Nel's New Day

November 9, 2019

DDT: Week 146 – Disaster

Last week was miserable for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). The transcripts from witnesses for the Impeachment inquiry consistently contradicted him, but the statement from Fiona Hill, who served until July as the White House’s top expert on Russia and Europe, may have been the most devastating. She testified, “We found disparaging remarks made by pretty much every world leader and official at different points about the President.”

DDT’s level of confusion may be rapidly increasing. On 11/9 (today) he retweeted a tweet from John Bolton about 9/11 that begins “as we reflect this week on the horrific 9/11 attack ….”

After being booed at a World Series game, DDT had the same experience last Saturday when he attended the main fight of the mixed martial arts UFC 244 at Madison Square Garden. Tonight he got mostly cheers in the Deep South at the football showdown between Louisiana State and Alabama.

A few weeks ago, Shep Smith left Fox; this past week Catherine Herridge, chief intelligence correspondent abandoned her 23-year career at Fox for a move to CBS. Her reason:

“CBS News has always placed a premium on enterprise journalism and powerful investigations. I feel privileged to join a team where facts and storytelling will always matter.”

Yesterday, DDT went to Atlanta to help launch Black Voice for Trump, the grassroots’ attempt to increase the black vote for him in 2020. He has a ways to go after he got 8 percent of the black vote in 2016 and now polls at 7 percent approval rating among blacks. [Left: two of the few hundred people who turned out for his speech.]

The Pentagon said that DDT doesn’t have the right to take oil revenue out of Syria, but it’s still claiming its authority over the oil fields. Officials declared U.S. military authority over the oil fields by saying that they would shoot any Representative of the Syrian government who tries to retake control of their fossil fuel resources. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has already said that the U.S. will decide what to do with the oil “in the future.”

A New York judge ordered DDT to pay $2 million out of his own pocket to nonprofit organizations in a civil lawsuit resolving DDT’s bogus fundraiser for veterans as part of his 2016 campaign. The lawsuit filed by the state’s AG accused DDT and his children Donald Jr, Eric, and Ivanka of repeatedly using charitable donations for personal, political and business gains including legal settlements and campaign. DDT, who said he would never settle the lawsuit, settled by admitting his wrongdoing. Other parts of the settlement subject DDT to ongoing supervision by the New York AG and compulsory training for his children to guarantee that their illegal activity “never takes place again.”

Another woman has filed a lawsuit against DDT: E. Jean Carroll who is a prominent writer, media figure, and advice columnist. When the accusation first became public, DDT said that she is a “liar” and not his “type.” The suit is for his lying that “inflicted emotional pain and suffering, they damaged her reputation, and they caused substantial professional harm.” Carroll explained that she can’t hold DDT accountable for his sexual assault but she “can hold him accountable for lying about it.”

A similar case against DDT by Summer Zervos has a deadline of December 6 for depositions. DDT may have to answer questions under oath. 

DDT has lost other court cases in the past week or two:

In a unanimous decision from a three-judge panel, the 2nd Circuit Court ordered DDT’s tax returns to be turned over to a state grand jury. The panel also rejected the argument that DDT is immune from criminal investigation (aka above the law). DDT plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Usually, the few cases that SCOTUS takes come from disagreement among courts. In this case, four judges have adamantly ruled against DDT, making the move to SCOTUS questionable.

A federal judge in Oregon temporarily blocked DDT’s requirement that immigrants prove they have U.S. health insurance within 30 days of arrival or enough money for “reasonably foreseeable medical costs.” The restraining order is for 28 days. Immigrants without insurance used under 0.1 percent of U.S. medical expenditures in 2017. 

Using the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal judge voided DDT’s rule allowing health-care provides to refuse any health care that they opposed on religious or moral grounds after over 20 states, municipalities, and health advocacy groups filed a lawsuit. One part of the lawsuit was that the rule disproportionately harmed specifically groups of patients such as Q patients. DDT’s rule could have allowed medical “professionals” to deny a wide variety of procedures such as in-vitro fertilization, gender-affirming surgeries, or assisted suicide and even refuse referrals if they chose not to perform these procedures.

A second federal judge, this one in Spokane, blocked the same “religious beliefs” rule a day later. DDT’s rule would also cut federal health funding to employers and states if DDT believed they were not following health care workers’ beliefs.  

Another federal judge ruled the government must provide mental health services to thousands of migrant parents and children who experienced psychological harm because of DDT’s separation of families. Hundreds of these separations still occur. Counseling and other services are mandated to compensate for the families’ trauma. The ruling referred to federal decisions that governments can be held liable when they place people in dangerous situations with “deliberate indifference.”

Thanks to a court decision, DDT extended Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from six countries through early 2021. Migrants running from natural disasters have lived in the U.S. without controversy for up to two decades, but DDT’s aide Stephen Miller prioritized an attack on TPS.  

In a speech at the annual Judge Thomas A. Flannery Lecture, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman of the District of Columbia said that DDT’s rhetoric “violates all recognized democratic norms.” He explained:

“We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms. He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a coequal branch to be respected even when he disagrees with its decisions.”

Friedman talked about Thomas Jefferson, who tried to make federal judges’ seats elected positions, and Dwight Eisenhower, who called the appointment of Earl Warren as the Supreme Court’s chief justice one of his biggest mistakes. No other man sitting in the Oval Office, however, has attacked the judiciary in the same way that DDT does, using incivility and political scorn, according to Friedman. He finished by saying, “Unlike the other two branches of government, the courts are charged with making decisions grounded in facts, never on alternative facts.” Friedman is a senior judge and secretary of the American Law Institute.

Russia picked DDT for U.S. president and interfered in the election to win him the White House, according to Tamir Pardoto, the former chief of Israeli intelligence Mossad.

DDT’s businesses continue their decline, in tandem with his reputation. He keeps getting paid for GOP fundraisers and by foreign leaders, but the figures shrink. Profits at his Chicago hotel fell 89 percent between 2015 to 2018, $16.7 million to $1.8 million, while other Chicago hotels stayed steady or increased their profits. In 2018, a small-time investor defined DDT’s effect on his buildings: “Then the Embarrassment Came.” Even Trump Organization’s lawyers admit that DDT’s hotel is suffering from “political backlash.” DDT’s solution in Chicago is to cut costs such as cheaper housekeeping products and leaving jobs open. The one surefire profit for his properties, however, comes from his over 200 visits in less than three years, money to DDT paid by taxpayers. He faces other losses, for example the vacant street level floor at New York’s Trump Towers and the losses of contracts to manage three hotels.

At a Halloween party for children in the White House on October 25, DDT worked to brainwash his young guests by persuading them to build a construction paper wall by writing their names on brick-colored paper cards and tape them to the wall. Next to the wall were signs with the Ku Klux Klan and pro-Nazi saying, “America First.” In 2017’s Halloween party, DDT repeatedly made derogatory comments about their journalist parents. 

Update on Kentucky’s GOP idea of stealing the governor’s seat:  an increasing number of Republican lawmakers are asking Gov. Matt Bevin to give evidence of the alleged voting “irregularities” or concede the election to Democratic Gov.-elect Andy Beshear, who defeated Bevin by 5,189 votes. The GOP House Speaker said the House won’t have anything to do with the election unless Bevin files a complaint.

Although 88 percent of Republicans think that a president can be impeached for enriching himself, only 22 percent think that using presidential power to force foreign countries to investigate a political rival is impeachable. And 65 percent of Republicans think that presidents do that “all the time.” It’s the new normal for the GOP.

November 6, 2019

GOP Votes Shrinking

Yesterday was Election Day across the United States, mostly in small sections of different states. One state, however, elected state officials, another one chose its entire upcoming legislature, and a third picked both. The results are making some Republicans nervous.

 Mississippi:

The election of a Republican governor and state legislature majority here was pretty much a given. But with the current governor term-limited out, GOP Tate Reeves won his gubernatorial race by only seven points, far less than the 17-point win for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in 2016. Democrats get about one-third of the seats in the state Senate and did a bit better in the state House with approximately 40 percent. Luckily for Reeves got the at least 62 of the 122 House districts mandated for him to win. Considering the polls that supported his opponent for almost the entire past year, Reeves was lucky to win the majority vote, but a loss wouldn’t have given governor to his Democratic opponent. 

“The Mississippi Plan,” put in the state’s 1890 constitution, was “to secure to the State of Mississippi ‘white supremacy,’ ” according to the journal of the proceedings. Blacks, who tend to vote Democratic, are about 38 percent of Mississippi’s population, but the state has not had one black statewide office holder since 1890. Four blacks are suing Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn and Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman to have the requirement changed. Gunn and Hoseman want the case dismissed but wrote: “Neither the speaker nor the secretary wish to defend the motivations behind a law allegedly enacted with racial animus.” The Mississippi Republican Party doesn’t oppose removing the elections requirements from the constitution but called Eric Holder’s interest in the case a “continuation of national Democrats’ attempts to delegitimize elections they do not win.”

Virginia:

A huge turnout in Virginia flipped their General Assembly from red to blue for the first time in 26 years, largely with Democratic support in the suburbs. Democrats took at least five additional seats in the House of Delegates and two in the state Senate, including one Democratic woman who lost in the last election in a tie. This legislature will establish the new voting districts after the 2020 U.S. census. Both U.S. senators, a majority of U.S. House representatives, and all three statewide office holders are Democrats.

When DDT took office, Republicans held a 66-34 majority in the General Assembly. As of yesterday’s election, Democrats hold a 55-45 majority, and DDT’s approval rating in the state is below 30 percent. Republican incumbents tried to separate themselves from DDT and be more moderate about guns and expanding Medicaid after their former radical-right votes in the past. House Speaker Kirk Cox was re-elected but gives up his position after only two years. He refused to answer questions about the GOP loss. Later he issued a statement promising to work with Democrats “where we can” and to block them from overreaching. House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, back again but without his leadership position, warned of Democrats’ “extreme agenda” and pledged to “fight it at every turn.” Tim Hugo, the last GOP legislator in the Northern Virginia suburbs thought he could keep his place by concentrating on local issues such as potholes. Although No 3 in the House GOP leadership, Hugo avoided the word “Republican” on both his campaign website and at voter forums. He still lost the district by seven points, a district that was solidly GOP six years ago.

Top issues for the Virginia election were gun safety, women’s rights, and clean energy. Gun laws came into play after the May 31 mass shooting in Virginia Beach that killed twelve people. Gov. Ralph Northam had called a special legislative session in July for gun safety measures, but Republicans adjourned after 90 minutes with no debates on any of the 30 filed bills. In Virginia, home of the NRA, over 20 percent of gun sales have no background check, making the state a pipeline for illegal gun trafficking along the East Coast. Last summer, a poll found that gun policy was the top issue for 75 percent of respondents. In 2018, pro-gun safety Democrats won in suburban districts across the United States.

A June court decision required district remapping in southeastern Virginia where districts were gerrymandered. About 425,000 voters in 25 districts were moved to more evenly distribute black voters.

The woman fired for a photo of her flipping a bird at DDT’s motorcade was elected to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors over a GOP incumbent. DDT has a golf course in that county.

Kentucky:

At a rally in Kentucky for the GOP gubernatorial candidate on the night before the election, DDT said, “If you lose, they will say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. You can’t let that happen to me.” Andy Beshear, the Democratic candidate for governor, beat incumbent Matt Bevin by over 5,000 votes in this state that DDT won by 30 points in 2016. Beshear said last night that he expects Bevin will “honor the election that was held tonight.” He’s wrong. Bevin refuses to concede the election because of voting “irregularities,” although he didn’t cite any,

Because Kentucky has no provision for an automatic recount, Bevin’s campaign announced today it will attempt a “recanvassing” to ensure that all machines accurately calculated vote totals and transferred them to the state. In 2015, James Comer, Bevin’s opponent in the GOP primary, requested a recanvass of the contest that Bevin won by 83 votes with no change in vote totals. Although canvasses are commonly requested in close Kentucky races, they have never produced a different election outcome and rarely produce a different vote total. Between 2000 and 2015, only three of 27 nationwide recounts changed the result on Election Day.

Bevin can get a recount only by filing a contest of the election and then paying for it. And the state doesn’t make recounts easy to do. Republicans are so desperate to keep Bevin as governor that state Senate leader Robert Stivers claimed that the state lawmakers, with a majority of Republicans, would determine the winner, a process not used to settle an election since 1899. Last night, Stivers said that Bevin would have won if Libertarian candidate John Hicks had not received 1.97 percent of the vote.

The first step in the GOP’s attempt to overturn the election cannot start until after a recanvassing and certification of the results by the State Board of Elections. Bevin then has 30 days to contest these results although he would need specific reasons, i.e., campaign finance rules violation or methods of casting ballots. Following that, Stivers would call a special session in which lawmakers would assign an 11-person panel to hear arguments and give a verdict. The contest for the results would also start a recount. The full legislature would evaluate the panel’s decision; both Houses of the General Assembly would have to determine the outcome.

On the campaign trail, DDT promised to increase coal jobs, but instead they’re disappearing. Almost 6,600 Kentuckians work in coal, down about 80 percent in three decades. In 2019, five big mining companies declared bankruptcy, threatening the United Mine Workers of America pension fund, which supports over 100,000 retired miners and fully vested workers. Kentucky’s GOP senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has stalled on protection of the pension until today. In one county, 41 percent of the population live in poverty, over three times the national average, and the state is almost 20 percent, ranking fourth in the nation. The number of votes for Bevin shrank from four years ago when he won by almost nine points. The state had expected about a 30-percent voter turnout the same as four years ago; instead it was over 42 percent.

Bevin has many reasons to lose his seat. Many people lost health care with Bevin’s work requirements when he defended his personal policy by suing his constituents. He wanted to cut taxes, like the failed program in Kansas; make taxes regressive; and weaken public education. Early actions were to cost the state $23 million by dismantling “kynect,” the Medicaid provision in the state, and cut Medicaid dental and vision coverage for up to 460,000 people in Kentucky. Bevin blames school shootings on video games and accused teachers of children being sexually assaulted, physically harmed, or exposed to poison and drugs when educators were on strike. Teacher salaries and spending per pupil are down about 6 percent, adjusted for inflation, since the 2008 recession. When Bevin took health care and education away from people in Kentucky, he called them “socialism.

In addition to criticizing his social and fiscal policies, many Kentuckians consider Bevin a “jerk.” In a visit a chess club at a majority-black and -Latino school in West Louisville, he said that chess was “not something you necessarily would have thought of when you think of this section of town.” While opposing a mandatory vaccine program, Bevin bragged about taking his children to a chickenpox party.

Signs were not good for Bevin throughout his campaign. Only about 200 people turned out for the Bevin event last August at the Appalachian Wireless Arena with a capacity of 7,000. In a county that DDT took by 80 percent. At a rally where Donald Trump Jr. was a speaker. [visual Bevin] 

More election news from across the United States.

July 9, 2018

New SCOTUS Justice Nominee, Continuing Lawsuits

The suspense is over, and the work begins. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has nominated Brett Kavanaugh, anti-abortion activist, as his choice for a Supreme Court Justice, perhaps because the sitting judge on the D.C. Circuit Court believes that a sitting president should not be indicted. I will write more about him later. In the meantime, U.S. courts keep chewing away at federal injustices:

The U.S. Supreme Court, soon to be reconfigured to the right, delivered a final statement for 2018 on gerrymandering when it kept the redrawn legislative districts by returning the case to a North Carolina court that tried to reduce racial gerrymandering. Democrats are the majority voting bloc in the state, but the GOP controls ten of the 13 seats in the House of Representatives and a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly. The Supreme Court could still hear the case again if an appeal from Republicans returns the issue to the higher court. Legislators are also trying to move the court to the right by increasing the number of judges. But they can’t finish this process by the fall election—I hope!

Today DDT lost another round in the separation of children and families when a judge refused long-term detention of migrant families except in cases when parents are detained on criminal charges. Judge Molly M. Gee said the administration’s attempt to change the 1997 Flores agreement requiring the release of children within 20 days was “a cynical attempt” to shift immigration policymaking to the courts in the wake of “over 20 years of congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action that have led to the current stalemate.” In another federal case, 54 migrants under the age of six, scattered from California to New York, will be secretly returned to their parents tomorrow, half the number who were removed from their parents. Tomorrow is the court’s deadline for all the youngest migrants to be returned to their parents. The court has mandated that the remainder of children over five years old, perhaps 2,900, must be reunited by July 27.

The DOJ dropped charges against the last 38 protesters of the 200 arrested at the inauguration of DDT. Prosecutors managed to get one guilty plea to a felony and another 20 to misdemeanors in 18 months after turning the lives of hundreds of people upside down.

A federal judge has ruled against a Tennessee law that suspends or revokes driver’s licenses of people too poor to pay court costs or traffic fines because the law violates constitutional due process and equal protection clauses. The ruling does not affect other states, but it sets a precedent for other similar rulings. Over four million drivers have lost their licenses for failure to pay these charges in only five states—Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.

A judge in the Southern District of New York ruled that the lawsuit opposing the citizenship question in the 2020 census can go forward amid “strong” evidence DDT acted in bad faith. Also granted was the request for discovery that will bring to light the background for this decision. Judge Barbara Underwood wrote:

“By demanding the citizenship status of each resident, the Trump administration is breaking with decades of policy and potentially causing a major undercount that would threaten billions in federal funds and New York’s fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College.”

ICE cannot systematically detain migrants fleeing persecution from their home countries, according to a judge in the Federal District Court of D.C. who pointed out that the U.S. government requires these applicants to be freed when appropriate. Under DDT, parole rates have gone from over 90 percent to “nearly zero.” Judge James Boasberg has ordered individualized reviews for all asylum seekers before denying parole in a case affecting over 1,000 asylum seekers denied parole in Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Newark, and Philadelphia. ICE has held one of the plaintiffs for over 18 months after he fled Haiti and passed his credible fear interview and then a judge granted him asylum in April 2017.

A ballot initiative already passing review for the fall ballot by the Michigan Court of Appeals will go to the state’s Supreme Court. A Republican and business-backed group are challenging the initiative to create an independent commission to draw legislative districts with advice of consultants and public hearings. Gerrymandering in Michigan, as in a majority of other states, has caused Republicans to take over state legislatures despite a majority of Democrat voters in some states.

A federal judge blocked Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirements because they did not consider whether these would violate the provision of health care to the most vulnerable people. The disagreement comes from whether the requirement furthers the program’s goals. Up to 95,000 people could lose Medicaid coverage within five years with these requirements. Kentucky was the first state to create these work requirements, and three other states—Indiana, Arkansas, and New Hampshire—had received federal approval. Seven other states have submitted proposals.

Gov. Matt Bevin retaliated against people on Medicaid by cutting Medicaid dental and vision benefits to almost 500,000 people, some of them children. In Kentucky, Medicaid covers about 1.4 million people, almost half of them children. Federal funding provides for 80 percent of the $11 billion dollars for the program. Bevins’ order may violate the judge’s ruling about Medicaid.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been named as a possible witness in the federal corruption trial of an Alabama coal executive and two politically connected attorneys in Alabama. The case is about an alleged conspiracy to bribe a state legislator to limit the EPA’s cleaning up a Superfund site. The legislator, Oliver Robinson, has already pled guilty to taking bribes from Drummond Coal that were facilitated by the two attorneys at a major Birmingham law firm. Other witnesses include several state legislators as well as Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), recently returned from a PR trip to Russia, and Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL). As a senator, Sessions tried to intervene with the EPA to stop the cleanup at the Superfund site after conferring with the Drummond lawyers; the law firm and coal company were Sessions second- and third-largest contributors to his senate campaign, a great deal after Sessions intervened. The DOJ has been overseeing the case while Sessions is AG.

After a number of losses in court, including being sent to take remedial law classes, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will no longer represent himself in court during his appeal for contempt in court and a ruling of unconstitutional for requiring people to show proof of citizenship in voter registration. Kobach’s office will be lead counsel. Furious because he lost a straw vote to gubernatorial competitor Gov. Jeff Colyer, Kobach accused his opponent of voter fraud by paying 106 people to vote.

A federal judge issued an injunction against a 2015 Arkansas law that bans abortion pills. Earlier the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to hear a case against the law. After Planned Parenthood presented new evidence, the judge indicated that it may prevail in the case. A federal judge also blocked Indiana’s new requirement that medical providers report patient information to the state after treating women for complications from abortions.

Last week, people celebrated the separation of the United States from the reign of George III. In another eight years, the U.S.—if it still exists—will celebrate the 250th anniversary of this document. Until then, consider the similarity between the actions of George III and DDT:

  • DDT ignores laws and court decisions he doesn’t like—anti-nepotism, Russia sanctions, emoluments clause, the Affordable Care Act—the list goes on.
  • DDT blocks laws in the Congress, such as ones about immigration, if he disapproves.
  • DDT wants to be a dictator like China’s Xi Jinping, while a majority of Republicans want to postpone the next presidential election.
  • DDT demonizes immigrants with extreme punishment. Consider the Declaration’s complaint about George III: “he has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither….”
  • DDT tries to prevent a legal investigation into ties between Russia and his campaign through attempts to weaken U.S. confidence in the FBI, the intelligence services, and the justice system as a whole.
  • DDT “has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”
  • DDT has ordered “Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures” by sending National Guard troops to the border with Mexico.
  • DDT is stopping “Trade with all parts of the world” and “imposing Taxes on us without our Consent” with tariffs and alienation of allies.
  • DDT “has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people” through expanding offshore drilling, risking wildlife and oceans, and destroying economies of states bordering oceans.
  • George III also suffered from a mental illness.

DDT has just nominated a Supreme Court justice while he is being investigated not only for his involvement in Russian election meddling but also for illegal payoffs to women with whom he had affairs, defamation, and his illegal activities with his personal charitable foundation. He might also be charged, both civilly and criminally, with perjury by signing at least four annual federal tax returns swearing that the organization wasn’t used for political and/or business purposes although evidence shows that he lied. Yet DDT thinks he’s above the law, and his new Supreme Court justice may agree with him.

January 17, 2018

Say No to Medicaid Work Requirements

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 10:32 PM
Tags: , , ,

While the media obsesses about the coarse language of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), the GOP has found ways to destroy the health and lives of people throughout the United States. Republicans claim that they don’t have enough money for nine million children’s health care in the CHIP program after they gave over $1 trillion to big corporations and the wealthy. A growing number of people are going uninsured after DDT’s work to ruin the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Now they want work requirements and payment for Medicaid, a program created in 1965 to help people with limited income obtain health benefits that includes nursing home care. The only eligibility for participation was the level of income. The last few years of expanded Medicaid in some states has shown remarkable advantages to everyone–$3.4 billion of reduced unpaid bills in its first two years. Healthier people are better able to pay more taxes, and the increased treatment for substance abuse greatly reduced rates of robbery, aggravated assault, and larceny theft.

A major problem for tens of millions of people in the past week is the decision to allow states to impose a work requirement for people on Medicaid, primarily minorities. Seema Verma, the person in charge of this plan, helped design the Indiana Medicaid expansion that required recipients to make monthly payments. The basis for this decision is not to improve health—although that is the claim—but to siphon more money from the poor to the wealthy. Behind this plan are the Koch brothers, the Mercers, the Ricketts, and other multi-billionaire families, already benefiting from millions of dollars after the GOP tax plan.

These decision-makers ignore the fact that at least half of all non-disabled adults with Medicaid already work, and 80 percent of them live in households where at least one adult works. Of those who don’t work, 36 percent are ill or disabled; 30 percent are caregivers; 15 percent are students; and nine percent are retired. Of all the Medicaid recipients, only one-third are non-elderly adults and spend under twenty percent of total costs.

The new guidelines make “suggestions” for these classifications other than the “able-bodied adult” but don’t mandate them. To continue getting health care, these people, many of whom have trouble navigating the system, will be forced to get a doctor’s letter proving that they are within the requirements for exemptions. Doctors are responsible for deciding who lose their insurance in many cases because they must determine who is “medically fragile.” As for pay, those who cannot meet the monthly payments will then lose their coverage.

DDT’s administration announcement about the loss of Medicaid based on lack of “work” was preceded by the Treasury Department’s proposal to reduce federal rules requiring banks to provide mortgage financing in minority neighborhoods. Rules will be expanded to businesses and infrastructure projects that don’t serve the poor.

Ten states have already applied for waivers: Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin. Kentucky was the first to be accepted. Until Kentuckians elected a GOP governor, its Medicaid program was a shining example for the nation, and people loved it. The state’s adult uninsured rate fell from 18.8% in 2013 to 6.8% in 2015. Unfortunately, voters didn’t connect the program with “Obamacare” and rejected the Democrats in the 2014 election, much to their current disappointment. The result is this Medicaid proposal with these mandates:

  • Monthly charges from $1 to $15 that increase in the third year, as much as four percent of income;
  • Loss of insurance with a six-month hiatus before requesting enrollment following failure to pay for two months unless the person completes a financial or health literacy course;
  • Disenrollment for not timely reporting changes to income or employment or making false statements regarding work for six months unless the person completes a health or financial literacy course;
  • Requirement of 20 hours weekly of employment activities for most adults;
  • Waiver of non-emergency medical transportation for adults;
  • Addition of a high deductible health savings account (funded by the state) to existing capitated managed care coverage with an incentive account to purchase extra benefits by specified health-related or employment activities (aka quitting smoking, losing weight, and/or exercising);
  •  and/or up to half of any remaining annual deductible funds;
  • Mandatory Medicaid premium assistance to purchase cost-effective employer sponsored insurance after the first year of Medicaid enrollment and employment for adults and their Medicaid and CHIP-eligible children;
  • Use of federal Medicaid matching funds for short-term Institution for Mental Disease (IMD) services for non-elderly adults in certain counties;
  • Removal of a proposed expansion of presumptive eligibility sites to county health departments and certain safety net providers.

If, like me, your eyes have glazed over at the complexity of these mandates, you will understand that the waiver’s goal is to greatly decrease the number of people on Medicaid and manage their personal behavior, not to make their health better. The huge cost of administering such convoluted regulations puts the money into administration instead of helping people with no money for the government to help pay for program administration.

Kentucky expects to save almost $500,000 a year with the new program, but that comes from making 95,000 people uninsured. Those are the people who will get their health care in hospital emergency rooms that will cost the state more than they save. In typical GOP doublespeak, Verma said, “We see moving people off Medicaid as a good outcome because that means they do not need the program anymore and have transitioned to a job or can afford insurance.” In the same way, the Clinton administration said changes to welfare would encourage “needy” people to find work, move out of poverty, and up the economic ladder. None of those advantages happened. TANF assistance dropped, and more people moved into poverty.

Gov. Matt Bevin said that he will drop 400,000 people off Medicaid if he doesn’t get his way to require work for the health insurance plan for the poor. Kentucky is already one of the unhealthiest states in the nation, ranking worst in cancer death rates, the second-highest smoking rate, and seventh highest obesity rate. Eight of the 13 counties in the U.S. with the largest declines in life expectancy are in Kentucky.

People who support the waivers staunchly declaim that only “able-bodied” people will be affected. Yet the exception in the new rules apply only to those who have gone through the rigorous and restrictive process of obtaining Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Their definition of disability:

“The inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”

Seriously disabled people who fail this stringent definition are considered healthy and able to work, according to Republicans. Left out of the disabled definition are people with cancer, substance abuse, mental health disabilities, and other health issues. Last year, 10,000 people died while they waited for their appeals to be processed. The waivers would stop any Medicaid help for wheelchairs and other medical equipment, caregivers, and—of course—“non-emergency medical transportation.”

White people will benefit from the waivers because states can provide exemptions from work requirements in areas of high unemployment. Thee areas tend to be rural, more likely populated with white people, because they have fewer job opportunities, less reliable transportation, and fewer social services. Black people living in cities will be more burdened in the waivers.

Moms Rising listed more serious problems in a work requirement for Medicaid, a program that composed of 62 percent female and one-third children:

“This misguided policy punishes the most vulnerable members of our society and has the potential to cause millions of people to lose their health coverage just when they need support the most. It will perpetuate poverty and inequality, jeopardize the health of families, disproportionately harm women, undermine our economy, and do little to help anyone find or keep a job.

“[Work requirements] push people to accept low-paying, short-term jobs that provide no long-term stability, and they punish seasonal and hourly workers who may lose health coverage if their hours change suddenly….

“Ultimately, the only outcome of implementing work requirements will be that tens of thousands of low-income people will lose access to health care, making it that much harder for them to find jobs. Not to mention that this is just the first of many anticipated cuts to Medicaid and other essential programs that Republicans in Congress and the White House will put forward to pay for their outrageous tax law….”

As with most DDT dictates, the waivers will face court cases because the goal of the Medicaid program is to encourage work. The argument that “work promotes health” is as twisted as the German statement “Arbeit macht frei” (“work sets you free”) above the entrances to Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.

March 31, 2016

“Small Government” in Kentucky, Alabama

bevins hammerWhen GOP Matt Bevin ran for Kentucky’s governor, he promised to save the people by doing away from the dreaded “Obamacare” in the state. Republicans elected him, and he kept his promise. Under the former governor, the state’s health care, KYNECT, was a model for the country in its coverage for over 500,000 people.

Here is what happened with the Tea Party’s new state computer system:

  • Benefind—Bevin’s new system to replace KYNECT for—has shut people out of their online accounts or entirely eliminated their health coverage with no warning and no explanation.
  • Children have been cut off from Medicaid coverage.
  • People who visit overcrowded state offices where they are forced to wait hours—sometimes an entire day—to see anyone. Or they are forced to come back the next day after the computers crash.
  • The helpline is available only from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, limiting access for people who work those hours.
  • The recorded message sends people to a website which has many glitches, is hard to use, and provides no help for people without computers or Internet access.
  • People looking for help in public benefits now are forced to wait hours or days as they repeatedly call the helpline that gives them only a recorded message before hanging up.
  • People who can’t get coverage are cutting back on their medications and ending up in the hospitals’ emergency rooms multiple times.
  • Over 500 workers statewide trained to help people sign up for health coverage cannot access Benefind and thus cannot help people to apply for coverage or fix problems with their coverage.
  • People who formerly provided proof of citizenship can no longer get health coverage until they resubmit the documentation.

Bevin’s answer? On YouTube, he says, “I’m aware of and sensitive to your frustrations.”

Republicans who say that big government doesn’t work may be right—when they’re trying to operate it.

[Personal comment: Today I spent over two hours on the telephone with insurance companies and pharmacies on behalf of my partner. One of her medications cannot be generic; therefore she needs prior approval from her insurance company to pay for the brand medication. She has prior approval, but the insurance company will not send her anything in writing to prove it. Even after that, the cost of the medication with differs from $87 to $1500 for a ninety-day supply—with insurance.

I called three pharmacies multiple times to find the prices. All of them started out by stating that they couldn’t do that without the prescription although one of them said on the opening telephone message that it would give the prices of medications for Medicare. The cheapest pharmacy, gave three different prices on three different calls, but refused to give any written verification. It will take faxes for the prescription but won’t send a fax to request the prescription from the pharmacy that holds the prescription. That pharmacy will fax the prescription on but only after it is asked. Another prescription will require a doctor’s visit.

I’m retired—sort of—and have the time to make the calls during the daytime when these places are open. I’m also determined and willing to take on the problems of these calls. After a drastic increase in my blood pressure over the two hours, I can’t imagine the pain that people in Kentucky are now enduring—just because the GOP doesn’t like “big government” and probably people. Then there’s the issue of a different in almost $6,000 for a prescription from a local pharmacy and the “mail-in” part of a huge insurance company. These problems are something that could be changed by single-payer or universal health care, but it might violate our freedom. Big business loves our freedom because it gives them trillions of dollars.]

Did I mention that Republicans hate “big government”? Here’s a fine example of how they legislate it. Mississippi just passed the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act,” yet to be signed by GOP Gov. Phil Bryant, allowing discrimination against sex by anyone except a male/female couple after marriage. According to the language, an unmarried couple having sex in their personal bedroom is breaking the law if signed by Bryant.

In another Southern state, the big story out of Alabama less than two weeks ago showed GOP Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley governing the state by giving an 80 percent increase in salary to four cabinet members, an extra $73,405 each, after signing a bill banning all cities from raising the minimum wage—the federally mandated $7.25 an hour. These salary increases were the biggest, but dozens of other people—cabinet and staff members—also got sizeable raises.

Last August Bentley defunded Planned Parenthood in the state before a federal judge overturned his move. Taxpayers had to pay for the legal fees. Last December Bentley diverted funding from the 2010 BP oil spill recovery effort to renovate a second Governor’s mansion on the Gulf Coast. In January he took 45,000 people off food stamps if they weren’t supporting minor children. Each of these people had received only $194 a month.

bentleyThis month, however, things got very bad for Robert Bentley after it was revealed that he is having phone sex—and maybe more—with his top aide, Rebecah Mason, on “burner” phones bought at Best Buy. (To find details, just Google the situation.) Rumors have been swirling about his infidelities for quite a while, but they became much more open after his wife of 50 years filed for divorce. He first denied the accusations, despite the tapes played on the media, and then asked for forgiveness. Just for his infidelity and not for refusing poor women health care, causing people to go hungry, appropriating funds for his own personal use, and trying to block LGBT rights in the name of “family values.” Bentley supporters complain that the emphasis in the country shouldn’t be on sex—no problem as long as conservative laws don’t prioritize sex in their “big government” prohibitions.

Although some lawmakers talk about impeaching Bentley, he says he won’t quit. His former Baptist pastor talked about “church discipline” and said that Bentley is no longer a member of the Tuscaloosa congregation where he was once a deacon. The subject of Bentley’s desire has resigned, wanting to spend more time at home with her family, but her husband, state director of the state faith-based initiative office, remains at his job.

Mason’s company was paid over $328,000 during the past three years, more than his cabinet members before their 80 percent raise. She may have been received much more than this. Although Mason served as Bentley’s top aide, she didn’t have to file financial disclosure forms because she wasn’t designated as a state employee.

Alabama has trouble with politicians: a former governor is in prison for corruption, and the speaker of the State House of Representatives is to stand trial this year on 23 felony charges of ethics violations.

Bentley is using his position to investigate two men for blogging about his alleged affair with political adviser Rebekah Mason. He ordered the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the Law Enforcement Tactical System (LETS) to find incriminating evidence against attorney Donald V. Watkins, and Legal Schnauzer blogger, Roger Shuler. Some people question whether Bentley broke any laws in his love fest, but Watkins claims investigations will find “wire and mail fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and racketeering violations under federal law, among other charges …[in circumventing] public oversight, transparency and competitive bid laws by channeling millions of public dollars into entities like the Workforce Councils of Alabama and others legitimate agencies and then directing the recipient agency to execute vendor contracts with certain special friends and supporters.”

The U.S. House Freedom Caucus, each making an annual salary of $174,000, is working toward “small government”by not going to work. Despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s claim that the entire last year of the presidential term is a “lame-duck session,” the HFC understands that this time is only the approximately 75 days between the general election and the new president’s inauguration. Members hope to not go into session for this time, causing only 17 days in session after July 15 and  zero days after September 30. They have to wait until April 12 to do this because they aren’t in session.

Conservative House members have already killed the budget and the appropriations process for the year, and the government can’t operate after September 30 without a continuing resolution to maintain last year’s spending levels. HFC board member Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) described the lame-duck session as “a bunch of people who have already either quit, retired or been fired by their constituents decide they still want to vote on major stuff.” He admitted that quitting work that early this year wouldn’t look good for the legislators. He also said, “When you’re one of the people who tends to think most of what we do here is screwed up in the first place, then the less we do, maybe the better.”

That’s life in the world of conservatives who want “small government.”

December 23, 2015

New Gov. Bevin Gives Kentucky Lumps of Coal

 

 

MinWageIncrease2016

US_minimum_wage_map.svgEighteen states are raising the minimum wage in 2016, 14 on January 1 and four others later in the year. At $10 an hour, California and Massachusetts the highest rates; Arkansas has the lowest increase, going up $7.50, $.25 over the federal rate in 21 states, last changed in 2009. Eight states are indexed to the cost of living which did not increase this year.

Of the 21 states that must follow the federal rate because they have no minimum wage or law puts it below federal rate, most are in the South.  [Map for 2015: Green – higher than federal rate; blue – same as federal rate; red – lower than federal rate; yellow – no minimum wage; Arkansas created minimum wage since map was published.]

Kentucky Governor-elect Matt Bevin responds to a question during a press conference in the Kentucky State Capitol Rotunda, Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, in Frankfort, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

 (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Kentucky and its newly elected Tea Party governor belong to the bottom 21 states. Some of the approximately 16 percent of eligible voters who elected Matt Bevin as governor, only the third Republican since World War II, will soon going to suffer from buyer’s remorse if they aren’t already doing so. Bevin’s actions show what can happen if the United States elects a Republican president.

One of five orders Bevin issued on December 22, two weeks after his inauguration, was to lower the minimum wage for state workers and contractors to $7.25. Rent on an average one-bedroom apartment in the state would require a person to work a 60-hour week. He also stated that he doesn’t believe in minimum wage, that “wage rates ideally would be established by the demands of the labor market instead of being set by the government.” The top one percent could make even more by dropping their wages to the dollar-a-day that “free market” sets in the Third World. The danger there is that people couldn’t buy their products—even food.

Tipped state workers are even worse off. Last summer, the former governor raised the hourly wage for waiters and waitresses at state parks from $2.19 to $4.90. Bevin put them back at $2.19 an hour.

In addition to declaring a moratorium on hiring state employees, Bevin reversed Beshear’s practice of requiring merit employee actions be approved by the secretary of the governor’s Executive Cabinet. Bevin’s order also requires a review of all vacant positions in any agency to determine their necessity. In addition, he eliminated the Governor’s Employee Advisory Council, which advised the governor’s office on merit employee wages and terms of employment. The council was established by Democratic Gov. Paul Patton, disbanded by his successor Republican Ernie Fletcher and re-established by Beshear.

When former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear restored voting rights to at least 140,000 with felony convictions, Kentucky was one of just three states that permanently disenfranchised all people with felony convictions. An early action by Bevin was to again disenfranchise all these people after they have paid their debt to society. Bevin had campaigned last year on restoring these people’s rights, but he reversed his earlier opinion. In Kentucky, one in five blacks lost their voting rights after conviction, compared with one in 13 nationally.

In another order, Bevin saved Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis from future jail terms by ordering the state to remove names of county clerks from marriage licenses. Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins, whose office serves the state’s second largest city, Lexington, said Bevin may have exceeded his authority because these licenses, a civil transaction, require clerks’ names for historical record. Another legal issues comes from the altered marriage licenses issued to couples in Rowan County since September that don’t include Davis’ name or the name of the county. Because of a question about their legality, the ACLU has asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to order Davis to reissue the licenses, but Bunning has not yet made a ruling.

Nationally, the most controversial of Bevin’s actions comes from his declaration that he would eradicate health care for Kentucky residents. The state has been touted as an icon of improvement in health care, but Bevin pulled all ads for the state health exchange, Kynect. The earliest that he could shut down Kynect would be in 2017 because the law requires a 12-month notice to the government. Changing to the federal health care exchange, as Bevin has suggested as a possibility, would be more expensive than Kynect. Its annual budget of $28 million is funded by a one-percent assessment on health premiums. A federal exchange requires 3.5 percent in assessment, and dismantling Kynect would cost the state an estimated $23 million.

Some of the people who voted for Bevin are worried about the loss of their health care, but others think that people don’t deserve Medicaid. One of the latter is Angel Strong, an unemployed nurse, who went on Medicaid after she lost her job. “I had never had Medicaid, because I had insurance at my job,” said Strong. “Now I am out of a job and I am looking for another job, but in the meantime I had no income.” Medicaid recipient Strong doesn’t want other people to get Medicaid. She says that they need “tough love” because “[people] want everything they can get for free.” Most of Strong’s neighbors in Jackson County also need financial help for health insurance coverage, but most of these people didn’t consider their loss when they voted.

Rick Prario, 54, found he was eligible for Medicaid after losing his longtime job at a hardware store, but he’s angry because he had to pay the law’s tax penalty for going uninsured in 2014 when he was still working. During that time he skipped treatment for diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis, treatment that he now receives on Medicaid. His plan now is to quality for disability that he sees as a surer thing than Medicaid.

During two terms with former Gov. Beshear, the unemployment fell to a 14-year low, and the state’s uninsured rate dropped by over 40 percent. The new GOP governor was exposed as a “con man” and a “pathological liar” during his failed senatorial primary run against Mitch McConnell earlier this year. Among other actions, he failed to pay taxes, got a $200,000 federal grant for a fire in his Connecticut business, told people that he was unaware that he was actually attending a cockfight, claimed graduation from MIT—the list goes on and on. The GOP was so disenchanted with Bevin that they failed to support him for the governor’s race.

Bevin’s lies don’t end there. He’s accused Beshear of leaving Kentucky “burdened with a projected biennial budget shortfall of more than $500 million” despite the million in surplus.

The new governor won’t have an easy term. He has to deal with the only state House of Representatives in a Southern state controlled by Democrats. His first strategy was to appoint Democratic legislators to other positions that paid more, but Speaker Greg Stumbo is fighting Bevin’s takeover in all the issues that drive Kentucky backward. For example, Bevin has promised to repeal state taxes on inventory and inheritances with no plans to replace the revenue.  Bevin’s secretary of state and attorney general are both elected Democrats. AG Andy Beshear is the former governor’s son.

coalBevin may have won because he isn’t a “career politician” (although rigging the voting computers may have had some influence). Kentucky will now have a “laboratory experiment” for people who think that people with no experience and education in a profession will do a better job. By now, however, people may be learning that their Christmas stockings contain lumps of coal instead of something to make their lives better. As the website for Kentucky for Kentucky state, “Nothing says ‘I do not approve of you,’ like a real live chunk of Kentucky’s filthiest export.” It’s too late for this year, however, because they’re sold out, but there’s probably enough lying around in the state that the new governor can find.

Today, December 23, is Festivus Day, made famous by scriptwriter Dan O’Keefe, who wrote for Seinfeld. Celebrated with an aluminum Festivus pole, the holiday includes “Airing of Grievances.” People living in Kentucky will have lots to air for this year’s Festivus Day and most likely much more by Festivus Day 2016, especially those 400,000 people who may lose health care because of Matt Bevin. And the 140,000 who lose the right to vote. And the people who lose salaries and pensions. And ….

November 20, 2015

LGBT Equality Only Partial

Many same-gender couples will spend their first Thanksgiving as married couples after the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. Yet Obergefell v. Hodges has not made LGBT families secure throughout the nation because of a myriad of roadblocks in many states.

An early obstruction came in Rowan County (KY) last summer when the county clerk, Kim Davis, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. After her contempt of court kept her in jail for a few days, she said that the county deputy clerks could issue the licenses but only after she changed the wording of the license forms and removed her name and that of Rowan County. She also ordered her deputies to sign the forms as “notary publics” instead of deputy county clerks.

Although Gov. Steven L. Beshear declared last month that the marriage licenses were valid, he has now submitted a brief with the U.S. District Court that states his office does not have the authority to determine whether these licenses are valid. Couples have filed a brief in U.S. District Court supporting their prior assertion that the Rowan County clerk’s office failed to comply with orders directing deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses without interference by Clerk Kim Davis.

ScaliaSupreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia angrily spoke about losing Obergefell during a speech to first-year law students at Georgetown last week. Scalia said that determining which minorities deserve protection should be made through the democratic process rather than a court decision. According to Scalia, only political and religious minorities are protected by the constitution.

Last summer’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges may have changed the perception of due process. According to Kenji Yoshino, the case may displace five decades of the high court’s substantive due process decisions. For a half century, the Court used tradition, specific definition rather than general abstraction, and the willingness to protect negative “freedom from” rights rather than positive “freedom to” rights to determine due process. Almost two decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Washington v. Glucksberg that due process did not cover the right to assistance in committing suicide. In Obergefell’s dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts, who declared that the majority “effectively overrule[d] Glucksberg, the leading modern case setting the bounds of substantive due process.”

The marriage equality ruling has replaced a rigid ruling on due process, according to Yoshino, with the common-law approach voiced in Justice John Harlan’s dissent for Poe v. Ullman (1961). He supported a balance of individual liberties against government interests without being “shackled to the past.” Tradition, to Harlan, was a “living thing,” a concept that Scalia despises. Instead of opposing marriage equality because of the long historical tradition against same-gender marriage, the Court majority considered the “right to marry.” The question for the future is whether Obergefell will be used to make future decisions about due process or whether the Court will revert to the past as it has many times since Roberts became chief justice.

For now, some courts and legislatures are giving same-gender couples a “partial equalty”—really an inequality—that will require the Supreme Court to take up more litigation. Custody, adoptions, fostering children, and couples’ rights after separation are most likely the next fights for same-gender couples.

Hoagland.PeirceIn Utah, Judge Scott N. Johansen ordered a nine-months-old child removed from a lesbian couple because it was “not in the best interest of children to be raised by same-sex couples.” Public outcry led to his rescinding the order, but the judge left open the possibility of removal at a December 4 hearing. Fortunately for the child, the judge has now recused himself “and refers all pending matters to be assigned by the presiding judge.”

Utah began placing children with same-gender couples after the Supreme Court decision last summer, and an infant girl was placed with married couple Rebecca A. Peirce, 34, and April M. Hoagland (above left), 38, and their two biological children in August. On November 10, 2015, the two women attended what they thought was a regular hearing, but Johansen ordered that the baby be removed within a week and given to a heterosexual couple. The Division of Child and Family Services said that it was “in the child’s best interest” to stay with the two women. Even the GOP governor joined in the protest for the judge’s decision. Gary R. Herbert said, “He may not like the law, but he should follow the law.”

As in Kentucky, the current obstacle is not necessarily the law but the attitude of government employees who discriminate against LGBT people. In the hearing, the judge said “that research has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home,” but he refused to cite any sources. At this time, research is on the side of the same-gender couple with no current credible study supporting the judge’s bias.

Justice Anthony Kennedy clearly listed adoption among the rights associated with marriage, but he didn’t mention foster parenting. Until recently, most states prevented child placement with same-gender couples who were not married, and the law prevented many of these couples from being married. Several states permit private placement agencies to discriminate against same-gender couples, but Mississippi is the only state that flagrantly enforces a state law banning adoptions by same-gender couples.

smith and Phillips adoptionFour couples are challenging the Mississippi ban on adoptions by same-gender couples, including Janet Smith and her wife, Donna Phillips (right). The state is blocking Smith’s adoption of Donna’s eight-year-old daughter, Hannah Marie. The two married women are raising Hannah together, but Smith has no legal status in regards to their daughter. Phillips, a captain in the Mississippi Air National Guard, is “concerned about legal aspects for Jan” if she is called or activated. This lack of legal recognition puts children at risk of losing both their parents and ending up in foster care if something happens to their birth parent and their other parent is not legally recognized.

Last year, 29 percent of Mississippi’s same-gender couples were raising children younger than 18, the highest percentage of any state. A year ago, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves found the adoption ban to be unconstitutional, but the decision was stayed pending action by the Fifth Circuit and then the Supreme Court. Ronnie Musgrove, the governor who signed the ban into law 15 years ago, has written that he regrets his action. “As I have gotten older, I came to understand that a person’s sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with their ability to be a good parent.”

Another Mississippi couple, Kathryn Garner and Susan Hrostowski, has waited 15 years for a second-parent adoption of the child they raised together since he was born just six weeks before the ban went into effect. Two other couples, also plaintiffs in the case, want to adopt children from foster care. Kari Lunsford and Tinora Sweeten-Lunsford wanted to take a child with special needs who could not be matched with other foster parents. They were told that they would have to live apart for at least six months during a home study, and only one of them could adopt the child.

The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review an Alabama case in which judges refuse to recognize an adoption granted in another state. A lesbian known in court filings by her initials V.L. helped raise the children, now ages 10 to 12, but has no visitation rights since the couple separated. During their 16-year relationship, the two women had three children from sperm donors, and a Georgia court approved V.L.’s adoption of the children in 2007. In September 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court struck down the woman’s visitation rights and ruled the adoption invalid, saying the Georgia court was wrong under that state’s adoption laws to grant it. Earlier this year, the same court directed probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to same-gender couples even after a federal judge ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

The case involves a constitutional provision requiring one state to respect court orders of other states: Article IV’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. Lawyers for V.L. wrote that the decision “would create a massive loophole in the Full Faith and Credit Clause.”  They added, “There is no legal or practical basis for singling out adoptions as uniquely unworthy of full faith and credit.” If states don’t recognize adoptions from other states, LGBT parents can lose their parental rights when they travel, for example the inability to make medical decisions for their children if they are in an accident. V.L.’s attorneys have also applied to the Supreme Court for a stay of the Alabama’s ruling so that she can visit the children during the appeal. Justice Clarence Thomas, the justice with jurisdiction in Alabama for emergency actions, has called for E. L., the biological mother, to respond to the stay applications by November 30.

LGBT discrimination

Despite last summer’s ruling that same-gender couples can marry, 61 percent of the LGBT population “will continue to live in states with medium or low legal protections—or that have outright hostile laws,” according to the report Mapping LGBT Equality in America, released earlier this year. Since this map was released in early October, all of Houston (TX) LGBT people lost their rights in the November election.

November 9, 2015

Ben Carson Stories, Election Fraud in Kentucky?

[Follow-up to Saturday’s blog on election fraud: Until last week’s election in Kentucky, the polls showed Kentucky democrat Jack Conway leading Tea Party extremist Matt Bevin by a margin of 3 to 5 points, but Bevin gained almost 15 points on Election Day, supposedly winning by a nine-point margin. The same state voted for Democrats Secretary of State Alison Lundergan and Attorney General Andy Bashir. This “significant anomaly” indicates a strong indication of rigging the vote. Richard Charnin published results that found “cumulative vote shares indicate likely fraud.” His methodology and results are here.

Kentucky has a history of vote rigging: in 2011, “eight former Clay County, Kentucky officials were convicted on conspiracy charges, after it was discovered that they had rigged elections in 2002, 2004 and 2006,” according to Brad Friedman. Among the eight are “a circuit court judge, a county magistrate, an election commissioner, a county clerk, a polling place officer, an election officer, a school superintendent. The conspiracy also included business owners who were receiving county and city contracts.”

In the GOP presidential race, Ben Carson may have surpassed Donald Trump in the number of hits on the Internet. That accomplishment, however, may not be a positive force for Carson’s presidential campaign. As Carson ascended in the polls, searches in his background showed his increasingly outrageous comments. Four years ago, Mitt Romney was the “post-truth” candidate”; Carson has joined Romney in adding “post-knowledge” to the post-truth piece.

Carson believes that God helped Joseph to build the Egyptian pyramids to be grain silos and not tombs. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph was taken to Egypt and interpreted  the Pharaoh’s dream, causing Egypt to save grain before a time of famine. The Bible contained nothing about the pyramids. Carson lives in a bubble of biblical literalism and magical homeopathic cancer-curing drugs. His speech about the grain storage in the pyramids was made 15 years ago, he still supports this belief.

Texts going back to 2400 B.C. shows that the pyramids were to help pharaohs get to their afterlife. In the tombs were directions on the walls to guide the spirits to the gods and treasures useful to the pharaoh after death. The tombs also didn’t have enough space for grain storage.

Trying to justify why an inexperienced person like himself should be president, Carson said, “It is important to remember that amateurs built the Ark and it was the professionals that built the Titanic.” The question is whether people would select an amateur to perform brain surgery on them rather than a highly trained professional. Those who maintain than an “outsider” with no experience is more qualified to be president have no evidence. Carson also tried to excuse his inexperience by saying that not one signer of the U.S. Constitution had ever been elected to office. In fact, 28 of the 58 signers of the Declaration of Independence were prior office holders.

While signing books in Florida, Carson said that the birthright citizenship in the constitution’s 14th Amendment doesn’t apply to U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. Unlike others who think that another constitutional amendment is required, he said, “The interpretation [of the 14th Amendment] is left up to the Congress. They don’t have to amend it. They just have to reinterpret it.” According to the U.S. Constitution, he’s wrong.

Carson will now receive Secret Service protection that he requested because of great danger from “the secular progressive movement.” The veracity of such a statement is highly doubtful as more and more indication of his falsehoods has inundated the Internet.

Carson was also caught in an open lie about his background with a nutritional-supplement company under fire for fraudulently practices. He said he had nothing to do with it although videos show him advertising the product.

In his autobiography, Carson claims that he was offered a “full scholarship” to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Yet West Point has no scholarships because no one is charged for attending the school. Carson finally admitted that he had not applied to West Point but claimed that someone suggested he should go there. Carson’s campaign did admit that he made up the story in Gifted Hands that he was “the Junior ROTC at a dinner for Congressional Medal of Honor winners [and] marched at the front of Detroit’s Memorial Day parade as head of an ROTC contingent.”

Known in the past for being level-headed, Carson descended to a rant against a reporter who asked about the West Point story, accusing the media of not running “this level of scrutiny for President Barack Obama.” Carson’s memory does not include the heat on all many issues against the president, including the consistent accusation that President Obama was not born in the United States. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton received heat equal to, and perhaps more, than President Obama while not raving about the unfair media. The president may have said it best, early in his first term:

“I think it’s fair to say that I don’t always get my most favorable coverage on Fox, but I think that’s how democracy works. We’re not supposed to all be in lock step here.”

No one has been able to verify Carson’s story that he protected white students from attacks by angry black students on the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in 1968.

According to Carson in his book Gifted Hands, a Yale psychology professor told the class, Perceptions 301, that they had to retake the examination because their final exams had burned up. Carson wrote that every student in the class except him walked out. The story of the burned exams was a hoax, and Carson was declared “the most honest student in the class” with his photo taken for the Yale Daily News. Yet there is no record of the event of the photo that was supposedly taken in the early 1970s. There’s not even a class called Perceptions 301 although Carson posted a link for a similar class, Psychology 323b, that was offered in Spring 2002.

Reporters have been unable to find anyone to verify Carson’s stories that he punched a seventh-grade classmate in the head while holding a lock and tried to stab a classmate named “Bob” in ninth grade. One classmate Gerald Ware said that if it had happened, “it would have been all over the school.” Sometimes when Carson tells the story, “Bob” is a classmate; at other times, he is a family member. Asked if “Bob” was his brother, he refused to answer. If Carson lied about the story, he broke a commandment; if he told the truth, people should remember the Bible’s story of Abel and Cain.

Carson believes he is a famous neurosurgeon because God gave him the answers to a chemistry final in a dream. His home is a shrine to himself, including a painting of himself with Jesus Christ. A painted portrait with Jesus hangs in his house’s hallway. [Photo by Mark Makela]

CarsonJesus

While candidates Jeb Bush and Chris Christie use family members and friends to campaign against harsh punishment for drug users, Carson said they had a lack of values and principles. The whole drug abuse problem is traced back to an over-emphasis on “political correctness,” according to Carson.

In a post on Science Blogs, a physician with the pseudonym Orac gave two reasons for the dichotomy between Carson being a brilliant surgeon and suffering from anti-science views. People with low expertise in a subject overestimate their confidence in that area contrasted to experts who underestimate their expertise, acknowledge less certainty, and recognize the limits of their knowledge. Entering medical school, students are told they are the “best of the best,” destined to be top dogs with great power and privilege. That makes doctors sometimes believe that they are experts in other subjects.

Frequently the most intelligent people are the most avid believers in pseudoscience, and they have the skill to protect their pre-existing beliefs. That may be why Ben Carson thinks that gay rights is a Communist plot with President Obama as part of the Communist conspiracy to bring down the United States and that the theory of evolution comes from Satan.

Carson tries to play both sides of the field. He either dismisses expert opinions by doubling down when questioned about them or panders in a reversal of positions, for example his switch regarding school vaccine mandates during the first GOP debate. Neither one is an attribute for a good president.

Lacking a professional background in politics, Carson uses his personal experiences as his campaign, saying that “honesty is more important than political experience.” He appears to have neither.

Tomorrow night is the fourth GOP presidential debate and the first one since all these questions about Carson have been widely publicized. Topics are jobs, taxes, the “general health of the economy,” and international issues. If the moderators don’t bring up Carson’s controversies, Donald Trump most likely will.

November 4, 2015

Elections Advance Progressive Issues

Mainstream media articles today sent the message that progressives lost the country after yesterday’s election. Seventeen percent of voters in Kentucky picked a GOP governor for the first time since, a man who even the RNC was reluctant to support. Virginia kept a Republican legislature, and Houston kept trans people from being able to use the appropriate restroom for them. Almost 10,000 voters in Coos County (OR) decided that they could not obey gun laws that they don’t like. But across the country were pockets of successes for human rights.

 

  • Pennsylvania: In a highly expensive election, Democrats swept three seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, giving them a five-to-two majority; previously, Republicans had controlled the bench three-to-two, with two vacancies. This majority will influence the next round of legislative redistricting because it picks the tiebreaking vote for the commission that draws maps for the state legislature. Republicans chose the tiebreaker last time, but the newly elected judges with ten-year terms will be there in 2021. Eliminating the gerrymandering from the past redistricting session could move the legislature to progressive instead of conservative.
  • Ohio: In another movement to stop gerrymandering, voters—by a margin of 71 percent to 29 percent—passed a constitutional amendment to greatly reduce or even eliminate gerrymandering of state legislative districts in 2021. The state Senate had approved the measure by 28-1, and the state House of Representatives had voted in favor by 81-7. Ohio joins Virginia to be is one of the most gerrymandered states in the U.S. While Democratic candidates for the House got 55,000 more votes than GOP candidates, Republicans won 60 out of 99 seats. The GOP got 75 percent of the U.S. Representative seats despite getting only 57 percent of the vote in 2014.
  • Colorado: Voters decided to leave the taxes on cannabis with the state rather than collecting about $8 each. They made this decision despite advertising from the Tea Party (Teapublicans?) urging them to oppose the initiative that would take that money out of their pockets. The taxes go to public education, youth programs, and law enforcement.
  • Indianapolis (IN): Democrat Joe Hogsett defeated Republican Chuck Brewer 63-37 after the city had a GOP mayor for the past eight years.
  • Salt Lake City (UT): In this very red state, Democrat Jackie Biskupski unseated two-term Mayor Rich Becker (a fellow Democrat) by a 52-48 margin, making her the first openly gay mayor in Utah history.
  • Charlotte (NC): Democrat Jennifer Roberts squeaked out a 52-48 win over Republican Edwin Peacock to win the mayoralty in the state’s largest city, possibly slowing his political career. The city’s last GOP mayor, Pat McCrory, is now governor.
  • Mississippi: State Attorney General Jim Hood, the last Democrat holding statewide office in the Deep South, won a fourth term by a 56-44 spread. He has been a strong advocate for Hurricane Katrina victims still battling insurance companies. Democrats also took two of three seats on the Public Service Commission, the board that regulates utility companies. This may help keep the Mississippi Power Company from passing massive cost over-runs for a new $6.5 billion power plant to customers.
  • Maine: Voters expanded the state’s Clean Election Act by a 55-45 margin. The result is greater public funding for candidates, mandatory donor disclosure, and penalties for violators.
  • Seattle (WA): A wide margin passed the new campaign finance system to give each voter four $25 “democracy vouchers” every two years that they could then give as donations to candidates for city races like mayor and city council. Recipients will have to abide by additional caps on donations and spending as well as participating in at least three debates.
  • Tacoma (WA): Voters approved an $12 increase in the minimum wage over the next two years.
  • Elizabeth (NJ): The state’s fourth-largest city joined the three biggest ones to institute paid sick leave along with the states of California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Oregon.
  • Jefferson County (CO): Conservatives on the school board who tried to rewrite the AP U.S. history curriculum to “present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage” and “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system” lost their seats. In this case, the Koch brothers’ big cash infusion on the part of the losing school board members in the state’s second-largest school district was wasted.
  • New Jersey: Democrats picked up three more seats in the state Assembly, giving them the biggest majority in 36 years. Their governor, Chris Christie, is rapidly going done in the polls of presidential candidates.
  • Ohio: Voters successfully opposed the legalization of marijuana. Although this vote may not seem progressive, the constitutional amendment would have given all sales rights of the cannabis to just seven wealthy people. The state also voted to keep the initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit as it would “prohibit any petitioner from using the Ohio Constitution to grant a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel for their exclusive financial benefit or to establish a preferential tax status.” Although this sounds good, the Ohio Ballot Board determines whether this is the intent of an initiative. Right now that board is a 2-to-2 split between Republicans and Democrats with the GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted breaking any tie. That gives him sole power for the determination of what a “monopoly” might be. In future initiatives about legalizing marijuana, Husted could determine that 1,000 growers equal a monopoly.

Kentucky elected a GOP governor who plans to take health insurance from 400,000 state residents, but a Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, may have changed the nation’s view on “religious liberty.” She claimed that being forced to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples violates her Freedom of Religion rights, but 56 percent of the people in the United States now think that she is wrong. According to this majority, government officials should put aside their religious beliefs when doing their jobs. Just last July after the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, 49 percent of the people thought that Davis was right; that number has been dropped by 14 percent to 41 percent. Among Republicans, that figure dropped from 72 percent to 58 percent, almost a 20 percent decrease.

As for the future of Kentucky, the people may need more than prayer. Under the two terms of Gov. Steve Beshear (D), Kentucky became a state with an unemployment rate at a 14-year low and a reduction of its uninsured by over 40 percent. When the newly elected governor, Matt Bevin, ran against Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) a year ago, Republicans called Bevin a “con man” who “pathologically” lies. He didn’t tell the truth about his educational background, and his business needed a taxpayer bailout. During his campaign, he also repeatedly lied about being delinquent on property taxes owed in Louisiana and on a Maine vacation home. He lied about giving a speech at an illegal cockfighting gathering. Caught in his lies, he created an “enemies list” of journalists who confronted his lying. Kim Davis’ Rowan County, however, didn’t vote for Bevin. [Photo: Bevin with Kim Davis and her husband, Joe, with Ted Cruz lurking in the background.]

Joe-Davis-matt-Bevin-Kim-Davis-Facebook-800x430

Bevin’s term will show how far he will go to hurt his constituency. If the governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, is any example, people of Kentucky are in for a rocky road.

September 5, 2015

Kim Davis Denies Dignity to LGBT Couples

Filed under: Discrimination — trp2011 @ 7:37 PM
Tags: , , ,

When the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality throughout the United States, I was one of those millions of people naive enough to think that government officials would obey the law. Not so. In several counties and other municipalities across the nation, same-gender couples cannot get married because the law means nothing to some elected officials. One of them, Rowan County’s clerk, Kim Davis has become a cause célèbre since her refusal to issue marriage licenses put her first in front of a judge and now in jail. One of three Kentucky county clerks refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couples, she maintains that she cannot because of her “religious beliefs.”

After Federal District Court Judge David L. Bunning ordered Davis to issue licenses, both the 6th Circuit Court and the Supreme Court refused to delay the order while she appealed. Bunning ordered her to jail, saying, “The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order.” In short, Davis is paid by taxpayers to issue marriage licenses but refuses to issue licenses to couples she finds morally objectionable, citing “God’s authority.” She could get another job which doesn’t violate her religious beliefs, but she chooses not to do so. Davis was jailed, not because she is opposed to marriage equality but because she ignored a court order. She refused to follow the law and is now in contempt of court.

Davis’ support includes a white supremacist group who plans to rally in her favor and most of the GOP presidential candidates. Only Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Carly Fiorina said that she should do her job. As usual, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) played both sides:

“While the clerk’s office has a governmental duty to carry out the law, there should be a way to protect the religious freedom and conscience rights of individuals working in the office.”

Rubio is right that Davis is required to carry out the law. She swore an oath that she would follow the U.S. Constitution and the law. [I provided the entire Kentucky oath below because it’s a bit bizarre.]

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Kentucky so long as I continue a citizen thereof, and that I will faithfully execute, to the best of my ability, the office of County Clerk according to law; and I do further solemnly swear (or affirm) that since the adoption of the present Constitution, I, being a citizen of this State, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.”

Rowan County deputy clerks said Davis “terrorized” them and they were afraid to issue licenses. A question, however, is whether the licenses are valid. Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel that is affiliated with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, says that the licenses are void because they lack Davis’ authorization. The form states that is must contain “an authorization statement of the county clerk issuing the license,” but state law requires only “the signature of the county clerk or deputy clerk issuing the license” to be valid. Rowan County attorney, Cecil Watkins, said that these licenses are valid. The deputy clerks are issuing marriage license on the order of a federal court judge.

Staver compares Davis’ imprisonment to the boycotting of Jews in Germany during the Nazi regime. He said, “This is the new persecution of Christians here in this country.” Staver thinks Davis is doing her job. He said, “She has a right to this employment and you don’t lose your constitutional liberties just because you are employed by the government.” Members of Kentucky’s legal community think that Staver and his partners “may have violated their duty to tell her she had no case.”

Davis’ current husband, Joe, demonstrated outside the courthouse with a sign that read, “Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah.” About the judge who jailed his wife, Joe Davis said, “He’s a butt.” And “a bully.” The governor of Kentucky? “No backbone.” He also said, “Just because five Supreme Court judges make a ruling, it’s not a law.”

Rowan County LGBT supporters

Other protesters  opposed Davis’ actions. [Photo by Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times]  Matt Bevin, GOP candidate for governor, suggested changing the state law for issuing license, perhaps to a form that couples could get online, to end the standoff. Gov. Beshear said he doesn’t want to call a special legislative session; thatleaves the situation unsettled until next year.

A tweet from best-selling Christian author Rachel Held Evans describes the hypocrisy of Davis and her supporters:

Evans tweet about Kim Davis

Even former vice-president Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz think that Davis should do her job. Appearing on Newsmax, Dick Cheney pointed out that “it’s the law of the land.” Steve Malzberg tried the argument that forcing Davis to do her job would lead to forcing churches to perform same-sex weddings, Liz Cheney snapped:

“As my dad said, it is the law of the land. The court has ruled. And she’s not an employee of a church or synagogue, she’s a government employee. So, she has an obligation to uphold the law.”

Davis has a very good reason for not resigning her job—actually 80,000 of them. That’s what she gets paid. In rural Kentucky, $80,000 plus benefits is a hefty annual salary for a 9-to-5 job where she can terrify the people who work for her. She’s used to a good salary: for 24 years she worked as county’s chief deputy clerk for her mother who established her compensation—common practice in Kentucky. In 2011, county residents complained about her salary of over $63,000, far more than the $38,000 that the Chief Deputy Sheriff was paid. The county clerk’s salary budget was cut for 2012.

When Davis’ mother didn’t run for re-election in 2014, Davis ran for county clerk and won the general election by about 500 votes. After she was elected she said, “I promise [that I will] follow the statutes of this office to the letter.” Her four-year term began in January 2015.

The Lexington-Herald Leader editorial board wrote:

“We’ve never heard of a clerk denying a license to a divorced person, a philanderer, someone who’s abused a partner or neglected children. It’s easy to imagine the outrage and chaos that would ensue if clerks began morality-testing prospective opposite-gender spouses. But that’s exactly the right that Davis is demanding. She wants to pick and choose, based on her beliefs, which legally qualified couples will get marriage licenses….

“Davis can resign if she’s morally unable to issue the marriage licenses while the appeal is pending. Law-abiding, taxpaying Rowan County citizens have been denied their constitutional rights for almost two months while Davis has kept her job.”

Davis is now married for the fourth time. Her first three marriages ended in divorce in 1994, 2006, and 2008. Her twins, fathered by her third husband, were born five months after her divorce from her first husband and have been adopted by her second husband who is also her fourth husband.

When the issue is resolved, Kim Davis will very likely become a star on the Christian lecture circuit like the bakers in Oregon who didn’t want to “participate” in a same-sex wedding by making a cake. Unconfirmed reports indicate that she will appear at two different family values-themed rallies with Donald Trump and that Sarah Palin wants her to be the next interview subject for an upcoming On Point television broadcast. Someone should ask her about biblical verses mandating that people obey the government.

One person rejected for a marriage license in Rowan County said:

“When you’re gay and you grow up in Kentucky, you kind of get used to hiding who you are, accommodating other people and making them feel comfortable. You don’t realize how much of your own dignity you’ve given away. It catches up to you.”

In his opinion legalizing marriage equality across the United States, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “[Same-sex couples] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” Some day Kentucky may do the same.

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