Nel's New Day

February 5, 2017

DDT Aims U.S. toward Bigoted Theocracy

With 80 percent of the evangelical vote in the recent election, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is paying them back for their loyalty. He nominated Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court to get anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-death with dignity rulings. At the National Prayer Breakfast, he promised to allow tax-exempt churches to promote candidates from the pulpit and engage in other political action while keeping their tax-exempt status. And he appointed Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. to an educational task force for the Department of Education that will use right-wing fundamentalist Christianity in controlling higher education through eliminating regulations to keep the institutions secular.

In a bizarre appearance, DDT gave a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast that lambasted Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance on The Apprentice and asked the audience to pray for the series that he produces. Then DDT proceeded to justify his ban against Muslims entering the United States by saying that  it will ensure that everyone in the U.S. will follow “our values of religious and personal liberty.” About Senate Chaplain Barry Black, DDT asked, “Is that an appointed position? I don’t even know if you’re Democrat or if you’re Republican, but I’m appointing you for another year, the hell with it.” Yup. The hell with it.

DDT used Jefferson’s language at the prayer breakfast to argue for limiting worship in the United States to Christianity and eliminating the Islam religion:

“It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, the God who gave us life, gave us liberty. Jefferson asked, can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God. Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. . . .”

The founding father believed in the “right to worship,” not the right to take away other people’s rights.

The last fragile vestige of separation of church and state came from the Johnson Amendment from over a half century ago, but Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) have introduced legislation to eliminate that law. DDT declared he would destroy the law. The proposed bill would ban religious institutions from donating to campaigns, but there can always be amendments.

Under the existing Johnson Amendment, religious groups may discuss political issues but not endorse candidates. Religious groups may spend up to 20 percent of their operating budget on political organizing and advocacy without violating their tax-exempt status. LifeWay, a religious research organization, found that 79 percent of U.S. citizens don’t believe “pastors [should] publicly endorse political candidates during a church service.”

DDT has still not overturned President Obama’s executive order that prohibited federal contractors from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation, but he is considering an executive order allow religious beliefs to discriminate against anyone. The basis of the drafted order:

“This Constitutional protection ensures that Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their consciences, and will remain free to express their viewpoints without suffering adverse treatment from the Federal Government.”

Although the news media has focused on the order’s effect on LGBT people, it could be disastrous for children, non-Christians, unmarried heterosexual couples, unmarried mothers, and women’s reproductive rights, including contraception and abortion—in short, permitting anyone to refuse any services for any self-declared “religious” reasons. The order could permit child abuse, domestic violence, injuries, any persecution or humiliation, and perhaps even murder. Parents could deny medical attention to their children and allow them to die.

The order would cover “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations” “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”

In addition, the order would allow any church or charitable organization  to be directly political without losing their tax exempt status if  it “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”

According to the draft of the order, agencies shall faithfully discharge their duty to accommodate the religion of federal employees and shall not promulgate regulations, take actions, or enact policies that substantially burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious exercise

Asked if DDT believes that Islam is a religion, senior White House aide Sebastian Gorka, a former Breitbart national security editor, refused to answer. Islamphobia has run rampant at the White House: its National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, described Islam as a “cancer,” which “hides behind this notion of being a religion,” and Steve Bannon has made other inflammatory comments about the religion. Avoiding to answer this question indicates that the answer would probably be “no—Islam is not a religion” from the White House administration.

Pope Francis called out DDT on his Muslim ban, criticizing “the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions.” Francis explained:

“The sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy, which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ. You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian.”

The pope cited the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25 which concluded, “I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”

[Note: DDT’s staff must have taken away his phone again. Thus far, he has not tweeted against the pope–just the “so-called judge” who overturned his Muslim ban.]

Fundamentalist Christians are accusing progressive women of being witches if they don’t support DDT. In the past men controlled women by declaring them witches and killing them. The water test meant that they were innocent if they drowned and guilty—and then burned at the stake—if they survived. Twenty-first century men are bringing back the threat of witchcraft for uppity women who marched for our rights.

According to “prophet” Rick Joyner, any opposition to DDT is the sign of devil influence and explained that the march’s “out-of-control rage” had to be Satanic. Lance Wallnau accused the nature of “the progressive spirit” in “a desire to control and intimidate, manipulate”—just like witchcraft. Jim Bakker chimed in with his second wife, Lori, to talk to Billye Brim who explained that the march was “driven by demons” and called on her viewers to pray in order to “control the demons that were in those women.” Bakker agreed that he sensed “the most evil spirit I have ever felt” in his hotel lobby on the day of the march.

Bakker was imprisoned for several years and then divorced after his sex scandal, including an alleged rape, and accounting fraud. Jerry Falwell, Sr. called Bakker a liar, an embezzler, a sexual deviant, and “the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history.”

Despite the founding of the nation on religious liberty, almost one-third of people in the United States think that only Christians can be real “Americans.” Once again, the youth of the nation may save the country: 44 percent of adults over 50 find Christianity being a key whereas only 18 percent of adults younger than 35 agree.

Religion as the key to being a part of the national identity is far more prevalent than it is in other countries. Only 13 percent of Australians, 15 percent of Canadians, and 15 percent of Europeans believe that belonging in their countries is tied to the Christian religion.

In answer to another question on the poll, the same percentage of people in the U.S.—32 percent—think that people have to be born in the country to be an “American.”

Under DDT, the United States is shifting from being a “flawed democracy” to a white supremacist theocracy.

October 15, 2016

Trump, Sons Lead Rape Culture

Filed under: sexism — trp2011 @ 9:52 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Whenever Donald Trump’s children appear, they seem so well-behaved–in great contrast to their father. Even Hillary Clinton praised them in last Sunday’s town hall. Since then, however, Trump’s two sons have shown themselves to be either woefully ignorant or sexist.if-only-women-could-vote

if-only-men-could-vote

 

 

 

After Nate Silver released voting demographics of the United States showing the differences between men and women, son Eric Trump used the above map on the right as a fundraiser. His email, entitled “Momentum,” stated, “We’re making huge gains against Crooked Hillary that you can see for yourself.”

Eric Trump may not have known that his “momentum” happens only if the 19th Amendment, allowing women to vote in federal elections, is repealed within the next 24 days. Some of Trump’s deplorables, however, are promoting a “rigged election” with their hashtag #repealthe19th.

Trump’s other son, Donald, Jr., is another apple who fell close to the Trump tree in his “family values” and attitudes toward women.

Donald Trump, Jr. in 2013 about women permitted in all-male golf clubs:

 “If you have a guys’ place you have a guys’ place.”

Junior explaining that men “hate having” women around because they complain about things like harassment:

“They stop us from doing what we want to do.”

An excuse Junior provides for his father’s admission that he’s a sexual predator:

“I think sometimes when guys are together they get carried away, and sometimes that’s what happens when alpha personalities are in the same presence.”

More from Junior about sexual harassment:

“If you can’t handle some of the basic stuff that’s become a problem in the workforce today, then you don’t belong in the workforce. Like, you should go maybe teach kindergarten. I think it’s a respectable position. You can’t be negotiating billion-dollar deals if you can’t handle, like, you know.”

Junior mocking women who he accuses of suing just to make money:

“’This is my get-rich-quick scheme. I’m now suing you guys because I feel uncomfortable.’ And by the way, that’s what happens in the world. I can play along, I can be fine, and then I can decide randomly, ’Uh oh, you now have crossed the line, even though I’ve been going with it.’”

Junior in defense of his father’s behavior, including groping women:

“I think it makes him a human. I think it makes him a normal person, not a political robot.”

Trump, Jr. writing about his wife’s breast-feeding as he displays the same lack of respect for women on social media as his father :

“If ur a boob guy this whole lactation thing is amazing the sports bra the wife is wearing is losing the containment battle!!!”

In just the past three days, the number of women who declared that Donald Trump sexually assaulted them has gone from two to 12. This week is sure to bring reports from more women. Yet Republicans cling to the GOP presidential candidate like barnacles. Even some of the national legislators returned after they disavowed him following the Washington Post’s release of the infamous video with Billy Bush, George W. Bush’s cousin, in which Trump claimed to be a sexual predator.

At his rallies, Trump declares that the women who have accused him are too ugly for him to attack. [Left: Rachel Crooks; right: Jessica Crooks; below right; Natasha Stoynoff]

leeds-crooks

natasha-stoynoffAfraid of violence against her and her family from Trump supporters, Mindy McGillivray, another woman who had described Trump’s sexual assault, said she was leaving the country.

Fox Business Anchor Lou Dobbs, an open Trump supporter, published the address and telephone number of 74-year-old Jessica Leeds, who was assaulted by Trump on an airplane when she was 40 years old. In an attempt to discredit his attack on Leeds, the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post published a report from Englishman Anthony Gilberthorpe who said that Leeds was the aggressor and confessed to him her desire to marry Trump. At the time, he was 18 years old. Since then he has been identified as a serial liar, but the Fox network is delighted to repeat the story.

Six months ago, Republicans panicked about the very thought that transwomen would grope their daughters and wives when they passed laws to keep transwomen out of the women’s bathrooms. Yet the reality that Donald Trump would actually grab “p***y” was passed off as “locker room talk” despite Trump’s admission on a Howard Stern show that he is indeed a sexual predator. Trump, his family, and his supporters are promoters for a rape culture in the United States.

In addition to exposing Donald Trump for the man he is, the women describing his sexually predatory behavior have brought out the problem of workplace sexual assault, particularly prevalent among low-wage workers. Last week, 15 McDonald’s employees filed harassment charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This harassment is so common among hospitality workers that Unite Here, their national labor union, has launched a campaign to address the problem.

Over three-fourths of almost 500 casino workers in the Chicago area reported incidents of sexual harassment. Researcher Sarah Lyons said, “Forty-nine percent of the housekeepers we surveyed said a guest had exposed themselves, flashed them or answered the door naked.” Women sexually harassed at work say that they don’t report these incidents because they fear they won’t have any support. Unite Here is working on legislation to ban guests sexually harassing employees and provide panic buttons to employees who work alone in rooms.

Since women began to reveal Trump’s assaults, more women are opening up about sexual assaults. The live chat helpline for sexual assault accusations, operated by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) had a 33-percent increase.  Calls to the telephone hotline have also gone up by 35 percent. RAINN President Scott Berkowitz said, “A lot of people calling have specifically said that it was the Trump stuff that got them thinking [about calling].”

Yesterday Trump blamed Clinton for plotting “the destruction of U.S. sovereignty” by meeting with global financial powers. On the campaign trail today, Trump is still vehemently denying the avalanche of sexual assault and making baseless accusations ranting about how the election is rigged, vowing to put Hillary Clinton into jail, and charging her with being on drugs at the last debate, calling on her to get tested before the next debate. It may be that he is projecting again after his constant sniffles in both his debate and town hall with Clinton and his uncontrollable shifts in mood and energy levels. The next debate is four days away. As usual, the major question is which Trump will appear.

January 19, 2015

How Some People Commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.

Filed under: racism — trp2011 @ 10:17 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Forty-four years after his death, Martin Luther King, Jr. is commemorated by a federal holiday, despite past legislators’ objections. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was one of those objectors: he voted twice against celebrating King in Louisiana. Three Southern states have diluted their dismay at the MLK Day by celebrating Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s birthday on the same day. Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi use the same day to honor Lee.

The Ku Klux Klan scattered leaflets in the Manchester neighborhood of Pittsburgh (PA) with King’s mug shot from an arrest under the name “Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” Similar ones appeared in Chester (VA), and Sam Green, who claims to be the Great Titan of the Richmond area, asked “why people would be upset about the truth.” KKK Imperial Wizard Chris Barker said about the flyers in Georgia, “We told our members to go out and pretty much counteract Martin Luther King’s birthday, who was a known communist–and we decided to put out Klan literature.”

The DeKalb County (AL) Superintendent Hugh Taylor banned a school history club from its collective attendance at a viewing of Selma because of “racial profanity.” The film features such icons as Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Hosea Williams, and James Bevel as they marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 to fight for voting rights in the Jim Crow South. Rev. James Stanton, the black parents of a senior in the history club, spoke out against the white school official’s decision asking whether the school wants to keep students from knowing about the march. “I don’t believe it is just about the profanity,” he said. Stanton remembers watching Saving Private Ryan in that same school. That movie has an R rating for “battleground chatter” (aka frequent four-letter words) and the use of “Krauts” for Germans. Selma is rated P-13.

In other parts of the country, over 285,000 students in 24 cities saw the movie, thanks to the $2.1 million raised by a group called Selma for Students.

The Tea Party invited Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and possible African-American GOP presidential candidate, to celebrate the legacy of MLK on King’s birthday and the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, mostly overturned by the Supreme Court. A caller responded to Carson’s appearance on the Fox network:

“You embody what MLK wanted for the black community. If you run for president, I’ll spread the word for people to vote for you.”

Carson told the caller not to worry about the negative impact of President Obama’s actions as the first black president because he was “half-white.”

President Obama is biracial, but he is perceived as black because of his appearance. Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has been declared black, especially by all his racist haters.

Carson has a history of ignorant statements, many about the Affordable Care Act which benefits the blacks:

 “ObamaCare is the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. In a way, it is slavery, because it is making all of us subservient to the government.”

“[The ACA is worse than the 9/11 terrorists attacks] because 9/11 is an isolated incident. Things that are isolated issues as opposed to things that fundamentally change the United Sates of America and shift power from the people to the government.”

“I think what’s happening with the veterans [dying] is a gift from God to show us what happens when you take layers and layers of bureaucracy and place them between the patients and the health care provider.”

He also compared same-sex marriage to bestiality and pedophilia and tried to spread a rumor that President Obama would continue to be president by calling off the 2016 election through declaring martial law. According to Carson, the Advanced Placement history curriculum will cause students who learn about civil disobedience to join ISIL. He also wants to have the citizenship of non-citizens revoked if they are caught in voter fraud, a statement so ignorant that it was removed from his WND column. [For a taste of how wacko WND is, check out their website.]

The conservative National Center for Public Policy Research’s Project 21 black leadership network bends King’s words and intentions:

“One of Dr. King’s most important contributions was that he exhorted Americans to resist the gravitational pull of racial identity and famously challenged us all to value the content of character above skin color. Some contemporary ‘race leaders’ seek to limit Dr. King’s legacy by ghettoizing his impact and identifying him as a black leader.”– Joe R. Hicks

“Many of the so-called and self-appointed leaders of the racial grievance industry are guilty of bastardizing his mission. They use his legacy as an instrument to contribute to racial hostility under the false guise of racial justice.”– Derryck Green

Meanwhile, legislators refuse to return voting rights to everyone after the Supreme Court overturned the law that would help give these constitutional rights to all eligible people. Conservatives oppose affirmative-action laws using the false justification that King called for an end to “playing the race card.” Their belief is that a black student scoring 1820 on the SAT shouldn’t be admitted to UCLA over a white student who scored 1840.

As King wrote in Why We Can’t Wait: 

Whenever the issue of compensatory treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree; but he should ask nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic… A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro.”

Preferential treatment for blacks in the 21st century means that blacks can sometimes be beaten and killed with more impunity than whites. It means that they can be turned down for jobs or refused housing with little justification. At the same time, people celebrate MLK Day and the man for which it is named without any anger about the rampant prejudice throughout the nation.

Almost 50 years after his death, the United States has sanitized King and his mission against injustices, turning him into a nice black man who quietly marched and gave eloquent speeches. Republicans claim that King is really one of them, and people who want unlimited gun ownership talk about King owning a gun. They forget that Southern Democrats during much of the 20th century blocked racial progress, and King decided not to keep the gun.

Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted a guaranteed minimum income for all people in the United States, connected to the median household income of the time. He wanted the United States out of Vietnam and called for reparations to blacks for their past centuries of mistreatment. He campaigned for class equality by addressing poverty, slums, housing segregation, and bank lending discrimination through a “radical redistribution of economic and political power.” A strong ally of labor unions, he was killed in Memphis where he was supporting a sanitation workers’ strike.

In the years before King’s murder, 63 percent of people in the U.S. had an unfavorable opinion of him. Now 94 percent of the population approve of him because he isn’t here to fight for his beliefs. If he were alive, he would be standing with poorly paid workers and against the NRA and bank abuse. He would call for taking money from the military to put into infrastructure, education, health care, and especially jobs. He would march with immigrants for immigration reform and with activists to end racial profiling, mass incarceration of youth, and the killing of young black men by police.

As a young person, King said, “A society based on making all the money you can and ignoring people’s needs is wrong.” He recognized that a purpose of racial segregation was to oppress working-class whites by letting them feel superior to blacks. He wrote, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” He called America the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” He’s still right.

August 28, 2013

Where Is the ‘Dream’?

Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech at the March on Washington. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act passed the year after King’s speech and followed that with the Voting Rights Act. The United States, however, has failed to address the March’s goals for economic opportunity and equality, ten demands in civil rights legislation, public school desegregation, voting rights, job training, and an increased minimum wage.

  • Congressional comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation without compromise or filibuster-to guarantee all Americans access to all public accommodations, decent housing, adequate and integrated education, and the right to vote.
  • Withholding of federal funds from all programs in which discrimination exists.
  • Desegregation of all school districts in 1963.
  • Enforcement of the fourteenth Amendment, reducing Congressional representation of states where citizens are disfranchised.
  • A new Executive Order banning discrimination in all housing supported by federal funds.
  • Authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when any constitutional right is violated.
  • A massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers–Negro and white–on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.
  • A national minimum wage act that· will give all Americans a decent standard of living.
  • A broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to include all areas of employment which are presently excluded.
  • A federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination by federal, state, and municipal governments, and by employers, contractors, employment agencies, and trade unions.

During the 15 years after the 1963 March on Washington, conditions for blacks in the United States vastly improved, and legislation benefitted other groups—women, poor whites, other communities of color, people with disabilities, and senior citizens. Poverty rates dropped along with improvement in education, employment, and democratic participation. Congress and the president worked together to solve national problems.

Yet in two cases during the 1970s, the Supreme Court limited mandatory school-desegregation plans and declared that education is not a fundamental right. After that SCOTUS put limits on the ability of school districts to voluntarily create integration plans. Other decisions have put barriers in the way of people to take violations of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to court.

Ronald Reagan’s election as president in 1980 saw the growth of the Heritage Foundation, created after Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) lost the 1964 election to Lyndon B. Johnson, and Reagan moved Goldwater’s supporters into federal agencies and onto federal benches. The Federalist Society grew, creating a network of conservative lawyers who provided legal arguments to defeat social justice. Conservative media outlets like Fox News began to use their falsehoods to influence less knowledgeable people.

Fox contributor Laura Ingraham displayed a prime example of conservative media when she culminated her hateful responses to the anniversary of the March on Washington with a clip of the speech given 50 years ago by civil rights pioneer Rep. John Lewis (R-GA) and interrupted the speech with the sound of a gunshot and then long silence.  Following a commercial break, conservative columnist Pat Buchanan claimed that Lewis, Rev. Al Sharpton and other speakers at Saturday’s event were “part of a great racket.” He said, “What will these folks do, quite frankly, if they had to get up and admit we’ve got more opportunities than any large group of black folks anywhere on Earth today and our community is not making the most of it?”

Fifty years later, partisan divides gridlock the federal government, the GOP is setting back efforts to help the poor, unemployment and the need for jobs are elevated, and union-busting has caused loss of income for everyone except the U.S. elite.

Fifty years later people still carry signs asking for “Voting Rights,” “Jobs for All,” and “Decent Housing.” People still protest the vigilante killing of an unarmed black teenager in the South and his killer’s acquittal. People still denounce racial profiling in the country’s largest city.

Voting: Seven Southern states passed or implemented voter suppression laws in the two months since the Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This decision followed a general election in which blacks waited twice as long to vote, on average, as whites. One in 13 blacks (2.2 million people) cannot vote because of felon disenfranchisement laws—four times higher than the rest of the population.

Jobs: Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began functioning two years after the March, employers still prefer white workers, according to Algernon Austin, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy. The unemployment rate for blacks (12.6 percent) is almost twice as that for whites (6.6 percent), about the same ratio as in 1963. The average household income for blacks ($32,068) is far below that of white families ($54,620) and declined by 15 percent from 2000 to 2010.

Job Training: The $38.6 billion in 2013 dollars budgeted in 1978 shrank to $8 billion in 2013 dollars by 2007. Congress consistently fails to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, the nation’s largest job-training program, for the past 15 years. Legislation also excludes important methods to improve services such as developing skilled workers through education and training.

School Desegregation:  Because of housing patterns, schools are segregated at the same rates as the late 1960s, according to Andrew Rotherham, co-founder of the education think tank Bellwether Education Partners. Three-fourths of all black students attend schools that are majority nonwhite.

Minimum Wage:  The value of the current minimum wage is below that in 1964, yet conservatives ridicule fast-food workers who have joined to fight for decent wages. At the time of the 1963 March, the minimum wage of $1.25 was equivalent to $9.25 today–$2 higher than the current minimum of $7.25. March organizers demanded $2 per hour, in today’s dollars more than $14.80, but by the time the minimum was raised to that level 11 years after the March, inflation had eaten up any advantage. ALEC, the corporate-controlled organization that hands out bills to GOP legislators, opposes any increase in minimum wages, calls for a full repeal of minimum wages, and works to prevent local efforts to enact living wage requirements. Meanwhile, fast-food and other low-wage workers are striking against low pay in Chicago, New York City, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, Seattle, Los Angeles, Raleigh, Atlanta, Houston, and Oakland.

Justice: While conservatives fight to load the bench with judges opposed to equal rights, the number of judicial vacancies has grown to emergency levels. There are not enough judges to hear cases on the country’s dockets.

Racism: Although all restaurants must now serve blacks, a group of 25 blacks were told to leave the Wild Wing Café in South Carolina after peacefully waiting for two hours to be seated. One white patron felt “threatened. This is just one of millions of racist acts in the U.S.

At last weekend’s rally at the Lincoln Memorial, the main themes were the same as 50 years ago—voter suppression, “stand your ground” laws, stop-and-frisk, and the question of jobs and union-busting. Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of the slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers, talked about the “stand your ground” laws. She said, “We can think of ‘standing your ground’ in the negative. But I ask you today to flip that coin. Stand your ground in terms of fighting for justice and equality!”  One poster showed a picture of Rosa Parks who stood her ground by refusing to give up her seat on a bus.

Before he was killed in on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., had these comments about the Republican party. The GOP hasn’t changed since that time.

The 1964 Republican National Convention: “The Republican Party geared its appeal and program to racism, reaction, and extremism.”

Sen. Barry Goldwater (GOP 1964 presidential candidate):  “While not himself a racist, Mr. Goldwater articulated a philosophy which gave aid and comfort to the racist. His candidacy and philosophy would serve as an umbrella under which extremists of all stripes would stand.”

Ronald Reagan: “When a Hollywood performer, lacking distinction even as an actor can become a leading war hawk candidate for the Presidency, only the irrationalities induced by a war psychosis can explain such a melancholy turn of events.”

The March on Washington was about jobs and freedom, and Congress is avoiding any discussion about both. The country needs to fight back against those who refuse to recognize the importance of economic equality and who define freedom as “freedom to oppress others.”

July 27, 2013

House Paid to Vote Security over Privacy

Many people, including myself, may not know that the conservative Supreme Court chief justice picks the super secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that has become less secret since Edward Snowden made his announcements about the National Security Agency spying on all the people in the United States. Ten of the court’s 11 judge, appointed to the bench by GOP presidents, have been assigned to this all-important court by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

The court’s conservative bent—maybe more of a far-right curve—will most likely give it a tendency to follow NSA’s desire to expand its spying program. Roberts’s assignments have been far less ideologically diverse than those of the two previous chief justices, Warren E. Burger and William H. Rehnquist, despite their own conservative leanings. Robert’s assignments have been 86 percent GOP appointees, compared to the 66 percent GOP appointees by the other two justices.

“Viewing this data, people with responsibility for national security ought to be very concerned about the impression and appearance, if not the reality, of bias—for favoring the executive branch in its applications for warrants and other action,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).  He proposed that each of the chief judges of the 12 major appeals courts select one district judge for FISC. The chief justice could still select the review panel that hears appeals of the court’s decision, but the selection would have to be approved by six other Supreme Court justices. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA) has introduced a bill moving the selection of FISC judges to the president.

When FISC was established as part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act 35 years ago, its purpose was to review applications for wiretaps regarding whether there was sufficient evidence that the FBI’s targeted person was a foreign terrorist or spy. As recently as 2005, according to former FISC Judge James Robertson, “In my experience, there weren’t any opinions. You approved a warrant application or you didn’t—period.”

Midway through the George W. Bush administration, the executive branch sought and obtained the court’s legal blessing to continue secret surveillance programs that had originally circumvented the FISA process. In 2008, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act to allow NSA to continue the Bush warrantless program supposedly only on foreigners abroad. The court was allowed to create rules for the program, giving it the power of an administrative agency that makes rules for others to follow. Robertson said, “That’s not the bailiwick of judges. Judges don’t make policy.”

Rulings have greatly expanded to lengthy ones that interpret the meaning of surveillance laws and constitutional rights instead of the former up-or-down approvals of secret wiretap applications. Court decisions are classified with no opportunity for contrary arguments or appeals if the government wins the case. The public doesn’t know what FISC determines—sort of like a person on the “do not fly” list not knowing they are there until they try to fly or not knowing whether they’ve successfully gotten off until they try to board a plane.

At least no one knew what the court was doing until Snowden released information about an order to a Verizon subsidiary requiring it to submit three months of calling records for all customers, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, Reagan’s appointee who tried to strike down Obamacare.

Blumenthal, a past U.S. attorney and state prosecutor, said that executive branch lawyers were more likely to have a “get the bad guys” mentality and cooperate in giving the Justice Department unlimited surveillance powers. Vinson has been replaced with Michael W. Mosman, a federal prosecutor; Raymond J. Dearie, a United States attorney; Reggie B. Walton, a prosecutor who also worked on drug and crime issues for the White House; and F. Dennis Saylor IV, chief of staff in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. The only Democratic appointee, Judge Mary A. McLaughlin, was also a prosecutor.

The only requirement for selection of judges is geographic diversity. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) has filed a bill allowing Congressional leaders to pick eight of the court’s members because the court should have a more diverse membership.

Last week, the House voted 217-205 not to check NSA’s phone-spying dragnet, with 111 Democrats and 94 Republicans voting to not fund the phone-call collection program. In a Guardian article, Glenn Greenwald gives a vivid detailed picture of the peculiar coalition that voted to continue the NSA program. Conservative Republicans against the president’s administrative abuse of power joined liberal Democrats opposed to intrusive intelligence programs.

President Obama’s strongest support in war, assassinations, drones, surveillance, and secrecy comes from the radical far-right GOP party. Pro-war and anti-Muslim Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has given extensive praise to the president as did Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) who repeatedly warned that NSA bulk spying on U.S. citizens was necessary to stop “Islamic jihadists.” The conservative wing of the Supreme Court supported the president in his argument that plaintiffs objecting to surveillance lack standing to sue because the NSA successfully conceals the identity of which Americans are subjected to the surveillance. Thus government wiretapping laws cannot be challenged in court.

An analysis of campaign donations for the bill shows that House members who voted to continue NSA’s metadata spy program collected 122 percent more money from defense and intelligence contractors than those who voted against it. Firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, and Honeywell International donated almost $13 million for the years 2011-12. Legislators who voted for NSA’s program averaged $41,635; the naysayers averaged $18,765. Only one of the top ten money makers, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) voted against the program.

Tea Party member Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who proposed the bill with Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), got $1,400, which put him in the bottom 50 in donations. Rep. Howard McKeon (R-CA), who voted to continue the surveillance, led the House in defense contributions with $526,000. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) voted against the measure and ranked 15th in defense earnings with a $131,000 take. Another vote to keep the surveillance came from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who got $47,000 from defense firms during the two-year period.

Two 2016 GOP presidential wannabes showed the differences among the GOP membership regarding the surveillance program. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s “strain of libertarianism” on national security “very dangerous.” Paul retorted in a tweet:

“Christie worries about the dangers of freedom. I worry about the danger of losing that freedom. Spying without warrants is unconstitutional.”

The two men are topping the list of a very diverse—let’s say wingnut—set of potential candidates for the GOP primary.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Tuesday urged the United States to revamp its surveillance laws and practices, warning that the country will ‘live to regret it’ if it fails to do so. That time is getting closer. The Pentagon is sending two blimps to hover over Washington that can surveil the area for 320 miles in every direction. The ostensible reason is to look for threats.

The question is what else they will see while they’re 10,000 feet up in the air looking at an area from Niagara Falls (NY) to North Carolina. I agree with Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information center, when he said, “When the government is conducting real-time aerial surveillance within the United States, there are privacy issues that need to be addressed.”

If you wonder how legislators feel about privacy, follow the money.

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