Nel's New Day

June 28, 2015

‘Christian’ Opposition to LGBT Rights, Healthcare with Love for Confederate Flag

The white, entitled male, Christian fundamentalists were traumatized last week with important events negating their view of how the United States should benefit only them and their beliefs. Their reactions show that they are close to insanity.

On legalized marriage equality:

American Family Radio’s Bryan Fischer covered the complaint waterfront by comparing the ruling to the attacks on the U.S. on 9/11 and Pearl Harbor with a nod to Sodom and Gomorrah, “From a moral standpoint, 6/26 is the new 9/11 because it was on this day that five justices of the United States Supreme Court became moral jihadists.” He continued by saying that June 26, 2015 is “a date which will live in infamy. On this day, the United States became Sodom and Gomorrah.”

GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee predicts that Christians will fight same-sex marriage just as Dr. Martin Luther King fought racial discrimination. He called on conservative Christians to participate in his “Biblical disobedience” campaign against the “false god of judicial supremacy” before he compared the ruling to the Dred Scott case upholding the Fugitive Slave Act returning slaves to their “owners.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) believes that God won’t protect the United States any more because the court “violates the law in order to destroy the foundational building block for society provided by Nature and Nature’s God—that was stated as divine law by Moses and Jesus.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who signed an executive order to discriminate against LGBT people in the name of “religious freedom,” said, “If we want to save some money, let’s just get rid of the court.” Jindal declared himself a GOP presidential candidate last week.

On Breitbart, John Nolte wrote about the need to take down the “fascist, anti-Christian gay-pride flag” because it fosters hate and intolerance against Christians.

A growing movement in conservative states to eliminate same-sex marriage is to eliminate all marriages.

  • Utah Republicans are drafting a bill to “end government agencies’ involvement in issuing marriage licenses.” (Rep. Jake Anderegg, a supporter of the bill, admitted that it had problems because of the laws including probate, inheritance and other benefits tied to marriage. Mr. Anderegg, that was the reason that LGBT people went to court for marriage rights!)
  • Michigan is working on legislation requiring all marriages be “ordained” by clergy, who are not required to perform ceremonies against their “firmly held religious beliefs.”
  • Alabama probate judge Wes Allen of Pike County has declared that he will protest the marriage equality ruling by no longer issuing any marriage licenses, and Geneva County Probate Judge Fred Hamic said he plans to permanently close his office’s marriage license bureau. Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore also says he will resist the ruling.
  • Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said the decision is not effective in the state until the 5th Circuit Court lifts its stay, and State House Judiciary Chairman Andy Gipson suggested that Mississippi follow other states in no longer issuing marriage licenses.
  • Louisiana Attorney Gen. Buddy Caldwell said his office is not immediately enforcing the ruling because there wasn’t a specific mandate in the decision for Louisiana to issue marriage licenses.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton stated that the SCOTUS marriage equality ruling will “embolden” people to abuse Christians because “an increasingly-activist [sic] judiciary” takes away First Amendment rights, which Paxton thinks are there to abuse anyone who doesn’t follow Paxton’s religion.

Pastor Rick Scarborough has decided not to set himself on fire, despite his promise that he would do this if the U.S. enshrined marriage equality. He said that “we will burn” really means that “we will accept any sanction from the government for resisting today’s Supreme Court decision. We do not support any violence or physical harm.” In the same discussion about burning, Scarborough encouraged pastors to say “shoot me first” if bakeries, and florists are “persecuted” for refusing service to LGBT individuals. No follow-up for that statement, but he didn’t ask anyone to shoot him—just recommended that they shoot other pastors.

On keeping healthcare subsidies for low-income people:

Huckabee complained about the Supreme Court rulings being made by “five unelected lawyers … who decided they knew better than the legislators who actually get to make law.” (I don’t remember his complaining about the five unelected lawyers who took contraception for millions of women in the United States.) He also used the usual term “judicial tyranny” to describe court decisions that he hates.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told Elizabeth Prann on Fox network yesterday that Obamacare is “a malignant tumor that is metastasizing, and feeding on God-given American liberty.” He concluded by saying that people “were fine before they met Obamacare, and will get along fine without Obamacare.”

On the killings in the Charleston (SC) church and the pleas to remove the Confederate flag from government property:

South Carolina State Rep. William Chumley blamed his colleague, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, and eight other people in the church for being killed. Echoing the NRA claimed, Chumley said that there would be “less funerals” if the people hadn’t “sat in there [and] waited their turn to be shot.”

Pat Boone knows that Satan caused the Charleston murders and criticizes President Obama for connecting the killings with racism. According to Boone, the killer “was carefully prepared and led by the Devil himself to kill as many Christians as he could. The fact that they were black was an excuse more than a reason.”

Tennessee State Sen. John Stevens compared the suggestion of renaming the Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park to the actions of ISIS. Forrest was a terrorist member of the KKK.

Pundit Ann Coulter accused Nikki Haley of not understanding “America’s history” because she is “an immigrant” because the governor of South Carolina suggested that the Confederate flag be removed from state grounds. As a self-identified “student of American history,” Coulter should remember that the Confederacy attacked the United States of America and caused 620,000 deaths. She did remember that it was a “battle flag” but said that “anyone who knows the first thing about military history, knows that there is no greater army that ever took the field than the Confederate Army.”

Bill O’Reilly told Juan Willians on the Fox network that the Confederate Flag “represents bravery.”

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said he totally “disregarded” a report that white supremacists, anti-government extremists, and others have killed nearly twice as many people as radical Muslims since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Instead, he talked about organized attacks by Muslim extremists, including the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Huckabee, who has something to say about everything, says that the cure for racism is Christianity—the same religion that still has members who want “separate but equal” for blacks and whites.

Usually, disasters bring out the prejudice against the LGBT community. That position is transitioning to hatred primarily for transgender people. On Red State, Erick Erickson blamed Caitlyn Jenner for the killings as did Erich Pratt of Gun Owners of America.

Alabama GOP Gov. Robert Bentley ordered the Confederate flag be removed from the state Capitol grounds so that it won’t be a “major distraction” for the budget talks. At the same time, South Carolina refused to remove the flag or even lower it when one of the slain people at the Charleston church, state senator and Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was taken to the capitol for public viewing by hundreds of people. Rep. James Clyburn, the elder statesman of South Carolina politics, requested that they take it down just for the viewing, but the legislators refused. State Sen. J. Thomas McElveen III spoke for millions of people in the United States when he said, “I am troubled that the flag a murderer waved as a banner of hatred flies as his body lies in repose.

bree newsomeEarly yesterday morning, Bree Newsome climbed the 30-foot flag pole on the South Carolina capitol grounds to tear down the Confederate flag. The protest was shortlived; a black state employee was ordered to return the flag. The action needed to be fast because of the “Confederate flag pride” rally scheduled that morning where white people waved dozens of Confederate flags. The black man who told them that the flag represents a time of black slavery and the war fought to keep them in bondage was told to “go back to where you came from.” He responded, “I am where I came from.”

Since the killings, nighttime fires have damaged or destroyed at least six predominantly black churches in four southern states in the past week. At least three of them were from arson. The first one was at a Tennessee Seventh Day Adventist Church last Monday, followed by a fire at God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon (GA) and another in North Carolina.

Last week saw remarkable advances for people in this country, but we have a long way to go to overcome the strong sense of entitlement by people like the shooter and the white fundamentalist Christians who think that they own the United States.

June 27, 2015

Subsidies for Healthcare–For Now

The day before the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, it kept the healthcare subsidies for low-income people in King v. Burwell. Thanks to a 6-3 decision, over 6 million people are able to keep their health insurance because the Supremes didn’t allow four words to restrict subsidies to only the states with their own healthcare exchanges. For the second time in three years, conservatives hate Chief Justice John Roberts for retaining the law that expanded health care to an additional 16.4 million people although Justice Anthony Kennedy also voted with the more progressive block of four justices. Roberts wrote, “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.”

Hospital operators and insurers largely supported the court’s decision to keep the subsidies that remain in the 34 states using the federal exchange as well as the other states that have either their own exchanges or a combination. The lawsuit was financed by a conservative group, Competitive Enterprise Institute, that found four unlikely plaintiffs who are eligible for subsidies but just don’t like the law. GOP members of the House have voted over 50 times to repeal the law and plan to continue the repeals in lieu of passing laws that would help people.

The court’s decision made the law more secure than if the conservatives had not brought the lawsuit because it holds that the subsidies are a permanent part of the ACA that can be changed only by Congress. Before the ruling, a president might have blocked the ACA by executive action; now changes must be made by a majority vote in the House and a 60-vote margin in the Senate.

Two years ago, Scalia used the term “legalistic argle-bargle” for the court’s rationale in keeping the ACA. In this dissent, he maintained that Roberts’ reasoning was an act of “interpretive jiggery-pokery.” A great irony is that dissenters Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito declared that the ACA intended subsidies for all eligible consumers regardless of state or federal exchanges three years ago in NIFB v. Sebelius. This year the three of them moved 180 degrees away from their earlier position in opposing the ACA.

The conservative viciousness toward the ruling, although not surprising, was still disgusting. Fox host Andrea Tantaros called the “judiciary, John Roberts included, is now just the water boy for the welfare state.” Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro drew his comparison from the erotic novel/movie Fifty Shades of Grey when he tweeted, “The Roberts Court took the ACA to its Red Room of Pain and then alternatively tortured it and made love to it until it complied.” On Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, Wayne Allyn Root wrote that Roberts’ decision shows that he is being blackmailed by the Obama administration.

GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called the Supreme Court decisions to give health care to low-income people and legalize marriage equality as “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.” To him, it’s much worse than the Civil War, two world wars, the attacks on the World Trade Center—I could go on and on.

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) believes he has found a way to punish the Supreme Court justices for its decision: he has introduced the “SCOTUScare Act,” requiring “the Supreme Court and all of its employees to sign up for Obamacare.” As many other people—including conservative members of Congress—fail to understand, no one “signs up” for the ACA. The law simply protects people from some unreasonable provisions of insurance companies—lifetime caps, denial because of pre-existing conditions, and skyrocketing premiums not used for medical needs.

Former Texas governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry is a classic example of the GOP approach toward health care for low-income people. Called out for having the largest number of uninsured people in his state—one out of five Texans without health insurance—he said, “We make access the real issue.” Texan uninsured are four times less likely to have regular health care and more likely to die of health-related problems. Insurance would improve their overall health by 7 to 8 percent.

“Texas has been criticized for having a large number of uninsured,” Perry said. “But that’s what Texans wanted.” By not expanding Medicaid, 1.5 million Texans, with a median income of $833, are denied health care. In that state, non-disabled parents must earn less than $,500 for a family of four to gain the existing Medicaid. Texas has lost about $10 billion a year for the expanded program with Texas paying only seven percent of the cost, but Perry said that even $1 in the name of “Obamacare” was a dollar too much.

Many GOP members in Congress know that the King ruling saved them from disaster because they had no plans if they had won. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) smiled at the ruling, and a GOP congressional member said “that fight could have killed us.” The candidates now  focus on electing a GOP president to get Congress closer to repealing Obamacare. They talk about putting the patient back in charge of their health care—all patients, that is, except women.

Candidates may wish to use caution, however, in using anti-healthcare for their platforms. In April, an Associated Press-GfK poll showed that 56 percent of the people wanted a ruling in favor of subsidies in contrast to the 39 percent opposition. Another 51 percent wanted Congress to subsidize premiums in all states. In CBS News/New York Times polling, 47 percent of people approve of ACA, the highest percentage thus far and more than the 44 percent who oppose the ACA.

A question is why so many people are opposed to the ACA when so few people are actually affected by it. The relentless pounding from conservatives against the law is a big reason, but even more, people blame the ACA for any problem in the health care system. Too few doctors? Rising costs of premiums and health care? Deductibles too high? It must be Obamacare. Premiums go up every year, but the cost has increased less since the law went into effect. Out-of-pocket costs are going up faster than wages, but that didn’t start with the law. Higher deductibles began before the law. Most people don’t remember the problems before the ACA’s protections went into effect, and the conservatives work every day to erase their memories.

uninsured

The SCOTUS ruling helped over 6 million people, but it didn’t do anything for the 4.3 million people prohibited from getting coverage in the 22 states that refuse to expand Medicaid. Ten of these states are former Confederate states, and most are former slaveholding states. About 61 percent of the people in the Medicaid gap live in Florida, Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina. In the states with expanded Medicaid, early detection and treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes saves money from more advanced costs. Hospitals in states with expanded Medicaid save money by reduced uncompensated costs of treating the uninsured. Baton Rouge General Medical Center Mid Center (Louisiana) recently had to close its emergency room. It’s also notable that many GOP presidential candidates come from states that reject healthcare for low-income people.

Another 36 million people earn too much for Medicaid eligibility and can’t afford health insurance. The solution for this would have been the single-payer system that the Republicans proposed over two decades ago but refused under President Obama because they didn’t want to make him look successful.

Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote a column four years ago, entitled, “Republicans: Trillions Could Be Cut from Budget if We Eliminate Empathy – Humanity Also on Chopping Block.” The problem with satire is that it is sometimes true. Borowitz has brilliantly described the GOP position of 2015. He attributed this statement to then Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who lost his position to another legislator with even less humanity, but the problem remains:

“Once congressional Republicans eliminate such empathy-laden budget items as lunches for poor children, medicine for the indigent and oxygen for seniors, … we can move from cutting empathy to cutting humanity.”

“With humanity removed from the budget, he said, ‘That’s where the real savings come in.’

“By eliminating the food, medicine and oxygen necessary to sustain human life, ‘We will reduce the single biggest drain on the U.S. economy: people.’”

In a supreme touch of irony, Chief Justice John Roberts held up the marriage laws of Kalahari Bushmen, the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians, and the Aztecs as examples of “a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia.” The Bushmen are Botswana’s poorest citizens, the Chinese are hated by most conservatives, the Aztecs believed in human sacrifice, and the Carthaginians followed a polytheistic religion—possibly with infant sacrifices.

With these societies used as models for the conservatives, the GOP has truly lost its humanity.

November 7, 2014

Obamacare, Marriage Equality at Risk

The voters—or lack of them—have done their damage to the federal legislative branch, and the Supreme Court has decided to see what disaster they can wreak. Today, at least four justices decided to take on a review of King v. Burwell, a case similar to Halbig v. Burwell. Because of sloppy drafting, the ACA law was left with contradictory statements after two chambers agreed on the changes. One provision limits subsidies to “an exchange established by the state,” but the law allows the federal government to run exchanges in states that do not have them. If the Supreme Court were to rule in the former terminology, at least 5 million people would see the cost of their insurance to skyrocket above what they could afford, disenfranchising them in the same way that people lost the right to vote in the most recent election.

ACA states that when a state doesn’t set up its own marketplace, the federal government “shall establish and operate such exchange.” The IRS issued a regulation allowing subsidies whether the exchange is run by a state or by the federal government. A few months ago, however, a conservative three-judge panel from the D.C. Circuit ruled in Halbig that the Obama Administration had rewritten the law and that Congress never intended to allow subsidies to people on a federal exchange.

 

On the same day, the 4th Circuit Court ruled in King in favor of a federal exchange. Judge Roger Gregory ruled that the law is ambiguous and therefore “applying deference to the IRS’s determination . . . we uphold the rule as a permissible exercise of the agency’s discretion. His precedent is a 1984 Supreme Court ruling in favor of Chevron giving agencies great deference in interpretations of laws. More recently, the Court ruled in Arlington v. FCC that agencies could define their own jurisdiction.

 

The D.C. Circuit decision is not final: Halbig is on en banc review with all the judges in that specific appeals court with argument set for December. Reversing the original ruling would leave no split in the circuit courts, yet the Supreme Court decided to take on the case before a lower-court ruling was made.

 

As Brian Beutler wrote in the New Republic, the four justices taking the case have changed a court into a death panel for people in 36 states. Their potential to void health care subsidies in three dozen states would cripple the insurance market and kill people who couldn’t afford insurance. Placing the onus on red states for health care would be worse than the current situation in which these states refuse to allow the federal government to provide Medicaid for most of the poor residents.

 

Many articles about the problem, particularly ones from conservative writers, broadly quote Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, as an expert who opposes ACA. Adler, who has tie-ins with the Heartland and Cato Institutes, is making a name for himself with the inconsistencies he discovered in the drafting of ACA. Case Western Reserve law school is ranked 64th in the nation.

 

The Supreme Court is also likely to address the issue of marriage equality after the 6th Circuit Court determined that Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee can continue to ban same-sex marriage. The court waited three months after arguments to release its opinion. Earlier this year, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had said that the high court would probably not hear any marriage equality cases unless a split on decisions from the circuit courts creates “some urgency” to resolve a circuit split. Now the 6th Circuit has done exactly that.

 

The panel striking down same-sex marriage included Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a former law clerk to Scalia and a George W. Bush appointee. Adler described another judge on the panel, Deborah Cook, as “not likely to recognize a constitutional right that the Supreme Court has not yet recognized.” In arguments Sutton called any problems caused by banning gays and lesbians from being married—such as not being able to get drivers’ licenses or adopt children—as an “inconvenience.” Only senior Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey seemed supportive of constitutional rights for LGBT people who cannot be legally married in the state where they live.

 

The panel ruled that same-sex couples can neither be married in its jurisdiction nor be considered married if they wed in a state where marriage equality is legal. It used the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding a state ban on same-sex marriage in the 42-year-old case, Baker v. Nelson (1972) and rejected any reasoning in other federal court rulings that struck down state bans. Sutton claimed that the rational foundations are to regulate sex between men and women to establish stable family relationships. Neither judge could find any hostility toward gays and lesbians in denying them the same marriage rights as heterosexuals have. The solution to marriage equality, according to Sutton’s opinion, is for gay rights advocates to achieve “greater acceptance” so that people will legalize it.

 

In his analysis of Sutton’s ruling, Mark Joseph Stern wrote:

 

“Instead of analyzing the 14th Amendment’s dual guarantees of liberty and equal protection, he simply states that gay people have no business fighting for their civil rights in court. After a while, Sutton’s repeated insistence that it’s not a federal judge’s duty to enforce the constitution makes you want to grab him by the shoulders and ask, then what in the world were you hired for?”

 

Stern described Daughtrey’s dissension as “a scorching, bitterly funny, profoundly humane excoriation of Sutton’s sophistry.” In her opening, she writes:

 

“The author of the majority opinion has drafted what would make an engrossing TED Talk or, possibly, an introductory lecture in Political Philosophy. But as an appellate court decision, it wholly fails to grapple with the relevant constitutional question in this appeal. … Instead, the majority sets up a false premise—that the question before us is “who should decide?”—and leads us through a largely irrelevant discourse on democracy and federalism. In point of fact, the real issue before us concerns what is at stake in these six cases for the individual plaintiffs and their children, and what should be done about it. Because I reject the majority’s resolution of these questions based on its invocation of vox populi and its reverence for ‘proceeding with caution’ (otherwise known as the ‘wait and see’ approach), I dissent.”

 

She continues by objection to Sutton’s opinion because he fails to view “the plaintiffs as persons” and instead perceives them as “mere abstractions” with no concern for the plaintiffs’ children. According to Daughtrey, the children of gays and lesbians are punished by the parents’ inferior status thrust on them by law from an irrational animus simply because they are gays and lesbians. Such a situation violates the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

 

In conclusion, she wrote:

 

“More than 20 years ago, when I took my oath of office … I solemnly swore to ‘administer justice without respect to persons,’ to ‘do equal right to the poor and to the rich,’ and to ‘faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me … under the Constitution and laws of the United States.’ If we in the judiciary do not have the authority, and indeed the responsibility, to right fundamental wrongs left excused by a majority of the electorate, our whole intricate, constitutional system of checks and balances, as well as the oaths to which we swore, prove to be nothing but shams.”

 

Even the conservative Washington Post found Sutton’s arguments to be “weak” and worse.

 

Rights for same-sex couples did advance in two states this week. On Tuesday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request from the Kansas attorney general to stop same-sex marriages because doing so violated the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.  Kansas is appealing to the Supreme Court through Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In Missouri, U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith struck down that state’s marriage ban but delayed his ruling pending appeals to either the 8th Circuit Court or the Supreme Court.

Smith wrote:

 

“There is no hardship in requiring that public officials adhere to the Constitution, and the public interest is always served when the Constitution is obeyed.”

 

Despite the delay, same-sex couples began getting licenses and married in St. Louis.

 

Before the Supreme Court decided Windsor v. United States, it was estimated that about 130,000 same-sex couples were married in the United States in a little over half the number of states that now have legalized marriage equality. That number must have doubled or tripled by now although no one is keeping statistics. If the Supreme Court rules that the people can decide to take away this right, many of these marriages could be dissolved because most of the 34 states recognizing same-sex marriage have done so through judicial or legislative action. These people will join the 7 million disenfranchised voters and the 5 million people losing health insurance. Such is the power of the “high court.”

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