Nel's New Day

February 17, 2019

A Wall to Protect People from Religion?

If we used the same standards for religious figures that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) tries to use for undocumented immigrants, the United States would build a wall between the country and all churches. Another former archbishop and cardinal has been defrocked for sexual abuse with no chance for appeal, Theodore McCarrick has been found guilty of “sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power” and “solicitation” during confession. A study completed in 2002 found almost 11,000 cases of sexual abuse by almost 5,000 priests. Far more have emerged in the past 17 years, including the uncovering of over 300 priests in just one state who abused over 1,000 children.

Catholics aren’t alone in sexual abuse by their leaders: at least 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced charges of sexual misconduct against over 700 victims in the past 20 years—more in Texas than any other state. The church urged many of the victims to forgive the offenders and for becoming pregnant. Sometimes churches shunned the victims. Some sexual abusers returned to their churches to preach. Southern Baptist Convention officials shielded the predators and refused any reforms.

The above are just two examples of denominations in which people are sexual abused by their religious leaders. The stories go into the tens of millions, unlike DDT’s concerns about undocumented immigrants.

The Roman Catholic diocese has exonerated the male white students from Covington (KY) who appeared to invade the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. after they attended an anti-choice March for Life. The bishop claimed that their students were being threatened can called their behavior “laudatory.” The opinion was based on online video and interviews with 43 students and 13 adult chaperones. No one from the Indigenous Peoples group was interviewed. All of them are quite pleased with themselves.

Wyoming has failed to repeal the death penalty, and state Sen. Lynn Hutchings (R-Cheyenne) is grateful because Jesus also got the death penalty. Without his execution, he could not have absolved the sins of mankind. Therefore, retaining the death penalty is vital. I’m a bit confused about her logic. Does she compare all executed people to Jesus? Self-identified on her FB as “your only true Conservative, Christian, Pro-Life Candidate,” she also made this argument for her homophobia while speaking to students from Cheyenne Central High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance:

“If my sexual orientation was to have sex with all of the men in there and I had sex with all of the women in there and then they brought their children and I had sex with all of them and then brought their dogs in and I had sex with them, should I be protected for my sexual orientation?”

Frustrated by two Muslim women in the newly-elected House, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) has accused her of being anti-Semitic because she pointed out that Israel gets its power with the U.S. government because of its donations to legislators. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is right in her claim, but she left out the money that anti-Semitic evangelicals donate to conservative legislators while lobbying them to support Israelis and destroy Palestinians. It all comes from the Christian belief that Christ must convert the Jews after he returns to Israel before the great millennium, the golden age, can begin. Thus their obsession with strengthening Israel for Jesus’s return. Eighty percent of evangelicals viewed Israel’s new state in 1948 as a vital piece of the Second Coming, and 52 percent say they support Israel because of its role in the End Times. VP Mike Pence is one of these people.

The Center for Religion and Civil Culture at the University of Southern California divides evangelical Christians into five different sects since DDT developed power:

Trump-vangelicals:  Primarily white with a few Latinx or black pastors; DDT’s base who want access to political power with the belief that God picked DDT to “make America great again.”

Neo-fundamentalists: DDT supporters who try to keep some Christian values and separate themselves from DDT’s “moral failings.”

iVangelicals: Conservative but pretend to be non-partisan; ministering in big churches to mostly white, financially well-off suburbanites.

Kingdom Christians: Separate from evangelicals but with similar beliefs; keep to smaller, urban churches, sometimes rented spaces.

Peace and justice evangelicals: The left-wing with origins in the 1973 “Chicago Declaration of Social Concern,” urging evangelicals away from prosperity gospel and toward the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia shows that religious fundamentalism comes from a functional impairment in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Damage results in diminished cognitive flexibility and openness—a loss of curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness. Religious beliefs, socially transmitted mental representations of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real, differ from empirical beliefs based on the appearance of the world and updated with new evidence and new theories. People with lesions in the prefrontal cortex rate radical political statements as more moderate than people without the damage possibly caused by brain trauma, psychological disorder, drug or alcohol addiction, or genetic profile. Although brain damage can lead to religious fundamentalism, the reverse can be true: extreme religious indoctrination can harm the development or functioning of the prefrontal brain areas.

Conservatism is connected with religious beliefs because they are not updated with new evidence or scientific explanations. Fixed, rigid beliefs promote predictability and rules of evidence in the person’s tribe. Religious fundamentalism discourages progressive thinking about religion and social issues—anything that challenges their beliefs. People can become aggressive toward others who are perceived because they don’t share their anti-science and supernatural beliefs.

Although brain damage can lead to religious fundamentalism, the reverse can be true: extreme religious indoctrination can harm the development or functioning of the prefrontal brain areas. Dr. Marlene Winell, daughter of Pentecostal missionaries and a human development consultant, addresses the problem of Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) in her counseling and in her book Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion. She explains that emotional and mental treatment by authoritarian religious groups causes RTS from teachings such as eternal damnation, religious punishment and guilt, and neglect when people are denied information and opportunities. Indoctrination leads to fear and anxiety, and some people suffer from nightmares and panic attacks throughout their lives. The syndrome can also cause depression, cognitive problems, and difficulty in social functioning because the core message of fundamentalist Christianity is that people are wrong and deserve to die.

To control people, fundamentalists tell them that they are weak and dependent, keeping them from making decisions because they must follow the Christian leaders. Leaving can be almost impossible because of religious shunning if people don’t conform.  Departure from a church requires a complete change of one’s self of reality and belief systems. Traumas other than RTS are built into society because of an understanding about the horrors of domestic abuse and war-related PTSD. A person needed counseling because of issues related to RTS are sent back to religion.

One of the goals for fundamentalist Christians is to block marriage equality, and seven Kansas GOP legislators are using the concept of religion to accomplish their mission. Their proposed bill would eliminate all rights for sexual minorities because being LGBTQ is “a religion that does not fulfill any compelling state interest.” They maintain that secular humanism was recognized as a religion in the 1961 unanimous Supreme Court decision when the decision merely determined that the U.S. Constitution prohibits government prohibits a religious test for public office. The legislators’ proof is that the LGBTQ community is organized and has “a daily code by which members may guide their daily lives” along with its religious symbols, i.e., a rainbow-colored flag, and the creed of “love is love”—a shibboleth to oppress those outside their denomination.

Perhaps we need a wall to protect people.

August 22, 2018

‘Voter Fraud’: Gerrymandering, Officials Controlling Their Elections

After Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) lost the popular vote for his current position, he persuaded many of his followers that over three million undocumented immigrants had illegally voted for Hillary Clinton, coincidentally the number of votes he was short. To prove his point, he set up a special commission to find evidence to prove his claims. Only DDT’s true believers were allowed any information about the commission’s work, and one of its members sued to get documents as simple as times, agendas, and minutes of the meetings held in secret. He said that the documents show “a pre-ordained outcome to this commission to demonstrate widespread voter fraud, without any evidence to back it up.”

The commission became nationally known when it demanded extensive personal information about every voter in the nation. In at least one state, Colorado, people dropped their voter registration in response. Documents indicated that the commission was considering a demand for all information of people excluded from jury duty. The commission’s plan was also to promote the faulty Crosscheck program that promised but failed to identify duplicate registration.

The leader of the task force, also the leader of the voter suppression legislation across the United States, is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Despite the judgments against him in court, including one judge ordering lawyer Kobach to take remedial legal classes, he initially garnered 191 more votes for governor in the GOP primary than opponent in an election with over 300,000 votes for the seven GOP candidates. At least until 100 votes appeared for Kobach’s opponent, gubernatorial incumbent Jeff Colyer, when a county clerk pointed out an error in Kobach’s reporting, making the difference between the two only 121 votes with 8,000-10,000 outstanding provisional ballots. Meanwhile county clerks reported that totals posted by the office of the Secretary of State, Kobach’s office, were missing votes for his opponent. Yet Kobach proceeded with campaigning for the general election, comfortable that he will win. The deadline for the final count was to be August 21, less than two weeks. The debacle continued for several days with other violations.

Public outrage forced Kobach out of any voters’ counts so he appointed his assistant Eric Rucker to certify the final election results. A donor to Kobach’s campaign, Rucker formerly served as top aid to an earlier Kansas AG during the AG’s investigation for misleading judges and a grand jury in the probe into the murder of Dr. George Tiller who performed abortions in Overland Park. The state suspended the AG’s law license for professional misconduct, and Rucker was admonished for not correcting misleading information he provided to the state supreme Court. Last year, a former employee sued Rucker after he told her grandmother that she had been fired because she didn’t go to church. All the ballots submitted after the election pushed the number of votes to Kobach, and Colyer conceded the primary a week ago.

Kansas is a red state, but Sam Brownback, the evangelical Catholic governor until DDT appointed him for U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom this year, drove the state into massive debt with his huge tax cuts. GOP voters are concerned about people not turning out for Kobach because they don’t want to return to Brownback’s problems.

Kobach isn’t the only state official controlling his own election by setting policies for people who can vote and then announcing the actual count. Governor of Florida Jeb Bush, when his brother George W. was the subject of controversial votes in the state that gave Bush the presidency with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court, promised to “deliver Florida” to his brother. Katherine Harris, Florida’s Secretary of State and co-chair of George W.’s state campaign, was more help to Jeb. In George W.’s 2004 run, and Ohio GOP Secretary of State Ken Blackwell co-chaired W.’s state campaign while overseeing the election that gave W. his second term. After Blackwell’s voter suppression activities during that election, he stayed secretary of state while running for governor. Ohio GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted, candidate for lieutenant government, purged over two million people from voter rolls since 2011.

In Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp won the primary to be the GOP gubernatorial candidate in this fall’s general election. His history shows a number of voter violations (aka fraud). After 670 ballots were cast in a county with 276 registered voters, the number of registered voters magically changed to 3,704 after a federal lawsuit. Georgia has no paper record of votes, and the computers were erased the day before watchdogs were authorized to examine them in a legal proceeding. In the past, husband and wife registered at the same address were assigned different polling places and districts, and a voting machine provided a ballot for another congressional district. In one district, a results tape from a computer showed that it had not collected any votes at the close of the election, and in another precinct a race in a congressional district were omitted from a results tape. In response to the investigation of his failing to process registration applications of minority voters, Kemp investigated voter advocacy groups.

Kemp is known for being sloppy as secretary of state: three years ago, he released personal identifying information, including Social Security numbers for six million people to the media, political parties, and other paying subscribers who legally buy voter information from the state. Kemp called it a “clerical error.” He knows that Georgia’s computers are vulnerable to Russian hacking but refuses to accept a paper record for voting. His argument is that it could “subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under the guise of security.” Only five states, including Georgia, cannot be audited because the voting machines have no paper trail. Kemp also uses Exact Match to eliminate voter registrations if a typographical error occurs; twice as many blacks as whites were blocked from the rolls. In a state where population increased, the number of voter registrations decreased.

County officials appear to be helping Kemp with potential fraud: officials in a largely black Georgia county, population 7,000, closed seven of nine polling places with no justification for its claim of inaccessibility to people with disabilities.

Like GOP state officials in other states, especially secretaries of state, Kemp has the ability to commit voter fraud, that Kobach is supposedly fighting, such as easily-hacked computers at polls, purges of voter rolls, failure to register voters until after an election, investigations to intimidate groups registering minorities, etc. For the first time in the state’s history, a black woman is running for governor—against Brian Kemp. And he has control of the voting. The legislature stays white and Republican in a state with fewer than 40 percent white population because of gerrymandering.

In another case reflecting voter fraud through districting to favor Republicans, Democrat Danny O’Connor is fighting to win a special election for the U.S. House in the badly gerrymandered Ohio District 12. GOP Troy Balderson has been ahead since August 7, but some found votes, reminiscent of the magical discovery of 7,500 votes in Wisconsin in 2011 that elected GOP state Supreme Court justices, appeared after reports of election results. As provisional and absentee ballots dribble in, Balderson has maintained enough lead to win but perhaps not to avoid a recount, mandated if he wins by .5 percent or less, about 1,000 votes difference. With about 3,000 ballots left, O’Connor is behind by 1,781. The deadline is August 24. No matter the result, the two candidates will oppose each other in the upcoming general election. (Right, Ohio District 12)

Kobach maintained that voter fraud matters in close contests and asserted immediately after the August 7 election that he didn’t know how many non-citizens voted in his primary. Once Colyer conceded, he said, “It is highly unlikely that voter fraud changed the outcome.” He bragged about the new Kansas law that made the state with “the most secure election laws in the country” although a federal judge struck down the law last June. Until Colyer conceded, Kobach criticized the judge’s ruling as a concern for Kansas voter fraud. Winning seems to have erased any of Kobach’s concerns about voter fraud, especially when he’s in a position to help facilitate it. Now he can campaign for the general election and start worrying about voter fraud again.

July 30, 2017

Faith-Based Economy Equals Scorched Earth

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 8:57 PM
Tags: , , ,

After destroying Kansas, its governor, Sam Brownback, is moving on—at least as long as he doesn’t offend Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Brownback has now been nominated as the at-large ambassador to head the State’s Office of International Religious Freedom. The position was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 created the ambassador position which was held by Christians until 2014 when President Obama nominated Rabbi David Saperstein. The Senate approved him in a 61-35 vote.

As ambassador, Brownback would be responsible for a human rights platform and outreach to the diverse religious groups in the United States. Other responsibilities are to support minorities facing persecution or discrimination throughout the world. For example, ambassadors have been on the side of Muslims in Burma. The arch-conservative Brownback has signed a meaningless ban on Shariah law, warred against separation of church and states in public schools and everywhere else, and officially promoted Christian events and programming. He signed a bill in 2013 that states the government may not “substantially burden a person’s civil right to exercise of religion.” In 2015, Brownback signed an executive order rescinding discrimination protections for state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2016, he signed legislation that prohibits the state’s universities from taking action against religious organizations on campuses that restrict membership to students that adhere to the group’s religious beliefs or “comply with the association’s sincere religious standards of conduct.”

Brownback decided to turn Kansas around in an economic “experiment” that drastically cut taxes, slashed public investments, and then expected prosperity to flow throughout the state. He eliminated the state’s top income tax bracket, exempted many businesses from any income tax, lowered the sales tax, and eradicated individual and corporate income tax. Yet there was no prosperity.

In 2012, Brownback said that his experiment could show what would happen in comparison to neighboring states that had not lowered taxes. Since 2013, Kansas has seen private sector employment rise only 3.5 percent, compared to 7.6 percent nationally and the lowest of its neighbors. Total employment is worse—2.6 percent in Kansas compared to 6.5 percent nationally. GDP growth has stayed flat compared to blue states such as California with 3.2 percent and Oregon at 2.5 percent growth. Hospitals completely closed and schools closed early because of the radical cuts in health care and education. Kansas government expenses are expected to outpace income by $1.1 billion through June 2019. Kansas pays a high interest rate on borrowings because its bond rating has been downgraded twice.

Brownback’s tax cuts caused average taxes to go up $200 for the one-fifth of the state’s households that make less than $23,000 a year while the richest one percent saved $25,000 a year. One health insurance company moved its headquarters across the river to Missouri. Brownback “saved” $400,000 by closing services for low-income children and developmentally disabled in Lawrence and then spent the same about in a legal vendetta against the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Brownback started hiding his economic reports that he promised would show the impact of the state’s economic laws. Last year, he killed the report entirely with the claim that it was so complicated that people couldn’t understand it.

The state’s revenue estimates are consistently and massively lower than estimates, leading to cuts to state agencies and reductions in government services. He took $2 billion from highway funding to make up for a budget hold. The budget could be in even worse shape if the Supreme Court orders hundreds of millions of dollars in additional education spending. that court has twice ruled that the budget allocates insufficient funding for public schools. The state does fund private charter schools.

Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation and trickle-down supporter Arthur Laffer have declared the Kansas “experiment” a success by using inaccurate data and highly selective, misleading information about unemployment and job creation.

GOP disasters in Kansas aren’t just fiscal: last year a bill permitted impeachment of any judge who opposed a legislative law. Before that bill, Brownback signed a bill that removes funding from the judiciary if a state court strikes down a 2014 law a 2014 law removing some powers from the State Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court struck down the law. Brownback also signed a bill permitting the Secretary of State Kris Kobach to prosecute someone for voter fraud even if prosecutors choose not to proceed in the cases. Of 18,000 accusations, Kobach convicted nine people, most of whom didn’t understand that they couldn’t vote on local issues in two different states where they had homes. Kobach is now the leader of a federal voter fraud (aka suppression?) commission. Kansas represents what Charles Pierce called the potential of unchecked GOP policies from Tea Party dominance.

Religious diversity’s loss is Kansas’ gain. After his “experiment” in trickle-down poverty, the state legislature overrode Brownback’s veto a few weeks ago to repeal the draconian tax cuts. In the last election, 13 additional Democrats were elected to the legislature, and several conservatives lost to moderate Republicans. Brownback’s gubernatorial approval rating has fallen to 25 percent, tied with New Jersey’s Chris Christopher for the bottom of the heap.

What happens in Kansas now is anyone’s guess. Brownback’s replacement, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, was a key player in the decision to privatize the state’s Medicaid system. Colyer called KanCare a success for saving money, but funding problems left providers without reimbursements. Last January, the federal government rejected the state’s request to extend KanCare because it didn’t meet standards and risked the health and safety of enrollees. Kansas has no system for reporting and tracking critical incidents and no data to show that unexpected deaths were investigated within mandatory timeframes. The program delayed eligibility, cut coverage, and increased caseloads.

Kobach calls Colyer a “good guy.” He said that he wished Brownback had won in his “battle … to preserve the tax cuts.”

Brownback’s approach in Kansas represents the GOP faith—indeed, a religion—in a system that consistently fails. The days that Republicans revere, the mid-twentieth century, was a time of great progressive taxation when the highest income tax rates topped 90 percent. As the taxes have shrunk, the income inequality in the nation has put most of the money in the hands of the top ten percent with the top one percent benefitting the most. The faith in trickle-down comes from the wealthy who can’t argue that they want tax cuts to get more money. When the faith in tax cuts is joined deregulation for the powerful, the result is wage suppression for everyone outside the golden circle.

Some conservative states have taken notice of Kansas’ failure in its “experiment” and consider tax hikes. Eight states, including Tennessee and Arizona, may raise gas taxes, and Nebraska is going more deeply in raising sales taxes to make up for falling income taxes.

Brownback’s failure in his religion of tax cuts may factor into the grand GOP plan to give massive tax cuts to the wealthy across the United States while increasing them for everyone else.  Every time that DDT makes a radical decision, he falsely claims it will save taxpayers money. In his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement he falsely claimed that saving the climate would cost $3 trillion in GDP and “6.5 million industrial jobs, while households would have $7,000 less income….” His numbers came from an isolated report, not a cost-benefit analysis, that omitted fiscal benefits of reduced emissions which could be as much as $4.5 trillion. The health insurance industry attributes the volatility and instability currently provided by the federal government to its departures from the marketplace, not the failure to turn a profit. DDT’s excuse for throwing out transgender service members was to save money–$5.4 million out of a $790 billion budget.

Republicans want Kansas’ faith-based experiment to be a model for the federal government. Like Kansas, the U.S. would then have a stagnant economy, failing job growth, falling personal income, massive budget shortfalls, loss of healthcare coverage, and significant delays in health care services. What the United States needs is the California model where the economy grew by 4.1 percent, and the budget surplus is nearly $900 million.

April 26, 2017

Announcement of Tax ‘Reform’ (aka Tax Cuts for Wealthy) to Cover for Flynn, Trumpcare

Almost all the news today has been about the new tax plan from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). The time is probably to divert media coverage from the scandal surrounding DDT’s former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, and the struggles of the new Trumpcare health plan that he said would pass the House today. At this time, the conservative Freedom Caucus is on board with Trumpcare because it removes healthcare from many people, but the moderates haven’t confirmed that they will vote for it yet. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has enough trouble figuring out how to keep the government open past Friday without passing the budget that has not even been considered.

Retired Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell under George W. Bush, said that Flynn is either “one of the dumbest individuals who’s ever lived or … he really had some nefarious purposes.” Even GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the Oversight Committee, admitted that Flynn might not have complied with the law, but he blamed former President Obama after DDT refuses to reveal any documents about vetting, hiring, and dismissing Flynn for his 24-day tenure with the current White House administration. Flynn became the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012 but left in 2014, over a year before he took the undisclosed payment from Russia’s state-owned news agency, Russia Today, in December 2015. Chaffetz has said that he won’t be running for re-election in 2018 and that he may resign from Congress before that.

By “nefarious purposes,” Wilkerson wrote that he meant activities ranging from “taking money for influencing your government on behalf of another government, to using your influence with the President and his cabinet on an issue for another government whom you are privately advising, even if pro bono. “The $33,000 that Flynn received for a speaking engagement in December 2015 was not on his application. Chaffetz said.

“I see no evidence or no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law. He was supposed to seek permission and receive permission from both the secretary of state and the secretary of the Army prior to traveling to Russia to not only accept that payment, but to engage in that activity.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), top minority member on the Oversight Committee, said that Flynn’s negligence on his SF86 forms could be punished by up to five years in prison but that decision was not up to the congressional committee. Flynn’s secret conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, is being investigated by the House Intelligence Committee, which Chaffetz said would take the lead on examining whether those contacts themselves were inappropriate. Last month, he asked for immunity in exchange for immunity from prosecution, but neither committee has accepted his offer.

Another high official, DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, has also filed applications with omissions such as dozens of foreign contacts, including those with Kislyak and Russian bank CEO Sergey Gorkov in December. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) tweeted earlier this week:

“Dear Jared Kushner: Lying on the SF-86 security clearance form is a crime. Michael Flynn hired a lawyer. You may also want to hire a lawyer.”

Back to the tax plan. Here it is—all 226 words, including the title:

 

2017 Tax Reform for Economic Growth and American Jobs

The Biggest Individual And Business Tax Cut in American History

Goals for Tax Reform

  • Grow the economy and create millions of jobs
  • Simplify our burdensome tax code
  • Provide tax relief to American families—especially middle-income families
  • Lower the business tax rate from one of the highest in the world to one of the lowest
  • Individual Reform

Tax relief for American families, especially middle-income families:

  • Reducing the 7 tax brackets to 3 tax brackets for 10%, 25% and 35%
  • Doubling the standard deduction
  • Providing tax relief for families with child and dependent care expenses

Simplification:

  • Eliminate targeted tax breaks that mainly benefit the wealthiest taxpayers.
  • Protect the home ownership and charitable gift tax deductions.
  • Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax.
  • Repeal the death tax.
  • Repeal the 3.8% Obamacare tax that hits small businesses and investment income.

Business Reform:

  • 15% business tax rate
  • Territorial tax system to level the playing field for American companies
  • One-time tax on trillions of dollars held overseas
  • Eliminate tax breaks for special interests

Process:

Throughout the month of May, the Trump administration will hold listening sessions with stakeholders to receive their input and will continue working with the House and Senate to develop the details of a plan that provides massive tax relief, creates jobs, and makes America more competitive — and can pass both chambers.

 

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed that 100 people in his department worked on the tax plan, making it about two words per person. Lily Batchelder, former chief tax counsel of the Senate Finance committee, tweeted that the plan was “immensely costly and regressive.”

Benefitting from DDT’s plan are the popular “pass-through entities,” 94 percent of all companies in the nation by 2011, that distribute profits among owners instead of paying corporate taxes. Owners then have these profits taxed as normal income. This organization is popular not only with small companies but also highly profitable ones such as major law firms, hedge funds, and real estate developers. The Trump Organization is a pass-through that would greatly benefit from DDT’s plan, as would all his friends. At this time, 70 percent of income from these corporations goes to the top one percent of people in the nation. Today, Mnuchin said that the new 15-percent rate would be only for small and medium-sized businesses with no definition of “medium.” A business worth $5 million is considered “small.” The plan would allow high-wage workers into pass-through entities by setting themselves up as S corporations to “sell” their freelance services.

A comparison to DDT’s tax plan is Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts in Kansas which ended up being a monumental failure. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded and suffers from an ongoing budget crisis, including horrific cuts in such vital areas as education, from a $1.1 billion shortfall. The GOP is now rebelling against the governor, voting to undo the cuts and almost overruling Brownback’s veto. When Kansas completely exempted pass-through profits from state income tax, a large number of people filed for the break, but few new jobs were created. In 2016, Kansas had the fifth worst employment growth in the nation, and its economy has grown at half the national rate. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded and suffers from an ongoing budget crisis, including horrific cuts in such vital areas as education, from a $1.1 billion shortfall. The GOP is now rebelling against the governor, voting to undo the cuts and almost overruling Brownback’s veto.

Research showed that the Kansas plan, now proposed for the United States, merely encourages people to play the system. DDT’s system could take 20 percent from their taxes According to the conservative Tax Foundation, dropping the rate to 15 percent would reduce government revenue by $2 trillion over a decade, or about 5 percent. Allowing pass-throughs to pay the lower rate would add another $1.5 trillion loss of revenue to the country. DDT claims that his plan will increase economic growth. Alan Cole, a staff economist for the Tax Foundation, stated that the country’s annual growth rate could add about 0.12 percent, which, he said, isn’t a good trade for a cost of $1.5 trillion. “This would be Kansas on steroids,” Eric Toder, co-director of the Tax Policy Center, said about DDT’s plan.

Without looking at DDT’s tax returns, we can almost guarantee that he would vastly benefit from his tax plan. He reports owning more than 200 LLCs, and his approximately 500 businesses are almost all pass-throughs. So much for his promises of helping the “little guys.”

September 4, 2015

What the GOP Stands For

The GOP consistently asserts that it’s the party of values, that the Democrats lack morality and integrity. Here are some examples of their values from just the past week.

GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush opposes almost everything that his opponent Donald Trump represents and attacks Trump for supporting Planned Parenthood, tax increases, single-payer health insurance, and Democrats. Meanwhile Trump trashes Bush about his “love” for immigrants, speaking Spanish, and being weak. When asked if he would support Trump if the business mogul won the GOP nomination, Bush said, “Of course.” He can abandon all of his ideals because “we need to be unified. We need to win.” Trump has signed the “pledge” to support the winning GOP candidate, but it’s not legally binding.

Trickle-down Trumpism” has hit Nevada: as Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV), a senate candidate, wants to make doing away with birthright citizenship, “part of the discussion,” as far-right Republicans so quaintly describe their opposition to the 14th Amendment. Nevada is one of five states with the largest numbers of Hispanic voters. Heck also opposes Medicare, minimum-wage increases, reproductive rights, and Social Security.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who plans to speak in the upcoming rally opposing the Iran agreement, sees nothing wrong about his own preemptive Iraq War that killed hundreds of thousands and cost the United States trillions of dollars. About that invasion, he said:

“It was the right thing to do then. I believed it then and I believe it now. No apologies.”

He also wants to go to war with ISIS because they may have weapons of mass destruction—another several trillion dollars lost to the United States.

As he is wont to do, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker claimed and then disclaimed something, this time that a border wall on the Canadian border of the U.S. should be considered because it is a “legitimate issue.” He never said that, claimed the GOP presidential candidate after millions of people heard him on last Sunday’s Meet the Press. It was a joke, he said, because millions of people were outraged by his foreign policy strategy.

Chief video editor James O’Keefe, who managed to kill ACORN through falsified videos, has gone after Hillary Clinton. At a press conference, he claimed his hidden video cameras by Project Veritas caught two senior Clinton campaign officials accepting illegal contributions from a foreign citizen. The video shows Campaign staffers turned away a Canadian customer at a Clinton rally because financial support for U.S. campaigns can come only from residents in the U.S., but a Project Veritas employee took $40 from the Canadian woman and bought her the t-shirt plus another $35 worth of merchandise. Project Veritas wants its $35 back and people to believe that Clinton violated the campaign-finance laws.

A project attorney admitted that the staff who bought the merchandise broke the law but said it shouldn’t count. According to the Federal Election Commission’s campaign finance laws, people cannot “knowingly provide substantial assistance” by “acting as a conduit or intermediary for foreign national contributions and donations.” In Roman mythology, Veritas (the name of O’Keefe’s project) was the goddess of truth and mother of Virtue.

Once the United States was proud to be a “melting pot” of cultures, but the GOP wants to eradicate the concept. Rick Santorum, whose father was born in Italy, ridiculed the value of diversity in the United States, a viewpoint popular with conservatives. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) blamed “diversity in America” for gun violence, using the “murder in Virginia” as an example. Vester Flanagan, the man allegedly behind the “murder in Virginia,” was born in Oakland, California.Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose mother was pregnant when she arrived in the United States, said, “Immigration without assimilation is invasion.”

Kansas started a downward spiral when Sam Brownback became governor with a GOP legislature four years ago and stripped the state of most of its funding. When schools sued the state for adequate funding, the legislature passed a law removing authority for the state Supreme Court to appoint chief judges for the state’s judicial districts. This year’s budget declared that any court striking down this law would stop funding for the entire court system throughout the state. A district judge has just struck down the law because state constitution sets broad standards that the legislature must meet.

Kansas AG Derek Schmidt plans to carry through the removal of all funding for the courts. Attorney Pedro Irigonegaray stated, “Without funding, our state courts would close, criminal cases would not be prosecuted, civil matters would be put on hold, real estate could not be bought or sold, adoptions could not be completed.” A stay has been granted until the state Supreme Court can hear an appeal. Thanks to Brownback’s generosity to corporations and the wealthy while raising property taxes, Kansas has lost jobs and suffers billions of dollars of debt.  A report from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities called the state “a cautionary tale, not a model” because it’s remained in the recession and declining even further. At one time, Brownback aspired to the White House.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a GOP presidential candidate sometimes considered less nuts than his opponents, has a goal for his desired presidency: put the name of McKinley back on Alaska’s Mt. Denali. That was the mountain’s name, meaning “the high one” in Athabaskan language, until 1896 when the gold miner who “discovered” it wanted it named after the champion of the gold standard. McKinley never visited Alaska, and most people don’t know anything about him except for his assassination six months into his presidency. In American Place-Names, George R. Stewart wrote, “The original naming [McKinley] was little more than a joke.”

Alaska changed the name back to Denali in 1975, but Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) blocked the change in Congress until 2009 when his colleagues took up the battle. By keeping the legislation pending, the Board of Geographic Names couldn’t make a change, a protocol and not a law. Fortunately, a 1947 law gave the Secretary of the Interior the power when “the Board does not act within a reasonable time,” now 40 years. Incensed, Regula is calling the president a dictator. Ohio evidently considers the name change of vital importance for the United States.

In less than two weeks (September 16), at least ten GOP presidential candidates will stand on a stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to engage in a debate sponsored by CNN. That’s “at least ten” because Carly Fiorina may have browbeat the cable network to let her participate. Since the August 6 debate, Fiorina has done well in the polls, but the ones before that debate kept her out of the main event.  CNN refused to change the guidelines, saying that it would be illegal, until they changed the guidelines. Nobody previously included could be bumped, but Fiorina might be added in what could be called “the Fiorina addendum.” The GOP is delighted because having a woman on the stage might make them look slightly better.

No week would be complete without Fox network idiocy. The Black Lives Matter movement is a “criminal organization,” according to Tom Shillue. He said that “it’s time to arrest the leaders” and “people are drunk on rights in this country.” An onscreen banner during Fox & Friends described it as a murder movement, and Elizabeth Hasselback asked why Black Lives Matter was not labeled as a hate group, trying to falsely connect the death of Harris County Deputy Darren Goforth (TX) to the movement. Frequent guest David Clarke, a Wisconsin law enforcement officer, said President Obama “breathed life into an ugly movement.” Shannon Miles, who killed Goforth, has a criminal history and was declared mentally incompetent in 2012 but has no connection to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The biggest irony of the week? (And that’s hard to pick!) Sen. Rand Paul, sort of Libertarian and GOP presidential candidate who opposes government surveillance, has provided the masses with an app for a selfie with him. Installing it will give his campaign permission to follow the person with a GPS and find the person’s social media accounts.

Media and ignorance is driving the decisions of many Republicans, and these are the results. A new Public Policy Polling shows that 51 percent of GOP voters want to eliminate birthright citizenship, 54 percent think President Obama is a Muslim, and only 29 percent believe he was born in the United States. Meanwhile, 40 percent think that Ted Cruz, born in Canada, was born in the United States. Only 14 percent of Republicans are convinced that the president is a Christian; even Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he doesn’t know. Trump’s supporters have even higher percentages about these issues: 66 percent believe President Obama is a Muslim, 61 percent say he wasn’t born in the United States, and 63 percent want to amend the Constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of bigotry and stupidity from the past week.

September 25, 2014

More Voter Discrimination

Exactly 50 years ago this summer, Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old anthropology major at Queens College, Mickey Schwerner, a 24-year-old graduate student in social work at Columbia University, and James Chaney, a 21-year-old volunteer with the Congress for Racial Equality, participated in Freedom Summer, urging Mississippi blacks to register to vote. In 1964, only 6.7 percent of blacks were registered in Mississippi; the county where they spoke had not one registered black person.

On June 21, 1964, the three were arrested, released, and then abducted by the Ku Klux Klan. Their bodies were found 44 days later in an earthen dam. The two white men had each been shot once; Cheney, who was black, had been mutilated beyond recognition. Only the Voting Rights Act, which President Lyndon Johnson signed on August 6, 1965, moved the country toward voting rights for eligible citizens. The law stopped literacy tests and poll taxes used to keep blacks from registering in the South and prevented future voter suppression methods. Now Mississippi has more black elected officials than any other state.

One year ago on June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling that invalidated the requirement that states and regions have to “preclear” their voting changes with the federal government. Chief Justice John Roberts claimed that the data was outdated and cited the “fundamental principle of equal sovereignty” among states. He did concede that “voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that” but that the country didn’t need the “extraordinary measures” of the VRA. Tuesday’s blog shows the need for these “extraordinary measures.”

The 22 states suppressing voting since the 2010 election are using “extraordinary measures” to ensure that only “certain people” could vote: strict photo IDs, elimination of early voting, harsher laws to register people to vote, rescinding voting rights for non-violent ex-felons, etc. Conservative discrimination against low-income people and minorities were obvious in the new laws. Eighteen of the 22 states have GOP legislatures or governors. Seven of the 11 states with the highest black turnout in 2008 have new restrictions. Nine of the 12 states with the biggest Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010 have the same new restrictions. Nine of the 15 states previously covered by the Voting Rights Act, almost two-thirds, passed new voting restrictions.

Although most of these states are in the South, other states farther north joined them: Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Two of these have backed down, but Kansas and Wisconsin kept their oppressive anti-voting laws.

In her dissent to overruling the VRA section, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” People in Texas lost the umbrella protecting them from voter restrictions within two hours of the decision’s announcement. North Carolina waited only two months to pass the most stringent set of voting restrictions among all 50 states.

Local governments have also adopted strategies to cut out minorities. Augusta (GA) moved city council elections from November to July when black turnout is traditionally far lower. Pasadena (TX) approved an at-large system for electing council members to reduce the number of successful Hispanic candidates. Beaumont (TX) followed the same process for its school board. The federal government blocked the move, but Beaumont did an end run and succeeded in state court. Decatur (AL) has a new system to rid the city council of its one black member.

After the five conservatives of the Supreme Court eviscerated the VRA, it claimed that Congress could clean up their mess. With the GOP-caused gridlock, this will not happen now or, possibly, in the near future. Rep. Eric Cantor seemed amenable to listening to the voting problems after a trip to Mississippi with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who was beaten by state troopers during the civil rights movement, and David Goodman, who is the brother of the slain Andrew Goodman. Cantor said, “This voting issue is not a partisan issue.” He has not been re-elected.

[Thanks to Ari Berman for these thoughts and words.]

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, believes that there is no voting discrimination because current laws don’t allow this to happen. Goodlatte still thinks that Section 2 of the VRA, which remains after the Supreme Court ruling, is sufficient protection. It allows victims of racial discrimination in voting to file suit. Therefore, Goodlatte will not schedule a hearing on the issue.

A broad coalition of civil rights, labor, and progressive leaders launched the VRA for Today Coalition with a petition signed by more than 500,000 Americans who strongly support restoring the Voting Rights Act and protecting all voters from discrimination. Advocates who tried to deliver the names of the petition signers this month found that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had locked his office door during normal business hours.

The voiced argument for voting suppression in 34 states has always been a self-righteous claim that laws are necessary to stop voting fraud. Sworn congressional testimony by Loyola Law Prof. Justin Levitt in September 2011 cited only nine potential cases of in-person impersonation since 2000 out of 400 million votes cast during that time. A non-partisan news consortium in 2012 found one more case. Levitt updated his data recently and found 31 cases out of 1 billion ballots cast in the past 14 years. Some of these 31 cases have not been thoroughly investigated which means that they may be debunked through computer error or confusion of names. This is a fraud rate of 0.00002 percent. Impersonation results in a $10,000 fine and three years of imprisonment—for just one vote. It would also require the name of another person registered at a specific polling place who has not yet voted and does not know the person.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), presidential wannabe, has waffled about photo ID, but this week he again argued that the GOP is causing problems for minority voters. At the Liberty PAC conference, he said:

“So many times, Republicans are seen as this party of, ‘We don’t want black people to vote because they’re voting Democrat, we don’t want Hispanic people to vote because they’re voting Democrat. We wonder why the Republican Party is so small. Why don’t we be the party that’s for people voting, for voting rights?”

As a U.S. senator, Paul has sponsored no legislation to protect voters targeted by the GOP. In July he said that he wanted to bring back a federal role for the Voting Rights Act, but he has failed to sign on to a legislative proposal to do just that. He hasn’t even come up with an alternative.

Update to Kansas: Since my report two days ago about Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s insistence that the Democrats name a candidate for the U.S. Senate on the ballot, a Kansas Democrat, whose son is the regional field director for GOP Gov. Brownback’s re-election campaign, filed a lawsuit intended to force Democrats into selecting a new candidate for the highly contented U.S. Senate race. The Kansas Supreme Court sent the case to a lower court which must consider barriers to mandamus relief. It’s doubtful that the case will be settled there before ballots have been printed for Election Day on November 4. The Kansas Secretary of State polls show that Kris Kobach and his Democratic challenger Jean Schodorf are even in the race.

The residence of the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, incumbent Pat Roberts, is in question. He has signed a mortgage on a Virginia residence that declares Fairfax County as his “principal residence.” In Kansas he owns a duplex in Dodge City and registers to vote at the home of supporters and donors C. Duane and Phyllis Ross. He joked, “I have full access to the recliner.” For this privilege he pays $300 a month. He said in an interview, “Every time I get an opponent — I mean, every time I get a chance — I’m home.” (No, that’s not satire.)

 

March 23, 2012

Anti-Choice People Get Crazier

How crazy can anti-choice people become? Just when you think you’ve seen it all ….

Members of an anti-choice group performed an exorcism outside a women’s clinic in Ohio last Sunday. Priests got permission from the Rev. Steve J. Angi, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, to perform the “exorcism of locality,” designed to drive evil out of a place, rather than out of a person. Participants read the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, written by Pope Leo XIII in 1886, that states, “Seize the dragon, the ancient serpent, which is the devil and Satan, bind him and cast him into the bottomless pit, that he may no longer seduce the nations.”

While the Catholics are exorcising “locality,” Republican legislators are becoming more and more outrageous. In Arizona Rep. Terri Proud wants a bill to force women witness an abortion before they can have the procedure. An Alaskan bill requires women who opt for abortions to prove in writing that the fetuses’ fathers approve of the procedures.

To keep women from having abortions, both Arizona and Kansas are considering bills giving women’s doctors the legal right to lie about health issues regarding both the pregnant women’s and the fetuses’ health. In a 20-9 vote, the Arizona Senate approved a bill, sponsored by Nancy Barto, that prevents lawsuits if doctors fail to inform women of prenatal problems. The Kansas bill goes further, permitting doctors to outright lie outright if they discover a medical condition that could affect a pregnant women or fetus. Nine other states already have “wrongful birth” laws on their books allowing doctors to withhold information from pregnant women.

Idaho State Sen. Chuck Winder clearly states the arrogant attitude that many Republican legislators have toward women. While discussing his mandatory ultrasound bill, he said, “Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this. I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.”

Gov. Rick Perry (TX) stated that he can take money from Planned Parenthood because the Tenth Amendment allows him to do anything with federal money that he wants. Between the withdrawal of state and federal funds from Planned Parenthood, over 300,000 Texas women in poverty can no longer receive health care. Texas also has a 24-hour waiting period and ultrasound requirements for abortions. The Texas Observer has published a story about the pain that these laws cause for women carrying fetuses with irreversible medical conditions, an article that every Republican should be required to read.

Utah’s governor signed the bill that demands a 72-hour waiting period before women can get abortions. The rationale behind lengthy waits seems to be that women will change their minds if given enough time … or perhaps not meet the short window of time during which women can get abortions.

The trend against women, however, seems to be slightly reversing. Tennessee is thinking about not requiring the publication of the names of doctors’ who perform abortions although the women’s identity could still be obvious. The change comes from the only physician in the legislature, a Republican who wants to protect at least doctors if not women.

The Idaho House is backing off forced ultrasounds after the Senate passed the bill 23-12 with five Republicans voting against it. The cancellation of a House committee hearing gives the impression that the bill may have died. After the New Hampshire House passed a bill that would force doctors to lie to their patients by telling them legislature-specified statements that abortions give higher risks for breast cancer, legislators decided to take the bill back to committee so that it could be reconsidered. Abortions do NOT give a higher risk of breast cancer.

Arizona’s bill requiring women to tell their employees why they want contraception has already passed the House, but it’s being amended by its sponsor, Rep. Debbie Lesko, who pulled it from the Senate Rules Committee. The intent to return to committee is to work on amendments—what kind wasn’t disclosed. Gov. Jan Brewer said she was concerned that women might be “uncomfortable” with the bill.

Utah governor Gary Herbert vetoed a bill banning public schools from teaching about contraception in health education classes.

Women are still fighting back. Project TMI is still posting on legislators’ Facebook pages across the nation.

The National Organization for Women (NOW), which has been almost invisible in the past few years, has tackled the bust of Rush Limbaugh being sculpted for the Missouri state capitol. The state chapter’s program, “Flush Rush,” has sent hundreds of rolls of toilet paper to Steven Tilley, the state House Speaker responsible for inducting Limbaugh in the Hall of Famous Missourians. Tilley’s justification for keeping Limbaugh in the capitol is that the Hall is “not called the Hall of Universally Loved Missourians. We’ve inducted people like John Ashcroft, Warren Hearnes, and Harry Truman. They certainly had their detractors.” Apparently at least one Missouri Republican compares Limbaugh to Harry Truman.

Because of its opposition to Planned Parenthood, the Susan G. Komen Foundation is losing affiliate officers and events. Another group—one that’s pro-choice and spends more of its funding helping women prevent breast cancer—would better suited to take its place.

Conservative legislators are also more reluctant to fight in other areas such as same-sex marriage. Two-thirds of the New Hampshire House voted to keep its 2007 same-sex marriage law in a 211 to 116 vote. Republicans hold 189 seats in the House; they could easily have passed the bill.

Even with this trend, the country trends farther and farther to the right. There must a tipping point somewhere!

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