Nel's New Day

May 29, 2020

DDT: Week 175 – Creation of a Banana Republic

Over 100 years ago, U.S. writer O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) coined the term “banana republic” in describing the fictional Republic of Anchuria. A century later, the term expanded from being a small country economically dependent on a single export commodity to one which is poor, corrupt, and badly ruled, typically by a dictator or the armed forces. Since the election of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), the United States, although a large country, has grown closer dto fitting this description, and this week puts the U.S. on the edge of Banana Republic classification.

On Memorial Day, a police officer, now discharged and arrested, killed George Floyd while at least three other police officers watched. The former officer pressed down on Floyd’s neck with his knees for over eight minutes. Floyd cried out “I can’t breathe” until he lost consciousness after a little more than five minutes. He died because he literally could not breathe. Floyd had complied with police requests after he tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. National protests followed the lack of action regarded the police officer’s crime. Video from the store shows that Floyd did not resist.

This morning, black/Latino CNN reporter Omar Jimenez (left), his producer Bill Kirkos, and his Latino photojournalist Leonel Mendez were arrested by several white Minnesota state police officers while the video was playing live on air. Police claimed crew refused to move when instructed, but the video footage shows only courtesy on the part of Jimenez. Later, the state patrol tweeted an insinuation that they didn’t know the men were reporters. The three men were wearing CNN identification, and Jimenez politely explained to the police that he was standing where they had told him to be. Jimenez said that he would go anyplace that they told him, but they handcuffed him and led him away. The police refused to answer his question about why he was being arrested before they arrested Kirkos and Mendez. The camera, still running, chronicled the arrest

At the same time, white CNN correspondent Josh Campbell was reporting about a block away. He said that the police were “polite” when they asked him the name of his outlet. The arrested men were released about an hour later after the Gov. Tim Walz intervened and apologized to CNN’s president, Jeff Zucker. Andrea Jenkins, Minneapolis city council vice-president, told CNN in an interview that the arrest was another example of systemic racism and asked local and state officials to declare racism in Minnesota a public health emergency.

Since his inauguration, DDT has been complaining about the media violating the First Amendment by publicizing facts about him. The arrests of Jimenez, Kirkos, and Mendez are a real violation of the First Amendment.

Yet DDT whines about Twitter stifling his free speech because the company suggested a fact-check on the outrageous lies DDT tweets about mail-in voting. DDT has not talked to Floyd’s family, but he did have time to tweet about the protesters, calling them “THUGS” and blaming the events on “the very weak Radical Left Mayor.” In the same tweet, he threatened to kill protesters: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter responded with a warning that reads:

“This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”

Twitter followers can read the tweet by clicking on the warning but cannot, like, dislike, or retweet the message. Thus far, DDT seems to have backed down from an attack on Twitter, merely tweeting that looting can lead to shooting. The weekend isn’t over, however.

DDT has a history of glorifying racist protesters, beginning almost three years ago when he called violent white supremacists in Charlottesville (VA) “very good people.” When protesters who tried to open up all business in Michigan carried assault-like rifles and broke into the capitol, DDT told Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to give them what they wanted. He praised them as “very good people.” He may be partially correct about the term “thugs.” Members of the “boogaloo movement”—gun enthusiasts who have found a home with white supremacists—have decided to infiltrate the protests about the killing of George Floyd, perhaps to encourage a race war. The boogaloo-ers were behind the protests in Michigan. Alex Friedfeld, an investigative researcher at the ADL Center on Extremism in Chicago said:

“There’s two versions of boogaloo. There’s the white supremacist burn society down and build a white ethno-stage. And then there’s the anti-government resist tyranny at all costs, and if it creates a civil war, so be it version.”

Yesterday, DDT signed a threatening executive order that may lack any power. It claims to remove immunity from lawsuits against Twitter for removing conservative tweets after Twitter posted a suggestion to fact-check his rabid lies about mail-in voting.  Although studies show he is wrong, DDT firmly believes that mail-in voting favors Democrats and will make all Republicans lose in the fall election. He tweeted:

“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives [sic] voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.”

DDT’s frantic behavior comes from his losing to Joe Biden in the polls. He’s setting up the scene to be the victim if Biden wins the votes in the electoral college to become president. Four years ago, DDT shouted at his rallies that the election was “rigged.” Once he won the electoral votes, he quit mentioning a “rigged” election until his polls looked bad.  DDT’s fixer Michael Cohen said:

“Given my experience working for Mr. Trump. I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

As always, DDT was careful with his language: his order directed federal officials to examine Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. In the same way, the media reported that he opened up all the meatpacking plants when he told Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to tell them to follow OSHA. DDT’s order did state that companies could lose legal protection from lawsuits if they restrict the views that can be expressed on their websites. According to the order, online platforms “are engaging in selective censorship that is hurting our national discourse.”

Legal experts disagree with the order’s premise. Conservative legal UCLA scholar Eugene Volokh said:

“Twitter, Facebook and the like are immune as platforms regardless of whether they edit, including in a politicized way. Like it or not, this was a deliberate decision by Congress.”

The order tells the FCC to draft regulations regarding actions to expose Twitter to liability if it would “restrict speech in ways that do not align with those entities’ public representations about those practices.” About this demand, Eric Goldman, who teaches internet law at Santa Clara University, said:

“The FCC has no authority over this, because Congress hasn’t delegated that authority.”

Goldman added:

“The First Amendment protects those words that Twitter added. It means Twitter can say that there are additional facts that readers should consider.”

Marc Rasch, an expert on internet law at Kohrman, Jackson and Krantz, said websites are private entities and therefore can restrict content in the same way shopping malls can keep out protesters.

DDT’s regulation could backfire if social media protects themselves by deleting posts or blocking users. 

The complaints about Twitter in DDT’s executive order project DDT’s own actions. These objections about Twitter describe the way DDT operates and benefits:

  • “Hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet [to] exercise a dangerous power.”
  • “Shape the interpretation of public events; to censor, delete, or disappear information; and to control what people see or do not see.”
  • “Flaunt[ing] his political bias in his own tweets.”
  • “Profiting from and promoting the aggression and disinformation spread by foreign governments.”
  • “Use … power over a vital means of communication to engage in deceptive or pretextual actions stifling free and open debate by censoring certain viewpoints.”
  • “Engage in deceptive or pretextual actions … to stifle viewpoints with which they disagree.”
  • “Problematic vehicles for government speech due to viewpoint discrimination, deception to consumers, or other bad practices.”
  • “Unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.”
  • “Suppress content … based on indications of political alignment or viewpoint.”

DDT’s demands against mail-in ballots may already cause him problems: the Pennsylvania GOP fears offending DDT by promoting mail-in ballots. All people in the state can vote by mail without a reason, and the GOP pushed the practice—until now. As of yesterday, about 1.3 million registered Democrats requested mail ballots for the June 2 primary election, compared with about 524,000 Republicans, only 29 percent of the requests from the GOP that represents 38 percent of registered voters.  

Meanwhile, 104,542 have died of COVID-19, and the number of confirmed cases is spiking, almost at 1.8 million by today, May 29.

March 28, 2020

DDT: Week 166 – Beyond Coronavirus

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/paulmcleod/coronavirus-aid-package-house-pass Congress has passed the $2.2 trillion bill, despite last-minute attempts from Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) to block it, driving the U.S. into far more debt. Both chambers have left D.C.: the Senate won’t be back until after April 20, and the House return has not been announced.  

A few quirks in the bill:

Employers (but not employees) can defer paying their share of Social Security tax on wages for a couple of years, but employees have to pay it now.

It gives $16 billion to buy ventilators and other medical equipment so DDT told car companies to make ventilators although he doesn’t see any reasons for more.

Food stamps aren’t expanded in the bill.

Federal lenders must stop all payments for student loans through September 30 and cannot charge interest or nonpayment fees. Credit scores and loan forgiveness won’t be affected; also suspended are wage garnishment and tax refund reduction for people who defaulted on federal student loans. The bill has no affect on private student loans which comprise about 12 percent of all education loans in 2018-2019. 

Despite Democrats attempt to keep Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) from making a profit on the bill, he can find loopholes. He can use real estate losses to minimize taxes on profits from items such as investments in the stock market which had been limited by the 2017 tax-cut package. DDT has always kept his taxes secret.

DDT also said he would ignore the law’s provision requiring independent oversight of his desired $500 billion “slush fund.” That way he can give money to his favorite and biggest donors. He also wants his signature on the stimulus checks. After all, election is only 239 days away.

Cruise ships aren’t getting bailout although information changes day by day. DDT insisted that we “can’t let the cruise lines go out of business,” but not one major cruise line lies the U.S. flag because it avoids laws, regulations, and taxes. No environmental laws about ship “discharges,” no U.S. labor laws, minimized criminal and civil liability, and reduced taxes. And they aren’t an “essential” industry.

Surrounded by his wealthy white male loyalists, DDT signed the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the person who managed to get it through the House, received no credit from DDT and was not invited for the signing. He has not spoken to her for five months. [Republicans below from left to right: Economic adviser Larry Kudlow, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), DDT, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA), and VP Mike Pence.]

Over 90 percent of people in the U.S. believe a recession is coming, with seven percent disagreeing.

DDT and Barr are attacking corruption and fraud—in Venezuela. Sweeping indictments against the country’s President Nicolás Maduro with a $15 million bounty on his head are DDT’s latest attempt at a coup in Venezuela. Charges were filed in New York and Florida, probably because of those states’ investigating the DOJ. The indictments cannot arrest Maduro in Venezuela because of a well-equipped military and strong Russian support for him. To make National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president, indictments include the head of Venezuela’s legislature, defense minister, and Supreme Court chief justice. DDT’s oil embargo has made Russia a winner because of Moscow’s deals to produce, transport and sell Venezuelan oil to markets other than the U.S.

Information about DDT keep crawling out from underneath the rocks, including his late-2018 protection of Walmart’s criminality regarding opioid-dispensing after a four-year investigation. Investigators found that Walmart pharmacists in Texas, Maine, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Kansas, and Washington filled prescriptions not for legitimate medical purposes when company competitors had not. Walmart also failed to comply with an FDA deal to tell them about sending the federal agency any alerts about illegitimate practices. Prosecutors who tried to make a criminal case have left the DOJ, and new ones have no interest in forcing Walmart to meet the law. Details here.

During the health crisis, DDT continues his purge of “nonloyalists,” this time Heather Swift, deputy assistant secretary of public affairs in DHS, who has been moved to the National Endowment for the Arts. Heather Swift, the deputy assistant secretary of public affairs at DHS, was moved to a senior post at the National Endowment for the Arts. Earlier, Swift was press secretary for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke before he left in disgrace.

A victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota came from a federal ruling that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act by approving federal permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The USACE moved forward with building the pipeline across the Missouri River without considering the environmental impact study from the tribe in 2017. The Obama administration had denied building permits in 2016.

A federal judge ruled that DDT must go to court over allegations of violating the First Amendment by revoking press badges and security clearances. The decision came one day after the D.C. Circuit Court considered DDT’s removal of the press badge for Playboy’s White House correspondent Brian Karem.

Before the $2.2 trillion congressional bill, the Federal Reserve tried to salvage DDT’s stock market by purchasing unlimited amounts of U.S. Treasury’s and mortgage-backed securities. In the last recession, the Fed put almost $4 trillion into the financial system over several years; the current action could exceed that amount in a few weeks. Economists described the Fed’s response as “throwing the kitchen sink” at markets. DDT is delighted, but the markets aren’t. All afterhours trading in the U.S. is down, and only Japan and Hong Kong markets are up in the world.

The U.S. has cut $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan, and ISIS is taking responsibility for killing 25 people in a Sikh religious complex in Kabul.

DDT made hundreds of calls to evangelical Christians across the nation and promised:

“It’s a big day, Nov. 3; that’s going to be one of the biggest dates in the history of religion….”

Losing national monuments can also destroy jobs—700 of them when DDT stripped Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah of their federal designations. Businesses do better after monuments become official, especially in areas of hotel and lodging (16 percent job increase) and construction (17 percent increase). Health services, finance, insurance, and real estate also benefit. Mining and forestry don’t lose jobs by keeping the monuments.

During the health crisis, ICE is stopping most deportations except for people who have committed crimes or pose a threat to public safety. HUD is suspending foreclosures and evictions until the end of April.

The majority of people aren’t swallowing DDT’s lies about the health crisis:

  • 73 percent, including 75 percent of Republicans, said that it was not true that “anyone who wants to get tested [for the virus] can get tested.” Just 17 percent said it was true.
  • 20 percent of the public, and just 25 percent of Republicans, said that they believed a vaccine will be available soon. Forty-two percent said that was false and 38 percent said they did not know.
  • 51 percent, including a plurality or Republicans (46 percent), said it was false that the virus would go away on its own in warm weather, while just 13 percent said that was true.
  • 61 percent said they believed covid-19 was more deadly than the flu; 22 percent said it was about the same; and 11 percent said they believed it was less deadly.

Confusion about whether the FDA approved anti-malaria drugs, which killed at least one person and put others into the hospital who took it without medical advice, still existed: 45 percent agreed the state was false, 22 percent said it was true, and 33 percent didn’t know. 

Within a month from the first confirmed death from covid-19 in the U.S., the total reached 1,000 before doubling in just two days. And that’s without testing most of the people who might have covid-19 and not reporting many of the confirmed cases and deaths. Today, the world’s death rate is 2,227 from 123,750 confirmed cases; the world’s death rate is 30,879 in 663,740 confirmed cases.

October 12, 2019

Impeachment Causes Panic, Disaster

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) presided over two campaign rallies in the past week, those in Minnesota and Louisiana, and ramped up his fury. While networks no longer televise his speeches because they lack information, the media publicizes clips, many of them “bleeped” because the man in the Oval Office uses such coarse language that it cannot be broadcast. Amidst abusive insults, DDT’s liberal sprinkling of “R-rated” vulgarities are delivered to an audience where small children are present. At one point, he seemed to be trying to imitate language during sex between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and attorney Lisa Page. It’s the new normal for how the leader of the U.S. represents the nation throughout the world—foul fury delivered in profanities with no relationship to policy.

The visuals from DDT’s rallies always show wildly cheering people, ecstatic about every curse that comes out of DDT’s mouth. There is a reason: he orchestrates his rallies like a “reality” television program with section leaders guiding their every move. John Pence, VP Mike Pence’s nephew, acts as one of these section leaders who urge the audience to chant, leads them, and then tells them when to quit, according to Omarosa Manigault Newman. She added that Pence is “particularly responsible for all of the staging and choreography of the campaigns … to get the outcome that we saw from Donald Trump saying go back to your countries that you came from and if you don’t love it, leave it.” All of it is coordinated and manufactured “to stoke fear in this country and we’ve seen it, we feel it, and they’re going to continue on because they believe it’s a winning strategy,” Newman said. About the 13-second “send her back” chant in Greenville, Newman said:

“If he wanted to shut it down, he would have looked to his right which is where the lead is standing, and he would have given a signal. They would have been shut down immediately. The way that he stepped back and he basked in the glow of these ugly chants, it indicated to the section leaders to let them keep going, to stoke them up, to keep it going.”

DDT’s rallies look good for his campaign, but they’re bad news for city and county budgets. Knowing that DDT’s campaigns have already stiffed at least ten cities over millions of dollars in unpaid expenditures, Minneapolis demanded the $530,000 cost for this week’s rally upfront. DDT threatened to sue the city, and it backed down. 

At today’s speech for the hate group Values Voters Summit, DDT seemed to have a mental breakdown. After complaining about the IRS being used against him, he said:

“Generations of Americans before us … did not work. They fight. They sacrifice. They do so much.”

He apparently cleaned up his language for the evangelicals, however, who have criticized DDT for “using the Lord’s name in vain.”

The Scottish government also can’t get legal costs out of DDT after he lost his case to block windmills near his Aberdeen golf course and was ordered to the government’s bills. DDT lost $14.3 million at his two Scottish golf courses last year, adding to losses for each of several previous years.

DDT’s business is also selling off real estate—about $110 million—in about 100 transactions in a goal to hoard money.  In January 2018, the sale of land in the Dominican Republic for $3.2 million clearly violated DDT’s promise to have no foreign deals while he was in office. DDT’s mansion in Beverly Hills went for $13.5 million to a company tied to Indonesian billionaire and DDT’s business partner Hary Tanoesoedibjo. A woman running a business selling access to Chinese officials got a Manhattan penthouse. HUD Ben Carson okayed the $900 million sale of the biggest federal subsidized housing complex, Spring Creek Towers, with DDT having a four-percent ownership. Sales erased liabilities of $19 million in New York, $8 million in San Francisco, and $12 million in Las Vegas Condo as the business repaid $60 million liabilities since his inauguration. Details here.  

DDT has failed to live up to his campaign promises in every major way except getting rid of regulations, and that goal is to help himself and big business at the cost of public safety and economic benefit. His focus, “drain the swamp,” has shifted to “fill the swamp.” In 33 months, DDT has put more ex-lobbyists into his Cabinet than either President Obama or George W. Bush did in their entire eight years. The $3.4 billion spent on lobbying in 2019 is the most since 2010, and DDT uses his office to make money for his personal businesses. Without DDT’s executive orders for two years hiatus before appointments or avoidance of conflicts of interest, these former lobbyists represent their earlier employers’ interests in the departments of Defense, Interior, EPA, Labor, Trade.

During his campaign, DDT suckered in voters by claiming to be a fabulous businessman, and he continues to brag about having “a lot of business ability” to make the right decisions. His narcissism drives him to be the most aggressive micromanager ever seated in the Oval Office. Former Jim Mattis disagrees with DDT’s style of telling people what to do with no background for his orders. In his memoir Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Read, Mattis, who has a personal collection of over 7,000 books, wrote:

 “If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you. Any commander who claims he is ‘too busy to read’ is going to fill body bags with his troops as he learns the hard way. Reading sheds light on the dark path ahead. By traveling into the past, I enhance my grasp of the present.”

DDT doesn’t know if Rudy Giuliani remains his lawyer because he hasn’t spoken to Giuliani for several days, starting to throw Giuliani “under the bus.” Giuliani stated that he is still DDT’s lawyer, and DDT today defended Giuliani after federal prosecutors began a criminal investigation into Giuliani’s breaking lobbying laws while trying to drive Ukraine’s U.S. ambassador Marie Yavonovitch out of the country.

Giuliani may have incriminated DDT in the Ukrainian crimes by saying that he wasn’t guilty of foreign lobbying violations because he was following DDT’s directions. Referring to his work to get Marie Yovanovitch, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, pulled out of the country, he said:

“It would be kind of ridiculous to say I was doing it on [former Ukrainian prosecutor] Lutsenko’s behalf when I was representing the president of the United States.”

DDT’s withdrawal of assistance from Kurds to allow Turkish invasion has reached a new level of disaster: Turkish forces are deliberately attacking U.S. forces in Syria to take over the land. Turkey knows where U.S. forces are stationed in Syria, and Brett McGurk, former special envoy for DDT against ISIS, said that the attack against the U.S. was deliberate. DDT’s military leaders Mark Esper and Mark Milley said that the Pentagon would not abandon the Kurds but have withdrawn forces to protect them from Turkey’s invasion.

In another unprecedented anti-immigrant action, DDT signed an executive order requiring state and local governments to consent in writing before people can arrive. He announced his move at his Minneapolis rally when he called their U.S. representative, Ilhan Omar, “an American-hating socialist.” No GOP governments and state officials are commenting on DDT’s new order. Case history shows that refugee and immigration policy is federal, not state.

In AG Bill Barr’s attack on the First Amendment separation of church and state before the Notre Dame’s law school audience, he blamed “secularists” and “so-called progressives” for destroying U.S. society. He said:

“This is not decay. This is organized destruction. Secularists and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”

Barr profited off these industries while serving as general counsel at Verizon, being paid as a Time Warner board member, and representing telecom GTE. To Barr, freedom of religion is a “moral upheaval,” especially in public schools. This is the man selected to protect all the people in the United States.

Other Bits:

Two valuable advisory boards to protect marine life and fight invasive species disappeared after DDT refused to fund them. Both NOAA’s Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee and the Interior Department’s Invasive Species Advisory Committee had operated for over a decade.

If DDT gets his way, reporters will be exempted from the White House, in conflict with the constitution’s First Amendment, if DDT gets his way.

Microsoft discovered that Iran tried to identify, attack and breach email accounts belonging to DDT’s campaign last summer. Will Republicans who aren’t bothered by Russian interference in past elections mind if countries opposed to them do the same thing for the other side in 2020?

July 19, 2019

DDT Uses Racism to Avoid Problems

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) faced three major blows this week:

Court documents indicate that DDT was involved in hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who both claimed to have an affair with him, in a scheme that began the day after the release of the Access Hollywood tapes when DDT bragged about grabbing “pussy” one month before the 2016 presidential election. Released materials show that former White House communications director Hope Hicks might have lied in her sworn testimony to the House Judiciary Committee when she said she had no direct knowledge of the payments and no contact during DDT’s campaign with key participants. But if the attorneys are not talking, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff is. As AG Bill Barr protects DDT, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff said that “ample evidence [exists] to charge Donald Trump with the same criminal election law violations for which Michael Cohen pled guilty.” House Democrats are questioning U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern District of New York about its decision to not indict DDT for his campaign finance crimes.

Child molester and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, former friend of DDT, was denied bail because of being a flight risk, especially after a falsified passport showing that his home is in Saudi Arabia was discovered. His safe also contained $70,000 in cash and 48 loose diamonds. The judge said, “I doubt any bail package can overcome [danger to the community].”

After falsely smearing Omar Ilhan—a woman, person of color, liberal, resident of the United States, and an elected representative of the nation’s highest legislative body—and passively standing by for 13 seconds while the crowd chanted “send her back,” DDT tried to clear himself the next day. He said he was “not happy” about the chant and tried to stop the crowd by speaking quickly. A video shows DDT silently pausing and looking around at his audience for 13 seconds while they chant. DDT also claimed that he did not initiate the attack chant, but he earlier said that the four U.S. representatives—all women of color—should leave the country. All four are U.S. citizens, and three were born in the United States.

DDT used the Klan mantra: “America – Love It or Leave It” that mimics the Nazi signs in 1930s German cities: “Jews, immigrate to your land.” DDT has claimed that no one who criticizes the United States should be allowed to stay in the country.

Examples of DDT’s negative comments about the U.S.:

Make America Great Again: DDT said he started his slogan “Make America Great Again” on the day that President Obama was elected to his second term. He said, “I looked at the many types of illness our country had, and whether it’s at the border, whether it’s security, whether it’s law and order or lack of law and order.”

Crippled America: DDT’s 2015 book referred to the U.S. as “this mess” and “Uncle Sucker,” pointing out the multiple weakness of the U.S. He “wrote,” The idea of American Greatness, of our country as the leader of the free and unfree world, has vanished … I couldn’t stand to see what was happening to our great country. This mess calls for leadership in the worst way.”

American Carnage: The day that DDT was inaugurated, he described the U.S. as a dystopian nightmare by saying, “Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”

Ridicule of U.S.: Starting in 2011, DDT tweeted that other countries were laughing at the U.S., that the government is “on the hook for more than a third of the world’s entire debt.”

U.S. Criminal Acts: Asked about Vladimir Putin being a killer, DDT said, “You think our country’s so innocent?”

Infrastructure: In his speech to the 2016 GOP convention, he said, “Our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are in third-world condition.”

Anti-Semitism: DDT called his opponent Hillary Clinton corrupt and tweeted her image over a bed of money beside a six-pointed Jewish star. He also tweeted and retweeted other anti-Semitic messages.

Vulgarities: Rep. Omar Ihan (D-MN) has never used vulgar language or images, as DDT accused, but DDT said African and Caribbean countries are “shithole countries,” that he would bomb the “shit” out of the Islamic State, and businesses wanting to return to the United States from overseas should be told to “go [mouths the f-word] themselves.”

2014 Tweets: “Our country has become so politically correct that it has lost all sense of direction or purpose.” “Our country and our ‘leaders’ are getting dumber all the time.” “Have you ever seen our country look weaker or more pathetic…”

DDT may have felt he was safe with his racist comments because a voter study showing that those most susceptible to DDT’s appeal tend to view people of color, non-Christians, and feminist women as the undeserving “other.” The last week has reflected this attitude as Republicans become more supportive of DDT while independents are moving away from him. Four years ago, DDT began his 2016 campaign by describing immigrants as “criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.” Now he’s appealing to his base by openly declaring that female women of colors, born in the United States and elected to the U.S. Congress, should be forced out of the country. The official position of the Grand Old Party is now “send her back.”

After lying about objecting to the chants for a day, DDT declared that the people who chanted “Send her back!” at his Wednesday rally are “incredible patriots.” Gone is his declaration that he was “not happy” and tried to stop them. Or the White House comment that DDT couldn’t hear the chants. According to DDT, criticism of the U.S. is unacceptable (aka free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment) and the four female elected representatives “can’t get away with” it, “not when I’m the president.” He also said, “We have First Amendment rights also—we can … say what we want.” He didn’t specific who the “we” are. Now he claims to be unhappy “with the fact that a congresswoman can say anti-Semitic things.” Ilhan didn’t, but DDT has.

Asked if the “Send her back!” chant is racist, he responded:

“No, you know what’s racist to me? When somebody goes out and says the horrible things about our country, the people of our country, that are anti-Semitic, who hate everybody, who speak with scorn and hate …. We’re dealing with people who hate our country.” [Note DDT’s criticism above as well as his lies about Ilhan.]

DDT plans to change the questions for becoming a citizen. Most of the people born in the U.S. can answer only one out of three at this time. How would you do

Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of U.S. men walking on the moon. In the past half century, we have made this progress: the last week focused on the man elected as U.S. president racially attacking four women of color elected to the Congress, abuse and neglect of people seeking asylum at the U.S. southern border because of U.S. regime changes in their countries, increased polarization of the nation through Republicans packing the U.S. courts with xenophobic and misogynist bigots, a rapidly ballooning national debt because of huge tax cuts for only the wealthy and big businesses, vastly increased health issues and deaths of U.S. residents from loss of clean environment, horrible heat waves from a climate crisis, voter suppression and permission for foreign governments to selected U.S. elected officials, a movement toward fascism including greatly increased military expenses, excessive violence and killings including by law enforcement, high inequality in income and wealth, increased loss of workers’ rights, and racism to “make American white again.” That’s what developed from the space race of the 1960s.  

February 20, 2019

First Amendment Contorted by Love for Saudi Arabia, Clarence Thomas

Remember Jeff Bezos? For a week, the media focused on his “junk,” his battle with the National Enquirer, and his search for the person who ripped off his photos and documents such as texts and emails. Turns out that the guilty person is Bezos’ girlfriend’s gay brother. Then Bezos generated more media buzz when he pulled the Amazon headquarters from New York City, much to the disgust of some and delight of others.

The Bezos scandal highlighted the tie between the Enquirer and the Saudi government through Bezos’ letter to AMI, the owner of the tabloid. In its mandate that Bezos state he had “no knowledge” that the Enquirer’s coverage of his affair was “politically motivated or influenced by political forces,” people guessed that the issue was Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). David Pecker, AMI’s owner and DDT’s close associate, had an immunity deal with the DOJ for their criminal suppression of stories about DDT during his campaign, paying people for stories and then not printing them. Karen McDougal’s alleged affair with DDT was one of these articles that were killed before the election.

But Pecker may wanted the Washington Post, owned by Bezos, to stop printing negative news about Saudi Arabia. Pecker used his ties with DDT to cultivate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) for business opportunities, including borrowing money to buy major publications such as Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine, Fortune, and Money.  magazine. AMI’s 97-page glossy propaganda about Saudi Arabia and featuring MBS on the cover sold at Walmarts across the nation as part of Pecker’s pandering.

Jamal Khashoggi, U.S. resident and journalist, worked for the WaPo, and his writings were highly critical of MBS. Before the Saudis tortured and dismembered Khashoggi, MBS had said that he would use a “bullet” on Khashoggi if he got the chance, according to WaPo reporting. On the same day the Wall Street Journal wrote that MBS was actively enlisting U.S. media outlets to remake his image in the West and met with Vice Media co-founder Shane Smith on a yacht to discuss “an international media empire to combat the kingdom’s rivals and remake its image in the West.”

“For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” Bezos wrote. Former longtime Enquirer editor Jerry George said that Pecker was using Bezo’ damaging photos and documents as bargaining chips. As the story unraveled, Pecker failed because Bezos refused to give into blackmail. George cited AMI’s pro-Saudi propaganda as “suspicious” because the company was “cash poor” and “suddenly” got an “influx of cash.” He suggested that “there’s another shoe to drop,” referring to Robert Mueller’s investigation into “the Saudis’ role in all of this.” A restriction of AMI’s immunity included the company staying out of politics, and WaPo revealed that the company may not have lived up to its promises.

Last year, AMI contacted the DOJ to see if the company should register as a foreign agent but said that it didn’t get any Saudi funding for their Saudi propaganda. The DOJ said probably not, but AMI wrote that a Saudi adviser submitted content for its publication and then made changes to the final version after receiving an early draft. AMI’s extortion of Bezos has brought its relation to the Saudis has brought the issue back into visibility.

DDT, who denied his own intelligence showing that MBS was responsible for Khashoggi, now faces an investigation by House Democrats about DDT’s illegal push to sell nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia over objections by national security officials and attorneys, a plan that may have directly benefited his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Despite warnings of “potential conflicts of interest, national security risks and legal hurdles” in 2017, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and other DDT employees push for the sales. DDT plans to bypass Congress with an illegal technology transfer that can spread nuclear weapons throughout the Middle East.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pled guilty of lying to the FBI, was an early advocate for these sales after DDT’s inauguration and recommended that Barrack, who raised $107 million for DDT’s corrupt inaugural committee, be a special representative to carry out his nuclear plan. Appearing to be from DDT, a memo told federal agencies to do Barrack’s bidding.

The House reports Flynn’s working with retired military officers to circumvent U.S. law. After he resigned, the National Security Council continued with its plan in opposition to advice from its own ethics counsel. The next adviser, H.R. McMaster, said that the illegal work must stop, but McMaster left almost two months ago. Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation has examined the possibility of Middle Eastern monarchies financially influencing DDT’s political activities, starting with his presidential campaign. Congress has not look at claims about the nuclear sales until this year because of GOP control.

In more First Amendment issues, the Covington Catholic High School (KY) teenager who appeared to harass Nathan Phillips, a Native American elder and veteran, is suing WaPo for $250 million. The defamation lawsuit alleges that the newspaper “engaged in a modern-day form of McCarthyism” and “wrongfully targeted and bullied” the “innocent child” Nick Sandmann. According to his lawyers, Sandmann is suffering from “the pain and destruction its attacks would cause to his life.”

The lawsuit reads like a political polemic:

“[The Post wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump (“the President”) by impugning individuals perceived to be supporters of the President…. [The Post’s coverage was] in furtherance of its political agenda … carried out by using its vast financial resources to enter the bully pulpit by publishing a series of false and defamatory print and online articles which effectively provided a worldwide megaphone to Phillips and other anti-Trump individuals and entities to smear a young boy who was in its view an acceptable casualty in their war against the President.”

Earlier this month, the Sandmann lawyers sent letters warning litigation to over 50 media organizations, celebrities, and politicians. As the wealthiest man in the world, WaPo owner Jeff Bezos has the most money and is considered DDT’s biggest media enemy, and the $250 million is the same amount that Bezos paid for the Post in 2013. Nick’s parents, Ted and Julie Sandmanns, say they want to “teach the Post a lesson it will never forget.” They argue that Nick is not a public figure, lowering the bar for winning their lawsuit.

While Nick was described as a “child,” the lawsuit calls Nathan Phillips “a phony war hero” who “targeted and bullied” Sandmann. Phillips said that Sandmann and his peers from Covington surrounded him after he tried to stop possible violence between them and a few Hebrew Israelites. About Sandmann’s comment on the Today show, Phillips used the terms “insincerity, lack of responsibility”—“coached and written up for him.” About the encounter, Phillips said that he was trying to get out of an ugly situation. “That guy in the hat [Sandmann] stood in my way, and we were at an impasse.” Phillips added, “Then I went to go pray about it …. I forgive him.”

The Sandmanns may find support in their war on freedom of the press from Supreme Court Clarence Thomas. He hopes to attack the media through his proposal to reconsider the 1964 case New York Times v. Sullivan which determined that public figures must have greater proof to claim libel. Thomas’ “roadmap” to  helping DDT’s change in libel laws permitting him to sue news organizations came after Thomas and his far-right activist wife Ginni Thomas had dinner with DDT and his wife Melania Trump. Trump’s pledge to change libel laws so he can sue news organizations for their reporting.

Last Tuesday, Thomas expressed concern about the high court’s refusal to hear an appeal from Katherine McKee, who claimed Bill Cosby’s lawyer leaked a letter that distorted her background and damaged her reputation after she claimed that Cosby raped her. Lower courts cited the Times v. Sullivan precedent in dismissing her case with the justification that disclosing her accusation required her to meet a higher libel standard of malice that applies to public figures. The decision to not take the case was unanimous, but Thomas wrote a sole opinion that the 1964 case was wrongly decided.

Since 1964, public officials can sue for libel only if the person responsible for the statement knows that the statement is false or if the person recklessly disregarded its falsehood. Subsequent Supreme Court cases have added all public figures to public officials to protect journalists and media organizations from intimidation by wealthy and/or powerful public figures wishing to exploit minor errors in reporting. That Supreme Court decision protect the media reporting on Thomas sexual harassment by Anita Hill. Thomas, who claims to be an originalist, following only the word of the U.S. Constitution and not its meaning, said, “We should carefully examine the original meaning [of the First Amendment.]” An early interpretation of this right, as shown by the first Sedition Act in 1798, was that the government could punish any published story, and the Sedition Act still exists. If the Supreme Court supports Thomas, the First Amendment could disappear.

November 13, 2018

Lawyers Winners of Elections, Other Lawsuits

The real winners of the midterm elections and the first 662 days of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the Oval Office are the lawyers. Nowhere has this been more obvious in the past week than in the South where Georgia and Florida Republican officials—candidates for offices—are screaming “fraud” and charging off to the courts.

During a campaign rally a few days before the 2016 presidential election, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said, “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election—if I win.” He won and accepted the electoral vote although not the popular vote—which he lost. Now he’s losing in at least three states and refusing to accept the midterm election races.

As Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s lead over his opponent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) dwindles, Scott, also the U.S. Senate candidate, has been joined by Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to echo DDT’s cry of voter fraud despite disagreement from the state secretary of state, a Scott-appointed Republican. Scott didn’t object to GOP counties breaking his own emergency order when predominantly GOP Bay County, hit hard by a recent hurricane, allowed voters to illegally cast ballots by email.

Scott filed at least five lawsuits trying to defeat Nelson, including not counting all ballots received after Election Day which disenfranchises all overseas voters including veterans. Florida voters are now suing him for illegally abusing his position as governor to win his race for U.S. senator by stopping the counting of legal votes. Despite Scott’s lawsuits, Florida has started a machine recount of the vote and may have a manual vote if the difference in that election drops below 0.25 percent. Scott is ahead by about 12,000 votes in 8 million plus ballots before all have been counted; Florida’s gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is behind GOP Ron DeSantis by about 40,000 votes.

In Georgia, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who resigned when he falsely declared himself governor-elect, has lost a lawsuit to block ballots. In this election of almost four million voters, his Democratic opponent, Stacy Abrams, is behind by about 58,000 votes, but a judge has ruled that provisional ballots must be counted because Kemp, in charge of elections, has not maintained voter information security, increasing the risk that his purge of over 700,000 names on the registered rolls was illegally “manipulated or mismanaged.” The court orders mandated publicity about a website for provisional ballot voters to find information about whether their provisional ballots had been counted and why. The judge stated that the ballots were rejected “through no fault of their own.”

Under Kemp, Georgia voter updates by people getting or renewing state driver’s licenses never moved into the state’s voter database, and they didn’t know that Georgia had illegally failed to register them to vote. State law mandates that provisional ballots are counted only if names are on the voter registration list where they may have been removed because of Kemp’s actions. The Help Americans Vote Act (HAVA) requires the provisional ballots be counted if voters are eligible to vote.

Another judge ordered Georgia to count 5,000 ballots rejected because voters didn’t complete date of birth when signing mail-in ballot envelopes and ordered the state’s vote counting to continue until Friday instead of ending today. As of Sunday, Abrams needed 19,000 more votes to trigger a recount and 21,000 more to force a December runoff. The almost 22,000 provisional ballots plus over 2,000 ballots coming from overseas and military brings the total of uncounted ballots to nearly 29,000.

The November 27 run-off for U.S. Senate pits Mississippi candidates Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) against Mike Espy, behind by 8,000 votes, for the final two years of a senate term because neither candidates garnered 50 percent of the vote. At a campaign rally four days before the midterm elections, Hyde-Smith responded to a man who praised her, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” Mississippi recorded at least 581 lynchings of black people, about 12 percent of the 4,743 between 1882 and 1968 and the most of any state in the country. DDT-supporter Hyde-Smith repeatedly refused to answer questions by saying that she had issued a statement calling the remark an “exaggerated expression of regard.”

DDT already lost the U.S. Senate position in Arizona that went to the Democrat Krysten Sinema. Opponent Martha McSally was gracious in her concession, perhaps because she expects to be appointed to former Sen. John McCain’s position if Jon Kyle leaves in January.

A sour-grapes failed GOP candidate for the Arizona legislature is suing her winning opponent, U.S.-born Latina Raquel Terán, accusing her of not being a U.S. citizen. Alice Novoa already sued Terán in 2012 for the same (non)offense, and the case was dismissed because her attorney provided the birth certificate. Novoa avoided $650 in court fees with her claim that she doesn’t work and has no income.

Nonelection lawsuits:

Maryland opened to door to lawsuits involving DDT’s unlawful appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting AG for Jeff Sessions replacement. Brian Frosh, Maryland AG, asked a federal judge to remove Whitaker from that position because the appointment is unconstitutional. This request is part of the state’s ongoing lawsuit to force DDT to retain a key provision of the Affordable are Act, including protections for people with pre-exiting conditions. Maryland AG Brian Frosh declared that any action Whitaker takes regarding the ACA for the federal government would be invalid because he cannot legally serve as acting AG and asks for an immediate injunction. In 2014, Whitaker maintained that the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the ACA was one of the worse rulings in its entire history.

DDT believes that he is protected in Whitaker’s appointment by the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act, stating that a president may temporarily fill a vacancy for a position requiring Senate confirmation with any senior official who has been in the department for at least 90 days. Another statute makes the deputy attorney general next in line at the DOJ. The lawsuit maintains that a more specific law takes precedence over a more general law. The AG also argues that DDT should have less flexibility in replacing the AG because a president under investigation could install a “carefully selected senior employee who he was confident would terminate or otherwise severely limit” the inquiry. Whitaker is justifying his position with an 1898 Supreme Court Case supporting the appointment of the acting U.S. consult in the country that is now Thailand when no one else was available after the Senate-confirmed consult was sick. The argument against this case is that the AG office did not become vacant through an unexpected emergency and several Senate-confirmed DOJ officials are available.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has also called for hearings to address “serious questions” about his appointment because of Whitaker’s outspoken opposition to the Robert Mueller investigation.

In a First Amendment lawsuit, CNN is suing the White House for stripping Jim Acosta’s of his press credentials. Acosta was targeted after false accusations of “laying hands” on a press intern. The accurate video shows her stepping into his space to grab his microphone and his saying, “Pardon me, ma’am.” Also included in the suit are tops aides John Kelly, Sarah Sanders, Bill Shine, the head of the Secret Service, and the officer who took Acosta’s pass. After a complaint was filed, the White House claimed that Acosta lost his credentials because he refused to give up his microphone.

The DOJ has also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop lawsuits in three courts of appeal—the 2nd, the 9th, and the D.C.—to block President Obama’s DACA program where these courts allow the program to continue.

DDT’s administration is also facing a lawsuit accusing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and a top deputy of sexism in determining their policy decisions. Filed in January, the lawsuit argues against DeVos’ prevention of Title IX guidance on handling campus sexual assault cases; the current filing adds that her decision was impacted by discriminatory and stereotyped views of women, based on evidence obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. These records show that the Department of Education obtained input from sources pushing inflated and widely discredited statistics about false rape allegations. Another source came from Candice Jackson, who provided a book  Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus (Laura Kipnis), that falsely described the Title IX guidance permitting women to seek legal recourse for “awkward sexual experiences” and then ask for protection from “sexual bogeymen.” Jackson also received information from Gordon Finley, part of the National Coalition for Men, who referred to the former Title IX guidance as a “war on men,” and she falsely maintained that 90 percent of sexual assault accusations come from misunderstandings or drunken regrets. Other sources provided prejudicial information to the department’s leaders about claims regarding sexual assault. DDT’s statements and behavior toward women also figure into the lawsuit’s amendment on sexism.

Two weeks ago, DeVos lost her court battle after she tried to end regulations helping defrauded students receive federal loan forgiveness and keep colleges from mandating arbitration for complaint resolution instead of going to court. President Obama’s consumer protections are now in effect.

December 5, 2017

Has the Supreme Court Ever ‘Given Protection to Food’?

Couples denied the benefits of legal marriage in the United States cheered when the Supreme Court invalidated discrimination against them in US v. Windsor (2013) and later Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). The current set of justices is now eliminating rights for married same-gender couples. Yesterday, the majority of justices refused to hear an appeal from the Texas Supreme Court that decided lesbian and gay spouses do not deserve government-subsidized workplace benefits in Houston. In Pidgeon v. Parker, the state’s high court concluded that Obergefell may have granted the right for same-sex marriage, but the federal decision “did not hold that states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons.” In Texas, marriage equality is legal, but married same-gender couples won’t get the same rights as married straight couples.

That Supreme Court non-decision was made the day before it heard arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Division, a case in which a baker was sued because he refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding reception after they legally married out of state. The lawsuit is based on Colorado law declaring that businesses cannot deny goods or services to someone due to their disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry. Colorado agreed with the gay couple that the baker was discriminating against them with his refusal to make them a cake because they are gay.

In another Colorado case, a baker refused to create a cake with homophobic bible messages but offered to sell him a Bible-shaped cake and an icing bag so that he could decorate it himself. The commission disagreed with the complaint against her because the refusal was based on the message and not the religion. The Masterpiece baker refused to the sale because of the users; he didn’t even ask if the cake would have any written “speech.”

Although “religious belief” seems to be an integral part of the case, the baker is not using the First Amendment’s recognition of freedom of religion. Instead the case is based on “free speech,” in this situation the claim that decorating a cake is an art and therefore represents free speech.

As in earlier cases about LGBTQ rights, the questions—and sometimes answers—would have been humorous if they didn’t pertain to the serious issue of government-sanction discrimination. Elena Kagan asked the baker’s lawyer if religious beliefs are a reason for hairstylists or make-up artists to refuse services for a same-gender wedding. The lawyer said no because these activities are not about “speech.” Kagan retorted that “some people might say that about cakes.” The justice was even more incredulous about the lawyer’s statement that “the tailor is not engaged in speech, nor is the chef.” Kagan asked, “Woah, the baker is engaged in speech, but the chef is not engaged in speech?”

Sonia Sotomayor asked the baker’s lawyer if the high court had ever “given protection to a food” and noted that “the primary purpose of a food of any kind is to be eaten.” She continued, “There are sandwich artists now. There are people who create beauty in what they make, but we still don’t call it expressive and entitled to First Amendment protection.” Sotomayor suggested a functional test to determine where objects to be used or consumed wouldn’t be considered expressive enough to warrant First Amendment protection.

Samuel Alito dug the hole deeper in an innocent question about the protection of architectural designs based on speech. The lawyer again said it would not be, and Stephen Breyer indicated surprise at her answer:

“So in other words, Mies [Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a German-American architect] or Michelangelo is not protected when he creates the Laurentian steps, but this cake baker is protected when he creates the cake without any message on it for a wedding? Now, that really does baffle me, I have to say.”

As in most Supreme Court cases, three conservative justices—Chief Justice John Roberts, Alito, and Neil Gorsuch—oppose civil rights with Clarence Thomas a complicit silent fourth.  Anthony Kennedy is firmly in the middle, and questions from the remaining four indicate an understanding of the issue.

People who suffer from privilege continue to demonstrate their lack of understanding regarding the humiliation of discrimination. In his column, conservative George Will almost seemed to be sensitive to the issue when he wrote about the limits of free speech and cited the black protests of “sit-ins” leading up to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Yet he finished by lambasting the gay couple for not just going to another baker who would prepare the cake. Yet Will said nothing about the blacks just going to another place where they could get served.

From his pedestal, white straight conservative male David Brooks wrote, “It’s just a cake. It’s not like they were being denied a home or a job, or a wedding. A cake looks good in magazines, but it’s not an important thing in a marriage.”

Kennedy told Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the representative from the homophobic DOJ supporting the baker, that the baker, if he won, could just put up a sign stating that he would not back wedding cakes for same-gender couples. That would be “an affront to the gay community,” Kennedy explained to Francisco. Visual signs   Kennedy also rejected the argument that the baker’s denial was based on the couple’s identity and not objections to marriage equality. He also accused the Colorado Civil Rights Commission of being “neither tolerant, nor respectful of Phillips’ religious beliefs.”

A group of faith leaders has written:

“Our objective is to spread hope and love to all people, including gay and transgender people, which is why we are deeply troubled by those who continually use religion as an excuse for discrimination against LGBTQ people—or any group of people…. We want to state loud and clear that religion should never be used to harm, hurt or deny service to anyone in the public square.”

By accepting the baker’s arguments, the Supreme Court can create a giant sinkhole for civil rights laws for all other categories including sex, race, and religion. Even with five votes in favor of the baker produces the dilemma of drawing a line respecting religious beliefs without, as Breyer said, “creating chaos.” If the baker wins a free speech argument in the highest court for his “art,” anyone can refuse service to any minority group by claiming free speech rights. The basis of the baker’s argument is that laws protecting the civil rights of marginalized groups can violate free-speech rights of those who refuse to serve them. A court ruling against LGBTQ people only would single out that group for legal discrimination while protecting other classes of people. There would not be a legislative fix for such a constitutional right to discriminate.

The baker’s attorneys acknowledge that their win could allow a baker to refuse service to an interracial couple, an argument supposedly settled almost 50 years in another Supreme Court case, Newman v. Piggie Park. The owner of a South Carolina barbecue chain claimed that the Civil Rights Act “contravene[d] the will of God” and infringed on his right to the free exercise of religion, because his beliefs “compel him to oppose any integration of the races.” In a brief 1968 ruling, the Supreme Court called his claims “patently frivolous.”

Justices could also send the case back to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission requiring it to be more tolerant to the baker’s religious beliefs or write the decision to apply only to Colorado law.

A ruling in favor of the gay couple would merely preserve current nondiscrimination laws, unavailable in most states.

However the court decides, the decision will probably not be announced until next June, the month of wedding cakes. Reasonable people can hope that at least five justices will agree with Sotomayor’s conclusion:

“If you want to be a part of our community, of our civic community, there’s certain behavior, conduct you can’t engage in. And that includes not selling products that you sell to everyone else to people simply because of either their race, religion, national origin, gender, and in this case sexual orientation. So we can’t legislate civility and rudeness, but we can and have permitted it as a compelling state interest legislating behavior.”

October 23, 2017

The Dying Constitution

Filed under: Constitution — trp2011 @ 10:19 PM
Tags: , , ,

Regarding the First Amendment, Washington Post provided a look of surveys about freedoms that people have long taken for granted. The First Amendment reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

An annual survey published last month by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center:

  • 37 percent of Americans cannot name even one of the five rights guaranteed under the First Amendment.
  • Half of those surveyed named freedom of speech but no others.
  • Only 26 percent of respondents could name the three branches of government, down from 38 percent in 2011.
  • 39 percent support allowing Congress to stop the news media from reporting on any issue of national security.
  • Only 49 percent oppose this prior restraints, down from 55 percent last year.

Repetition makes false information sink into some people’s brains. According to a Politico-Morning Consult Poll:

  • 46 percent of registered voters believe major news organizations fabricate stories about him.
  • Only 37 percent of Americans think the mainstream media does not invent stories, while the rest are undecided.
  • Over 75 percent of Republicans believe reporters make up stories about Trump.
  • 28 percent of people want the federal government to have the ability to revoke the broadcast licenses of major news organizations if it says they are fabricating news stories about the president or the administration. (Only 51 percent think the government should not be able to do that.)
  • 46 percent of Republicans think the government should have the power to revoke licenses if it says stories are false. (They should be careful what they wish if a law like this can revoke Fox’s license.)

A national survey conducted by the Newseum Institute in May:

  • 23 percent think the First Amendment “goes too far.”
  • 74 percent do not think “fake news” should be protected by the First Amendment.
  • 43 percent of respondents felt that colleges should have the right to ban controversial campus speakers.
  • Only 59 percent believe that religious freedom should apply to all religious groups. Among those between the ages of 18 to 29, just 49 percent support equal protection for all religious faiths, compared to over 60 percent for every other age group.

An online survey of 1,500 undergraduate students at U.S. four-year colleges and universities in the last week by Brookings senior fellow John Villasenor:

  • Only 39 percent of respondents said that the First Amendment protects “hate speech,” while 44 percent said it does not.
  • 62 percent had the mistaken belief that, under the First Amendment, an on-campus organization hosting an “offensive” speaker is legally required to ensure that there is also a speaker who presents an opposing viewpoint.
  • 19 percent said it is acceptable for a student group to use violence to prevent a guest speaker it opposes from appearing on campus.

A Pew Research Center study from 2015:

  • 40 percent of millennials accept the government preventing people from making unspecified statements that are “offensive to minority groups.”

YouGov poll for the libertarian Cato Institute, released two weeks ago:

  • 40 percent of people think government should prevent people from engaging in hate speech.
  • 46 percent would support a law making it illegal to say offensive things about African Americans.
  • 41 percent would ban insults for Jews.
  • 40 percent would ban insults for immigrants and military-service members.
  • 39 percent would ban insults for Hispanics.
  • 37 percent would ban insults for Muslims.
  • 36 percent would ban insults for LGBTQ people.
  • 35 percent would ban insults for Christians.
  • 51 percent of Democrats would favor a law “requiring people to refer to a transgender person by their preferred gender pronouns and not according to their biological sex.”

Republicans wave the Constitution in front of people just as they do the flag, but they don’t necessarily follow it. More from the Cato Institute:

  • 36 percent of Republicans would support prohibiting offensive public statements aimed at the police.
  • 72 percent of Republicans want a law to punish people for burning or desecrating the U.S. flag.
  • 53 percent of Republicans favor “stripping a person of their U.S. citizenship if they burn the American flag.”
  • 67 percent of Republicans favor a law to “prohibit face coverings in public spaces.”
  • Almost 50 percent of Republicans would ban the construction of mosques in their community.
  • 50 percent of Republicans say the press in America has too much freedom to do what it wants.
  • 63 percent of Republicans say  journalists are “an enemy of the American people.”
  • 72 percent of Republicans in the poll said that colleges and universities are not doing enough “to teach young Americans about the value of free speech.”
  • 90 percent of Republicans think political correctness is “a big problem this country has.”

James Hohmann wrote “why these numbers matter”:

“If we lose the confidence that good ideas will overtake bad ones in the marketplace of ideas, if we lose the sense that we may disagree with offensive comments our neighbors say but we’ll defend to the death their right to say them and if we lose the willingness to honestly debate hard issues, then the United States will keep becoming more tribal and, eventually, less free.”

In a 1945 essay, George Orwell wrote:

“If large numbers of people believe in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech even if the law forbids it. But if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be prosecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), said:

 “The First Amendment is the beating heart of the American experiment, and you don’t get to separate the freedoms that are in there. You don’t have religion without assembly. You don’t have speech without press. We all need to celebrate all five of those freedoms, because that’s how the ‘e pluribus unum’ stuff works.”

A First Amendment debate arose over the right of athletes to kneel during the national anthem. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) told the NFL to fire their employees if they did this. DDT may himself be violating the First Amendment if his purpose is to suppress citizen speech. In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled in Bantam Books, Inc. v. Rhode Island that ruled that a Rhode Island commission was engaging in “state censorship.” The purpose of DDT’s verbal campaign has been to suppress speech that offends him.

Merely offensive speech cannot be censored according to a 1989 Supreme Court case protecting flag burning. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. wrote:

“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”

Robert Post, Sterling professor at Yale Law School, wrote that DDT’s statements were worse than the Rhode Island’s commission because he is trying to stop “political speech protesting law enforcement’s unfair treatment of minorities.” Using the power of his office, he is threatening NFL owners with paying additional taxes if their athletes continue behavior that offends him. Even if DDT doesn’t take action, a “reasonable” belief that he is using the government to repress speech can still violate the First Amendment.

DDT has sworn an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” A vital part of the Constitution is democratic self-government by “We the people.” “Attacks on the political speech of private citizens … undermines integrity of “We the people.” Divisiveness destroys stability which leads to constitutional failure. Loss of the Constitution means loss of democracy as DDT leads the nation toward authoritarianism.

August 9, 2017

Washington Subway Bans Constitution

Should a government entity be required to obey the U.S. Constitution? That’s the question raised by the ACLU after the tax-supported Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) refused its paid ad that quoted the First Amendment. WMATA claims that it restricts “controversial” advertising and turned down ads from Carafem, a healthcare network that provides access to birth control and medication abortion; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); and Milo Worldwide LLC, the corporate entity of provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.

To communicate support for Muslims (freedom of religion) and the media (freedom of the press), ACLU put up ads in Arabic, English, and Spanish that simply cited the First Amendment.

WMATA refused the ACLU because of its policy forbidding advertisements “intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions” or “intended to influence public policy.” The tax-aid transit accepts beer (no problem with alcoholism), mink coats, Coke-or-Pepsi jokes, etc.—no “varying opinions” there. The PETA ad showed a pig with the text, “I’m ME, Not MEAT. See the individual. Go Vegan.” WMATA has several ads asking their riders to eat animal-based food, wear clothing from animals parts, and attend circus performances. It did suggest that they might run the PETA ad with the removal of “Go Vegan.” To ACLU, WMATA stated, “You’ll have to dramatically change your creative.”

Ads for Milo Worldwide LLC were initially accepted. The author of Dangerous brands feminism a cancer, proposes that transgender people have psychological problems, and compares Black Lives activists to KKK. His ads showed Milo Yiannopoulos’ face, a suggestions that his new book be ordered, and one of four quotations from his reviews: “The most hated man on the Internet” (Nation); “The ultimate troll” (Fusion); “The Kanye West of Journalism” (Red Alert Politics); and “Internet Supervillain” (Out Magazine). In contrast to his writings and speeches, the ads didn’t appear to influence except for selling the book. The ads stayed for 10 days until WMATA got complaints.

These ads—including the First Amendment—were considered “controversial,” but those from gambling casinos, military contractors, and internet sex apps weren’t. PETA was rejected, but a restaurant dish “PORKADISE FOUND” was advertised. The same for a rejection of Yiannopoulos’ book while advertising movie ads of four women drooling over a male stripper.

ACLU’s lawsuit requests that the court declare parts of WMATA’s advertising guidelines unconstitutional because they violate free speech rights and are unconstitutionally vague. Although disagreeing with Yiannopoulos’ viewpoints, the organization also filed a motion on behalf of Milo Worldwide LLC for restitution of loss of revenue by the wrongful removal of advertisements for his book.

Arthur Spitzer, the legal director for the ACLU in Washington, stated:

 “The First Amendment protects the speech of everyone from discriminatory government censorship, whether you agree with the message or not.

For the better part of a century, the Supreme Court has wobbled back and forth on the exemption of “commercial speech” from the First Amendment. But to prevent the First Amendment as an advertisement? This is not freedom of speech!

January 29, 2017

Protesters Gather over Muslim Ban

Filed under: Donald Trump,Religion — trp2011 @ 8:44 PM
Tags: , , , ,

protest-boston-copley-squareThe women’s march was only a week ago, and now thousands of protesters, such as the ones in Boston’s Copley Square above, have gathered in opposition to President Donald Trump’s (PDT) ban on Muslims coming into the United States. PDT’s order, written by white supremacist Steve Bannon, bars all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days and all Muslims from seven Middle East countries for 90 days. Although PDT staffer Reince Priebus denied on Meet the Press that the ban is also on legal U.S. residents who hold green cards, these people have also been retained. The order states that they will need a case-by-case waiver to enter the country. Especially notable about the order is that is poorly written and was not vetted by any legal members of the PDT administration.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, called the ban “a dark moment in U.S. history,” citing the need for suffering people to save their lives by seeking refuge. Cupich wrote:

“The world is watching as we abandon our commitments to American values. These actions give aid and comfort to those who would destroy our way of life. They lower our estimation in the eyes of the many peoples who want to know America as a defender of human rights and religious liberty, not a nation that targets religious populations and then shuts its doors on them.”

PDT has denied that his ban has anything to do with religion:

“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion.”

trumpYet PDT’s order clearly identifies that refugee claims are for “religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” All seven countries’ majority religion is Islam; thus the ban clearly favors Christian refugees and violates the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment prohibiting one religion over another. Equal protection is also covered in the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. PDT is following his campaign promise of calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and his admission that he would pretend the ban would be a neutral immigration restriction. Another argument for overturning PDT’s ban is the violation of a federal law forbidding discrimination based on national origin in the immigration system.

Within the first 23 hours of the ban, at least 375 people were impacted before U.S. District Court judge Ann M. Donnelly of Brooklyn issued an emergency order last night, halting the deportations. The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of those banned, which Donnelly said is likely to succeed when a full trial is held in several weeks. Several other federal courts also issued similar stays. Rulings in four other cities are limited to those already at U.S. airports or in transit, not to the legality of PDT’s ban.

A federal judge ordered the DHS to allow an Iranian man holding a U.S. visa to return to California from Dubai where he was awaiting removal to Iran. Judge Dolly Gee found that PDT’s ban “violates the Establishment Clause, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and his rights to Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

Yet many people are still in airport detention. After issuing the ban, PDT provided no guidance to airports or airlines about actions, other than confirming that the ban will not be lifted. Canadian Prime Minister has offered to take any refugees holding green cards who are banned in the U.S.

PDT counselor Kellyanne Conway, promoter of PDT’s “alternative facts” on Meet the Press a week ago, hid on the Fox network today and still had a meltdown about the horrible press that prints information about the new president. Describing reporters, she said:

“We turn the other cheek. If you are part of team Trump, you walk around with these gaping, seeping wounds every single day…. I’m here every Sunday morning. I haven’t slept in a month.”

[Turn the other cheek? Gaping wounds? A comparison to Jesus?]

Conway was fortunate in her interview: Chris Wallace failed to point out that the ban most likely violates international treaties, federal statutes, and the U.S. Constitution. Yet she couldn’t even handle that situation.

Arguments from the PDT team are that the ban promotes safety at the cost of a small convenience. But bans on the basis of nationality or religion can be disastrous to national security. It can undermine efforts of security agencies and erode relationships necessary to fight terror.  Iran has already accused Congress of violating its agreement after lawmakers put new sanctions on the country last month. The ban will accelerate hostilities in a fragile relationship: Iran’s Foreign Ministry has called PDT’s order “an insult to the Islamic world, and especially to the great nation of Iran.” According to the statement:

“The decision of the Government of the United States incorporates certain requests that are illegal, illogical, and contrary to international law. The Islamic Republic of Iran will carefully examine and legally pursue any negligence or violation of the international obligations of the United States under bilateral and multilateral agreements and reserves the right to respond as necessary.”

A Bipartisan Policy Center report pointed out that the result can be reciprocal bans against U.S. citizens and commerce, costing the nation billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. The Iraqi parliament is already contemplating a block on visas for people from the U.S. who want to travel to the country.

Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich called the immigration “ham-handed” because it “sowed so much confusion” among international travelers and “sent a message that somehow the United States was looking sideways at Muslims.” He added, “In probably many Arab capitals today, people are like, ‘What is America doing?’ ”

Showing that public outcry can be effective, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly issued a blanket waiver to immigrants holding green cards or entitled to permanent residence in the U.S., allowing them to enter the country, despite President Trump’s new executive order. But the damage to the nation’s reputation is already done. There’s no going back. World War III, anyone?

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