Nel's New Day

June 16, 2016

Trump, the Virus Infecting the United States

Today, Bill Moyers published a brilliant essay titled “Trump, His Virus and the Dark Age of Unreason.” The piece, below, was written by Moyers and Michael Winship.

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There’s a virus infecting our politics and right now it’s flourishing with a scarlet heat. It feeds on fear, paranoia and bigotry. All that was required for it to spread was a timely opportunity—and an opportunist with no scruples.

There have been stretches of history when this virus lay dormant. Sometimes it would flare up here and there, then fade away after a brief but fierce burst of fever. At other moments, it has spread with the speed of a firestorm, a pandemic consuming everything in its path, sucking away the oxygen of democracy and freedom.

Today its carrier is Donald Trump, but others came before him: narcissistic demagogues who lie and distort in pursuit of power and self-promotion. Bullies all, swaggering across the landscape with fistfuls of false promises, smears, innuendo and hatred for others, spite and spittle for anyone of a different race, faith, gender or nationality.

In America, the virus has taken many forms: “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, the South Carolina governor and senator who led vigilante terror attacks with a gang called the Red Shirts and praised the efficiency of lynch mobs; radio’s charismatic Father Charles Coughlin, the anti-Semitic, pro-Fascist Catholic priest who reached an audience of up to 30 million with his attacks on Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal; Mississippi’s Theodore Bilbo, a member of the Ku Klux Klan who vilified ethnic minorities and deplored the “mongrelization” of the white race; Louisiana’s corrupt and dictatorial Huey Long, who promised to make “Every Man a King.” And of course, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama and four-time presidential candidate who vowed, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

Note that many of these men leavened their gospel of hate and their lust for power with populism—giving the people hospitals, schools and highways. Father Coughlin spoke up for organized labor. Both he and Huey Long campaigned for the redistribution of wealth. Tillman even sponsored the first national campaign-finance reform law, the Tillman Act, in 1907, banning corporate contributions to federal candidates.

But their populism was tinged with poison—a pernicious nativism that called for building walls to keep out people and ideas they didn’t like.

Which brings us back to Trump and the hotheaded, ego-swollen provocateur he most resembles: Joseph McCarthy, US senator from Wisconsin—until now perhaps our most destructive demagogue. In the 1950s, this madman terrorized and divided the nation with false or grossly exaggerated tales of treason and subversion—stirring the witches’ brew of anti-Communist hysteria with lies and manufactured accusations that ruined innocent people and their families. “I have here in my hand a list,” he would claim—a list of supposed Reds in the State Department or the military. No one knew whose names were there, nor would he say, but it was enough to shatter lives and careers.

In the end, McCarthy was brought down. A brave journalist called him out on the same television airwaves that helped the senator become a powerful, national sensation. It was Edward R. Murrow, and at the end of an episode exposing McCarthy on his CBS series See It Now, Murrow said:

“It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one, and the junior senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.”

There also was the brave and moral lawyer Joseph Welch, acting as chief counsel to the US Army after it was targeted for one of McCarthy’s inquisitions. When McCarthy smeared one of his young associates, Welch responded in full view of the TV and newsreel cameras during hearings in the Senate.

“You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?… If there is a God in heaven, it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further.”

It was a devastating moment. Finally, McCarthy’s fellow senators—including a handful of brave Republicans—turned on him, putting an end to the reign of terror. It was 1954. A motion to censure McCarthy passed 67-22, and the junior senator from Wisconsin was finished. He soon disappeared from the front pages, and three years later was dead.

Here’s something McCarthy said that could have come straight out of the Trump playbook: “McCarthyism is Americanism with its sleeves rolled.” Sounds just like The Donald, right? Interestingly, you can draw a direct line from McCarthy to Trump—two degrees of separation. In a Venn diagram of this pair, the place where the two circles overlap, the person they share in common is a fellow named Roy Cohn.

Cohn was chief counsel to McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the same one Welch went up against. Cohn was McCarthy’s henchman, a master of dark deeds and dirty tricks. When McCarthy fell, Cohn bounced back to his hometown of New York and became a prominent Manhattan wheeler-dealer, a fixer representing real estate moguls and mob bosses—anyone with the bankroll to afford him. He worked for Trump’s father, Fred, beating back federal prosecution of the property developer, and several years later would do the same for Donald. “If you need someone to get vicious toward an opponent,” Trump told a magazine reporter in 1979, “you get Roy.” To another writer he said, “Roy was brutal but he was a very loyal guy.”

Cohn introduced Trump to his McCarthy-like methods of strong-arm manipulation and to the political sleazemeister Roger Stone, another dirty trickster and unofficial adviser to Trump who just this week suggested that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin was a disloyal American who may be a spy for Saudi Arabia, a “terrorist agent.”

Cohn also introduced Trump to the man who is now his campaign chair, Paul Manafort, the political consultant and lobbyist who without a moral qualm in the world has made a fortune representing dictators—even when their interests flew in the face of human rights or official US policy.

So the ghost of Joseph McCarthy lives on in Donald Trump as he accuses President Obama of treason, slanders women, mocks people with disabilities, and impugns every politician or journalist who dares call him out for the liar and bamboozler he is. The ghosts of all the past American demagogues live on in him as well, although none of them have ever been so dangerous—none have come as close to the grand prize of the White House.

Because even a pathological liar occasionally speaks the truth, Trump has given voice to many who feel they’ve gotten a raw deal from establishment politics, who see both parties as corporate pawns, who believe they have been cheated by a system that produces enormous profits from the labor of working men and women that are gobbled up by the 1 percent at the top. But again, Trump’s brand of populism comes with venomous race-baiting that spews forth the red-hot lies of a forked and wicked tongue.

We can hope for journalists with the courage and integrity of an Edward R. Murrow to challenge this would-be tyrant, to put the truth to every lie and publicly shame the devil for his outrages. We can hope for the likes of Joseph Welch, who demanded to know whether McCarthy had any sense of decency. Think of Gonzalo Curiel, the jurist Trump accused of persecuting him because of the judge’s Mexican heritage. Curiel has revealed the soulless little man behind the curtain of Trump’s alleged empire, the avaricious money-grubber who conned hard-working Americans out of their hard-won cash to attend his so-called “university.”

And we can hope there still remain in the Republican Party at least a few brave politicians who will stand up to Trump, as some did McCarthy. This might be a little harder. For every Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham who have announced their opposition to Trump, there is a weaselly Paul Ryan, a cynical Mitch McConnell, and a passel of fellow travelers up and down the ballot who claim not to like Trump and who may not wholeheartedly endorse him but will vote for him in the name of party unity.

As this headline in The Huffington Post aptly put it, “Republicans Are Twisting Themselves Into Pretzels To Defend Donald Trump.” Ten GOP senators were interviewed about Trump and his attack on Judge Curiel’s Mexican heritage. Most hemmed and hawed about their presumptive nominee. As Trump “gets to reality on things he’ll change his point of view and be, you know, more responsible.” That was Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Trump’s comments were “racially toxic” but “don’t give me any pause.” That was Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Republican African-American in the Senate. And Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas? He said Trump’s words were “unfortunate.” Asked if he was offended, Jennifer Bendery writes, the senator “put his fingers to his lips, gestured that he was buttoning them shut, and shuffled away.”

No profiles in courage there.  But why should we expect otherwise? Their acquiescence, their years of kowtowing to extremism in the appeasement of their base, have allowed Trump and his nightmarish sideshow to steal into the tent and take over the circus. Alexander Pope once said that party spirit is at best the madness of the many for the gain of a few. A kind of infection, if you will — a virus that spreads through the body politic, contaminating all. Trump and his ilk would sweep the promise of America into the dustbin of history unless they are exposed now to the disinfectant of sunlight, the cleansing torch of truth. Nothing else can save us from the dark age of unreason that would arrive with the triumph of Donald Trump.

June 15, 2016

Court Rules for Net Neutrality – Yea!

Filed under: Net neutrality — trp2011 @ 9:48 PM
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Like many other people, I do a lot of searching on the internet, and my partner thoroughly enjoys watching Netflix movies. We have friends who have abandoned their cable television in our small Oregon coast town for watching programs via their computers. Yesterday was a big victory that prevents big business from slowing down downloads from the internet onto our computers. allows us to continue with our computer access.

Donald Trump’s outrageous comments about Muslims and the president monopolizing the media means that the net neutrality decision got little press when a three-judge panel of the DC District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the people in the United States. The issue was the Federal Communication Commission’s  (FCC) authority to regulate the internet as a “common carrier,” similar to telephone service and frequently called “net neutrality.” Huge corporations want to charge for higher speed and access on the internet, but the Washington, DC court said they may not do so.

As usual big companies may appeal, but this court ruling is significant. The court decision gives the FCC authority to regulate broadband service as a utility, much like telephone service, instead of a luxury. It applies equally to wired broadband providers like cable companies and mobile ones such as Verizon.

The struggle goes back about 15 years as consumer groups and internet companies have fought to keep the internet from being a corporate medium like cable television. Corporations such as Comcast and AT&T want unequal treatment for online traffic like Netflix and cute videos about animals. Without net neutrality, internet service providers can favor their own services and disadvantage all others, block sites and apps, and force video and other data services to pay extra for their “fast lanes.”

Robert Malcolm McDowell, appointed to the FCC by George W. Bush in 2006, fought unfettered public use of the internet until he left in 2013. Congress then dived into the fray with a bill written by corporations designed to strip FCC’s ability to set regulations. If that bill had passed, the FCC would be left with no responsibilities except to adjudicate disputes. Ambiguous terms in the proposed bill such as “specialized services” and “reasonable network management” created huge loopholes for corporations and failed to address newer technology. Despite the payments that the industry gave politicians, however, the bill failed. Instead, the FCC passed rules that reclassified the internet in “common carrier” service, the same category for telephone service, under Title II of the Communications Act.

The FCC Open Internet Order provides these protections to access and free speech on the net, according to the FCC news release:

No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.

No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.

No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.” This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.

If an appeal from large broadband carriers takes the issue to the full DC Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, the rules could still be struck down. The industry has huge financial power. For example, Comcast, which started as a cable TV provider, now owns Comcast Internet, NBC/MSNBC, Universal Pictures and other companies. Its $74.5 billion in sales during 2015 was an eight percent increase from the year before and gives them assets of more than $149 billion.

As Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) point out, Comcast provides internet content as well as services. “Comcast-Funded Website [Vox] Plugs Comcast-Owned TV Show [The Tonight Show] Promoting Comcast-Backed Trade Pact [Trans-Pacific Partnership].” Even “common carrier” regulations cannot prevent this situation. But at least they cannot discriminate against smaller sites and those with large bandwidths—at least as long as the court ruling isn’t overturn.

Until that time, internet can no longer ignore some former expectations when the FCC did not declare them telecommunications carriers. At this time, telephone companies must get consumers’ explicit consent before sharing their names, phone numbers, addresses, or other personal information with marketers. Internet providers have not been required to get consent, but a pending proposal at the FCC would seek to extend a similar set of expectations to broadband companies.

Incensed by the court ruling, a Senate committee, led by Republicans, voted today to weaken the FCC net neutrality rules. They voted to exempt small broadband providers from rules requiring them to provide their customers with information about network performance, network management practices, and other issues. The purpose of the rules is to give customers information about actual speed as compared to advertised speeds as well as potentially controversial congestion management practices.

Joshua Stager, policy counsel at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, said that the Senate bill “creates a needless loophole” in the net neutrality rules. He explained, “The transparency rules help ensure a level playing field for small businesses to compete in the online marketplace—which is why so many small businesses asked the FCC to create these rules in the first place.” Since the FCC’s 2015 rules over a year ago, GOP lawmakers have failed to pass over a dozen bills or amendments to weaken or kill the regulations. None so far has succeeded.

Two years ago, John Oliver provided a great segment on what net neutrality actually is and took on the GOP congressional members who opposed the ruling. One of these naysayers was Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), who described net neutrality as the idea that “the latest cat video is of equal importance to a teleconference consultation to a heart patient.” Oliver gave this wonderful response:

“You are misunderstanding what net neutrality is. Cat videos are part of the point. [The policy is about keeping internet service providers from] picking a choosing whose voices get heard, ensuring that the internet remains a democratic space for all messages. And that goes for cat videos, too.”

Oliver was so successful in awakening people to the importance of net neutrality that the tens of thousands of responses immediately crashed the “Comment” section of the FCC website. Millions of more comments followed, once the website was back up.

The conservatives are being very grumpy about the court decision, which indicates that it’s probably a very good idea. Thanks to the FCC, two of the three judges on the DC Circuit Court panel—and perhaps John Oliver–big business won’t be slowing my downloads, and huge corporations won’t be charging for faster speeds. At least for now.

June 14, 2016

Toxic Masculinity Leads to Killings from Guns

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 10:50 PM
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We could never get to the moon. We could not possibly do away with (fill in the name of a disease). We could never build highways across the United States. Planes will never fly. These are some of the statements proved false during the past century. Why, then, do we think that we can’t do away with gun violence? The reason comes from the disease of toxic masculinity controlling gun laws.

Guns are “manly.” Yes, the killer in the recent Orlando shooting suffered from internalized homophobia and he may have tried to blame his action on his religion. But he also loved his guns, having two different concealed carry licenses. The FBI investigated him in 2013 after he made threats to a coworker, and before that he physically abused his wife. He was so controlling that her father had to rescue her. His job at the private security firm, G4S, allowed him to be controlling and dominant. The company is known to be abusive to immigrants, children, and other inmates.

Mention toxic masculinity, and some men whine about feminists condemning all men. Amanda Marcotte explains that the term “toxic” changes the definition of masculinity. She writes:

“It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world.”

Conservatives push disasters like the Orlando shooting as done by either a crazy person or a “radicalized” Muslim. They ignore the self-appointed heavily-armed militia that took over public land in Oregon  and the head of a self-appointed Arizona border patrol who molested five- and six-year-old girls as well as the men who attack and kill people at abortion clinics.

Men suffering from toxic masculinity are terrified of appearing tender or soft—being less than “manly.” The far-right white conservatives, concerned that they might be emasculated by a lack of racist beliefs, developed the term “cuckservative” for anyone who thinks that non-white, non-heterosexual people have the right to live in the United States. “Manly” men aren’t worried about Muslims killing people in the United States; they worry about them—and all other people not in their “manly” group of forming the majority of the population.

Toxic masculinity ends up with a man killing his family because it’s the only way he can control them, to show that he has power over them. And thanks to legislatures controlled by the “manly” men, they have the military weapons to carry out the murders. They argue that they need guns to “protect” themselves, but the “manly” George Zimmerman didn’t need his gun for protection. He stalked Trayvon Martin despite the police telling him not to do it and executed a 17-year-old boy. That’s toxic masculinity.

Just one or two guns for defense isn’t enough. They stockpile more and more of them, taking pride in how much control they give them. And toxic masculinity demands that the guns be capable of shooting 100 or more people. “Manly” men develop an attachment to their guns. They sit and stroke them–and sometimes shoot themselves in the process. Any imagined threat that they can’t buy as many as they want sends them into hysterics. Just thinking about LGBT people sends these “manly” men into more fear and hysteria because they compare non-heterosexual people to be feminine.

The more fear that “manly” men experience, the more they threaten others—sometimes carrying out their threats. Donald Trump is an example of toxic masculinity, shouting for “toughness” and calling for his supporters to beat up protesters. His only strategies are to bomb the enemy—whoever they are—and keep people who don’t look like him out of the country. And to make sure that everyone has enough guns to keep killing innocent people.

The “manly” gun-lovers complain about the gay bar in Orlando being a “gun-free” zone because Florida law doesn’t allow guns in bars. An off-duty police officer hired as armed security at Pulse tried to stop the killer but failed to succeed against the military weapon that the killer brought with him. There was “a good guy with a gun,” that miracle that gun-lovers call for, and the “solution” failed.

“Manly” men say that mass shootings are not that common so there should be unlimited ownership of guns. They’re wrong, and between 2009 and 2012, 40 percent of mass shootings started with a shooter targeting his girlfriend, wife, or ex-wife. Just last year almost one-third of mass shooting deaths was related in some way to domestic violence. The majority of mass shootings in this country take place inside the home where men target the women and children in their intimate life.

Male entitlement makes “manly” men think that violence and coercion are part of romantic relationships. If abusive men were blocked from obtaining guns, the number of killings could shrink. The Orlando killer abused his wife and threatened co-workers–and still got concealed carry permits.

Other shootings from “toxic masculinity”:

Mainak Sarkar killed a professor at UCLA earlier this month. Before his trip to California where he also planned to kill another professor, he climbed through a window to kill his estranged wife in Minnesota.

Cedric Larry Ford killed three co-workers at Excel Industries in Hesston (KS) last February after he was issued a restraining order by someone he had abused. Women in past romantic relationships were afraid of Ford, and one said that he tried to strangle her.

John Russell Houser killed two people in a Lafayette (LA) movie theater last July after his family had talked about his violent behavior. His wife had gotten a temporary protective order against him in 2008.

Robert Lewis Dear killed three people at a Planned Parenthood last fall after a long history of preying on women. Dear’s wife said he pushed her out a window in 1997, and a neighbor took out a restraining order in 2002 after he made “unwanted advances.”

Syed Rizwan Farook, who killed fourteen people in San Bernardino (CA) last December, grew up in a violent home where his father abused his mother.

Elliot Rodger killed six people in Santa Barbara (CA) in a rampage because he claimed that women romantically rejected him. He perceived his virginal state as the fault of women and pledged to “slaughter every spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see” inside the “hottest sorority house of UCSB.”

Cho Seung-Huim killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in the second worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Two women had complained that he was stalking them, and Cho left behind a “rambling note raging against women.”

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Florida has some of the nation’s laxest gun laws in its support of NRA’s crusade of guns everywhere:

  • No waiting period except for a handgun.
  • No background check for the sale of weapons between two private parties.
  • No state permit requirement to sell guns.
  • No license requirement for gun ownership.
  • No registration for guns.
  • No regulation on the sales of assault weapons, 50 caliber rifles, or large capacity ammunition magazines.
  • No limit to the number of guns a person can buy at one time.

The state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issues concealed carry licenses for applicants who meet basic qualifications.

After two days of silence after the Orlando shooting, NRA broke its silence with “Gun laws don’t deter terrorists” in Rupert Murdoch’s publication USA Today. Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action misrepresented statements from the president, skipped over the common use of the AR-15 assault weapon for mass shooting, and blamed Islamic extremists. Like other conservatives, Cox accused the Obama administration’s “political correctness” for the shooting.

The NRA promotes toxic masculinity through its crusade to put multiple guns in every home:

  • Opposition to background checks;
  • Support for restoration of gun rights to convicted felons;
  • Protecting the arsenals and gun rights of domestic abusers;
  • Making it harder for courts to review—and uphold—gun laws.

As conservatives and their leader, Donald Trump, continue to push toxic masculinity, “manly” men will push their agenda through the NRA, more guns will be sold, and more people will die. If we can go to the moon, cure diseases, build highways, and fly huge plane, we can stop gun violence.

June 13, 2016

Orlando Aftermath: Lots of GOP Talk, No Action

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:56 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

As the people in the United States try to cope with the killing of 49 people in an Orlando gay bar early yesterday morning, the craziness of a polarized country goes on. President Obama “has become the greatest terrorist hunter in the history of the presidency,” according the nonliberal Jeffrey Goldberg, but Donald Trump is calling for the president’s resignation “in disgrace” if the president doesn’t use the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” Conservatives fail to remember that the presidential position that “we ought to avoid the language of religion” goes back to George W. Bush’s “Counterterrorism Communication” guidelines. They’s just happy attacking all Muslims–and of course, they think that President Obama is one.

Donald Trump’s drive for attention led to his making increasingly insane comments during the past 36 hours. He started out yesterday by patting himself on the back in wanting to ban Muslims from the United States and by this morning insinuated that the president may be colluding with terrorists. “There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable,” he said in Trumpese. As Politico’s Blake Hounshell summarized, “This morning, Trump implied President Obama is a terrorist sympathizer.” Politico’s Jake Sherman added, “The Republican Party’s nominee for president seems to be saying it’s possible the POTUS is in cahoots with terrorists.”

In this case, Trump isn’t the only Republican to criticize for the belief. Within the past few weeks, GOP leaders have started falling in line behind their presumptive presidential candidate. As Michael Gerson wrote, “Since Trump now owns [Republican leaders], they now own his prejudice.”

Trump is not alone in stupidity; he has lots of company in Congress. Whether the killer has ever been on a terrorist watch list is still in question, but, thanks to the GOP, being on this list would not prevent him from legally buying a gun. Although people on the list are not legally permitted to purchase plane tickets in the U.S., they can legally purchase guns, including the assault rifle that the killer used. Last December, Republicans defeated a measure to prohibit those on the terrorist watch list from legally purchasing guns. Senate Republicans up for reelection this year—including vulnerable candidates Kelly Ayotte (NH), Ron Johnson (WI), Pat Toomey (PA), and Rob Portman (OH)—voted with the NRA to gun rights for the suspected terrorists’ gun rights.

Florida’s Marco Rubio, whose term is up and who may be running again although he promised not to do so—has strongly argued that guns had nothing to do with the killings. It was the ideology. The man who said that he hated being in the Senate and rarely showed up for votes indicated that the Orlando shooting may have inspired him to run. Hugh Hewitt urged Rubio to run, citing his “foreign policy” knowledge. That must include his opposition to opening trade with Cuba and his determination to destroy any agreement with Iran. Rubio’s foreign policy is very scary.

Terrorists are well aware that the United States is a candy store of guns for them. For at least five years, they have encouraged their followers to purchase assault-style weapons and shoot people in the United States made easy with the extremely lax gun laws in many of the nation’s states. An al Qaeda spokesperson said in that 2011 video:

 “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

From 2002 to 2014, 85 percent of people killed by terrorists in the U.S. were killed from guns. Every terrorist attack in the U.S. last year when someone other than the perpetrator was killed involved guns. Building a bomb isn’t easy, and hijacking airplanes has become almost impossible, but accessing guns is quite simple, thanks the GOP support for terrorists purchasing guns. Yesterday, Santa Monica (CA) police stopped a white man from Indiana, who had an NRA symbol on his license plate, on his way to a gay pride parade with “assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, ammunition and chemicals used to make explosives” in his car. Nothing was said, however, about his ideology.

Always direct with its covers, the NY Daily News has one placing the blame for the Orlando shootings square on the NRA. The organization makes millions and millions of dollars from the gun manufacturing industry and then uses the money to lobby legislatures for more lax gun laws that will allow the industry to sell more and more guns. The marketing strategy is brilliant: when men aren’t buying enough guns, advertising is directed to women. When that market seems saturated, guns sales for small children are pushed. Not one person can figure out a reason why private individuals have a need to own an assault-style weapon other than to kill as many people as possible in as short of a time as possible–but the U.S. lets them buy these military weapons.

Daily News cover

Ted Cruz may be the only Republican leader who openly recognized that the killer targeted the LGBT community. His purpose in doing so, however, was to call on Democrats “to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians.” He defined the killers as members of “ISIS and the theocracy in Iran (supported with American taxpayer dollars).” In other words, he wants the Democrats to join the Republicans in banning all Muslims—and probably other immigrants—from the United States.

Aside from the fact that the U.S. does not send “taxpayer dollars” to Iran, Cruz ignores the Christian ideology that promotes the execution of gays. At least one of these Christian leaders who wants to kill gays is Cruz’s colleague, Kevin Swanson, who spoke immediately before Cruz in Des Moines (IA) where Swanson hosted a “National Religious Liberties Conference.” Swanson did say that homosexuals should not be sentenced with a death penalty until they’ve had time to repent.

Speakers at the same conference were other Christian supporters for killing gays–Phillip G Kayser, pastor of Dominion Covenant Church in Nebraska, and Joel McDurmon, president of the Christian Reconstructionist organization American Vision. McDurmon criticized Uganda for backing off the death penalty in its anti-LGBT legislation.  Rafael Cruz, Ted’s father and a strong campaigner for Ted’s presidential candidate, is a preacher in the Dominion Church. Ted Cruz follows many of that church’s beliefs.

Congress called today for a moment of silence regarding the killings. That’s what they do best—silence in adversity. My hero for the day is Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) who refused to participate in today’s moment of silence and walked off the House floor after calling them “obnoxious expressions of smug incompetence.”

In an interview with Slate, Himes said:

“’Thoughts and prayers’ are three words that cost you nothing. I’m sick of it. Show some courage. There’s an array of pathetic arguments with the ideologues you hear, that we can’t ever end gun violence. That’s true. We’re not going to end polio or cancer, either, but we can take some huge strides.”

After Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) held the pro forma moment of silence, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) tried to ask the Speaker when he would consider bills curbing gun use. Before he finished, Ryan ruled his question out of order and directed the House to move to the next vote. Democrats responded by shouting, “Where’s the bill?” Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters Democrats have “had enough” of moments of silence after mass shootings when Congress does not act to tighten gun laws.

People talk and write a great deal about the killer being “radicalized.” This may be true. But what is the term for Christians who kill? Will we ever talk about Christians who want to kill innocent people being “radicalized”? If Christians kill innocent people, can we call it “domestic terrorism”? Or “radical Christian terrorism”? And will there ever be enough brave people to stand up and say that the killings couldn’t happen without guns?

June 12, 2016

LGBT Hate Crime in Orlando Kills At Least 50, Injures More Than Another 50

Over 100 people were shot and at least 50 of them are dead in a mass shooting early this morning at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando (FLA), a popular gay bar. Omar Mateen, the man responsible for the largest mass shooting in the United States, was killed after three hours when a SWAT team swarmed into the bar. Mateen was armed with ammunition, a handgun, and an AR-15-type assault-style rifle, the civilian variant of the military M-16 rifle, according to Orlando Police Chief John Mina. The firearms were legally purchased, and the killer had active security officer and firearm licenses. His family said he worked as a private security officer.

Mateen’s father said that “this had nothing to do with religion,” but his son became very angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami. The man’s ex-wife said that he was unstable and had violent tendencies. She said that he was abusive and beat her repeatedly during their marriage. He had given her no indications that he was devoted to radical Islam.

Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, issued this statement in response:

“Last night, the worst domestic terror attack since 911 has tragically hit American LGBT families head on—children, moms, dads, neighbors, friends—lives that are changed forever. In the days ahead we will come to know the latest victims of hatred—mostly young men and women who were simply out for a night of dancing and enjoyment of our community during LGBT Pride month. These victims of a hate crime targeting an LGBT club had their futures stolen, had their dreams stolen, their potential contributions stolen from us all.

“The LGBT Orlando community and our allies in Central Florida are both strong and unified. We send a world of love and prayers to all who are grieving today and to all who will begin the hard journey to recover from untold wounds, both physical and emotional. But our love and prayers are simply not enough. Hate and separation continue to bring forth too much grief, too many stolen lives across the whole world.

“As we reach out to comfort the Orlando families, and as we support the courage for the injured to heal, may we also have the strength to address and deal with the roots of hatred and separation that target any minority community with violence, anywhere in the world. May we find a way forward to make this act of horrendous violence a commitment to come together and so honor the memories of those who were killed today.”

Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson stated:

“Spaces like Pulse aren’t just bars and clubs. They are a lifeline to many LGBTQ people —a place to be free and open. Falling almost exactly one year after the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, this tragedy is a reminder of all the ways that hate, intolerance and violence show up. As we seek to make sense of this tragedy and so many others, we do so focused on building a culture of inclusion, respect, liberation and love.”

Barbara Poma, co-owner of Pulse, founded the club to honor her brother who died of AIDS in 1991 and to support the LGBT community. She and her business partner, Ron Legler, survived the shooting. The night before this horrific killing, a St. Petersburg man shot and killed 22-year-old Christina Gimmie, while she was signing autographs after her show at The Plaza Live theater. She had won third place on NBC’s The Voice on Season 6.

President Obama called this “an act of terror and an act of hate.” He said:

“This is an especially heartbreaking day for all of our friends, our fellow Americans, who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The shooter targeted a night club where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a night club, it is a place of solidarity and empowerment, where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights. So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us, and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.”

Calls have gone out for blood donors, but men who have had sex with other men in the past year are prevented from donating, according to FDA guidelines. This policy is greatly softened since the first policy banning gay donors was adopted in 1983, but Orlando clinics are still following the 23-year-old protocols. Current tests can sense antibodies that develop within two weeks of infection, reducing the risk of receiving HIV to about 1 in 2 million, but rules for donating blood ignore this science. Other high-risk populations such as illegal drug users and prostitutes have no limits in donating blood.

In its typical hate-filled rhetoric, Fox network hosts blamed President Obama because he had made the country less safe. Donald Trump tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” Immediately after blaming “the immigrants” for the massacre, Trump said, “I am going to be a President for all Americans.” (Mateen was a U.S. citizen.) Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick posted Galatians 6:7 on Twitter: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Other Republicans who voted for unlimited ownership of guns and against LGBT rights are sending the customary “thoughts and prayers” to the victims.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “Anyone who attacks our LGBT community will be gone after with the fullest extent of the law.” In Florida, that usually means the law is only for straight white men. If Mateen were still alive, he might be able to use the defense that LGBT people threaten him.

The report that Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS has received more attention than the fact that this tragedy is a hate crime. If one self-identified Muslim kills, it’s an act that conservatives call radical Islamic terrorism so that they can push their narrow, bigoted agenda. If one self-identified Christian kills, as in the murder of three people at a Colorado abortion clinic, they think that it has nothing to do with Christianity. To conservatives, it is the act of a mentally unbalanced person. Nowhere has the mainstream media published the fact that people in the United States are much more likely to be killed by right-wing extremists, many of them self-identified Christians, than by Muslims.

Some Christian leaders call for killing all “homosexuals”; three GOP presidential candidates attended a conference this past year where the leader called for these “executions.” A Christian lawyer in California has proposed killing LGBT people with bullets to the head. More than that, he proposes that citizens should not have to face any charges if they LGBT people.  Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, calls gay Christians “the enemy.” As hate crime rates against all other segments of the population go down, hate crimes against LGBT people increase. And until this morning, these crimes were not by Muslims.

Conservative leaders, such as Ted Cruz, call for an end to “political correctness” and the restriction of “immigrants.” They are enraged because the 9th Circuit Court has ruled in favor of the California law banning concealed weapons outside the home and the 2nd Circuit Court ruled in favor of a Connecticut law that bans assault-type weapons and large magazines of weapons. Blame ISIS, they cry, while ignoring the two other largest gun massacres, one in Newton (CT) where 29 people were left dead and the other at Virginia Tech University that left 33 dead.

This Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court may hear an appeal to the decision from the 2nd Circuit Court about whether to hear Shew v. Malloy or put off that determination for another week or two. The 2nd Circuit Court had upheld a law that bans assault-type weapons and large ammunition magazines. In his decision that the Connecticut law does not violate the constitution’s Second Amendment, U.S. Circuit Judge José A. Cabranes wrote:

“New York and Connecticut have adequately established a substantial relationship between the prohibition of both semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity magazines and the important — indeed compelling — state interest in controlling crime.”

I want two things. The next time a self-identified Christian kills someone, I want it announced that a Christian performed the crime. And I want controls on gun ownership. And yes, I’m not going to get either wish.

[Update: Florida Gov. Rick Snyder has refused to recognize that killing and injuring over 100 people in a gay bar is a hate crime.

Statement from Terry O’Neill, NOW president:

We cannot say that we live in a free society when LGBTQIA people have to always wonder if horrific violence is just around the corner, or creeping up in the rearview mirror. Hate crimes against this community haven’t disappeared just because courts, political leaders and businesses now support expanded rights. We must remain vigilant against the threat of violence, but we must also speak out against a climate of bigotry and hatred that rejects or devalues LGBTQIA rights.

 

 

June 10, 2016

9th Circuit Court Upholds Gun Safety Law, Opposes NRA

Gun safety advocates won a big victory yesterday when the entire 9th Circuit Court of Appeals suspended a three-judge panel of the same court in a decision that the 2nd Amendment does not guarantee the right to carry concealed weapons in public places. This 7-4 decision covering nine states upholds a California law  requiring concealed carry applicants to demonstrate “good cause” for carrying a weapon. The ruling was narrow: it does not state that concealed weapons are unconstitutional and makes no ruling about openly carrying weapons in public. California also bans open carry in public. Gun owners who brought the lawsuit after being denied permits in Yolo and San Diego counties have not said whether they would appeal to the Supreme Court.

The opinion stated:

“The right of a member of the general public to carry a concealed firearm in public is not, and never has been, protected by the Second Amendment. Therefore, because the Second Amendment does not protect in any degree the right to carry concealed firearms in public, any prohibition or restriction a state may choose to impose on concealed carry — including a requirement of ‘good cause,’ however defined — is necessarily allowed by the Amendment. There may or may not be a Second Amendment right for a member of the general public to carry a firearm openly in public, but the Supreme Court has not answered that question.”

The court ruled that the states are to decide on any restrictions regarding concealed weapons.  The complete ruling is here. Kamala Harris, state attorney general and candidate for U.S. Senate, said the ruling “ensures that local law enforcement leaders have the tools they need to protect public safety by determining who can carry loaded, concealed weapons in our communities.”

The high court ruled in 2008 (District of Columbia v. Heller) that people can have guns in their homes but noted in the opinion that gun ownership is not absolute. Justice Antonin Scalia, who authored Heller and voted in the majority, cited restrictions on concealed weapons as an example.

The 9th Circuit Court decision joined other federal appeals courts that rule for state and local governments to put restrictions on granting concealed-carry licenses. Three other federal appeals courts upheld California-like restrictions in New York, Maryland, and New Jersey, and another one struck down Illinois’ complete ban on carrying concealed weapons. The decision in Peruta v. San Diego is the last word on the subject unless the Supreme Court takes the case. It does not normally take cases unless lower courts are split on the issue. The court could take it anyway but probably not without a ninth justice.

No matter how hard some people wish, the 2nd Amendment right to “bear arms,” like almost all other rights, is not unlimited. Throughout the first two centuries of the U.S. Constitution, courts determined that keeping and carry guns was not an unobstructed right. Before the Revolution, the 1689 English Bill of Rights, “protected the rights of Protestants to have arms”—but “flatly prohibited” concealed carry. The majority of 19th-century courts determined that prohibitions on concealed carry were lawful, and the number of states banning open carry increased after the Civil War. In 1897, the Supreme Court of the United States even asserted that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons.” Even the most recent Supreme Court cases don’t guarantee a right to carry a gun for self-defense outside the home.

Not until 1977, when extremists took over the NRA, did the so-called “right to bear arms” become more and more unregulated. As the NRA focus shifted from hunting to unlimited gun ownership and carrying, law review articles were written supporting the current radical perspective—over 27 between 1970 and 1989. More than half these articles were written by a few lawyers employed by the NRA and other pro-gun groups. At the same time, the number of conservative justices in federal courts burgeoned.

When Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate in 1981 for the first time in 24 years, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) claimed to have found proof that the 2nd Amendment is unlimited. The NRA showed more power to elect presidents, and John Ashcroft, George W. Bush’s attorney general, finished the revisionist history about limited gun rights by reversing the Justice Department’s stance. But in time, the NRA’s power to elect presidents began to shift executive branch policies, too. In 2000, gun activists strongly backed Governor George W. Bush of Texas. After the election, Bush’s new attorney general, John Ashcroft, reversed the Justice Department’s stance.

Although the 9th Circuit covers nine western states, only California and Hawaii are affected by the ruling. The other seven, including Oregon, do not require permit applicants to cite a “good cause.” Anyone in those states with a clean record and no history of mental illness can get a permit.

Scalia, a justice pushing unrestricted gun ownership and carrying, departed from his professed belief in “originalism,” a position that the words of the constitution are sacred, to following the new political and social movement.

At the same time that the NRA demands no restrictions on purchasing, owning, and carrying guns, the organization is incensed about the possibility of felons voting in Virginia. Wayne LaPierre, NRA’s executive VP, commented:

“Tentacles of the Clinton machine are out registering those felons right now. They’re releasing them, and then they’re registering them. Heck, when they sign their release papers, they might as well at the prison door … give ‘em a Hillary Clinton bumper sticker.”

While bitterly complaining about giving the vote to ex-felons, the NRA has put great effort into giving these same “violent rapists and murderers,” as they call them, the “constitutional right” to own and possess guns. Much of the support for the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 came from the NRA and undid many provisions in the 1968 Gun Control Act, passed shortly after Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot dead.

One provision in the law allowed felons convicted of gun crimes and other violent offenses to petition to have their gun rights restored. Many of these ex-felons permitted to own firearms were again arrested for committing other violent crimes. The only successful part of the law, defunded in 1992, was an amendment forbidding the sale of machine guns to civilians.

In arguing for the “Protection Act,” NRA representative Richard Gardiner said:

“There’s no reason why a person who has demonstrated they are now a good citizen should be deprived of their right to own a firearm. We ought to recognize that some people can change.”

What the NRA didn’t address in its complaint about Virginia is that 80 percent of the states already give voting rights to ex-felons after they have completed their sentence and other responsibilities connected to the crimes for which they were convicted. Two of the states even allow felons to vote while they are in prison.

As the NRA complains about California gun safety laws, it doesn’t oppose gun bans at the upcoming GOP convention in Cleveland. Ohio is an open carry state, but the arena doesn’t allow firearms inside. An open carry group wanted Ohio Gov. John Kasich to override the gun-free loophole in state law; Cleveland is known as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. There was no uproar when he didn’t. No guns were allowed at the 2012 GOP convention either, despite Florida law that prevents cities “from acting to limit guns.”

Donald Trump claims that he’s a strong 2nd Amendment supporter, but many of his hotels and golf courses ban guns. A Trump Organization official denied any restrictions on Trump facilities, but security and staff disagree. Florida’s Jupiter, Mar-a-Lago, Trump International Golf Club, and Trump National Doral all prevent guns on the property. Trump International Hotel Las Vegas refused to comment, and Trump Winery said it allowed people to carry guns on the premises—if they weren’t drinking. Both Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk in Honolulu and Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago have “gun-free zone” policies.

Maybe it’s time for far more places to follow Donald Trump’s lead. The 9th Circuit Court ruling is a starting place.

June 9, 2016

White Male Privilege – Rapist Apologists in a Rape Culture

Twenty-year-old Brock Allen Turner, Stanford University student and wannabe surgeon, has been found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman and sentenced. The jury heard about how the victim became incoherent within 20 minutes of arriving at a frat party and how Turner was later seen straddling her completely unconscious body behind a dumpster. The woman did not regain consciousness until 4:15 a.m., and had no memory of the assault.The crime occurred in January 2015, the trial last March, and the sentencing this week. For this crime, California law carried a sentence of two to 14 years in state prison.

At the trial, Turner said that the 23-year-old woman seemed to be enjoying his actions. Yet he tried to run away after two graduate students saw him. They caught and restrained him. Witnesses and physical evidence all refuted Turner’s claims. His court statement explained that drinking can ruin a person’s life and then called the victim “the cause” and himself “the effect.” The jury found Turner guilty of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated person, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.

Law enforcement refused to publicly release Turner’s mug shot to the media until after a huge outcry. Instead Santa Clara County used his sentencing photo until forced to provide the original mug shot (below left). Media typically used his photos on the swim team or one (below right) that appears to have come from a yearbook. The procedure was in direct contrast to stories about black men accused of sexual assault that typically use mug shots.

brock clean cutbrock mug shot

brock yearbook

 

Judge Aaron Persky, a past Stanford student and captain of the lacrosse team, sentenced Turner to six months in county jail and another three years of probation. The reasons? Turner is an All-American swimmer with Olympic dreams. He just made a mistake, and more than the sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner’s future. The judge added that he didn’t believe that Turner would be of danger to others and that he’s young.   Turner may be out of jail much sooner. He was sentenced on June 8, and his scheduled release date is September 2 of this year.  While DA in Santa Clara County, Persky prosecuted sex crimes.

In a letter, Turner’s father wrote that any jail time was too harsh. He added, “This is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 years plus of life.” The father also suggested that Brock Turner work to warn students about the dangers of “promiscuity.” Michael Miller mourned in the Washington Post that “his extraordinary yet brief swim career is now tarnished, like a rusting trophy.” Other defenses from family members and friends were equally disgusting.

Turner’s sexual assault on an unconscious woman wasn’t really rape, according to his friend Leslie Rasmussen, who sent a letter of support for Turner to the judge. She wrote:

“I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next ten + years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him. I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn’t right. But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists.

“This is completely different from a woman getting kidnapped and raped as she is walking to her car in a parking lot. That is a rapist. These are not rapists. These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgement [sic].”

After the backlash for her comments about her support for a rapist, Rasmusson (below right) has apologized. But her indie grunge-pop band Good English has lost its gigs, and the judge’s light sentence still stands.

good-english-1

The judge’s sentencing sent two powerful messages.

  1. Color matters: Standout Vanderbilt football player, Cory Batey, was immediately remanded after raping an unconscious woman and got a sentence of 15 to 25 years; Brock Turner got six months for the same crime. Turner would probably not have been convicted at all if two Swedish graduate students hadn’t been riding by on their bicycles.  Batey is black; Turner is white.
  2. Campus rape doesn’t matter: Conservatives continue to blame women and their participation in the “hook-up culture” for their rapes while attacking colleges and universities for trying to decrease the number of sexual assaults on campus.

Turner defended himself on the rape charge by saying that he was drunk and couldn’t help himself. A Facebook post from Matt Lang explained what’s wrong with his defense:

“I’ve been drunk many times, even in the presence of promiscuous women who were also drunk, and I managed not to rape them, so I don’t think drinking and promiscuity are the problems. This here is the problem: some guys are entitled pricks, and they’re entitled pricks because their fathers and coaches and friends taught them to be entitled pricks. Because they are entitled pricks, they think they can have whatever they want, and that their worth is defined by what they have and what they take….

“Brock Turner and his ilk were never taught that [rape is wrong]. They were taught that they can have what they want, when they want, including women. And that’s called being a man. Brock Turner thought he was entitled to a little ‘action’ any way he could get it, and he thought that long before he got drunk. The alcohol didn’t introduce that thought, it unlocked it. That thought: ‘I can take whatever I want, including her,’ was planted and watered by a whole, rotten village.

“It is right that we shame him, and his father, and the friend who came to his defense, and the judge, and every other entitled prick we meet.

“Just as importantly, we need to love our boys, and teach them the dignity of the body, and how to live through disappointment and confusion, and how to navigate confusing feelings, and how to separate feelings from action, and how to communicate and listen. We need to redefine for them what it is to be a man, that their worth doesn’t come from that which they have and take.”

Thanks, Matt.

Over 100,000 people have signed a petition to recall Persky. The National Organization for Women has also published a letter endorsing this action. It is available here. Persky may think that six months in jail is a “severe impact,” but the real impact is the life-time sentences for all of the victims, especially the ones who no longer want to come forward about these crimes because of Turner’s light sentence. The only hope is that the country stay enraged about the actions of Turner, his supporters, and his judge.

June 6, 2016

Crisis Pregnancy Centers Lie to Keep Women Pregnant

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are faith-based organizations, often not medically licensed, that try to keep women from having abortions. Their deceptive practices lure women to seek help by falsely promising to offer a full range of reproductive services, including abortions. Women who go to CPCs face intimidation and misleading, medically-disproved, ideologically-motivated information about abortion by staff who frequently lack any medical licenses but pretend to have them. In many states these bogus clinics outnumber abortion clinics, and many state governments funnel taxpayer money from medical facilities to CPCs. The nation has approximately 4,000 CPCs, three times as many as abortion clinics.

Last month, satirist Samantha Bee presented a segment showing the lies of CPCs from a woman who went to one. Cherisse Scott said she chose the CPC because it had the biggest ad in the Yellow Pages. This is what she was told:

“The nurse told me that if I had an abortion, my uterus would be perforated and I would not be able to have children. I ultimately decided to go ahead and have the baby because I didn’t want to chance not ever being able to have a baby.”

President and CEO of the National Abortion Foundation Vicki Saporta talked about how many CPCs also tell women that their risk of breast cancer will increase after having abortions or will suffer from PTSD. Saporta added that women are forced wait for hours while they are subjected to religious sermons and other propaganda. Other CPCs will also tell women that they can’t get results of pregnancy tests for weeks—stalling them until it’s too late for the women to get abortions. Studies show that over 50 percent of 32 CPCs give false information about abortion. CPCs do not offer medical services such as cervical cancer screenings, breast exams and birth control. Their sole purpose is a counseling service based on guilt.

Amanda Marcotte wrote that another purpose behind CPCs is “to shame women for having sex and to spread stigma over abortion, contraception, and any non-procreative sexual activity.” That’s the reason that these sham facilities also fail to provide any way to prevent abortion such as contraception.

David Grimes wrote that CPCs also misinform women about “contraception and its relationship to sexually transmitted infections.” Eighty percent of 254 CPC-sponsored websites gave one or more false or misleading medical claims about abortion. Most of the websites with information about condoms or STIs discourage the use of condoms because condoms, websites claim, are ineffective in preventing infection. Only two percent of the CPCs “correctly cited the contraceptive effectiveness of condoms,” and only 9 percent “advocated correct and consistent [condom] use.” Grimes noted three unethical practices taking place at CPCs:     “[w]ithholding critical information or providing false information”; providing “[d]isinformation about the safety and efficacy of abortion”; and “disproportionately prey[ing] on those with limited education and resources.”

At this time, Texas is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling about the state’s massive reduction of abortion clinics. Another Texas issue is their reduction of Planned Parenthood funding. They falsely claim that the number of patients who accessed family planning services in the state in 2014 is at the same level as it was prior to funding cuts to Planned Parenthood. In 2011, the state legislature cut the family planning budget by two-thirds and blocked funding to Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics, closing 76 of the state’s family clinics or ceasing family planning services. One-third of Texas women lacked a regularly health care provider in 2012, up from one-fifth in 2010.

Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott cut Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program. Yet the number of CPCs in Texas is growing from the boost in state funding. The state increased the Alternative to Abortion Services Program from $2.5 million in 2008 to $9.15 million in 2015. Texas has about 230 CPC; if the state wins its Supreme Court case it will have nine abortion clinics, ten percent from of the total from six years ago. Texas has 5.4 million women of reproductive age, and up to 240,000 women tried to give themselves abortions since the state started to close more abortion clinics in 2013. As in all other states, abortion is legal in Texas but highly inaccessible.

California is one state that tries to prevent CPCs from disseminating misleading information. The law mandates that licensed facilities providing services related to pregnancy and family planning must give women information about how and where they can access affordable and timely abortion, contraception, and prenatal care services. Unlicensed facilities that provide pregnancy- and family planning-related services must tell patients the facilities are not licensed and that they have no staff members who are licensed providers. Any digital or print advertising for unlicensed facilities must state, “This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.” CPCs have lost four of five legal challenges against the state law that went into effect January 1, 2016.

New York City and several antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) have reached a settlement in a lawsuit challenging a 2011 ordinance to curb CPCs’ misinformation. U.S. District Judge William Pauley had blocked an ordinance requiring CPCs to disclose whether they offer abortion services, emergency contraception and prenatal care or refer for such services through postings in both English and Spanish in the centers and in ads as well as disclosing whether a medical provider was on site. Pauley’s ruling that the ordinance is “offensive to free speech principles” was partly overturned by a three-judge panel from the 2nd Circuit Court in 2014 that mandated disclosure of a licensed medical provider. The Supreme Court refused an appeal. In the world of abortion, allowing or requiring false information to be provided to pregnant women is “free speech.”

In Virginia, a CPC will move next door to a recently closed abortion clinic in Manassas. Women trying to go to the closed clinic are diverted to the CPC, and the telephone number for the former abortion clinic is redirected to the CPC. Women calling the number are required to endure a lengthy process for an appointment, causing them to miss the timeline for an abortion. Callers are asked several personal medical questions, but the information is not confidential because the CPC is not a legitimate medical provider. This practice is not uncommon.

Oklahoma Wesleyan University, an Oklahoma Christian university, is now considering a degree program, “applied ethics” that would  prepare students for “vocational work in pro-life apologetics, political consulting, or for an executive role” in the crisis centers. Jobs would most likely be available because of the tens of millions of federal and state dollars poured into CPCs.  Eleven states directly fund CPCs, and few states have any regulations, not required to comply with professional standards or malpractice laws.

Earlier this spring, Georgia’s governor signed a bill to create a funding program for CPCs. His excuse came from the fact that 96 percent of Georgia counties with 60 percent of the state’s women of reproductive age have no abortion clinics. Of the 70 CPCs in Georgia, 40 have medical licenses. The measure prohibits referrals to abortion providers, something that CPCs don’t do anyway. Proposed expenditures for these bogus centers is $2 million.

Pennsylvania paid Real Alternative over $30 million to support 98 religious sites for adoption, maternity agencies, and CPCs. These places receive more than $1 per minute to provide anti-abortion counseling, and women must receive 20 minutes of this counseling before receiving any material support. These places receive more than $1 per minute to provide anti-abortion counseling, and women must receive 20 minutes of this counseling before receiving any material support. Pennsylvania also pays for religious marriage counseling out of its federal welfare funds.   More horror stories here. Pennsylvania also pays for religious marriage counseling out of its federal welfare funds.

Mississippi has one abortion clinic and 38 known CPCs. The poorest U.S. state, it has abstinence-based sex education in public schools and one of the country’s highest teen pregnancy.The worst state may be South Dakota where all women seeking an abortion must first go to one of these CPCs.

If you want to know what’s happening in your state, go to this map and click on your state.

June 5, 2016

Conservative Governments Push Christianity with Taxpayer Funds

North Carolina’s law that forces all communities to maintain the lowest minimum wage and discriminate against veterans gained fame for keeping transgender people from the restrooms and other facilities that match their gender identities. Far-right religious conservative leaders are taking pride in proclaiming their determination to keep their version of Christianity in laws. For example, that state’s Lt. Gov. Dan Forest made the following statement on a far-right conspiracy theorist’s radio show. He justified HB2, the discriminatory measure, because “we have a lack of moral compass in our country right now, we’ve taken our eyes off God in America, we have turned our back on God, we have forgotten God in a lot of ways, so the moral compass is broken here.”

Forest continued by explaining that these discriminatory laws “discriminate against behavior, not against people.” He compares them to traffic laws: “If I want to go out and drive 95 miles an hour down the interstate in North Carolina because I feel like doing that, I don’t have the right to do that. It doesn’t mean the law is discriminating against me, it’s discriminating against my behavior of wanting to drive 95.” His logic is problematic: traffic laws aren’t created because people have “turned their backs on God.” The other piece of his illogical statement is that a car’s speed has nothing to do with a person’s sexual orientation or identity. Forrest also blamed the media for the entire controversy.

Phil Bryant, governor of Mississippi, is also busy defending his state’s new discriminatory law:  “About 60 days ago, it seemed as if all of the secular, progressive world had decided they were going to pour their anger and their frustration—their friends in the media willingly joining with them to bring all that they could upon the governor of the state…  How dare them [sic]. How dare them [sic].” He finished by stating that he was willing to be crucified for his beliefs against transgender people using the appropriate bathrooms.

In Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad signed a proclamation in April encouraging “all Iowans” to participate in a statewide Bible-reading marathon, a declaration that the ACLU argues is unconstitutional. The marathon is scheduled for four days starting on June 30 and located in front of all 99 state courthouses. The declaration also states that “the Bible is recognized as the one true revelation from God” and that  “I, Terry E. Branstad, Governor of the State of Iowa, do hereby encourage all Iowans to read through the bible on a daily basis each year until the Lord comes.” The “Lemon test” for constitutionality, taken from the 1971 case Lemon v. Kurtzman , establishes three criteria for government action:

  1. Does the government action have a secular purpose?
  2. Does the government action have the primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion?
  3. Does the government action foster an excessive entanglement between government and religion?

Violation of any one of the above violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment which prohibits the promotion of one religion over another. Both Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas objected to the Lemon test, but Scalia is gone from the court.

Mike Robertson, the mayor of Beebe (AR), has selected the celebration of the nation in its freedom from religious and other domination by Britain, to pay for a gospel band at the 4th of July festivity. His letter encouraging people to attend the concert read in part: “Their goal for the evening is to usher in the presence of god and to celebrate the Christian message. They feel privileged and honored to enjoy the freedom to honor Christ with any and all of their abilities.” Robertson’s justification of using taxpayer funds for a religious concert is that people can just stay home if they don’t approve.

Two years ago, Beebe approved a small temple in a garage, thinking that it was Christian, but then falsely claimed the zoning laws would prevent worship on that property after they found out that the temple would be pagan. Robertson’s justification of using taxpayer funds for a religious concert is that people can just stay home if they don’t approve. Beebe is also the town of under 10,000 where tens of millions of blackbirds have died in multiple years, possibly because of its fireworks during a temperature inversion. Or maybe God-created events against the city’s bigotry.

Not every government rejects all religions except Christianity. Philadelphia has followed New York City in adding two Muslim holy days to the school calendar. Students will be given the days off for Eid al-Fitr, celebrated following the month-long observance of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, which marks the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham in Judaism and Christianity) to sacrifice his son for God.  In the upcoming school year, Eid al-Adha falls on September 13 and Eid al-Fitr on June 25, a Sunday.

The 2016-2017 Philadelphia school calendar has already been drafted so students and staff who wish to celebrate the two holidays will have excused absences. After that the Philadelphia school district will send the holiday dates to the School Reform Commission, which oversees Philadelphia’s public schools. These holidays vary each year as Muslims follow a Lunar calendar. Philadelphia is also exploring how to make the two holy days city holidays.

bible emoji

My favorite story of today! Emojis have popped up—briefly—almost everywhere, but they may have hit the ultimate location—the Bible.  Now available is the newest bible translation, Bible Emoji: Scripture 4 Millennials. This project follows The Twible: All the Chapters of the Bible in 140 Characters or Less … Now with 68% More Humor, published in 2013. Jana Riess’s four-year project translates the holy book into tweets; she sent out one tweet per chapter every day.

The creator of Bible Emoji used the translation engine Lingo Jam to automatically translate all 66 books of the Bible. The person chose about 80 emojis from Unicode and 200 corresponding words, linking each with words that are often repeated in the Bible. About 15 percent of the total character count of the biblical text was replaced with modern slang.

The anonymous author of the emoji version who represents himself or herself on Twitter, @emojiBible, shows God as a smiley face. The six-month project had a few glitches. One respondent suggested that the author might be wrong in emojing  “in the beginning angels created the stars & the earth.”

The emoji bible is an excellent example of how Western culture tries to colonize Africa, South America, and the Inuit communities. The bible emoji for prayer hands fails to represent cultures that pray without outstretched hands, and emojis of supernatural figures—angels, the devil, the halo, etc.—are pop Western cultural depictions.

Someday, texting will be passe, and people will communicate completely with emojis. Unfortunately, miscommunication will most likely be even more rampant as opposite little critters can look almost exactly alike. The same thing may happen in the emoji bible.

June 3, 2016

Trump, Worse Than What Clinton Said

Hillary Clinton’s speech yesterday about Donald Trump was brilliant, but some of the ideas in Hillary Clinton’s takedown Donald Trump yesterday came directly from Mitt Romney’s speech about Trump just three months ago. “[Trump’s] domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president and his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill,” Romney said. Trump said Clinton lied about what he said, but here is a fact-check on everything she said.

Trump is the man that GOP voters say they support because they think that Hillary Clinton is “unlikeable,” a workaholic, and too friendly. A complaint, not supported, is that she lied about the email and Benghazi issues, yet Trump lies about literally everything–an average of every 41 seconds. Trump charged thousands of dollars for enrollment at “Trump University,” a multilevel marketing scheme instead of a university. No college degree—just information about real estate investing. “Students” were told to ask for credit line increases to pay the $35,000 for the “Trump Gold Elite” package and promised that going into this debt would increase their credit score. Some supposedly experienced real estate investors had never worked in real estate; some had declared bankruptcy in the past; and others just disappeared before the end of the “education.” Documents show the con of the “university” recruiters.

Trump’s lawsuit gained fame after his racist statements about its judge, Gonzalo Curiel. At first Trump called him a Mexican but then toned down his rhetoric to say that he is of “Mexican heritage.” Even so, Trump accused the judge of having a “conflict of interest” because of Trump’s claim that “I’m building a wall.” According to Trump, all judges of Hispanic descent should recuse themselves because of his racist remarks.

Curiel was actually born in Chicago and has been on the hit list of a Mexican drug cartel. Trump also referred to Curiel as a “hater” and “a very biased and unfair judge,” despite Curiel’s courtesy to Trump in postponing his trial until November 28, after the general election. Trump used President Obama’s appointment of Curiel in other attacks on him, but the judge started his judicial career as a GOP appointment by California’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

Although some GOP Latinos are hoping for a shift in Trump’s racist campaign, Ruth Guerra, the RNC’s Hispanic media communications director, left her job for a super PAC because of her inability to defend Trump. Conservative strategist Ana Navarro said, “If you’re a Hispanic holding your breath and hoping for Donald Trump to get better in his outreach to Latinos, you’re going to die of asphyxia.” In a news conference this week, Trump singled out two Hispanic network television reporters for criticism, calling ABC’s Tom Llamas a “sleaze” and CNN’s Jim Acosta “a real beauty.” Trump started his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” “criminals,” and “killers.” Last month he attacked New Mexico’s GOP Gov. Susanna Martinez, the only female Hispanic governor in the nation, for being  lazy and ineffectual. Today, 84 percent of Hispanics have an unfavorable view of Trump compared to only 50 percent who held the same view of Mitt Romney four years ago.

In an even more bizarre twist today, Trump pointed to a supporter in the Redding (CA) audience and said, “Look at my African-American over here.”

Hispanics aren’t the only people on Trump’s hit list. A few of his terms for women are “bimbo, dog, and fat pig” as shown in this anti-Trump ad released by a GOP PAC last March. Clinton has been falsely accused of calling Monica Lewinsky, but she her only description of Lewinsky was a “narcissistic loonie toon.”

Trump’s involvement in at least 3,500 state and federal legal actions shows that litigation is his favorite method of “negotiation”:

  • Trump as plaintiff – 1,900 cases;
  • Trump as defendant  – 1,450 times;
  • Bankruptcies or other big business court filings – 150 times;
  • Casinos – 1,700 times;
  • Personal injuries – 700 times;
  • Real estate disputes plus government and taxes – 465 times;
  • Trump University, Miss Universe, and libel suits – 55 times;
  • Dismissed or discontinued cases – 500;
  • Trump wins – 450 cases;
  • Settled – 175 cases;
  • New cases filed since Trump formally announced his candidacy – 70.

Trump refuses to release his tax returns, but he could be into debt for as much $1 billion to the German Deutsche Bank that has been long-time fighting the U.S. regarding regulations. The bank had to pay $2.5 billion fine for rigging interest rates and reached multiple settlements for price fixing metals. His ambiguous financial statement lists 16 loans from 11 different creditors, five unpaid ones worth $50 million or more. His income may be dropping: bookings for his hotels have dropped by 60 percent. Trump has pledged to repeal the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Trump’s claim that he raised $6 million for veterans, including his own $1 million donation, after refusing to participate in a Fox debate failed to show donations to these groups until the Washington Post asked about the money this past week. His excuse was that he was demanding tax information from the groups—the same information that he won’t provide to the U.S. public. He didn’t raise that $6 million, he hadn’t donated $1 million, and he didn’t donate the money to veterans.

Trump’s over 500 businesses listed in a personal financial disclosure form filed with the FEC creates a massive conflict of interest for Trump. Unelected officials working in the executive branch cannot collect income from outside businesses and participate in government decisions affecting private financial interests, but congressional members, federal judges, the vice-president, and the president are exempt from this restriction. Many Trump businesses are in countries that oppose the candidate’s personal foreign policy such as Dubai, Qatar, and China, and he operates businesses in Azerbaijan, Brazil, Egypt, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Israel, Philippines, South Africa and Turkey.

Trump said that his children would run the Trump business affairs if he is elected. But the closeness of the three to Trump could still represent a conflict of interest, and Trump is known for frequently reversing his declarations, calling them a “suggestion” rather than an intent. Trump has already used his victory speeches for infomercials regarding his water, wine, and steaks. An elected Trump could turn the White House into a Wal-Mart, as Timothy O’Brien wrote in Bloomberg. 

Yesterday, Trump completed his takeover of the GOP after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) quietly announced in his small-town newspaper that he would be voting for Trump as president.  Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman wrote, “Speaker Paul Ryan endorses nominee who wants to ban Muslims from the country. The hostile takeover of the GOP is now complete.” Washington Post called it “a sad day for Ryan—and for America.” GOP politicians who  can’t bring themselves to praise him come up with such statements as “it is what it is” (Marco Rubio), “he will help turn the House GOP’s agenda into laws” (Ryan). Former House majority leader Eric Cantor, said, “He’s a businessman . . . [but] he’s been on so many sides of every issue that you never know.” Wikipedia gives a list of “endorsements,” but many of these people are just resigned to vote for Trump. Yet many of the worst GOP leaders have expressed ambivalence about Trump support. Pundits have come up with a new term for these non-endorsers—SINOs or Supporters in Name Only.

As bad as the GOP leaders are in their support of Trump, voters following him are worse. Victor Vizcarra, 45, is representative of this mindless mindset looking for excitement when he said he chose Trump after Sanders because a Clinton administration would be “boring.” He continued:

 “A dark side of me wants to see what happens if Trump is in. There is going to be some kind of change, and even if it’s like a Nazi-type change, people are so drama-filled. They want to see stuff like that happen. It’s like reality TV. You don’t want to just see everybody be happy with each other. You want to see someone fighting somebody.”

And maybe a few nuclear explosions! People who want to think that Vizcarra is an anomaly are wrong. More and more, voters want to send their rage-filled message and experience the rush of craziness in “reality” shows like as Survival. They don’t care that their frantic search for entertainment in politics will lead the U.S. into the abyss.

Marty Kaplan wrote:

“Hillary Clinton has a presidential temperament. Her script promises stability. If the choice in November is between “’The Apprentice’ Goes to Washington” and “The Progressive Who Gets Things Done Show,” which one will the audience vote to watch?”

The answer could be really scary.

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