Nel's New Day

November 19, 2018

Midterm Elections: A Postmortem

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 11:43 PM
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EPA/CHRIS TODD

The midterm elections of 2018 are winding down. Only two House races are still undecided, a Georgia Republican ahead by 29 votes out of over 280,000 votes and a Utah Democrat with a 739-vote lead with 270,000 votes. Without those two decisions, Democrats gained 38 seats to have the majority of 233 to the 200 GOP seats. Georgia will definitely go to a recount. In the Senate, four Democrats lost their seats, and two Republicans lost theirs. With the determination that Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott took the U.S. Senate seat, the Senate settled in with 52 Republicans out of 100 as it waits for the election in Mississippi on November 27. Usually, that state would automatically pick a Republican, but Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (left) has made a poor showing lately, seeming to laud lynching and criticized the legality of black college students voting.

Now that Republicans won three important races—Florida’s governor and U.S. senator and Georgia’s governor—Scott and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) decided that the elections are not rigged. The question will always be there, however, as the winning GOP Florida candidate for senator and Georgia candidate for governor control the elections that they won.

An opinion piece by Abe Rakov in conservative USA Today states:

“We’re seeing Republican politicians run a political strategy to manipulate who can vote and, ultimately, remake the electorate in their favor. They’re trying to rig our elections because they don’t think they can win any other way. It’s cheating, it’s wrong and it’s anti-democratic.

“Jason Kander and I started Let America Vote in 2017 to create political consequences for politicians who try to stop eligible voters from voting. Over 65,000 people across the country have signed up to volunteer to help us in that effort. Through this November and beyond, Let America Vote is going to fight back against these proposals because our democracy is bigger than politicians who will do anything to win an election.”

Florida GOP Influence over Voting:

Scott kept the painfully inept election supervisor Brenda Snipes in her position after many missteps, one of which took her to court. Kitty Garber, research director and co-founder of the nonpartisan Florida Fair Elections Coalition, said that Snipes’ “behavior has disproportionately harmed Democratic candidates. When absentee ballots go missing in largely Democratic Broward County, you can be sure that most of them belong to Democratic voters.”

Scott also tried to use law enforcement to control the voting process and filed several lawsuits.

Truthout did a detailed analysis of data available in the election to show how computer software can manipulate voter outcome and what happened in Florida.

Absentee ballots may not have been counted if they were locked in a mail facility after the Florida man sent pipe bombs through the USPS.

The pastor of a church posted this sign when it was used as a polling place:

Don’t vote for Democrats on Tuesday and sing, ‘Oh how I love Jesus’ on Sunday.”

Georgia GOP Influence over Voting:

The GOP may use voter suppression in Georgia as a model for future efforts.

Brian Kemp, the candidate for governor and coincidentally state secretary of state, “doxed” 291,164 absentee voters by posting their personal details online for anyone to download. “Doxing” has become a common harassment practice of posting people’s personal information, including addresses, phone numbers, and even Social Security numbers.

Some voters waited over four hours to vote in suburban Atlanta. The state installed only three voting machines in a Fulton County polling place; Atlanta is in Fulton County. In other areas, the voting machines were broken or automatically registered Kemp’s name when voters selected his opponent.

Kemp refused to have any paper trail for the voting machines.

Voters also faced intimidation in several states:

Texas (where Rep. Beto O’Rourke narrowly lost to Sen. Ted Cruz by 220,000 votes out of 8.3 million): An election judge was filmed screaming at a black voter and threatening to call the police when the voter asked where she was supposed to vote. The DHS had planned a “crowd-control” exercise near a Latinx neighborhood in El Paso but decided to cancel the exercise after critics pointed out its intimidation effort.

Virginia: A DDT supporter stood outside a polling place with a German Shepherd that barked at voters. A member of the GOP said that the man is a known, excited DDT supporter who would do no harm.

Idaho: Intimidating signs regarding student voting were posted at polling places.

Tennessee: Five or six men outside a polling place told voters they should not be voting.

Indiana: At least one voting machine refused to accept votes for Democrats.

Arizona: Republicans sued to keep mail-in ballots from being counted because the 15 county recorders done have the same standard for adjusting problems. Two counties being sued allow people to verify their signatures up to five days after the election; both are major Democratic-leaning urban counties. (Democrat Kyrsten Sinema finally won her election for U.S. Senate.)

Those who criticize Democrats for more wins or claim that Republicans are better because the Dems picked up “only” 38 to 40 seats in the House aren’t aware of the control on elections from the GOP gerrymandering. Wisconsin is a classic case. This chart tells it all: Democrats won in all state elections and cast more votes for people in the state legislature while losing almost two-thirds of the seats. State assembly Democratic minority leader Gordon Hintz pointed out the lack of competitive districts, the reason that a district court ruled the legislative maps unconstitutional. The case, Gill v. Whitford, went to the Supreme Court, which sent it back to a lower federal court. These maps

Richard Hasen wrote that Wisconsin’s continued gerrymandering is thanks to retired Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy. Last summer, the court unanimously determine that plaintiffs had not proved they had standing to sue because they didn’t suffer direct injury. In 2004, Kennedy demanding a “workable standard” to decide if partisan decisions on district crossed a constitutional line. The court managed to avoid making any decision about whether the U.S. Constitution forbids gerrymandering and, if so, standards for decisions. The Republicans in Wisconsin draw the districts to favor Republicans so that Republicans can continue drawing districts to favor Republicans.

A contrast in House districts can be found in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. After a court order mandated redrawing districts, Pennsylvania went from solidly GOP to one evenly split. North Carolina stayed overwhelmingly GOP with the Republican-drawn map despite an even split in party votes for the delegation members. Associated Press determined that more states have GOP-tilted districts than Democratic ones.

Karma came to the GOP sponsor of the restrictive North Dakota law mandating that no one (aka Native Americans) could vote if they didn’t have an ID with a street address. A Native American Democrat beat him in the election. And the Georgia secretary of state vote goes into a runoff on December 4.

This election breakdown as of November 16 shows the great diversity of Democrats in the 116th Congress, starting in January 2019. Of the 36 women additions to the House this coming year, one is a Republican.

 

 

November 13, 2018

Lawyers Winners of Elections, Other Lawsuits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nonelection lawsuits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 4, 2018

Voter Suppression, Tricks: ‘We Lie All the Time’

Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) bragged on the campaign trail that he and his GOP legislative leaders “lie all the time.” And boy, does he lie! Here’s a list from PolitiFact Virginia. He even sent out a press release lying about a WaPo fact check on his opponent by using a a fact check of an attack ad in a completely different race, against GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). And that’s just one way to get Republicans elected.

In the past, black people in the South went to the polls to cast their votes. The idea, called “Souls to the Polls,” was quashed in many states including North Carolina and Florida because Republican lawmakers decided that GOP candidates could win only if the black vote was stopped. Forty percent of states don’t allow workers time off to vote on Election Day, and many other states are restrictive in permission.

Georgia’s Secretary of State and candidate for governor Brian Kemp, poster child of the nation’s voter suppression, has lamented votes by blacks. The master vote registration purger who declines to process registration forms from blacks registered to vote said he was afraid he would lose the election “if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.” He’s also afraid of absentee ballots, “especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote … and mails those ballots in.” He added that his opponent, a black woman, could win thanks to “the literally tens of millions of dollars that” her campaign is “putting behind the get-out-the-vote effort to their base.”

If voting didn’t make any difference, Republicans wouldn’t go to such extreme lengths to keep people from voting. Updates and new tricks to keep people away from the polls on November 6:

Materials are being sent out with the wrong date to vote, like this “friendly” postcard in Arizona, with a date ten days past Election Day.

Montana Republicans have joined the states falsifying information about voting. The GOP sent a mailer lying about absentee ballots being accepted ten days after Election Day if they were postmarked by 8:00 pm on that day. Wrong. Absentee ballots must reach their destination by Election Day.

A judge denied Native Americans in North Dakota the right to vote without a street address just this past week, and voter suppression continues with the GOP fear that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) will be reelected. One woman who went to the county auditor’s office in Sioux County to ask about early voting was told that there was no early voting, unlike most other North Dakota countries. The auditor didn’t mention an absentee voting option. The same auditor ordered a woman filling out an absentee ballot to use blue ink in order for the ballot to be counted; the directions on the state website mandates black ink. A great deal of time was required until someone from the secretary of state’s office said either color of ink was acceptable—that will hopefully be accurate.

A non-partisan election official in Dallas County (TX) said that voter intimidation is the worst she’s seen in 30 years with name calling and voter interrogation in lines waiting to vote, partisan poll watchers looking over voters’ shoulders as they cast their ballots and question voters on their politics, harassment, and verbal abuse with a person driving by and yelling about “baby killers.” Reports of this intimidation have not stopped it although the police removed one “poll watcher.”

In Kansas, people can’t get a passport if they aren’t born in a hospital even if they have a birth certificate. The same probably goes for getting a voter ID. The only way to get permission is to pay money to go to trial with a large number of documents.

The Rachel Maddow Show sent a production crew to Dodge City (KS) after the news that the only polling place for 13,000 voters will be moved far out of town away from a bus stop. County Clerk Debbie Cox [visual] made the excuse of construction at the former place in town [map below], but no construction was found. The venue was also booked on November 4 and November 17 of events. Cox put three polling places in the rest of her county for the remaining 1,300 voters. In addition, she mailed new registrants an official statement of registration with the wrong voting address. Even if the largely Latinx voters working in the meat-packing industry can get a job to the new polling place, they may not have enough time off work to actually vote.  The 22-minute segment provides more details.

Cox forwarded a letter from the ACLU offering voter assistance to the office of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach with the attached message “LOL” (lots of laughs). In control of voting, Kobach is also a candidate for governor. An 18-year-old high school student, Ashley Romero, sued for more polling places that are accessible to Dodge City voters. A judge ruled against Romero, stating that changing anything now would be too confusing but promising to look into the case after the election.

Last week, reports of voting machines flipping votes in Georgia for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to her opponent, Kemp, and in Texas from Democratic senate challenger Beto O’Rourke to incumbent Ted Cruz led to thoughts of hacking. Some machines even registered Kemp’s name before a person voted. Despite the GOP trying to blame the voters for these flips, it happens if machines aren’t properly calibrated. In addition, Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Kemp refused to provide a paper trail for votes in Georgia. Preparing for a possible loss because of Abrams’ popularity, Kemp declared today that he was investigating Democrats’ hacking into the vulnerable voting computers although he has no evidence. He has been warned for years about the problems with this machines but said nothing as long as he supervised the winning of Republicans.

Voting machines bought almost two decades ago were meant to last no more than 15 years, manufacturing companies have gone out of business or don’t make the computers, and most spare parts are available only on eBay or Craigslist from other discarded computers. Even if voting machines work, they work slowly, meaning long lines with people not staying to vote in a form of voter depression. In 2012, over 500,000 people didn’t vote because of extremely long wait lines. Some states use provisional ballots to solve problems in computers but don’t count them after the election. Three privately held companies, subject to little oversight and put convenience over security, control over 90 percent of all the nation’s election systems. The Associated Press reports three privately held companies sell and service more than 90 percent of the nation’s election systems.

When Republicans aren’t admitting that they want to suppress the votes of minority and lower-income people, they claim laws beginning in 2005 are to stop voter fraud. Between 2000 and 2014, evidence found 35 credible voter fraud allegations among the 834,065,926 ballots. Yet voter ID laws in the red states block about 5 million people from casting ballots—many of for specific groups such as Native Americans in North Dakota, Latinx in Arizona and Kansas, students in New Hampshire, and people of color in Wisconsin. Conservative judge Richard Posner has apologized in his 2013 memoir by writing that the ID law is “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.” In 2018, voter ID laws, polling-place closures or changes, and state legislation to stop voter registration have replace Jim Crow laws of poll taxes, literacy exams, and property deeds. Paul Weyrich plotted Ronald Reagan’s win in 1980:

“I don’t want everybody to vote . . . our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

It’s still a miracle if people vote this year—or ever again. But not all is lost:

A federal judge ordered Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp, also running for governor, to stop throwing away absentee ballots without giving the voters advance notice and a chance to rectify any issues. Kemp’s workers had been making determinations about whether a signature matched the one on file without any scientific reason. Kemp’s “exact match” requirement threw out voter registrations even if the mistake was only an extra space. The judge used Kemp’s words that absentee voting is “a privilege and a convenience,” not a right by describing the staying of an injunction—that she refused—is also not a right.  The 11th Circuit Court refused Kemp’s appeal to the judge’s order keeping absentee ballots.

In Ohio, provisional election ballots previously purged from voter rolls between 2011 and 2015 must be counted if voters still live in the same county of their last registration and if they are not disqualified from voting because of a felony conviction, mental incapacity, or death.

Overall, two-thirds of the public (67%) says “everything possible should be done to make it easy for every citizen to vote,” while only about a third (32%) say citizens “should have to prove they want to vote” by registering in advance.  [visual voting]

After 80 percent of voters said that healthcare is extremely or very important to their vote, GOP members of Congress lied to the public that they supported pre-existing conditions–even if they voted to do away with the Affordable Care Act. The 78% importance for the economy is lower than in any recent midterm.

Roxanne Gay encouraged everyone to vote:

“Every single day there is a new, terrifying, preventable tragedy fomented by a president and an administration that uses hate and entitlement as political expedience. If you remain disillusioned or apathetic in this climate, you are complicit. You think your disillusionment is more important than the very real dangers marginalized people in this country live with.”

Republicans claim that the GOP wants freedom, but they want freedom only for themselves, not for minorities, women, and lower-income people. (Below: a sign that police forced a woman to remove from her yard.)

All voter polls are open until at least 6:00 pm, some later. Here’s a list by state.

Vote as if your life depends on it. It might.

October 11, 2018

United States, A Banana Republic

“Banana Republic” is a term to describe governments with countries that suffer from lack of democracy and corruption. How the United States fits the description of a “banana republic”:

An extremely stratified social class with a large impoverished working class and an ultra-rich ruling-class plutocracy with a lack of a middle class and lack of upward mobility: The U.S. has had the highest income inequality and lowest upward mobility of any country in the developed world for several years, and it keeps worsening.

Government’s corrupt connection with big business: As in fascist countries, U.S. conservative politicians have supported the merger of state and corporate power by removing regulations, giving corporations billions of dollars in tax cuts and subsidies, and putting banks and corporations above the law. The person occupying the Oval Office is profiting with millions—possibly trillions—from domestic groups and foreign government encouraged to use his businesses despite his constitutional violation of the Emoluments Clause.

A male business, political, and military elite controlling the nation: In a circular pattern, politicians take money from business for campaigns in exchange for subserviency, and conservative politicians vote for increased military expenses to keep money flowing into their states. Lack of regulations moves wealth offshore while workers suffer. Conservative politicians put white conservative males into control on the courts, protecting only white males and big business and permitting illegal tax evasion. All new DDT judicial nominees are male, recognizing that “we the ruling males” are in charge instead of the constitutional “we the people.” Less than one-third of the U.S. population is white male, but they still control the nation.

Police corruption and expanding police state: The frequent pattern of using military equipment for police actions is like military actions in Iraq, and law enforcement increasingly kill people in “accidents” or badly orchestrated sting operations. Laws since 9/11 permit warrantless wiretapping and other tactics common in dictatorships.

Highest incarceration rate in the world: The 716 prisoners per 100,000 residents in the U.S. far exceed the 114 in Canada, the 79 in German, and even the 162 in Saudi Arabia. Privatized prisons have greatly increased the number of prisoners because the government gets kickbacks from these businesses for their campaigns that keep them the ruling party.

Lack of access to healthcare: Despite the Affordable Care Act, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) created a path to health insurance that doesn’t provide for pre-existing conditions, hospitalizations, maternal care, and other health needs by conning them into believing that they save money. DDT’s newest plan is like a person paying less for a car that doesn’t run. People in the U.S. pay more than most developed countries for healthcare expenses and are reduced to medical bankruptcies but are convinced that universal health care is evil.

Much shorter life expectancy in poor than wealthy: In one West Virginia county, life expectancy for males is 63.9 years compared to 81.6 years, 17.7 years higher, in affluent Fairfax County (VA)—a difference of 27 percent. Bangladesh life expectancy is higher than McDowell County (WV). U.S. women’s life expectancy was #41 in 2010.

Hunger and malnutrition: Banana republics are associated with food insecurity, but the need for food stamps in the U.S. has increased from one in 50 during the 1970s to one in eight with 50 million people, including 12 million children, suffering from food insecurity.

High infant mortality: Fifty-seven countries have a smaller infant mortality rate than the U.S. In first-day death rate, babies dying the day that they are born, the U.S. has the highest rate in the industrialized world, twice as many as in the European Union.

One idealistic view of saving the United States is to vote, and millions of people want to exercise their right to select their representatives in this republic. Yet conservative politicians block the ability for millions to vote. Beyond white males rigging the districts so that a state with a majority of Democrats will elect almost all Republicans for state and federal elected officials, voter ID laws that prevent people from voting. The following states have created these ways to keep people from voting:

Arizona: Secretary of State Michele Reagan won’t be required to update voter registration addresses of 384,000 Arizonans who moved since the last election, even if the Motor Vehicle Division system won’t change addresses until people “opt-in” to update their information in conflict with the National Voter Registration Act. When people show up at the wrong polling place because of Reagan’s inaction, the voter can go to the new address and cast a provisional ballot. The state, however, has a record of destroying these without recording them. Reagan said that she’ll fix the system sometime next year—after the midterm election. Maybe.

Florida: Whether prisoners and released felons can vote is dependent on state law. A few states don’t have restrictions against voting after the felons serve their sentence, but a few rely on “individual petitions.” Of the 6 million people with felony convictions permanently barred from voting, about 1.5 million of them are from Florida, and over 20 percent of them are black. Gov. Rick Scott is in charge of deciding whether each one can be permitted to vote, and he has granted only 8 percent of those requesting the right to vote with a backlog of over 10,000 not yet reviewed.

Georgia: Brian Kemp is the state Secretary of State and in charge of elections. Kemp is also running for governor. He is keeping 53,000 voter applications from being processed because of typographical errors. The list has a disproportionately high number of black voters. Kemp’s opponent is Stacey Abrams, a black woman. Because Kemp is in charge of elections, there is no proof that he legitimately won the primary to become candidate in the general election, especially after indications of voting corruption within the past few years. Kemp is also being sued for using a racially-biased methodology to purge 700,000 voters from the rolls in the past two years and failing to send notices of the removal to voters. That’s ten percent of registered voters. Kemp also kept the state from having a paper trail to its woefully inadequate digital voting system, allowing him more election corruption.

North Dakota: A state law, challenged but approved in court, mandates that all voter IDs have residential addresses. Even the Supreme Court thinks that people without street addresses should not have the right to vote. This law takes voting rights from the homeless and people living on Native American reservations who lack the “residential address.”

Texas: Delivering a letter demanding that Waller County address its problems with rejecting registrations of students at Prairie View A&M resulted in the arrest of the campaign staffer presenting the missive to a clerk. Jacob Aronowitz, a field director for Democratic congressional candidate Mike Siegel, photographed the clerk taking the letter, and the clerk objected. When he was arrested, Aronowitz called Siegal who heard Aronowitz asking why he was being held and telling the detaining officer that his lawyer, Siegel, was running for office. Aronowitz was asked for Siegel’s political party, and the officer kept Aronowitz’s phone with his records when he was released. The county gave students the address to use for registration because all students use one post office box and then refused to accept it on the last day to register, jeopardizing the registrations. The letter demanded that the county update the existing registrations because students had followed the county’s direction. Waller County is uncomfortable with students voting because the student body is 82 percent black while the county is 70.5 percent white. It opposed students’ right to vote until a 1979 case in the U.S. Supreme Court upheld students’ right to register at their college address. The county wouldn’t obey the high court ruling, declaring in 2004 that students were ineligible to vote because they failed to meet the residency requirement. The campus did not get a polling place until 2013. So the county, which does not want the students to vote, gave them the wrong address for registration, refused to accept the address they gave students, arrested a person obtaining verification that he delivered a letter of complaint, lied about his not identifying himself, asked for the political party of the person objecting, and refused to return the arrested party’s possessions when he was released.

Voting could help move the United States from a banana republic—if citizens get the permission to cast a ballot and their ballots are counted. Until that time, the U.S. will remain a banana republic.

March 29, 2016

Cracks in LGBT Discrimination, SCOTUS Hearings

Two huge events in LGBT rights occurred in the past week—one for and one against. A week ago, North Carolina’s legislators, traumatized by Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance, went into a special session that cost taxpayers $42,000 in order to prevent any city or county from allowing LGBT people rights—especially using the bathrooms that match their gender identities. The justification for this legislation, deemed the “worst anti-LGBT bill in the country,” was that straight men would have the freedom to go into public restrooms and molest women. Shortly after the successful North Carolina legislation, Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a bill that would allow any government entity or private business to discriminate against LGBT people by declaring “religious belief.” The bill was similar to the one in Indiana last year that caused such an uproar that GOP Gov. Mike Pence most likely lost his hopes for a presidential candidacy after he signed the bill.

The uproar this time against Georgia and North Carolina came from the GOP darlings, big business. The Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United  and a later case from Montana  cemented the control of corporate control in both elections and political positions. Corporations know that bigotry keeps them from appealing to a broad customer base. The bigger the business, the more they rely on global acceptance, and the businesses that spoke out against the discriminatory bills are some of the biggest ones in the nation, especially in tech, entertainment, and sports industries. These include Google, Facebook, Paypal, Disney, Sony Pictures, CBS, Netflix, NFL, and NBA.

A great deal of discretionary spending comes from millennials who they are far more accepting than older people. Gen X is even more so. According to a recent study, less than 48 percent of U.S. youth ages 13 to 20 describe themselves as “exclusively heterosexual,” and over 70 percent of these young people “strongly agreed” that public spaces should be required to provide gender neutral bathrooms. About 18 states and 200 towns and cities have added specific LGBT non-discrimination protections.

After Indiana’s law was slightly narrowed, the state lost only about $60 million with its “religious freedom” act, but North Carolina are aggressively marketing themselves as good for business. The nine other states joining the “War on Bathroom Use” may look carefully at the differing success rates between two states who have taken opposite stances on human rights. Missouri is facing both a discrimination bill and rejection from many businesses, including Petco, with its passage.

North Carolina’s Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill in the same 12 hours in which it was introduced and passed in the legislature, but he faces opposition from the state AG Roy Cooper in this fall’s election. Cooper claims that McCrory’s action not only jeopardizes the state’s economy but also allows discrimination against protection of veterans and wages. The new law may revoke a fair housing ordinance in Greensboro and a policy governing municipal contracts in Raleigh.

North Carolina’s law has also frozen the minimum wage everywhere in the state to $7.25. Thus far, New York (both city and state), Washington State, San Francisco, and Portland (OR) have banned state travel by state workers to the state, and 20,000 retail and interior-design companies won’t attend the twice-annual High Point furniture market. The largest economic event in the state, this market generates over 600,000 visitor days to the state with an annual economic impact of $5.38 billion. The Market and the home furnishings industry provide 37,000 jobs in the state. The NFL may pull out the Super Bowl in 2019, an event that brought $800 million to Arizona’s economy last year. ESPN may look elsewhere for its summer X games, and the NBA may change its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.

payton_transgender_ncIf McCrory and his Republicans stick to their guns, they’ll lose a lot more than economic support from big business. States fighting marriage equality lost millions of dollars in lawsuits, and legal action against North Carolina has already started. The ACLU, Lambda Legal, and Equality North Carolina are suing the state, and AG Cooper said he won’t defend the state against the lawsuit. One plaintiff is Payton McGarry (right), a transgender student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is one of the people who McCrory wants to send into the public women’s bathroom.

ACLU lawyer Tara Borelli, said:

“[In 1996], Colorado enacted a law that said there could be no statewide protection whatsoever for lesbian, gay, bisexual people. The law was so clearly aimed at lesbians and gay people that the Supreme Court didn’t have any trouble striking it down as being clearly motivated by animus against them. This law goes further because it says there are no protections for transgender people. Even more than that, the law specifically requires discrimination against them in all schools and all public agencies.”

By violating Title IX in keeping transgender student out of bathrooms, North Carolina could also lose more than $4.5 billion in federal funding for schools.

McCrory is trying to justify the law with a series of false arguments:

 “We are not taking away any rights.” McCrory overturned the rights that Charlotte provided to its residents along with 11 other cities and five counties. The University of North Carolina system can no longer enforce its LGBT nondiscrimination policy on its 17 campuses.

No business has threatened to leave the state. News articles show how laughable this claim is.

“We have the same rights … that Houston, Texas has [after they overturned the Equal Rights Ordinance.]” North Carolina’s law goes much farther by mandating discrimination in all public arenas. Transgender people aren’t banned from accessing the appropriate restrooms in Houston’s public spaces, and other Texas cities and counties aren’t banned from providing protections.

Discrimination is just “common sense.” McCrory complains about too much “political correctness,” a frequent excuse currently used for conservative bad behavior.

Donald Trump came to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) home town of Janesville today; last night the city approved an ordinance to protect LGBT people from discrimination. The Speaker’s home now has broader protections than provided at the state and federal level. In Janesville, transgender people can use a public restroom based on the gender they identify with, rather than the gender on their birth certificate. Ryan has no comment.

Corporations have created the monster of discrimination that they now decry. The Bank of America’s PAC consistently donated large sums to campaigns for McCrory, state Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, state House Speaker Tim Moore, and the North Carolina GOP. The PAC’s treasurer is Wendy Jamison, BofA senior vice-president for public policy. North Carolina-based Lowe’s “opposes any measure in any state that would encourage or allow discrimination,” but its PAC treasurer, Lowe’s Assistant Treasurer Cindy Reins, donated heavily to the same politicians. Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, criticized the new state law, but its PAC, run by Managing Director for Government Affairs Edward Ingle, has donated to the same GOP campaigns. The American Airlines PAC gave to Berger and Moore.

 

The best news today! A case about public sector unions got a 4-4 vote in the Supreme Court, meaning that union members must still pay for the benefits that they receive because of the lower court ruling. Unions are required by law to bargain on behalf of all the workers, even if workers don’t join the union. One union benefit is the wage premium of almost 12 percent higher than in non-union shops. In California a wealthy organization trying to break unions found a teacher to challenge this law. A win against the unions would create a class of “takers” who would then starve the union by not paying fees for these benefits. Justice Antonin’s Scalia’s death caused the 4-4 split in the Supreme Court for Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association which kept the mandated fees.

Today’s tie retains a 40-year SCOTUS decision, impacting unions for millions of government workers. The plaintiffs stated that they would ask for another hearing because of the tie, but the justices may be reluctant to provide them with one especially if the number of court justices stays at eight for the next two or three years because of GOP obstructionism.

Today’s judgment may be the shortest ever delivered. It reads: “Per Curium. The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.”

Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) maintains his refusal to consider any President Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia, 16 Republican senators now say they will meet with Merrick Garland. That’s more than 25 percent of McConnell’s senators who are defecting.

March 29, 2015

Conservatives Fight for Power through Claims of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s Gov. Mike Pence is even farther from a run for president after the media attention he received last week. After he signed into law the RFRA discrimination bill using religious belief as an excuse, Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle announced that his company has abandoned its expansion in Indianapolis that would hire an additional 1,000 employees. Oesterle isn’t some wide-eyed liberal: he directed GOP Mitch Daniels’ 2004 campaign for governor. Seattle has also joined San Francisco in not allowing work-related, city-funded travel to Indiana.

Is Pence truly confused about “the hostility that’s been directed at our state” or just trying to cover his bigoted actions? “I’ve been taken aback by the mischaracterizations from outside the state of Indiana about what is in this bill,” Pence said, indicating that he’s not prepared to be the president of the United States.

Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Pence avoided six questions about whether a merchant in Indiana could legally refuse to serve LGBT customers. One answer was that “this is not about discrimination, this is about empowering people to confront government overreach.” he said. Two questions needed only yes-or-no responses about whether state law permits legal discrimination against LGBT customers.

Chuck Todd, conservative host of Meet the Press, gave Pence a pass by concentrating on Hillary Clinton’s emails and waiting until the last five minutes to address the new Indiana law. Even more progressive Sam Stein of the Huffington Post seemed surprised—like Pence—that corporations thought the state should be boycotted.

While Pence waffled, an Indiana business owner, who prefered to be anonymous, bragged on the radio that he has already discriminated against gay and lesbian couples. He didn’t even claim a religious belief. Fortunately for Pence, the Fox network has his back. FOX News contributor Mike Gallagher compared LGBT people wanting service at restaurants to “Nazis” asking for hate-filled “Swastika signs” made for a “skinhead rally.” Pence and Fox will most likely defend the pending bill in Georgia that can legally permit domestic violence.

The Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is one of at least 35 bills moving through at least 19 state legislatures after Indiana passed its discriminatory RFRA. As with Indiana’s law, the bill would permit a wide variety of discrimination including bullying in schools.

The Georgia GOP legislators know that their bill is wrong because of the way that it was moved through the process. Sponsor state Senator Josh McKoon pushed it through the judiciary committee while opposing members were in the bathroom. Then he refused an amendment from a fellow Republican that would have specified that the “religious freedom” could not be used to discriminate against others. He didn’t even permit an amendment keeping religious belief from stopping child abuse. Speakers in favor of the bill were allowed far more time than those opposed to it, sometimes twice as much as allotted.

The RFRA passed the Senate on March 5 and moved to the State House with a 2-1 GOP majority. After an anti-discrimination amendment passed in its judiciary committee, conservatives tabled the bill, claiming that an anti-discrimination amendment defeats the purpose of the bill. According to conservatives, a religious freedom measure with an anti-discrimination provision is not a real religious freedom measure.

Blogger Eric Erickson slammed the man who proposed the amendment as “the man who wants to deny protection to Christian businesses.” Clearly, the religious freedom bill is freedom for only some religious people. Erickson may not be aware that Georgia’s RFRA permits Sharia law because it defines “exercise of religion” as any “practice or observance of religion, whether or not compelled by or central to a system of religious belief.”

Tomorrow, conservatives plan an amendment, stating that the RFRA cannot be used to discriminate against anyone protected against state law. Georgia has no statewide civil rights law, no protected classes.

Legal commentators have surmised that the law would give a pass to spousal and child abusers if the husband or father has a religious pretext. The Christian Domestic Discipline Network offers a raft of rationales for “wife spanking,” and Proverbs 13:24 states, “He who spares his rod hates his son. But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Although Georgia has laws protecting child welfare, a court might determine that these laws are not the “least restrictive means” of protecting it. The new law can be a defense for assault and battery. Religious views may not completely stop an investigation into child-endangerment and child-abuse charges, but they can slow down its progress. Even conservative district attorneys have said that the bill would delay investigations and prosecutions of child abuse.

Even Mike Bowers, successful supporter of state anti-sodomy laws in the Supreme Court case Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) opposes the proposed Georgia law. In an open letter, Bowers wrote that the law is “unequivocally an excuse to discriminate….[P]ermitting citizens to opt-out of laws because of a so-called burden on the exercise of religion in effect ‘would permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.’”

Pence is probably envious of the silence from Georgia’s business world, compared to eminent boycotts of Indiana. Only recently have some major corporations began to speak out although they rather weakly state that they “don’t support discrimination.” That includes responses from Home Depot and Atlanta Hawks. AmericasMart Atlanta, one of the world’s largest permanent wholesale trade centers, said that it doesn’t take public positions on pending legislation but they do welcome everyone.

Coca-Cola, Delta, Turner Broadcasting, the Atlanta Braves, and the Atlanta Falcons have not responded to questions about their positions although both Delta and Coca-Cola opposed an identical bill last year. Lawmakers may be blackmailing the companies. Another pending bill would eliminate Georgia’s tax subsidy on jet fuel in retribution for Delta CEO Richard Anderson’s recent history of weighing in on public affairs, including opposition to last year’s version of RFRA. Although he supported the fuel subsidy in the past, Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R), sponsor of the bill to eliminate the subsidy, said, “Will I more than happily take advantage of those who are tired of him chiming in to pass a piece of legislation? Absolutely.”

Businesses afraid of losing business conventions and tourism, however, are more openly opposing the RFRA. The executive board of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau issued a resolution “in opposition to the implementation of any legislation which could be used to potentially discriminate,” noting that the bill would “tarnish Atlanta’s reputation as one of the world’s most welcoming cities.” The resolution followed a letter to lawmakers last week stating, “This bill is unnecessary, divisive, and a distraction from the issues needed to advance Georgia.”

Local conferences possibly moving away from the state include the comic and fantasy convention Dragon Con, the American Society for Higher Education, American Academy of Religion, American Historical Association, German Studies Association, History of Science Society, Philosophy of Science Association, Society for Biblical Literature, and Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts. The NCAA, which was “especially concerned” about the new Indiana law, is scheduling its 2019 convention in Atlanta.

Although 31 states, 18 of them since the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, have passed forms of RFRA, the most recent bills and Indiana’s law are far more radical. The federal law says that the government may not pass a law that “substantially burdens a person’s exercise of religion,” but some businesses are claiming that they don’t have to meet the substantial burden test.

The state House in Kansas passed a bill allowing anyone to refuse to recognize same-sex couples or provide them with services on religious grounds without showing that it would substantially burden their ability to exercise their faith. In late February, the state Senate refused to take up the bill.

University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock wrote that the fight over extremist religious freedom is “ polarizing the country and endangering religious liberty more generally.” Extremists invited to Pence’s signing the Indiana law reflect how far to the religious right the law is:

  • Micah Clark, Head of the American Family Association of Indiana: Claims that “homosexuality has no societal benefit…and it’s individually destructive and dangerous.”
  • Curt Smith, President of Indiana Family Institute: Equates homosexuality with bestiality and adultery and said, “…I believe homosexuality is harmful to all, including society, and is against the teachings of the God of the Bible…” 
  • Eric Miller, Exec. Director of Advance America, Indiana’s leading anti-LGBT org.: Distributed fear flier falsely claiming that pastors could be jailed for preaching against homosexuality once same-sex marriage passes and  claims “[b]anning same-sex marriages and civil unions will prove to be the greatest moral battle of this generation.”

pence The RFRAs are not about protecting religious freedoms. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does that. It’s about power. The RFRAs are all about a select group of white Christian males, approximately one-fourth of the U.S. population, trying to renew their dominance over everyone else. These haters are destroying freedom of religion for everyone.

September 26, 2014

Voter Suppression, Solutions

A new form of voter suppression has appeared in North Carolina where Americans for Prosperity, partially funded by the Koch brothers, sent incorrect voter registration information to voters in the state and one cat. Hundreds of recipients have called the State Board of Elections about the form that they received with the wrong information:

  • At the top, the form states voter registrations are due 30 days before an election to the State Board of Elections’ office. Below, in smaller type, it states the deadline is 25 days before the election. The information must be sent to the county elections board, not the state board.
  • The first page also states people should return the registration to the N.C. Secretary of State’s office, though the envelope is addressed to the State Board of Elections.
  • It states the Secretary of State’s office has an elections division and can answer questions about registration. The North Carolina Secretary of State does not handle elections. The phone number for the Secretary of State’s office is actually for the State Board of Elections.
  • The form states that after voters mail in their information, they will be notified of their precinct by their local county clerk. Notification comes from the county board of elections or the elections director, not the county clerk.
  • The registration form also includes the wrong ZIP code for the State Board of Elections. The ZIP code associated with the board’s post office box is 27611, and the board’s office ZIP code is 27603.

A form sent to Alison Beal of Wake Forest was addressed to her brother-in-law who lives in Caldwell. Neither one belongs to Americans for Prosperity.

Adam C. Nicholson, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, refused to say how many people were sent the forms, how the group obtained the voter lists, or how the mistakes occurred. Another spokesman, Levi Russell, said that people need to look at the forms in context with an otherwise “highly successful” voter registration drive. North Carolina is the same state where Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R) was forced to change his television commercials because it gave misleading information about a new identification requirement that doesn’t go into effect until 2016.

Conservative lawmakers claimed that their new voting laws, the most restrictive and suppressive in the nation, would reduce fraud. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on a lawsuit yesterday. Thomas Farr, one of the lawyers representing the state, justified the repressive laws because nothing “horrible” happened in the May primary. said the provisions didn’t hinder minority voting in the May primary, saying nothing “horrible” had happened. Another argument against allowing people to vote is that it would be a burden for the state because it had already mailed a 30-page pamphlet to households and would have to “re-educate” voters and “let them know the new rules with the election underway.”

Judge Henry Floyd asked, “Does an administrative burden trump a constitutional right?” Judge James Wynn also questioned the seriousness of long lines at polling places, people going to wrong precincts, and the need to count same-day voter registrations by hand if they reinstated the former procedures. “How come the state of North Carolina doesn’t want people to vote?” Wynn asked.

Last Monday, a U.S. District Court heard closing arguments in the case that challenges voter suppression of 600,000 people in Texas because of the narrow number of photo IDs that can be used to vote. There is no indication of when the court will issue its ruling.

Ohio has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay a federal judge’s order that expands the state’s early voting schedule this fall. Without help from SCOTUS, people can start casting early ballots next week.

One solution for voting problems is to modernize registration at the state level. Voters are told they aren’t registered in the right place, that their address hasn’t been updated, and that their name is misspelled. Some of them have been wrongly removed from the rolls.

A uniform early voting period would remove states’ abilities to restrict the time to vote and reduce long voting lines. Another way to reduce waiting time at the polls is to establish standards for voting machines per capita. During the last election, some states saw almost no waiting time in predominantly white precincts and many hours in precincts with mostly black voters.

The federal government could also research problems with computers for voting and perhaps the owners. For example, Karl Rove had a deep involvement with the voting computers used in Ohio in the 2004 presidential election, which coincidentally had abnormalities bringing the state in for George W. Bush. In 2012, Rove guaranteed that Ohio would go for Mitt Romney, resulting in rumors that hackers changed the rigged computer software that would have provided this. Certainly, Rove’s face on Election Night showed his disbelief that Ohio went for President Obama in 2012.

The Election Assistance Commission needs to be strengthened. Without commissioners or a permanent executive director, the EAC had long been dysfunctional. Currently all four commissioner positions are vacant.

To give voters greater freedom for voting personal choice, employers need to be stopped from controlling political activity outside the job. Only four states--California, Colorado, New York and North Dakota–protect workers from being fired for legal activity outside of work. Federal law makes it illegal to “intimidate, threaten or coerce” anyone against voting as they wish, but the connection between possible coercion or intimidation and “worker education” is rather fuzzy in the eyes of the law. The federal government has mostly chosen to let states, including the ones that promote voter suppression, to decide questions of employee free speech. About half of people in the United States live in states that do not provide any worker protection for political speech or from pressure, such as threat of job loss, to vote in a specific way.

In New Mexico, a signed letter saying that a person was fired because of carrying an Obama tote bag is no protection without litigation. The Supreme Court has strongly expanded “employer free speech,” giving them the rights to pay millions and millions of dollars to elect a specific candidate. Employees need the same right.

In their goal of suppressing the votes for the poor, the elderly, and minorities, Republicans will undoubtedly oppose any such moves, but these are ways to move the country toward the concept of one person, one vote.

Update in Georgia: After Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp refused to process 51,000 voter registrations from the New Georgia Project, black lawmakers in the state are demanding answers about the status of these registrations. NGP has reportedly submitted about 85,000 applications to county election officials in the state. Kemp staffers said they would “move expeditiously” to process the registrations before the October 6 deadline. That’s ten days. The office, however, was unable to provide adequate details about how the process would be carried out, according to state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler. Kemp claimed that they had found several dozen suspicious applications after they sent letters to 159 counties in a concern for fraud.

The excuse for refusing to let people register or vote is always a concern that changing the rules so close to the election would cause voter confusion. This is the excuse from Alexander Peters, North Carolina’s senior deputy attorney general, who noted in arguments before the 4th Circuit Court yesterday that absentee ballots were mailed Sept. 5. Thanks to television ads from conservatives, voters in at least that state are already confused. So are voters in Wisconsin just increased voter suppression, thanks to a GOP three-judge panel.

North Carolina resident Rosanell Eaton, 93, remembers her registering to vote in 1939 when she turned 18. Three white officials told her that she had to recite the preamble to the U.S. Constitution before she could vote. She did it perfectly. Seventy-five years later, she and many others are once again facing obstacles to voting because of white conservatives. As Wynn asked, “How come the state of North Carolina doesn’t want people to vote?” That’s a question that could be asked in the majority of states in the United States of America.

July 1, 2014

U.S. – Culture of Gun Violence:

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

Dead two-year-old toddler: it’s God’s will. That’s her grandmother’s opinion after the girl’s five-year-old brother shot her in the face with his birthday present, a .22 caliber “My First Rifle” Crickett, designed and marketed as a toy for small children. The uncle said, “It’s something that you can’t prepare for.” Yes, you can! You can’t fix people’s stupidity, but you can make laws to keep them from letting their children kill each other.

“Be afraid. Be very afraid.” That’s the motto of many people in the United States who fight any kind of gun sense. An example from Ohio: teenagers stride through a suburban neighborhood with AR-15’s, yelling racial slurs. “Open carry in the state of Ohio, the cops can’t do nothing,” one teen said on camera. And he’s right. [Check on arrests]

In May, an armed man showed up in a park where children were playing Little League. He waved his gun around, yelling “Look at my gun!” and “There’s nothing you can do about it.” Alarmed parents called the police. The man was right. There was nothing that the police could do about the man. Gunners say that children should be taught about responsible gun use, but this is an example of what they see.

Other acts of gun insanity occurred frequently in Texas during the same week including armed men protesting outside a Jack in the Box. Frightened employees locked themselves in a freezer and called the policy to alert them to a robbery. All very legal, but the taxpayers had to pony up for the costs of sending over a dozen officers for the gunners’ expression. Again people lost their freedom to safety. Demonstrators were upset that the police were called and said, “We’re not trying to alarm anybody. We’re doing this because it’s our constitutional right.”

Today celebrates the first day of Georgia’s “guns everywhere” law, the so-called “Safe Carry Protection Act” that permits Georgians and residents of 28 other states to carry weapons into “unsecured government buildings,” consenting bars and churches, and schools which allow them.  The term “unsecured” means, however, that legislators don’t have to worry about guns around them; weapons are prevented in the state Capitol.

No one, not even the police, can ask people with guns if they have permits. Supporters of the new law compare gun ownership to driving cars. If that were true, guns wouldn’t be allowed in any of these places because people can’t drive cars into them. No one leaves a car lying around in the children’s section of a library the way that gun owners can.

Jerry Henry, director of georgiacarry.org, thinks “church carry” is vital, and the Georgia Baptist Church supports it to protect people from the “criminal element.”

Convicted felons cannot own guns, but under the new law they can use a Stand Your Ground defense, keeping them out of prison after killing someone.

In a satire on the new Georgia law, Stephen Colbert pointed out that people can carry guns in airports. Intended as humor, this photo can also be reality.

ColbertNRA-airport

Not satisfied with the number of Floridians who can kill people with impunity, the state has expanded its Stand Your Ground law. As of last week, people who fire or point a gun in “self-defense” or as a “warning” are immune from criminal penalty. The emotional appeal behind the extension of rights to kill was the 20-year sentence for a woman who fired a “warning shot” as her abusive husband came toward her. Her injustice more likely came from her color and gender than her attempt to protect herself; the new law won’t solve that problem.

Florida is so upset about the publicity it has received that the law also seals records in Stand Your Ground when charges are dropped and expunges records when defendants are granted immunity. No longer can the impact of the law be documented, as the Tampa Bay Times’ survey did for the earlier Stand Your Ground law in 2012. Florida doesn’t want people to know that Stand Your Ground laws are associated with a significant increase in homicides, have a disproportionate impact on African Americans, and fail to deter crime.

This is an example of how bad the gun culture has gotten:

Child’s email: “Whenever my parents fight, my dad threatens my mom with his gun. Fortunately, this now means nothing to my mom, and she never goes nuts about it; she is very calm. But as a child, I get nervous and worried when this happens. Even my younger brother saw this incident. What should we do about it and him?”

Response: “Well, again, you don’t want to get your father busted, but you could. You ought to go to your mother and say, ‘Mom, this thing is scaring me, and I ask you please to get my father to have some help.’ This kind of rage — I mean, one day he’s going to pull the trigger. It doesn’t take too much if you’ve got a loaded weapon and you’re brandishing it around, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ And the next thing you know, the thing goes off. It may be accidentally, but the mother will end up dead. But you’re a kid, what do you do? You know? Your mother ought to take care of that.”

The man giving the advice of not getting the father “busted” is televangelist Pat Robertson on CBN’s June 11, 2014 The 700 Club.

The new term for gun “enthusiasts” is ammosexuals. As Bill Maher said, “Guns aren’t just a tool of last resort.  They’re awesome.  That’s why people stroke them.  And name them, and take pictures with them.” Maher recommends that ammosexuals try going out without their guns to recover from their separation anxiety. “Just think how exciting it will be when you get home and there she is,” he said. “Oiled up and just wearing a holster.”

One of these ammosexuals, 37-year-old Greg Philip Winnick, fell asleep cradling his Rebel Arms AR-15. An accidental discharge went through the ceiling next to the mattress where a couple was sleeping.  As Maher concluded, the problem with guns isn’t necessarily that they’re legal. It’s the love affair between ammosexuals and their guns. The United States doesn’t have a monopoly on irresponsible and angry people, but we do have a monopoly on gun deaths.

GunViolence-620x445 world Facts that the NRA and gun industry don’t want to hear:

  • The United States accounts for nearly 75 percent of all children murdered in the developed world.
  • Children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the United States are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations.
  • Children from states where firearms are prevalent suffer from significantly higher rates of homicide, even after accounting for poverty, education, and urbanization.
  • Easy access to firearms doubles the risk of homicide and tripled the risk for suicide among all household members.
  • Family violence is much more likely to be lethal in homes where a firearm is present, placing children especially in danger.
  • Murder-suicides, a major risk to children, are most likely to be committed with a gun.
  • Gun deaths are not offset by defensive gun use. For every time a gun is used legally in self-defense at home, there are “four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.”
  • The U.S. firearm-related suicide rate is 10 times the average of other industrialized nations.
  • Adolescents living in states with higher gun prevalence suffer from higher rates of suicide and are significantly more likely to live with guns in their homes.
  • Firearms that are stored loaded have the highest risk, while safely stored guns (locked and unloaded) are much safer.
  • Children younger than 15 are nine times more likely to die by a gun accident in the U.S. than in the rest of the developed world.
  • Parents’ ownership of weapons is a significant risk not only to their own children but also to their children’s friends.
  • In the developed world, 87 percent of children younger than 14 killed by firearms live in the United States.

The NRA and extreme gun advocates perpetuate a culture of fear and violence, teaching children that guns are a solution. Bullied students are bringing thousands of guns to schools. Exposure to firearm violence doubles the risk that an adolescent will then in turn commit violent acts over the next two years. The death toll continues to mount. And people blame God.

February 10, 2014

Moral Mondays Start to Sweep Nation

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:08 PM
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“Moral Mondays” marched last Saturday, and the mainstream media took note. They started last year when crowds showed up the North Carolina capitol on Mondays to protest the draconian laws that legislators persisted in passing. After lowering taxes for the wealthiest top 5 percent, Republicans took some of these actions after they controlled the legislature and governor’s mansion in 2012:

  • Raised taxes for the poorest bottom 95 percent
  • Eliminated Medicaid coverage for 500,000 people
  • Deprived 70,000 North Carolinians of unemployment benefits on June 30, 2014
  • Ended federal unemployment benefits for 170,000
  • Enacted a voting law requiring voter ID and cutting early voting
  • Repealed an earned-income tax credit for 900,000
  • Stopped public financing of judicial races
  • Cut preschool for 30,000 children
  • Shifted $90 million from public schools to voucher schools
  • Repealed a law permitting death row inmates to appear a conviction proved to include racial bias in sentencing
  • Allowed hydraulic fracking
  • Amended the state constitution to ban marriage equality
  • Mandated that women “listen to the heartbeat of the unborn child” before an abortion 

Gov. Pat McCrory was dismissive of the protesters, but polls show that by last summer, more North Carolina residents approved of the Moral Monday protesters than of the state legislature. Last Saturday, a crowd of between 80,000 and 100,000 people turned out for the Raleigh rally and marched for justice including reproductive, voting, LGBT, health care, and environmental rights. Last year, the march brought only about 15,000 people.

moral-monday-stage_img 

People in North Carolina know that Art Pope, a right-wing multi-millionaire with close connections to the Koch brothers, bought many of the GOP legislators in the 2010 election who then redistricted the state to protect their grip on the state legislature. It was the first time since 1870 that North Carolina had a Republican government. Art Pope’s bonus from his victory was being in charge of the state budget.   

The 84 people arrested at Saturday’s rally joined the almost 1,000 others who were arrested in last year’s demonstrations, many of them clergy who had never participated in civil disobedience. Last week, police even arrested a journalist who was merely covering the protest.

The state NAACP meeting in Raleigh plus 200 other organizations the number of protesters in Saturday’s “Moral March on Raleigh” from 15,000 in 2013 to almost 100,000 this year. It was the largest civil rights rally in the South since tens of thousands of voting rights activists marched from Selma to Montgomery in support of the Voting Rights Act.

The Moral Monday group has five demands

  • Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that ensure economic sustainability;
  • Provide well-funded, quality public education for all;
  • Stand up for the health of every North Carolinian by promoting health care access and environmental justice across all the state’s communities; 
  • Address the continuing inequalities in the criminal justice system and ensure equality under the law for every person, regardless of race, class, creed, documentation or sexual preference;
  • Protect and expand voting rights for people of color, women, immigrants, the elderly and students to safeguard fair democratic representation.

Spinoffs in George and South Carolina have already started the movement in other states. At the Georgia state capitol, 23 protesters were arrested and housed in Fulton County Jail when they went to the office of state Sen. Jesse Stone, GOP chair of the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. Stone has declined to act on a Democratic effort to repeal the state’s “stand your ground” law and refused to meet with the entire group. The law was recently evoked when a Georgia homeowner shot and killed a 72-year-old Alzheimer’s patient he thought was an intruder. Ten Moral Monday members were arrested on January 27, 2014 when they protested Gov. Nathan Deal’s refusal to expand Medicaid in the state.

Moral Monday can provide a blueprint for the nation. The GOP may want to start taking notice.

August 18, 2013

Fundamentalist Christians’ Creativity

Catholic leaders seem to oppose the rights of women much of the time, but Bishop Robert Lynch has attacked the “pro-life” Population Research Institute (PRI) because of the lies it spreads about Catholic Relief Services (CRS).  In addressing PRI’s accusations that the CRS fails to adhere to Church policy by actively promoting contraception, Lynch wrote:

“From time to time, I suspect when these organizations need money, they try to stir up a hornet’s nest or storm by attacking a Catholic organization, usually falsely accusing them of being anti-life, pro-contraception, either pro or soft on abortion, etc., etc., etc. The storms start small enough and then occasionally grow in size. It’s simply a money-raising scheme with little regard for the human lives which they allege they seek to protect–-well maybe it is only pre-born human life in which they are interested.”

After all this time, a Catholic bishop is complaining about fake “pro-life” organizations that are not opposed to the execution of a severely schizophrenic man on Florida’s death row for 34 years! In addition to ignoring capital punishment, these same organizations oppose avoid immigration reform and food aid.

Lynch also points out the lack of transparency in PRI which refuses to identify both the sources of its allegations and the members of its Board of Directors. He concludes by stating, “Keep on doing the good work of Christ and be an instrument of mercy to the world.”

The courts have come out in favor of “We the People” instead of “We the Christian People.” After issuing a temporary restraining order on Oklahoma’s proposed anti-Sharia constitutional amendment in 2010, Chief District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of the Western District of Oklahoma, struck it down, preventing state courts from considering Islamic and international law. Her ruling stated that targeting a specific religion is unconstitutional and that the law attempts to fix a non-existent problem.

Educators are also winning in Kentucky where creationists and climate change deniers tried to put their stamp on school curriculum.  Despite the complaints that called members of the Kentucky Board of Education as “facist” and “atheistic,” the board approved new science standards to reinforce the teaching of evolution and climate science. Despite being told that they promoted “socialistic” thinking that leads to “genocide” and “murder,” the board declared that evolution is the “fundamental, unifying theory that underlies all the life sciences.” Scientific thought in Kentucky is not home free yet, however, because the board’s changes much at approved by the legislature’s education committees.

Fundamentalist Christians are concerned that children raised in a literal belief of the Bible will be marginalized, leading to physiological harm in the classroom and then on to the genocide and murder. There seems to be no concern about marginalization of children who believe in facts. Baptist minister Matt Singleton told the board that the lie of evolution has led to drug abuse, suicide and other social afflictions. He referred to the curriculum as “the rich man’s elitist religion of evolution.”

After kids learn about evolution in school, they will be confused when they go to the Creation Museum, partially funded by $40 million from the state of Kentucky.  There may be pleas for further funding because the Kentucky museum, opened in 2007 by the Australian-founded Answers in Genesis, has started losing attendance, down 40 percent last year from the year it opened.

For those unfamiliar with this “museum,” it purports to prove that the Bible is correct, that Earth was created as is 6,000 years ago and that people lived here at the same time as dinosaurs. (Fact check: dinosaurs died about 65 million years ago, and humans as we know them didn’t appear until 250,000 to 400,000 years ago.)

creation museum

 

Because of religious indoctrination, about 46 percent of Americans think God created humans in their present form while 32 percent say God helped humans evolve. Only 15 percent think that evolution is a natural process. According to the museum, “God made Adam and Eve on the same day as land animals” and “Before man’s Fall, animals were vegetarians.” Kids’ T-shirts say “On the Sixth Day, God Created Dinosaurs!”

Both the museum and creationist author and filmmaker Darek Isaacs believe that dragons actually lived thousands of years ago. Dragons are compared to Satan in the Book of Revelations, and according to Isaacs, God wouldn’t include them without factual basis. Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis-U.S., added that dinosaurs were with humans on Noah’s Ark.

With Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) leaving the Senate, Georgia Republicans are distressed about the crop of GOP candidates, including Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), who might lose the seat to the Democrats in an increasingly Democratic state with a fast-growing youth and minority voting population. Broun is known for declaring in his church that evolution and the big bang theory “lies straight from the pit of hell” and common refers to Obama as a socialist.

Broun’s beliefs may force his opponents into a hard right position where the winner will be stuck for the general election. Two days after he introduced a “no amnesty” bill barring any legal status for undocumented immigrants, his opponent, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) sent a campaign email with the subject line “stopping tax credits for illegal immigrants.” A leading opponent, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), claimed that Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) horrific remarks about rape and abortion were “partly right.” The Georgia politician/obstetrician apparently believes that women cannot get pregnant without “legitimate rape.” Gingrey later apologized for this statement, but the Internet never forgets.

The GOP hopes to pick up six Republican seats to take over the Senate; losing the Senate seat in Georgia would give them a severe blow.

In less than three months, Virginia will elect a new governor. One of their choices wants to change the commonwealth constitution to let religious schools get taxpayer funding. Currently Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli argues that this current ban on funding for religious schools is the result of “anti-Catholic bigotry in American politics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.” Virginia won’t have to write its own legislation: Cuccinelli is taking the wording from over 1,000 right-wing ALEC-developed models that also promoted voter suppression and “Stand Your Ground” laws. Another of Cuccinelli’s plans is to reinstate an anti-sodomy law.

In a decision regarding city ordinances, San Antonio (TX) will decide whether it will add protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and veteran status in a vote on September 5, 2013. The religiously-inspired crowd of over 200 people led by several pastors repeatedly booed Eric Alva, a gay veteran who was the first Marine seriously injured in the Iraq War, when he spoke in favor of these changes. Alva lost his right leg when stepping on a landmine.

ModernFamilyFundamentalist Doug Sehorne of South Carolina suffered a great shock when he discovered that the cover of his most recent book, presenting literal lessons from the King James Bible, has a photo taken from Modern Family.  One of the quotes in Bible Principles of Child Discipline (from the Book of Proverbs) provides the instruction from Proverbs 23:13-14:  “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”

For those who don’t follow sit-coms on television, Modern Family follows three families, one of them a gay couple—Mitch and Cameron—with an adopted daughter, Lily. None of the characters in the series has shown any proclivity toward beating children, and Sehorne has written on his Facebook page that the program is a “wicked TV show involving a gay couple.” Although he has pulled the book from amazon.com where he was selling e-copies, the cover exists on the never-forgetting Internet.

Bryan Fischer, American Family Association spokesman, has moved redder than Republican states into the red of Russia. On a Voice of Russia interview, he praised the country for their violence toward LGBT people. In his Christian approach, Fischer said, “Homosexual behavior damages the body and soul. We love homosexuals enough to tell them the truth.” Russia has a new law that imprisons anyone who faintly supports the LGBT community, endangering the lives of athletes and others from the United States who attend the Olympics.

Fischer also accused President Obama being absent from the Situation Room during the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound and had his image Photoshopped into the picture only after he knew the mission was a success.

Situation-Room

It takes a lot of creativity to make this stuff up! The people who fabricate supporting statements for their falsehoods could probably make a fortune in advertising—unless they’re already paid well by the churches’ money from taxpayers.

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