women are the one statistical anomaly.”

In the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act, Congress stipulated that Tribal courts only have the authority to prosecute non-Tribal sexual offenders who have pre-existing intimate relationships with the women they abused, purposely excluding from prosecution unknown predators who specifically seek out reservations to commit their crimes. The only course of action comes from civil suits.

The Supreme Court does not finalize this case that began 13 years ago; it merely allows the sexual assault case to move forward in tribal courts. But that is far more than Native Americans had before this decision. Full restoration of tribal sovereignty won’t happen until Congress passes a law or the high court overturns Oliphant.

The high court benefited women when it declined to hear a Washington state case in which pharmacists were told that their religious objections could not keep them from dispensing Plan B or other emergency contraceptives. That refusal to hear Stormans Inc. v. Wiesman allows women to get medication no matter what the person views of a pharmacy owner because the 9th Circuit Court had twice ruled in favor of women.

A Washington state judge has also ruled that public hospitals must provide abortions on side if they offer maternity services. The ruling supports the Reproductive Privacy Act, passed by voter initiative in 1991.

On the minus side, the tie allowing a Texas judge to keep his injunction against a DHS policy trying to stop some removals of immigrants appears to be a disaster for the president’s policies. According to noted judge Richard Posner, however, the decision may not make any changes. And as law professor Peter Shane wrote, the decision has nothing to do with executive decisions because it was an agency decision.

The Supreme Court dispensed two disasters in its last week. In Utah v. Strieff, a 5-3 ruling on gender lines overturned the Utah Supreme Court and ruled that an illegally detained person can be subject to lawful search and seizure if the person has a warrant for arrest. Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that this decision contradicts previous Court decisions that had deemed such evidence inadmissible as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Sotomayor said that police can verify legal status at any time, that a person’s body is always subject to invasion, and that it legitimizes racial profiling:

“The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong.”

The worst ruling, however, may have been the unanimous exoneration of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell on a charge of corruption by overturning his conviction. Chief Justice John Roberts referred to Citizens United ruling that “ingratiation and access” were “not corruption.” McDonnell and his wife took expensive gifts, loans, and vacations worth more than $175,000 in return for favoring a diet-supplement business benefactor, but the court ruled that only formal and concrete government actions such as filing a lawsuit counts. Arranging meetings doesn’t, giving elected officials a blank check to trade for access. The case was returned to the lower court with the stricter standard but will most likely fail.

All except two of the progressive decisions described above would certainly have lost or had a tie if Scalia had voted. I would also ask if he might have swayed some of the justices toward his far-right position in argument if he were still sitting on the court. All in all, the outcome this year was much better than was expected when the session started last fall.

A message to people who agree with this man who said he wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton: “If that means Trump wins, it’s not my fault, the Democrats should have nominated a viable candidate.” Yes, it is your fault, and you will be enabling a GOP president to nominate Supreme Court justices worse than Antonin Scalia.

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June 29, 2016

Benghazi Panel Won’t Stop Going Nowhere

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 9:45 PM
Tags: , , ,

The House Committee on the tragic deaths of four people in a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, has slogged along for almost 800 days—longer than the 704 days that the 9/11 Commission worked to dig out every piece about the worst terrorist attack on the United States. That committee created a bipartisan report endorsed by all the commission members. The Benghazi committee was created on May 8. It has lasted longer than investigations in Pearl Harbor, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and the Hurricane Katrina debacle and found nothing new over the first seven Benghazi inquiries.

The committee isn’t finished. Although the Republicans on the committee has already released an 800-page report, they interviewed another witness today, a man who used the hashtag “#ifyouvoteforhillaryyouarebeyondstupid.” The Air Force mechanic posted an argument on his Facebook page that planes from his European base could have saved the people who died. His superiors have already testified that there’s nothing to what he claims.

The committee vote on whether to adopt the report is July 8, and Democrats are just getting copies. Not one Democrat on the committee was allowed to see the report before it was released to the public. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), leading Democrat on the committee, described today’s interview as further evidence of GOP attempts to smear Clinton. That one committee cost the public at least $7 million, and Cummings questioned why taxpayers should have to pay more money “to chase down unsubstantiated conspiracy theories against Secretary Clinton.”

The GOP’s sole goal in the investigation, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), was to discredit Hillary Clinton to keep her from becoming president. Whether the partisan witch hunt has succeeded in finding enough dirt on Clinton to destroy her differs depending who is reporting the information. The conservative publication from the nation’s capital, The Hill, announced, “Benghazi Panel Faults Clinton.” The headline from the popular Huffington Post was “House Republicans spent millions of dollars on Benghazi Committee to exonerate Clinton.”

The New York Times summarized the Benghazi report:

“Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.”

These seven “findings” in the report show how desperate The Hill is. Although Republicans may wish to believe that these are new, all seven emerged in the earlier seven investigations:

  • Ambassador Stevens, one of the four men killed, wanted to make the Benghazi facility permanent.
  • The military never got moving (probably because it was too far to be successful in stopping the attack).
  • Troops changed clothes four times. (That Marines in Rota, Spain were required to change four times from military to civilian attire and back again is irrelevant because no aircraft was at Rota and the Marines’ destination was Tripoli, not Benghazi.)
  • YouTube video dominated White House meeting, but the anti-Muslim video ultimately proved not to be a contributing factor.
  • Former Qadhafi loyalists evacuated U.S. people from Benghazi’s CIA annex to the airport.
  • Clinton blamed terrorists in private. (The report tried to show this as part of her deception.)
  • Rice went “off the reservation.” The racist statement from the State Department’s senior Libya desk officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs was a criticism of then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice’s statements on the Sunday talk shows after the attack when she said the assaults were spontaneous. She was actually using information from the CIA, some of which the CIA admitted later were wrong.

In the almost four years since the tragic event at Benghazi, that one word is now defined as everything that went wrong in Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Qadhafi, assisted by the U.S. The GOP focus on Clinton’s fault in the deaths kept any thoughtful consideration of U.S. interventions in other countries’ politics. The GOP opinion made only one shift: In the past, Republicans claimed that the Obama administration handled the crisis badly because they could have sent military forces but didn’t. Now they’re saying that the situation was badly handled because they had not positioned military forces to make a difference.

Donald Trump and his son, Eric, have viciously lied about Clinton “sleeping” while Ambassador Stevens was killed. Yet the attack occurred at 3:30 pm EST, and Clinton released a public statement after 10:00 pm. She was still sending emails after 11:00 pm that night.

Trump went so far as to tell people to ask Stevens’ family how they feel about Clinton. Dr. Anne Stevens, the ambassador’s sister said this about the tragedy:

“It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is under-budgeted.

“I do not blame Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn’t a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself.”

The GOP-controlled Congress started slashing security funding for embassies as soon as they took over in 2011. The year before Benghazi, Hillary warned the GOP that their embassy security cuts put Americans at risk, but they refused to listen to her. Instead the report blamed the tragedy on positioning of “assets”:

“The assets ultimately deployed by the Defense Department in response to the Benghazi attacks were not positioned to arrive prior to the final lethal attack on the Annex. The fact that this is true does not mitigate the question of why the world’s most powerful military was not positioned to respond; or why the urgency and ingenuity displayed by team members at the Annex and Team Tripoli was seemingly not shared by all decision makers in Washington.”

Despite all their efforts, the GOP failed to place the blame: they just raised general criticisms and concerns about inadequate security resources, breakdowns among agencies, and bureaucratic inaction. Committee Democrats released a press statement that stated, in part:

“Decades in the future, historians will look back on this investigation as a case study in how not to conduct a credible investigation.”

The far right-wing has now moved from Hillary Clinton to a new scapegoat, committee chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC). The Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi released a 73-page Benghazi report against Clinton and President Obama that reads like a Trump speech and includes fantasy connections between the deaths and the Clinton Foundation and the president’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the report, one of the men who died, Ambassador Stevens, was at fault because he “rather romanticized the Libyan jihadis.”

Retired Gen. Thomas McInerney said that the congressional leadership’s “dirty little secret” is that they approved “black operations” to run weapons from Benghazi to ISIS in Syria. “We see a field of smoking guns,” said Roger Aronoff of Accuracy in Media, which convened the Citizens’ Commission at the National Press Club. And it’s not just the public—two committee members wrote their own report.

In The Guardian, Chris Stephen gave three questions that will probably never be answered: who launched the attack, why did they do it, and were US actions in the turmoil of post-revolutionary Libya a contributory factor? The mystery may never be solved because the CIA won’t provide any explanation of their presence in the city. The report has no information about why the CIA had a Benghazi annex with dozens of agents and contractors to organize massive transfers of weapons from the Libyan government’s stockpile to Syria.

Trey Gowdy knows that the Benghazi report would not be damning to Clinton. He released it just before the Fourth of July recess, a time when few people pay attention, and during the media focusing on the British vote to leave the European Union.

The taxpayers in the U.S. have paid more than $100 million to investigate all the myths surrounding the Clintons—Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster, and Benghazi. The GOP certainly won’t have any concern about a few more million dollars.

As for Clinton’s guilt, Trey Gowdy asked people to read the 800-page report and decide for themselves. If you’re so inclined, it’s online here. At least Democratic committee members can now find the report.

June 27, 2016

Brexit Fails; So Will Trump

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 8:49 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The “Leave the EU” campaign has won, and it doesn’t seem to be working for them. Leading “Leave” politicians made failed promises:

“Leave” promise: EU cash will go to the National Health Service. The campaign even put the promise on its big red bus: The EU costs £350 million a week, “enough to build a brand new, fully staffed … hospital every week.” Politicians repeated the promise, but after the vote, Leave leader Iain Duncan Smith said that the campaign didn’t say “all” of the money, just “a significant amount of it.” After the vote Nigel Farage, another Leave leader, said, “No I can’t [guarantee it], and I would never have made that claim.” The UK gets about half that money back for farmers’ subsidies, research grants, and infrastructure funding.

“Leave” promise: We’ll take control of the UK’s borders. The claim was that the expected immigration to fall. “Leave” leader Nigel Evans said there had been “some misunderstanding” over the Leave campaign’s position on reducing immigration and that he didn’t say it would fall. The UK won’t separate from the EU for at least two years, and the UK may have to keep borders open to EU workers to freely trade with Europe. Boris Johnson, a leading Leave campaigner and wannabe prime minister, wrote, “British people will still be able to go and work in the EU; to live; to travel; to study; to buy homes; and to settle down.” If that’s right, Europeans—including immigrants—will enjoy the same freedom of movement.

“Leave” promise #3: The economy will be fine. Anti-Remain campaigners laughed at the “Project Fear” that maintained the UK would suffer financial and economic turmoil. Yet, the pound is at the lowest level in decades, UK bank stocks collapsed, and GDP growth forecasts have been slashed. Companies are calling off investments, and markets throughout the world have gone down drastically, including the Dow Jones in the United States which lost almost 900 points in two days of trading.

“Leave” leaders have absolutely no exit plan.

Comments about Brexit:

Philippe LeGrain at The New York Times:

“Brexit’s supporters are deluded when they argue that Britain could cherry pick what it likes about the European Union and discard the rest. Since exports to the European Union (13 percent of G.D.P. in 2014) matter much more to Britain than exports to Britain (3 percent of G.D.P. in 2014) do to the European Union, the European Union will call the shots. Other governments have every incentive to be tough, both to steal a competitive advantage and to deter others from following Britain out the door.”

Damian Carrington at The New Republic:

“The crashing financial markets will damage the huge investments needed to create a cleaner and safer environment and will dent the nation’s fast-growing green economy, one economic sector where the UK could lead.”

From a financial authority:

The aftershocks from the UK’s EU referendum results continue to persist. Last Friday saw exceptionally sharp declines in the major global equity markets, though the sharpest drops were recorded in the Italian and German equity markets, down 12.5% and 6.8% respectively, compared with 3.1% for the FTSE100 index, although UK bank stocks were ‘hammered’ on speculation as to how ‘pass porting rights’ to the EU might be affected, as well as a cut in the UK’s credit rating. The S&P500 index fell 3.6% and the US 10-year Treasury yield made a new low for the year at 1.40%.

In the currency market, the US Dollar to Japanese yen briefly dipped below the 100.00, and the Japanese authorities might be ready to intervene in order to stabilise the currency. The Chinese currency went in the other direction and made a new low for the year, with investors sensing that the Chinese authorities are set to countenance some slippage in the exchange rate to act as a shock-absorber for the economy.

Cable dropped sharply from $1.5000 to $1.3200 and continues its slide today, touching $1.3122. UK 10-year Gilt yields fell below 1.00% this morning for the first time ever. (The Bank of England was founded in 1694.)

From a political perspective, the referendum decision has divided the UK. “Remain” members of the Conservative Party want to stop Boris Johnston from being the next Prime Minister. In the opposition Labour Party, a series of resignations in protested Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership style. In Scotland, the SNP is looking to block the “Brexit” vote and call for a second independence referendum. The scope for a constitutional crisis is quite high, and the Brexit vote has exposed the fault-lines in British politics.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said this morning that Article 50 of the European Union Treaty would not be triggered until October. Article 50 lays down the terms and conditions of the negotiation process between the UK and EU and the framework for the exiting country’s future relationship with the EU. Article 50 sets a 2-year deadline on talks that can only be extended by a unanimous decision of the other 27 EU countries. Once activated, Article 50 eliminates the UK from EU decision-making at the highest level. Article 50 is concluded by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining consent of the European Parliament.

The EU Summit this week looks to push for very early negotiations, but it is the UK Government that has to decide when to invoke Article 50. At the moment, UK PM David Cameron remains in place until October when a new Conservative Party leader and PM are to be announced. This might be too distant a time and the pressure for an early settlement to the leadership question is likely to intensify. There is no guaranteed timetable as to how it all works out.

From the EU’s perspective, the risk is that “Brexit” contagion’ spreads to other countries and encourages voters to think of breaking away from the EU. The results of the Spanish elections (the centre-right People’s Party won with 137 seats) yesterday mitigated some of that risk, though there is a question whether the appetite for ever-increasing integration is still there.

Italy holds a constitutional referendum in October, but Italian voters might view “Brexit” as a way of expressing their view on the EU. The Italian economy has suffered a very low economic growth rate for some time, but it is the Italian banks that remain under-capitalised and have the potential to trigger another banking crisis.

Some forecasters are talking about a UK recession next year and perhaps an early cut in UK interest rates. In the Eurozone, the sharper declines in equity markets and concerns over the health of the banking system are likely to keep the European Central Bank’s accommodative monetary stance in place. However, German criticism of negative interest rates in terms of the cost to German banks and German savers is something that the ECB cannot afford to ignore.

Wider afield, the “Brexit” uncertainty gives the U.S. Fed every excuse to defer an increase in US interest rates. The key upcoming dates are the US non-farm payroll report on July 8. The Fed meetings after that are July 26-27 and September 20-21, which seems to be the last opportunity to raise rates prior to the US Presidential Election on November 8. A faltering US economy might require quantitative easing.

Why did UK voters favor “Leave”? Many of them probably didn’t even know the consequences. The two most Googled questions in the UK on the day after the vote was announced was “What does it mean to leave the EU?” and “What is the EU?”  John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, had another funny, factual, hard-hitting piece about the vote. To the people who asked if they could change his vote, he emphatically said, “That was the f*cking vote! That was it!”

Although unlikely, Oliver might be wrong. The Brexit vote was not binding, and Members of Parliament could vote against it. Over 3.5 million UK residents have signed a petition demanding a second vote if support for either side was under 60 percent with a voter turnout under 75 percent. The turnout was about 72 percent, and the winning side had 52 percent of the vote. Scotland voted heavily to remain, and the Scotland Act 1998 requires the Scottish Parliament to approve measures that remove EU law from Scotland. The same might be true for Northern Ireland. The least likely scenario is that the EU could offer major concessions.

Yet the longer the uncertainty in a wait for the outcome, the greater the political and economic costs. The U.S. suffers from the same uncertainty as everyone waits for the outcome of the presidential election in a little more than four months with Donald Trump representing everything that the Leave campaign did—promises he cannot keep, an irrational xenophobia to turn the country white, and an untenable austerity approach toward the economy. The UK today could be the US this January.

June 26, 2016

Marriage Equality Celebrates First Birthday

Happy First Anniversary

One year ago today, the Supreme Court declared marriage equality the law of the land. The last year has not seen an easy transition everywhere.  Chaos continued the day after the Supreme Court ruling:

  • Mississippi said the decision was not “effective immediately”; the state AG said that they were waiting for a lower court ruling.
  • The Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, Roy Moore, said that “the U.S. Supreme Court [has] no legal authority to redefine marriage” and that the decision may be invalid because two of the SCOTUS  justices voting for the majority opinion didn’t recuse themselves.
  • Louisiana AG said that the state would not be issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples because there was no “mandate or order making [the] decision final and effective.”
  • Utah tried to stop the state from issuing any marriage licenses.
  • Texas AG Ken Paxton described the ruling as “a judge-based edict that is not based in the law.” He told clerks that they didn’t have to issue licenses to same-gender couples and judges didn’t have to marry them.
  • The Kentucky governor ordered marriage licenses to be immediately changed to implement the new ruling, but that didn’t stop county clerk Kim Davis to refuse to issue them to same-gender couples. Confusion reigned after the state changed from a Democratic to a Republican governor midway through the process.
  • South Dakota AG Marty Jackley ordered the state to honor the ruling “absent further direction,” but it might take a “reasonable period of time” to implement it.
  • Tennessee legislature attempted to “nullify” the Supreme Court ruling in their state.

Freedom for same-gender couples to marry has stoked the GOP presidential campaigns this year. Current “presumptive” candidate Donald Trump, who brags about how he’s the best candidate for LGBT people, has promised to overturn the Supreme Court ruling. Trump knows that without the evangelical vote, he has no chance of being elected president. His most recent pandering came from a gathering of 1,000 evangelicals where he talked about how much more religious he is than Hillary Clinton.

 “We don’t know anything about Hillary in terms of religion. Now, she’s been in the public eye for years and years, and yet there’s no – there’s nothing out there.”

Trump’s accusation demonstrates that he knows as little about Hillary Clinton as he does about foreign policy, successful business practices, and universities. Clinton has spoken about her Methodist faith many times, including speeches about her views on Christianity and the Bible in Iowa. As a senator, she was also part of a Christian prayer group with several Republicans. Trump’s inaccurate statements match the comments he made about the president’s birth in Kenya and being a Muslim.

At the same meeting, Trump urged people not to pray for their leaders because they are “selling Christianity down the tubes.” Instead they should “pray to get everybody out to vote for one specific person.” This statement comes close to violating federal tax law because tax-exempt places of worship and ministries cannot legally intervene in political elections.

Trump also claims that he’s more Christian than other people. Yet he couldn’t think of a scripture important to him, saying that this is “private.” When asked whether he prefers the New or Old Testament, he said, “Both.” For several weeks, he was ridiculed for saying “Two Corinthians” instead of “Second Corinthians.”

James Dobson is trying to build Trump’s reputation among evangelicals by claiming that he is now a “born again” Christian, but Trump’s new campaign manager, Paul Manafort, refuses to talk about the recent “conversion.”

To prove his evangelical cred, Trump announced his new “executive board convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of faith in America.” At the top of the list is Michele Bachmann; the other 20 on the board are men. This was one week after Trump announced that he was the LGBT community’s new best friend. Those two categories mix together like oil and water. He’s also promised to require department store employees to say “Merry Christmas” and fight restrictions against public employees, such as school coaches, against leading Christian prayers on the field. He has no control over either of these areas, but evangelicals may not know this. Nor can he erase marriage equality unless he gets enough Supreme Court justices to do what he tells them.

clela rorex 1974There are many touching stories about same-gender marriages, but my favorite may be the one about the couple who waited 41 years before their Colorado marriage was declared legal by the federal government. In 1975, a young, relatively new county clerk, Clela Rorex (right), issued a marriage license to Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan in Colorado after checking with District Attorney Alex Hunter.

 

sullivan adams met in 1971Adams and Sullivan (left) had met four years earlier when Sullivan was traveling around the world. Falling in love, Adams wanted permanent residency for Sullivan, an Australian, so they could stay together.  Colorado had no laws against same-gender marriage, but the state AG declared their marriage invalid. Nearly 40 years later, Rorex insisted that the six licenses she issued to same-gender couples in 1975 are valid despite the continued statements from the state AG that they were not. “We never felt that those licenses were invalidated,” she said. “They were never taken to court or challenged on any validity issues.” The licenses were never rescinded.

Yet the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) denying Sullivan’s appeal in a letter that stated: “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.” A second letter stated that the green card petition was denied because neither party was able to perform female functions in a marriage. After the 9th Circuit Court refused to hear the couple’s case, they left everything behind and moved to Europe because the U.S. intended to deport Sullivan.

Fed up with living as paupers, they quietly moved to Los Angeles eleven months later, and Sullivan hid. After Adams was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010, their lawyer advised them to go to Washington state and get married there in case the government refused to recognize the 35-year-old Colorado license. The day before they were scheduled to go to Washington in 2012, Adams died at the age of 65.

Tony Sulllivan (right)Adams and Sullivan (right) were the first gay couple to sue the government for recognition of their marriage. After DOMA was overturned, 40,000 binational same-gender couples were eligible for immigration rights. Sullivan kept fighting for recognition of their marriage so that he could receive a green card. After DOMA was struck down two years ago today, it was too late for the couple.

Yet Sullivan sees their story as a victory. “They never managed to separate us,” he said. Their story has been made immortal in the documentary, Limited Partnership: A Love Story That Defined a Movement. Anthony Sullivan received his green card as a widower on April 21, 2016—exactly 41 years after his marriage to Richard Adams. The White House also “asked” the Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to issue a written apology to the couple.

clela 2Clela Rorex was at Out Boulder’s annual garden party to hear the announcement. At 74, Sullivan could not attend. He wrote that it was never about the green card.

“I was after being able to stay with the person I loved. It was quite a journey. Together, we made something of it rather than it just being an aberration in history. The government acknowledged we were right. It meant our lives hadn’t been wasted. We had lives that changed the world.”

Three awards were announced at the Out Boulder event.

  • The Clela Rorex “Allies in Action” award to lawyer Jean Dubofsky, who successfully argued against Colorado’s Amendment 2.
  • The Jack and Jean Hodges “Allies in Action” award to John Hoffman for his work with schools, including sharing his story with students as a “Speaking Out” panel member. Hoffman’s principal had silenced him in the 1990s for telling his students that he was gay.
  • The inaugural “Ignite and Inspire” youth award to Boulder High student Gabriela Bell—member of the Boulder Valley Safe Schools Coalition, president of Boulder High’s Gay Straight Alliance, and member of the Boulder Youth Advisory Board.

We can only hope that with people like this, we can fight the Donald Trumps and have many more anniversaries of marriage equality in the United States.

June 25, 2016

Brexit Brings Buyers’ Remorse

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 1:26 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

brexit

Many people in the United Kingdom went to bed Thursday night feeling safe and woke up yesterday feeling they were in serious danger after the 52-percent vote for the UK to leave the European Union. EU leaders want Britain to move forward immediately to avoid further financial instability throughout the world, but leaders of the Leave campaign seem nervous about their win, perhaps because of the advantageous trade relationships between UK and EU.

Boris Johnson said that they’d rather not take any immediate steps, perhaps because he hopes to use the vote as leverage for becoming prime minister. He could even allow the UK to stay in the EU. People who voted for leaving the EU are now wishing they could change their vote, agreeing with one British voter who said she voted to leave but “I never thought it would actually happen.”

People who voted in favor of leaving the EU should feel remorseful. Predictions show a one percent drop in GDP, a fall of £19 billion equivalent to £720 (over $1,000 in US dollars) for each UK household. Each households could annually be £4,300 a year worse off by 2030. Prolonged uncertainty, reduced access to the single market, and decreased investment from overseas are joined by the banks’ loss of “passporting” rights to conduct business throughout the EU. In the hours after the vote was announced, the British pound’s 11-percent decrease hit a 31-year low against the dollar. A British recession seems likely because businesses usually defer spending during uncertain times. A bleak economy causes consumers to stop spending on big-ticket items. The collapsing pound will drive up inflation, cutting into incomes. Some jobs will disappear, and wage growth will fall.

The Cornwall area that soundly voted against staying with the EU is now worried about the annual loss of at last £60 million that it received in the past decade. European money provided infrastructure, universities, and broadband internet for them, and farmers and fishers had benefited from the EU policies. New trade deals between the EU and the UK mandate approval and unanimity by over 30 European, national, and regional parliaments that may be able to act only after national referendums. Goods leaving the UK will face tariffs, and everyone leaving the island will be forced to go through customs just to travel to Europe.

Both Northern Ireland and Scotland want to leave the UK in order to stay in the EU, and Spain wants to take back Gibraltar from the UK. After 95.9% of people in Gibraltar voted to stay with the EU, Spain renewed its claim that Gibraltar is its territory, something that Spain has declared for three centuries since the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. People living in Gibraltar are British citizens with British passports, but they also want to be part of the EU.

The economy of countries around the world started to take big hits. The world’s 400 richest people lost $127.4 billion yesterday, 3.2 percent of their total net worth.  In Canada, the loonie had its biggest drop in 18 months to around 76.8 cents. U.S. Oil fell by 3 percent. Asia’s stock market started the fall after the vote, followed by other main indices which fell by about 10 percent. In the U.S., Friday’s Dow Jones industrial average fell 611 points, causing a loss of $160 million in market value. Big corporations on the S&P index lost $627 billion–just yesterday. It could have been much worse, but this is only the beginning. The drops also hurt retirement funds. Tighter financial conditions makes it harder and more expensive for people and businesses to get money—less borrowing, less investing, and less economic activity.

Touting his new golf course in Scotland, Donald Trump saw the results through the prism of Donald Trump’s business ventures. The New York Times reported that his business interests “still drive his behavior, and his schedule. He has planned two days in Scotland, with no meetings with government or political leaders scheduled.” The Republican’s itinerary “reads like a public relations junket crossed with a golf vacation,” complete with “a ceremonial ribbon cutting.”

Trump didn’t even know that Scotland had overwhelmingly voted against leaving the EU: he said they were celebrating because “they took their country back.” NBC’s Katy Tur asked him whether he was traveling with any of his foreign policy advisors who talked to him about the vote. He said that he’d been in touch but that “there’s nothing to talk about.” Instead of talking about the vote, he talked about the golf course and its refurbished holes, plumbing, putting greens, and zoning. Asked about Brexit’s undermining the British pound value, he said that the decline is good news for him.

“If the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly. For traveling and for other things, I think it very well could turn out to be positive.”

People traveling from the U.S. may get a better deal for their dollars, but the U.S. economy can suffer depressed exports because of the weak English pound and the possible ramifications in the EU. U.S. banks said Brexit could force an overhaul of their business in the U.K. It doesn’t happen all at once, but the dominos are falling.

Trump’s business ventures in Scotland bulldozed through its elected officials and land owners, and Trump sued the Scottish government to break environmental laws and obtain property through eminent domain. Scottish officials allowed Trump to flatten a third of the Foveran dunes complex, a legally protected site of special scientific interest. Whenever he couldn’t get permits, he built anyway.

The neighbors of his golf courses roundly despise Trump because he tried to tear down what he called their “ugly” houses. He called their houses “ugly” and wanted to tear them down. When they refused to leave, he built a tall earthen wall that blocked their view of the dunes and beach and put up a locked gate that blocked the public road to reach the beach. Security staff sit in 4×4 vehicles watching all their movements.

Trump claims that the Scottish people “love” him, but 200-300 protesters appeared with a mariachi band during his press conference at the golf course and threw red golf balls with swastika symbols on the ground. In the background, neighbors of both his golf courses flew the Mexican flag in solidarity with other peoples who he has denigrated.

Many people in the UK had no idea what the EU was before the vote or what the connection between the UK and the EU meant to everyday people. Like Donald Trump, the Leave campaign scapegoated immigrants and created a culture of hatred because of economic inequality. They also accused the country’s leaders of being the elite and maintained that “experts” know nothing. The Leave slogan was “Take Back Control.” Since 2010, the austerity measures of the Conservative Party slashed the social safety net and left deprivation in its place.

As in the United States, British leaders are increasingly purchased by corporate and financial interests. Democratic rights, promised by the Leave campaign, were taken by the wealthy and corporations that control the country’s politics and economy. The loss of the EU will worsen the situation for workers who no longer guaranteed the EU rights, and Conservative Party control will only exacerbate their problems. Less regulated British corporations will cause more environmental damage and more mistreatment of employees and customers. Like the U.S., the media fed the paranoia and the fear.

Is “Texit” next? Daniel Miller, head of the Texas Nationalist Movement, hopes so. In his revisionist history that overlooks the area’s original Hispanic (and of course Native American) residents, Miller said, “We come from a heritage of people that carved an empire out of a wilderness.” The TNN calls for a referendum, as one in the UK, to vote on secession from the U.S. The “Republic of Texas” goes farther, maintaining that Texas never ceded sovereignty to the U.S. when it joined the union in 1845.

Steve Willliams wrote on care2.com:

“If there is anything that can be learned from the UK’s political fight over the past months, it’s that alienation, fear-mongering and a deep distrust of other nations can create a perfect storm of political action that can lead even usually reasonable people to go against compassion, unity and progressive causes….

“Americans who reject all that Donald Trump stands for will want to make sure that doesn’t happen in the United States come November and will hope that the UK can serve as a wake up call for Americans who felt disengaged from the political process.”

Brexit lessons for people in the U.S.:

  • One should never underestimate the forces of right-wing nationalism and nativism.
  • Successful far-right nationalist parties, leaders, and campaigns leave immediate consequences.
  • Centrist political parties will reap what they sow if they slyly invoke nationalist and racist sentiments for their own purposes.

Williams calls for another vote—perfectly legal—for those people who suffer buyers’ remorse. The vote to leave the EU is not legally binding, and the deal is not set in motion until Article 50 is invoked. Over 2 million people have already signed the petition on the official UK Parliament website for another vote, a number well over the mandatory 100,000-signature level to force a debate in Parliament. The high volume of traffic caused the website to temporarily crash. Ironically, the petition had been placed earlier by a Leave supporter who was afraid that the referendum would support staying with the EU.

If Trump is elected this fall, however, the U.S. has no way back. An ignorant, megalomaniacal dictator will be in charge. Those who think that one person cannot make a difference should ask people in Scotland.

More details about Brexit background and impact.

June 22, 2016

BRexit Vote Scheduled Tomorrow

BRexit—the vote is tomorrow. Most people in the United States aren’t aware of it, and even more may not care about it. Yet it may be the reason that the stock market is going nowhere and could guide financial markets for the world—including those in the U.S.–as they head down. I pretty much ignored the whole situation until I watched The John Oliver Show last Sunday. Because comedians such as Oliver and Samantha Bee on Full Frontal probably give more information than anyone other than Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, I started searching for more information.

BRexit is short for “Britain Exit,” the question of whether Great Britain will leave the European Union. All British eligible voters can help make this decision, and voting will be done by 2:00 PST tomorrow. Up to 80 percent of the people may vote, and the polls are too close to guess the outcome. As a Britisher, Oliver urged the people of the UK to maintain its EU relationship, but his program won’t be televised in the UK until after the vote. He’s in accord with most experts in saying that the EU can be awful but the ensuing instability would be disastrous if the UK tried to go it on its own.

Many British citizens are suffering from the same opinions as Donald Trump followers—dissatisfaction and distrust of all establishment including the political parties and the media. The “leave” people are also highly conservative, opposed to immigrants, labor, and environmental protection. They think that austerity will save them although it never has in the past. Like Trump, the pro-BRexit people reject any positions of experts—economists, scientists, military commanders, business leaders, etc. It’s the portion of the population who might think that an auto mechanic is a good choice to take out their appendix.

No other country has ever left the EU although Greece considered doing that. If this first-of-its-kind vote succeeds, Britain would spend at least two years to negotiate its departure from the remaining 27 countries which will not give Britain its current privileged access to member countries’ customers or financial markets. More years will be consumed while the UK works to find and negotiate trade deals for other export markets at a time of spreading deflation and rising protectionism throughout the globe. Adding the politics of disengaging British business regulations from those of the EU, and the process might last at least a decade.

Another problem with leaving the EU is the common fisheries policy and agriculture. “Leave” people complain about the fishing quotas set by EU to manage fish stocks and protect marine environments. Voting to leave, however, does not mean that the UK won’t have to deal with the EU. With the separation, the UK couldn’t change EU policy but would still be subject to its restrictions. The UK also receives a larger fishing area than it controls; renegotiating fishing territories gives no guarantee of a better deal for the UK.

EU membership provides some protection against unregulated global markets, and losing that will sacrifice the UK social safety nets in desperate searches for new trade and investment deals to compensate for the loss of markets on the continent. The UK is composed of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Scotland is pro-EU and may decide to issue a new vote on separating from the UK in order to join the EU. Welsh ministers have also indicated their desire to remain in the EU.

A decision to separate from the EU could be disastrous for the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, an area of bitter bloodshed since the 1920s. Ireland would still be a part of the EU, and Northern Ireland would be forced out. The resulting dividing line between the two countries could eradicate the uneasy 18-year-long peace that belonging to the EU has assisted since 1998. Customs checks that disappeared in 1993 when EU membership caused free movement of goods and services could return. Cross-border trade in manufactured products on the island was worth an estimated 3 billion euros in 2014.

At this time, Protestants in Northern Ireland want to stay with the UK, and the Catholic minority wants to join Ireland. The UK leaving the EU could end up in an armed conflict between these two factions regarding whether Ireland subsumes Northern Ireland. If both Irelands, Scotland, and Wales stay with the EU, the United Kingdom would revert to being just England–and the only part of the island that isn’t part of the European Union.

Those who want to leave the EU also support the new Deregulation Act, slipped through Parliament last year with little debate and less information to the public. According to the new law, all regulators must now “have regard to the desirability of promoting economic growth.” Any laws dealing with endangered species, speed limits, children’s health, wheelchair ramps, etc. must successfully show how they contribute to the GDP before being passed. As a result, Britain is becoming a place that launders money for drug cartels and terrorists who can keep their money there beyond police and tax inspectors. The “get-rich-quick” philosophy leads to problems that are then blamed on immigrants. Without votes, the prime minister made deals with the EU commission.

The current government has rejected science regarding insecticides, slashed renewable energy, and fights wildlife protection, but it can be worse. The EU has restricted UK policies to some extent. Without the EU, the UK would have carte blanche to destroy the environment. Leaving the EU would dismantle human rights protections, lead to a smaller labor and talent pool with tightening of borders for migrants, and lead to environmentally hazardous activities. The “Leave” backers also want to privatize and dismantle the National Health Service, leaving the country with uninsured people.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, right, listens as current Mayor of London Boris Johnson speaks at a mayoral election campaign rally for Britain's Conservative party candidate for Mayor of London Zac Goldsmith at a school in Ham, a suburb in south west London, Tuesday, May 3, 2016.   The Mayor of London election takes place on Thursday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

boris johnson 2The face of the “Leave” campaign is former Mayor of London Boris Johnson (above left) who both behaves and looks like Donald Trump. If the UK leaves the EU, Johnson could become a leader in the right-of-center Conservative Party and perhaps even prime minister. Johnson even sounds like Trump, for example saying that this “part-Kenyan” had an “ancestral dislike of the British empire.” Although he’s fairly sure that leaving the EU would not cause problems, he said he would apologize publicly if Brexit caused a recession. [Above: Boris Johnson was invited to take part in a tug of war with the armed forces to launch Poppy Day.]

Clashes between the two sides in BRexit were largely verbal, but pro-EU Jo Cox of the Labor Party was shot and stabbed last Thursday. In the United States, killings with guns are an everyday matter, but this event shocked people on both sides of British politics. The tragedy was the first killing of a sitting British MP since the death of Ian Gow in 1990. The man charged with her murder said, “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” He had bought a manual on how to build homemade guns and explosives from the National Alliance, a U.S.-based neo-Nazi group.

Brogan Morris wrote a comparison between the upcoming elections in the US and the UK, between Johnson and Trump. He holds the media largely responsible for allowing these no-nothing hate-mongers to build their popularity. Imagine a world in which Trump is president of the most affluent country in the world and Trump 2—Boris Johnson—is prime minister of one of this nation’s closest allies.

Once again, I highly recommend watching the segment from The John Oliver Show about the negative affect of UK leaving the EU.

June 21, 2016

Senate Gun Vote: NRA – 2, U.S. Residents – 0

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:56 PM
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NRA scored more victories yesterday as Republicans turned down two measures that might have made the United States safer for everyone except killers with guns.

A 15-hour filibuster led by Chris Murphy (D-CT)—a real filibuster with his standing in front of the Senate and not the wimpy “I don’t like the bill” one—“inspired” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to put out four gun “control” measures for a vote. Just eight days after 50 people died in Orlando because a mass shooting, almost all Senate GOP members protected the NRA. Democrats wanted background checks for almost everyone and the prevention of gun sales to people on the terror watch list. Republicans wanted a 72-hour check for people on the watch list and more funding for a background check that didn’t check any more purchasers.

Democratic proposals followed by GOP versions:

Murphy Amendment #4750 on background checks: The filibuster’s measure requires a background check for all gun sales, including at gun shows and online, with some reasonable exceptions such as transfers by law enforcement, private security professionals, armed forces, loans or gifts to close family members; temporary transfer to prevent imminent bodily harm; temporary transfer for hunting trips or firing ranges. [Lost 44-56; Democratic senators Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV) and Jon Tester (MT) voted no with GOP; Mark Kirk (IL) yes with the Dems. ]

Grassley Amendment # 4751 on background checks: Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) amendment fails to close the private sale loophole but adds funding for background checks. It would allow an individual to regain the ability to buy a gun immediately upon release from a period of involuntary psychiatric treatment and let veterans who suffer from mental illness to legally buy guns. [Lost 47-53; all GOP except Kirk voted no.]

Feinstein Amendment #4720 on terror gap: Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) bill gives the Attorney General the discretion to block gun sales to a known terror suspect based on a reasonable suspicion that the individual is engaging in, preparing for, or providing material support to an act of terrorism. This amendment provides a process for individuals erroneously denied a gun on this basis to seek to have that determination reversed and their gun rights restored. [Lost 47-53; Heitkamp again votes with the Republicans and GOP Kirk and Kelly Ayotte (NH) vote with the Democrats.]

Cornyn Amendment #4749 on terror gap: John Cornyn (R-TX) would permit people on the terror watch list to buy guns unless the Attorney General can prove in court that the suspect will actually commit an act of terrorism. If the procedure is not complete within three days, the person is welcome to buy as many guns as they wish. [Lost 47-53; same as Grassley amendment.]

Gabby Giffords, the former representative shot in the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson (AZ), said the Senate “chose to do the unimaginable: nothing at all.” Giffords wrote:

“Five years ago, I was shot point blank in the head, and the Senate did nothing. When 20 young children and six educators lost their lives in Newtown, Connecticut, the Senate did nothing. San Bernardino, Roseburg, Navy Yard, Charleston, Isla Vista — nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is searching for a “moderate compromise” to let the GOP off the hook for voting to sell guns to people on the terror watch list. Her proposal allows the attorney general to prevent people on two specific lists–the “no-fly” list and selectee list requiring additional screening–from buying a weapon. No one knows how many other lists there are. People denied the right to purchase a gun can challenge the decision. Those who win are to have their legal costs paid by the government. Collins also suggested requiring the FBI to notify law enforcement if someone on the list any time during the past five years if they try to buy a gun. It still doesn’t mean that they can’t buy a gun.

At this time only three Republicans support Collins idea—not enough to get the 60 necessary votes. Democrats aren’t happy with the proposal. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said, “Her alternative is not enough to close the loophole that creates this terror gap.” On the House side, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has indicated opposition to gun purchase restrictions for anyone on the terror watch list—and he’s the gatekeeper for bills to get to the floor of that chamber.

Even knowing his reluctance, House Democrats are calling on Ryan to hold a vote on an assault weapons ban before Congress adjourns for the summer recess, according to a letter from 75 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The seven-week recess begins on July 15. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) and other Democrats are focusing on the “no fly, no buy” gun provision connected to the terror watch list, and expanded background checks for gun sales, but they also want a vote on Rep. David Cicilline’s (D-RI) Assault Weapons Ban of 2015, a bill with 139 co-sponsors. The Orlando shooter used an assault weapon—a Sig Sauer MCX rifle—that folds up for concealment.

The Terror Watch List:  Between 2004 and 2014, people on this list passed background checks and could to legally buy guns 2,043 times. With lax gun laws permitting loopholes for millions of people, many more people on the list most likely bought firearms through unregulated private purchases. The terrorists in the Middle East are right: they can easily access guns from the United States. An overwhelming majority of Americans, including 82 percent of gun owners and 77 percent of Republicans, supports closing the terror gap.

Background Checks:  Only 60 percent of gun sales happen through federally licensed firearm dealers; the other 40 percent of gun sales happen without any background check. They usually occur online—Craigslist is a big gun clearinghouse—or through newspaper classified ads or at gun shows. The GOP continues its excuse of trying to prevent a federal gun owner registry. The 55 senators who voted for either Cornyn’s or Feinstein’s measures, but not Murphy’s background checks, said that it is bad for suspected terrorists to buy firearms. Yet they want background checks for that population to be voluntary—sort of like making airport screening procedures optional.

Gun deaths: Between 2001 and 2013 (the last year the CDC has records for), 406,496 people died from being shot, whether by homicide, suicide, or accident. During the same time, 2,96 people died of terrorism on U.S. soil–2,902 on the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Donald Trump’s solution for mass shooting is racial profiling. CNN Van Jones suggested that to do so would require demographics of shooters. Far more mass shootings in the United States are caused by white, mostly young Christian men. Fitting this profile is the 19-year-old man arrested at a Trump event for trying to take a gun from a law enforcement office to use it on Trump. Jones said, “You are seven times more likely to be killed by a right wing extremist — a racist or an anti-government nutjob—seven times more likely than a Muslim.”

The Orlando shooting finally pushed the American Medical Association over the edge. The AMA, composed of some very smart people, is now calling gun violence a “public health crisis” and urges Congress fund research into the problem. The group will press Congress to overturn the 20-year-old, NRA-pushed legislation that blocks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence. At its annual meeting in Chicago, the AMA called US gun violence a crisis that requires a comprehensive response and solution.

Steven Stack, AMA president, said:

“With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence.

“Even as America faces a crisis unrivalled in any other developed country, the Congress prohibits the CDC from conducting the very research that would help us understand the problems associated with gun violence and determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries.”

In 1993, the NRA complained that research was biased toward gun control because CDC found that people in homes with firearms were at an increased risk for homicide in the home. By 1996, Congress almost totally eradicated funding for research into gun violence. Between 1996 and 2013, CDC funding for firearm injury prevention fell 96 percent, down to $100,000 in the CDC $5.6 billion budget.

Although NRA claims that the purpose of CDC research was to do away with unlimited gun rights, some research has sneaked through the restrictions. The ten states with the worst gun violence: Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Montana, Arkansas, New Mexico, Wyoming, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. These states have at least four criteria in common: fewer gun restrictions, more guns, more gun sellers, and a higher incidence of violent crime than in most of the United States. No wonder the NRA tries to quell the evidence that this nation has far more violence from guns because it has far more guns and unfettered ownership and use of them.

June 20, 2016

How Enduring Are GOP Delusions about Trump?

Why do people support Donald Trump for U.S. president? The answers are all over the place. Demographics show a majority are poor, lack a high school diploma, and hold racist beliefs. They disagree with being racists but use racial slurs and want to get rid of immigrants while keeping America white. Nate Silver, one of the best prognosticators for U.S. elections, tweeted, “Strongest correlate I’ve found for Trump support is Google searches for the n-word.” Others have noticed the same comparison.

Trump promised to pay lawyers to help one of his supporters who attacked a protester, and that promise may have led to other racist supporters. Jan Stachowiak has called for armed volunteers to help him intimidate and even kill black protesters at the GOP convention. He echoed Trump’s declaration that President is a terrorist sympathizer and now calls on “patriots … to defend this nation against a domestic terrorist organization supported by the terrorist in the White House.”

Hate speech and crimes have accelerated since the rise of Donald Trump. People are attacking Muslims and other minorities in his name, and immigrants and Muslims students are increasingly experiencing bullying by their classmates. Children of color are facing “an alarming level of fear and anxiety.” Out of 5,000 comments from a survey of 2,000 K-12 students, over 1,000 mentioned Donald Trump. Jewish journalists are being attacked for articles critical of Trump, and many are targeted with the (((echo))) symbol, used by white supremacists online to single out the names of Jewish people and coordinate attacks against them.

Republicans try to claim that they like Trump because he says what he thinks—although much of what he expresses on one day is reversed the next. Another reason they gave for their Trump votes is that he will get jobs. Below are some self-delusions from Trump supporters that don’t hold up to the light:

Trump will get everyone jobs. The massive reduction of taxes for the wealthy could financially ruin people in the nation. Higher interest rates could cause housing prices to tumble, by as much as $100,000, and undermine the economy, destroying over 3 million jobs. Trump has a pattern of cheating hundreds of employees, contractors, and bondholders when he refuses to pay his debts. If Trump runs the country like he runs his businesses, the nation is headed for bankruptcy.  But that’s a topic for an entire blog!

Trump will either change his impossible proposals or Congress will stop him. One of his ideas is a tax plan that would increase the debt by $10 trillion. The GOP hasn’t stood up to Trump thus far; there’s no indication that they’ll start if he gets elected. Congress cannot stop his foreign policy—for example, supporting Russia as he has indicated—because the president has control in this area. If the courts and Congress can stop every crazy Trump idea, then the GOP wouldn’t worry about Hillary Clinton’s getting elected.

Trump will be fine no matter how much he changes policies. The GOP has complained about Obama because, they whine, he is divisive, arrogant, delusional, and economically illiterate while he uses executive power for political ends. Trump is all these multiplied by at least 100.   

Trump will understand that he will need to be more “presidential.” After a brief fling with a teleprompter, Trump continues to pick fights with his own GOP and refuses to take any advice in campaigning. He claims that he will spend his time and resources trying to take California and New York along with other blue states for the general election. Instead of backing away from his racist remarks, he has denied media access to his press conferences to at least ten outlets, including the influential Washington Post.

Trump can get smart advisers. Trump takes no advice from anyone for his campaign, and there’s no indication that he will pay attention to advisers if he were president. Trump’s past and current advisers show that he selects the same kind of toxic person as he is. By now, he has alienated almost everyone on his short list for vice-president, and his philosophy of firing everyone who offends him—a simple thing for a thin-skinned person like Trump—means that anyone around him will be short term.

Republicans have no other choice. Thus far, the “Never Trump” keeps looking for a resurgence at the convention, especially if delegates demand that Trump release his tax returns. Mitt Romney could run, or Republicans could vote Libertarian. Supporting Trump is disastrous for GOP candidates like John McCain, past presidential candidate and Congressman for 34 years, who is struggling  in Arizona against his Democratic opponent. Marco Rubio (R-FL), considering another run for senate  after he talked about how much he hated being a senator and didn’t bother to attend to vote, may run again. If he wins, his forced support for Trump may stain him for life.

Republicans can disown Trump in the future. Conservative advisers claim that they need to not worry about this election and look to the future. The GOP looked to the future after their loss in 2012, deciding that the party’s survival needs support from women and minorities. Instead, they’ve gone over the cliff in the opposite direction.

Although Trump claims that he hasn’t “started yet,” he’s been running for president for over a full year, and he wrapped up the GOP nomination in early May. Today Trump fired longtime friend and campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, because he “needs a change.” Lewandowski has no experience with national campaigns and kept Trump away from anyone who does.

Trump’s polls are starting downhill. The Democratic primary in Michigan shows that polls are not infallible, but Trump loved them throughout his campaign because he looked good. By now, he’s behind Hillary Clinton by double digits in some polls although he calls that being “even” with her.

Trump’s problems go far deeper than dropping polls. He promised his voters that he would pay for his entire campaign himself so that nobody could control him, but he seems to be out of money. And donors aren’t flocking to him. The Koch brothers, known for giving to the sleaziest of conservative politicians, refuse to fund Trump. Charles Koch said he can’t give any money to the Trump campaign until there’s a major shift in tone and policy—and he doesn’t expect it to happen.

In the past, Trump lobbed another hand grenade every time he lost positive attention. Last week’s explosion was to accuse U.S. military members of stealing money in Iraq. In the past, Trump had claimed that he was a champion of soldiers and veterans, going so far as to say he was raising money for them that they never received. This accusation hurt Trump’s image. That may be the reason that he called for religious and ethnic profiling on Sunday’s Face the Nation, hoping that a bit of generic racism would help his standing. He’s also called for people to be put into prison if they don’t report on their neighbors.

Trump has already started telling people to snitch on each other in his rallies. http://www.dailywire.com/news/6656/trump-rallies-now-ejecting-fake-trump-supporters-hank-berrien  After he tried that approach, a woman smugly pointed to two people quietly sitting near her. Security took them out after she showed how one of them had held up three fingers and demonstrated. She said she didn’t know what it meant, but the gesture was like the Boy Scout salute.

RNC Chair Reince Priebus says that people don’t care what Trump says. If he’s wrong, there goes the election. If he’s right, the nation is worse than I like to think. Trump has had an amazing influence on the electorate, however.  Since January, Democratic voting registration increased 218 percent in just California. Registration is up 123 percent among Hispanics, an electorate that has an 87-percent infavorability toward Trump.

For almost a year, most of the media went along with Trump’s craziness, always assuming that people tired of it. After a study showed that Trump coverage in eight major outlets pushed him into the nomination, giving him $2 billion of free advertising, journalists are changing the “cute” reporting of the past to now illustrate the danger that is for the United States. Increasing fact-checking shows that Trump tells the truth 3 percent of the time. The tipping point might have been Trump’s racist remarks against an honorable judge, but it’s more likely that they got fed up with Trump’s criticism about the press, calling reporters, among other descriptors, “the worst human beings” he had ever met.

Hopefully more people in the media may more accurately cover Trump. The next questions are how long GOP politicians will put Trump ahead of the country and how long voters will continue to believe him.

June 18, 2016

Orlando Shooting, Not the First Hate Crime

Last night Bill Maher talked about the Orlando killing being the only act of violence against LGBT people. I’m always amazed at the ignorance of self-proclaimed liberals about the subject of homophobia.

We expect this behavior from conservatives. They refuse to mention anything about the LGBT community since the Orlando shooting as they cry crocodile tears about the deaths of 50 people. They send “thoughts and prayers” and hold a “moment of silence” before voting down rights for LGBT people. Two days after the Orlando shooting, Rep. Pete Sessions blocked a bill that would have permanently banned discrimination against workers by federal contractors, President Obama’s executive order that covered 20 percent of the nation’s workers. This is the third time that the House has stopped the LGBT protections bill. Sessions also even insisted that Pulse was not a gay nightclub; he called it “a young person’s nightclub” with “some [LGBT people], but it was mostly Latinos.”

Most people don’t try to persuade conservatives to vote for equal LGBT rights in employment, housing, lodging, and other issues that greatly impact everyone’s lives. But liberals and independents who think that the shooting in Orlando is the first time and place that LGBT people have faced violence need some education.

LGBT people suffer from more hate crimes than any other minority group in the United States. Almost one-fifth of the 5,462 so-called single-bias hate crimes reported to the F.B.I. in 2014 occurred because of the target’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Hate crimes against LGBT people in the U.S. Americans are 8.3 times the expected rate based on the size of LGBT population—higher than the rate for Jews (at 3.5) and black people (at 3.2). Crimes against LGBT people increased after same-gender people gained marriage rights.

These statistics may be the tip of the iceberg because most hate crimes are not reported to the police and local jurisdictions frequently fail to classify those reported as hate crimes. Thousands of city police and county sheriff’s departments filed not one hate crime to the FBI between 2009 and 2014. Mississippi reported only one hate crime throughout the state in 2014. Data in just 12 states shows 88 homicides of LGBT people from 2012 to 2015, and homicides are almost surely much higher for the entire country.

Early reports from the Orlando shooting stated that the Orlando killer called 911 and claimed his crime supported ISIS. Since then, the investigation thinks that this might have been for attention, but conservatives cannot let go of what makes them the most comfortable. South Florida criminal defense attorney Khurrum Wahid, who has represented several defendants accused of terrorist-related activities such as supporting Islamic radicals, said, “It’s a lot easier to call it Islamic terrorism because we’re all united against that. But it’s not as easy to call it homophobia because we’re not all united against that.” The conservative belief also allows them to continue their hateful rhetoric toward the president. For example, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said on the campaign trail that “Barack Obama is directly responsible” for the deaths of 50 people last Sunday morning.

Investigations into the crime reveal that the killer was a mentally unstable, self-loathing, bigoted, violent man who abused his first wife and hated himself for being gay. Southern Poverty Law Center Mark Potok describes three strands:  “he hates gays, … he doesn’t like his life at all, … [and] Islamist ideology, which is the weakest of the three. It’s almost like an afterthought.”

The motivations behind attacks against LGBT people “have always been, and continue to be, [about] seemingly religious rhetoric,” says Kaila Story, a professor of women’s and gender studies at University of Louisville. Like politicians, conservative religion avoids mentioning that most, if not all, the people killed in Orlando are LGBT. The Vatican’s statement referred only to “innocent victims, and the Southern Baptist Convention’s resolution read, “We regard those affected by this tragedy as fellow image-bearers of God and our neighbors.” The religious group then passed Resolution 3 that supports the overturn of marriage equality, enables religion-based discrimination against LGBT people, and opposes inclusion and respect for transgender people.

Conservative religious leaders who openly recognize that LGBT people were killed in the gay bar are gleeful about their deaths. Television evangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson responded toward the tragedy in which a Muslim “gentleman” killed 49 LGBT people: “The best thing to do is to sit on the sidelines and let them kill themselves.”

Sacramento pastor Roger Jimenez went farther than Robertson in his sermon to the members of the Verity Baptist Church, posted the day after the horrific event:

“I think that’s great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job—because these people are predators. They are abusers….

“I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put the firing squad in front of them and blow their brains out.”

YouTube removed the video the day after Jimenez posted it.

Pastor Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church (Tempe, AZ) released this venom, again in a video uploaded to YouTube:

“The good news is that there’s 50 less pedophiles in this world, because, you know, these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and pedophiles. That’s who was a victim here, are a bunch of, just, disgusting homosexuals at a gay bar, okay?”

The acceleration of hate toward LGBT people in the past year is shown by the 200 bills introduced in state legislatures and localities that would strip LGBT people of equal rights. These bills are accompanied by lies such as the danger of washing hands in a bathroom next to a transgender person. In the conservative tradition of controlling through fear, Republican lawmakers are claiming that they can protect LGBT people because of the falsehood that Muslims want to kill all “homosexuals.” Those who make that claim haven’t looked at their own Christian religion. Most Christians don’t want to “kill homosexuals,” but there are enough that LGBT people are in danger. You might want to do a little reading in that department, Bill Maher.

Donald Trump calls himself the only candidate who will protect LGBT people from Muslims—who are not a serious problem for LGBT people considering all the other issues faced in that community, including violence from so-called Christians. Although some of the 20 percent of the LGBT community who vote Republican have said that they will support Trump, the conservative gay group Log Cabin Republicans has not yet endorsed Trump for president. As with all other Trump statements, he changes his mind frequently on LGBT rights but did announce that he would select Supreme Court justices who would overturn marriage equality.

Dominique Hernandez holds up her fist painted in the colors of a rainbow, with a heart on her pulse, attends a vigil in memory of victims one day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Dominique Hernandez holds up her fist painted in the colors of a rainbow, with a heart on her pulse, attends a vigil in memory of victims one day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

What does homophobia feel like? James Michael Nichols writes that homophobia means that he is “living in constant fear of violence.” In this piece he describes his feelings as he arrives in his “home state of North Carolina”:

“But what does it mean to feel unsafe as you walk down the street, through the airport, on the subway, at the grocery store? How do you communicate that feeling to people who have never had to feel uncomfortable and regulated because of their gender presentation or self-expressions of queerness?”

He wrote about always having to assess the level of threat no matter where he is, being careful of where he goes and how he dresses, checking out places before travel, not getting a job because of being “too gay,” watching older people return to the closet to survive in nursing homes where they may die alone because families have already declared them dead, and being unable to show any affection for a loved one in public. Bill Maher should not declare that LGBT people when he has no idea that we go through in our daily lives.

Hopefully, some people can change. As a young adult, Jeremy Todd Addawy was a part of the racist skinhead movement who hated everyone except white straight people. According to an interview with Erin Nanasi, he decided that he could not live in a life “filled with rage and bigotry. This video shows his belief—in a comedic way—about his belief that “marriage is not a religious issue, it’s a freedom issue.” If he can learn, maybe others can too.

June 17, 2016

Father’s Day: Honor Positive Masculinity

Father’s Day is a day to honor the influence that fathers have on their children. Much younger than the Mother’s Day, begun in the 19th century, this was not federally recognized until 1972. Retailers love the holiday because they can sell greeting cards and the “masculine” electronics and tools for gifts. The day adds $12.5 billion to the economy compared to the $19.9 billion for mothers in 2014. There are other ways that people can celebrate fathers.

The Representation Project has released a two-minute video to celebrate dads and father figures who model “whole, healthy masculinity.” The project explains:

“These are the fathers who laugh when they’re happy, cry when they’re sad, and aren’t afraid to ask for help when they need it. They are the dads who love sports and theater, who wash the car and the dishes, and who bring home the bacon from the office and the grocery store.”

The goal of The Restoration Project is to “expand the number of people, schools, and communities engaged in creating a world free of gender stereotypes and social injustice. Let’s make it easier to challenge and overcome limiting stereotypes so that all of our children can fulfill their human potential.” Toward that end, the project has joined Futures Without Violence, and Obscura Digital to launch the #BeAModelMan movement that raises awareness about the crucial role that men must play in ending toxic masculinity and violence against women.

Studies show that boys are more likely than girls to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, prescribed stimulant medications, fail out of school, binge drink, commit a violent crime, and/or take their own lives. Three years ago, the documentary The Mask You Live In shows how males are pushed into toxic masculinity. At the beginning of the film, NFL defensive lineman Joe Ehrmann talked about an early memory when his father saw him crying and told him to stop—to “be a man.” Erhmann said, “That’s one of the most destructive phrases in this culture.”

Joe Ehrmann wrote:

“Throughout the course of their development, boys are fed at least three fundamental lies about masculinity. The first lie boys learn by the time they are three or four years old. They learn it on playgrounds, ball fields, and during preschool and kindergarten recess. Boys are taught that their value and worth has something to do with their physical strength and athletic ability. Our culture tends to recognize and reward masculinity according to size, strength, and a mentality that encourages competition, winning, and dominance over other males. The boy who can hit the hanging curve or catch the down and out pass is elevated. Athletic ‘potential’ allows others to see such boys as having more masculine promise. Men who have grown up attempting to define their masculinity by their athletic ability are set up for tremendous failure and frustration in life. Where are boys hearing this fundamental truth: 1) masculinity has nothing to do with athleticism, and 2) being good at sports seldom correlates with the development of character traits that will help them to negotiate life successfully?

“By the time they are in junior high boys are indoctrinated into the second lie about masculinity: being a man seems to have a lot to do with sexual conquest. Young, developing boys receive the social message that being a real man means objectifying and/or seducing girls to gratify their physical needs and/or to validate their masculinity. Using other human beings to gratify one’s needs is not the message we want to convey to our sons regarding our daughters.

“The third lie imposed on our boys is that masculinity is defined by economic success; as if the measure of a man can come from a job title and a bank account balance rather than from the content of a man’s character. The sad reality in America today is that too many men associate their self-worth with their net worth. We are a society that confuses who people are with what they do and have.

As an activist, I connect these three lies to every social problem we have: boys with guns, girls with babies, violence against girls and women, and immorality in boardrooms. When you see advertisements directed at boys and men, these lies are naturally embedded in the message. Madison Avenue understands that if it can make men feel insecure about their masculinity they can be led to wear certain clothes, drive certain cars, get certain kinds of women—all “possessions” validating the cultural construct of masculinity….

“We need to help boys become emotionally healthy men while addressing the destructive cultural forces undermining their capacity for well-being and wholeness. And, we need to help men discover their sense of personal responsibility to bring healing and wholeness to wounded masculine souls that will restore the connection of our heads, hearts and spirits.”

Mass shootings, like the one in Orlando five days ago, and sexual assaults show how the nation’s culture is shaped by the toxic masculinity that “manly” men find in the expression to “be a man.” A recent example is Stanford student Brock Turner’s attack on a woman behind at dumpster that was enabled by the man’s father, the judge, and the media. The father wrote an impassioned plea to let him off because “20 minutes of action” shouldn’t ruin his son’s life, and the judge sentenced Turner to jail—not a prison—for three months after the jury brought in a guilty verdict. The media demonized Turner’s victim and lionized Turner, focusing on his status as a star athlete and used his good-looking white boy photo from a year book rather than a mug shot. The end result of the toxic masculinity is excessive violence, emotional detachment, and praise for male dominance.

Since the judge gave the unbelievably lenient sentence, it has been discovered that Turned lied about not partying and not using drugs before he went to Stanford. He had blamed a “party culture and risk-taking behavior” for his actions to get the lenient sentence, but prosecutors had copies of photos and text messages proving that he had lied and has a history of partying. Turner had also been arrested for underage drinking and running from the police before the sexual assault. More than 250 Stanford students had signed a letter to the judge before sentencing, requesting that he receive at least two years for the guilty verdict, and two people who wrote positive letters about Turner have since rescinded their statements. Over 1.2 million people have signed a petition to remove the judge from the bench.

A recent movement is trying to change the expectations of men away from being tough, invulnerable, and physically strong in order “to be a man.” and define “real” men as those with inner strength, courage, and respect. “Positive masculinity” needs fathers and father figures to be positive male role models and instill these values in their children, particularly their sons.

Jack Fishl wrote “7 Positive Phrases We Should be Teaching America’s Boys About Masculinity.” Too many people use the terms “man up” and “suck it up” in an attempt to teach honor, independence, and responsibility. Too many people say “grow a pair,” a term that creates gender stereotypes and skewed definitions of “being a man.” Changing language can make people more accurate, more clear, and more inclusive of all people:

“Communicate.” Boys need to ask for help with they need it and be able to tell people, including their fathers, how they feel.

 “Crying does not make you weak.” Tears are natural, but many men shun them as a sign of weakness. A healthy outlet, crying helps regulate emotional stress. It’s also a part of communication, in this case distress. Boys need to understand that crying is acceptable.

“No means no.” Instead of thinking that partners are just teasing by refusing advances, males need to realize that “no” means stop.

Be gender-neutral when referring to a boy’s future partner. It appears that the Orlando killer suffered from internalized homophobia because of bullying from his colleagues and his father when he was young. No one should be forced into conventional expectations while trying to understand a sexual orientation of gender identity.

“Brave up.” Boys can start using this term instead of “man up” and make it cool.

“Be responsible.” Responsibility means taking ownership—for actions, emotional responses, and words—as each male searches for his unique masculinity. Turner allowed his toxic masculinity to take over than then refused to accept responsibility for his actions.

“Be confident in who you are.” People should find inner selves and then take pride in them—no matter what body type, interests, and sexuality.

Sunday is a time to thank men who practice positive masculinity—what it means to #BeAModelMan.

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