Nel's New Day

January 15, 2017

U.S. Moving toward Nazism?

During his press conference last week, Donald Trump (DT) referred to himself as a victim, like six million murdered Jews, of Nazi-like tactics. His whining came from a leak describing about his alleged compromising behavior that may have given the Russians control over his actions. DT said:

“I think [the leak is] a disgrace…, and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.”

That was before Marine Le Pen, France’s far-right National Front leader and advocate of ethnically cleansing France of Muslim immigrants, visited Trump Tower. DT’s team said that they didn’t meet with her, but they have also said that people should pay attention to “comes out of his mouth.”

DT is right about a similarity to the Nazi movement, but the behavior is coming from himself and the other Republicans as they oppose everyone except white male Christians. An example is their opposition to Planned Parenthood. For example, the GOP Congress has a prime goal to remove the $500 in federal funds from payments and grants, about 40 percent of PP’s budget in providing annual health checkups, screenings for diseases, and contraceptives for about 2.5 million people.

Alfred Rosenberg, a chief Nazi ideologue, said:

“The emancipation of women from the women’s emancipation movement is the first demand of a female generation trying to rescue nation and race, the eternally unconscious, the foundation of all civilization, from decline…. [O]ne thing must be made clear: Only a man must be and remain judge, soldier, and politician.”

Concerning same-gender rights, the Nazis extended Paragraph 175 of the German Penal Code:

“Unnatural vice committed by two persons of the male sex or by people with animals is to be punished by imprisonment; the verdict may also include the loss of civil rights.”

Nazi ideology was based on their belief that gay men lowered the German birth rate; endangered, recruited, enticed, and corrupted youth; are “potential oppositionists” and enemies of respectable society; and bring the “decline of social community.” Nazis complained that gay men couldn’t fight in the war because, according to Gestapo head Heinrich Himmler, they were “like women.”

Lesbians weren’t rejected in Nazi Germany because Nazis expected that “Aryan” lesbians could produce children for them. A Nazi focus was on procreation of the “white race,” perhaps a reason that the GOP wants to prevent contraception for women.

Himmler ran surveillance operations on 90,000 men he suspected to being homosexual, arrested 50,000 of them, and sent 15,000 to concentration camps where most of them didn’t survive. His national file included not only gay men but also transgender people and “wage abortionists” (women who had abortions and the doctors who performed them). In 1938 alone, the Nazis arrested 28,366 people for abortions and 28,882 for homosexuality.

Hitler also wanted to eliminate all sex education in public schools. The goal of all this control was to control minds through controlling people’s bodies. In the world of male domination, “othered” bodies such as female, LGBT, and disabled people matter less in reproducing and maintaining the dominant patriarchal system. Non-European-heritage people also fit into the “othered” classification because they are inferior to “white” bodies.

DT has promised to sign proposed religious exemption laws to discriminate against LGBT people, including allowing federal employees to refuse the processing of benefits and claims if they object. The danger is exacerbated by potential power of VP-elect Mike Pence who declares himself “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” While governor of Indiana, Pence signed a law, similar to the one proposed for the entire nation, that legalized discrimination against same-gender couples. He did so in the company of the state’s Christian Right leadership, showing himself as one of the movement’s leaders.

A co-sponsor of the “religious” discrimination law, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), is also the nominee for U.S. Attorney General and would be in charge of the nation’s maintenance of law if he were confirmed. A headline for HuffPo read, “Pick Any LGBTQ Rights Issue. Jeff Sessions Has Voted Against It.”

Another supporter of the “religious” law against LGBT people as well as co-sponsor of a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-gender marriage is Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Members of DT’s hand-picked transition team such as Ken Blackwell, Ken Klukowski, and Ed Meese agree with this position.

In his Senate hearing as nominee for Secretary of HUD, Ben Carson, also a Christian Right leader, opposed “special rights” for LGBT people who he identified with polygamy, pedophilia, and bestiality. Betsy DeVos, nominee for Secretary of Education who wants to eliminate public education, is a wealthy contributor to Christian Right projects.

Another Nazi position was to control the press. This restriction on the “fourth estate” in the United States was evident at DT’s recent press conference when he shouted down a reporter asking a question before his press secretary told the reporter that he could be banned if he dared ask a question.

A strong supporter for DT following his treatment of the journalist is Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said, “Mr. Trump put the reporter of that media group in his place there.” Turkey is 149th out of 180 countries in press freedom, and the country, where journalists face violence, intimidation, and harassment, has controlled journalism through strict laws.

The only people not targeted for extreme hate in DT’s regime are white Christians, and his campaign was anti-Semitic. DT’s senior advisor for the White House is a white supremacist who has been compared by Europeans to Hitler’s senior advisor and propaganda chief Josef Goebbels. Jewish people are being targeted throughout the United States with swastikas painted on their property.

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Trump supporters planned an armed protest against “Jews, Jewish businesses, and anyone who supports them” in Whitefish (MT) tomorrow, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Their “news site” of the Daily Stormer was the first to endorse Trump; the official KKK was the second. Both want to make American white and Christian. The march has been postponed because of an “incomplete permit,” but they haven’t given up their plans.

DT may also model his policies after Russia that has identified an “othered” class by its vote last week to decriminalize domestic violence. Abusers wouldn’t face criminal charges although they might have to pay a fine or do some community service. If the victim is not hospitalized or forced to take a leave of absence from work, the Russian punishment for assault would be determined “administrative.”  The vote was 368 in favor, one opposed, and one abstaining. Yelena Mizulina, known for her anti-LGBT propaganda law, crafted the domestic abuse bill.

Domestic violence laws have not existed in Russia, and Russian law doesn’t permit restraining orders from domestic abuse victims. The Russian Supreme Court has declared that people causing intrafamily violence can be criminally charged, but this bill becoming law would change that ruling. Another problem with the bill is that corporal punishment for children is popular in Russia.  Mizulina said that “the law should support that family tradition” of “the authority of the parents’ power.” Women, covered under the proposed law, are victims in three-fourths of the domestic violence, and almost 40 Russian women die from their husbands’ attacks every day—frequently from alcoholism.

DT has committed domestic abuse as has at least one of his Cabinet nominees.

Nobel Prize winner Edmund Phelps said:

“There is the assumption that by bullying corporations, such as Ford, and stepping into aid other corporations, such as Google, the Trump administration can achieve various objectives that will widely boost output and employment. But this is an expansion of corporatist policy of a kind not previously seen since the German and Italian economies of the 1930s.”

Although progressives have struggled to keep away from comparisons between the GOP and the Nazi government, the far-right movement of Republicans has gone close to the edge in their opposition to legalization of abortion, equal pay for equal work, marriage equality, transgender people’s access to public facilities, LGBT military inclusion, other LGBT rights, and many other restrictions on the people in the United States.

Looking at the Nazi government leading up to World War II has lessons for the future on the results of anti-feminist, anti-women’s equality, anti-women’s reproductive freedoms (anti-family planning, anti-contraception, anti-abortion), anti-lesbian, anti-gay, anti-bisexual, anti-transgender, anti-gender nonconforming, anti-sexuality education in schools. As DT’s childish tantrums continue, it becomes more and more difficult to avoid the comparisons, especially when he compares his own intelligence agencies to Nazis.

July 18, 2015

GOP Competes with Trump in Bigotry

No matter how much Republican politicians want Donald Trump to go away, he continues to suck the energy out of the presidential candidate. HuffPo has so little regard for him that they are leaving him in the entertainment section instead of putting his news in “politics.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) railed against Trump’s “firing up the crazies,” having forgotten that he tried to put one of the finest crazies just a heartbeat away from being President of the United States. McCain may have the last word, however, after Trump insinuated that McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured. The question is whether that’s the tipping point of Trump’s outrageous statements.

For what seems forever, Trump has led the growing GOP pack of presidential candidates, now at 18 percent and trailed by Scott Walker and Jeb Bush who flip back and forth between second place. This was after Fox laid out Trump’s position, repeating the accusation that undocumented immigrants are “rapists.” Seven in ten Republicans—70 percent—believe that Trump is right.

Even worse for the Republicans is the increase of President Obama’s approval rating, up three points last month to 47 percent—on a Fox poll. A real poll put the president at 52 percent approval.

Having gotten elected for another six years, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) set out to alienate another GOP constituency—older people. After the House passed a five-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund—meaning no projects because of no funding assurance for next year–McConnell wants a long-term funding law paid by removing money from Social Security for the elderly and disabled, homeowners, and retirement funds for federal employees. McConnell’s proposal would cut the return investment rate on a retirement investment plan and eliminate Social Security payments for an elderly recipient who has an outstanding arrest warrant, no matter the reason or how long ago the warrant was issued. There was no mention of increasing taxes on the wealthy or cutting funding from wars.

The grand idea for the future highway funding from the House is not much better: a small tax on monies that corporations bring back from tax havens in exchange for massive corporate tax breaks in the future. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) supports the idea, why I don’t know.

Technically, highways should be funded by the gas tax, but that hasn’t been increased for 22 years, and the GOP isn’t about to raise it now. President Reagan, for all his lack of progressive attitudes, raised the gas tax by 125 percent because he knew the importance of the nation’s infrastructure. President Eisenhower created the interstate highway system in the name of national security, but current Republicans lack the foresight to consider this while they clamor for war in the Middle East.

The GOP is also back to attacking women’s reproductive rights through a bill limiting abortions to under 20 weeks. At this point, they think they’ve got the goods on Planned Parenthood through a heavily-edited misleading video that insinuates the falsehood that the organization sells fetal tissue from its abortions. Conservatives have gotten a lot of press from an official talking clinically about fetal tissue, but there was no indication of wrong-doing—just a lack of perceiving a fetus as a cuddly creature as anti-abortion activists think of it.

Examining the issue, however, brings up some unpleasant facts for the congressional members who are crying foul: they have known about the video for almost a month and saved it for their own political reasons. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee looking into the video, said that he’d seen the clip weeks before. When he was asked why he and others waited weeks to take action, Murphy searched for words until he said, “This interview didn’t happen.” He’s been in Congress for 12 years and knows that he can’t tell a journalist that there was no interview. He does know how ridiculous the GOP looks to call the situation potentially criminal but do nothing about it, such as calling authorities.

Obviously, Republicans want to use the video to push their anti-choice issues. The destruction of the low-income housing group ACORN was so successful years ago from edited undercover videos suggesting criminal activity that they hope the strategy will work with Planned Parenthood. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said he keeps an acorn in his pocket that “represents ACORN’s scalp.” He added, “Ask me after the appropriations cycle and see if I have a talisman in my pocket for Planned Parenthood’s.” (I hate to think what it would be.) King, known for his outrageous, virulent anti-immigrant statements, also tweeted yesterday, “What does [Housing and Urban Development Secretary] Julian Castro know? Does he know that I’m as Hispanic and Latino as he?” He hasn’t responded to questions about what he meant by the tweet.

On the video, Planned Parenthood didn’t talk about doing anything illegal, but it may have been illegally made. The organization called Center for Medical Progress (CMP) may also be in hot water. It describes itself as “a group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances” and filed with the IRS as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The group actually pushes pro-life, anti-abortion principles, as shown by its website, with its “undercover footage.” Pushing anti-abortion legislation makes the group a “right-to-life” non-profit which must be shown in its filing.

The head of CMP, David Daleiden, is a former anti-abortion Live Action worker and associate of both Lila Rose and James O’Keefe, who creates edited sting videos to attack progressive organizations and politicians. CMP is a recent creation, its blog starting 12 days ago, tweets not coming out until last Tuesday, and its Facebook page only two months old. Deliberately misleading the IRS and donors makes an organization subject to civil and criminal fraud penalties.

While the House is looking for ways to destroy women’s reproductive rights, the Senate voted in favor of LGBTQ discrimination and bullying in K-12 public schools by voting down Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) bill to ban these activities. The Student Non-Discrimination Act, would have extended the same protections to LGBTQ students that they receive for race, national origin, sex, and disability. School officials can still ban same-sex couples at proms and stand by while LGBTQ students are bullied. Even Franken’s statements about LGBTQ youth suicides didn’t sway the GOP no vote, led by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). All 45 votes against the bill were Republicans. As usual in the senate, a majority of 52 yes votes didn’t move the bill forward. Two presidential candidates, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against Franken’s bill; two voted for it—Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). Franken said that the Republicans were “grumpy” since same-sex couples now have the legal right to marry.

I gave Jeb Bush a pass over his statement that people “need to work longer hours” because he might have been misquoted or misunderstood. Now, however, he claims that the president’s proposed expansion of overtime pay to millions more “managers” and white-collar workers” to earn below $50,440 a year will result in “less overtime pay” and “less wages earned” because it would “lessen the number of people working.” Experts and studies refute this claim, but Republicans have never been deterred by facts and evidence. At this time, employers can deny overtime pay to “exempt” salaried managers earning more than $23,660 a year, allowing a fast-food assistant manager to work 60 hours a week with no overtime. If employers don’t want to pay the overtime, they can hire more people—creating more jobs. Increasing pay nationwide by $1.5 billion a year also increases the taxes the employees pay. Bush also misrepresents the proposal by claiming that the rules would prohibit bonuses. Ross Eisenbrey, a vice-president of the Economic Policy Institute, said: “Bush should be embarrassed about how misinformed he was.” No pass for Jeb Bush this time.

At the same time the GOP fails to support human rights, a federal agency fills in the void. Over 50 years after the civil Rights Act was passed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided that the law protects LGBTQ people in the workplace. The new decision states, “Allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex.” EEOC rulings aren’t law unless the person is a federal employee; for others, courts consider EEOC rulings as only expert advisories. When EEOC and the Supreme Court disagreed about whether federal law indefinitely prohibits discriminatory pay practices against women, only congressional action—the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act—granted these protections to women. This ruling is a start in the 31 states that don’t prevent job discrimination against LGBTQ people.

The GOP supports bullying and discrimination against LGBT kids, taking money from needy Social Security recipients who paid their SS taxes, destroying the U.S. highways, and discriminating against women–not men–who have sex while single. Pregnant women lose their rights but not the men who impregnated them. Welcome to the GOP US of A.

 

August 4, 2013

Religion Continues to Invade Lives

ew_jackson-620x412For a state that should be the cradle of religious freedom, Virginia looks pretty far off the mark as its Republican candidates are firing up for their election in three months. E.W. Jackson, candidate for lieutenant governor, has gone farther off the rails with his statement that people can’t both believe in God and vote Democratic. When pressed by WLEE host Jack Gravely, Jackson said, “I believe that the Democrat Party has become an anti-God party.” The GOP party is getting increasingly embarrassed by Jackson. Pat Mullins, Virginia Republican Party chair, said, “I do not agree with that statement. My parents were Democrats, and I’ve got a lot of Democratic friends in Christian churches all around Virginia.” I guess Jackson is even too extreme for far-right Republicans.

simonecampbellOn the other side  is Sister Simone Campbell. The executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, who gained disfavor with the Vatican because she only wants to help poor people, testified before a House Budget Committee hearing last week about the importance of government-subsidized welfare programs. She talked about the foundational nature of charity and economic justice to the Catholic Church and explained the difference that federal assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Head Start initiatives have made in the lives of America’s most vulnerable.

Catholics like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) understand that directly confronting a nun, even one who seems as gentle as Sister Simone, is not safe. But his colleague, Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI), decided to tackle her head on. The good Baptist accused both Campbell and the Catholic Church of not fixing poverty by themselves.  “What is the church doing wrong that they have to come to the government to get so much help?” he asked her.

Calmly and firmly, she responded, “Justice comes before charity… Everyone has a right to eat, and therefore there is a governmental responsibility to ensure everyone’s capacity to eat. Love and care makes a difference, but the issues are so big there isn’t sufficient charitable dollars there.” Ribble ignored the nation’s history of working with faith groups to provide assistance for the vulnerable, particularly since George W. Bush, of Ribble’s political party, started handing out great amounts of money to churches. He also ignored the fact that 80 percent of the people in the country are now struggling with joblessness, near-poverty, or relying on welfare for at least parts of their lives.

Ryan got in his licks earlier when he introduced the meeting when he said, “If you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead.” Ryan ignored the fact that 68 percent of children who receive SNAP benefits have working parents, and 8.9 million Americans who work full time still live below the poverty line. Both Ribble and Ryan also skipped over the fact that minimum wage is now three-fourths of what it was almost 50 years ago and that wages have shrunk for everyone except the top layer of people in the United States within the past decade. In addition, each one of them receives annual salaries of over $140,000 but work less than half the year.

Pope Francis caused a buzz in the media when he was quoted as saying “If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” Most of the reporters took this as a statement that the Catholic Church is softening toward LGBT people. But not true. He continued by paraphrasing the Catechism that homosexual orientation is not sinful but homosexual acts are against the Church. Bottom line in the pope’s statement: celibate gays are not to be judged or excluded from the church.

The media had less to say about the pope’s comments about another disenfranchised and marginalized population within the church—the women. Although “women in the church are more important than bishops and priests,” there is no possibility that they can be a part of the ordained ministry.”That door is closed,” Francis told reporters. Diane Winston wrote about the media’s neglect of the pope’s comments about women in a Los Angeles Times op-ed:

“In the current media ecology of religion and public life, sex sells and gender gets a nod. (Forget religious leaders opining on violence, materialism or climate change. Unless Jesus himself appeared in a ‘Remember Sandy Hook’ T-shirt to buy sunscreen at Wal-Mart, there’s no story.) … But [the pope] kept in place [the church’s] bar to women. And the import of that bar — its global reverberations in unwanted pregnancies, female poverty and sexual slavery — remains hidden in plain sight.”

The Catholic Church had one temporary victory this past week. Federal Judge Rudolph T Randa ruled that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee can continue to shield $57 million of its assets so that it won’t be used for settlements in sexual abuse lawsuits. When Cardinal Timothy Dolan, then Archbishop of the diocese, realized that the sexual abuse was going public, he got permission from the Vatican to move the $57 million into a trust fund connected with the Milwaukee Catholic cemeteries. In his letter of request, he explained that the transfer would lead to “an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” Dolan is also the president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Forty-five individual priests within that one diocese sexually assaulted an estimated 570 people; one priest was accused of molesting almost 200 deaf boys. The abuse was well-known within diocese leadership, and Dolan informed the Vatican of the problem in the early 2000s before he transferred the funds. If the judge’s ruling holds, the cemetery graves will be safe even if the abused victims receive none of the help that the $57 million could give them.

While the acceptance of different religions is shrinking in the United States, other countries are expanding their tolerance. Lukas Novy has declared for years that he is a Pastaferian of the “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” his own satirical faith with the belief that a creature composed of pasta and meatballs “created the world much as it exists today.” The resident of the Czech Republic wanted to wear a pasta sieve on his head while being photographed for an official government ID, and officials agreed.

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People in the U.S. might ridicule this satire, but this U.S. allows people to escape responsibilities because they declare a false religious belief. For example, Eden Foods is one of several for-profit corporations that have gone to court to avoid providing health plans that cover birth control.  After owner Michael Potter claimed an exemption based on his religious objections to contraception, a judge ruled in his favor. But Potter gave the press a different story when he spoke with Salon’s Irin Carmon:

“I’ve got more interest in good quality long underwear than I have in birth control pills… Because I’m a man, number one and it’s really none of my business what women do …  I don’t care if the federal government is telling me to buy my employees Jack Daniel’s or birth control. What gives them the right to tell me that I have to do that? That’s my issue, that’s what I object to, and that’s the beginning and end of the story.”

Potter probably won’t mind if the government in Washington state mandates GMO labeling so that he can sell more of his product. He fakes religion because he doesn’t care about women but wants government to help his sales.

The Kentucky chapter of the American Family Association is arguing that government-sponsored religion in public schools will “boost student test scores, lower the crime rate and even decrease the rate of HIV infection.” They can’t use Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church for proof in raising test scores. When four church members went to Rhode Island to protest the start of marriage equality in the state, they carried a flier with the following:

 “Is the United States population illerate? Can’t you read? The Lord Jesus Christ said marriage Is between 1 man and 1 woman for life.”

The four of them were outnumbered by the police and far outnumbered by people supporting same-sex weddings.

And so the craziness continues.

July 14, 2013

Fundamentalists Can’t Turn the World Backwards

It’s almost as if fundamentalist evangelical Christians are suicidal because of how much they look forward to the Rapture—the idea that Jesus will come back to Earth, leaving no one alive. Four out of ten people in the United States think that their Christ will show up here by 2050. That may be the reason that they have no interest in preserving the planet for future generations.

According to “End Times Theology,” a study by political scientists David Barker and David Bearce, “A belief in the Second Coming reduces the probability of strongly agreeing that the government should take action [in slowing climate change] by more than 12 percent.” The reason is that “end-times believers ‘know’ that life on Earth has a preordained expiration date, no matter what—and that all Christians will be raptured before the going gets too tough.” Over three-fourths of Republicans identify as end-timer believers.

Discussing the study, one woman epitomized the extremist Christian’s apathetic, fatalistic attitude toward climate change: “Of course I don’t want [polar bears] to die, but you also have to realize this is just a part of the world coming to an end like it’s supposed to. And there’s nothing really that they can do.” She continued, “That’s why we need to be educated in the Bible, so we know what signs to look for. Because you’re just wasting all that money on research when it’s, sadly, not going to help.”

End-believers plan for the future, however, by keeping bank accounts and sending their children to college. Many of these people reason that people should not do anything about the climate because “God is in control.” Maybe that’s the reason that the conservatives want to give all their money to the wealthy and the corporations and destroy the United States. But why do they bother to take Social Security and Medicare from older people and food stamps from the poor if there is nothing that can be done. They are paying their legislative representatives to do nothing.

Until the Rapture, however, fundamentalist Christians complain about giving rights to those not of their religion. Pat Robertson on Monday complained that Facebook doesn’t have a “vomit” option for photographs of same-sex couples. He followed that statement three days later by saying, “We are not anti-gay.” Robertson thinks that gay people are just confused straight people “because they have forsaken God, it’s not something that is natural and when people reunite with the Lord, the Lord will get their priorities the way it is supposed to be.”

The televangelist gives reasons for this LGBT confusion, one being child abuse: “A lot of people are into this homosexual thing because they’ve been abused….” Another reason is that some gay people “maybe got some chromosomal damage that’s different from heterosexuals.” His solution is another ex-gay ministry to emerge after the disappearance of Exodus “to help people who want out.”

In discussing LGBT people, Robertson warned that the land will “vomit you out.” He explained that Leviticus puts homosexuality on the same abomination level as incest and bestiality “and those who do that in the Old Testament were stoned to death.” Like other fundamentalists, he said, “Which is going to take precedence, the Supreme Court of the United States or the holy word of God?” Following their literal reading of the Bible, the extremist Christians may think about purchasing slaves.

Also last week, Robertson recommended following Egyptians by overthrowing President Obama because of Obamacare.  “You know, they revolted in Egypt against the oppressive actions of the Muslim Brotherhood and this example of state socialism is something that Americans should rise up against,” he said, complaining that it was a partisan initiative.

Conservatives conveniently forget that Republicans, led by the Heritage Foundation, proposed the Affordable Care Act in the 1990s. And they’re still upset because President Obama won the last democratic election, despite the massive illegal efforts to stop people voting.

The Church of England suffers from the same ambivalence toward LGBT people as Robertson. It launched an anti-homophobia school campaign at the same time that it affirmed its opposition to marriage equality. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said, “The majority of the population rightly detests homophobic behavior or anything that looks like it and sometimes they look at us and see what they don’t like.” Approximately 20 percent of UK students are taught in a Church of England school. It appears that the religious group wants people to like them more.

The former Archbishop claimed that marriage equality will destroy society, shred heterosexual marriage, and damage children. (Sounds like the U.S. fundamentalists!) The Church of England has also moaned about how legal marriage equality will force the schools to “teach” gay marriage.  Without accepting marriage equality, the Church will most likely fail in its anti-homophobic campaign.

States in the U.S. suffer the same ambivalence as the Church of England. The Supreme Court ruled that the nation recognizes marriage equality just days before Indiana made state marriage equality a felony. According to an Indiana law, same-sex couples applying for a marriage license in the state after July 1, 2014, can be punished by 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. Anyone performing a same-sex marriage, including clergy and judges, will be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. Indiana has made same-sex illegal in a statute, but they plan a constitutional ban when legislators meet in the January-March 2014 session.

Pastor Kevin Swanson suffers no ambivalence on Generations Radio. The Colorado wildfires have already been blamed on abortion and LGBT people; Swanson has added a third problem—the way that people, mostly women, dress. He started out with complaints against women wearing “a male style of dress” in the 1980s followed by Sen. Carol Moseley Braun dressing in a pants suit in 1993. “Pantsuits, pantsuits everywhere,” Swanson said before he moved on to video on a 14-hour flight from Australia.

“I’ve never seen so many breasts in all of my life …. I mean every form of aberrant sexuality and women’s breasts are shown in front of me almost nonstop for fourteen hours. It’s just such an oppressive, horrible, horrible world,” Swanson declaimed before he moved on to androgyny.

“How many young boys are running out and doing the metrosexual thing with the skinny pants and the little fairy shoes. They’re working on the gender blender for themselves and they don’t want to look like a man and God is just so upset, He hates it when man are not manly in their approach. 1 Corinthians 6 speaks about homosexuality and feminine behavior and feminine dress for men. God does not want men to be androgynous and feminine like in their approach; He gave them facial hair for a reason.”

Christianity is also a good excuse to not pay taxes, according to a software entrepreneur who has failed to pay income tax for a decade. Doing so would break his “blood covenant” with God, according to Chester Evans Davis, 56, of Oregon City. He said, “My hands, my feet, my words, my ideas, my labor, my actions are all and have been given to the Lord for his glory.”

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon didn’t buy the argument and found Davis guilty of transferring money in an effort to hide it from the government, attempting to file harassing liens against federal officials, and trying to obtain arrest warrants against IRS employees. Davis now owes $7.1 million in taxes and penalties along with eight years and one month in prison. Most of the success in his company, ESA International, came from federal contracts. Davis’ friend Thomas Schultz, who called himself a “private attorney general,” said that “the labor of a human being is not a taxable commodity.”

Sadly for all these people, the world seems to be inexorably moving forward instead of returning to earlier centuries.

March 26, 2013

Scalia Needs to Resign

In the past, no one knew how many of the Supreme Court justices would vote in many decisions. They didn’t even consistently follow follows the politics of the presidents who appointed them. For example, the progressive ruling on Roe v. Wade to legalize abortion in the United States was supported by justices appointed by Richard Nixon.

For the past few decades, however, SCOTUS decisions have rarely been surprising. Perhaps now people can more accurately guess who justices will vote on almost any issues because of the rapid increase of communication about justices’ backgrounds and perspectives that contributes general understanding about their opinions or separate takes on constitutional issues. Or maybe the lines are so delineated that people can guess the decisions.

This year, people interested in the marriage equality are wondering how several justices will rule on the two cases being heard today and tomorrow, one regarding Proposition 8 in California and and the other DOMA (Defense of Marriage).  Both Prop 8 and DOMA ban same-sex marriage. Six justices are in play for the decision, which will probably be issued in June. Justice Samuel Alito is almost certainly a vote for the status quo of no marriage equality, but there is no question about two justices, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.

Scalia has been more open than any other justice in his opposition to marriage equality. Some of his offensive comments have been made in connection with earlier cases regarding homosexuality.

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In response to Romer v. Evans when SCOTUS held that Colorado could not have a constitutional amendment motivated completely by animus towards LGBT people, he said, “I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible–murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals–and could exhibit even ‘animus’ toward such conduct.” He also said that giving LGBT people second-class status is like any other law “disfavoring certain conduct,” such laws disfavoring “drug addicts, or smokers, or gun owners, or motorcyclists.”

In Lawrence v. Texas, Scalia agreed that an outright ban on “sodomy” “undoubtedly imposes constraints on liberty,” but “so do laws prohibiting prostitution” or “recreational use of heroin.” Also in rejecting the Lawrence majority’s conclusion that private sexuality between consenting adults receives “substantial protection” under the Constitution, he responded “[s]tates continue to prosecute all sorts of crimes by adults ‘in matters pertaining to sex’: prostitution, adult incest, adultery, obscenity, and child pornography.” Later in his decision, he compared gay sex to bestiality.

Scalia also suggested that the bond between two men or two women in a committed relationship is no greater than the bond between two “roommates.” After all animosity, he concluded his Lawrence dissent with this assertion: “Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals.”

One of Scalia’s arguments when he wrote the minority dissent for the 6-3 decision in Lawrence, was that this case set the scene for legalized marriage equality. “Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned,” Scalia wrote.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion said the Court’s ruling against anti-sodomy laws “does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.”

Scalia’s retort: “Do not believe it.”

“This case ‘does not involve’ the issue of homosexual marriage only if one entertains the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court,” he wrote.

The Reagan-appointed justice accused the majority on the Court of having “taken sides in the culture war” and having signed on to the “homosexual agenda.”

Although it’s been years since Scalia equated laws banning sodomy with those barring bestiality and murder, he still supports this position. Speaking at Princeton University late last year, he explained his statement by saying, “I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective.” He also repeated his earlier argument: “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against these other things?” 

Earlier last year, he again compared homosexuality to abortion and murder. At a speech before an audience at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. last October, he said, “The death penalty? Give me a break. It’s easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state.”

As Bill Press wrote, there was a time when Supreme Court justices were “seen and not heard,” but now a few of them are “spouting off all the time.” He added that it is “pretty scary to have someone like this on the Supreme Court” and that Chief Justice John Roberts should force Scalia to recuse himself from the two marriage equality cases facing the Supreme Court.

Yet Scalia claimed at the Southern Methodist University earlier this year that he never expressed personal views on gay marriage in public or in his rulings. He also said that a crucial part of his post as Supreme Court justice is reaching decisions, even if they contradict one’s personal beliefs. After SMU professor Bryan A. Garner pointed out that he and Scalia had differing opinions on some issues such as marriage equality and gun control, Scalia retorted, “I haven’t expressed my views on either of those. You’re a bleeding heart.”

Scalia has admitted to a fear of and possible loathing for gays and lesbians but insisted in a Fox News interview that he leaves personal feelings at the door of the courtroom . . . or possibly the university lecture hall.

Because Scalia believes that the U.S. Constitution is not a living document, that it’s “dead, dead, dead,” he is bound to vote against marriage equality because gay rights are not specifically protected by that document, drafted in the eighteenth century.

As a Supreme Court justice, Scalia isn’t legally bound by the rules of judicial conduct that apply to judges in all other U.S. courts. He has the legal—if not ethical—right to say anything he wants regarding cases before the court. He doesn’t have to obey the rules of conduct that require judges to avoid the appearance of impropriety, defined as “when reasonable minds, with knowledge of all the relevant circumstances disclosed by a reasonable inquiry, would conclude that the judge’s … impartiality … is impaired.”

The only way that Scalia can be removed from the Supreme Court bench is for the House of Representatives to indict him for “high crimes and misdemeanors” and the Senate to convict him of such lack of “good behavior.” Technically, Scalia has done nothing illegal; he just behaves in an unethical manner. Only one Supreme Court justice has been impeached, Samuel Chase, and that was over 200 years ago.  Although the House indicted him, the Senate found him not guilty.

When Scalia became a judge, he said that he would retire at the age of 65 because that was the age necessary for full salary in retirement. He loves the power and won’t quit, but it’s far past time for the 77-year-old justice to hang up his robe.

February 23, 2013

No Compromise for VAWA

For 18 years the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) was the law of the land, passing in the year that Newt Gingrich took over the House and renewed every six years even when the GOP had control of a Congressional chamber and the presidency. Then the Tea Party came to town, and everything changed.

VAWA provides vital protections against domestic violence and sexual assault, providing assistance to victims through funding clinics, shelters, hotlines, and services. Greatly improving the nation’s infrastructure of dealing with rape and abuse, VAWA has saved countless women’s lives and livelihoods. It established the National Domestic Violence Hotline; trained law enforcement officers, judges, and prosecutors to help victims; made stalking illegal; and updated laws throughout the United States to consider rape by a partner equal to rape by a stranger.

Since VAWA, partner violence and homicides fell: from 1993, the year before VAWA’s passage, until 2010, the overall rate of intimate partner violence in the United States declined by 64 percent. The number of women killed by partners dropped 43 percent.

vawa

Last April, the Senate passed another six–year extension to VAWA, but the House rejected it. This month the Senate passed VAWA, but the House opposes support for Native American, undocumented, and LGBT victims of DV and SA.

One sticking point with the GOP-controlled House, that has proposed a watered down version of VAWA, is the provision that would protect Native American women on tribal reservations. They ignore the statistics of sexual violence against Native American women. Three out of five are assaulted by their intimate partners, and 56 percent of these women have non-Indian husbands. Despite epidemic rates of domestic violence against Native women on reservations by non-Native men, local governments are not permitted to respond to crimes in their community if the perpetrator is not Native. Only federal prosecutors, often hundreds of miles away without local resources, are allowed to investigate and prosecute these crimes. On some Indian reservations, the homicide rate of Native women is ten times that of the national average.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is an example of the 22 senators–all men–who voted against VAWA, bigots who oppose protecting Indian women from non-Native men. He declared that VAWA was unconstitutional because white men would be deprived of their rights by facing a tribal court.  “On an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right?” he said. “So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”

“The jury is supposed to be a reflection of society,” Grassley wrongly claimed. According to the Sixth Amendment, juries are drawn from the “state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” The U.S. Supreme Court decisions ruled that criminal defendants have a right to a jury “drawn from a fair cross section of the community” where the case is heard. Over 95 percent of Vermont is white, so the jury might be all white. On the other hand, the population of local communities on the Navajo Nation are largely Native American. Grassley’s statement indicates he thinks that Navajo jurors are less like to be impartial than whites.

Of these 22 senators, five senators are so anti-women that they voted against an amendment to ban human trafficking.  

Grassley has company in his anti-VAWA stance. Heritage Action, from the group headed by ultra-conservative Jim DeMint, and Freedomworks, one of the Tea Party groups,  are fighting VAWA’s reauthorization because it is “unprecedented, unnecessary and dangerous.” Claiming that VAWA is “bad for men,” the groups stated, “Under VAWA, men effectively lose their constitutional rights.” Because male victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking may also be covered, the only men who might suffer from VAWA are those who commit these violent crimes.

Sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), one of 17 GOP women who constitute 8.5 percent of Republicans in the House, the House bill removes rights from three specific groups of people:

Native American Victims: Tribal court sentencing on non-Native defendants would be limited to one year in addition to other options allowing defendants to evade justice in tribal courts. Non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on reservations could move their cases to a federal court if they feel their constitutional rights are not being upheld. The bill also eliminates the 2000 VAWA allowing tribes to issue and enforce civil protection orders against all persons, the only protection a tribal government can provide to victims of domestic violence from DV, stalking, and harassment.

LGBT Victims: The bill removes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of underserved populations who face barriers to accessing victim services, thereby disqualifying LGBT victims from a related grant program; eliminates a requirement in the Senate bill that programs that receive funding under VAWA provide services regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity; and excludes the LGBT community from the STOP program, the largest VAWA grant program, which gives funds to care providers who work with law enforcement officials to address domestic violence.

Undocumented Immigrants: Undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence can be eligible for legal status only if federal or local officials certify that it would help investigate or prosecute criminal activity.

Last year, Grassley vote against the rights of these groups, saying that it was just the Democrats’ “election year politics.” He indicated that these provisions were included to make Republicans look bad in an election year. Instead of accepting the motivation to make the United States a better place to live, he follows the paranoid complaint from the National Review :

Democrats have nearly perfected the following exercise in cynical electioneering: 1) introduce legislation; 2) title it something that appeals to the vast majority of Americans who have no interest in learning what is actually in the bill, e.g., the “Violence Against Women Act”; 3) make sure it is sufficiently noxious to the GOP that few Republicans will support it; 4) vote, and await headlines such as “[GOP Lawmaker] Votes No On Violence Against Women Act”; 5) clip and use headline in 30-second campaign ad; and 6) repeat.”

Amanda Marcotte laid out the issue much better:

“There’s a long and ongoing history of rape and domestic violence being minimized and ignored by law enforcement and society at large. Domestic violence is frequently minimized as mere couple-squabbling. Rape is often written off as the victim’s hysterical reaction to bad sex or just desserts for a woman who broke one of the many unwritten sexist ‘rules’ about going out at night, being alone with a date, dressing a certain way, or drinking alcohol.

“VAWA addresses these realities, by strengthening law enforcement response and providing victim services that avoid victim-blaming or minimization, and is not, contrary to conservative hopes and dreams, an attempt to make up for women’s supposed physical or emotional inferiority.”

If the House version even gets out of committee, GOP members will whine about Democrats not compromising with them. Trying to find common ground by refusing rights to specific groups of people is like the agreement of 1787 that gave each slave in the South only three-fifths’ status of a white man in determining Congressional representation. Emory University President James Wagner declared this a good compromise. Denying people rights is never a good compromise.          

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