Nel's New Day

June 5, 2018

Supreme Court Winds Up Year, More Court Cases

Mondays in June mean decisions from the Supreme Court. This week the justices gave extremely narrow rulings on two major case, leaving both sides dissatisfied. The first, dealing with whether religious beliefs can be used to discriminate against others, concerned a Colorado baker who would not sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. The ruling came out on the side of the baker but left no decision for the legality of allowing religious beliefs or free speech rights as justification for refusing services to LGBTQ people. The Supreme Court decision, with only Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg dissenting, claimed that the members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed “religious hostility” which “cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner for the baker approved of the statement that “government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society,” a ruling that may also be used to assert that hostility from people’s faith likewise has no place in the United States. She refused to answer a question about future rulings if the baker again refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-gender couple. Using state anti-discrimination laws requiring public businesses to equally serve all potential customers, several courts have turned down self-identified artists such as florists, bakers, and photographers who claim violation of their rights if they have to give business to same-gender couples, a claim that this ruling doesn’t decide.

Author of the ruling, Anthony Kennedy, wrote that LGBTQ people “cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.” He added that future cases “must be resolved … without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.” According to the ruling, the U.S. has a “general rule” that religious and other objections “do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny … equal access to goods and services.”

In dissension among justices, Gorsuch and Alito asserted that the Supreme Court cannot tell a baker “that a wedding cake is just like any other,” using sacramental bread as an analogy. Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer disagreed, stating that a wedding cake doesn’t change just because “a vendor like Phillips invests its sale to particular customers with ‘religious significance.’ ” Kagan referenced a 1968 decision requiring a barbecue restaurant owner to serve black customers despite his claim that his religion opposes racial equality.

The cake people failed to get a ruling that the Constitution protects discrimination, but it does give states the right to legislate against discrimination, including against LGBTQ people. The ruling against religious animus is an interesting comparison to the religious animus in DDT’s travel ban, another Supreme Court ruling to be released this month.

In a case about the DOJ imprisoning an undocumented migrant girl so that she could not get a legal abortion, the Supreme Court gave a mixed ruling. It declared the lower court’s ruling to be moot and therefore not binding because the girl had already had an abortion but declined to sanction the opposing lawyers to the DOJ for what the DOJ called deception because the procedure was rushed through before the DOJ could appeal to the Supreme Court. The high court has never before been petitioned to sanction lawyers. The decision in this case does not affect an ongoing class-action case about the rights of immigrant teens in government custody to obtain abortions. DOJ is declaring the case a win for them, but the narrow ruling was for only one girl who had already had an abortion.

The Supreme Court is also due to consider whether to review a Washington state Supreme Court decision that a florist could not legally decline to provide flowers to a same-gender wedding. Major decisions in June concern partisan gerrymandering and DDT’s travel ban.

The Supreme Court refused to address an Arkansas law that ends the use of medication abortions in the state and closes two of the state’s three abortion clinics because they perform only medical abortions. Doctors who provide medication abortions must have a contract with a specialist who has hospital admitting privileges, a burdensome, unnecessary mandate because complications are extremely during the use of two pills in the first nine weeks of pregnancy and can easily be dealt with in an emergency room or hospital. A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court had earlier upheld the Arkansas law, but Planned Parenthood will appeal the case to lower courts. U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker temporarily blocked the law, saying that it was “a solution in search of a problem.” Two years ago, the Supreme Court overturned a Texas law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges in a local hospital.

In a more positive ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that police need a warrant to search a person’s property, specifically vehicles parted on a driveway or carport. The 8-1 decision followed a 2013 ruling that police may not bring drug-sniffing dogs to the front porch of a home without a search warrant. Samuel Alito said that a search is reasonable because “the vehicle was parked in plain view in a driveway just a few feet from the street.”

Other rulings outside the Supreme Court:

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge has ruled that Donald Trump must have a seven-hour deposition before January 31, 2019, as part of the defamation lawsuit by Summer Zervos, who accused Trump of groping her in 2016. July 13 is the deadline for both parties to issue demands for documents with September 13 the deadline for responses. The case goes to trial after June 7, 2019.

A Maine judge ordered Gov. Paul LePage to start voter-approved Medicaid expansion after he missed the April 3 deadline to file a plan with the federal HHS. After LePage vetoed the expansion in legislature five times, he argued that he couldn’t implement a law not funded by the legislation although the state has a $140 million surplus.

Felony charges have been dropped against ten people arrested protesting DDT’s inauguration because the government failed to turn over evidence it got from Project Veritas, known for James O’Keefe’s doctored videos. The judge barred the government from bringing back the charges in the future. A D.C. jury is deadlocked regarding three others involved in the protest. Forty-seven people of the original 200 charged are still facing court cases, but no defendant has been convicted.

And new cases:

Ambridge Event Center, which managed an event center owned by the Holy Rosary Church in Portland (OR), is suing the church for almost $2 million because its anti-LGBTQ bias hurt business. The negative press from the company’s inability to rent to a PFLAG chapter lost business from government and businesses that believe in equality. If Ambridge worked for the church, the law violation is employment discrimination; if Ambridge is a renter, the church violated the law with housing discrimination. Oregon’s exemption for religious groups applies only if “the use of facilities is closely connected with or related to the primary purposes of the church.” Ambridge has gone out of business.

Rustem Kazazi, a 64-year-old Cleveland resident, is suing U.S. Customs after customs agents at an airport took the family’s life savings–$58,000—that he was taking to Albania to help his family and buy a vacation home. The agency’s website says that there is no limit to the amount of money brought into or taken out of the U.S., but the agents refused to return Kazazi’s money although the family, all four citizens, was not charged with any crime. Agents also refused him a translator, strip-searched him, and gave him a receipt without the amount of money they took. A month after the money was taken, the agency wrote them, claiming that the money was “involved in a smuggling/drug trafficking/money laundering operation.” The letter also reported $770 less than Kazazi had been carrying. The federal government took over $2 billion in assets from people in 2017.

Phoenix is suing the government over the proposed census question on citizenship for fear of losing federal funds and marginalizing residents.

The American Federation of Government Employees, representing 700,000 workers, is suing DDT after he signed an executive order severely restricting the time employees may spend on union activity. The lawsuit claims his order violates the First Amendment and oversteps his constitutional authority. The order restricts “official time” for union leaders to represent workers during work time in grievances about unfair labor practices or disciplinary actions during work time, a guarantee provided by Congress 40 years ago.  The order still allows individuals to work on their grievances while on duty but without union assistance. Administration says that the change could save up to $100 million a year—equivalent to about two-thirds of DDT’s weekend junkets. Other orders instruct agencies to restrict unions in contract negotiations and fire employees more rapidly.

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa and ISU student Taylor Blair are suing Iowa’s secretary of state over the state’s voter ID law “apparently timed to disrupt the June 5 primary elections.” Facebook advertisements had stated that “Iowa voters will be asked to show a form of valid identification,” omitting the information that voters without ID could sign a form swearing to their identity and then cast a normal ballot. Another part of the lawsuit claims that the secretary of state’s website omitted some ID permitted under the law, such as an Iowa student identification plus proof of address.

Worried about getting DDT’s conservative judicial nominations approved after the midterms, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has reduced the August recess from four weeks to one week. Another theory for the change is that Democrat senators, defending 26 Senate seats this year, will be hobbled by less time to campaign while their Republican opponents have a free field. The GOP has nine incumbents on the ballot, including Nevada’s Dean Heller who is struggling with re-election.

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March 22, 2018

Could ‘NIFLA v. Becerra’ Change Free Speech, Abortion Law?

The past week has been again filled with chaos—firings of the national security council, resignation and appointments of the legal team for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), continued lawsuits against the federal government, additional information about DDT’s sexual misconduct as more women join Stormy Daniels, and concerns regarding the retention of special investigator Robert Mueller. No wonder that a case before the Supreme Court last Tuesday got little attention from the media. In normal times that case would have been front and center on television because it’s one of seven cases thus far this judicial year that addresses free speech—two of them major lawsuits.

Last December the religious legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the federal government argued before SCOTUS that a cake in Colorado is free speech because the baker is an “artist.” A ruling in his favor and opposing service for a gay couple would permit rampant discrimination across the United States, not only against LGBTQ people but also anyone else who offended the religious and moral sensibilities of everyone in all businesses—retail, health care, food services—everyone.

Last Tuesday’s case, NIFLA v. Becerra, the federal government joined ADF to oppose a California law that requires community clinics to post notices about their licensing (or lack thereof), the availability of a medical provider, and patients’ access to abortion and other family planning services in the state. The 2015 California Reproductive FACT Act mandates that licensed community clinics whose “primary purpose is providing family planning or pregnancy-related services” disclose to all patients that California offers “free or low-cost” contraception, prenatal care, and abortion. These clinics must provide a telephone number that patients can call for more information about state-funded services. Clinics focusing on pregnancy or family planning but are unlicensed must clearly provide a warning in the clinic and in advertising that they have “no medical provider.”

Many of California residents are unaware of expanded funding for prenatal and family planning services from the Affordable Care Act, and many clinics, especially the anti-abortion crisis pregnancy clinics (CPCs) pressure women to not have an abortion. Many CPCs hide religious affiliations and claim that they provide more services than available in the clinics. Owners and employees of the CPCs use “free speech” to object to the law by arguing that it makes them “complicit in facilitating an act they believe hurts women and destroys innocent lives.” They maintain that the FACT Act is “gerrymandered” to “commandeer” their expression, “manipulat[ing] the marketplace of ideas” to favor abortion in violation of the First Amendment.

The argument from Michael Farris, a member of ADF, is that not all doctors are required to post the information, only community clinics with pregnancy-related services. He wants to move the law to heightened judicial scrutiny, which raises the legal bar for California to keep the law. Justice Samuel Alito bought the argument that the “crazy exemptions” of the law creates “a very strange pattern.” California Solicitor General Joshua Klein explained that the law targets community clinics where millions of low-income Californians get health care and exempts private physicians because they usually don’t have poorer women patients.

Jeffrey Wall, the deputy U.S. solicitor general who joined Farris on behalf of the federal government, tried to persuade the justices that informing pregnant women about alternatives to abortion are necessary only when medical procedures are provided and that unlicensed clinics don’t provide medical procedures. Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out that CPCs sometimes provide medical procedures such as ultrasounds and pregnancy tests and give pregnancy counseling, much like doctors’ medical advice in discussing abortion procedures.

The case also addresses whether clinic users should know which clinics are licensed and provide a full range of subsidized medical options. Sotomayor described Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center’s website:

“There is a woman on the homepage with a uniform that looks like a nurse’s uniform in front of an ultrasound machine. It shows an exam room. It talks about ‘abortion,’ ‘your options,’ and ‘our services,’ advertising ‘free ultrasounds.’ But in fact, the Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center is an unlicensed CPC. If a reasonable person could look at this website and think that you’re giving medical advice, would the unlicensed notice be wrong?”

Sotomayor compared NIFLA to Planned Parenthood v. Casey that allows states to pass “informed consent” laws forcing abortion providers to deliver a state-approved anti-abortion canned statement before the procedure even if the information is false. Both situations mandate information for women, one on alternatives to the clinics and the other about termination of pregnancies. Justice Stephen Breyer dubbed this issue “what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” Denying California the right to require postings at all community clinics regarding availability of free and/or inexpensive family planning services could give free speech to only one side of the abortion argument.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court after a federal district court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court denied an injunction in favor of CPCs. Both lower courts maintained that California’s law was constitutional in the same way that Pennsylvania could require doctors to tell abortion patients about the “nature” of the procedure and the “probable gestation age” of the fetus.

Observers watching the negative comments from some justices believe that at least part of the FACT Act will be struck down; the question is how much and on what grounds. Mandatory disclaimers in multiple languages on advertising for unlicensed CPCs may be unconstitutional. Requiring clinics to tell patient about a lack of license seems legal. The middle ground is the crux: whether states can force CPCs to tell patients about services elsewhere.

A serious problem in this case comes from dangers in CPCs that promise medical assistance but have the sole purpose of forcing a woman to carry a fetus to full term. Over 2,700 CPCs throughout the nation lure pregnant women into their facilities and then terrify them with lies about their future if they have abortions.

States like Texas are using public funds from bona fide community clinics to unlicensed CPCs exempt from regulations or credentialing because they provide only non-medical services such as self-administered pregnancy tests or parenting classes. One-fourth of Texas’ 200 CPCs are funded by federal taxpayer money through the $38 million operating budget of “Alternatives to Abortion” for low-income women. With no government oversight, the “Texas Pregnancy Care Network” subcontracts with 51 CPCs with most money going to “counseling,” a term with no definition. Another $739,000 went to advertising. When asked if the CPCs were medically licensed, a state spokesperson said that they are not medical clinics.

People who go to CPCs don’t know they won’t get any medical care. Austin (TX) tried to pass an ordinance requiring that clinics state whether they have doctors. A federal judge struck down the ordinance with the argument that it violated CPCs’ due process. Texas law does require doctors to lie to women about medical risks of abortions, a procedure with less risks than pulling wisdom teeth or taking out tonsils.

In his 12 years as Chief Justice, John Roberts has greatly expanded the definition of free speech for corporations. To him and a majority of the justices in Citizens United, all money is free speech meaning unlimited anonymous corporate donations to political candidates, a ruling later expanded in McCutcheon v. FEC. These cases, and others such as Hobby Lobby allowing corporations to deny birth control to employees using faulty scientific information, shows that Roberts’ defense of the First Amendment protects only corporations. He uses the same argument to give corporations benefits in cases involving drug advertising and trademark regulations as well as removal of unions’ rights. A recent case argued whether state laws can permit mandatory fees for workers to pay for the support services that unions are legally to provide all employees.

The ruling in NIFLA, most likely in June, will either leave the California law in place or give pro-choice activists the grounds to argue against laws in other states that require doctors to give pregnant patients the false information that abortions cause breast cancer and infertility. The NIFLA lawyers argue that posting information “unconstitutionally compels [the clinics] to speak messages that they have not chosen, with which they do not agree, and that distract, and detract from, the messages they have chosen to speak.” A ruling in their favor might take the shackles off abortion providers and other doctors so they can deliver “the messages they have chosen to speak.” Breyer said that the court’s most important job is “to keep sauces the same.”

December 21, 2017

Disastrous Tax Bill Leads to GOP Fractures over Spending Bill

In their contempt for democracy, the Republicans, the epitome of “makers” exploiting the so-called “takers,” passed their social reform bill in the dead of night to benefit large businesses and wealthy people. The process, carried out in great haste with extreme chaos and negligence, allowed for neither hearings nor debate—not even the opportunity for congressional members to examine the 1,097 pages. If one considers democracy, the way that Republicans passed the bill may be even worse than the contents. If the tax bill were a good deal for most of the people in the U.S., Republicans wouldn’t have to lie about it. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) summarized the GOP position when he said, “It’s always fun when you win” about his defeat of the people who voted for him. “Fun” also means that he gained billions of dollars from the tax bill.

“Fun” for DDT also means destroying Puerto Rico. The tax bill requires the federal government to treat the territory in the same way that it treats foreign countries in bringing operations and jobs to the U.S. from overseas. Forty-seven percent of PR’s GDP comes from manufacturing, primarily pharmaceuticals and medical devices generating revenue from patented drugs and technologies. The 12.5 percent tax levied against profits in PR for “intangible assets” of U.S. companies abroad plus a minimum of ten percent tax on their profits abroad, as in foreign countries, means that businesses will pay more to operate in PR than on the U.S. mainland. It will cost U.S. citizens their jobs and destroy PR’s economy after DDT went to the island to complain about the cost of recovery from Hurricane Maria, something he did not do at any of the summer’s disasters on the mainland.

DDT may not have his “fun” of signing the bill until January 3 because he is afraid to let the 2010 “pay-as-you-go” law automatically cut Medicare and other programs. These would take effect in 2018 if he signed it in 2017. To avoid bad press, he is hoping that Congress will waive these cuts by 2019. Spending caps went into effect under a GOP-created law in 2011 and have received two two-year waivers–also from the GOP. The most recent one expired on October 1, 2017, and Republicans didn’t get around to lifting it again.

To pass the waiver, the GOP needs Democrats who are raw from the GOP pushing through the tax bill and plan to negotiate for restoration of the health-insurance mandate, due to expire in 2019. The schedule is not set, but Congress will most likely not pass this bill by the end of this week while they struggle with other expiring laws, like the spending bill that keeps the government from shutting down.

One vote to transfer the Great Society into Ayn Rand’s idea of plutocracy came from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) who earlier gained the support of her constituents when she refused to vote for an earlier bill because it would drive at least 13 million people off health insurance. The new bill does the same thing, but she claimed that her vote was okay because Congress would shore health insurance markets and undo Medicare cuts guaranteed by the tax bill that she supported with her vote. Even after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the House wouldn’t support the deal, she voted for the tax bill. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who made the promise to Collins, is not known for truthfulness. Collins decried media coverage as “unbelievably sexist” because it describes her as being “duped.” She may have to eat her words after discovering that’s exactly what happened.

After the beautiful togetherness and self-backslapping of GOP leaders following the tax bill’s passage, Republicans are back to fighting over the spending bill that must be passed in two days to avoid a government shutdown. Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) described the altercation following the joint communion for the tax bill:

“It’s kind of like leaving the hospital, just finding out you’re cancer free, and getting run over by a Mack truck.”

Ryan already refused to allow Collins’ funding for the Affordable Care Act in this year’s spending package. Gone—at least temporarily—is the agreement for legislation to reduce health care premiums for nine million people without government subsidies. House Republicans refuse to address Collins’ proposal to continue the health care subsidies without attaching Hyde Amendment language prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortion. Democrats oppose this demand because it expands the existing amendment by discouraging private insurers from covering abortions. Insurers must keep funds for insurer subsidies separate from abortion services, but Republicans want more. Many Republicans are totally against the ACA, and abortion makes a good excuse to block Collins’ proposal. Collins and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have withdrawn their bill for these subsidies until next year’s full spending bill.

The stopgap also fails to address funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorization and funding for Community Health Centers. Without CHIP, nine million children lose their health insurance, even those in the middle of such serious problems as cancer treatment.

In the Senate, at least eight Democrats or independents must support all Republicans for a stopgap measure to overcome a filibuster. Without a stopgap measure, the federal government shuts down at midnight Friday. GOP leaders want a bill that expires on January 19, 2018 to stop the shutdown. They call is the “CRomnibus” proposal, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has other names for it:

“Some people are calling it the ‘punt’-ibus, just punt this down the road. I call it the ‘none’-tibus because it’s not going anywhere.”

The GOP House leadership had trouble with its representatives from large blue states because the tax bill penalized their residents disproportionately by reducing deductions for state property and income taxes. Now GOP representatives from Texas and Florida are opposing a bill without the $81 billion disaster bill. Lawmakers in states badly hit by hurricanes vow to stay in Washington until they get their disaster funding. Conservatives object because the disaster relief isn’t paid for by cuts in other parts of the budget, a scenario that takes everyone back to the fight over funding after Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast. Democrats in the Senate oppose the disaster bill because, according to the Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “still does not treat Puerto Rico, California and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as Florida and Texas.”

In another contentious issue, the GOP had planned to take a separate vote tomorrow to reauthorize Section 702 spying powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for three weeks. After opposition from the Freedom Caucus today, that plan was dropped. Schumer agreed, saying that they need a clean spending bill:

“We cannot do a short-term funding bill that picks and chooses what problems to solve. We have to do them all together, instead of in a piecemeal fashion. It has to be a truly global deal. We can’t leave any of those issues behind.”

The Republicans claim that they can’t shut down the government because it would ruin their win with the tax bill. They have 48 hours pass a bill in the House, send it to the Senate who might make changes if they pass it and then send it back to the House who will then have to agree. That’s before the bill gets sent to the president for signing. The 2880 minutes are ticking away.

October 29, 2017

DDT: Week Forty – Problems Continue

So much has happened during the past week that it seems forever since the beginning of last week when Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) accused Myeshia Johnson, the Gold Star widow of La David Johnson, of being a liar.Everything he does follows this MO as described by the Washington Post: “Make it a fight, use controversy to elevate the message and never apologize.”

DDT’s latest word on the deaths of four U.S. soldiers in Niger: “I didn’t [authorize the mission]. But I have great generals ….” As with the death in a Yemen mission after his inauguration, the un-commander-in-chief blames the generals. “This was something that was, you know, just, they wanted to do …. and they lost Ryan.” A few years ago, the coward-in-chief wrote, “Leadership: Whatever happens, you’re responsible. If it doesn’t happen, you’re responsible.” No longer.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), once a DDT supporter, continued expressing his concerns about the man inaugurated as president last January:

“I don’t know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard, and debases our country in a way that he does, but he does.”

Corker, head of the Foreign Relations Committee, also said that DDT “has great difficulty with the truth” and that “world leaders are very aware that much of what [Trump] says is untrue.” As Josh Chafetz, Cornell Law School professor, recently: “Politics is, among other things, a discursive practice. Words are actions.” In response, DDT ridiculed Corker’s physical short stature.

Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) announcement that he won’t run for re-election in 2018 brought out DDT’s ire after Flake’s 17-minute speech about DDT’s “reckless, outrageous and undignified” behavior. Flake’s decision went from a “chem-trail” Kelli Ward (so called because she thinks that the government is poisoning people with the jet trails) being a slam-dunk in the GOP primary to chaos in a state that is slowly turning purple.

The rest of the GOP has a position about DDT’s fitness—nobody cares and don’t tell anybody about it. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said, “I don’t think the American people care about that. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said Republican senators worried about DDT’s fitness should keep their fears “private” and talk about it “within the family.” Republican patriotism.

Deaths from the opioid overdose crisis have hit the same level as HIV during the 1980s and 90s, but DDT has declared it an “emergency,” not a “crisis,” with no additional funding. (Maps of its growth here.) DDT’s solution? “Just say no,” just like the failures of Nancy Reagan.

Claiming that it refuses to “facilitate” abortions, DDT’s administration imprisoned a girl who had crossed the border into the United States and wouldn’t allow her to see a lawyer or visit a doctor for a month until the administration quit appealing the judgments of four courts in her favor. Immigration took her to a Christian “pregnancy center” that told her why she should carry the fetus to full term and keps stalling in the hope that she would go beyond 20 weeks before the case was settled. After Washington D.C. appeals court voted 6-3 in her favor, she had the procedure last Wednesday at 16 weeks. Federal officials also violated a court order when they told the girl’s mother she was pregnant. The girl had said that she didn’t want her parents to know because they beat an older sister who was pregnant to cause a miscarriage. In control of the girl was E. Scott Lloyd, the former attorney for the Knights of Columbus and a fierce opponent of abortion who heads up the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

DENVER, COLORADO – OCTOBER 26:  (Photo by Daniel Brenner/Special to the Denver Post)

Over 100 women—“handmaids”—marched and protested against the GOP’s attack on women’s reproductive rights in Denver when VP Mike Pence came for a state GOP fundraiser. The image comes from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel A Handmaid’s Tale inspired by Ronald Reagan’s restrictions on women. In the book, women were forced to become pregnant and bear children. House Republicans introduced a bill preventing doctors from performing abortions after six weeks, usually before women know they are pregnant. The 20-week ban has passed the House and gone to the Senate.

Prototypes for DDT’s “wall” are up, and the New York Magazine asks which one is the “worst.” Your choice of “soothing slat design,” “light-toned wood,” an abandoned “project,” “monolith from 2001,” “experimental,” “vulnerable to breach by Slenderman,” iInfected rusty comb,” and “straight-up boring.” Matt Novak discovered how easily a drone can take drugs from Mexico to the U.S. USA Today described the fiasco of the bidding and building process based on emails with contractors.

The U.S. Air Force is reportedly preparing to put nuclear bombers on 24-hour notice, a position not taken since the Cold War.

The U.S. tried to prove that that Kabul was safe because of this week’s visit by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, but they lied about his location. Tillerson never got off the Bagram air base.

From Ron Paul: The U.S. occupies 53 out of 54 African nations.

When DDT ran for president, he said he would eliminate crime on his first day. What he’s done is to eliminate crime statistics.

The majority of Houston Texans players knelt during the national anthem despite the comment from owner Bob McNair that “we can’t have the inmates running the prison.” He later apologized to the players, saying that he didn’t mean them.

The Trump administration wants to as much as triple the fees to visit 17 National Parks — including Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Yellowstone. Families would have to pay $70 during peak season. The fee increase won’t happen until after a public comment period ending on November 23. Ben Schreiber, Senior Political Strategist for Friends of the Earth, said:

“The Trump administration is turning our National Parks into an exclusive playground for the rich. Secretary Zinke has given our public lands to oil companies, slashed budgets, and attacked the regulations that ensure taxpayers receive a fair price for their natural resource.”

Women are responsible for sexual assault, according to Carl Gallups, a right-wing pastor and conspiracy theorist who spoke at Trump campaign rallies during the 2016 election. It’s because women dress provocatively. In an interview with Mike Shoesmith, Gallups agreed with Shoesmith’s statement:

“Men are visually stimulated and unwanted stimulation should meet the basic definition of assault. Women who dress in a suggestive manner are] guilty of indecent visual assault on a man’s imagination, which does cause mental anguish and torment. When a man sees a naked or partially dressed woman, a chemical reaction happens in his brain. Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are released, giving him an involuntary surge of pleasure. Notice the word ‘involuntary’ … “

DDT continues to make horrifying appointments. The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Thomas Farr with a vote of 11-9 to the federal District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. After George W. Bush first nominated him in 2006, the Senate didn’t advance his name and then blocked President Obama’s new nomination for his two terms. The Congressional Black Caucus wrote, “It is no exaggeration to say that had the White House deliberately sought to identify an attorney in North Carolina with a more hostile record on African-American voting rights and workers’ rights than Thomas Farr, it could hardly have done so.”

Another worst of the week, confirmed to manage tax policy at the Treasury Department with a 26-0 vote, is David Kautter, who will be acting head of the IRS starting on November 12. Through his 30 years of work with work with Ernst & Young, Kautter developed skill in helping clients avoid taxes. In his confirmation hearing, he said he wasn’t involved in these tax shelters and said he felt bad about not preventing the scheme. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said that Kautter promised “he would maintain the highest level of ethical and professional standards if he is confirmed.” Robert Mercer, who paid at least $20 million for DDT’s election, is $7 billion in income tax arrears from his tax-avoidance scheme. Wyden can now find out whether his trust in Kautter is misplaced.

Kelly Knight Craft, wife of coal billionaire Jon Craft and DDT’s new ambassador to Canada, says she believes in both sides of the climate warming question. She finished her statement about the world’s environment to Canadian media by saying that the U.S. is interested in what’s best for the United States.

The acting administrator for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration—who doesn’t need confirmation—is connected to a company that makes money from the sale of oil spill equipment.

The New Yorker has another cover of DDT that he can post at his golf courses.

The White House is so embarrassed about DDT’s golf-playing that it’s trying to hide his activities—like his 75th day of golf last weekend In 280 days of office. Yesterday DDT was on his Virginia golf course for the fourth weekend in a row.

Too much for one blog post! More coming.

October 8, 2017

DDT Needs Caretaker

A weekend means interviews on Sunday “news” shows and obnoxious tweets from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). This weekend, DDT declared war on Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), claiming that Corker didn’t have the guts to run for re-election because DDT had refused an endorsement for Corker and turned him down to be Secretary of State after he begged DDT. He also blamed Corker for supporting the Iran deal that keeps Iranians from building nuclear weapons. Both Corker and other sources have said that DDT is lying in his claims about Corker.

DDT’s tantrum came after Corker said that DDT treats his office like “a reality show” with his threats possibly moving the U.S. “on the path to World War III.” Corker said that he is alarmed by a president who acts “like he’s doing The Apprentice or something.” DDT is ignoring his need for Corker’s votes to pass his tax cut legislation and “decertify” the Iranian deal. Corker’s committee also is in control of confirmation hearings for DDT’s ambassadorial appointments. After DDT’s virulent remarks about him, Corker topped off his own tweets with this one:

“It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

On Fox News Sunday, Corker repeated his earlier statement that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is one of three officials helping to “separate our country from chaos.” DDT’s racist comments about neo-Nazis at Charlottesville (VA) earlier caused Corker to say that DDT “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.” Corker said:

“As long as there are people like that around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made, I think we’ll be fine.”

Corker also said that his personal concerns about DDT were shared by almost every GOP senator.

FEMA director, William “Brock” Long, has decided to ignore pleas for help from San Juan (Puerto Rico) Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz because he considers them “political.” She tweeted, “Power collapses in San Juan hospital with 2 patients being transferred out. Have requested support from @FEMA_Brock. NOTHING!” Long said on a morning talk show, “We filtered out the mayor a long time ago.” DDT is still congratulating himself on the wonderful job that he is doing with Puerto Rico and said that he was just having “fun” throwing those “beautiful soft towels.”

Luckily for the people of Puerto Rico, Mexico has joined Germany in sending help to the U.S territory. In spite of two major earthquakes last month, Mexico will send aid to Puerto Rico including water and electricity experts to mitigate damage and help restore the island’s power supply as well as mosquito repellent and 30 tons of bottled water.

While people in Puerto Rico are suffering and dying from lack of food, water, electricity, etc., the U.S. House put its priority on  limiting abortion access. It passed a bill, likely unconstitutional and definitely disproportionately affecting low-income women, that bans abortions after 20 weeks and imprisoning doctors performing the procedure for up to five years. The vote was 237 to 189, with two Democrats supporting it and three Republicans voting nay.

The IRS has given Equifax, the company that allowed the records of 143 million people to be stolen, a $7.5 million contract. The no-bid contract, posted the last day of the fiscal year on September 30, is to verify taxpayer identities and help prevent fraud under a no-bid contract.  During a committee hearing, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) asked former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, “Why in the world should you get a no-bid contract right now?”

Photos of Smith at the hearing have shown Rich Uncle Pennybags, the Monopoly mascot, seated behind Smith as he testified about the computer breach. He rushed off after she tried to give him a bag of “Get out of jail free” cards after the hearing in a protest of plans that allow banks and financial institutions to take advantage of consumers.

DDT’s third Muslim ban is going to court.

DDT’s need for a majority vote has bled down to the DOJ’s violating federal law. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, states that voter registration maintenance “shall not result in the removal of the name of any person from the official list of voters registered to vote in an election for Federal office by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” Yet AG Jeff Sessions is supporting purging voter registrations because of irregular voting patterns. Ohio, for example, removed 1.2 million voters for infrequent voting. Sessions has not decided that this action is appropriate, despite federal law.

DDT’s magical tax cut plan, labeled as the “middle-class miracle,” has an evaluation from the Tax Policy Center (TPC). According to its study, the plan mostly benefits the rich, raises taxes on some middle-class people, and lowers federal revenue by $2.4 trillion within a decade. Republicans are not happy, but they haven’t offered any evidence of any tax relief to the middle class. The pattern is the same as the GOP plan for healthcare “reform” when Republicans were confused by facts about tens of millions few people having insurance. A chief GOP criticism was that there was no “dynamic” score, meaning one that made up information about an improved economy.

DDT’s latest nominee, this one for the second most powerful EPA position as safety chief, is an employee of the chemical industry. As such, Michael Dourson declared that children are less sensitive to chemical toxicity. His position includes overseeing pesticides and setting safety levels for some of the most dangerous chemicals in use.

Conservationists have had a run of successes in court, a recent one in Washington. A state board overturned two important permits for an immense refinery turning natural gas into methanol because an environmental impact study had not considered greenhouse gas emissions. The product would then be shipped to China to make plastics. The failed project was designated for Kalama (WA), less than an hour north of Portland (OR). This past week a federal judge in San Francisco ordered the reinstatement of a restriction on harmful methane emissions from gas and oil drilling on federal lands after the Interior Department tried to remove it with the excuse that it was a burden to the industry. Judge Elizabeth Laporte ruled that the department had no “reasoned explanation” for allowing energy companies to not capture the polluting methane that wastes about $330 million a year—enough to power five million homes for that year. Before the rule went into effect, a methane cloud the size of Delaware hung over the Four Corners region of New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado from the oil and gas industry.

Only 24 percent of people think that the U.S. is going in the right directions. The change among Republicans has been the most drastic: only 44 percent support the direction, compared to 60 percent just three months ago. Other areas in which people have a high percentage of disapproval toward DDT are handling race relations, foreign policy, and immigration—all with over 60 percent disapproval.

That drop in support may be the reason that DDT sent Mike Pence to Indianapolis today to attend the game between the Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. The sole purpose of the “reality show” was pandering to DDT’s base with  was a photo shoot when Pence walked out after some of the athletes knelt during the national anthem. Pence was so sure he would be leaving that he didn’t bother to take any reporters with him. A Pence aide said that he might be leaving early. The photo sent to the press of the vice-president in a suit with his hand over his heart was actually taken in 2014 when Pence was governor of Indiana. To attend the game, Pence flew from Las Vegas before he immediately returned to a fund-raiser in Los Angeles. (Your taxes at work!)

Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, tweeted:

“Manipulation of faux patriotism took new turn today with VP Pence. Preplanned early exit from Colts game after 49ers kneeled, then tweets.”

Constantly accused of disrespecting the flag, kneeling athletes are protesting police racial brutality and injustice. Anyone questioning this brutality should watch the highly graphic video of a Utah police officer fatally shooting a black man in the back after he was stopped for not having a light on his bicycle. The DA exonerated the police officer who killed Patrick Harmon because the officer said he was afraid.

June 11, 2017

GOP Senators Work to Take Health Care from Millions of People

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 10:37 PM
Tags: , , , ,

While millions of people in the United States were focused on the Senate testimony of former FBI director James Comey, the Republicans were sabotaging health care for a large percentage of people in the nation. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) announced this goal at the annual Road to Majority conference organized by Ralph Reed and the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Amidst a drum beat of calling Democrats obstructionists, DDT said that restoring freedom means taking away health care from millions of people. A 13-senator group has been planning in secrecy, hoping to push a vote by July because, according to Sen. Roy Blount (R-MO), “I don’t think this gets better over time.” In other words, they know it stinks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)  is desperate because the bill has to meet the approval of both House and Senate by September 30 in order to use the process of reconciliation, allowing a simple majority vote instead of a possible 60 votes in a filibuster. A vote on the bill by June 30 requires that it go to the Congressional Budget by the end of this week. Unlike the House, the Senate cannot vote on a bill that has not received CBO scoring. Because the bill will be voted on under the “reconciliation” process, it cannot require any revenue. Because of the possible tax cuts for the wealthy, a leaked version of the bill shows that it includes waivers for states to the ten essential items—including hospitalization—from insurance coverage and enlarges the ratio of what older people can be charged relative to younger customers, greatly increasing premiums for many people.

McConnell implemented Senate “Rule 14” last week, the day before Comey’s testimony, to fast-track it by skipping the committee process—and a full senate debate. During a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Health and Human Services 2018 budget request on Thursday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) expressed her concern with McConnell’s invoking Rule 14. She said that the senate health care bill was being written by “group of guys in the back room making all the decisions” and asked Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) if there would be a public hearing on the health bill which has been secret until now. (Hatch is a member of the gang of 13 health care killers.) After a painfully long pause, an aide said into Hatch’s ear, “They’re invited to participate in this process and we’re open to their ideas and suggestions.” Hatch, helped by an aide talking into his ear, said he didn’t know. As McCaskill commented, “But we have no idea what’s being proposed.” Republicans complained about her “rants and raves,” perhaps because she said that the Republicans were trying to pass the bill with 50 votes and one from the vice president. McConnell plans to make the bill public for only two days before the vote.

One glitch to the bill comes from a ban on people using new refundable tax credits for private insurance plans that cover abortion. Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough pointed out that the Byrd Rule might prevent that provision for reconciliation because it covers policy and not budget, not permitted under reconciliation. With the anti-abortion provision, the bill may not be allowed under reconciliation, and without that provision it might not pass. David Christensen of the far-right evangelical Family Resesarch Council, said, “Abortion is not healthcare.” A precedent for MacDonough’s position was in a 1995 ruling about attempting to block abortion in a reconciliation bill.

The GOP senators are already divided into factions, three in opposition to the 13 white men devising the plan. Bill Cassidy (LA) and Susan Collins (ME), not members of the deciding 13 senators, oppose the House bill and co-sponsored their version called the Patient Freedom Act. Led by Rob Portman (OH), another group wants Medicaid expansion. Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT) are part of the group that wants the House bill.

The abominable baker’s dozen of murderers on the Senate health care plan has an average age of over 60 and an average worth of over $1 million each. (They look very much like the people above celebrating the ending of health care of millions of people in the U.S. after the House bill passed.) Almost half of the 13, six senators, are from three states—Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, and Wyoming’s total population of under 600,000 represents less than 0.002 percent of the U.S. population of 321,000,000. Utah isn’t much better with under one percent of the U.S. population. These are the men deciding health care for everyone, including women, minorities, and the poor. The average net worth of the bottom 40 percent of people in the U.S. is almost zero because of heavy losses during the George W. Bush era.

These 13 men of wealth are writing and pushing through a bill for health care that 140 million people in the U.S. directly rely on and one that comprises one-sixth of the nation’s GDP, one that 140 million people in the United States.  This comes from the same party that complained for eight years that Democrats passed health care on a party-line vote and falsely asserted that Republicans weren’t involved in the process. And they admit what they’re doing: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said that there was no reason for a committee hearing because Democrats won’t support their bill. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that the bill will go up for a vote without floor debate as soon as there’re 51 votes for it. The senate has 52 Republicans.

The senate promised a kinder version of health care than the House approved, but states would still be forced to end expanded Medicaid programs because of lost federal funds, and poor and near-poor adults losing Medicaid couldn’t afford private coverage. Eight Medicaid-expansion states have laws immediately dropping the program without federal funding, the year 2020 if the bill passes, and other states would see significant increases in costs which they may not be able to afford. Eighty-four percent of the public, including 71 percent of Republicans, support continued current federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

With the philosophy of “kill the ump,” OMB Director Mick Mulvaney wants to do away with the Congressional Budget Office because it scored the House bill as removing health insurance from 23 million people as well as either raising premiums or reducing health care coverage—or both—for tens of millions more people. He used this information to claim that the CBO is partisan, despite the fact that his own department’s evaluation matched that of the CBO. In addition, the GOP chose CBO’s director, Keith Hall, praised by DDT’s cabinet member Tom Price because of Hall’s “impressive level of economic expertise.”

In addition to telling Christians at the conference that he wants to strip health care for tens of millions of people, DDT is also sabotaging the existing health care plan. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has impacted 10,500 consumers by pulling out of the federal exchange in Ohio; the company blamed DDT, citing “the lack of certainty” about the federal government funding cost-sharing subsidies. Since DDT was inaugurated Ohio’s governor, John Kasich has warned that insurance markets are “slipping into crisis.” DDT is pushing for the health care system to collapse by making the exchanges less stable and discouraging companies from offering plans.

DDT supporters are big losers with Trumpcare. The more likely people were to vote for DDT, the greater they will lose. Those losing more than $1,000 favored him by seven points, and those losing at least $5,000 in tax credits supported DDT by 59 percent to 36 percent. The largest number of losers from voting for DDT are older people and those who live in rural areas. All the benefits of two tax hikes go to people earning $200,000 or more; only ten percent of that demographic voted for DDT.

North Carolina resident Martha Brawley, 55, cast her first ballot in her lifetime for DDT because he said he would bring down the cost of healthcare. “I might as well have not voted,” she said after she discovered that Trumpcare would give her $3,500 to buy insurance instead of the $8,688 subsidy she gets from Obamacare.

Gone with Trumpcare will be any hope for retirement. Tea Partiers who turned the government into one of cruelty almost eight years ago are the same people who are getting too old to find jobs now and won’t have health insurance if they aren’t old enough for Medicare. Before the Affordable Care Act, people were forced to stay in jobs to keep health insurance; “Obamacare” freed many of them. Trumpcare will force people back into a pattern of working long into old age, even those with serious medical issues like cancer. Trumpcare may force people out of their homes. In 2009, medical bills caused 1.5 million people in the U.S. to declare bankruptcies. Medical bills stressed at least 20 percent of all families. By 2013, medical bills put over ten million people into poverty. During the first year of the ACA, over four million fewer people, including one million children, were in poverty.

The 50+ senators who may vote for Trumpcare go home on recess immediately after the vote. Let’s hope that they all have town hall meetings with their constituents who lose the health care.

 

April 19, 2017

Want Facts? Check Carefully!

Filed under: Reproductive rights — trp2011 @ 10:00 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

If you get your information about abortion and reproductive rights from the evening cable news, you may be 64 percent wrong. Media Matters has released a year-long study of reporting on abortion, reproductive rights, and reproductive. The analysis of 354 segments on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC occurred from March 7, 2016 to March 1, 2017. The focus of these subjects was the election, legal issues, religion, anti-choice violence, economic and logistical barriers to abortion access, and state-based legislation on three topics—the discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and late-term abortion.

Findings:

Coverage of Abortion and Reproductive Rights Was Male-Dominated Across All Networks: 60 percent of guests, hosts, and correspondents in these segments were male with hosts predominantly male—80 percent compared to only 20 percent female. Male hosts on Fox, representing more than the average on the three stations, were more likely to have male guests; CNN’s only program hosted by a woman, Erin Burnett Outfront, was the only program that had a majority of female guests. On MSNBC, only The Rachel Maddow Show and For the Record with Greta had more female appearances than male about these subjects.

Evening Cable News Features More Inaccurate Than Accurate Information About Abortion: 64 percent of the statements on these three cable stations contained inaccurate information about the Center for Medical Progress, abortion funding rules, Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and late-term abortion. CNN had the fewest inaccurate statements, and Fox, with 80 percent inaccuracy, rose to the top. Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight had no accurate statements at all. (Note: sexist Tucker Carlson is replacing sexist Bill O’Reilly.) On MSNBC, Chris Matthews’ Hardball had the highest number of inaccurate statements—21 out of 27.

Disparities Between Discussions of Candidates’ Positions on Abortion Enabled the Spread of Misinformation: Over half the segments studied covered candidates’ stances on abortion access with Donald Trump leading on all three networks. Hillary Clinton’s position was discussed only 21 percent of the time with other candidates’ positions in the other 32 percent. Fox led in coverage about Clinton’s position while providing misinformation about late-term abortion, meaning that Fox watchers heard more negative statements about Clinton and reproductive rights than people watching CNN or MSNBC.

Conversations About Legal Restrictions on Abortion Outpaced Those About the Consequences of Limiting Access:  The second most common focus for abortion was on courts and litigation, behind segments about the candidates’ positions on reproductive rights. Fox and MSNBC had the most pieces about this topic. Anti-choice violence and economic/logistical barriers to abortion access were barely addressed. Only one percent discussed the violence, and five percent concerned economical/logistical barriers. In the entire year, CNN failed to discuss anti-choice violence, and Fox had only one of the 354 segments, the one on The O’Reilly Factor when host Bill O’Reilly commented that the risk of this violence was low. All the anti-choice violence segments were on The Rachel Maddow Show which also showed five of the 11 segments on barriers available on MSNBC.

Fox News Dominated Discussions About Abortion in Concert with Religion or Faith: Abortion connected with religion/faith was the third most common intersection with Fox airing the most segments. Most of these were on Special Report, The O’Reilly Factor, and Hannity. Most of the few on MSNBC were on All In with Chris Hayes and The Rachel Maddow Show.

Misinformation About CMP (Center for Medical Progrss) Was Spread Almost Entirely by Fox New: Fox News aired all except one of the total statements about CMP, and 90 percent of these were wrong. The network typically described the group’s work as “investigative journalism” and failed to note the result of this “work” was refuted by multiple congressional and state investigations. Inaccurate statements came from most of the programs—Special Report, The O’Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, and Hannity. Sean Hannity invited discredited CMP founder David Daleiden on his show and gave him the entire segment to tell his inaccurate, anti-choice claim that Planned Parenthood illicitly sold fetal tissue, which multiple investigations have disproved.

All Networks Except Fox News Shared Largely Accurate Information About Planned Parenthood’s Essential Services: A prevailing anti-Planned Parenthood myth is that defunding it is no problem because these services are nonessential and can be provided by other community health centers (CHC). Accurate statements are that Planned Parenthood provides access to cancer screenings, pap smears, referrals, wellness exams, contraceptives, STD tests, family planning, or LGBTQ health services.  CNN and MSNBC provided largely accurate information about this topic while statements from Fox were split 50/50 between accurate and inaccurate. Only 26 percent of CNN statements were wrong, split evenly between Anderson Cooper 360 and CNN Tonight. All the inaccurate statements on MSNBC were made on Chris Matthews’ Hardball. Most of the Fox inaccurate statements were on The O’Reilly Factor although a couple of them were on The Kelly File before she left the network.

Misinformation About Late-Term Abortion Dominated on Every Network: Tracking segments on late-term abortions showed inaccurate statements 88 percent of the time. False anti-choice terms chosen included “sex-selective” abortion, “race-selective” abortion, “partial-birth” abortion, abortions after 20 weeks that allegedly risk the feeling of “fetal pain,” “abortion until the moment of birth,” “abortion on demand,” or abortion for “anyone, anytime, anyplace.” A search of these terms shows that only 12 percent were accurate. Erin Burnett OutFront and CNN Tonight led CNN’s 75 percent inaccurate statements with either none or one accurate statement. Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room was over 50 percent inaccurate. On Fox, all statements on Special Report, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Hannity were inaccurate, while The O’Reilly Factor, at 95 percent inaccuracy, had the largest number of inaccurate statement. The majority of the 73 percent inaccurate statements on MSNBC were on Hardball.

The above analysis includes only “substantial discussion” or segments with the topic of abortion or reproductive rights and not news or video clips in edited news packages except those made by a network correspondent. It provides a snapshot of accuracy on both networks and programs. The question for further research is the accuracy of these programs and networks in other areas.

With 60 percent of the discussants about women’s reproductive rights being male, the media people addressing the topic, as in politics, aren’t directly affected by decisions and therefore concentrate on court decisions and political candidates. Neglected are topics such as services lost through defunding health clinics, women’s health, and socio-economic barriers to abortion access.

Even more frightening in the analysis is the revelation that almost two-thirds of the statements are false, and the information about late-term abortions is almost 90 percent wrong. Many people get all their information from these inaccurate sources. Terms such as “fetal pain” and “abortion on demand” become part of the litany of people who vote against women’s rights and lead to increasingly horrific laws that limit women’s lives. Some people believed Donald Trump’s outrageous statement at a campaign debate that laws allowed doctors to “rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.” This never happens.

The inaccuracies on cable TV haven’t stopped. Less than a month ago, Wolf Blitzer didn’t correct Secretary of Health Tom Price when he claimed that funding for Planned Parenthood is “fungible,” meaning that it supports abortions. The Guttmacher Institute pointed out the flaw: “Fungibility is an inherent possibility when involving the private sector in any government-subsidized activity, and the only way to avoid it would be for government agencies to exclusively provide any and all such services.” Also, if Price is correct, the “fungibility” also moves into taxpayers funding religion in federal subsidized organizations such as religious groups and charities. Yet Blitzer’s television audience didn’t hear that response.

It’s these inaccuracies that people use to pick candidates. Social media passes along billions of false computerized bots, candidates lie to get votes, and journalists don’t bother to check facts or follow their ideologies. When lies are corrected, people claim “alternate facts” or “emotional truth,” as if data doesn’t exist. This situation brought Brexit to Great Britain and the Republicans to the United States.

Next time someone tells you something, check it out! Like this article!

December 16, 2016

 The Return of the Coat Hanger: The State of Abortion Rights

coat-hanger

When Gov. John Kasich vetoed the infamous “heartbeat” bill, people across the nation breathed a sigh of relief. If signed, the ensuing law would have made abortion illegal in Ohio after the sixth week when some women didn’t even know they were pregnant. The bill he did sign into law, making abortion in the state illegal after 20 weeks, seemed mild by comparison. The 1972 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade made abortions legal until 24 weeks, 4 weeks later than Ohio, yet the Ohio’s restriction to 20 weeks initially seemed much better than the alternative.

The new Ohio law is dangerous, however, on many levels. Not only does it attempt to break Roe v. Wade, but it also puts doctors in prison. Performing an abortion after 20 weeks is a fourth-degree felony, carrying a sentence of up to 18 months in prison. A 2013 Ohio law imprisons people who commit fourth- and fifth-degree felonies for a first time offense. Doctors disagree with Kasich’s new law: a group of ob-gyns wrote:

“Continuation of these pregnancies abortions [after identification of serious and fatal birth defects] would result in certain death of the baby and expose the newborn to needless pain. Meanwhile the mother is forced to carry the fetus to term and may be exposed to a myriad of medical and reproductive risks.”

Kasich and his legislators ignored the doctors’ plea.

That’s where the coat hangers come in. In the late 1960s, before Roe v. Wade, pro-choice activists used this object as a symbol of choice because women would use this sharp object as their only option. It caused horrible pain, sometimes permanent damage, and even death, but some women felt it was their only solution. On December 10, 2016—16 years into the 21st century—protesters to Ohio’s anti-abortion bills hung several hundred wire hangers on the fence of the state capitol. More people came and added more hangers. They were taken down during that night, but the protesters can back the next day and replace them.

Coat hangers went to court at a 1972 hearing of Abele v. Markle from a lawsuit from 350 women challenging Connecticut’s anti-abortion statute and influencing the judicial opinions of Roe v. Wade. The women in the courtroom brought babies and hangars; they left their hangars. In a 1969 demonstration in Washington, D.C., over 300,000 protesters hung coat hangers around their necks and carried signs reading “Never again” as they marched.

Many people unaware of the meaning of coat hangers can learn from the case of Anna Yocca, 32, who was charged in a Tennessee court last year for trying to abort a 24-week fetus with a coat hanger. Abortion is legal at 24 weeks, but she still sits in jail and faces new felony charges: aggravated assault, an attempt to procure a miscarriage, and an attempted criminal abortion. Only four of Tennessee’s 95 counties have clinics that provide abortions, and Yocca does not live in one of these.

Yocca is not unique: Purvi Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison last year after she took medication to terminate her pregnancy. In other states, women have been charged with attempted feticide for falling down stairs, not wearing a seatbelt, and trying to commit suicide while pregnant. Other women throughout the country have also gone to jail for terminating their pregnancy.

Thirty-eight states have feticide laws; many of these were intended to protect pregnant women. Anything that a pregnant woman does can probably result in criminal charges if police determines that it may damage a fetus in any way. Doctors can’t tell the difference between a self-induced abortion or a natural miscarriage, leaving women subject to interrogation, arrest, and even incarceration. Poverty and poor nutrition can become reasons for imprisonment.

cpr-map

 

The week before DT won the presidential election, seven states—Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and Texas—sent $30 million of federal funding intended to stop poverty to Crisis Pregnancy Centers that lie to pregnant women about the effects of abortion and refuse to refer them to legitimate women’s clinics. They also provide no other health care that Planned Parenthood does.

The courts are providing some help:

  • A federal judge ruled that Mississippi cannot deny Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood because of their affiliation with abortion services, keeping almost 700,000 state residents on Medicaid to a reliable healthcare provider.
  • The Virginia Board of Health voted 11-to-4 to remove the unconstitutional outpatient surgical center building requirements imposed on clinics that perform abortions. It is the first state to comply with Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court ruling to overturn surgical center and admitting privilege requirements, known as TRAP, passed by many states.
  • A federal court blocked two Alabama abortion restrictions.
  • The Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center opened in Oklahoma City, the first new abortion clinic since 1974. Until the clinic opened, the city was the only major metropolitan area in the country with no abortion provider. It joins two other providers in the state.
  • Memphis Center for Reproductive Health will open a new, comprehensive reproductive health clinic will house the Tennessee first freestanding birthing facility. It will also provide abortion, gynecological, mental health, and sexual/reproductive health care services.
  •  A Planned Parenthood clinic in Springfield (IL) will offer surgical abortion care.
  • South Carolina officials will drop regulations that target abortion clinics in the state.

Alaska must pay almost $1 million in legal fees incurred when Planned Parenthood and two Alaskan physicians fought the state’s unconstitutional parental notification law. Wisconsin had to pay $1.6 million to plaintiffs suing over the state’s admitting privilege law. North Carolina, Alabama, and Missouri also had to reimburse the legal costs from fighting  unconstitutional anti-abortion laws. Other GOP states across the nation are also averaging $1 million out of their budgets to fight abortion rights.

Yet women have to keep fighting for reproductive rights. This month, Texas passed a law, already declared unconstitutional in Indiana and Louisiana, that requires burial or cremation of fetal remains from abortions or miscarriages. A judge has already suspended the law until he hears testimony on January 6, 2017.

Texas is notable because its death rate from pregnancy complications doubled between 2010 and 2014. In 2011, Texas cut out more than 80 family planning clinics, including all Planned Parenthood clinics, across the state, and the other clinics could serve only half as many women as before the budget cuts in 2011. No other state saw the same death rate.

The word “abortion” raises so much emotion among people in the United States. Yet minor surgery to remove scar tissue after early miscarriages is classified in medical files as “abortions.” Basically, self-proclaimed “pro-lifers” are only interested in life until birth. After that children and their parents are on their own because, to quote HUD Secretary nominee Ben Carson, poverty is a choice. Republicans deny children health care, food, water, housing, air, education, and other “amenities” because life for the already born individuals is no longer their responsibility. And the upcoming years will result in more deprivation to children because President-elect Donald Trump is moving more money to the top 0.1 percent.

The year 2015 was considered the worst year for abortion restrictions until now. The upcoming year with a new administration promises to be worse. The last time an elected Republican cared about you was when you were a fetus.

June 30, 2016

Supreme Court Does a 180 Degree Turn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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