Nel's New Day

June 7, 2020

Week 176 – Some Positive Events

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser wants a peaceful city, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants to turn Bowser’s city into a war zone. A military planner wanted guidance for the U.S. Northern Command in determining “route restrictions” for the “movement of tactical vehicles” and “military forces” from Fort Belvoir, Va., into the city to assist in “Civil Disturbance Operations.” DDT couldn’t get his tanks to the White House for a Fourth of July parade so he’s declaring war on Bowser.

Right now, she’s winning. Bowser just renamed the section of 16th Street in front of the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza” to honor the peaceful protesters. She said:

“There are people who are craving to be heard and to be seen, and to have their humanity recognized, and we had the opportunity to send that message loud and clear on a very important street in our city. And it is that message, and that message is to the American people, that Black Lives Matter black humanity matters, and we as a city raise that up as part of our values as a city.”

Bowser also asked DDT to remove all “extraordinary” law enforcement officers sent to the city as well as writing GOP Gov Mike DeWine of Ohio and Dem Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, ordering them to remove their National Guard troops from DC. She wrote, “I appreciate your service, but your presence encroaches on the rights of 705,000 tax-paying residents.”  

Until today, DDT refused Bowser’s request to remove troops, but he caved in to bad publicity and claims he ordered the National Guard out of DC—“now that everything is under control.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper had already demanded that National Guard use neither firearms nor ammunition and sent active-duty military from DC. Not involved in that decision, DDT spent the week trying to decide whether to fire Esper against the wishes of his advisers. Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy confirmed all 5,240 out-of-state National Guardsmen would be withdrawn from the nation’s capital within 48 to 72 hours and all 1,600 active-duty U.S. troops that had been put on alert outside the city earlier in the week had gone home.

National Guard troops and active military members are checking their options through the GI Rights Network if they refuse to fire on people in the United States. After watching events in the last week, a National Guard member wrote he no longer believes in a justified use of force:

“Most of all, I feel that I cannot be complicit in any way when I’ve seen so many examples of soldiers and police acting in bad faith.”

Protesters in Washington, D.C. have made the White House fortress fence into an exhibition. Posters, ribbons, flags and origami hung from its black holes, forming a makeshift exhibition or archive expressing both anger and grief from the protests. Next to “POLICE-FREE SCHOOLS,” a white shirt pinned to the fence displayed the slogan: “My body is not a target.” Today, DDT hides behind his fence in a “bigger bunker” from an enormous crowd of protesters.

In an emergency meeting last week, the Minneapolis City Council voted to ban police chokeholds and require officer intervention and reporting of any unauthorized use of force that law enforcement officers see. Since the beginning of 2015, officers from the Minneapolis Police Department have used neck restraints causing people to become unconscious at least 44 times, an unusually high number according to police experts. Other mandated reforms are approval by the police chief for tear gas and disciplinary decisions in a timely manner.

Since then, a majority of city council members pledged to dismantle the Police Department because it cannot be reformed. They have no plans but plan to work with the community.

In Denver, a federal court issued a restraining order against Denver Police, prohibiting them from using chemicals and projectiles against peaceful protesters without supervisory approval.

The executive board of MLK Labor, the central body of labor groups which represents more than 150 unions and 100,000 workers in the Seattle, Washington, area approved a resolution to issue an ultimatum to Seattle Police Officers Guild—either address systemic racism or be expelled. With no response by June 13, the council will vote whether to disaffiliate from the Guild. The Minnesota Federation of Labor has ousted openly-racist Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation. Although the AFL-CIO will not expel the police unions, its president Richard Trumka said the labor movement must play a leading role in the racial justice movement “because protesting racial brutality, whether at the hands of a police officer, or a neighbor, or an employer, is not only the right cause. It’s a responsibility.”

Four years ago, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was blackballed for taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest racism but started a movement. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement about racism, social injustice, and peaceful protests:

“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all players to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe that black lives matter.”

In a tweet, DDT expressed his concern about Goodell’s anti-racist statement.

Hennepin County (MN) won’t get away with its autopsy finding for George Floyd of “no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxiation or strangulation.” The complaint had cited “underlying health conditions … likely contributed to his death,” blaming “potential intoxicants” and preexisting cardiovascular disease. An independent autopsy, however, found Floyd died from asphyxia “due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain.” In addition, “weight on the back, handcuffs and positioning were contributory factors because they impaired the ability of Mr. Floyd’s diaphragm to function.”

A Scientific American piece defined the county’s “findings” as gaslighting, “psychological manipulation employed to make a victim question their own sanity, particularly in scenarios where they are mistreated.” The authors continue by explaining gaslighting toward blacks in ways that society blames them for the racist acts. A further explanation about the autopsy and the abuse of gaslighting in the medical field is here.

The county has released a more complete autopsy, listing blunt-force injuries to his face, shoulders, hands, arms, and legs not contributing to his death. It also listed drugs in his system but added that tests are not reliable.

Fox network actually apologized for connecting the death of George Floyd to the increase in the stock market in an “infographic” of S&P 500 correlating with horrific events such as Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination, police acquittal for Rodney King’s killing, the killing of Michael Brown, Jr in Ferguson (MO), and Floyd’s murder—all deaths of unarmed blacks resulting in extreme protests. Initially, Fox Business Insider defended its report but finally admitted to “insensitivity” and lack of “full context.”

In what may have been intended as a free speech move, the New York Times published an op-ed from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) inciting violence by encouraging martial law in the U.S. Staffers objected the piece as misinformation by NYT’s standards. The editorial page editor James Bennet has resigned after four years in that position and the deputy editorial page editor James Dao reassigned to the newsroom. Bennet had originally defended the essay but not read it before publication. “Free speech” in the First Amendment doesn’t include inciting danger such as lying about the people who are protesting.

Not all Republicans are fools. Some state GOPs—even in VP Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana—can’t find enough delegates to attend DDT’s anointment for candidacy because of COVID-19.

The Marines directed their corps commanders to “identify, and remove the display of the Confederate battle flag or its depiction within workplaces, common-access areas, and public areas on their installations.” The order is to “support our core values, ensure unit cohesion and security, and preserve good order and discipline.” 

Throughout the South, Confederate monuments are again being removed, following a movement started by a white supremacist killing nine black people at a Bible study. For example, Virginia’s Daughters of the Confederacy removed the statue of a soldier. In Richmond, the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee will come down as soon as possible with the approval of Gov. Ralph Northam and other officials. It goes into storage for the time being. Despite protesting state Senate GOP leaders, a fourth-generation descendent of Lee said, “We have created an idol of white supremacy.”

The Center for Democracy & Technology filed a lawsuit against DDT’s “Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship” because it violates the First Amendment. His order targeted the federal law protecting tech companies from liability for third-party content on their sites.

Twitter refuses to be bullied. It marked DDT’s tweets for lies and “glorifying violence” and then pulled a four-minute ad campaign video for violating NASA guidelines. Former astronaut Karen L. Nyberg also objected to the photo of her and her son because she had never given consent. Twitter, joined by Facebook, also removed DDT’s campaign tribute video to George Floyd because of copyright complaints

From Sergio Peçanha comes this brilliant photo-essay about DDT’s infamous walk to the church.

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.

December 15, 2019

‘Anti-Semitism’ Ban Doesn’t Protect Jewish People

At a White House Hanukkah reception, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) signed an executive order explicitly naming Jews as a protected class under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and cracking down on anti-Semitism by denying federal funds to any group exhibiting his definition of anti-Semitism. Title VI lists non-discrimination only for race, color, and national origin which means that Jewish people are protected as “national origin” and not religion.

The order punishes any First Amendment free speech criticism of Israel, blocks the BDS movement—Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions—which attempts to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians” by boycotting Israel for its illegal activities in the West Bank and Gaza, and eliminates any support for Palestinians. Curriculum that did not completely support Israel would also be banned under this order.

A hue and cry declaimed that DDT didn’t declare Judaism a “nationality,” that he just put it under “race” and “nationality.” That explanation seems to have the same meaning as “nationality”—it even uses the same word. The order raises questions such as whether Ivanka Trump, a Jewish convert, now has a new “race” or “nationality.” Most of the Jews in the U.S. describe their identity as cultural or religious—or perhaps heritage—while they are Americans. Being separate from Americans can deny them the nation’s rights. If the government determines a definition of nationality for Jewishness, this different category leaves them open to more discrimination.  

Several Jewish organizations raised objections to DDT’s order. Alissa Wise, an activist rabbi with Jewish Voice for Peace, said:

“Trump has never cared about stopping antisemitism — this executive order is about silencing Palestinians and the people who speak up with them.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, said:

“We feel it is misguided and harmful for the White House to unilaterally declare a broad range of nonviolent campus criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic, especially at a time when the prime driver of anti-Semitism in this country is the xenophobic, white nationalist far-right.”

In its petition to reject DDT’s executive order, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights states:

“Though touted as a means of protecting Jews and of supporting Israel, this planned Executive Order only threatens First Amendment rights, which include the right to criticize the actions of any country on earth, while confirming a centuries-old antisemitic trope — that the primary loyalty of Jews is not to the state in which they live. This supposition has resulted in horrific discrimination against Jews in countless countries. Take a stand against it today.”

Emily Mayer, political director of IfNotNow, wrote:

 “Trump’s executive order is not about keeping Jews safe. After a week in which he spewed classic anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money, this is just more anti-Semitism. The order’s move to define Judaism as a ‘nationality’ promotes the classically bigoted idea that American Jews are not American. This order is a dangerous move to silence the free speech of human rights advocates and, in particular, Palestinian and Muslim college students.”

Last weekend, DDT used anti-Jewish negative stereotypes of the wealthy Jew in real estate when he said to the Israeli American Council:

“A lot of you are in the real estate business… You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all, but you have to vote for me. You have no choice. You’re not going to vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax.”

DDT continues his pattern of protecting anti-Semitic white supremacists, as he did after their racist protests in Charlotte (VA). Despite the nationalist protesters’ cries of “Jews will not replace us,” DDT continues to insist that they were “fine people on both sides.” 

The executive order is reminiscent of the 1870 Crémieux Decree that the French government enacted in Algeria with the white supremacist goal of giving Algerian Jews the rights and protection of French citizenship while leaving Muslim and Amazigh Algerians second-class citizens. Jewish Algerians lost their privileges when Nazis took over Europe and set up the Vichy regime in France.

By creating citizenship for Algerian Jews, the French government deflected Algerians’ anger of the violence of colonization onto this minority group. Separating the two oppressed groups, Jews and Muslims, meant that they could not successfully opposed the French colonial power. The rise of anti-Semitism drove Jews out of Algeria to France and the anti-colonial movement. By 1940, Muslims fought colonization in Algeria, and Jews faced genocide in France.

France suffers from both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, the direction that the United States is taking. White supremacist governments, including the United States, isolate religious and ethnic groups to pit them against each other to block solidarity. DDT separates Jews and Muslims to make them more ineffective in the fight against white supremacy. He strengthens his division of minority groups by ordering that Palestinian liberation work and fighting anti-Semitism are in opposition.

George W. Bush and President Obama used Title VI to oppose discrimination against people of different religions, not specifically Jewish, and did not declare them a nationality. Instead, discrimination against Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, etc. was covered by Title VI if the discrimination is based on “the group’s actual or perceived ancestry or ethnic characteristics” or “actual or perceived citizenship or residency in a country whose residents share a dominant religion or a distinct religious identity.”

DDT uses a pattern of stating that Jewish people in the United States aren’t really “Americans.” Speaking to Jewish groups, he calls Israel “your country” and Benjamin Netanyahu “your prime minister.” He uses perspectives about Israel, PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and himself to define the Jewish community as “loyal” or “disloyal.” Prominent Jewish people, for example, Alexander Vindman who testified during the impeachment inquiry, suffer from questions about their patriotism and their loyalty to “America.” DDT’s executive order expands on the difference, insinuating that “Jewish” is separated from “America” and putting that idea into law. This follows DDT’s position that “Mexican Americans” aren’t really Americans.

The new executive order lumps together all anti-Israel conduct without considering whether it is anti-Jewish. The First Amendment protects anti-Semitic speech—at least until DDT was inaugurated. Although it may be repugnant, the term “I hate Jews” is as protected as “I hate carnivores.” The order bans free speech by requiring all government agencies consider the nonbinding International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism in enforcing anti-discrimination law. The criteria, developed for data-collection, are so vague and imprecise that a Palestinian rights group on campus could lose funding for a school.

To ban all criticism against Israel is to stop criticism of a country.  Israel is a political entity, and DDT’s order bans any criticism of an entire country and its government. Criticism of illegal West Bank settlements is a political discussion, not “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group,” a definition of anti-Semitism. Debates about Israeli policy is not necessarily anti-Jewish.

DDT’s goal with his executive order is to stop any criticism of Israel by calling it “anti-Semitic.” Israel is a political entity, and his order bans any criticism of a country and government. Criticism of illegal West Bank settlements is a political discussion, not “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group,” the definition of anti-Semitism. Debates about Israeli policy are not anti-Semitism.

Technically, DDT’s executive order against “anti-Semitism” should oppose discrimination against a wide range of communities. Although claims have been made that “anti-Semitism” is exclusively for Jewish people, the term Semite covers people in West Asia, North and East Africa, and Malta—all racially connected by the Semitic language. Therefore, bans against anti-Semitism should stop discrimination against Muslims, Palestinians, etc. DDT’s “anti-Semitism” order is actually anti-Zionism. Both left and right Zionists want the state of Israel, but DDT’s ideology, the rightwing Zionists, combine religion and politics while opposing peace with Palestinians in order to take over all their land. The Zionists want privileges for Jews over Arabs, Palestinians, and Christians.

As a person, DDT is pro-Zionist, trying to protect the state of Israel to keep the evangelical Christians happy, but he demonstrates anti-Jewish behavior which encourages his prejudiced base to behave violently toward Jewish people in their desire to rid the U.S. of Jewish people. Anti-Jewish episodes in the U.S. increased 60 percent in the first year after DDT’s inauguration and continued into a record number of attacks, for example the killing of four people at a Jersey City kosher supermarket this past week.  

Anti-Muslim evangelical Christian leader Robert Jeffress spoke at the Hanukkah event where DDT signed his order. Jeffress maintains that “you can’t be saved being a Jew” and called Mormonism “a heresy from the pit of hell.” According to anti-Jewish Jeffress, Hell is “filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.” DDT supports Jeffress because “I like people that talk well about me.”

DDT is not a friend of the Jewish people in the United States.

August 16, 2019

DDT: Week 134 – New Rules Ruin More Lives

Only 14 percent of Republicans approved of President Obama’s executive orders. GOP approval of autocratic orders and rules escalated to 43 percent since DDT was inaugurated. He These rules are from the past week while he is on vacation at his resort in Bedminster (NJ).

The brand-new acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, is living up to the hopes of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). In defending new extreme financial restrictions on immigration, Cuccinelli said that only immigrants who can “stand on their own two feet” are welcome in the United States. In explaining the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty, he said that the poem referred to European immigrants who came from “class-based societies,” not from poverty. DDT’s new rule will turn down many green card and visa applicants with low incomes of little education who may have used Medicaid, food stamps, or housing vouchers. In a CNN op-ed, Cuccinelli wrote that “self-sufficiency has been a core tenet of the American dream.”

Thirteen states filed a lawsuit against DDT’s rule to deny visas and permanent residency to poor migrants who don’t meet high enough income standards or receive any public assistance. Washington state AG Bob Ferguson said that the rule to take effect October 15 violates the Immigration and Nationality Act by redefining “public charge” in a way unconnected to its original meaning and congressional intent.

While families—including small children—swam in the Rio Grande River at Juarez, border patrol agents fired rubber bullets at them. Rubber bullets, although defined as “non-lethal,” can cause serious injury and harm, especially when randomly shot into a crowd. Israel’s 2000 study revealed that inaccuracy in aim can lead to “substantial mortality, morbidity, and disability,” in particular if people are hit in such vulnerable areas as the head or neck. Matthew Bowen, the border patrol agent who deliberately hit a Guatemalan migrant with his truck, almost running him over, and referred to immigrants as “subhuman” and “mindless murdering savages” was allowed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor charge. Supposedly he will resign from the Border Patrol.

In an early Christmas present to big business, DDT bulldozed the Endangered Species Act in completing rollbacks to 46-year-old law to pave the way for business development. Hundreds of species, including the wolverines and monarch butterflies, could be gone if DDT succeeds in his goal. Gone, too, will be much of the habitat for threatened wildlife. DDT may be declaring revenge on the bald eagle that was saved by the 46-year-old law. 

The Labor Department has announced a new rule for private contractors allowing the government to more easily fire LGBTQ people and unmarried women who become pregnant—all with the excuse of “religious belief”—because these categories of people are not protected classes. DDT also has asked the Supreme Court ? in a case that it will hear in October. Another rule proposed this week excludes permission for hospitals, health care providers, and insurance companies that receive federal funding to refuse service to LGBT people and people living with HIV. DDT has also asked the Supreme Court to legalize firing workers for being transgender in a case to be heard in October.

DDT also has a new rule allowing states the ability for force drug tests on people receiving unemployment benefits. Required blood tests in other areas such as food stamps have already proved a failure, and the ACLU pointed out that the Fourth Amendment blocks unreasonable government searches.

DDT’s executive orders are always poison, and this one could destroy free speech in the nation. He believes that any criticism of himself is too much progressive speech so he plans an order to give federal agencies the ability to select the acceptability of internet information. According to a draft, the rule asks the FCC for new regulations about how and when the law protects social media websites when they decide to remove or suppress content on their platforms. These new policies would be considered in investigations or lawsuits against companies. DDT has consistently complained that conservative content on social media has been suppressed, ignoring the reasons such as misinformation and calls for violence. His censorship rule would eliminate the rights of private companies and allow the party in power to control speech on the internet.

The DOJ has started to decertify the union representing 440 U.S. immigration judges by filing a petition with the Federal Labor Relations authority defining judges as “management.” Judges are not happy about DOJ’s move. Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, stated:

“We are trial court judges who make decisions on the basis of case specific facts and the nation’s immigration laws. We do not set policies, and we don’t manage staff.” 

In ridiculing the concept of immigrations as management, Tabaddor said, “We don’t even have the authority to order pencils.”

The Department of Agriculture, possibly violating the law by moving its research agency far away from Washington, DC, now avoids the “latest available science” to help farmers by concealing its study on negative affects of climate change on nutritional value of rice. The results show damage of higher CO2 concentration on levels of protein, iron, and zinc levels. After the feds suppressed research from Lewis Ziska, the 25-year veteran of the department left for a job at Columbia University while morale at the EPA has drastically dropped.  

Massive numbers of bankruptcies and foreclosures from DDT’s policies and lack of concern for climate change has caused concern among farmers. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue had an answer for them at a Farmfest in Minnesota when he told a joke about what to call two farmers in a basement: “A whine cellar.” After he was booed, DDT tweeted the falsehood, “Farmers getting more than China would be spending.” DDT’s brief postponement of tariffs won’t help the farmers. Most of DDT’s welfare for farmers has gone to the wealthy, and net farm income dropped in the last five years from $123.4 billion to $63 billion. DDT promised to help them, but farm income is still shrinking. In the Nigerian language, the word MAGA, acronym for “make America great again,” is defined as a pawn in a scheme, a sucker or fraud victim. DDT has suckered in investors and millions of supporters. China refuses to play DDT’s games.

DDT’s trade war was partly to bring jobs back to the U.S., his promise during his campaign. In the first two years after DDT’s inauguration, companies announced the return of only 145,000 factory jobs, and only 30,000 are from his tariffs. Trade policies moved factories to low-cost Asian countries such as Vietnam. Reacting to a backlash toward the new draconian tariffs with China, DDT changed the deadline for “some” tariffs on Chinese imports—about 60 percent of those threatened— from September 1 to December 15. The investors followed his newest promise with their typical sheeple purchase: a day earlier, the Dow Jones dropped almost 400 points after Goldman Sachs told its clients that the trade war would continue until after the 2020 election. The day of the promise, the Dow regained almost all its losses but fell 800 points the next day. Once again, MAGA.

In July, Chinese imports of U.S. goods fell 19 percent from a year earlier while their exports to the U.S. declined 6.5 percent. China has delayed customs clearance for U.S. goods and licenses in finance and other fields. At the same time, other global areas have benefited from more Chinese exports to them after DDT’s tariffs. DDT lost his agreement with China by saying that he would keep the tariffs even if China returned to buying soybeans and other exports from the U.S. The U.S. trade deficit with China has fallen, but the U.S. overall trade deficit increased as U.S. exports remained flat and imports grew. Chief economist Mark M. Zandi for Moody’s Analytics warned that DDT’s trade war is doing economy damage, especially in manufacturing that is “pretty close to recession.”

Aides to DDT say he is “rattled.”  Anxious about the economy because he needs positive views for a re-election, DDT consulted business leaders and financial executives—and the news was not all good for him. The Dow Jones rose over 300 points today, but it is still down almost 300 points for the week after wild fluctuations of over 1000 points. It was a one-day reprieve: the next day the Dow dropped 800 points after the bond market announced the possibility of a recession. DDT is screaming for the Federal Reserve to save him, but is he taking advantage of selling short? At least, DDT may have learned to say the phrase “inverted yield curve.”

The US budget deficit also widened to $867 billion for the first 10 months of the fiscal year, an increase of 27% over this time last year. 

This week, DDT took credit for a major manufacturing complex in western Pennsylvania that was announced in 2012, the year that President Obama campaigned for his successful second term. DDT’s speech was filled with slurs about Democratic presidential candidates. 

DDT’s tax cuts have provided almost no benefit for economic growth, business investment, and worker pay. Half of surveyed corporate chief financial officers expect the economy to shrink by the second quarter of 2020, and two-thirds expect a recession by the end of 2020. Deficits have soared back to the levels of the crisis at the end of George W. Bush’s regime, and only five percent of growth from tax cuts have offset the losses. The interest cut last month was an attempt to counteract the slump in manufacturing and investment. The highly touted salary increase from the tax cuts averaged $28 per worker. That’s the picture of what DDT calls “the strongest economy in the world.”

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.  

March 23, 2019

DDT: Week 113, Part 2 – Deny, Give Orders

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants to destroy free speech in the media but signed an executive order to protect “free speech” on campus—like the First Amendment. DDT said, “People who are confident in their beliefs do not censor others.” Conservative legislatures have already passed laws promoting conservative language on campus. For example, Wisconsin students can be expelled if they interrupt the speech of another student three times. DDT was so excited by signing the executive order that he grabbed a young blonde and kissed her. As he said, “Grab them …. You can do anything.” At least all he did at the signing ceremony was kiss her. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

Sunlight Foundation’s Web Integrity Project’s new website, Gov404, tracks online “censorship” on U.S. government websites to show how they have erased important information, especially LGBTQ rights and climate change, with no justification. One of the biggest federal changes began with EPA’s removing the climate change site followed by climate change pages and information from departments of Transportation, Interior, BLM, National Park Service, etc.

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” ― George Orwell, 1984

About any problems, DDT says, “Deny, deny, deny.” Now he adds that he knows nothing:

Nothing about Jared Kushner and Ivanka’s extensive use of private email accounts for White House business after constantly using the “lock her up” chant for Hillary Clinton’s emails on the campaign trail. Yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) used the same chant at a fundraising event at Mar-a-Lago.

Nothing about DDT giving Kushner top-secret security clearance despite proof.

Nothing about the major crackdown, involving many kidnappings and tortures, of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his political foes.

Nothing about MBS’ death squad asking for bonuses for overtime because they worked overtime.

Nothing about MBS torturing and dismembering U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Nothing about the rising threats of white supremacists despite the employment of people; i.e., Confederacy fan and white supremacist Corey Stewart leading DDT’s MAGA PAC because of Stewart’s promise to “run a very vicious and ruthless campaign.”

DDT condemned Rep. Ilham Omar (D-MN) for so-called anti-Semitic remarks but stayed silent about white nationalist Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) tweet about “another civil war” between red and blue states:

“One side has about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use. Wonder who would win….” [visual King]

King represents Iowa, depicted on the losing side.

Counties hosting at least one DDT rally experienced an average 226 percent increase of hate crimes afterward. A large number of the reported hate crimes referenced Trump. In Virginia racist bullying in school increased in counties backing DDT and decreased in regions carried by Hillary Clinton.

Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a bill to stop participating in Title X and put aside more state dollars to expand its family planning program passed two years ago if DDT’s gag rule preventing any mention of abortion succeeds. The new bill declares that Maryland will not participate in a program proving substandard care and require providers to physically and financially separate abortion from other medical services to keep the federal funding. Maryland is also one of 22 states suing the federal government over the gag rule.

DDT will put more elders into poverty with a new policy that employers can give current retirees a one-time payment in exchange for their pensions. Pensions are big liabilities for companies because they depend on investments which are unsure. Retirees with a lump sum of money tend to spend them quickly, within 5.5 years according to a 2017 study, and use the money for short-term items like home improvements. Typically, people get 20 to 30 percent less with that one-time payment than with a pension.

DHS is considering staffing detention centers with the 1,000-person force of government workers who volunteered to leave their jobs to help disaster victims. The Surge Capacity Force, created after Hurricane Katrina to help FEMA if it needs extra staff on short notice, was activated only in 2012 for Hurricane Sandy and 2017 for Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Force members have no training in staffing detention facilities, and the proposal leaves FEMA with no help during disasters from climate change, currently the horrific flooding in three Plains Area states. Wildfire season also begins early this year.

Eric Trump, DDT’s son, accidentally argued on Fox & Friends in favor of net neutrality when he lied in complaints that private sources such as Twitter and Google block conservatives and not “liberals.” He wants the internet to be governed by free speech guidelines, perhaps ignorant that this ruling was made in 2015 when the FCC declared the internet a “utility” to establish “net neutrality” protections, guaranteeing that its traffic be treated equally no matter what the content. DDT’s FCC repealed that rule over a year ago so that companies can dictate what the content that consumers will or not receive and how quickly they will get this content. Eighty percent of people in the United States support net neutrality. Companies have made exceptions to anti-hate speech limits so that DDT doesn’t suffer consequences for his tweets, and research indicates that conservative companies such as Fox get more traffic on Facebook than progressive counterparts.

DDT gets all his “news” for tweets and press conferences from Fox, and now the daily White House “news” releases follow suit with the “announcement that ISIS “has crumbled.”  It does claim that “the official announcement hasn’t yet been made,” but Fox reported it.

The new tax “cut” law can cost 11 million taxpayers $323 billion from the limit on deductible state and local levies, according to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Due process lost in the Supreme Court after the conservative majority ruled that the government can indefinitely detain immigrants, even legal ones, for past criminal records and release. Charles Pierce explains:

“If you did a two-year bid 30 years ago for whatever, and you’ve been the choir director in a Trappist monastery since you got out of stir, ICE can now grab you up and detain you, theoretically, for the rest of your life.”

The plaintiff in the case was arrested twice for cannabis and released in 2006. Seven years later ICE picked him up and locked him in detention. In another case last term, Justice Stephen Breyer read his dissent from the bench:

“Would the Constitution leave the government free to starve, beat, or lash those held within our boundaries? If not, then…, how can the Constitution authorize the government to imprison arbitrarily those who, whatever we might pretend, are in reality right here in the United States? The answer is that the Constitution does not authorize arbitrary detention. And the reason that is so is simple: Freedom from arbitrary detention is as ancient and important a right as any found within the Constitution’s boundaries.”

This year, Breyer wrote about “the Government’s duty not to deprive any ‘person’ of ‘liberty’ without ‘due process of law’; the Nation’s original commitment to protect the ‘unalienable’ right to ‘Liberty.’” Breyer’s dreams are gone.

Companies must report pay data by race and gender after a federal ordered DDT to reinstate the rule. Neomi Rao, DDT’s appointment to replace Brett Cavanaugh on the DC Circuit Court, had blocked the collection. Being forced to report this information, companies provide more equal pay.

DDT wanted the Federal Reserve to stop interest increases, but he didn’t expect the reason for the decision—failing economy. The Feds expect GDP to drop to 2.1 percent, down from a 2.3 estimate three months ago, whereas DDT promised over 3 percent. DDT brags that his “economic miracle” has a 93 percent rating, but the poll was taken at the recent CPAC of the farthest-right conservatives.  Bloomberg has reported gloom in several areas: a reduction in housing activity, consumer spending and consumer confidence shrinking, falling investor confidence shown by the flattening Treasury yield curve, and February’s low job increase.

The news is full of the Robert Mueller investigation, reporting that no one knows anything. DDT warned that “people will not stand for it” if the report makes him look bad and called for his attorney general to “do what’s fair” and open investigations into Hillary Clinton, James Comey, James Clapper, and James Brennan.

June 26, 2018

Conservative Supremes Move U.S. to Christian-only Nation

After several mild—in fact, wishy-washy—decisions earlier this month, the Supreme Court came out today with two rulings that eradicate any hope for freedom of religion. Instead, the five conservative justices pushed its Christian message and support for an anti-freedom president.

In Trump v. Hawaii, the conservative majority ruled that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) can ban people from majority-Muslim countries under the guise of “national security.” DDT has spent the past three years denouncing all religions except Christians and assuring people that he bill ban them from the United States. Four old white men and Clarence Thomas has given him that right to—quoting DDT—call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Accused of being anti-Muslim in court rulings, he said that he’ll just use territory instead of religion to accomplish his anti-Islam goals.

Chief Justice John Roberts admitted that after his inauguration, DDT “retweeted links to three anti-Muslim propaganda videos” and that he connected the content to his ban on travel.  To Roberts, however, DDT’s open anti-Muslim bias makes no difference because he doesn’t want “inhibit the flexibility to respond to changing world conditions.” Declaring that the ban was not from “animus,” Roberts wrote that authority was not undermined by “this President’s words,” ignoring that the intent to discriminate is not constitutional. After lower courts ruled against DDT’s two earlier iteration of a Muslim ban, the somewhat watered-down version doesn’t protect “national security,” but it does create a symbolic ban against Muslims.

In an ironic twist, Roberts refused to use DDT’s words to rule against a travel ban on Muslims, but he used the words of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to permit a baker to discriminate against a gay couple trying to purchase a wedding cake. These two decisions each set precedents on the opposite sides of an issue. Lawyers can use Hawaii to argue that prior words don’t matter while others can argue the opposite position with a recent ruling of Masterpiece Cakeshop.  

In her rebuttal to Hawaii, Justice Sonia Sotomayor quoted DDT’s hateful comments and said that today’s decision “repeats the tragic mistakes of the past” and “tells members of minority religions” in the United States that “they are outsiders.” The court, she said, “blindly accepts the government’s invitation to sanction an openly discriminatory policy” and is essentially “replacing one gravely wrong decision with another.” She also compared the Hawaii decision to that of the 1944 Korematsu v. United States when the Supreme upheld the detention of Japanese Americans during World War II with no justification.  

Roberts strenuously objected and wrote, “It is wholly inapt to liken that morally repugnant order to a facially neutral policy denying certain foreign nationals the privilege of admission.” While still supporting the Muslim ban, he repudiated Korematsu by saying that it has “no place in law under the Constitution.”

In one way, Korematsu differs from Hawaii because justices didn’t realize that the lawyers arguing for the case hid evidence and lied to the court. DDT’s incessant tweets, rally speeches, and other statements clearly showed his intent to discriminate although the DOJ Solicitor General Noel Francisco, arguing for the travel ban, did lie about DDT’s statements of animus. Francisco also lied that the travel ban had a “waiver” program to show that DDT’s ban was fair. No one in charge of immigration knows anything about any program because it is a sham.

Two presidents, Gerald Ford in 1976 and Jimmy Carter in 1980, took actions to clear the interned Japanese-Americans, and U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel vacated Fred Korematsu’s conviction for evading internment. She wrote:

“The judicial process is seriously impaired when the government’s law enforcement officers violate their ethical obligations to the court. [The original Supreme Court opinion in Korematsu] stands as a caution that in times of distress the shield of military necessity and national security must not be used to protect governmental actions from close scrutiny and accountability.”

Roberts has added to his record of opposing civil rights, allowing unlimited donations to campaigns, and putting Christianity above all other beliefs in the diverse United States with this shameful decision. His court will go down in the history books for its infamy. Some day, a more rationale Supreme Court will hopefully repudiate Hawaii in the same way that Roberts tried to salvage his career by overturning Korematsu.  

In a second opinion today, this one for NIFLA v. Becerra, the same conservative majority ruled that Christian crisis pregnancy centers cannot be required to tell clients about state-offered reproductive services because it opposes the centers’ mission of not having abortions. The centers also do not have to tell clients whether the centers are licensed as medical facilities. The California law did not focus on crisis pregnancy centers: all medical facilities have the same requirements whether they are CPCs or not.

This ruling against a content-based regulation of speech comes from the same court that upholds state laws providing the text that doctors must read to women seeking abortions. Sometimes this mandated information contains lies that doctors are ordered to tell their patients in the privacy of medical counseling. Planned Parenthood v. Casey allows states to mandate that abortion providers tell patients about the age of the fetus, health risks, and the “availability of printed materials from the State” in an effort to discourage women from having abortions. Six states tell women that personhood begins at conception, and 13 states require women be told that fetuses feel pain.

Yet Thomas’ opinion stated that California’s law is unconstitutional because anti-choice advocates are required to “speak a particular message” while reiterating the ruling in Casey.

Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out that almost all disclosure laws might be considered “content based” because they all require people “to speak a particular message.” In this case, the conservatives assume that “speech about abortion is special.” Laws about this simple medical procedure, connected to religious beliefs, should apply fairly to diverse points of view. Anthony Kennedy took the position that mandated lies in warning women about the procedure are no problem, but that demanding the truth from the religious centers is authoritarianism. The ruling in Becerra gives anti-choice people First Amendment rights while abortion providers lack the right to free speech.

Imagine if other businesses–maybe contractors or taxi services–would not need to tell clients if they are licensed. Although this suggestion may sound far-fetched, so is the current government.

As the conservative court moves the United States toward a forced following of Christianity and away from individual rights, conservatives are preening themselves on the new justice who DDT appointed. Religious fundamentalist VP Mike Pence Senate takes great pride in removing all reproductive rights from girls and women, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who used to criticize DDT’s hatred for Muslims, is now in full support of the travel ban. Neil Gorsuch (center) is on the court only because McConnell held up all hearings for an appointed Supreme Court Justice for almost a year, blocking President Obama’s nominee. Until Gorsuch, presidents appointed nominees, and the Senate vetted them. Sometimes they turned them down, but never before did a Senate leader refuse to allow even a committee hearing on a president’s nominee. [Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts]

McConnell has set a new pattern of absolute rule in the Senate. He can push through as many conservative judicial nominees as possible until he loses the majority. If Democrats pattern themselves after Republicans, Democrats can refuse to give any conservative nominees even a hearing. The nation objects to the constant gridlock that comes from the GOP determination to block Democrats at any cost. The schism in Republicans only adds to the problem. At this point, however, the United States may be better off with gridlock than the egregious legislation that the GOP promotes.

 

March 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 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.”

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!

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