Nel's New Day

August 31, 2016

Florida: Rubio In for Now, Corey Out

Florida’s primary yesterday had bad news and good news. GOP Sen. Marco Rubio is still on the path to re-election after defeating his Trump-supported opponent. He won’t promise to stay the entire six years if elected, obviously using the Senate as a stepping stone for another presidential run in 2020. Whatever Rubio promises, however, is always subject to change, for example, his assertion—10,000 times by his own count—that he wouldn’t run for re-election. Within months, he made these claims: people who don’t want to vote, shouldn’t run for the Senate; all government workers who don’t do their jobs should be fired; he needs to vote only on important issues; and “there is really no other job in the country where if you don’t do your job, you don’t get fired.” The last one was said on the Senate floor, and he’s right—while he takes home $174,000 every year. He said that he didn’t need to vote because he was running for president.

Although Rubio never used the word “hate” for his feelings about the Senate, he did say that “we’re not going to fix America with senators and congressmen.” After Rubio had possibly the worst voting record ever in the Senate, missing almost one-third of his votes last year, newspapers such as Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, which had originally endorsed Rubio, called on him to “resign, not rip us off.”

The good news from yesterday’s Florida primary is that 4th Judicial State Attorney Angela Corey lost to a little-known corporate lawyer and former prosecutor, Melissa Nelson, 64 to 26 percent. Nelson still has to defeat write-in candidate Kenny Leigh in the general election, but no write-in candidate has ever been elected to such a position. Leigh has made no campaign appearances and not raised any money. Corey departs the office as the first incumbent state attorney in “modern history” to lose a contested election.

corey-AP_imgPeople may remember Angela Corey as the woman who botched the prosecution of George Zimmerman and saved him from prison after he stalked and killed teenager Trayvon Martin. But the Florida state attorney has a much broader reputation in destroying lives.

Corey was the person who put Marissa Alexander into prison for 20 years after she fired shots into a wall to protect herself from her abusive husband. In Florida, the “stand your ground” law seems to apply only to non-black males. A public outcry got Alexander another trial, but Corey was determined to put her back for 60 years. Alexander finally managed a plea that kept her under house arrest for three years. Two years before Alexander’s conviction, Corey’s territory, Duval County, had the highest incarceration rate in the state despite an historic low of crime in Florida.

With under five percent of Florida’s population, Duval County has 25 percent of the state’s death sentences and one of fewer than 20 counties that handed out more than five death sentences from 2010 to 2015. Two-thirds of the death sentences between 2009 and 2014 were for blacks, including 19-year-old Michael Shellito who suffers from extreme mental illness and has a low IQ.

cristianCristian Fernandez, 12, was another of Corey’s victims. Five years ago, he was questioned with no adult present and then convicted of killing his two-year-old brother, David. The children were left alone, and their mother waited over eight hours to take David to a hospital after Cristian said the toddler had hurt himself. She was sentenced to probation with no jail time. After Cristian said that he had pushed David against a bookshelf, he was charged with first-degree murder as an adult.

Florida law requires intent to kill for first-degree murder and carries a mandatory life sentence; in Corey’s terrain, all juveniles charged with murder are charged as adults, 1,475 in the Jacksonville area as compared to 34 in Miami-Dade (the most populated judicial district with higher rates of youth) between 2009 and 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles cannot be sentenced with mandatory life imprisonment but can still be charged as adults. According to this ruling, neuroscience shows that young people, because of their “immaturity, recklessness and impetuosity,” are less culpable than adults.

To protect juveniles in adult prisons from being physically assaulted or raped, these inmates were typically put into complete isolation until President Obama banned this practice earlier this year. Adult prisons have no educational or counseling facilities—no opportunity for rehabilitation. Put into solitary, Cristian had two visits from a mental-health counselor in 30 days along with a few phone calls.

Corey’s office also blackmails juveniles to plead guilty to the maximum juvenile sentence by threatening them with charging them as adults. She had strong support from elected public defender Matt Shirk, who is supposed to be on the defendant’s side. He fired most of the longtime public defenders in the office and appointed his friend Refik Eler as his second-in-command. Shirk was investigated by the Florida Commission on Ethics for violations including sexually harassing women he hired and then firing them because his wife threatened him with divorce if he didn’t. The Florida Commission on Ethics suggested that Shirk resign immediately; he didn’t.

Second-in-command Eler was cited four times by Florida courts for ineffective counsel, including telling clients not to argue that they have a mental disease or defect in death-penalty cases. Eight of Eler’s clients have gone to death row, more than any other Florida public defender. Some indigent defendants now opt to represent themselves, for example a man who lost a 12-month plea deal after the public defender failed to follow up. The man was released after seven years because he filed a federal habeas petition.

Cristian’s fate changed when pro bono lawyers took up his cause, but Corey retaliated by filing another adult charge of Cristian sexually abusing his five-year-old brother. Investigators interrogated Cristian with neither his lawyer nor his guardian ad litem notified, and Shirk continued to sabotage Cristian’s case although he no longer had any involvement. Cristian’s new lawyers reviewed unexamined evidence and built a case for the boy’s defense. They managed a plea deal that put him into a juvenile therapeutic facility rather than risk a jury trial that could lead to an adult prison. Cristian may be released in two years when he is 19 and then remain on parole for five years.

Currently, Corey is running a smear campaign against Darlene Farah, the mother of a murdered daughter. Farah opposes the death penalty for her child’s killer, and Corey accuses her of being “more interested in publicity than actually grieving for her daughter.” James Rhodes, the 24-year-old black man convicted of the killing, has not been sentenced because a temporary halt on death penalty sentences. The Supreme Court ruled the state’s death penalty law to be unconstitutional because judges could overrule juries and sentence defendants to death. Corey has tried to get support from Farah’s teenage son, Caleb, by showing him video of his sister’s murder. After briefly caving in, Caleb supports a life sentence for Rhodes.

As the district’s state attorney, Corey is the primary advocate for those sentences, making her one of the deadliest prosecutors in the country. Corey also used $108,439 of taxpayer money to upgrade her pension plan, and $425,000 in bonuses for her office staff. Corey was able to maneuver around a Florida statute that bans such bonuses for public employees by claiming the disbursements were “one time” pay raises.

Nelson’s win is not unadulterated good news: she was endorsed by the NRA who thought that Zimmerman should not have been charged at all. After a prosecutor for 12 years in the 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s office, however, she switched to private practice and was one of the defense attorneys for Cristian Fernandez. Maybe there’s hope for kids in the northeastern Florida judicial district. 

Trump Watch: Before Trump’s immigration speech in Arizona, he flew to Mexico to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto. After the meeting, Trump said that they didn’t discuss who would pay for Trump’s wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but Peña Nieto said that he “made it clear” to Trump that Mexico would not pay for the wall. The president of Mexico also told Trump that illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S. peaked years ago and complained to him about the vast number of guns that crossed the border and made Mexico’s drug wars much worse. Trump did get his photo-op with Peña Nieto, who has a 23 percent approval rating in Mexico.

Tonight, Trump gave his ten points of controlling undocumented immigrants with no solid methods of doing so, much of the content expanded from his GOP convention speech. Some Republicans who want more voter support for Trump called it a “softening”; Ann Coulter heard it the same way that many other listeners did. She called it a magnificent speech because there was “no pivot. Illegals will have one path to legal status: To go home and apply through legal channels like everyone else.” The only difference between Trump’s lies and white nationalism tonight was that he read it from a teleprompter.

August 30, 2016

Trump’s Campaign Manager Decries Lack of ‘Substance’

“We want substance!” That’s the cry from Donald lovers and Hillary haters. During an interview with Rachel Maddow, Trump campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, voiced the complaint that “no substance [is] being discussed” in the 2016 race.

Yesterday Hillary Clinton provided substance—and the media ignored her. She presented a mental health package to help improve the condition of the 20 percent of people in the United States who suffer from mental illness and initiate a White House conference about the subject during her first year as president. Her plan integrates mental health services into health-care system and includes a national suicide prevention initiative, higher payments for Medicaid providers, emphasis on treatment over jail for low-level criminal offenders with mental health issues, and new housing and job opportunities. She also promised increased investment in brain and behavioral science research as well as enforcing existing laws that mandate mental health coverage be an essential benefit in health insurance plans. This agenda overlaps with her plan to address drug and alcohol addiction and addresses the problems of military veterans who experience PTSD and depression.

Plans like this sound boring to anyone except policy wonks like Clinton. Anti-Hillary people would rather have the media throw them red meat so that they are comfortable with hating Clinton. Much as Trump’s campaign manager calls for a discussion of “substance,” her candidate doesn’t want anything except innuendo and false assertions.

Yesterday, Conway’s candidate blamed Clinton for Anthony Weiner sexts because the former congressman and onetime mayoral candidate is married to Clinton’s senior adviser Huma Abedin who is leaving her husband after the most recent sexts. Trump wrote:

“I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity [sic] to highly classified information. Who knows what he learned and who he told? It’s just another example of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment. It is possible that our country and its security have been greatly compromised by this.”

Throwing out this criticism is bad judgment from a man who left his first wife for another woman and then left her for a Central European model who posed nude and may have violated immigration law. After his first divorce, his own mother said, “What kind of son have I created?” He also seeks advice from Roger Ailes, recently fired from his position as chair and CEO of Fox network because of sexual harassment for dozens of women. Trump’s pick for campaign CEO is Steve Bannon, who was charged with physically assaulting his ex-wife. Weiner hasn’t been charged with any criminal acts, but Trump wants him listed as a sex offender. And Trump has no proof for his assertions; he just wants to rile up his audience.

While ignoring Clinton’s health plan, Trump waded into the issue of the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who didn’t stand for the national anthem and said that the football player should leave the United States. Colin Kaepernick said that he was protesting the nation’s racial inequality when he sat during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The NFL league does not require players to stand during the national anthem. It’s a matter of free speech, just the Supreme Court says about donating unlimited sums of money to candidates.

Conservatives who want limited ownership of firearms claim that killings could be solved by addressing mental health issues, but no Republican, including Donald Trump, has responded to Clinton’s new plan. If Conway’s candidate tries to address “substance,” he’ll be farther down in the polls that he is now.

Trump Watch: Pastor Mark Burns, a black supporter of Donald Trump, has used his freedom of speech to attack Clinton by tweeting a vile cartoon of the Democratic presidential candidate in black face. [I included the cartoon because it’s the only way to see how horrible it is.] blackfaceTrump’s surrogate and advisor, a proponent of the “prosperity gospel” that champions money and celebrates great wealth for people, called his intentions in the tweet “honorable.”  Burns’ benediction at the GOP convention has been called the most partisan convention prayer in modern history. He called Democrats as “the enemy” and asked for God to “defeat” Clinton and her party. Trump’s favorability with blacks is zero: 97 percent of blacks view Trump unfavorably and the remaining three percent is undecided.

The Washington Post has made public much of the raw reporting used in the development of Trump Revealed, its new biography of the GOP presidential nominee. The archive contains 398 documents–interview transcripts, court filings, financial reports, immigration records, etc.

Dr. Harold Bornstein may come to regret the five minutes that he spent typing up his letter with the glowing description of Trump’s fine health. After GOP members started putting out fake videos and other reports falsely purporting that Clinton’s health is bad, journalists started digging into the Bornstein’s background. The interview with him was damning enough, especially when he said, in an egregious violation of medical ethics, “I know her physician and I know some of her health history which is really not so good.”

Additional information shows that Bornstein paid $86,250 in 2002 to the husband of a former patient to settle a wrongful death case alleging that Bornstein had contributed to the woman’s addition and resulting death by overmedicating her with unnecessary prescriptions. This case was one of three lawsuits since 1992, with another one alleging improper administration of  powerful drugs leading to the patient’s death.

In one of the complaints, Kenneth Levin alleged Bornstein “was negligent, careless, and unskilled in failing to properly diagnose the plaintiff” and in treating his wife, Janet Levin. It also alleges that Bornstein was negligent “in failing to make a referral to a mental health professional; in wrongfully prescribing tuinal, morphine, and valium, particularly in light of the history of drinking; in improperly and negligently seeing the patient without providing treatment; and in overmedicating the decedent.” Kenneth Levin has died since the lawsuit was filed and settled through a payment.

Malpractice suits aren’t uncommon among medical professionals, but Bornstein’s response to the letter of clean health he wrote for Trump has raised questions. For example, he said of the letter,“In a rush, I think some of those words didn’t come out exactly the way they were meant.” About the language, Bornstein said, “I think I picked up [Trump’s] kind of language and then just interpreted it to my own.” Arthur Caplan, founding director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, pointed out that “a gastroenterologist should not be offering an assessment of Trump’s overall health.” Caplan also said:

“You don’t do an assessment in a few minutes, and you don’t do it without having the person in front of you. You don’t write a letter without examining the patient.”

In another part of collateral damage in the Clinton health situation, Fox fired Dr. Drew Pinsky after he made a diagnosis of Hillary Clinton on his program although he had not seen her or her doctor.

Another Trump discovery is that his modeling agency, Trump Model Management, hired underage foreign models in the early 2000s without proper documentation. Interviews have shown low wages, horrible living conditions, and fear of being deported because they didn’t have work visas. For example, “the agency charged as much as $1,600 a month for a bunk in a six-person room in New York’s East Village in 2004.” As many as 11 girls, ages 14 and 15, and women would live in this room.

Models said that agency reps coached them in how to pass immigration:

“When you’re stuck at immigration, say that you’re coming as a tourist. If they go through your luggage and they find your portfolio, tell them that you’re going there to look for an agent.”

The girls and women were also told to send their portfolios ahead so that they didn’t get caught with them. More successful models received H-1B work visas; others not offered visas were sent home. Last March, Trump said he would “end forever the use of H-1B as a cheap labor program,” adding he will require companies to hire American workers before opening the pool to visa holders.

Trump gained part of his popularity by claiming that undocumented immigrants–like the ones his agency imported–are “taking our jobs” and “taking our money.” He promised to deport all of them and build a wall on the Mexico border–although he shipped these models into the country through New York airports. Tomorrow, Trump is presenting his latest immigration position in a speech to be given in Arizona.

Two people discussing Clinton and Trump on a local public radio station yesterday highlighted the differences between their approaches toward candidate selection. A woman claiming to be highly educated said that, based on her feelings, she wouldn’t even trust Clinton to walk her dog. A respondent, who described himself as a Goldwater Republican, said that he wouldn’t trust Trump with his bank account. His viewpoint was based on fact whereas the woman had been absorbing the “feelings” from the media. The man wanted discussion based on substance—important issues such as nuclear weapons and Russian involvement in U.S. elections. But the Hillary haters just want to keep on hating, and the media feeds them what they want.

August 28, 2016

The Road to Happiness, Long Life

How to find happiness and the good life is an ongoing search for humanity. Ninety years ago, Bertrand Russell wrote, “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.” After last year’s presidential campaign, it’s a message that need to be considered.

Ten years after Russell delivered this philosophy, Harvard Medical School researchers started to find answers to the question  of the good life through science in the Grant Study—and longest-running study in this realm. The Study of Adult Development began in 1938 as a contrast to medicine’s disease model as it followed 268 healthy sophomores between 1939 and 1944. Medical science knew nothing about DNA and little about genetics at that time. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders would not be written for another two decades. The good life was considered a purview of philosophy and not medicine.

Although the subject began by using entitled white men for the subjects, its findings did provide some insight into satisfaction—longevity, self-actualization, intersection of nature and nurture, etc. To explain these, Harvard psychologist and Grant Study director Robert Waldinger gave an 18-minute TED talk about the revelations of the 75 years of data: “What makes a good life? Lessons learned from the longest study on happiness.”

Pete Jones provided his responses on how the talk ties into his own life. His first reaction is that “everything that I wanted was tied back to some form of happiness. I want to be healthier and more consistent with workouts this makes me happy. I want to plan an adventure with some degree of uncertainty because it makes me happy.”

Waldinger reported that 80 percent of millenials believe that getting rich is important for staying happy and healthy; 50 percent said that becoming famous would lead to these ends. U.S. work ethics urge people to work harder and achieve more, indicating that these efforts will result in a good life. The Harvard study tracking 724 men since 1938—60 or whom are still alive and participating—differs from this perception.

The subjects included the original 268 male sophomores who graduated during World War II, many of them serving in the war, and 456 inner-city young men from poor Boston neighborhoods in the 1930s. Study administrators interviewed subjects in their own homes, talked to their children, scanned their brains, and inspected their medical records and blood.

These are the discoveries:

Social connections are important. People more connected to family, friends and community are happier and healthier. They live longer compared to others whose health declined earlier. Lonely people drink more alcohol, exercise and sleep less, and have more daytime fatigue.

The quality—not the quantity—of relationships matters in health and happiness. High-conflict intimate relationships lacking affection are unhealthy, perhaps worse than separating. Happy relationships, not cholesterol levels, are the important predictor of satisfaction, even if people experience more physical pain. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar determined that the average person can have about 150 people in their social group. Yet only 15 of these people are friends for confiding in, and only five are a close support group of best friends and family.

Secure relationships equal protection both physically and mentally. When people are satisfied with their relationships, they have sharper memories.

The 58 men who scored highest on “warm relationships” earned an average of $141,000 a year in their peak salaries between the ages between 55 and 60 more than the 31 men who scored the lowest. Men with poor childhood relationships with their mothers made less money and were more likely to develop dementia when they grew old. Good relationships with fathers correlated with less adult anxiety, greater enjoyment of vacations, and increased “life satisfaction” when they were 75 years old. George E. Vallant, the director of the study in the last part of the 20th century, wrote, “Happiness is love” in his book Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study.  

Bertrand Russell’s ideas of achieving happiness add to the concept of good relationships. Zest, “an appetite for possible things,” is vital. It may not directly lead to happiness because happiness requires effort. Russell wrote that this is the reason that he called his book, “the conquest of happiness.” The enemy of zest is boredom which leads people to the desire for excitement. An excitement incompatible with zest, however, is anxiety. Russell recommends that “when you have looked for some time steadily at the worst possibility and have said to yourself with real conviction, ‘Well, after all, that would not matter so very much’, you will find that your worry diminishes to a quite extraordinary extent.”

Russell also has a solution for the difficulty of making choices.

“I have found, for example, that if I have to write upon some rather difficult topic the best plan is to think about it with very great intensity—the greatest intensity of which I am capable—for a few hours or days, and at the end of that time to give orders, so to speak, that the work is to proceed underground. After some months I return consciously to the topic and find that the work has been done.”

The greatest obstacle to happiness, to Russell, is “the disease of self-absorption.” The less preoccupied people are with themselves, the happier they are. Perhaps that’s the answer to a good relationship. He wrote that people serve as objects of comparison to the self-absorbed person:

 “What people fear [. . .] is not that they will fail to get their breakfast next morning, but that they will fail to outshine their neighbors.”

Russell’s suggestion to overcome self-absorption is to “teach yourself that life would still be worth living even if you were not, as of course you are, immeasurably superior to all your friends in virtue and intelligence.” His recommendation: “You can get away from envy by enjoying the pleasures that come your way, by doing the work that you have to do, and by avoiding comparisons with those whom you imagine, perhaps quite falsely, to be more fortunate than yourself.”

Another piece of advice is for people to worry less about others think of them: “Chances are you overestimate the love of your friends and the disdain of your foes.” He does recommend respect for public opinion in order “to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways.”To Russell, a conformist society is boring which circles back to the need for zest.

Perhaps a long happy life comes from deciding what you can do for people, not to people.

August 27, 2016

Trump: ‘Make American Hate Again’

 

The two presidential candidates dueled this past week about bigotry and hatred. Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton, and Clinton gave a speech composed greatly out of quotes from Donald Trump, his campaign leader, and his surrogates. Instead of lambasting the entire GOP, Clinton isolated him from the establishment party members by graphically describing his strong white-supremacist connections. With Breitbart’s former leader, Steve Bannon, moving over to be Trump’s new campaign CEO, the field of Trump’s offensive comments has vastly expanded—for example, Breitbart’s headline, “Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement’s Human Shield.”

Other issues that Clinton brought up are Trump’s praise of Alex Jones who claimed that “the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre were child actors and no one was actually killed there.” She evoked Trump’s long-term birtherism when he refused to accept that President Obama’s long form of his birth certificate was authentic. There was also the attack on a judge, calling him a “Mexican” when he was born in Illinois, and his connection between Ted Cruz’s father and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Clinton gave House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) a pass when she distanced him from Trump, and she cited anti-racist behavior of past Republicans, for example when George W. Bush went to a mosque the week after 9/11 and said that “[Muslims] love America just as much as I do.” She could have attacked other Republicans, for example Ronald Reagan’s comment about “strapping young bucks” buying T-bone steaks with food stamps. By making Trump a freaky aberration, however, she makes it easier for Republicans to reject him.

No media outlet even did a fact check on Clinton’s speech except for Breitbart.com, and their defense was filled with lies—for example, their belief that Trump wasn’t racist before his candidacy despite his history of keeping blacks out of his housing development in the 1970s. Everything she said in her speech was true because they were quotes and bringing together all this outrageousness required great skill. Trump’s response thus far is that it was the same old weak technique of Democrats. He also said that he’s never heard of “alt-right,” the white supremacists merged with his campaign. “We’re bringing love,” he said.

Conservative critics said that she shouldn’t have brought the white supremacists into the open, that it was better to leave them alone. Media and internet studies scholar Whitney Phillips wrote, “Sometimes silence isn’t enough, and in fact isn’t appropriate.” People who cross the ethical line continue to go farther and farther without messages that their oppressive aggression and bigotry cannot be tolerated.

After the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, Republicans—formerly Southern Democrats—developed the “Southern Strategy” to encourage racial resentments and anxieties as a method of gathering votes. Trump’s strategy puts this movement on steroids as he energizes white nationalists and supremacists and allowed them back into the mainstream of the conservative political party. Normalizing their behavior has resulted in the “Trump effect” that increases open bullying in schools, violence toward marginalized populations, and threatening the safety of everyone who opposes white supremacy.

The thundering response from GOP leaders to Clinton’s speech was silence. Asked about the lack of response, RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said that “Congress is in recess.” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and RNC Chair Reince Priebus all have at least one Twitter account, but nothing posted on any of these about Clinton’s speech or on the GOP.com website and blog.

GOP pundits are not as quiet about Trump. Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, a speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote:

 “Trump has hired and elevated some of the very worst people in American politics, known for their cruelty, radicalism, prejudice and corruption. In Trump’s view, leaders elevate themselves by belittling others. They yell and abuse and bully. And their most important quality is absolute loyalty to the great leader, the star of the show. … Trump, more than most, needs to surround himself with people who compensate for his alarming weaknesses. Instead, his choices demonstrate and amplify those weaknesses, becoming one more reason to utterly reject his leadership.”

Trump recently appointed Steven Bannon, former head of extreme right Breitbart.com, for the new campaign CEO. The media found serious problems with Bannon:

  • He was charged for an appalling act of domestic violence against his then-wife in 1996. The case was dismissed after she left town because Bannon threatened her if she stayed.
  • He may be guilty of voter fraud, a problem that the GOP and Trump attribute to minorities. Bannon is registered to vote in swing state Florida at an empty house emptied for demolition. Willfully submitting false information on a Florida voter registration is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. From the 1980s until 2014, Bannon was registered to vote in California from the 1980s until 2014 when he cancelled that registration and then registered in Miami. Residency in Florida is attractive because the state has no income tax. As recently as last week, Bannon was reportedly a resident of Laguna Beach Orange County, CA) where he owns a house although he hosted a talkshow live seven mornings a week from Washington, D.C. or New York City.
  • He may have exchanged money for favorable articles on Breitbart.com. The $2.4 million townhouse in Washington, D.C. that he describes as “his” is actually owned by Egyptian businessman, Mostafa E.-Gindy. Bannon refuses to disclose the financial ties between Gindy and Breitbart.
  • He refused to send his daughters to a private school because he “didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.” In a 2007 court filing, Bannon’s ex-wife Mary Louise Piccard reported that Bannon “said he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats.'”

Also on Trump’s payroll is Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s daughter, Lauren. LePage is well-known for his extreme racist statements, but a recent expletive-filled voicemail threatened a state legislator. Earlier this week, he said that he keeps a binder of mugshots for all drug dealers arrested in Maine. He claims that 90 percent of them are black or Hispanic; Maine is 95 percent white. He then declared that people of color in Maine are “the enemy.” About LePage, conservative RedState wrote:

“Donald Trump collects idiots the way Velcro collects lint. That is who he hires…. He has attracted racists and bigots to his campaign in a way I would never have thought possible. He encourages them. He validates them. He inspires them.”

With Trump sinking in the polls, Republicans in Western states fear that he will sink the GOP in their region of increasing numbers of Hispanic, Asian, and younger voters. Trump is also unpopular with educated white professionals who have resettled in Denver, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City. Once the deep blue state of California was staunchly red; the same thing can happen in Colorado and Nevada. Trump is rapidly losing “friends” among Republicans. Sean D. Reyes, Utah’s attorney general, called Trump’s campaign to register discontent after Trump referred to people from the Philippines as “animals.” Reyes is part Filipino.

Arizona may have the biggest problem as Clinton has almost tied Trump, and senior senator John McCain faces a difficult election this year. Hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, whose sister is a close friend of Trump’s new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, is donating big money to defeat McCain. The incumbent will probably defeat his extremist right-wing opponent, Kelli Ward, in Tuesday’s primary, but Democratic Ann Fitzpatrick will give him a strong run in the general election. Although Arizona still has more Republicans than Democrats, the latter are registering people at a faster rate. Junior Sen. Jeff Flake, also a Republican, gave this advice: “Distance yourself from Donald Trump.” Even Alaska may not stay red for long: people of color will be 40 percent of voters by 2032.

Yesterday, Trump’s Arizona director said that the candidate had canceled an event this next week in downtown Phoenix, but two hours later, Trump tweeted that the event was on—and would be really big. Earlier this week Trump canceled a Las Vegas rally and called off other scheduled events, including in Colorado.

If John McCain wants to get the vote of people of color, he might want to quit lamenting that “one of the sad things in American politics today is that you can’t tell any ethnic jokes except Irish jokes.” Or at least keep his disappointment about not ridiculing people of color to himself.

August 26, 2016

Women’s Vote Can Change the World

Pickets-Women-White-HouseMy mother was born on November 12, 1899, just ten days too late to vote the United States legalized the vote for women. After 72 years of ridicule, imprisonment, forced feedings, and other forms of opposition to women gaining their full citizenship rights, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed on August 18, 1920—thanks to one state legislator from Tennessee who followed his mother’s advice. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the proclamation after the certified record from Tennessee arrived at the capitol.

it's a woman's worldIn the first election, only nine million women, about 35 percent of those eligible, voted, compared to almost twice as many men. Public sentiment followed one of the headlines about the event: “Is suffrage a failure?” For the next 45 years, black women in the South joined black men to eliminate literacy tests, poll tests, and other voter suppression activities. Since 1980, however, women have been the majority at every general election, electing Bill Clinton in 1996 with 11 percent more women’s votes than from men up to 13 percent greater number of votes from women for President Obama in 2008. Whoever thought that the feminist movement failed after 1920 is wrong.

As historian Jo Freeman wrote in A Room at a Time:

 “[Women behind the scenes] prepared women for political work and enlarged their sphere of activity. They did this through education, legitimation and infiltration…. And by doing what was possible, women went into politics the same way they got suffrage: slowly and persistently, with great effort, against much resistance, a room at a time.”

This evolution laid the foundation for women’s progress throughout 96 years, leading to Hillary Clinton’s nomination for presidential candidate this year. The biggest move forward after 1920 was the 1964 Civil Rights Act, initially created to deal with race discrimination. At the last minute, however, the category of sex was added to those of race, color, religion, and national origin that are outlawed in employment discrimination. While no one is sure that this story is accurate, a tale has been told of Virginia’s Howard W. Smith, opponent of all civil rights legislation, adding “sex” to Title VII in order to kill the bill. After the laughter, the Civil Rights Act—with the addition of “sex”—passed.

The first two years after the Civil Rights Act didn’t show much movement forward to support women until another milestone occurred 50 years ago on June 30, 1966. That was the day that the National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded. Thanks to this group’s actions, President Lyndon B. Johnson expanded affirmative action to include women in 1967, and the 1968 Equal Credit Opportunity Act allowed women to get credit—including credit cards—without their husbands’ signatures.

Even so, women weren’t guaranteed an equal education during the late 1960s, and sexual harassment was legal. Domestic violence favored men over women. The movie Twelve Angry Men represented the way that women were barred from serving on juries or had difficulties in being selected as jurors. A clerk advised Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren that permitting women to serve “may encourage lax performance of their domestic duties.” Women were also not employed as TV news anchors, airplane pilots, astronauts, firefighters, movie directors, CEOs—the list was endless.

When women were paid much less, the excuse was that they were single and living with their parents or married and earning “pin money” as a supplement to husbands’ earnings. (The same excuse is used 50 years later to excuse companies from paying teenagers the same wage for the same job as older people.) The medical and law schools that didn’t bar females from being students greatly limited the number of women in classes.

The “pill,” available in 1960 and to all married women after the Supreme Court ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut, was still kept from unmarried women until the Supreme Court ruled that unmarried women also could purchase contraceptives in Baird v. Eisenstadt (1972). The next year saw a Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortions on a limited basis. By 1978, employers were required to hire pregnant women. For the first four decades of NOW, women won pay discrimination lawsuits, and courts decided that the law covered sexual harassment.

The 21st century, however, brought reversals of women’s rights in health and finances. The Supreme Court allowed states to pass unbelievably restrictive anti-abortion laws and even prevent women from getting contraceptives from their insurance. In 2011, the John Roberts’ Supreme Court ruled that thousands of women bringing a class action lawsuit against Walmart for discrimination at work couldn’t sue as a group. Since the Dukes v. Wal-Mart ruling, judges have sided with employers so often that women are now finding it impossible to even find lawyers to take their cases.

Fifty-two years after the equality declared in the Civil Rights Act, women on the average make only 79 cents for every dollar made by a man, and breaking down this statistic by race makes the picture even worse. Black women have to work an additional seven months—19 months—to make the same salary as a man does in one year. That’s a lifetime pay gap of $877,480. one-third of all women in the nation—about 42 million people—live in or on the edge of poverty.

Fifty years later, women still struggle with many of the same issues as in the 1960s, frequently through the combination of racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism. Rape is illegal, but too often men are not punished for their behavior because women are accused of being at fault. Protection for women because of domestic violence can be based on a woman’s race, gender identity, and zip code. Because of this intersectionalism of prejudice, NOW plans to focus on reproductive rights, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, and a criminal justice system that puts thousands of female victims of sexual assault—many of them women of color—into prison, especially with newer laws mandating sentences.

Bobbi1The year 2016 marks 50 years of women running in the Boston Marathon. Bobbi Gibbs (left) was told that “women are not physiologically able to run a marathon.” She entered without an application and beat over half the field in 3 hours, 21 minutes. The next year, Kathrine Switzer entered the marathon under her initials and beat her boyfriend, who had thought “if a girl can run a marathon, I can run a marathon.” Her time was only 4 hours 20 minutes, but she was physically attacked by the race co-director. In 1972, the AAU changed its rule barring women from running more than a mile and a half, and Title IX provided equality in education for women.

Women need one more amendment to the U.S. Constitution: The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Originally written by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman, the proposed amendment to guarantee equal rights for women was first introduced in Congress in 1923 and introduced in every session between 1923 and 1970. Yet it reached the floor only once in 1946 when it was defeated in the Senate, 38 to 35. In 1972, however, the ERA passed the Congress and was sent to state legislatures for ratification.

Phyllis Schlafly mobilized conservative women with the fear that they would have to use the same toilets as men, and the amendment failed to get four of the necessary 38 state ratifications by 1977 with a deadline of March 22, 1979. Later five states rescinded their ratifications, which meant that the ERA failed to get enough states although the deadline was extended three years. This is the text of the amendment that so terrified conservatives throughout almost a century.

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Activists have pushed for the ERA over the long haul just as they did for the vote. The amendment has been introduced in every Congressional session since 1982. As of now, 11 states have adopted constitutions or constitutional amendments providing that equal rights under the law shall not be denied because of sex.

When it was founded, “NOW’s purpose was to take action, to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society,” according to Terry O’Neill, the president of NOW. After 50 years, we have a start.

On the 96th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the one that allowed women to vote, think what our country would be like in the 21st century if brave people had not fought for 72 years to make women equal citizens of the United States.

August 24, 2016

Men Who Sexually Assault Women Need Protection, Judge Asserts

Filed under: sexism — trp2011 @ 7:53 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

david beckerAnother judge understands that poor athletes don’t deserve prison time for sexually assaulting unconscious women. David Becker, 18, was charged with two counts of rape and one count of indecent assault and battery at a party in Palmer (MA), but Palmer District Court Judge Thomas Estes ordered Becker’s case be continued for two years without a finding and sentenced him to two years of probation. The recent graduate of East Longmeadow High School was told to avoid drugs and alcohol, submit to an evaluation for sex offender treatment, and stay away from the two 18-year-old victims.

Becker has no jail time, won’t be required to register as a sex offender, and can have his record cleared if he successfully fulfills the requirements of his probation. He can also serve his probation wherever he decides to go to college, originally at the University of Dayton (OH) until the school reported that he will not be attending. Thomas Rooke, Becker’s attorney, is naturally delighted that he won’t be impeded “from graduating high school and to go onto the next step of his life, which is a college experience.”

Both victims woke up while Becker was sexually assaulting them. He denied assaulting one woman but apologized to the other in a text the next day. He had thought his behavior was acceptable because the unconscious women didn’t stop him. Becker evidently has a history of assaulting other girls because his nickname is “David the Rapist.” The lawyer said, “We all made mistakes when we were 17, 18, 19 years old…. Putting this kid in jail for two years would have destroyed this kid’s life.” The DA’s office concurred although prosecutors recommended two years in prison.

Estes’ ruling follows the exoneration of students Brock Turner, Stanford University, and Austin Wilkerson, University of Colorado, for similar offenses. Since Stanford became notorious for the judge’s permissive attitude toward sexual assault, the university has a new policy that may protect future rapists. The school’s solution is to ban large containers of hard alcohol from campus undergraduate events and tell women to be careful of how males “perceive” them if they drink. The new rule continues to put blame on the victim, as the sentencing for Brock Turner did. The policy is only for undergraduates; graduate students and staff have no guidelines.

An entire portion of Stanford’s policy is devoted to “Female Bodies and Alcohol” that begins, “A woman will get drunk faster than a man consuming the same amount of alcohol.” The policy follows with how women should “optimize the positive effects of alcohol and avoid negative consequences.” At least it eliminated the statement that “research tells us that women who are seen drinking alcohol are perceived to be more sexually available than they may actually be.”

In a survey this week, 56 percent of men think that sexism is a thing of the past.

Trump Watch:  Trump’s new “persuasive” argument to people of color is asking them what they have to lose by voting for him. Prominent Hispanic activist and conservative Ana Navarro answers Trump:

What we have to lose, is our dignity. Our sense of self-worth…. Our moral compass…. Our political leverage. We would lose any power. If we allow somebody who has been bashing us for over a year to win the presidency, it means the Hispanic vote does not matter. So, that’s my answer to Donald Trump. What do we have to lose by voting for you? Our dignity.”

After Navarro listened to GOP Hispanic Communications Director Helen Aguirre Ferré extol the virtues of the GOP candidate, the political analyst listed several Trump offenses against the Hispanic community before she said to Ferré:

“Listen, Helen, I let you speak and I’m old enough to remember when you used to Tweet against Donald Trump! I’m old enough to remember when you used to be as offended as I am by the things Donald Trump used to say! That was before he was the nominee. That was before you had an RNC job.”

At least seven of Trump’s paid campaign staffers agree with the candidate’s bigotry: their personal social media accounts declare that Muslims shouldn’t be U.S. citizens, Secretary of State John Kerry should be hanged, and the country should have a civil war. A graphic designer posted a racist video, and other staffers supported conspiracy theories. There may be many others, but several of Trump’s staffers have set their accounts to private. An examination of internal emails from Clinton’s or the DNC staffers did not find any racially or religiously inflammatory content.

Law enforcement officers, including a sniper perched atop an armored vehicle, watch as demonstrators protest the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 13, 2014. The police chief of this St. Louis suburb said Wednesday that Brown injured the officer who later fatally shot the unarmed 18 year old ? though witnesses dispute that such an altercation occurred. (Whitney Curtis/The New York Times)

Law enforcement officers in Ferguson (MO),  August. 13, 2014. (Whitney Curtis/The New York Times)

Eager to be known as the “law and order” candidate, Donald Trump wants to put war weapons back on the streets of the United States after President Obama banned sales of such surplus military equipment as grenade launchers to police departments. White House reforms require federal oversight and restrictions for police departments that are allowed other military equipment.

Part of Trump’s strategy to get elected is his lie that war zones in foreign countries are safer than U.S. cities. Yet fewer violent crimes were committed in 2014 than during any year in the past several decades. Crime rates stayed flat in the 30 largest cities during the first six months of 2015. A decade ago, during the reign of George W. Bush, crime rates were 30 percent higher than now. At the same time, Republicans have convinced two-thirds of the nation’s population that crime is vastly on the rise.

crime rate chart

In his business acumen, Trump has almost quintupled the monthly rent charged to the presidential campaign for its headquarters at Trump Tower–$169,758 in July alone. It was much cheaper in March–$35,458—before donors started paying for the rent. Donors to his campaign are also paying in Trump’s coffers through rents for many of his facilities. He has also been caught illegally using campaign funds to buy thousands of copies of his own book at retail cost, putting the money from donors into his own pocket and artificially boosting his sales figures. In the past the FEC has permitted candidates to buy copies of their own books from the publisher at a “discounted bulk rate”with no royalties going to the author.

Comedian Seth Meyers nailed the Trump’s pivot that even mainstream pundits are buying into these days:

“The 2016 campaign has settled into something of a pattern: Donald Trump spends weeks saying inflammatory things that drive his poll numbers down, then for a few days he acts relatively normal, and the media thinks he’s ready to get serious. Well, it’s happening again—even as Trump surrounds himself with people who feed his worst instincts.”

As Meyers said:

“That’s how low the bar is for Trump right now: Republicans are complimenting him for being ‘mature.’ They talk about their nominee the way people talk about a 5-year-old wearing a suit at a wedding.”

And it’s not just the GOP who think this way. As Adele Stan wrote:

“When Trump repudiates his racist followers and stops stoking their fears, we’ll know he’s serious about reaching out to non-whites.”

If Donald Trump loves black people as much as he claims, why doesn’t he meet with them? Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski explained that it’s too dangerous for Trump.

The man who tweeted this declaration wants to be the president of perhaps the most powerful nation in the world:

“I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present. That’s where the fun is!”

In another tweet, Trump told people not to purchase the newly released book about him, Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power, because it’s “boring. which went on sale Tuesday. The word “revealing” might be better used for this book that included 20 hours of interviews with Trump. According to the book, Trump wants a TV show if he loses the election, he’s never read a biography about a president, and he thinks that his wife’s breasts have to stay looking good from him to stay married to Melania. There’s also information about his involvement in “one of the most significant racial bias cases” of the 1970s when he and his father tried to keep blacks from living in one of their buildings.

August 22, 2016

Trump’s Travails

Weston-Imer-Trump-Cweston imerMuch has been said about the problems of Trump’s ground game, but nothing describes it like the director of his campaign office in Jefferson County, part of Denver metro and one of the most populous counties in Colorado at over one-half million people. Trump says that he hires only the best people, and Weston Imer (right) may be one of those—but he’s only twelve years old. His mother, the county’s official campaign coordinator, thinks that the experience will build her son’s character. Fox polls, which tend to favor conservatives, reports that Trump trails Clinton by ten points in the state. Imer plans to run for president in 2040 with Donald Trump’s 10-year-old son, Barron.

Even Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, had to laugh at Trump’s declaration that he would have the support of 95 percent of black voters in four years. At this time, the highly conservative poll from Fox gives Trump one percent of black voter support.

Data scientist David Robinson has discovered the reason that some of Trump’s tweets are rabid and others are almost benign. Using visual effects artist Todd Vaziri’s idea that campaign staff also use Trump’s Twitter account, Robinson performed a quantitative analysis to test Vaziri’s theory—and found that he is right. Trump’s Android tweets are the angry, negative outpourings, and the campaign’s iPhone  messages from four different people lack the menacing tone of Trump’s own statements and are 38 times more likely to include an image or link. Trump himself tends to ignore the “retweet” and instead copies and pastes tweets that he then puts into quotation marks.

Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, resigned two days after the GOP candidate hired Steven Bannon as his campaign CEO last week. Manafort had “helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012 in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party’s efforts to influence U.S. policy.” Politico also reported Manafort’s links with Russia and its Ukrainian allies.In the 1990s Bannon, the king of conspiracies on Breitbart, failed to pay some of his taxes. With the news of Bannon’s hiring, former Klan leader David Duke agreed with Stormfront-friendly white supremacist Don Advo, who said that “We’ve taken over the Republican party.”

Trump’s new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, is working hard to soften the candidate’s image, but no one knows how long she’ll last. Last April she told CNN’s Don Lemon that it was unacceptable for Trump to not make his tax returns public. Now she’s pivoted: she asserted that now she is “on the inside” she believes that he shouldn’t make his returns public. Last spring she  said that Trump’s rhetoric was “unfortunate for children.” At the same time, she said that Trump “actually built a lot of his business on the backs of the little guy” and that Trump is known for “not paying contractors after [they have helped him] build something.” Now that doesn’t seem to be a problem for her.

Another advisor to Trump’s campaign may not last long after the publicizing of Joseph Schmitz’s anti-Semitic philosophy. Named as one of Trump’s five foreign policy advisers in March, Schmitz is accused of bragging that he pushed out Jewish employees while Defense Department Inspector General for George W. Bush. Schmitz also told Pentagon official John Crane that “the ovens were too small to kill six million Jews” during the Holocaust.  As a former board member for the private military outsourcing company Blackwater, Schmitz left the government after he obstructed an FBI investigation of John A. Shaw regarding contracting improprieties in Iraq.

Whirling dervish Trump succeeded in a pivot for three days after he calmly read from his teleprompter last Friday evening:

“Sometimes in the heat of debate, and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain.”

Trump didn’t specify what “may have caused personal pain”—a long, long list if he means what he said. He also said in his speech that “sometimes I can be too honest,” meaning that he hasn’t changed his position, just sorry that he’s going down in the polls. The bar is so low for Trump that he is highly praised for being able to poorly read off a teleprompter a speech someone else wrote.

In the speech,Trump also said, “I will never lie to you.” That was immediately before he lied when he said that Hillary Clinton “has proven to be one of the greatest liars of all time.” Clinton has been judged to lie less than any other presidential candidates for the last three terms while Trump has the highest record of lying—over 80 percent of the time.

One of Trump’s lies comes from his promises to give money to charities and then never following through with these promises. Whenever he fired a character on The Celebrity Apprentice, he said he would give money “out of my own wallet” to a charity of the person’s choice. Evidently he never did—not to Khloé Kardashian’s pick of the Brent Shapiro Foundation or the choices that Aubrey O’Day and comedian Lisa Lampanelli made.  Any money the selected charities received came from the TV production company that paid for the show’s prizes or a non-profit that Trump controls but receives its money from other donors.

Another Trump lie is how much he owes. The man who takes pride in being a superb business man owes almost $3 billion, unlike the statement the amount of debt he cited in his public filings. Trump has ranted against China as a U.S. economic enemy and Goldman Sachs as the controller of Hillary Clinton, but China and Goldman Sachs hold part of the $950 million on a a building that he partially owns. Trump holds over $650 million in debt, at least twice as much as he has admitted.

Trump went to flood-devastated Louisiana for a photo-op without clearing the visit with the governor. He said that he intended to help people “in need” but never explained how.

Washington Post’s Friday quote of the day: In an attempt to prove that Trump has always been a conservative, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) cited Trump’s 1989 newspaper ads advocating the death penalty for five men of color wrongly convicted of raping a jogger in Central Park:

 “He bought an ad 20 years ago in the New York Times calling for the death penalty. How many people in New York, that liberal bastion, were willing to do something like that?”

BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski wrote:

“Trump spent more than $85,000 to publish controversial full-page newspaper ads … The five men who were sentenced for the rape were later exonerated, but only after they had served their full sentences. The men convicted were all black and Latino and in their mid-teens. Their wrongful conviction settlement, which ran into millions of dollars, was sharply criticized by Trump.”

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) is blaming Trump for the GOP’s “death spiral.” As Graham said, “Nobody knows where the bottom is.”

Melania Trump is now on the hot seat for perjury. While testifying in court under oath that she graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. In fact, she only attended classes before become a model and coming to the U.S., possibly using illegal visas.

GOP candidate Donald Trump has been well-known for “changing his opinion” (i.e., saying whatever he thinks that his audience wants), but since the new campaign leadership, he has gone overboard in his shifts. During the past few days, he seemed to transition to being the “nice guy” who wants to protect blacks and even move toward leaving undocumented immigrants in the country after promising to throw all of them out. There was even an announcement that he would be giving an “immigration speech” in Colorado. Now, however, he has cancelled not only that speech but also appearances in Nevada and Oregon. A few hours ago, he said at a rally in Akron (OH) that he’ll build that wall on the Mexico border and that Mexico will pay for it. We’ll see what his campaign staff says about his declaration tomorrow.

Early voting for the 2016 general election starts in five weeks, and voting finishes in 77 days.

August 21, 2016

‘God’s Catastrophes’: The New Normal

Far-right Christian fundamentalist have a pattern of blaming all disasters on LGBT people. At first, it was just natural disasters such as the California drought of 1978, but then gays blamed for health pandemics. The only time that Ronald Reagan publicly spoke about AIDS just before the end of his second presidential term in 1987 was in his first year in office when he said, “May be the Lord brought down the plague because illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.”

Finally evangelical leaders blamed LGBT people for every problem, including the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. In Pat Robertson’s eyes, they shared responsibility with “pagans,” “abortionists,” “ACLU,” and everyone else “who have tried to secularize America.” Pope Benedict XVI expanded the blame by warning that same-gender marriage will “threaten … the future of humanity itself.”

Republicans, however, may be suffering from these disasters. Four years ago, Hurricane Isaac forced the GOP to shorten their convention in Tampa. This month, the disastrous Louisiana deluge flooded the home of Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, and his Greenwell Springs Baptist Church.  Forced to flee his home in a canoe, Perkins failed to see the event as a punishment but instead “an incredible, encouraging spiritual exercise … with an almighty and gracious God who does all things well.”

An increasing number of people, however, are realizing that human-created climate change cause recent natural disasters. Belief that climate change is caused by human activities has reached an all-time high of 65 percent, up almost 20 percent from 55 percent last year. Even 40 percent of Republicans understand that climate is caused by people, up nine points from last year. This poll was taken almost six months ago before the massive fires and floods of the summer and the discovery that July was the hottest month in history. Other drastic climate-related effects include glaciers’ melting, permafrost thawing, and sea levels rising.

Yet GOP politicians are panicking about the EPA “suggestion” that federal agencies consider the impact on climate when making decisions such as mine permits, dam installations or removal, and roads construction near protected habitats. Their position is that this “guidance” has “no legal basis,” as summarized by GOP chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, known for using a snowball to prove that climate change doesn’t exist.

Some of these Republicans may hate Trump for what he’s doing to their political party, but they agree with him in denying climate change. Editors of Scientific American, who have always tried to be apolitical, call the 2016 election “something special,” that “it takes antiscience to previously unexplored terrain.” Trump slammed global warming as a “Chinese plot,” threatened to eradicate a climate agree that’s taken 20 years to create, and promised to eliminate the federal agency that tries to provide clean air and water for U.S. residents.

The flooding in Louisiana is the most recent disaster from climate change. With 6,900,000,000,000 gallons of rain in one week—and more than 31 inches of rain in 15 hours at one location—the calamity is the worst since the 2012 Superstorm Sandy. Part of the catastrophe is the housing crisis. Damage to over 100,000 homes has left 102,000 people thus far applying for federal disaster aid across 20 parishes. The shortage of habitable homes for rent only makes their situation worse as water rises in some places as it drains south across the flat land. FEMA offers grants of up to $33,000 in disaster areas for repairs, but many people have lost everything because they didn’t have flood insurance.

The flood is called “a 1,000-year event,” but that prediction is based on the climate a century ago and not today. At the University of Washington, Eric P. Salathé studies the intersection of climate change and flooding and explains that the issue is the temperature. Warmer air—as experienced in July—carries more water than cooler air, causing much more rainfall in storm. According to a federal government meteorologist, the Louisiana storm would have produced little rain 40 years ago before the current climate warming. For those who think the disaster has abated, storms and flash floods have moved into Texas.

One way to protect residents in the area is stricter zoning laws, something that conservatives avoid, especially when a similar disaster might not happen for 50 years. Communities have the choice of rejecting development opportunities in the immediate future or putting citizens in danger in the long term—and they usually pick the immediate gratification. Especially when they think that God is the cause of this misery and they can do nothing to protect themselves!

As people suffer from the flooding, Republicans use the situation as a political football instead of working to help them. They deride President Obama for not immediately taking an entourage to the state, causing more expense and confusion. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said that he would never ask the president not to visit, but he did say this to the president and Valerie Jarrett, his senior advisor:

“I asked them to let us get out of the response mode where we were still conducting searches of houses, and we were still making rescues. I didn’t want to divert these police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers and other essential resources and assets to providing security for the president while they were needed in this region to undergo those—or to undertake those response activities. And I asked that if he could wait until the response was over and we got into the recovery phase, which I predicted we would do over the weekend and certainly next week would be a better time for us to visit. But the president is welcome to come to our state anytime that he wants to.”

Donald Trump, on the other hand, drained these resources while ridiculing President Obama for waiting until the appropriate time for a visit. As Trump spent only 49 seconds in Baton Rouge unloading Play Doh from a truck, he obviously wanted only a photo-op. At the same time, President Obama ensured that people receive immediate federal resources and disaster relief.

Edwards’ office commented about Trump’s visit:

“Gov. Edwards wasn’t informed of the Trump campaign’s visit to the state or the schedule. We welcome them to Louisiana, but not for a photo-op. Instead we hope they’ll consider volunteering or making a sizable donation to the LA Flood Relief Fund to help the victims of this storm.”

After talking with Edwards, Hillary Clinton asked people to donate to either the Red Cross or the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

In another “once in a lifetime event,” the Blue Cut fire in California went from a few acres to 30,000 in just 24 hours and forced the evacuation of 82,000 people. As the fire continued to spread, it destroyed at least 96 single-family homes and 213 outbuildings as well as an iconic inn. The extremely hot temperatures also causes the perfect conditions for wildfires. Usually fires this large don’t happen until fall, but climate change has caused the season to be much longer and much worse.

A year ago, a study a year ago reported that worsening wildfire seasons will occur within the coming years. Between 1979 and 2013, the average length of the season became 18.7 percent longer. Like the flooding in the United States, longer seasons are a “new normal.” In the decade before 2015, the U.S. paid $1.7 billion dollars to suppress wildfires. In California alone, the cost of fighting fires went from a few million dollars in the late 1970s to $550 million in 2015 alone. The carbon emitted by fires also hastens climate change, and forests will be less capable of taking CO2 from the atmosphere.

Fires have increased 500 percent on public land since the late 1970s. This year, the fire season started much earlier in California because a heat wave sent temperatures up to 120 degrees in southern parts of the state. Since 1970, summer temperatures have risen almost one-half degree every decade. The worst is yet to come between the end of September and December with the Santa Ana winds from the desert. The state’s fifth year of drought is also creating tinderbox forests.

Basically, people who think that they have no part in causing catastrophes because they come from God, deny any support to remediate climate change, refuse to support any regulations that would make their lives better, fight against “big government,” and try to take away any human rights that don’t fit in their religion want the rest of us to give them money when climate change bites them in ….  They hate President Obama but whine about his not rushing to Louisiana as soon as the flooding started. Hmmm.

August 18, 2016

Couples Forced to Annul Adoption before Marrying

Twenty years ago, I met a lesbian couple who managed to get the same rights of married couples when the mother of one of them adopted the other one. As “sisters,” they were able to have the same rights that married couples have, i.e., visiting each other in the hospital. Since then, I discovered that other same-gender couples took a different route by one of them adopting the other one.

Another route for same-gender couples to have the same rights as married couples is for one of them to adopt the other. Two gay couples talked about what happened after they followed this route and then wanted to marry each other after marriage equality became the law of the land. Typically, adoption cannot be overturned; they are parent and child in perpetuity. But two Pennsylvania couples tried to have their adoptions annulled because getting married while the adoption is still legal would violate state incest laws that exist in 25 states.

couple 1

With Couple 1 (above left), Bill Novak adopted Norman MacArthur in 2000 after they had been partners for more than three decades. They persuaded a judge to annul their adoption in 2015 and then married in Bucks County where they had retired from Brooklyn (NY). Bill said that he adopted Norman because they would be legally considered strangers if one of them was hospitalized. In 2000, they were told that “hell would freeze over” because Pennsylvania would allow the gay couple to marry. When Norm had heart surgery in 2002, two years after the adoption, the sign on the door to the Cardiac-Intensive Care Unit stated “immediate family only.”

Twelve years later, the lawyer who finalized the adoption said that it couldn’t be undone. But some judges in the county understood the importance of adoption annulment so that the couple could marry. In the court proceedings, the judge said, “The times have changed and the laws must change with them,” and vacated the adoption. They immediately got their marriage license, and Bill said, “After 52 years together, it was already the world’s longest engagement.” This year the couple is celebrating their first wedding anniversary.

When Judge Gary B. Gilman of Bucks County vacated Novak’s adoption decree last year, the couple’s lawyer, Terry Clemons said, “It removes the hurdle for other people who may be in the same position as Bill and Norm.” He was wrong, as shown by another Pennsylvania couple who tried to get an annulment.

Couple 2 (above right), Nino Esposito and Roland “Drew” Bosee, spent another Father’s Day this year as an adoptive couple, however, because another judge refused to annul their adoption. Retired teacher Esposito adopted former freelance writer Bosee in 2012 after they had lived together more than 40 years as a same-gender couple and only ten states had marriage equality laws. The judge accused the couple of trying to get tax advantages and refused to annul the adoption. He said that the annulment can be granted only in cases of fraud and reversing it could put all adoptions in jeopardy.

After the couple was denied the annulment to their adoption, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to issue guidance to courts so that same-gender couples could easily annul their adoption in order to marry. It appears that this has not been done.

Whether this kind of adoption is common is hard to know. Angela Giampolo, a Philadelphia lawyer specializing in LGT law, said that there are no statistics. Yet there are stories of other couples, some of them famous, in which one adopts the other.

bayard rustin

Black activist Bayard Rustin (above left) helped set up the famous 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1982, Rustin decided to adopt Walter Naegle after they had been together for five years so that Naegle could inherit his estate. For the gay couple to do this, Naegle’s biological mother had to legally disown him, and then a social worker came to the couple’s home to ensure that it was suitable for a child. The adoption gave Naegle visiting privileges when Rustin was hospitalized for a perforated appendix. Rustin died in 1987 before anyone dreamed that the United States would legalize marriage equality.

Sergio Cervetti and Kenneth Rinker, choreographer of Murphy’s Law, also considered adoption when they moved to Pennsylvania from New York City. Issues were health insurance and inheritance tax as well as their wanting to be a couple. Their adoption was vacated after 15 years in the same county where Novak and MacArthur succeeded in having the adoption annulled. Novak and MacArthur were among the witnesses to Cervetti and Rinker’s wedding vows.

faderman

Famous lesbian author and scholar Lillian Faderman (above right) and Phyllis Irwin, chair of the English department at California State University where Faderman was on the faculty, decided on adult adoption after Faderman gave birth to her son, Avrom, in 1975. They completed the legality in 1983 after the fame of Faderman’s book, Surpassing the Love of Men, and she had to travel. If Irwin had not gone through the adoption of her partner, she couldn’t have even taken their son to a doctor. The adoption made Irwin the grandmother of Avrom. At that time, Irwin could not adopt Avrom because no state recognized adoptions of a second, same-gender parent.

Irwin and Faderman got married in June 2008 before the court reversed marriage equality during California’s Proposition 8 debacle. They didn’t vacate the adoption, however, because legal advice told them that undoing the adoption was unnecessary of there was no blood connection. Since then, hey have discovered that their lawyer’s advice was wrong, and they are working to annul the adoption. Faderman said in 2015, “We’ve always felt married. We’ve been married in our hearts for 44 years.”

Trump Watch: New York City has fined Donald Trump $10,000 for violating his agreement to preserve the Trump Tower atrium as public space. Trump has repeatedly closed the atrium and used it for campaign events. He was also fined $10,000 in June for failing to show up for a court hearing, again violating part of the public space agreement with the city.

Photos of full-sized statues of Trump in the nude have popped up all over the internet after the anarchist group INDECLINE put them up in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Seattle. The statue that mysteriously appeared in New York City’s Union Square today is gone with the declaration from NYC Parks that it “stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small.” The project is called “The Emperor Has No B—s.” Checking out the gross image shows parts of the “junk” missing and the rest very small.

Ivanka Trump, who is off vacationing with Vladimir Putin’s girlfriend (no, I’m not joking), received this note after she ordered an ear cuff online.

Invanka's note

Trump supporters responded with thousands of threats. At a rally featuring GOP vice-presidential candidate, Mike Pence, supporters also promised “civil war” no matter who is elected president of the United States in November.

Eighty-one more days.

 

August 17, 2016

Whither Trump?

Donald Trump read from a teleprompter last night for the third time in the past month in an attempt to woo the black voters, but all his effort was wasted as today’s publicity focused on his shift in campaign leaders—the third time in five months. Paul Manafort is out except in name only, and Stephen Bannon is in, perhaps using Trump’s philosophy that “you have to be smarter” than people you hire.

Bannon, Trump’s new campaign CEO, is the far-right executive chair of conspiracy-ridden Breitbart News as his campaign CEO, and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway has been moved to the new campaign manager. Trump supposedly made the changes because he has grown to feel “boxed in” and “controlled” by people who barely know him. With his new team, Trump plans to stop pulling his punches—not that he ever has—and focus more on rousing his voters at rallies and media appearances. The candidate is under the impression that he has been constrained in the past few months.

bannon

Already worried about their candidate, Capitol Hill Republicans are displeased about Trump’s selection of Bannon (above), partly because he’s an enemy of GOP congressional leaders, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Breitbart News has called Ryan the “absolute worst choice for Speaker.”

White supremacists, however, are delighted: Breitbart News brings them the racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant fear-mongering that they love. Among other “nationalist” support, Bannon has given positive coverage to the white supremacist Alt Right movement. Richard Spencer, leader of the white supremacist think tank National Policy Institute, said that “Breitbart has acted as a ‘gateway’ to Alt Right ideas and writers.”

Bannon also highlights Jason Richwine, forced out of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation for his belief in a connection between race and IQ. The new campaign leader called Richwine “one of the smartest brains out there on demographics, demography this whole issue of immigration, what it means to this country.” Another favorite of Bannon is Pamela Geller, an anti-Islam activist.

A past Goldman Sachs investment banker, Bannon has never had any connection with campaigning. He is known as a propagandist, producing far-right and anti-Clinton movies. GOP consultant Rick Wilson said about the transition in leadership:

“If you were looking for a tone or pivot, Bannon will pivot you in a dark, racist and divisive direction. It’ll be a nationalist, hateful campaign. Republicans should run away.”

Behind the change may be donors Robert Mercer, hedge fund billionaire, and his daughter Rebekah who have funded Bannon and worked with him on the “Clinton Cash” movie based on Peter Schweizer’s book. (Mercer became famous in Oregon when he bank-rolled losing U.S. representative candidate Art Robinson, who collected urine from his wished-for constituents for a research project in just one of his kooky beliefs.)

More information about Bannon.

One of Trump’s accusations that Clinton wants to be “America’s Merkel” also panders to the white supremacists who hate Germany’s leader. They accuse Angela Merkel of trying to make Germany “a minority White country” and call her a “crazy childless bitch,” “Anti-White Traitor,” and “patron saint of terrorists.” And they ask, “Why would you allow a woman to run a country, unless you were doing it as a joke?” Trump’s complaints are directly taken from white supremacist writings which refer to Trump as their “glorious leader.” Early in his campaign, Trump called Merkel “fantastic” and “probably the greatest leader in the world today,” but that was before she said that Germnay would take in hundreds of thousands of refugees.

In other Trump news, he got his first classified intelligence briefing and said that he won’t pay attention to any of his briefings if he’s president. “They’ve made such bad decisions,” he said. It is assumed that staffers from the office of the director of national intelligence provided information about concerns around the globe, including threats.

Trump has suggested that Hillary Clinton not get these briefings because of her private email server. Yet Trump has recommended that Russia hack into Clinton’s affairs, thinks that Crimea should belong to Russia, suggested that the U.S. should not back NATO members against invasion, and hired a campaign manager who has shady dealings with Russia. Last August he told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that he gets his military advice from watching television. Asked in March who he consults regarding foreign affairs, he responded, “I’m speaking with myself, No.1, because I have a very good brain.”

Also several of the 64 members of Trump’s new Agriculture Advisory Committee have strongly supported legal status for undocumented workers. They have a concern about a shortage in the U.S. agricultural labor pool. Wonder how that will work with Trump’s immigration policies?

Several years ago, Trump not only scammed New York City in taxes but also bilked New Jersey. Early in Chris Christie’s first gubernatorial term, he and his appointed attorney general, Paula T. Dow, dropped Trump’s almost $30 million debt in taxes on casinos to $5 million—17 cents on the dollar. The week after the settlement, Christie appointed Dow to the counsel’s office of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey until he could find the judgeship that she wanted. The next month, the Christies and Trumps double dated.

Recently the right-wing, including Sean Hannity on Fox, started to distribute fake information stating that Clinton is suffering from poor health including seizures. Then became the “pillow attack,” claiming that she needs pillows in her chairs. This attack on her health has brought attention back to the truly bizarre letter he submitted to show his own health. Purported to be from Dr. Harold Bornstein, the letter has problems far beyond the poor grammar and typos and the fact that .

The web address leads to a political advertisement, and no one has reached the good doctor at his email address, information that almost no doctor includes in correspondence. Lennox Hill has no “Section” of Gastroenterology, and Bornstein isn’t listed with the “Division” of Gastroenterology. In addition, the letter lists tests as “only positive results”—a very bad thing for many diseases or disorders, and counts are numbers, neither positive nor negative. Doctors would not use the term “astonishingly excellent,” and they don’t write such vague, quasi-medical letters. The statement “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency” would require a medical historian who operates a presidential health archive which could not even include the first century of presidents.

Dr. Jennifer Gunter called the letter “medically illiterate.” Trump himself may have written the letter; after all he pretended to be his personal publicist.

After Republicans demanded the FBI interview notes regarding Clinton’s emails, the GOP Congress is again involved in “much ado about nothing,” as Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) described it. Jason Herring, who directs the FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs, had to admit “that even three emails marked as classified did not originate with her and that State had determined two of them did not contain classified information.” This letter shows how Herring struggled to find that Clinton had broken the law and failed to do so. The information given the House Oversight Committee is classified, but GOP members are noted for leaks. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles E. Grassley thinks it’s okay to release the material.

Richard Cross, III, the man who wrote the speech for “Benghazi Mom” Patricia Smith at the GOP convention, has decided that he will vote for Hillary Clinton. In an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun, he wrote: “The only prospect more terrifying than voting for Hillary Clinton is not voting for her.”

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