Nel's New Day

June 5, 2016

Conservative Governments Push Christianity with Taxpayer Funds

North Carolina’s law that forces all communities to maintain the lowest minimum wage and discriminate against veterans gained fame for keeping transgender people from the restrooms and other facilities that match their gender identities. Far-right religious conservative leaders are taking pride in proclaiming their determination to keep their version of Christianity in laws. For example, that state’s Lt. Gov. Dan Forest made the following statement on a far-right conspiracy theorist’s radio show. He justified HB2, the discriminatory measure, because “we have a lack of moral compass in our country right now, we’ve taken our eyes off God in America, we have turned our back on God, we have forgotten God in a lot of ways, so the moral compass is broken here.”

Forest continued by explaining that these discriminatory laws “discriminate against behavior, not against people.” He compares them to traffic laws: “If I want to go out and drive 95 miles an hour down the interstate in North Carolina because I feel like doing that, I don’t have the right to do that. It doesn’t mean the law is discriminating against me, it’s discriminating against my behavior of wanting to drive 95.” His logic is problematic: traffic laws aren’t created because people have “turned their backs on God.” The other piece of his illogical statement is that a car’s speed has nothing to do with a person’s sexual orientation or identity. Forrest also blamed the media for the entire controversy.

Phil Bryant, governor of Mississippi, is also busy defending his state’s new discriminatory law:  “About 60 days ago, it seemed as if all of the secular, progressive world had decided they were going to pour their anger and their frustration—their friends in the media willingly joining with them to bring all that they could upon the governor of the state…  How dare them [sic]. How dare them [sic].” He finished by stating that he was willing to be crucified for his beliefs against transgender people using the appropriate bathrooms.

In Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad signed a proclamation in April encouraging “all Iowans” to participate in a statewide Bible-reading marathon, a declaration that the ACLU argues is unconstitutional. The marathon is scheduled for four days starting on June 30 and located in front of all 99 state courthouses. The declaration also states that “the Bible is recognized as the one true revelation from God” and that  “I, Terry E. Branstad, Governor of the State of Iowa, do hereby encourage all Iowans to read through the bible on a daily basis each year until the Lord comes.” The “Lemon test” for constitutionality, taken from the 1971 case Lemon v. Kurtzman , establishes three criteria for government action:

  1. Does the government action have a secular purpose?
  2. Does the government action have the primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion?
  3. Does the government action foster an excessive entanglement between government and religion?

Violation of any one of the above violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment which prohibits the promotion of one religion over another. Both Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas objected to the Lemon test, but Scalia is gone from the court.

Mike Robertson, the mayor of Beebe (AR), has selected the celebration of the nation in its freedom from religious and other domination by Britain, to pay for a gospel band at the 4th of July festivity. His letter encouraging people to attend the concert read in part: “Their goal for the evening is to usher in the presence of god and to celebrate the Christian message. They feel privileged and honored to enjoy the freedom to honor Christ with any and all of their abilities.” Robertson’s justification of using taxpayer funds for a religious concert is that people can just stay home if they don’t approve.

Two years ago, Beebe approved a small temple in a garage, thinking that it was Christian, but then falsely claimed the zoning laws would prevent worship on that property after they found out that the temple would be pagan. Robertson’s justification of using taxpayer funds for a religious concert is that people can just stay home if they don’t approve. Beebe is also the town of under 10,000 where tens of millions of blackbirds have died in multiple years, possibly because of its fireworks during a temperature inversion. Or maybe God-created events against the city’s bigotry.

Not every government rejects all religions except Christianity. Philadelphia has followed New York City in adding two Muslim holy days to the school calendar. Students will be given the days off for Eid al-Fitr, celebrated following the month-long observance of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, which marks the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham in Judaism and Christianity) to sacrifice his son for God.  In the upcoming school year, Eid al-Adha falls on September 13 and Eid al-Fitr on June 25, a Sunday.

The 2016-2017 Philadelphia school calendar has already been drafted so students and staff who wish to celebrate the two holidays will have excused absences. After that the Philadelphia school district will send the holiday dates to the School Reform Commission, which oversees Philadelphia’s public schools. These holidays vary each year as Muslims follow a Lunar calendar. Philadelphia is also exploring how to make the two holy days city holidays.

bible emoji

My favorite story of today! Emojis have popped up—briefly—almost everywhere, but they may have hit the ultimate location—the Bible.  Now available is the newest bible translation, Bible Emoji: Scripture 4 Millennials. This project follows The Twible: All the Chapters of the Bible in 140 Characters or Less … Now with 68% More Humor, published in 2013. Jana Riess’s four-year project translates the holy book into tweets; she sent out one tweet per chapter every day.

The creator of Bible Emoji used the translation engine Lingo Jam to automatically translate all 66 books of the Bible. The person chose about 80 emojis from Unicode and 200 corresponding words, linking each with words that are often repeated in the Bible. About 15 percent of the total character count of the biblical text was replaced with modern slang.

The anonymous author of the emoji version who represents himself or herself on Twitter, @emojiBible, shows God as a smiley face. The six-month project had a few glitches. One respondent suggested that the author might be wrong in emojing  “in the beginning angels created the stars & the earth.”

The emoji bible is an excellent example of how Western culture tries to colonize Africa, South America, and the Inuit communities. The bible emoji for prayer hands fails to represent cultures that pray without outstretched hands, and emojis of supernatural figures—angels, the devil, the halo, etc.—are pop Western cultural depictions.

Someday, texting will be passe, and people will communicate completely with emojis. Unfortunately, miscommunication will most likely be even more rampant as opposite little critters can look almost exactly alike. The same thing may happen in the emoji bible.

September 11, 2013

NRA, ALEC Bring ‘Wave of Fear’

The NRA had a win yesterday when two Colorado legislators were voted out because they supported a universal background check for gun purchasing and a limit of 15 rounds in an ammunition magazine in the state. John Morse and Angela Giron were the targets in the recall that brought out fewer than 55,000 voters in an election requiring people to physically vote at the polls rather than using mail-in ballots. Only 35.66 percent in Giron’s district voted, a decline of 23 percent when she was elected. Morse was recalled by 343 votes in an election that brought out 21.25 percent of the voters, 37 percent decline since three years earlier.

People opposed to the new laws tried to recall five legislators but managed to get signatures for only Morse and Giron It was reported that recall supporters intimidated voters at Pueblo polling centers. One person said, “Volunteers are being followed, threatened, having their pictures taken and yelled at. We’re now being told that it’s bad enough to call 911 immediately.” Giron was also the target of the Pueblo newspaper, The Chieftain, who identified himself as a gun owner when he wrote her to tell her he was “responsible for the entire newspaper, including the newsroom.”

There was no real point to recalling these people because the law had already passed, their terms are up in a year, and the legislature still has a Democratic majority. No point except fear. Jon Caldara of the Colorado Independence Institute, claimed:

“If the president of the Senate of Colorado, who did nothing except pass the laws that Bloomberg wrote, gets knocked out, there will be a shudder, a wave of fear that runs across every state legislator across the country, that says, ‘I ain’t doing that ever. That is not happening to me. I will not become a national embarrassment, I will not take on those guys.’ That’s how big this is.”

The NRA paid almost $400,000 to send this “wave of fear” across the country.

At the same time, George Zimmerman, the poster person for Florida’s “stand your ground” laws, continues to be in the news. In the two months since he was acquitted  by a jury for the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin, the police have picked him up for speeding at least twice, once in Texas and the other time in Florida. After a panicky 911 call from Zimmerman’s wife two days ago, the police went to the home where she is living with her father. She reported on the call that “he’s going to shoot us,” had punched the father-in-law in the face, and grabbed her iPad and “then smashed it and cut it with a pocket knife.” The police is trying to get a copy of her video from the damaged iPad.

Zimmerman has a history of violence that was not brought out at the trial because evidence of “prior bad acts” are inadmissible, according to procedural rules, unless he testified under oath and claimed he had no history of violence. In a civil case, Zimmerman might be required to testify, but Florida’s law allows Zimmerman to be granted civil immunity, meaning that Martin’s family might have to pay Zimmerman’s lost wages and attorney’s fees. This part of the law comes from ALEC although they now claim that they no longer support this policy after massive protests across the country. Because of ALEC, over 30 states have adopted a form of “stand your ground” laws.

When Shellie Zimmerman called the police, she said that she was “really, really scared.” She said that he “continually has his hand on his gun and he keeps saying step closer and he is just threatening all of us.” According to police, Zimmerman said that he did not have a gun. In contradiction, his lawyer, Mark O’Mara said:

 “[Zimmerman] acted appropriately. He never took the weapon out. The only thing he really did, which is what he told the police, was on the outside of his shirt, he made sure the gun wasn’t moving anywhere and didn’t do anything because [Zimmerman’s father-in-law] Mr. Dean was sort of coming at him, that can sort of be seen in the video.”

When asked if he had the gun on his person and not elsewhere, for example in his car, O’Mara replied, “That’s correct.”

Shellie Zimmerman has recanted the story that she gave on the 911 call and to the police after talking to her lawyer. At this time she is receiving $4,300 each month from the legal defense of $300,000 that people donated to Zimmerman, income that might stop if Zimmerman goes back to jail.

O’Mara announced that he would no longer represent George Zimmerman in this case. At a later press conference when O’Mara was asked if he had any advice for Zimmerman, he replied, “Pay me.” Zimmerman still owes O’Mara for defending him in the murder trial. 

In another Florida story, the man who shot three people in a neighborhood feud, killing two of them, has gone beyond the state’s “stand your ground” law. William T. Woodward is now declaring defense by the “Bush doctrine.” He said that the men had been calling him names and yelling at him for over a month. On the fatal night, they supposedly said, “Come on boys. We’re going to get him. We’re going to get him, all three of us.” Nobody hit him or approached him or came on his property. Woodward took action by sneaking up on them and firing at them with a semiautomatic weapon.

According to Woodward’s lawyer, the Bush Doctrine, the foreign policy principle that George W. Bush used to invade Iraq, embraces “preventive” or pre-emptive war and can be equated to Woodward’s actions. Even now “stand your ground” laws include the word “imminent” but have no specific legal definition. A few minutes? A few hours? Maybe a few days? Or maybe something that might happen in the future, according to Enoch v. State.

And gun laws can get even crazier. Iowa won’t give drivers’ licenses to blind people, but the state will issue concealed gun carry permits to them. In the past it may have made a bit of sense (although I’m not sure how), but 2011 legal changes in gun permits means that blind people can carry firearms in public. A spokesperson from one county said that gun permits were given to at least three people who cannot legally drive and cannot read the application forms or had trouble doing this because they are visually impaired. Three other county sheriffs said that they also did this.

“I’m not an expert in vision,” Delaware Sheriff John LeClere said. “At what point do vision problems have a detrimental effect to fire a firearm? If you see nothing but a blurry mass in front of you, then I would say you probably shouldn’t be shooting something.” As Stevie Wonder, who has been blind since birth, said last January, “Imagine me with a gun. It’s just crazy.”

Gun rights advocates will support weapons for anyone—including the blind–but sometimes advocate restricting voting rights. Both of these are constitutional rights, but with the conservative push to rid the country of Democrats in legislatures, voting has become increasingly difficult. At the same time, ALEC and the NRA are determined to make the act of buying a gun far easier than it already is. There are 33 states that require no ID for buying a weapon; there are no states that allow voting without an ID. Some of the ID laws are reasonable; more and more of them are not. This ID mania is the “wave of fear” that’s sweeping the nation.

June 27, 2012

If You Lived in Iowa ….

Photo identification has been one of the controversial laws that Republican-controlled states have passed, resulting in numerous letters supporting this egregious attack on voters’ rights by citing that people need photo ID to purchase alcohol or get on an airplane. Never mind that buying alcohol and getting on an airplane are not constitutional rights, but voting is. Never mind that fraud has been so minimal that it gives no justification for disenfranchising 5 million voters in the United States.

Now, however, a Republican state has stepped over the edge and into a morass of slime. Imagine being required to submit a complete credit history—not just a summary—in order to have permission to vote. Iowa does. Gov. Terry Branstad has changed voting requirements for people released from prison through an executive order requiring them to submit the following:

They must complete a 31-item questionnaire that includes the address of the judge who handled the conviction.

They must pay a filing fee.

They must submit a full credit report.

Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State, Matt Schultz supports Branstad’s restrictions because they “send a message to Iowa’s voters that their voting privilege is sacred and will not be compromised.” He seems to believe that God dispenses this right, not the U.S. Constitution.

Since Branstad’s order went into effect, 8,000 Iowa felons would be eligible to vote if they navigated the requirements; fewer than a dozen have received voting rights. One of those who failed is 40-year-old Henry Straight, a truck driver, who was convicted of stealing a soda machine and fleeing while on bond when he was a teenager. He even hired a lawyer but was still unsuccessful in completing the application to the state’s satisfaction.

Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a national group that advocates for policies to make it easier for felons to vote, said that Branstad is “making your right to vote contingent on your financial abilities.”

Thirty-eight states allow most felons to automatically regain voting rights upon completion of their sentences. Felons in prison can vote in Maine and Vermont. Some of the remaining 12 states require payment of fees, application, and sometimes a waiting period. No other state requires a credit history.

Branstad might want to help Straight get his paperwork accepted; Straight said he wants to vote for Branstad.

If an executive order can require a credit history from ex-felons before they can vote, it can require a credit history from anyone.

June 10, 2012

King Thinks Immigrants Are Animals

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 5:46 PM
Tags: , ,

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) compared immigrants to dogs at a town hall meeting May 21 when he said that the way to get good immigrants is to choose the “pick of the litter.” Those are his words. In Pocahontas (IA) he talked about owning lots of bird dogs and advised, “You want a good bird dog? You want one that’s going to be aggressive? Pick the one that’s the friskiest … not the one that’s over there sleeping in the corner.”

According to King, lazy immigrants should be avoided. “You get the pick of the litter and you got yourself a pretty good bird dog. Well, we’ve got the pick of every donor civilization on the planet. We’ve got the vigor from the planet to come to America.”

After his explanation of what makes a “good” immigrant, candidates may take the same task—the friskier the better, according to this conservative. Hopefully, not all Republicans think like this, but enough do to make the pool of legislators scary.

Does King think that the friskiest of lawmakers are the best?

April 13, 2012

Women Still under Attack–Unlike Caterpillars

Iowa parents (translate mostly women) who receive child support would be forced to have drug tests every six months if state Sen. Mark Chelgren got his way. Democrats openly laughed at him yesterday while Sen. Jack Hatch said that Chelgren’s proposed amendment is anti-woman and can be unfairly used by vindictive spouses. (No mention of unconstitutional.) Chelgren withdrew his proposal, but another Chelgren idea, that of drug-testing welfare recipients, was debated today. That’s the latest Republican salvo in the war on women that Republicans claim doesn’t exist.

David Weigel’s Slate article describes the birth and recent death of the war during the past year, but he’s evidently not following the media. If anything, the war geared up after Hilary Rosen’s statement about Ann Romney that she “had never worked a day in her life.” Despite Rosen’s apology that she meant that Romney had not worked outside her home while she raised five children, everyone from President Obama on down to Rosen herself criticized this statement.

Even the Catholic League got into the fray when its director, Bill Donohue, tweeted, “Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen tells Ann Romney she never worked a day in her life. Unlike Rosen, who had to adopt kids, Ann raised 5 of her own.” There has been little negative reaction to Donohue about his putdown of adoptions–and lesbians. Meanwhile some Republicans are crowing that they just won the war on women. The idea is so absurd that some Republican pundits are supporting Rosen.

Romney the candidate is obviously so worried about the voting gender gap that he skewed statistics, saying that women have lost 92.3 percent of the jobs since January 1. His position  is so off target that it will take an entire blog to explain. Suffice it to say, he had to use a date 20 days before Obama took office because using his method beginning with Obama’s inauguration would mean that women lost 300% of the jobs, a statistical impossibility. (More about that in the next few days.)

Women know about the war on their freedoms: forced invasive ultrasounds,  inability to achieve equal pay, and other issues. Nancy Carter and Christine Silva wrote a three-part series for the Washington Post to show how the myths about women are bogus. For example, women ask for raises and promotions, but they don’t get as much in return. The gender gap in level and pay got even wider between men and women as their careers progressed. People take a much tougher position against women in negotiations, for example in selling cars, than against men.

Ryan’s budget that passed the House targets women and their families by gutting programs that help children get nutrition and education. The devastating cuts to SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, mostly affects women, children, disabled, and elderly while it boosts the economy. Budget cuts to Medicaid also hits low-income and middle-class women and families supporting the elderly. Ryan and his cronies would leave poor women to fend for themselves.

Issues keep rising to show this war—and not on caterpillars. This past week, Herman Cain, former Republican presidential candidate, explained why President Obama is over 20 points ahead of women in a recent poll: men are more familiar with policy and women know just about Obama’s family. Answer: men are much smarter than women, so Romney is losing between the two genders because women are dumber.

In Virginia, William Howell, past ALEC board chair and current Speaker of the state’s House of Delegates, was asked about the amount of money that Virginia taxpayers spend to send legislators to ALEC conferences, a place where they find conservative bills that they can take back home and force on the state’s residents. When he questioned the accuracy of a report from Anna Scholl, executive director of ProgressVA, about the expenditures and the 50 plus bills in the Virginia Legislature, including one that called for shutting down companies that hire illegal immigrants and another that would allow people to use deadly force to protect their homes, he said, “I guess I’m not speaking in little enough words for you to understand.” Howell apologized to Scholl after a video of the exchange went across the Internet and onto The Rachel Maddow Show.

Yesterday Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed a bill prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks. Although this new law sounds like those in several other states, it technically prevents abortions after 18 weeks because it calculates the fetus’s age from the pregnant woman’s last menstrual period. Republican males suffer greatly from an understanding of women’s reproductive functioning; they fail to understand that ovulation (Republicans, that’s when there’s a chance for pregnancy if the sperm hits the egg) occurs two weeks after menstruation. As always with Republicans, Brewer added a statement about protecting the health of women.

The new Arizona law also moves the mandatory ultrasound to 24 hours before the abortion instead of one hour. In addition, both Arizona and Kansas are passing bills that allow doctors to legally lie to pregnant women about any health issues in the fetus or pregnant woman.

Less than two weeks ago, Georgia also passed a 20-week abortion limit. In a classic statement, state Rep. Terry England compared pregnant women carrying stillborn fetuses to the cows and pigs on his farm. According to England, if farmers have to “deliver calves, dead or alive,” then a woman carrying a dead fetus, or one not expected to survive, should have to carry it to term. Illinois agrees that women are cattle. The bill that required asking women if they want to see an image of the fetus went through the House Agriculture Committee.

Last fall Heritage Christian Academy in Texas fired 29-year-old Cathy Samford, a teacher and coach, when she asked for a short leave. She and her fiancé had planned to marry a few weeks earlier, but the wedding was delayed. Samford, with two other young children, lost her health insurance. The headmaster said she was fired because of her “behavior out of wedlock” as well as her “being an unmarried mother.” Samford filed a charge of gender and pregnancy discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and is suing the school.

An appeals court in Atlanta is currently hearing the case of fourth-grade teacher Jarretta Hamilton, fired after the principal at her non-denominational Christian school found out that she was pregnant before getting married. Catholic school teacher Christa Dias was fired in 2010 by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after it learned that she had used artificial insemination to conceive; her case is still in court.

Romney has a record of warring on women. He pledged to repeal funding for Planned Parenthood or repeal title X which provides important health services for poor women. When he was a Bishop in the Mormon Church, he went to a congregant’s hospital room and told a young single mother who had just given birth that she was shaming the church and should give her baby away. When Romney ran Bain Capital, less than 10% of the senior workforce were women. The reason, he said in his 1994 Senate race, was that he had trouble finding qualified women to be executives.

Two days ago, when Sam Stein of the Huffington Post asked a Romney campaign aide if the candidate supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a six-second pause was followed by the answer that he would get back to Stein.   The final answer was that Romney wouldn’t try to repeal it. That’s questionable because Romney’s four favorite Supreme Court judges, models for those he would select, all voted against the case that led to Congress passing the act, the first one that Obama signed. Romney also strongly supports Wisconsin governor Scott Walker who just signed the repeal of that state’s equal pay law.

How did Congressional Republicans feel about the Ledbetter Act? Only three House Republicans and five Senators voted for the act: one, Arlen Specter, changed to the Democratic Party; another, Lisa Murkowski, was teabagged by her own party in 2010; and a third, Olympia Snowe, just quit because of her party’s attack on women.

To put some of the war on women into perspective, Alyssa Rosenbert put together A Pop Culture Guide to Surviving the War on Women, “ten pieces of pop culture that will make you laugh, think, and keep you in the fight for women’s rights at a time when the war on women makes America seem more like The Handmaid’s Tale than a modern country.” She highlights satire and science fiction to show the insanity of what’s happening in the 21st century regarding women’s reproductive rights.

Sometimes black humor helps. I laughed out loud this morning when I read Ruth Marcus’ column about Romney’s attempt to have his wife solve his “women problem.” Here are some excerpts:

“Romney, asked last week about the gender gap, twice said he wished his wife could take the question. ‘My wife has the occasion, as you know, to campaign on her own and also with me,’ Romney told newspaper editors, ‘and she reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy.’ Note to candidate: Women aren’t a foreign country. You don’t need an interpreter to talk to them. Even if you’re not fluent in their language, they might appreciate if you gave it a try.

“On the campaign trail with her husband, Ann often talks about the old days when she would be at home dealing with her rambunctious brood and Mitt would call from the road. ‘His consoling words were always the same: Ann, your job is more important than mine.’ This story is supposed to buttress Mitt’s bona fides as supportive husband, and Ann is, no doubt, a more tolerant spouse than I am. But every time I hear that patronizing line, I imagine responding, ‘Great. If my job is more important, then you come home and do it and I’ll check into the nice room at the Four Seasons.’

Will we women continue to put up with the Republicans’ arrogant, controlling attitude toward us? Maybe we should incorporate our uteruses so that they have the same rights as corporations!

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