Nel's New Day

February 10, 2019

Constitutional Religious Freedom Restricted to Fundamentalist Christians

The U.S. Supreme Court just proved that “religious freedom” is only for Christians. In a 5-4 ruling (you can guess the names), Domineque Ray must die without his spiritual adviser available to give him comfort because he is a Muslim. Until this ruling, a cornerstone for the high court’s religion jurisprudence prevents the government from discriminating among faiths. Larson v. Valente (1981) determined that a Minnesota statute treating religious organizations differently violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The conservative members of the Supreme Court justified their vote by stating that Ray waited until ten days before his execution to ask for the presence of his iman. The prison warden did not deny Ray’s request to have his imam present until five days before the suit, a time when Ray went through the prison’s administrative channels for his request.

Even some conservatives disagree with this religious bigotry and agreed with Justice Elena Kagan who wrote:

“That treatment goes against the Establishment Clause’s core principle of denominational neutrality.”

From Seth Mandel, executive editor of the Washington Examiner magazine:

“As a conservative who opposes both the death penalty and religious discrimination I find this story appalling.”

Southern Baptist minister Alan Cross tweeted:

“Every time we want the state to favor Christianity over other religions, the result is a loss of religious freedom for all.”

In another Christian-focused government action, at least six states are using the current administrative protectorate in an attempt to legislate Bible (aka Christian) classes in public schools. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) cheered on their efforts after seeing a segment on Fox & Friends. This practice was common in the 19th century but waned when the federal government took a greater part in public education in the 20th century. In McCollum v. Board of Education (1948), the Supreme Court sided with the First Amendment to declare that states cannot use public education to promote “religious faiths or sects.” Later, the ruling of Engel v. Vitale (1962) decreed that compulsory prayer in public schools violated the constitution. Now DDT is using the Bible, about which he is largely ignorant, to club non-conservatives over the head.

Franklin Graham, evangelist Billy Graham’s son, may have gone deaf: he said that he has never heard a lie out of DDT. DDT told at least 8,158 false or misleading claims in the two years after his inauguration. Perhaps Graham has a different sense of “objective truth,” that is “Jesus is the savior of the world and died for our sins.”

DDT does have a “spiritual adviser.” Paula White came to his reality TV show The Apprentice to pray over him, and they maintained a friendship as she became a popular televangelist. At the beginning of 2019, she asked people to send her money or face divine consequences. Her rationale for donating to her ministry was that of “first fruit,” that all firsts belong to God including the first month of a person’s salary. She said that if people didn’t donate, “I don’t know what you’re going to face.” In 2007, she was one of the subjects of Sen. Charles Grassley’s (R-IA) investigation into finances of ministries that solicit millions of dollars in donations.

In its move toward allowing laws that mandate Christian beliefs, the Supreme Court slashed reproductive rights for women in Hobby Lobby. Current Courts are now using “Justice” Clarence Thomas’ opinion in NIFLA v. Becerra, removing disclosure requirements for “crisis pregnancy centers” that block abortion, to attack laws preventing the torture and abuse of minors through “conversation therapy” that people falsely claim will make them cisgender instead of Q (sexual minority). With Thomas statement that “[free speech] is not unprotected merely because it is uttered by professionals,” he has enshrined the position that the First Amendment protects all lies by “professionals.” In that way, the Supremes leads lower courts in their effort to strike down anti-conversion therapy laws in 15 states, 50 cities and counties, and Washington, D.C., laws supported by every mainstream medical association in the United States.

Conversion therapy is more horrific than most people can imagine. “Christian” therapists force naked children to touch their genitals while others watch, have “group cuddling sessions,” use a tennis racquet to beat effigies of their parents, and grab two oranges from the other side of a human chain while others hurl gay slurs at them. Some of the therapists are closeted gay men who force their male clients to kiss them. Conversion therapy can lead to suicide. At the very best, conversion therapy causes depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal,  substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources. Therapy cannot change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Almost five years ago,Thomas openly supported the ability of states to avoid the First Amendment freedom of religion and create a “state-mandated religion” in the 2014 Greece v. Galloway ruling permitting prayers at a city public meetings.

DDT’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now echoing evangelical leaders who say that God picked DDT to sit in the Oval office. Satirist Andy Borowitz picked up on Sanders’ statements in “Did God Want Trump?” [Ivy Close Images/Alamy]

“Partially confirming Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s theory of divine intervention in the 2016 election, Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos, discord, and strife, revealed on Friday that she had wanted Donald J. Trump to be President.

“Speaking from her temple on Mt. Olympus, the usually reclusive deity said that Trump was ‘far and away’ her first choice to be President in 2016.

“’I’d been following his career for years,’ the goddess of disorder and ruin said. ‘The bankruptcies, the business failures. There was a lot for me to love.’

“She complained that the media had given Vladimir Putin ‘way too much credit’ for Trump’s ascent, asserting, ‘Who do you think made Putin President of Russia?’

“Looking ahead to the 2020 election, Eris said that she was officially undecided about which candidate to back for President, but that she was leaning toward Howard Schultz. ‘What a shit show that would be,’shesaid.

Has anyone else noticed the difficulty of identifying between satire and fact in the current climate?

The evangelicals may have an opponent in their support of conservatism and DDT. Like progressive Christians in the 19th century who fought to end slavery, some 21st-century Christian leaders are supporting immigration rights, universal health care, racial justice, and LGBTQ rights. The coalition Faith in Public life, with almost 50,000 members, is a part of these civil rights movements.

Tara Agnew Harris, member of Myers Park Baptist Church (Charlotte, NC), believes that “Jesus talked about reaching out to the poor, reaching out to the marginalized, reaching out to the oppressed.” She said that “traditional Christian beliefs have been hijacked,” that people connect it to “a certain fundamentalist mindset.” She acts on her faith by visiting a detention center for undocumented immigrants in Lumpkin (GA).

Jennifer Butler, Faith in Public Life leader and an ordained Presbyterian minister, said:

“There are over a hundred verses of Scripture that say we are to welcome immigrants and welcome strangers. Faith in Public Life] is driven by our moral values and not by politics.”

Despite a smaller base among liberal Christians, Butler cites an advantage in building bridges. Religion can also bring passion to a movement as in the case of William Barber, the black North Carolina preacher who started the “Moral Majority” movement. He calls himself “an evangelical Biblicist” for a nation in need of “moral defibrillators” to work on its weak heart:

“We must shock this nation with the power of love. We must shock this nation with power of mercy. We must shock this nation and fight for justice for all!”

Since Russians have joined the evangelicals to take over the United States, democracy needs a way to fight against the fundamentalist conservatives. At the end of 2018, hackers discovered emails and documents from Russian officials, oligarchs’ confidants, and leaders in interference effort that revealed their connections with the Bradley Foundation, a primary financier of right-wing groups including anti-immigrant organizations. Its mission is “to restore, strengthen, and protect the principles and institutions of American exceptionalism.” In other words, to make America great again by taking away the rights of most people. Another Russian connection is with the Home School Legal Defense Association, the most influential right-wing homeschooling group in the United States. Another Russian goal with these groups is to support pro-Russian “separatists” in Ukraine so that Vladimir Putin can take over the country and move on to more of Europe. Part of their belief is also anti-Semitism and pro-fascism. Basically, the U.S. evangelicals are supporting the same philosophy that caused the rise of Adolf Hitler and led to World War II.

December 17, 2018

The Dark Side of George H.W. Bush

Filed under: Executive action — trp2011 @ 11:03 PM
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The tributes to George H.W. Bush, 41st president of the United States, keep pouring out as the media showered accolades on him after his death at age 94. They called him a man “of the highest character”; said that he “served with character, class, and integrity”; and “did tremendous good along the journey.” The picture of H.W. included his ending the Cold War without “firing a shot,” his life as a beloved husband, grandfather, and great-grandfather. The media also described his brave military career. All this praise blurs H.W.’s history.

Early Career:

Denounced the 1964 Civil Rights Act while running for senator.

Defended Richard Nixon’s role in Watergate and criticized the press for asking the president questions.

Helped facilitate Operation Condor as CIA director, a collaboration between South American military dictatorships that kidnapped, tortured, murdered, or disappeared thousands of political dissidents including former Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Orlando Letelier, assassinated on U.S. soil during H.W.’s directorship.

Campaign:

Hired Roger Ailes, later head of Fox, to run one of the most racist campaigns in modern history—until Dictator Donald Trump (DDT)—as he falsified the part that his opponent Mike Dukakis played in releasing Willie Horton, who raped a woman while on prison furlough. The law letting Horton out for a short time had been passed by a GOP governor before Dukakis became governor. Even H.W.’s campaign director Lee Atwater apologized for his part in the advertising, but H.W. never did.

Decried Dukakis’ “Americanism” because he was the son of Greek immigrants.

Set up the Gary Hart scandal which forced Hart out of the running.

Flipped his policies—i.e., from pro-choice to anti-choice—to be elected.

Vice Presidency, loyalist to Ronald Reagan:

Backed dictatorships and death squads throughout Latin America.

Crushed unions.

Made racist attacks on welfare.

Displayed callous indifference to the AIDS crisis.

Supported apartheid South Africa.

Empowered the religious right.

Set the stage for continued actions during his presidency.

Presidency: 

Lied about his history in the CIA dating back to the ’50s.

Appointed incompetent sexual harasser Clarence Thomas to replace civil rights hero Thurgood Marshall for a life-time term on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lied about Iraqi troops yanking Kuwaiti infants from incubators and massing on the Saudi Arabian border in order to start a war that killed thousands of civilians by dropping 88,500 tons of bombs on Iraq and Iraqi-occupied Kuwait.

Used fabricated satellite images about a fictional Iraqi buildup that just didn’t exist to attack Iraq in 1990.

Imposed never before seen restrictions and censorship on media coverage of his war, forcing media into supporting extreme warring patriotism.

Promoted Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda’s jihad, continued the U.S. pattern of violating international military law, and used brain-damaging chemicals responsible for illness in at least one-third of that war’s veterans.

Committed other war crimes including the deliberate destruction of essential Iraqi civilian infrastructure that couldn’t be repaired without foreign assistance.

Vetoed the 1990 Civil Rights Act.

Sent 24,000 military members into Panama to arrest Manuel Noriega, once a U.S. ally on the CIA payroll and considered an asset in Iran-Contra, an action that killed at least 3,000 Panamanians and set the scene for continuing wars.

Refused to cooperate with a special counsel for the Iran-Contra affair by concealing information about his involvement as vice president during the investigation of Ronald Reagan who illegally traded missiles for U.S. hostages in Iran and used the proceeds of arms sales to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua. Reagan sales were payback to Iran for keeping hostages in 1980 so that Jimmy Carter would lose the presidential election. The money was used to support “Contra” terrorists because Congress cut off funds to assassinate Nicaraguan elected officials and bomb civilians.

Pardoned six people to block a trial about the Iran-Contra affair because he might have been called as a witness.

Escalated the racist war on drugs and pushed greater spending for the “war” when federal agents lured a drug dealer to a park across from the White House, a war that failed to reduce drug abuse.

Groped women when they were being photographed with him.

Set the tone for opposition to reversing climate change, positively viewed during the 1980s.

Ignored the AIDS crisis killing hundreds of thousands of people through ignorance and lack of funding.

Opened Guantánamo to keep Haitian refugees escaping violence in their country from entering the United States.

Bailed out the savings and loan industry with $124.6 billion in taxpayer money that gave over $4 million to pay off his son Jeb’s loan.

Opposed raising the minimum wage and vetoed a bill to increase it to $4.55 an hour.

Hired people in 1992 to investigate passport files for proof that his opponent, Bill Clinton, had become a secret Communist while in Russia and went through the files of Clinton’s mother.

H.W. has been called a “patrician,” a descendant of a distinguished family. This family has a long career of creating and profiting from war crimes. H.W.’s father, Prescott, a Yale member of the secretive Skull and Bones Society like H.W., helped give financial assistance to the Nazi movement and Adolf Hitler, even after the U.S. entered World War II, and profited from slave labor at Auschwitz. H.W. continued the family tradition of amassing wealth by generating military enemies and then profiting from his covert business dealings connected to them.

Through the Carlyle Group, rebranded as an investment company but owners of companies with military and security contracts, H.W. was also connected with the Bin Ladin family during the Middle East wars. H.W. became actively involved with the Carlyle Group after he lost his second run for president and increased his wealth through advising his son, George W., while he was president. Saudi royalty made a sizable profit from Carlyle investments with the Carlyle Group but pulled out after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade towers.

Three-fourths of the perpetrators who crashed four commercial airplanes to kill thousands of people on 9/11/01 were Saudi Arabians, but both H.W. and his son George W. Bush protected their Saudi royal friends. Shafiq bin Laden was meeting with the Carlyle Group, including H.W., at the same time that his brother Osama destroyed the twin towers. Seventeen years later, many people associate the 9/11 attack with Iraq instead of Saudi Arabia.

Judicial Watch called on H.W. to resign from the Carlyle Group, owning at least 164 companies at that time, after George W. became president. H.W. stayed, and made a tidy profit from the 9/11 attack and George W.’s ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq when Carlyle’s businesses considerably picked up. Vought Aircraft, for example, received over $1 billion in defense contracts after laying off 20 percent of its workforce before 9/11.

James Baker, H.W.’s Secretary of State who extolled H.W.’s virtues after he died, also joined the Carlyle Group to manage relationships with Saudi clients and to defend Saudi Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz in a trillion-dollar lawsuit brought by families of 9/11 victims. They accused him of using Islamic charities to funnel millions of dollars to terrorist groups connected to al-Qaeda. The sultan died in 2011, the lawsuit has continued for 17 years, and Baker went on to make his son, James Baker IV, also wealthy.

The media glorification is a prime example of revisionist history, depicting H.W. as a perfect gentleman without reporting any of his flaws. His lasting legacy will be Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. H.W. never wavered from his “total confidence” in Thomas that he first declared on October 9, 1991, despite charges of sexual misconduct against Thomas. On the high court, Thomas has opposed Roe v. Wade, claiming that the Constitution does not address abortion, and dissented to the majority of Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.

When Thomas spoke before the court in 2016, it was the first time in ten years. Until Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as a justice, Thomas took the most conservative position. In a term with only 59 signed opinions, Thomas would have erased six vital precedents because they didn’t fit his personal understanding of what the Founding Fathers wrote. Thomas supported racial discrimination in Texas redistricting because, according to his opinion, the Constitution did not mention districting. In another case, Thomas ruled for a Muslim ban: he stated that the Constitution doesn’t advocate injunctions. Ironically, he had upheld an injunction against President Obama’s DAPA, granting temporary deferral of deportation to the parents of the young “Dreamers” protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, DACA. Thomas voted for Citizens United v. FEC which permits almost unlimited dark money in elections and put H.W.’s son into the Oval Office in Bush v. Gore.

Twenty percent of appeals court judges appointed in the past two years clerked for Thomas. At the age of 70, Thomas is the longest-serving justice with the possibility of becoming Chief Justice. He is H.W.’s gift to the United States.

Rest in peace, H.W.

 

 

 

 

January 23, 2015

A Question of Ethics – Congress, Supreme Court, Journalism

With great power comes the possibility for the abuse of this power. This past week a few people in powerful positions show the damage that can be done to the United States through this abuse. One of the biggest dangers comes from the U.S. House of Representatives.

After President Obama said that he would veto bills to increase sanctions against Iran while the U.S. is negotiating with that country, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) secretly invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on the dangers of the administration’s negotiations with Iran without coordinating with the executive branch. Within three days, Boehner’s success turned to ashes. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a press conference that Netanyahu was welcome in the U.S. anytime and then added:

“In Israel, one of the top intelligence–-one of the top intelligence personnel within the Israeli intelligence field–-I won’t name names, but this person was asked directly by a congressional delegation that visited there over the weekend what the effect of sanctions would be. And this person answered that it would be like throwing a grenade into the process. We’re asking people to be responsible here, and then let’s have a good, responsible debate about what the best way to proceed is.”

President Obama has also pointed out that the negotiations are the only answer to protecting Israel from Iranian nuclear weapon. Therefore the message is now that Republicans, not Democrats, are failing Israel. Lawmakers at the briefing with Israeli intelligence confirmed Kerry’s statement, and senior U.S. officials explained that the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, agreed that legislation for sanctions “would cause the talks to collapse.”

Steve Benen has an excellent piece in which he points out the danger of the GOP Speaker of the House acting on his own in his one-upmanship battle with the President of the United States. He uses the example of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) meeting with the Guatemalan officials during the children’s immigration crisis to tell them that the issue was President Obama’s problem, not theirs. Meeting with foreign leaders on foreign ground, Paul denounced the U.S. president and undermined U.S. foreign policy. Republicans declared such an action would be treasonous during the Bush/Cheney regime.

Another frightening piece about Israel’s connections with al-Quaeda comes from Robert Parry.

There is no precedent for the way in which Republicans are deliberately undermining the White House’s foreign policy. The Supreme Court has ruled that only the executive branch and not Congress makes foreign policy. If two branches of government set foreign policy, then the country has two different foreign policies.

Imagine if Congress forces the U.S. into a war with Iran to satisfy Israel’s problems. Iran is three times the number of people and the amount of land as Iraq. The resulting cost could be between $15 and $24 trillion to care for the almost 100,000 wounded veterans. Russia and China would most likely help insurgencies to weaken the United States. Like Vietnam, such a “conflict” would end in defeat for the U.S.

In another branch of government, the idea of impeaching Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been tossed around for several years. The almost mute man who was accused, probably rightly so, of sexually harassing Anita Hill before his confirmation, has a long list of actions that would get him thrown off any other court in the nation. This year, Thomas, who will (most likely) be voting against marriage equality in the United States, proudly shows his friendship with two avidly anti-LGBT activists/spokesmen in this photo recently taken in the Supreme Court chambers.

Twitter-image-of-Thomas-and-FriendsOn the left of the photo is Ryan T. Anderson, activist with the Heritage Foundation, anti-equality voice on CNN, and co-author of the book, What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense.  Also in the photograph is Robert P. George, the other co-author and a co-founder of NOM, the National Organization for Marriage which vigorously lobbies against same-sex marriage. George is also a senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute which funded the anti-LGBT Regnerus parenting study and is on the boards of Utah’s Deseret news (owned by the Mormon Church), the Koch Brothers’ American Enterprise Institute, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. A major accomplishment for George is his “drafting the Manhattan Declaration, which advocates for anarchy in the face of governmental support for the rights of a woman to choose, and same-sex marriage,” according to David Badash of TheNewCivilRightsMovement.com.

Journalism is also suffering from lack of ethics. “Based on our studies about the field of journalism, we have determined that you’re not practicing journalism. You’re practicing rank propaganda.” That was the conclusion of a journalism class at Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington (VT) after it conducted a “professional integrity audit” of a Fox network story about Vermont on Bill O’Reilly’s show. In its study based on the ethics codes of the Society of Professional Journalists and using only one short segment, the students “found examples of stereotyping, distortions, manipulation, questionable sourcing, and predetermining outcome,” according to News Corpse. Their video begins with Politifact’s revelation that Fox “News” is truthful only 18 percent of the time.

ABC is also being scrutinized. Its chief White House correspondent, Jonathan Karl, is moderating a panel of three conservative presidential wannabes, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), for the “American Recovery Policy Forum” at the Koch brothers’ weekend Freedom Partners meeting. Although ABC is paying for Karl’s travel and lodging, his action in an extremely partisan event brings up the question of crossing the line from neutral reporting to aiding a political organization. Karl’s presence validates the Koch brothers and their highly-financed anti-government political network, sometimes called a third political party in the U.S.

Marc Cooper, director of Annenberg Digital News and an associate professor of professional practice at the University of Southern California’s School for Communication and Journalism, said that Karl’s involvement amounts to “an in-kind contribution to a partisan group that is clearly aimed at positioning for the 2016 race.” Cooper noted, “The public has no input or access and no public service is being performed. Karl has no business being there.” Todd Gitlin, chair of the Ph.D program in communications at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, agreed, stating that it is inappropriate for a news reporter to “promote a sectarian political show,” particularly one that is sponsored by climate change-deniers like the Kochs.

Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, argued that Karl’s participation is “a huge difference between doing this kind of partisan event as opposed to, for example, moderating a gathering of the League of Women Voters.” She pointed out that the involvement of journalists in “closed” events undermines the fight for access and the public’s right to know.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, journalists should “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived” and “avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”

Karl has been scrutinized before because of his journalistic biases and questionable ethics. In 2011, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting noted that Karl was a prominent alum of a media training program aimed at promoting conservative media on college campuses along with such conservatives as Ann Coulter, Dinesh D’Souza, Maggie Gallagher, and Laura Ingraham. Karl’s support for right-wing positions includes praise for Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) controversial budget plans. Media described Karl’s report on Benghazi as “sloppy” and “inaccurate” when he mischaracterized White House emails about the attacks and relied on an anonymous source after claiming that ABC News had reviewed them. Karl apologized for his incorrect report.

Thus we have journalists who support the conservatives who want to start another war that can then be established as “constitutional” by the nation’s highest court, all actions from people who consider their own desires and beliefs above ethical considerations.

August 10, 2014

Conservatives Claim Moral High Ground But Ignore Bible, Constitution

God—and the U.S. Supreme Court—gave people the right to discriminate, according to Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Mike Kelly (R-PA). That’s why they’re pushing a bill, “The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014,” allowing adoption and foster care centers to discriminate against same-sex couples. Nowhere does the language in the bill use references to LGBT people, and it is so vague that any organization can discriminate against anyone if its “sincerely held religious beliefs” are being infringed. The senators claim that the bill is meant to “ensure children can continue to get care from people of faith,” but the bill is intended to give special rights to religious organizations.

Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who started a range war against the U.S. government, told a gathering last week that his vendetta was between good and evil. Providing him personal inspiration, God told Bundy, “This is your chance to straighten this thing up.” At least that’s what Bundy claims. He added that people rallied around him because they were “spiritually touched.” The “touched” might have been accurate. Bundy’s big concern at the gathering was that only about 100 people attended. He asked:

“Where is all of your college students? Where’s our young and where’s our old? Where’s our black and where’s our brown? Where are you people? Aren’t you interested in freedom and liberty?”

Although Mormon, Bundy is the perfect example of Tea Party believers. They claim that they want religion back into politics, but what they want is just their own religion represented throughout the country. Despite their claims that the movement is secular, it is religious, founded in spiritual revival and zealotry. Their devotional belief system mandates how people should live, how society should function, what is right and wrong, and who should—and shouldn’t—lead the country.

The basis of their system is a refusal to compromise. The Tea Partiers’ moral imperative is that they will shut down the government before bending on any legislation just as Samson pulled down the pillars of the temple. Their bellicose nature keeps them from reasonable disagreements about fiscal or foreign policies. Anyone who opposes their dogma in government, economics, race, and sex are infidels. Heretics are burned at the primaries.

The Antichrist of the Tea Party religion is the illegitimate Barack Obama must be opposed just like the lesser demons of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Tea Partiers blame them for any problems in the past six years. Washington, D.C. is the seat of corruption in the same way that Rome was before Christ. The solution for Tea Partiers is to undermine the government while pretending to repair it. To do this, Tea Partiers put forward the vision of Paradise from the white, male, Christian country after the Civil War with plantocracy in the South and plutocracy in the North. States rights put blacks in their place, and robber barons fought off the sinful labor laws, unions, and income tax. The cry of “take back America” means a return to the Gilded Age when immigrants, minorities, and women knew their subservient place to the ruling whites.

Without reading the U.S. Constitution, the Tea Partiers have proclaimed this document as its holy text and themselves as solely responsible for its interpretation. If literal readings serve their purpose, they follow the words exactly, cherry-picking text as they do in the Bible. An example is the omission of “a well regulated Militia” in the NRA’s printing of the Second Amendment at its headquarters and the rulings concerning the militia until the past 30 years.

A return to states’ rights got a big boost from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas when he stated that separation of church and state was never intended in the states. He claims that the only purpose of the Establishment Clause is to protect states from federal interference; it “does not protect any individual right.” His position goes back over 20 years to a SCOTUS case about whether states could have term limits on Congressional representatives. A 5-4 ruling determined that the state could not limit federal terms because the Constitution had no amendment allowing them to do this.

Thomas was on the losing side, and he wasn’t happy. “The ultimate source of the Constitution’s authority is the consent of the people of each individual state, not the consent of the undifferentiated people of the nation as a whole,” he wrote. If there was nothing in the constitution, then states had the power by default. That argument has failed for over 200 years, but Tea Partiers agree with Thomas. They cannot acknowledge that the constitution is an agreement among the citizens of the United States and not among 50 independent republics.

To increase acceptance of the U.S. Constitution among fundamentalist Christians, far-right political figures claim that the document comes from the Christian god. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) explained the process: “Jesus destroyed Satan so that we could be free and that is manifested in what is called the Constitution of the United States. God created this nation and God created the Constitution; it is written on biblical principles.” DeLay gave Texas politics to the GOP by putting Republicans into the Texas House with corporate money so that gerrymandering could keep Democrats out of the legislature.

A big victory for Tea Partiers, at least temporarily, was the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the family that owns Hobby Lobby, and the family is not finished. After starting to push its Christian curriculum into public schools, the Greens plan a Bible museum two blocks south of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the home of history, science, and art museums. Steve Green explained why:

“This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught. There are lessons from the past that we can learn from, the dangers of ignorance of this book. We need to know it. If we don’t know it, our future is going to be very scary.”

The text of the Tea Partiers’ Bible is actually opposed to all of them who want small government. According to 2 Peter, 2:10-15, false prophets are those who “despise government.” These government-haters are “wells without water” and “clouds that are carried with a tempest”; they are those “to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever.” Verse 17 provides disgusting descriptions that I won’t include. God’s judgment of these government-haters “lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (Verse 3).

To those who condemn LGBT people, the Bible states:

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” – Romans 2:1

About abortion, God commanded women accused of adultery to drink an abortion-producing potion. Under Jewish law, the fetus is the same as “water” during the first 40 days. Abortion is always commanded when the mother’s life is endangered at any time during the pregnancy. The God who handed down Jewish law is the God of Christianity.

The Bible supports charity, loving your enemies, putting down your weapons, not judging others, welcoming the foreigner at the gates, putting others before yourself, not lording yourself over others, and not despising the government.

April 2, 2014

SCOTUS Puts ‘Citizens United’ on Steroids

scalia_for_saleAlthough the Hobby Lobby decision could be much more far-reaching than Citizens United, Windsor, and overturning the voting act, the case of McCutcheon v. FEC matches Hobby Lobby in impact. Through declaiming “free speech, the U.S. Supreme Court again put democracy up for sale. Its decision struck down the $123,000 two-year limit to campaign contribution limits, $48,600 to all federal candidates and $74,600 to all political committees. The aggregate limits that stopped money laundering schemes in which donors and political parties could evade the cap on donations to individual candidates has been erased.

Now people can donate the maximum per-candidate and per-party to as many sources as they want. One person can now donate $3.6 million directly to candidates and parties in a single election cycle and much more to “independent” groups like Super PACs because of Citizens United. Donated money can legally be redistributed to the races where it is likely to have the most impact.

Some of Citizens United affects:

  • The 32 top Super PAC donors who gave $9.9 million each matched the $313 million raised from small donors for both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney of under $200 from 3.7 million people.
  • Almost 60 percent of Super PAC funding came from 159 donors, and more than 93 percent of the Super PAC money came in contributions of at least $10,000 from only 3,318 people—0.0011 percent of people in the United States.
  • Shel Adelson’s $91.8 million donation is equivalent to the entire net worth of 322,000 average-earning U.S. families.

McCutcheon is worse.

The election cycle limits of $5,200 per candidate and $32,400 per party committee stand, but there is no longer any top limit. Wealthy donors no longer needs to pick and choose among campaigns: they can just fling money everywhere. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) targeted the problem: “I predict again, there will be major scandals in campaign finance contributions that will cause reform. There will be scandal. There’s too much money washing around.”

Reince Priebus, RNC chair, is cheering. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) praised the Supreme Court. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that he wanted to erase all contribution limits.

The man who won big with the SCOTUS decision is Shaun McCutcheon, owner of Coalmont Electrical Development which makes industrial electrical equipment for coal mines. Fracking, green energy, and believers in the dangers of climate change are hurting his business. Despite the fact that 98 percent of climate scientists understand the dangers of fossil fuels in the changing planet, McCutcheon passed along words from deniers such as S. Fred Singer as his personal beliefs:

“The good news is that science evidence [sic] has made it quite clear that the human contribution to a possible global warming is minor; in fact it cannot even be identified in the data record.”

With more and more evidence against Singer’s position, McCutcheon needs to bribe more people to legislate in his favor, and SCOTUS just gave that ability to him. Each oil, coal, and gas industry executive can spend $312,455,200 in this election to buy lawmakers. That’s a 2,600 percent increase in their legal donations. And it’s a pittance to them. The $150 million that Shel Adelson and his wife donated to GOP PACs last year is the equivalent of $280 to a person worth $50,000. Adelson makes $32 million, more than twice the $150 million, each day for the entire year. 

In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that the legal basis for upholding campaign finance regulations is to prevent corruption. The Roberts Court takes the position that there are no strings attached to the huge sums of money that wealthy people pay for lawmakers. The majority’s definition of the corrupting “quid pro quo” exists only if a specific result is purchased from a specific legislator—according to five members of the Supreme Court. As in Citizens United, the majority of the court fails to consider “the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner ‘influence over or access to’ elected officials or political parties. Once again, Roberts tells Congress that if they want good laws, then they should pass them—knowing full well that the GOP will never try to pass any controls on campaign contributions until it works against them.

J. Gerald Hebert, the executive director of the Campaign Legal Center and one of the nation’s foremost voting rights and campaign finance attorneys, described the ruling as arrogant:

 “The Court today abandoned any pretense of respecting Supreme Court precedent or Congressional expertise on matters of campaign finance when it struck down longstanding federal limits on aggregate contributions to candidates, parties and PACs. Once again, the Roberts Court exhibits its complete ignorance of political realities, or worse, chose to ignore those realities, in striking down laws written by Congress, which is intimately aware of the political corruption that will likely ensue in the wake of this decision.”

robertsAs Ari Berman wrote:

“In the past four years, under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court has made it far easier to buy an election and far harder to vote in one.

“The Court’s conservative majority believes that the First Amendment gives wealthy donors and powerful corporations the carte blanche right to buy an election but that the Fifteenth Amendment does not give Americans the right to vote free of racial discrimination.

“These are not unrelated issues – the same people, like the Koch brothers, who favor unlimited secret money in US elections – are the ones funding the effort to make it harder for people to vote. The net effect is an attempt to concentrate the power of the top 1 percent in the political process and to drown out the voices and votes of everyone else. […]

“A country that expands the rights of the powerful to dominate the political process but does not protect fundamental rights for all citizens doesn’t sound much like a functioning democracy to me.”

Roberts, whose court allowed all states to keep people from voting, will probably never appreciate the irony of his introduction to McCutcheon:  “[t]here is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.” 

Media contributes to the dumbing down of people in the United States. Today’s Huffington Post shows how far downhill it has gone since it was sold. The “business” section starts with Starbucks resuming its selling sweetened bread by the slice. This announcement was before GM’s CEO, Mary Barra calling the failure of her company to recall defective cars that killed 303 people in the last 12 years as  “very disturbing.” Following that was the vital information from WSJ that Southwest Airlines is beginning to look just like all the others.

An article on two men saving puppies from a flood is followed by gratuitous celebrity reporting, including “Britney Spears news.” Under “Twitterati” is Justin Bieber’s sage comment, “Why does everyone look like my mom on twitter. lol.” Finish with “how long would you survive the zombie apocalypse,” and you have a diet of reports that can well compete for the most inane Internet entries for the day.

The people who claim that money has no benefit in rulings should consider this news. Wealthy Robert H. Richards IV, who lives off his trust fund, was convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter. After his conviction in 2009, his wife filed another lawsuit charging that he penetrated his daughter with his fingers while masturbating and then molested his infant son. Yet Judge Jan Jurden ruled that the great-grandson of du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont would have only probation because he “will not fare well” in prison. As Delaware Public Defender Brendan J. O’Neill said, it is “extremely rare” for someone to fare well in prison. A defense lawyer agreed with the public defender. Michael W. Modica said, “I’ve never heard of the judge saying in general that he is not going to do well. Who thrives in jail?”

This is the kind of money that bought five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Today is National Walking Day, the day that the U.S. Supreme Court walked away from the U.S. Constitution—again.

April 8, 2013

Can Monsanto Be Stopped?

Over four decades ago I went on a free ride at Disneyland called “Adventures thru Inner Space” sponsored by Monsanto. Forty years, I didn’t know anything about the company—just that it provided a “free ride” once I paid to get inside the amusement park. Little did I know that Monsanto, that started as a small chemical company in 1901, would grow into a huge biotechnology seed company that would be destructive to our environment and our food supply.

Monsanto originally made its fortune selling saccharin to Coca-Cola before it moved on to producing DDT (now banned in the United States) and Agent Orange, an herbicide and anti-defoliant that killed or maimed 400,000 people and caused another 500,000 children to be born with birth defects after its use during the Vietnam War. Its most recent money-maker is selling genetically-engineered seeds complete with herbicides and pesticides. Because of its dangers, people have tried to legislate ways to label food as genetically engineered, for example the failed California’s Prop 37, but Monsanto has been successful in defeating these efforts.

rootworm-300x203Monsanto spent $4.2 million last year to kill the ballot initiative that would bring California’s laws in line with those passed in Japan, China, the European Union, and Australia, which already require labels on genetically modified foods. In the United States, 91 percent of voters support GMO labeling, yet the FDA does not require safety studies before approving genetically-modified foods. Because of the danger of these GM foods, the EPA decided to look into the problem of “superweeds” and “superworms” that resist Monsanto chemicals.

The latest species of worm that has evolved to withstand pesticides are called “armyworms” because their infestation is like a military onslaught. The only answer farmers have at this time is to drastically increase the use of toxic chemicals on their crops.

Thanks to an anomymously-added rider to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill, now signed into law, Monsanto is immune from any lawsuits against its poisoning the public. Nicknamed the Monsanto Protection Act, this law was even written by Monsanto and then slipped in with neither hearing nor review. President Obama signed the protection for Monsanto into law because it was part of the federal budget Continuing Resolution, necessary for continuing the government operations. Members of Congress who might have opposed it have said that they were unaware that it was part of the bill.

More people are familiar with the new law thanks to a segment on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, in which he said that these lawmakers operate “with the same level of awareness as a flatulent grandpa.” He further quipped, “The laws in the most powerful nation on Earth are written with the same level of accountability as Internet comments.”

Section 735 of the Continuing Resolution states that a seed approved by the USDA but challenged by a court ruling can still be used and sold until the USDA says otherwise. A USDA spokesperson said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asked for a review of section 735, “as it appears to preempt judicial review of a deregulatory action, which may make the provision unenforceable.”

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) proposed an amendment to remove the rider out of the CR, but it never came to a vote. He slammed the House of Representatives for “slipping  ‘corporate giveaways’ into a must-pass government funding bill.” He wrote in a statement:

“Montanans elected me to the Senate to do away with shady backroom deals and to make government work better. These provisions are giveaways worth millions of dollars to a handful of the biggest corporations in this country and deserve no place in this bill.”

bluntRep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is taking credit for the biorider, saying that he “worked with” Monsanto to craft it. Monsanto’s office is located in Missouri, and the company has contributed generously to Blunt’s campaigns.

A serious problem of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds is that farmers cannot use seeds from their crops in the next year. Because Monsanto has patent rights, they are claiming—in the U.S. Supreme Court—that farmers that buy previously harvested soybeans for planting are infringing on Monsanto’s rights. Approximately 90 percent of the country’s soybeans are subject to this ruling because of being genetically modified, giving Monsanto a virtual monopoly to control access to this crop.

The case of Monsanto v. Vernon Hugh Bowman, an Indiana soybean and wheat farmer, surrounded the issue that all Monsanto seed buyers must sign a “Technology Agreement,” prohibiting them from saving and replanting the seeds or doing research on the seeds, and pay a technology fee.

As usual, Justice Clarence Thomas did not recuse himself although he is a former Monsanto lawyer.  Bowman got his seed from his local grain elevator to plant as a high-risk crop after he harvested his wheat. Losing in two lower courts, Bowman is the using the argument of patent “exhaustion,” meaning that the patent owner has no rights to an item after an initial authorized sale of that patented item.

Monsanto also claims that it controls the pollen from Monsanto corn, also dominant in U.S. crops, and seeds distributed by animals, winds, or waterways and mixing with non-GMO plantings. The company maintains that the seeds of Monsanto seeds retain the company’s exclusive patent rights until perpetuity. If Monsanto wins its case—and with its money it is likely to do so—then almost all farmers will be forced to pay Monsanto for all their seeds. Monsanto has the ability to sell seeds that cannot re-propagate, meaning that farmers cannot use its existing crops to plant seeds during the next year.

Monsanto doesn’t stop there. Their products include herbicides, pesticides, and biocides that make soil toxic and water poisonous. Their genetically-modified products have not had enough testing on the health impacts.

Bill Maher put it well in his “New Rules” section: “If you are one of the millions of Californians who voted against labeling genetically modified food, you can’t complain when it turns out there is horse meat in your hamburger.” In his description of mislabeled foods, he said:

“Did you know your Chilean sea bass is neither Chilean, nor bass, nor from the sea? …. And your Mahi-Mahi is really made of mercury drenched bottom feeders like tile fish …. And if you like sushi, you really don’t know what you are eating because those fish are mislabeled 74% of the time.”

If there is any good news about this whole debacle, it is that the Monsanto Protection Act has been passed for only six months because the budget bill is in effect for only six months. It’s up to the people in the United States to stop this from happening again.

Other countries are fighting back against Monsanto’s control:

Five million farmers in India are suing Monsanto for as much as $7.7 billion for taxing the farmers to financial shambles with ridiculous royalty charges for “renewal” seed harvests, crops planted using seed from the previous year’s harvest.

Hungary destroyed 1000 acres of maize after the country found that it was grown with genetically modified seeds. Genetically modified (GM) seeds are banned in the country.

Peru has passed a 10-year ban on GM foods.

Argentina‘s tax agency is holding Monsanto responsible for  “slave-like conditions” among workers at a Monsanto contractor. Rural Power SA hired all its farmhands illegally, prevented them from leaving the fields, and withheld their salaries.

Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Madeira, New Zealand, South Australia, Russia, France, and Switzerland have removed Monsanto seeds and banned them.

Poland is also taking action against Monsanto.

Congress is due to return after its latest two-week recess, and the Senate may begin debate on gun legislation tomorrow. Let’s hope that they decide to protect the people in the United States as much as they protect Monsanto.

 

November 14, 2011

Supreme Court Takes on Health Reform Law

The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it would hear the constitutionality of the health care law, passed 18 months ago. On the same day, Health Care for America Now, a coalition of more than 1,000 organizations that joined to overhaul the nation’s health care system and then protect the recent law, announced that state insurance regulators are having secret meetings tomorrow to gut the new control on insurance premiums.

The current law requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of their premiums on medical care. The meeting tomorrow will consider a resolution to revive stalled legislation removing insurance sales commissions from industry administrative costs for purposes of calculating the medical loss ratio and count much of the sales commission as “health care” instead of an overhead expense. If passed, the resolution would cost consumers $1 billion. Clicking here would send a message to your state insurance commissioner.

The Supreme Court will consider the health care law’s constitutionality, the separating the mandate for everyone to have health insurance from the law, Medicaid expansion, and the question of whether or not the mandate is a “tax.” The ruling would probably be one of three choices: declare the entire law constitutional; declare the entire law unconstitutional; and declare just one or more pieces, i.e., making mandated health insurance, unconstitutional. Another possibility, however, is  the ruling that no one has any standing because the law has not gone into effect, negating any ruling about the law’s constitutionality.

Justices have assigned five and a half hours for oral argument, more than any other in the past century. They may hear these arguments in March and issue a decision in June.

Those opposed to the federal health care law argue that the decision to not do something, for example, not buy health insurance—is economic inactivity, rather than activity, and therefore cannot be regulated by the federal government. Supporters argue that the decision to not purchase health insurance has an economic effect. For example, a person without health coverage may not have the money to pay for an emergency room visit, forcing hospitals or taxpayers with the bill. Therefore not purchasing health insurance is an economic decision.

Earlier this year, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the mandate piece of the health reform law to be unconstitutional. Courts in Washington, D.C. and in Michigan both upheld this mandate to be constitutional. The Virginia-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed two cases against the health reform law because penalties for not purchasing health insurance don’t start until 2014. As a result, no one had suffered any injury and could not bring a case against it. Decisions don’t seem to be partisan. Clinton-appointee Judge Frank Hall in the 11th Circuit ruled against the law; Reagan-appointee Judge Laurence Silberman in the DC Court of Appeals defended the law.

Since the 1930s, the court has consistently held that Congress has broad constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce, including authority over not only goods moving across state lines but also the economic choices of individuals within states that have significant effects on interstate markets. Using this standard, judges could determine the law constitutional because of the multitrillion-dollar interstate health insurance industry.

The argument against the ban on discrimination based on pre-existing conditions may not be successful. Allowing healthy or risk-prone individuals to opt out of insurance would lead to unacceptably high premiums for the other people just as individual Social Security taxes would rise if people were given a choice of whether to participate . The court unanimously recognized in 1982 that it would be “difficult, if not impossible” to maintain the financial soundness of a Social Security system from which people could opt out. Restricting certain economic choices of individuals ensures the vitality of a regulatory regime clearly within Congress’s power to establish, an argument reasonable for the health care law.

The argument regarding the theory that Congress is entitled to regulate only economic “activity,” not “inactivity” is specious. Individuals who refuse to buy insurance choose to take a free ride on the health care system. If they need emergency-room care that they can’t pay for, the public will pick up the tab. They know that, and this conscious choice carries serious economic consequences for the national health care market, which makes it a proper subject for federal regulation.

Another argument that the health care law is constitutional comes from Congressional power to impose taxes. Conservative justices’ earlier votes show their willingness to impose the law’s power on the people in this country.

Antonin Scalia upheld in 2005 Congress’s power to punish those growing marijuana for their own medical use; a ban on homegrown marijuana, he reasoned, might be deemed “necessary and proper” to effectively enforce broader federal regulation of nationwide drug markets. Anthony Kennedy determined in 1995 that Congress has the power to regulate—in this case possession of guns near school—in a way that is not in itself “commercial” or “economic” but may set off a cascade of economic effects.

Elena Kagan has been asked by some people to disqualify herself because of questions about her involvement in the health-care law when she was an Obama administration attorney. On the other hand, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, were feted at a Federalist Society dinner, a longstanding group dedicated to advocating conservative legal principles, in part sponsored by the law firm that will argue the case before the high court. Samuel Alito was also present as was Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), an avowed opponent of the healthcare law and one of 2009’s 15 most corrupt members of Congress, according the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.

Paul Clement, the most likely lawyer who will argue the case and U.S. solicitor general for George W. Bush, is with Bancroft PLLC, one of almost two dozen firms that helped sponsor the event. A firm that sponsored the dinner, Jones Day, represents one of the trade associations that challenged the law, the National Federation of Independent Business, and another sponsor was pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc, which has an enormous financial stake in the outcome of the litigation.

Several dozen Congressional Democrats signed a letter earlier this year saying that Thomas’ wife’s work for the Heritage Foundation, which opposed health care, should disqualify her husband. A federal law requires justices to recuse themselves in a number of circumstances where real or perceived conflicts of interest could arise, including in cases where their spouses could have a financial interest, but this law is not in effect for the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is not the first case in which Virginia Thomas’ work might present a conflict of interest for Thomas. Common Cause asserted that Thomas should have withdrawn from deciding the 2010 landmark Citizens United case on campaign finance because of both Virginia Thomas’s founding of another conservative political group in 2009 and his appearance at a private political retreat organized by Charles Koch, a prominent conservative financier.

However the nine people in robes decide, the actions of the Supreme Court will  impact the elections of 2012, the Supreme Court, and the people of the United States.

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