Nel's New Day

May 13, 2018

Pence Aims to Control All through His Evangelical Belief

Since Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was inaugurated, the Washington Post has kept track of his lies—what the New York Times sometimes calls “reversed his position” as in when DDT said he did pay hush money to Stormy Daniels after he said he didn’t pay her off. Or sometimes from the NYT, “contradicts earlier claims.” After at least 3,001 “false or misleading claims” in his first 466 days in the Oval Office, however, the question might be how long people can stay in denial about DDT’s incessant lying. That 6.5 lies per day is an increase of 32.6 percent over the average of 4.9 daily lies during his first 100 days. One of his prime lies is that he keeps his promises. The Post also noted that DDT “kept only 23 percent of 60 key promises and broken 27 percent.”

A high percentage of DDT’s lies are to make himself appear superior, especially to earlier presidents. For example, his statement to the Celebration of Military Mothers and Spouses Event when he bragged about his raises for the military were “first time in ten years” in his continuing attempts to make President Obama look bad. Except DDT’s wrong. The military received raises every year since the inception of the all-voluntary military—45 years ago.

With so much attention focused on DDT’s lies, the media generally ignores VP Mike Pence’s history of lying, including this list from Politifact. Pence will do anything to do what the person in authority requires, including lying for him. Since Pence rejected a coup against DDT after the “pussy” video was released, Pence has been sycophant in chief—“servant to authority”—supporting all DDT’s lies including DDT’s false claim that he had no collusion with Russia.

Conservative columnist George Will became fed up with Pence’s lies and sycophancy after Pence’s full-throated support of former Maricopa County (AZ) sheriff and current U.S. senator candidate Joe Arpaio as “a tireless champion … of the rule of law.” Will’s opinion of Arpaio differs from that of Pence. Instead of Pence’s hero, Arpaio to Will is “a grandstanding, camera-chasing bully and darling of the thuggish right, [who] is also a criminal, convicted of contempt of court for ignoring a federal judge’s order to desist from certain illegal law enforcement practices.” Will concluded his column about Pence:

“Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.”

The entire column is well-worth reading, if only for an amazingly extensive use of vocabulary.

In his attempt to assume the role of authority in another few years, Pence works to retain support from evangelical voters and donors, including his commencement address to Hillsdale College, the small, private, far-far-right wing Christian school in Michigan. Pence’s message was that more people in the U.S. believe in God because DDT was elected to the nation’s highest office. “President Trump and our entire administration have been advancing the very principles that you learned here in the halls of Hillsdale College,” Pence said. Considering the fraud, corruption, destruction of the planet, and robbery of poor people, the question might be what principles are taught at the Christian school.

A look at the recent Gallup poll shows that Pence is “misrepresenting” the involvement of religious involvement in today’s United States. The poll indicates an increase in the number of people who express dissatisfaction with religion and want less influence by organized religion. Fewer people in the United States believe that the Bible is the actual word of God, to be taken literally, and more people see the Bible as fables. Fewer people believe in God. (Further statistics here.)

A Pew Research poll from April 2018 revealed that 80 percent of people believe in “God,” but only 56 percent believe in the God of the Bible. One-third of the population believe in some other higher power.

Hillsdale is important to Pence because of its ties to wealthy family of Betsy DeVos. Both she and her brother Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater security services company paid millions by the U.S. government, are graduates, and Prince is a member of its board. Other alumni work for DDT, including as speechwriters. As an article in the Hillsdale Collegian states, “Hillsdale Alumni Take over the White House.” Conservatives Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), both aiming for House Speaker, have Hillsdale graduates on their staffs. After DDT’s national security spokesman left the White House, he found a job at Hillsdale. Quite astonishing for a college of only 1,486.

Hillsdale gained notoriety last year when a GOP amendment would have exempted the school from a tax on university endowments. The proposed amendment was written so that Hillsdale would have been the only college in the nation with that exemption. Four GOP senators—Susan Collins (ME), Deb Fischer (NE), John Kennedy (LA), and Lisa Murkowski (AK)—joined Democrats to vote down the amendment.

DDT has pushed a theocracy in his first 68 weeks, but Pence would be even worse in continuing to support far more people like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. After trying to allocate most educational funds to religious charter schools, she wants to give more taxpayer monies to religious colleges and universities, a possibility after the Supreme Court ruled last June against denying government grants to religious institutions for secular purposes. That case, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, was about surfacing playgrounds; DeVos will move the bar far lower to education. The DOJ also plans to greatly expand support for religious groups in “employment, contracting, and programming,” according to AG Jeff Sessions. Sessions and DeVos intend to permit unrestrained discrimination to federally-funded institutions.

A coalition of Christian right groups, including those from Congress, has created Project Blitz, a legislative initiative to pass connected Christian nationalism bills on the state level for a “dominionist” nation. Basically, they want a Sharia law for Christians to subjugate everyone to their perception of family structure, gender identity, marriage, and all other societal issues. The 71 bills introduced in states have innocuous “feel-good names” such as the Child Protection Act.

Joining the evangelical movement to take over the United States is Focus on the Family, founded by Roy Moore supporter James Dobson. This movement that proudly claimed to focus on “family values” focuses only on white men. By declaring itself a church, the organization can avoid taxes and audits through IRS standards that a religious organization does not need to meet all the requirements. Supposedly tax-exempt religious status mandates “a recognized creed and form of worship,” “a formal code of doctrine and discipline,” “regular religious services,” “Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young,” and “schools for the preparation of its ministers.” Yet Focus on the Family has no congregation and “rites of various parts of a person’s life,” according to Gail Harmon, an attorney who advises nonprofits on tax law. VP Mike Pence has promised Focus on the Family the administration’s unwavering support.

Liberty Counsel also escapes filing IRS forms by declaring itself a “church auxiliary.” Lawyers in this group represented Kim Davis in her losing fight to illegally deny same-gender couples marriage licenses and is awaiting the Supreme Court “wedding cake” decision about whether businesses can discriminate against anyone they don’t like. The DOJ is filling up with members of the Liberty Counsel, those who aren’t traveling the world to help countries legislative draconian anti-LGBTQ laws.

The dual evangelical goal is to force non-evangelicals to pay for their institutions by not paying all taxes and control the actions of the entire population of the United States, no matter what their beliefs.

June 10, 2014

George Will Needs to Go

Conservative pundit George Will wants to stop the rampant reporting of sexual assaults on college campuses because they are elevating the victims into a “coveted status that confers privileges.” According to the title of his June 6 piece, this is one way that “colleges become victims of progressivism.” If sex includes hormones, alcohol, or a “hookup,” then it’s not rape. He concludes:

 “What government is inflicting on colleges and universities, and what they are inflicting on themselves, diminishes their autonomy, resources, prestige and comity. Which serves them right. They have asked for this by asking for progressivism.”

Carl Gibson’s excellent commentary on Will’s outrageous support of rapists and the rape culture describes the experience of a friend who was raped on campus:

“She told me about the horrible experience rape survivors like her have and the profound effect it has on their lives. After surviving the ordeal, she was faced with the choice of either reporting it or allowing her rapist to go unpunished. When she reported it, she went through the entirely separate ordeal of reliving the experience to a bunch of skeptical, mostly male college administrators whose main concern was the university’s image and the effect it would have on recruiting new students.

“While she pressed for punishment and public accountability, administrators stalled and dragged their feet, asking her what she was wearing that night, how much she drank, her prior relationship with her rapist, whether or not her attacker was clear on his lack of consent, and if she understood how severe the impact would be on her rapist’s life and future if he were formally charged with rape. Ultimately, nothing happened: her rapist continued to walk free on campus, and my friend continues to struggle with depression. I can guarantee she doesn’t consider herself “privileged” as a result of her experience. And I doubt George Will would feel the same way if his wife or daughter were a survivor of a sexual assault.”

Will’s column resulted in rape survivors’ sharing their experiences through the hashtag #SurvivorPrivilege.

Will’s column goes farther than the rape apologist voices in mainstream media whose positions support the rape culture. In our society, the culture of rape is strengthened by attacking victims of this horrible crime. As I’ve written before, policing girls on their clothing without educating boys in respect only adds to the prevalence of rape. Other contributions to the rape culture are telling boys that the belief of taking control and not asking for consent is a manly behavior that attracts women and that the act of putting date rape drugs into women’s drinks is normal. And that’s just the beginning.

The United States isn’t the only place with a serious problem. Narendra Modi, newly elected Prime Minister of India, said about rape, “Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong.” A member of Modi’s party, the home minister of the Chhattisgarh state, said that rapes happen “accidentally.” These statements follow the violent gang rapes and other horrific crimes against women in India that led to massive street protests. After two girls, 14 and 15, were gang-raped and hanged from a mango tree, Indian riot police used water cannons against protesters.

The Washington Post maintains that it is being reasonable in questioning the sincerity of rape survivors. People can now decide if they will support the newspaper by reading it and buying products from the newspaper’s advertisers. Another question is whether Jeff Bezos, the newspaper’s owner and co-founder of amazon.com, supports the position that rape victims are privileged because of their “coveted status.” At least the Post published a rebuttal to Will’s column from Alyssa Rosenberg.

It’s not as if George Will’s outrageous column surprises people who have followed his career. Almost 35 years ago, he participated in stealing then-President Jimmy Carter’s debate briefing book for his debate with Ronald Reagan during the 1980 campaign. Immediately after the debate, Will appeared on Nightline to praise Reagan’s “thoroughbred performance” without mentioning his participation in coaching Reagan with Carter’s information and questions for Reagan. The host of Nightline, Ted Koppel, helped spin Will’s message by not revealing that Will was working for Reagan’s campaign.

After his unethical behavior was made public, Will did not pay any price—no criticism, censure, or loss of employment. Instead, he did the same thing during George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign when he previewed questions for the ensuing interview with the presidential candidate. During the meeting he gave Bush a 3 X 5 card with a question that he planned to ask him on air. Will said that he didn’t want to “ambush [Bush] with unfamiliar material.”

Other conservative pundits have written and spoken about their disbelief in the number of rapes, both on campus and in other places, but Will may have provided the tipping point of rejecting these myths. In the Chicago Tribune, Heidi Stevens pointed out George Will has now destroyed any credibility that he might have had:

“Will is helping spread misinformation. He’s no better than Holocaust deniers, Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists and the monsters who tell parents of school shooting victims that the massacres that robbed them of their children were a hoax….

“I’m not suggesting Will’s right to free speech should be curbed. He can go around as an American citizen saying whatever nonsense he wants to about rape victims, and plenty of places will be happy to hand him a microphone. He’s no longer credible as a journalist, whose first job, above all others, is to tell the truth.”

After 35 years the people of the United States need to recognize Will for who he is—a propagandist. As Stevens wrote, “If you deny the truth because it doesn’t fit your agenda, you’re not a journalist. You’re a propagandist.” He should be stopped from misrepresenting his radical right fantasies as information.

July 17, 2012

Republican Politicians Attack Obama

The Mitt Romney campaign is on the ropes and going crazy. The most recent issue is not just a gaffe; it’s a horrible mistake that won’t go away. No one who watches television can have missed the whole whooplaw about Romney’s refusal to release more than the past two years of income tax returns and his attempt to explain that he quit Bain Capital before the company sent jobs to China—except for those jobs in which they cut up aborted fetuses and burned them. I chuckle every time I hear Romney say, “I’ve put out as much as I’ve put out.”

George Will got it right when he said, “The cost of not releasing the returns are clear. Therefore, [Romney] must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them.”  He did give a typical conservative answer about making sure that he could hide everything: “I do not know why, given that Mitt Romney knew the day that [John] McCain lost in 2008 that he was going to run for president again that he didn’t get all of this out and tidy up some of his offshore accounts and all the rest.” Will, by the way, is the staunch Republican pundit who stole Jimmy Carter’s questions before the 1980 debate and gave them to his opponent, Ronald Reagan.

The feeding frenzy isn’t going away, despite all the attempts by Romney’s supporters to divert the discussion. Speculation has run rampant through the media. Did he not pay taxes? Or did he make even more money from Bain than we realize?  Or did he have to pay fines? Or did he have even more offshore tax dodges than the ones in Bermuda, the Caymans, and the Swiss bank account? Or would the tax returns  show deductions from “controversial charities” that would turn off his potential voters?

The issue of Bain’s offshoring by sending jobs from its purchased companies to China has paled by comparison, but it’s equally as perplexing. Romney spent three weeks saying that there was nothing wrong with doing this until he calculated the problems from admitting it and told everyone who would listen that he wasn’t at Bain at the time that this happened. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Ed Gillespie said that Romney decided to “retroactively retire” for the previous years in 2002, not explaining why Romney took money for working while retired. And even now, Romney doesn’t criticize offshoring; he just says that he didn’t do it.

The Olympics situation may add to Romney’s problems. When he was asked how he felt about the clothing for United States’ participants being made in China, he said, “No comment.” Possibly he wanted the entire question to go away because the clothing for the 2002 Winter Olympics torchbearers, the Olympics administered by Romney, were made in Burma, until last year a brutally military regime.

The Republican forces are gathering to protect Romney by attacking President Obama. After the president’s speech talking about how the United States has accomplished important things by working together to build an infrastructure, John Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire said Obama’s recent defense of public infrastructure shows he “doesn’t understand how America works.” Later Sununu said, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.”

Another distortion of President Obama’s speech came from his statement that “U.S. policymakers are lazy in creating jobs.” True, but the Republicans are now running television ads that claim the president said, “Americans are lazy.”

Sununu may have gotten more talking points from Rush Limbaugh. “He [Obama] has no idea how the American system functions,” Sununu said on Fox News. “And we shouldn’t be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent … another set of years in Indonesia.”

Limbaugh said Romney should “get down and dirty with Obama” and say:

“Look, pal, when I was out creating jobs, investing in businesses, and growing this economy, you were at Columbia smoking weed and snorting coke. You write about it in your book. You talk about how you got into Columbia and the Harvard Law Review, and you didn’t have to do anything. That’s what was great about it to you! You loved getting into Columbia ’cause all you had to do was go to class, get your grades, and smoke a little weed! Well, I was out building the country when you were doing that.”

I can’t understand what influenced Sununu to accuse President Obama of outsourcing “a major portion of the U.S. space program to the Russians.” FactCheck declared this statement false and explained that George W. Bush set NASA on a path eight years ago to retire the Space Shuttle and rely on the Russians for space travel. It was under President Obama’s charge that the Space Shuttle program ended, but it was George W. Bush who retired the shuttle because the White House refused to give NASA the authority and funds to replace it.

Bush directed NASA to retire the shuttle in 2010 to coincide with the scheduled completion of the space station as part of his plan for NASA that also called for the agency “to conduct the first manned mission no later than 2014,” with the goal of reaching the moon in 2020 and using it as a base for future trips to Mars.

In a 2007 speech at Georgetown University, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said the U.S. may have “no alternative other than to use Soyuz [Russian space craft] for crew transport and rescue.” Bush signed a bill on Sept. 30, 2008, so that Russians would provide transportation to the space station. U.S. astronauts also went to the space station aboard the Soyuz in 2003 after the Columbia disaster caused a suspension of the shuttle program for two years and Edward Lu used Russian transportation. If this is outsourcing, Sununu should have kept quiet because it’s the Republican president who offshored the NASA program.

Even sometimes-reasonable Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, has joined the irrational chorus. Because Republican governors in Utah and Nevada asked the Obama administration for flexibility in the welfare reform law that required adults to either work or participate in a work training program, the president granted flexibility to satisfy their needs. On a voluntary basis, states can now “experiment with ways to improve the number of people making the jump from government assistance to jobs.” On Fox and Friends, Huckabee said:

“It’s basically just a transfer of money from the taxpayer to the government, from the government to people who become beneficiaries of the government, because that way the government can own these people. It is a trap, and it is like the roach motel. Once you get in, but you never get out.”

It’s not the first time that conservatives have compared people needing the safety net to animals. Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, the GOP candidate for Arizona’s District 3, put the following on her website before she hastily removed it.

“The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is actually proud of the fact it is distributing the greatest amount of free meals and food stamps ever. Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us to ‘Please Do Not Feed The Animals.’ Their stated reason for the policy is because the animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves. This ends today’s lesson.”

Arizona is one of the top two states with food insecure (aka hungry) children; in Arizona 29 percent of the children go to bed hungry each night.

Another Republican disaster today is the release of the first book from the George W. Bush Institute, The 4 Percent Solution: Unleashing the Economic Growth America Needs.  James K. Glassman, executive director of the Bush Institute, said the book states the country can achieve a 4 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by extending the Bush-era tax cuts, broadening the tax base by getting rid of special exemptions and loopholes, taxing consumption rather than income, and lowering corporate taxes. With GDP being the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within a country in a given period, it is often considered an indicator of a country’s standard of living.

During the reign of George W. Bush, who wrote the forward for The 4 Percent Solution, the GDP averaged just over 2.3 percent using the ideas promoted in the Bush Institute’s book. Because of the over 30% increase in imports during that time, business investment actually declined relative to GDP despite all the Bush tax breaks. Residential investment, which was almost 35% higher in 2005 than it was in 2000, plummeted to less than 83% of its 2000 level by 2008.

Republicans repeatedly say that President Obama’s policies are ruining the nation. He hasn’t had a chance to put his policies into effect. It’s the conservative Republicans’ policies that keep the GDP from growing as Republicans refuse to provide revenue and send jobs out of the country.

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