Nel's New Day

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.”

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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!

February 19, 2017

The Struggle to Regain Free Speech

The biggest shock I received from the news during the past few days did not come from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). It was the ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down a Florida law restricting doctors’ First Amendment free speech rights when talking to patients about guns. In a 10-1 vote, the court overturned laws preventing doctors from asking patients questions about guns in their home, putting any “non-relevant” information about gun ownership in a medical record, and “unnecessarily harassing a patient about firearm ownership during an examination.” The law still prohibits discrimination against patients who don’t answer the doctors’ questions.

The ruling sends a message that government does not have the ability to prevent unpopular speech, a vital decision because government increasingly suppresses language. Although the court covers only two states other than Florida—Alabama and Georgia—it establishes a precedent for other courts and could affect the nation if the case moves to the Supreme Court to a supportive First Amendment ruling.

Throughout history governments have tried to control doctors’ free speech. Chinese doctors were sent to rural areas during the Cultural Revolution to convince patients to use contraception, and the Soviet government ordered physicians during the building of the Siberian railroad in the 1930s to deny medical leave requests and keep the order from patients. Nazi Germany taught doctors that their higher duty was to the “health of the Volk” over their individual patients while many of them performed horrifying surgical experiments on humans. Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s plan to increase the nation’s birth rate stopped doctors’ advising patients about birth control and providing information about prevention of the transmission of AIDS and HIV infections by the use of condoms.

Legislators in 38 of the United States order doctors and women’s clinics what to tell women requesting abortions, some of this information inaccurate and misleading. These doctors must tell women about a non-existent link between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer, suicide, or future infertility. In 28 states, informed consent forms and brochures in clinics must provide legislative-chosen information about alternatives to abortion, the risks associated with abortion, and fetal development stages.

Some states require non-scientific and non-medical language for doctors’ counseling, mandatory brochures, and informed consent forms such as referring to embryos as “unborn children,” insisting that life begins at conception, lying that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks, and stating that abortion at any stage terminates the life of a separate, living being. Twenty-eight states require that women wait between 24 and 72 hours between their visits to doctors and the procedure in reflect on her decision—and an attempt to humiliate her.

Government uses religious values in their lies to prevent abortions. There is no link between abortion and breast cancer according to the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist. There is no “post-abortion syndrome,” according to the American Psychological Association (APA) or the American Psychiatric Association. The APA found that “there is no credible evidence that a single elective abortion of an unwanted pregnancy in and of itself causes mental health problems for adult women,” noting most studies that claim otherwise “suffered from serious methodological problems.” There is no link between abortion and infertility. And fetuses cannot feel pain until 24 weeks at the earliest.

This article gives a list of states with their laws as of August 2016. Since then, one more state is mandating that doctors lie to patients about the non-existent link between abortion and the occurrence of breast cancer.

The new president added fuel to the abortion controversy at the last presidential debate when he declared that doctors do abortions in the “ninth month” of pregnancy. In his false bombastic rhetoric, DDT said that “you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day.” This is called a Cesarean  or C-section, and it doesn’t kill the baby.

Religious–or pandering—lawmakers with the goal to prevent all abortions fail to recognize only 1.3 percent of abortions happen at or after 21 weeks and 91 percent of them happen before 13 weeks. The ones that occur late in the pregnancy almost always are required by dead or seriously deformed fetuses. With the religious fervor to keep all fetuses coming out of the uteruses at full term, the House voted last Thursday, 230-188, to overturn an Obama-era rule banning states from denying federal funds to Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that perform abortions. Thirteen states can return to their non-support for Planned Parenthood. A repeal of the Affordable Care Act would remove money from caring for the severely mentally and physically disabled children resulting from the lack of abortions.

Religion was the reason behind DDT’s removal of U.S. funding from any overseas organization that mentions abortion. The money doesn’t go toward abortions: the Mexico City Policy is simply a suppression of free speech. When George W Bush reimposed the global gag rule, he erased shipments of contraceptives to 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The elimination of these shipments cut off condoms for Lesotho Planned Parenthood, the only available place in a country where one in four women were infected with HIV. Like George W., DDT will create more unwanted pregnancies and more cases of HIV.

ddt-signs-mexico-act

The above photograph of DDT signing an act that affects millions of women shows that limiting women’s reproductive rights is largely a “guy thing.”

The worship of DDT is creating threats to democracy. In attempts to avoid protesters, over two-thirds of the congressional Republicans refuse to have town halls during the current recess. DDT’s tweet explains the lies that they are spreading:

“Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

GOP legislatures in at least ten states are introducing bills to stop dissent permitted by the First Amendment, that gives the “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”:

  • Colorado: Greatly increase penalties for environmental protesters up to felonies resulting in prison and fines up to $100,000.
  • Indiana: Publish officials could immediately dispatch “all available law enforcement” to clear a traffic blockade involving at least 10 people “by any means necessary.” People have nicknamed the bill “block traffic and you die.”
  • Iowa: Creates penalty of five years in prison for traffic disruptions.
  • Michigan: Boost anti-picketing penalties, especially for union members who try to boycott a business’s profits.
  • Minnesota: Penalties for blocking traffic.
  • Missouri: Prohibit demonstrators from wearing masks or robes. (Does that count the Ku Klux Klan?)
  • North Carolina: Imprison people who intimidate ex-officials because a group followed former Gov. Pat McCrory (king of the “potty police” law) and chanting “Shame!” His discriminatory law cost the state millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs.
  • North Dakota: Criminalize road protests, restrict wearing apparel, and allow government to sue for enforcement costs. An additional proposal would exempt drivers from liability if they injure or kill a pedestrian obstructing traffic on a public road.
  • Virginia: Imprison people engaged in an “unlawful assembly” after “having been lawfully warned to disperse.”
  • Washington: Classify as “economic terrorism” any permit-less protest that causes harm to the flow of commerce.

DDT has his phone back and is angrily tweeting his “war on the press.” His latest salvo is declaring the media as the “enemy of the people.” Beginning with The New York Times, CNN and NBC News, he quickly added ABC and CBS. That’s a major U.S. newspaper and all three mainstream television channels. DDT is patterning his actions on ancient Rome and later Russia’s communist revolution a century ago which was followed by massive purges ordered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

DDT rants included a quote from Thomas Jefferson about his hate for the press. The press quoted DDT but failed to show how DDT’s message was out of context.  The Founding Father also said,“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

We can only hope that the 11th Circuit Court took the first step toward reinstating free speech and free press in the United States as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“Indifference about the distinction between truth and lies is the precondition of fascism. When truth perishes so does freedom.”—Simon Shama, British historian

January 31, 2015

Kissinger-Defender McCain Calls Code PINK ‘Low-life Scum’

“I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place…” That was part of Sen. John McCain’s apology to Henry Kissinger, 90, after Code PINK protesters interrupted a Senate hearing with their demands that Kissinger be arrested for war crimes. While serving as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State between 1969 and 1977, Kissinger “designed and implemented policies which led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, the overthrow of democratically-elected governments, and the invasion and occupation of sovereign countries,” according to a group of historians. In defense of Kissinger, the 78-year-old senator who is currently considering running for another six-year term in 2016, labeled the protesters as “low-life scum.”

Early in his term as National Security Officer, Kissinger authorized the secret bombing of Laos and Cambodia in 1969 and 1970 killed 40,000 people. He said, “[Nixon] wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn’t want to hear anything about it. It’s an order, to be done. Anything that flies or anything that moves.”  Although Kissinger claimed that he was stopping North Vietnamese troops, he merely gave the brutal Khmer Rouge an opportunity to take over Cambodia, allowing the U.S. a justification for more bombings. Kissinger illegally bombed a sovereign nation, destabilized its government, and allowed a violent, autocratic regime to seize powers.

Kissinger’s killings didn’t end with Cambodia. As Secretary of State for Richard Nixon in 1973, he facilitated a coup against legally elected Salvador Allende that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power and ended civilian rule. Among the 5,000 people rounded up in Chile’s National Stadium was singer/songwriter Victor Jara. Guards smashed his hands, tore off his nails, and then ordered him to play his guitar before dumping his dead body, riddled with gunshot wounds and signs of torture, into the street. After hearing about the torture and slaughter of thousands of Chileans, Kissinger said to Pinochet, “You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende.”

During his 17-year reign in Chile, government policies dramatically increased economic inequality—just as attempted in the United States—by restricting labor unions and privatizing social security. When Pinochet died in 2006, Chile had approximately 300 pending criminal charges against him not only for human rights violations but also tax evasion and embezzlement.

Hours after Kissinger and President Jerry Ford visited Indonesia in 1975, the country invaded East Timor with weapons provided by the United States. The result was a 25-year occupation in which 100,000 to 180,000 soldiers and civilians were killed or starved to death. Horrifying details of the invasion are here. Almost all the military equipment for the invasion came from the United States. U.S.-supplied destroyer escorts shelled East Timor, and U.S. aircraft dropped Indonesian paratroops and strafed East Timor’s largest city. Although the U.S. claimed that they suspended military service to Indonesia from 1975 to 1979, taxpayers provided $250 million of military assistance to Indonesia during those years.

Kissinger’s war crimes include his backing Pakistan’s overthrow of Bangladesh’s democratically elected government which caused half a million deaths. He also gave the green light to Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus when a right-wing junta wing replaced President Archbishop Makarios in 1974.

In The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens, writing as a prosecutor before an international court of law, describes Kissinger’s ordering or sanctioning the destruction of civilian populations, his assassination of “unfriendly” politicians, and the kidnapping and disappearance of soldiers, journalists and clerics who got in his way.

Kissinger fled France after French Judge Roger Le Loire served Kissinger to appear in court. Indictments from Spain, Argentina, Uruguay—even a civil suit in Washington D.C.—followed Kissinger. Trying him may be difficult because he doesn’t directly commission these crimes; instead he facilitates them. The B-52s flew over Cambodia to bomb villages so high that the planes’ crews couldn’t see the targets.

In a pre-Internet world, Kissinger’s crimes were easier to hide. With access to information now, people were able to find out that George W. Bush lied about Saddam Hussein’s having weapons of mass destruction were able to discover that he was wrong although 42 percent of the people still believe Iraq had WMD. Less known, however, the United States’ long history of supporting Hussein and providing him with weapons and other resources before the political strategy of deposing him in 2003.

While McCain claims that “war is wretched beyond description,” he is the biggest war hawk in Congress whether about Iraq, Syria, or Iran. Yet he kept a 2014 bill for veterans’ retirement pay restoration from getting to the Senate floor. Five years earlier he allowed a bill to die that would have funded a transition for homeless veterans to having shelter. The same year he did the same thing for a bill to provide homes for veterans who are single mothers. Another bill he helped destroy was to pair up veterans with job opportunities based on their skills.

McCain has a net worth of over $10 million and owns eight properties, putting him in the top 0.01 percent of people in the United States. He voted 19 times against increasing the minimum wage but voted to extend George W. Bush’s tax cut package. Earlier he had called it “generous tax relief to the wealthiest individuals of our country at the expense of lower and middle-income taxpayers.” McCain’s $700-million bailout for big banks benefited him with almost $2 million in campaign and leadership PAC donations between 2005 and 2010.

Instead of being disgusted by Kissinger’s behavior, McCain fawned over him, apologizing profusely for anyone who objected to Kissinger’s reign of terror for decades. Kissinger has presided over a series of failed wars and was invited to the Senate to testify about “Global Challenges and the U.S. National Security Strategy.”

McCain follows the conservative approach of sliming individuals rather than their ideas. He calls the protesters “scum” but fails to point out how their ideas are wrong. Nowhere does he try to deny or justify Kissinger’s complicity in replacing elected officials with brutal dictators while killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people. The theory, which never succeeds, is that eliminating the people will take away the ideas, avoiding the merits of an argument by attacking an individual’s or group’s character. Michael Mann calls it “The Serengeti Strategy” in which a lion kills an individual zebra, usually one perceived as a soft target, rather than going for the herd. McCain can’t kill off the herd of people who believe that Kissinger should be tried for his war crimes because he can’t stop the debate. Therefore he yells “low-life scum” at a group composed largely of young women.

McCain’s purpose was to silence the protesters. The best way to oppose this intention is to keep talking and keep talking. “The best defense is a good offense.” Mann writes that a herd can be made stronger by supporting those who are perceived as weak and vulnerable.

September 28, 2014

Control by Religious Fanatics

ISIL has established school curriculum in the occupied Iraqi city of Mosul, declaring that it seeks to “eliminate ignorance, to spread religious sciences, and to fight the decayed curriculum.” History classes are on hold until a revised history can be written and codified, and offensive pictures are to be removed from textbooks. Science classes are to be taught in accordance with religious doctrine, including the banning of evolution as a subject. In its anti-homosexual, anti-women and pro-death penalty approach, ISIL opposes all other religions. Imagine if you woke up in the morning and found yourself in a country controlled by religious fanatics? That would happen in the U.S. on November 5, the day after this year’s general elections.

Political right-wing leaders in the United States support the following:

Texas is trying to approve new textbooks that place Moses into history lessons.

The Wilks brothers, Farris and Dan, are using millions of dollars gained from fracking to put the Bible back into public schools. Their church, Assembly of Yahweh (7th Day), believes “That the Bible, as originally given, was true and correct in every scientific and historical detail. Every translation of the Bible is not necessarily one hundred percent correct, however.”

“Religious” organizations—including businesses—object to telling the federal government the names of insurance providers because their female employees might be able to get birth control from the government.

The Family Research Council Values Voters Summit had speeches from many political leaders, including presidential wannabes Bobbie Jindal, LA governor and Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY). Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin also made an appearance. An FRC premise is that freedom of religion applies only to Christians who oppose same-sex marriage. Bobbie Jindal calls anti-discrimination laws a “silent war on religious liberty.”

Televangelist Pat Robertson believes that the Bible supports genocide of those who oppose against people of different religious beliefs.

Oklahoma’s GOP state Senator John Bennett claimed in a town hall meeting all Muslims are violent and need to be removed from the U.S. like “a cancer” that “needs to be cut out.” Complaining about the violence in the Koran, he ignored the fact that the Bible has more violence than the Islam holy book. Religion historian Philip Jenkins said on NPR, “Much to my surprise, the Islamic scriptures in the Koran were actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible.”

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) wants the federal government to spy on mosques to defeat ISIL. The U.S. estimates that ISIL has about 12 U.S. citizens in the country, but most of the Muslims in this country rejects the organization. They view ISIL as an abomination because it deviates from Islam fundamentals in destroying Qur’an copies, murdering Muslims, killing innocent youths, using rape and sexual slavery.

After a teacher harassed a student and threatened punishment for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the ninth-grader contacted the American Humanist Association for help. The Supreme Court ruling that compelling people to recite the Pledge violates the First Amendment hasn’t reached Beaufort County, South Carolina. Although a form of the Pledge was written in 1892, “under God” wasn’t added until 1954.

Kentucky senate candidate Robert Ransdell told listeners Constitution Day at Kentucky University that “I believe that there is no such thing as racial equality. You see that in our cities everyday.” He added, “Blacks used to know better when they did not see whites as…easy targets. When they knew that there were real consequences if they were to attack a white person, especially…a white woman or a white child. Black people are a race of savages living in a white nation.” This was after he posted 20 campaign signs across the Cincinnati suburb of Florence stating, “With Jews You Lose.” He has 200 more signs.

with jews we lose

Quiverfull is a fundamentalist Christianity that rejects all contraception, including family planning, as a form of abortion because the faithful must “out-populate the enemy” to win the culture wars. In this patriarchal cult, men are “leaders, teachers, initiators, protectors and providers,” and women are “helpmeets” who serve men by being “submissive and yielding.” Girls cannot date but must be “courted” under the watchful eye of the father until they can marry and “experience their first kiss at the marriage altar.” The Duggar family of the TLC show 19 Kids and Counting are adherents to Quiverfull. Men who constantly criticize their families are “hating the sin, but loving the sinner.” Domestic abuse, economic and emotional, is praised in their beliefs. All the Quiverfull beliefs—that men and women have separate and complementary gender roles, that sex should be restricted to marriage and is primarily for procreation, that the secular world is a threat that children must be sheltered from—come directly from the mainstream conservative Christian movement.

Catholic priest Father Jonathan Morris, Fox network contributor, wanted to stop a Satanic black mass because it was “inciting violence” by mocking Christians. He said on The Fight for Faith that Oklahoma City must stop the mass because it has a “responsibility to defend the good governance of its people.” Morris used that excuse to declare that the mass was not “free speech” and therefore against the First Amendment. He used the examples of desecrating a Koran or speaking “pro-Nazi stuff right in front of my church” as non-protected speech. It actually is protected, but as stating Christian beliefs is protected by the First Amendment.

Televangelist Rodney Howard-Browne has claimed that the federal government, under President Obama’s orders, is building concentration camps and gas chambers while preparing to institute martial law. Howard-Browne is known for leading prayer groups with senior U.S. Congressmen, including Rep. David Jolly (R-FL). A “leading congressman” told the televangelist that the dollar is about to collapse, food will become scarce, and riots will start within 12 hours.

“For Christian swingers, things are not easy.” So reads the first line of a website advocating wife-swapping for Jesus. Cristy and Dean Parave had trouble finding other couples who wanted to discuss Bible verses while trading partners, so they now shop on the net. Cristy said that God created people “to breed and enjoy each other.” She’s also pretty sure that God wouldn’t be angry with wife-swapping. Want to take a look? Go to FitnessSwingers.com. Dean said, “I’m getting to people that probably never even visited church,” the usual excuse from Christians so that they can whatever they want. Last year, the website ChristianSwingers.com preached the same idea. Dean stated that he’ll keep swinging until God sends him a sign.

Wrestling also has its own group—the Christian Wrestling Federation. Their goal is “to be a Christian outreach ministry that shares the love of Jesus Christ, through wrestling events around the world.” Their website also uses the excuse that “the Bible says we are to use unique and different ways to reach people for Christ.” The CWF thinks that Jesus would like to see someone handcuffed to the ropes before getting stomped, chocked, and kicked. After this, the handcuffed person is released and led to a room where they are told to give their lives to Jesus Christ.

Hypocrisy from the religious right in Kansas: Massive tax cuts for the wealthy have left the state with a $238 million budget deficit by 2016. Instead of raising taxes for the wealthy, Kansas plans to pay for part of the deficit is to sell thousands of X-rated items seized from five sex shops in the state because the businesses didn’t pay $163,000 in states taxes.

May 18, 2012

Romney Lies

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:49 PM
Tags: , , ,

Free speech has become the bane (no pun intended) of political advertising. If it isn’t bad enough that the wealthy can spend as much money as they want on advertising—and the wealthy usually tend toward the far-right, sometimes wingnut, side—it may be worse that free speech also means political candidates may lie as much as they want.

Mitt Romney is a prime example of the liar. Earlier this spring, he took credit for the auto industry turnaround after calling on the government to “let Detroit go bankrupt.” But he’s getting more and more elaborate in his lies since he became the anointed nominee.

Romney: “[Obama] bailed out the public sector, gave billions of your dollars to the companies of his friends, and added almost as much debt as all the prior presidents combined.”

Truth: The public sector has lost almost 700,000 jobs since President Obama took office—not quite bailing them out. Although the current president’s debt is 50 percent more than when he took office, it is only half the amount of the other presidents. As for other presidents, Ronald Reagan tripled—yes, tripled—the debt during his eight years.

Romney: “I will lead us out of this debt and spending inferno.”

Truth: Romney’s proposal to cut taxes and raise the Pentagon budget seriously increases the debt. His plan to cut the top tax rate to 28 percent from 35 percent and broaden other rates by 20 percent each would again increase the debt. To accomplish what he says he will, he would have to cut all domestic spending by 20 percent, much more than the 5 percent he has proposed. Domestic spending includes not only such safety net items as housing and heating aid for the poor and food aid for pregnant women but also food inspection, air traffic control, the Border Patrol, FBI, and national parks.

Romney: “When you add up his policies, the president has increased the national debt by $5 trillion.”

Truth: The debt has largely increased because depressed corporate and individual incomes with high joblessness in the recent recession provide lower tax revenue. More of the current debt comes from George W. Bush’s policies–his financial bailouts, stimulus programs, and auto rescue spending not to mention his drastic tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 plus the two wars that Bush started.

Even Republicans are nervous about Romney’s lies. Romney is running on a campaign of President Obama’s high unemployment rates, blocking Republican governors who are touting records of better economy.

Virginia governor Bob McDonnell hails the state’s business growth with a drop of the unemployment rate to 5.6 percent last month from 7.3 percent 18 months ago. Ohio governor John Kasich says that 100,000 jobs have been created or retained on his watch. Michigan governor Rick Snyder promotes a state budget on solid ground for the first time in a decade. Iowa governor Terry Branstad takes pride in the 5.1 percent unemployment rate, down from 5.9 percent a year ago. South Carolina governor Nikki Haley talks up the jobless rate that slid from 12 percent in December 200 to 8.8 percent last month.

Republican-ruled states aren’t the only ones to see drops in unemployment rates; these have gone down in forty-eight states over the last year. Only New York’s rate increased from 8 percent to 8.5 percent while Rhode Island’s remains unchanged at 11.2 percent.

Mitt Romney has falsely claimed that government will “constitute … almost 50 percent” of the U.S. economy when the new federal health care law takes full effect. But he’s wrong because he counts both private and public health care spending as “effectively under government control once Obamacare is fully implemented.” The nation’s health care system will be no more under federal control than Massachusetts controlled state health care after Romney signed a similar health care law as governor. Both Obama and Romney expanded the private insurance market by mandating that individuals purchase health care coverage.

Romney also lied about President Obama’s plans to increase taxes on small businesses. If the Bush tax cuts expire, the two tax brackets will go to 36 percent and 39.6 percent from 33 percent and 35 percent. But only 3 percent of taxpayers with any net business income fall into the two top tax brackets, and these businesses aren’t really “small.” Nearly 20,000 partnerships and so-called “S” corporations–taxed as personal income–had receipts of more than $50 million in 2005.

Romney lied when he said that President Obama refused to let Boeing build in a right-to-work state. Boeing and the union came to an agreement, and Boeing dropped their complaint. Last month the first completed jetliner came off the line of the non-union factory in North Carleston (SC).

Romney lied when he said that unemployment, bankruptcies and foreclosures figures are “soaring.” He lied when he said that Obama stood over “the greatest job loss in modern American history” because Bush had already lost more jobs. And Romney lied when he said that Obama increased the budget by more than 20 percent because, again, Romney used figures from Bush’s reign.

Romney’s biggest lies, however, may surround his successes with Bain as a “vulture capitalist.” But that requires a whole new blog!

That said, I’m not sure that anything that Romney has said is the truth. It would be an interesting search!

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