Nel's New Day

November 10, 2019

Open Impeachment Inquiry Hearings: Follow the Money

Despite frantic tweets from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and vehement denials from GOP lawmakers, the impeachment inquiry proceedings move forward this week with televised hearings. The focus will be on “three interrelated lines of inquiry“:

Did DDT ask a foreign leader for investigations to help his personal political interests, including an investigation into DDT’s political rival and possible opponent in the 2020 election?

Did DDT use the Office of the President to pressure Ukraine for his own personal political interests, including leveraging a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president or withholding U.S. military aid?

Did DDT and his administration try to hide information from Congress and the U.S. people about DDT’s actions and behavior, thus seeking to obstruct, suppress, or cover up information?

In closed-door hearings, GOP representatives tried to avoid these inquiries, for example asking about Marie Yovanovitch’s national heritage. (Her father fled the Soviet Union and then the Nazis; her mother grew up “stateless” in Germany. They moved to the United States when Marie was three.) Other questions tried to whitewash evidence from the Mueller investigation, and one member asked Yovanovitch whether her staff “monitored” the social media account of an alt-right conspiracy theorist who accused a pizzeria as being the site of a fictional Democratic pedophile ring. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), former chair of the Intelligence Committee who leaked information to the White House, questioned the origins of the FBI Russia investigation and pushed accusations of bias in the DOJ.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) gave GOP Intelligence Committee members inquiry parameters for witnesses, but Republicans want to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter by calling them as witnesses. Other GOP witness requests were for Hunter Biden’s business partner Devon Archer; the unnamed whistleblower who DDT and GOP lawmakers are determined to out; the researcher Nellie Ohr of Fusion GPS which commissioned a dossier about Russia and Trump; and Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian American who worked with the Democratic National Committee. Schiff said that Democrats would evaluate the GOP requests for witnesses but added:

“[The inquiry] will not serve … as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the President pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit, or to facilitate the President’s effort to threaten, intimidate, and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm.”

DDT announced that he will release a “transcript” of an April call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, perhaps hoping that it will wipe out the damaging July 25 extortion call. The public and Congress still have no access to the complete transcript of the July 25 call.

Republicans focused their defense of DDT’s extortion by claiming that former VP Joe Biden secured Hunter Biden’s position on a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, during Joe Biden’s time in the executive branch. Hunter worked for Burisma from 2014 to 2019, sometimes earning as much as $50,000 a month, but extensive investigations found no relationship between Hunter’s job and Joe’s influence. Other attacks on Joe Biden without evidence come from far-right conspiracy theorists evolving from attempts by DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to get a corruption inquiry dropped for an associate of Russian organized crime.

Giuliani’s and DDT’s corruption with Ukraine have business purposes indicated by their connection with Lev Parnas, arrested for campaign finance violation and planning to testify before the House. Businessmen used their connections with Giuliani and DDT, hoping to install new board members on Ukraine’s state gas company, Naftogaz, and get lucrative contracts. Part of the scheme, recently resigned Energy Secretary Rick Perry, had proposed a donor as a board member but refused to testify before the House. Sources claim Perry asked DDT to make his July 25 call to Zelensky and represented the U.S. at Zelensky’s inauguration while DDT was still extorting the new Ukrainian president. Federal prosecutors are investigating Giuliani.

A loud voice pushing the lie that Joe Biden’s position benefited Hunter came from Donald Trump Jr. On Sean Hannity’s Fox show to tout his new book, Triggered, DDT’s namesake said:

“I wish my name was Hunter Biden. I could go abroad, make millions off of my father’s presidency. I’d be a really rich guy.”  

Supposedly in charge of the Trump Organization, Trump Jr. has repeatedly leveraged political connections for business deals—selling condos in India for a Trump-branded property and fighting to save a Trump property by asking the president of Panama to intervene for him. Taxpayers paid for his travel. China gave a large number of trademarks to Ivanka Trump, who receives about $4 million each year from the DDT-promoted hotel chain, and her husband, Jared Kushner, has sold over $100 million worth of Trump Organization property since DDT’s election.

DDT’s son, Eric Trump, said, “When my father became commander in chief of this country, we got out of all international business, right?” Unbelievably wrong as this article shows. Eric also whined about Hunter’s advantages that are actually those of Eric:

“Money grows on trees, there are no rules, and the press will always cover for you ….”

Trumps’ views on nepotism:

“I like nepotism. I think, you know, a lot of people say, ‘Oh, nepotism.’ Usually these are people without children. But I like nepotism.”–DDT

Nepotism is “kind of a factor of life” and a “beautiful thing.”—Eric Trump

As for DDT’s newly-discovered concern for corruption, he, along with Ivanka, participated in a hotel development deal in Azerbaijan, which ranks 152nd out of 180 on Transparency International’s index of the world’s most corrupt countries. The Trumps partnered with the son of the country’s then-transportation minister, Ziya Mammadov, described in a U.S. diplomatic cable as “notoriously corrupt, even for Azerbaijan.” The Mammadov family has been connected to a corrupt scheme involving operatives from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. In Brazil, Trump partnered with Paulo Figueiredo, later arrested for his part in diverting pension funds into real estate developments, including the one with DDT. Just a bit of DDT’s corruption.

In a GOP strategy for impeachment inquiry hearings, House Minority Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) transferred Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) to the Intelligence Committee because of Jordan’s aggressive questioning. Jordan faces possible lawsuits about at least eight ex-OSU wrestlers asserting that he ignored sexual abuse reports while Jordan was an assistant coach at Ohio State University from 1987 to 1995. A male student said Jordan shrugged when he told Jordan about sexual abuse by school doctor Richard Strauss. A recent witness said that Jordan “snickered” when he told Jordan about the abuse. Jordan replied, “I have nothing to do with this” before walking away. Originally, Jordan said he knew nothing about the abuse and then shifted to claim that “conversations in a locker room” aren’t the same. The head coach who Jordan worked for apparently knew about the claims. Defending Jordan, DDT and GOP lawmakers followed their pattern of supporting sexual abusers and their enablers unless they are registered Democrats.  

Strauss was accused of sexually abusing almost 300 men during a 17-year period. Ohio State knows of 1,429 cases of fondling and 47 cases of rape by Strauss, who killed himself in 2005. The most recent lawsuit is the 13th against the school, and an attorney said that this information “barely scratches the surface.”

Republicans are caught in a bind of bribery and blackmail. DDT will campaign against anyone who doesn’t support his every action, and he has promised to give money to senators who don’t appear to be 100-percent behind him. Those who face a tight election and sign a resolution condemning the inquiry as “unprecedented and undemocratic” may receive campaign funds; those who have offended him get nothing.

GOP senators benefiting from DDT’s largesse are Cory Gardner (CO), Joni Ernst (IA), David Perdue (GA) and Thom Tillis (NC). DDT also plans to appear at a reception for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s PAC. Receiving no money, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) not only didn’t sign the resolution but also called for a retraction of his tweet comparing impeachment and “lynching” and said that DDT made a “big mistake” asking China to investigate the Bidens. Martha McSally (AZ) was also overlooked in DDT’s gifts because she won’t use WinRed, the DDT-endorsed online fundraising site.

For the 2020 election, 22 Republican senatorial seats are up for election, and the GOP senators on the ballot are behind in fundraising. In the first ten months of the 116th Congress, Jonny Isakson (GA), Mike Enzi (WY), Pat Roberts (KS), and Lamar Alexander (TN) announced that they won’t run for re-election in 2020. About DDT’s donations to some of the GOP senators, Richard Painter, George W. Bush’s top ethics lawyer, tweeted:

“Any other American who offered cash to the jury before a trial would go to prison for felony bribery. But he can get away with it? Criminal.”

DDT and GOP lawmakers sent out a hue and cry for public hearings—until they were announced. Now Republicans use the same decibel level to decry the public hearings that start this week. Follow the money.

February 27, 2019

U.S. House Keeps Busy Despite Jim Jordan’s Complaints

For people who have been watching the situation with former fixer Michael Cohen for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), his testimony today before the House Oversight Committee held few surprises. Points from today:

  • Republican committee members did not try to refute anything he said; they just tried to smear him.
  • The GOP smears against Cohen—that he’s a “pathological liar”—can also be said about DDT, the man who Republicans were defending.
  • Cohen said that he had tried to cover for DDT during the past ten years in the same way that Republicans are doing now.
  • With this comment about protection, he added, “The more people that suffer Donald Trump, as I did blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I did.”
  • Reporters following DDT in Vietnam for his meeting with North Korea president Kim Jong-Un were banned from his presence after asking questions about the Cohen testimony.

Pieces of Cohen’s testimony that many people already assumed:

  • DDT is a “racist,” “conman,” and “cheat.”
  • Cohen quoted DDT as saying that black people were “too stupid” to vote for him and during a drive through a poor section of Chicago said that “only black people could live that way.” Cohen added, “The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries ‘shitholes.’ “In private, he is even worse.”
  • Cohen has checks (which he produced), evidence “as part of a criminal conspiracy of financial fraud,” directed by his son and the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization Allen Weisselberg, to quiet a former adult film actor.
  • DDT told Cohen to lie about his affair with the actor to his wife, Melania.
  • Cohen said he presided over “several” “catch-and-kill” arrangements between David Pecker and DDT for the National Enquirer to purchase exclusive rights for stories damaging to DDT and then suppress the stories.
  • DDT inflated his wealth to appear on lists of rich people rich lists and falsely reduce it to avoid paying taxes.
  • To a question from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Cohen said that DDT’s tax returns would be helpful in showing how DDT sharply reduced his tax costs by undervaluing his parents’ real estate holdings.
  • Cohen believes that DDT’s tax returns were not being audited in 2016 although that’s what DDT claimed.
  • DDT told Cohen that he didn’t release his tax returns because he might get audited and face big taxes and penalties.
  • Roger Stone communicated with WikiLeaks for the release of hacked Democratic party emails during the 2016 presidential election.
  • DDT knew about the June 2017 Trump Tower meeting among members of his campaign with a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
  • DDT used his charity’s money to pay for portrait of himself after driving up the price to impress people.

Cohen finished his testimony by saying:

“Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

Cohen’s described DDT as a mobster-like president, who told Cohen to shortchange suppliers, keep schools from releasing his student grades by threatening them, and deal with negative media about DDT’s Vietnam War draft dodging. Cohen said he had probably threatened a person because of DDT’s instructions at least 500 times. “Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not make his country great,” said Cohen. “He ran to market himself and build his wealth and power.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is under investigation by the Florida Bar because of a tweet that appears to be an attempt to intimidate DDT’s former fixer Michael Cohen the day before he started his open testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Gaetz’s tweet:

“Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…”

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), a former DA and federal prosecutor, asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Gaetz’s tweet because it “clearly defines witness tampering and intimidation.” Her request that could lead to an official investigation and possibly a reprimand, censure or fine. An expulsion would require a two-thirds majority of the House. Asked about why he wrote the tweet, Gaeta said, “The tweet speaks for itself.” Later he deleted the tweet and apologized for sending it.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) attacked Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) during the hearing, falsely accusing him of using his first hearing to start removing DDT from office. Cummings ended the session by talking about the committee’s earlier hearings. The first hearing was on January 29, 2019 concerned the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs; Cummings noted that a young man had died because of these escalating costs. He also told Jordan that they had a hearing on H.R. 1, which was about voter suppression and executive branch ethics. That one was on February 6, 2019. “We can do more than one thing,” Cummings said. “And we have got to get back to normal.” The GOP House was notable for not having hearings before votes.

Credibly accused of ignoring sexual abuse of athletes while he was assistant coach at Ohio State University, Jordan’s accusations of Cohen’s lying and lack of remorse rang hollow to many watchers. Jordan claimed that Cummings had “stacked the deck against the truth” and ranted about Hillary Clinton conspiracies, calling Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis a “Clinton operative.” Then he raged about Democrats doing what Tom Steyer tells them and that Steyer had organized a town hall in Cummings’ Maryland district.

Asked if he believed Cohen, Cummings referenced his history with the law when he said he found him “credible” and that it “appears” that DDT committed a crime. Cummings added, “I think that there are still a number of shoes to drop.”

The House has been far busier than Republicans might like. This week, representatives passed a resolution to overturn DDT’s emergency declaration that takes money for various sources to build his wall without congressional approval. Thirteen Republicans voted with Democrats in the 245-182 vote. According to law, the Senate will be required to vote on the House resolution within 18 days, a March 18 deadline. Three GOP senators—Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Thom Tillis (NC)— have indicated they will vote for the House bill, and others are questioning the sensibility of the national emergency, especially if a future president is a Democrat. Two more GOP votes are needed for a simple majority if all Democrats and independents vote in favor of it. A veto from DDT for any bill passed requires two-thirds support in each congressional chamber.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), ranking member of the Committee on Rules, read a complaint about the lack of time for representatives to review the 70-word bill although Republicans passed the $1.5 trillion, 1,097-page tax bill a few hours after it was completed.

The House also passed a bipartisan bill requiring all gun sellers to conduct background checks on firearm sales by a 240-190. With five GOP co-sponsors, the bill received eight GOP votes and lost two Democrat votes. It expands background checks on private sales, including those at gun shows, on the internet, and through classified ads. The bill is the first significant gun control vote since the Senate failed to pass similar bipartisan legislation in 2013. Another bill is due for a vote that would extend the review period on gun sales.

Yesterday, the House Oversight Committee voted to subpoena the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services for documents about the separation of families at the southern border. Cummings said that the documents submitted to the committee were not sufficient and failed to answer committee questions. Two Republicans, Justin Amash (MI) and Chip Roy (TX), voted with Democrats for the subpoenas. Again Jordan attacked Cummings, saying: “You just wanted to be first.” Cummings pointed out that the request was the same as the bipartisan request from eight months ago.

Other House actions:

The House is doing a lot to make Jim Jordan angry.

July 7, 2018

DDT: Week 76 – Acceleration of Lies

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 11:41 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The 100 lies from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) this past week, partly because his appearance with a fawning Maria Bartiromo on Fox who made no corrections, almost match his 103 false claims of the previous week. Prior to this time, DDT hadn’t exceeded 60 falsehoods per week, according to the Toronto Star. In 2018, he has averaged 5.1 lies per day.

Some of DDT’s lies with Bartiromo

  • “The European Union is possibly as bad as China.”
  • “I guarantee you everybody that ever bought a Harley-Davidson voted for Trump…. They call them bikers for Trump. There’s hundreds,” DDT referring to himself in third person like royalty. [Harley sold under 150,000 motorcycles last year in the U.S., fewer than half the motorcycles sold. https://thinkprogress.org/c72c932d08c3/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tp-letters  In Iowa, 650 jobs may be lost if the Minnesota-based motorcycle company Polaris Industries moves overseas.]
  • Kim Jong-Un is denuclearizing North Korea [although NK is building up its nuclear weapons.]
  • “There’s no collusion with me. There’s no Russia with me. There’s no nothing.” [But there’s proof he’s wrong.]
  • “They found nothing. Nobody has found anything.” [Thus far, the special investigation has guilty pleas from three former members of DDT’s campaign and filed two indictments against his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen is ready to flip on him. Cohen said, “I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy.”]
  • “I think [the markets] trust me, and the farmers trust me.” [The markets are down to the level before the tax cuts, and farmers are begging their congressional representatives for help from the tariff.]
  • The DNC “threw them [the FBI] out of the office” [although it didn’t.]
  • Hillary Clinton disposed of subpoenaed emails [although she didn’t.]
  • DDT said his enemies “better take it easy” indicating his personal retribution if they don’t because they are “dangerous for the country.”
  • DDT said that his tax cuts were “something really special.” [There goes the middle class.]

Other lies:

He talked to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who said that he would increase oil production because gas prices are “to [sic] high.” The phone call did exist, but Saudi Arabia said that the kingdom wouldn’t boost production as DDT said it promised. Gas prices hit a four-year high in June, and DDT’s foreign policies has an influence on the costs. At least the middle class gets a few dollars in tax cuts that will entirely go for gas.

He tweeted he “won lawsuit” about collusion with Russia. The fact is that a case against Roger Stone won’t move forward on technical grounds; the judge wrote that the “ruling is not based on a finding that there is no collusion.” DDT also lied about the DNC bringing that particular lawsuit, but the DNC does have a lawsuit in a Manhattan federal court accusing Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner stating that DDT’s campaign was a “willing and active” partner of Russia in its “brazen attack on American democracy.”

Corrections to more DDT lies during his rally in Montana against the campaign of Democratic Sen. Jon Tester:

  • Military spending is not at record levels.
  • DDT was not the first Republican to win Wisconsin since Dwight Eisenhower. [Wisconsin voted for GOP presidential candidates in 1960, 1968, 1972, 1980, and 1984.]
  • DDT’s tax cuts are not the largest ever.
  • Health plans aren’t enrolling yet because it’s not the time for people to sign up.
  • DDT isn’t good at getting legislation passed.
  • Vladimir Putin really was a long-serving KGB agent and then directed its successor, the FSB.

DDT’s Montana lies and insults reflect the GOP election strategy—more sexism, racism, and hate—sometimes all wrapped together as when he insulted Sen. Elizabeth Warren about her ancestry:

“We’ll take that little kit and say, we have to do it gently because we are in the Me Too generation, and we will very gently take that kit, slowly toss it.”

DDT:

  • Attacked Rep. Maxine Waters with his usual statement that “she is a low IQ individual.”
  • Referred to the separation of children and families at the Mexico border only by sneering at Therese Okoumou, who climbed the base of the Statue of Liberty in protest, by saying that he would have made “that clown” jump.
  • Demanded that NFL players be fired if they don’t stand for the national anthem because staying the locker room was “actually worse” than kneeling.
  • Ridiculed George H.W. Bush’s “thousand points of light” campaign theme promoting volunteerism by saying that he didn’t know what it meant.

DDT was positive only about three world leaders—Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong-Un–and the lack of Montana’s environmental destruction thus far from Scott Pruitt’s Environmental Plundering Agency.

“Not seeing pollution is a wonderful thing. Those are beautiful skies.”

DDT is still describing the investigation into the Russian scandals as a “witch hunt” while Robert Mueller pursues his work.  During a fundraiser at his house on Martha’s Vineyard, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said: “If you think you’ve seen wild stuff so far, buckle up. It’s going to be a wild couple of months.” Mueller has found that several “billionaires with deep ties to Russia attended exclusive, invitation-only receptions [reserved for top donors and close political allies] during Donald Trump’s inauguration festivities.” At least one of them, Victor Vekselberg, has been sanctioned by the U.S. government. Mueller is also investigating Paul Manafort’s debt of $10 million to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska during the presidential election. The U.S. has also sanctioned Deripaska. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes said:

“Nothing to see here, just the indicted campaign manager of the president (who worked for free) owing a Russian oligarch $10 million dollars while Russia was sabotaging the election.”

Another newly discovered $26 million loan from Deripaska to Manafort brings the total to about $60 million in the past decade. Emails also show Manafort’s attempts to curry favor with Deripaska.

Mueller is also looking at the cellphone and computer communications of Blackwater founder Erik Prince, the brother of Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Prince tried to develop a secret channel between DDT and Vladimir Putin.

DDT also swears that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus and leader of the 2013 government shutdown, knows nothing about the sexual molestations of his team members when he was assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State. At least five men have said that Jordan knew about their molestation by former team doctor Dr. Richard Strauss, who killed himself in 2005 and may have molested as many as 2,000 athletes in at least 15 different varsity sports. Former Ohio State wrestler Mike DiSabato said, “I considered Jim Jordan a friend. But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.” DiSabato continued, “[Jordan] took showers with us. He saw Dr. Strauss and others perform these acts in front of us.” One former wrestling coach called the men’s facility used by the team “cesspool of deviancy.” At least six ex-wrestlers said they were regularly harassed by sexually aggressive male students or workers at Ohio State as they masturbated while watching the wrestlers shower or sit in the sauna as well as participating in sexual acts where the athletes trained. Dunyasha Yetts, a 1993 wrestler, said he told Jordan about Strauss’ behavior and asked him to come to the doctor to protect him from fondling.

When one of the molested wrestlers emailed Jordan, the representative complained that he was being “bullied” and threatened to call the Capitol police. Jordan said that he didn’t want to respond to the former wrestler because he didn’t want to “encourage the behavior.” He also claimed to know nothing about the victimization, but investigators said that they had contacted Jordan and received no response.

DDT called the accusers liars and said that he stands behind Jordan “100 percent.” In the past, DDT defended his top staffer Rob Porter who abused his ex-wives and believed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore over a number of accusers suffering from Moore’s sexual conduct when they were teenagers. About Jordan he said, “No question in my mind” despite his lack of information.

Only two of Jordan’s GOP colleagues, Reps. Mark Meadows (R-OH) and Matt Goetz (R-FL), are following DDT’s “100 percent” support of Jordan. Otherwise, Republican members of Congress, even the almost three dozen members of Jordan’s conservative Freedom Caucus, are saying little about the situation except to use platitudes such as “integrity.” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) says that he supports an investigation of the accusations. Jordan had considered a run for Ryan’s position.

DDT thinks he has support for his tariffs, but 56 percent of voters said that his decisions were bad for jobs with 73 percent worried about rising prices. Those figures are worse in election battleground states, and a solid majority of Republicans are concerned about increased costs of products. Those figures are over a week old before DDT said that he was going to apply tariffs to all imports from China. A recession is being predicted.

Leading up to NATO this week and the G20 summit in fall, polls show the difference in confidence regarding U.S. leadership between President Obama and DDT:

  • -75% Germany
  • -71% South Korea
  • -70% France
  • -68% Spain
  • -61% Canada
  • -57% UK
  • -55% Australia
  • -54% Japan
  • +42% Russia

These figures are six months old. Since then, DDT Trump has ratcheted up his hostility toward NATO, NAFTA, the European Union, the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and G-7 while trying to control the world with ill-reasoned tariffs. Next January’s polls will reflect DDT’s lack of leadership with North Korea, the Middle East, climate, etc., etc. Now if only voters will agree with the free world at the polls in November.

July 19, 2015

Religion + Politics = Discrimination

Republicans still reeling from Supreme Court decisions delivered at the end of their session and the showdown over the Confederate flag are working on responses. Because it is unlikely that they can add an amendment to the constitution that would ban marriage equality, they plan to make life as miserable as possible for same-sex couples as possible, using “religious freedom” as their excuse. Bills to grant protections for objections to marriage equality on moral grounds drafted by Rep. Raúl R. Labrador (R-ID) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)  already have 130 sponsors, and House conservatives demanded a vote.

At the same time, other Republicans are searching for ways to expand legal protections for LGBT people. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) has prepared an amendment to limit the inflammatory language from Labrador and Lee plus adding enhanced nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people. His concern echoes those of others that the anti-LGBT bill may “see the Indiana debacle turn into a national nightmare.” The amendment would include workplace and housing nondiscrimination language to protect LGBT individuals from losing their jobs or being denied a home because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Some conservatives in Congress understand that reelection depends on not alienating every constituent except the white man while more extremists go for the throat in every situation. Colby Itkowitz shows the reason behind congressional gridlock in this contrast between Dent and his GOP colleague Rep. Jim Jordan from Ohio.

Asked about whether the House will be having a debate about religious freedom in August, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said, “No decision has been made on—on how best to address these.” In other words, Boehner once again has no idea what to do about his caucus. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is responsible for formally drafting the bill, but it is busy attempt to skewer presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over Benghazi and emails. In the meantime, Labrador said that he isn’t going to give LGBT people legal protections.

The GOP worries that they need to have “religious freedom” laws as legal protection is necessary to keep federal licenses for discriminatory religious broadcasters, federal grants and tax-exempt status for faith-based charities, and funding for Catholic schools. In the past 30 years, very few organizations have lost their tax-exempt status, mainly because of fraud. No one has ever threatened religious organizations that refuse to hire women.

At the same time, the proposed bills have such loose language that “Christians” could fire single women for being pregnant. H.R. 2802, the misnamed First Amendment Defense Act, stops government action against a person—which, of course, includes for-profit corporations—acting from a religious belief that favors their description of traditional marriage. Businesses can discriminate and keep their federal contracts because the bill includes protections for people who believe marriage is between “one man and one woman” and “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” Labrador and Lee, along with their co-sponsors, believe that single mothers can also legally be targets of discrimination.

This concern isn’t in the realm of fantasy: religious schools have fired unwed teachers for being pregnant, even if they weren’t part of the ministerial exception that the Supreme Court blessed. Labrador wants to legalize bigotry because the bill is “just allowing people to continue to believe the way they do.” Lee agreed by supporting the idea that an unmarried woman could be fired from a university for having sex out of wedlock, even if that university receives money from taxpayers.

The politics of the bill are complex because Labrador, co-founder of the extremist conservative Freedom Caucus, has wanted the job of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who controls the floor schedule. When some Tea Party members in the House have gotten out of line, they have seen their legislation blocked as well as temporarily losing their committee positions. The religious freedom act will most likely take a back seat to discussions about whether to declare war on Iran in the next eight weeks, especially because Congress will be in recess over half that time.

Recently, the International Olympic Committee approved Proposal 14 of the Olympic Agenda, keeping the games out of countries with anti-LGBT laws, a ruling that could eliminate the United States from the Olympics if the “religious freedom” bill were to pass. Or from states such as Indiana that have discriminatory laws allowing some areas to deny service to LGBT people, even after the uproar about a discrimination bill. Eighteen other states have laws legalizing discrimination: Florida in preventing same-sex couples form adopting children, Texas in evicting same-sex couples from lodging, etc. The Olympics may prefer London over Louisiana where patriots with Confederate flags can protest a gay swimmer from another country. The heading of the map below shows the level of discrimination in different states based on religious beliefs.

map religious freedom

The far-right population has gotten even crazier since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. For example, Truenews host Rick Wiles has a theory about why the justices voted to allow same-sex couples to marry:

“Perhaps [Justice] Kennedy and many of those who are on the Supreme Court have had sodomite relations themselves.”

Wiles concluded that they were being blackmailed by their same-sex lovers from fear of being exposed. Before the decision, Wiles had promised to renounce his U.S. citizenship if the Supreme Court accepted same-sex marriage. There is no evidence that he followed through.

The Louisiana Supreme Court did determine in Costanza v. Caldwell that the state has to allow same-sex marriage, but they didn’t like doing it. Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll wrote about the “horrific impact these five lawyers have made on the democratic rights of the American people,” and Justice John Weimer said that it is not a judge’s job to “point out what, in my view, the law should be.” One judge even dissented, claiming that he is convinced by the falsehood same-sex adoption leads to pedophilia.

Kansas’ Republican governor, Sam Brownback, issued an executive order prohibiting state government from taking action against clergy or religious organizations denying services to couples based on religious beliefs. His order is so far-reaching that a homeless shelter that receives taxpayer funding could refuse housing to a same-sex couple with a child or a foster care agency could refuse to place a child with a family member in a same-sex relationship. Because “religious organization” lacks definition, businesses could use the order to deny people service.

After the Supreme Court legalization of marriage equality, presidential candidate Rick Santorum repeated his argument that homosexuality is like “man on dog.” The last time he made this declaration, he paid dearly when Dan Savage used a specific sex act as another definition for Santorum.

Glencoe (AL) mayor, Charles Gilchrist, cried Christian persecution because he was asked to follow the constitution by taking down the Christian flag next to the U.S. stars and bars. The city attorney warned Gilchrist that a lawsuit could cost the town more than $500,000, as another town had to do. The Christian flag is being used as a revolution against marriage equality. An anti-LGBT pastor in North Carolina, Rit Varriale, called on churches to raise the Christian flag above the U.S. one, a violation of the U.S. Flag Code. He wanted this done “as a demonstration that Christians will respect and obey the federal government up to the point that the government asks something that is inconsistent with what God has called His people to do.”

My favorite Christian story of the week comes from Queen Creek (AZ) where a woman was upset by the “devilish” cake from Costco. The design for  her six-year-old’s birthday cake from a picture, but she was “extremely shocked and upset to see a demonic symbol written clear as a day” on the cake.

 

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To Jessica Eckerdt, the cute little dinosaur had only three legs, 666 was written on the icing, and images of the devil were spread across the bottom of the design. Plus she bought the cake in Superstition Springs, and Costco has 666 stores. (They really have 672.) Now little kids can no longer get dinosaur cakes from Costco. (The story is almost two years old, but it’s too good to miss.)

September 8, 2013

Working for Separation of Church and State

The Pledge of Allegiance is back in the news, after the 9th Circuit Court ruled three years ago for the 11 states in its jurisdiction, that the pledge does not represent a government endorsement of religion. This time, the case is in Massachusetts where the Commonwealth’s highest court is hearing a case, asking that the Pledge wording revert to its past form without “under God.” The pledge worked quite well for over a half century throughout both world wars until 1954 when Congress thought that the word “God” would protect the country from the Red Menace of the USSR Communists.

Fox “News” host Dana Perino, said that if atheists don’t like having “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, “they don’t have to live here.” She might be upset if she knew the pledge’s background. It came into being after Francis Bellamy’s words were used in 1891 as a device to sell U.S. flags to public schools as a premium for subscriptions to the magazine Youth’s Companion.   Co-founder of the Christian Socialists, Bellamy championed the “rights of working people and the equal distribution of economic resources” and supported public schools—two issues which Fox opposes.

Another ray of hope this week came from Oklahoma where the Tulsa Public School District is defying Christian leadership by abandoning abstinence-only programs. This year schools will use comprehensive sex education in grades 7, 9, and 11. The abstinence-only state has the fourth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, and nearly half of all these pregnant teens don’t graduate from high school. Without the necessary education, they can’t get good jobs which causes a higher rate for welfare in the state. About one-fourth of young unmarried mothers end up in poverty, also a cause of teen pregnancy.

For every dollar that Okahoma sends to the federal government, the state receives $1.36, making Oklahoma a welfare state. A look at the ranking of states receiving federal funding reveals that the vast majority of conservative states are welfare states; only Texas pays more than it receives. In these states that spend millions on failed abstinence-only programs, students don’t know how to protect themselves from HIV, STDs, or unwanted pregnancies, costing the federal government more money.

Two stories about drag queens in the news this week are downright fun.  Jose Sarria, known as the Rosa Parks of the gay rights movement and Empress Jose I, died last month at 90 and left the agenda for his funeral service at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. Female titleholders from his Imperial Court, which he created in 1965, were to wear “black/dark full length (understated) mourning attire, crowns, shoulder length veils covering both crowns and one’s face” along with “black gloves (opera length if wearing short sleeves).”  Males titleholders were “respectfully requested to wear dark suits, crowns and white gloves.” Ten limousines and six buses brought mourners to “a sensational and inspirational graveside ceremony” where Sarria was sent off with full military honors, a band concert, and a song from drag performer Donna Sachet. He was buried next to self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States, Joshua Norton, who died in 1880. It was the event of the season.

sarriaSarria served in the United States Army during World War II. Under five feet tall, he was too short for the height requirement, but he got into the Army Reserve after the attack on Pearl Harbor by seducing a major on the condition that the major approve Sarria’s enlistment. From there he was called up to active duty. When Sarria ran for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961, he was the first openly gay man to run for office. Although defeated, he became a powerful voice for gay rights.

The Advocate provided a wonderful photo spread including Sisters-of-Perpetual-Indulgencex633The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and elected city officials. Other photos are available on Google.

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Other drag queens are planning an action at the Westboro Baptist Church headquarters in Kansas. Planting Peace, an anti-hate nonprofit group for equal rights, plans a drag show at its Equality House on October 26. The facility, painted in rainbow colors as a symbol for peace, compassion, and positive change, is located across the street from Westboro’s Topeka buildings. The event will be called the “Drag Down Bigotry” walk-a-thon.

Filmmakers Lara Zizic and David Turner are premiering their film Mission Congo at the Toronto International Film Festival this Friday, and Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network isn’t pleased. CBN is considering legal action against the depiction of Operation Blessing and how it diverted charitable activities to Robertson’s mining projects. Although volunteers for the international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) performed the vast majority of work to save Rwandan refugees, CBN claimed the credit, and Robertson raised millions of dollars. He continues this charade despite the official investigation accusing him of “fraudulent and deceptive” claims for running an almost non-existent aid operation.

Some of the most damaging criticism of Robertson comes from former aid workers at Operation Blessing, who describe how mercy flights to save refugees were diverted hundreds of miles from the crisis to deliver equipment to the televangelist’s diamond mining concession. The documentary shows how dredges, used to suck up diamonds from river beds, were delivered hundreds of miles from the crisis in Goma to a private commercial firm, African Development Company, registered in Bermuda and wholly owned by Robertson. The pilot said that of the 40 flights he flew into Congo, just two delivered aid, and the others were connected to the diamond mining. He had the words “Operation Blessing” removed from the tail of his airplane.

Revelations of Robertson’s fraudulent Congo activities were initially exposed in the Virginia newspaper, the Virginian Pilot, in the 1990s. Robertson has a history of mining controversies in Africa when he supported the then president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, during that country’s civil war without revealing at the time that he had an $8 million investment in a Liberian gold mine. Taylor was already indicted by a UN war crimes tribunal at the time and was later convicted of crimes against humanity.

Another church group has been exposed for its racism. The Freedom House Church wants “only white people” as greeters, according to a pastor, Makeda Pennycooke. He explained that “first impressions matter” and the church needs “the best of the best on the front doors.”

Obamacare may be linked with Syria when the U.S. House returns. On Washington Watch, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) talked to Family Research Council head Tony Perkins about the importance of defunding Obamacare. Jordan’s suggestion was to hold the budget and debt ceiling raise as leverage (aka blackmail); Perkins one-upped him by saying that the president should choose between funding Obamacare and funding a war in Syria (aka blackmail). Personally I vote for Obamacare!

Separation between church and state is getting even thinner after the Southern Baptist Convention banned members from taking part in weddings, counseling sessions, and couples retreats for same-sex couples. The Convention provides the greatest number of active-duty military chaplains.

American Family Association’s Sandy Rios has already given up on any hope of winning in Syria. Her position is that intervention is doomed because homosexuals and pregnant women have taken over the U.S. military. Another self-proclaimed Christian told his radio flock that people who attend gay weddings should tell the grooms “they shall both be put to death.” Kevin Swanson recommended holding up a sign with  Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man sleeps with a man as he sleeps with a woman the two of them have committed an abomination and they shall both be put to death.”

AugustaColorado’s first gay Speaker of the House, Mark Ferrandino, and his partner, Gret Wertsch, have adopted a daughter, and even a conservative blogger congratulated the couple. Not so former state Sen. Dave Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs) who posted a comment calling the adoption “perverted” and “deliberate child abuse.”

And just because it’s Sunday, we’ll end with the Catholic leadership, this time Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s interview with the Washington Times, controlled by the Unification Church. One of his issues dealt with David Letterman’s joke: “I am telling you if there is anything kids can’t get enough of it’s a 76-year old virgin. Come on, world youth day, or as the Vatican calls it, a salute to altar boys.” Paprocki thinks that this is just plain bigotry and ignorance because the Catholic Church’s success in dealing with the situation:

“For one thing it shows the ignorance of someone who identifies the Catholic Church and, particularly the priesthood, with sexual abuse. Certainly, we have had our unfortunate share of scandals and sin and the church is dealing with that. I would venture to say that of any institution in the country – perhaps in the world–I don’t think anyone is dealing with it as responsibly as the Catholic Church has. So public figures like that continue to point their finger at the Catholic Church and say you have a problem with sexual abuse and people are ignoring where most sexual abuse is taking place. It’s occurring in families. It’s occurring in schools.”

Paprocki’s blinders led him to claim that the main force behind child sex cases was “none other than the devil.” He also claimed that voting for Democratic candidates will doom a person to Hell and said that country is now a “pagan” culture no different from the era of the Roman Empire which oppressed and martyred Christians. He did overlook the fact that the church leaders have neither corrected the problem nor given appropriate restitution to the victims. With the Pope’s permission, they just move all their money into a safe place—the cemetery fund.

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