Nel's New Day

July 2, 2022

Supreme Court Destroys Constitution, Part II

[Mass Shootings: July 1, 2022 – In Allen (KY), population under 200, a man killed three law enforcement officers and a service dog while injuring at least five other people. Deputies had tried to serve a warrant related to a domestic violence incident. Many police officers have opposed the loosening of gun laws; this tragedy is only one example of their reason. July 2, 2022 – In Chicago’s Loop, two people were killed and three others wounded in the same area where four people were shot in May. Four other people were wounded in West Garfield Park.

A few slightly more positive Supreme Court rulings:

Concepcion v. United States: Prison inmates can more easily get shorter sentences, using a bipartisan 2018 federal law to reduce racial disparities in prison terms for cocaine crimes. Trial judges asked to resentence inmates may examine a wide range of factors, some of them not related to crack cocaine offenses. Appellate courts disagreed about what judges should do. The 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th, and 8th circuits allow district courts to consider variables if they wish. The 5th, 9th, and 11th circuits cannot consider any intervening case law or update sentencing guidelines and aren’t required to consider personal circumstances of a prisoner during resentencing. Again, a person’s rights depend on location.

The 19-year sentence for possessing at least five grams of crack cocaine with intent to distribute for Carlos Concepcion was determined by previous state court convictions making him a federal career offender. The 2019 First Step Act might have made him eligible for a shorter term. One of his earlier convictions had been thrown out, and others were no longer considered violent crimes under SCOTUS decisions. The judge refused any changes to his sentence. Brett Kavanaugh wrote the dissent for the four justices, including Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, and John Roberts, saying that the majority misconstrued the 2018 law.

Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety: A military veteran’s lawsuit can continue against his former state-agency employer; five justices rejected sovereign immunity shielding Texas. When state trooper, Le Roy Torres, was called to active duty in Iraq, his lungs were damaged by the burn pits disposing of toxic waste. He was honorably discharged but couldn’t perform the responsibilities of a state trooper, and the Department of Public Safety refused Torres’ request for assignment to a comparable job. He sued because his rights under a 1994 law had been violated. A state court of appeals agreed with the department’s excuse of state sovereign immunity, but the Supreme Court ruled that states had waived their rights under the 1994 law, enacted under congressional war powers. The majority cited “unbroken line of precedents,” which some of them ignored in other opinions. Dissenting were Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas, who maintained states retained immunity in state, not federal, courts. The solution was for Torres, but no for the confusion of sovereign immunity doctrines.

Remain in Mexico Policy: President Joe Biden won, at least briefly, when the Supreme Court sent a case back to a federal court in Texas debating whether immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. must stay in Mexico until courts can hear their cases—sometimes as long as five years. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) established the Migrant Protection Protocols in January 2019. Five justices—Chief Justice John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh joining the three more liberal justices—ruled against Texas and Missouri to keep the policy in existence. Biden has the right to terminate DDT’s program until the lower court rules, but individual states can keep pushing for the program’s continuance. The five justices stated that the Biden administration acted lawfully.

Dr. A. v. Hochul: On the last day of this past year’s SCOTUS session, six justices told New York state it could keep its coronavirus vaccine requirement for health-care workers that lacked a religious exemption. Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas dissented. Thomas wrote the 16 health-care workers suing to be exempt on the basis of religion object to vaccines “because they were developed using cell lines derived from aborted children.” Vaccines to not contain these cells. As with tests for rubella vaccines, the coronavirus vaccines were checked for efficacy with fetal cells, using one elective abortion over 50 years ago. Contrary to Clarence’s citing a lie about coronavirus vaccines, they contain only messenger RNA, genetic material instructing cells to make proteins used to train the immune system to fight off the virus along with lipids to help RNC cross cell membranes, salt, sugar, and other substances to help stabilize the other ingredients.  

Thomas may have lost lost—temporarily—the vaccine battle, but he has much bigger plans. And all he needs are laws from states to contest existing Supreme Court decisions. One major plan is to destroy LGBTQ rights from Lawrence v. Texas (2003) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). Overturning these two cases would blocks any same-gender relationships under the false guise of sodomy in the first case and eradicates marriage equality in the second. Texas AG Ken Paxton, currently indicted for a number of alleged fraudulent and unethical actions, is only too happy to be complicit: he said he would defend his state’s sodomy law, now defunct after Lawence.  Running for election this fall, Paxton said he could support a law outlawing intimate same-sex relationships. The state law charges someone with a Class C misdemeanor if the person “engages in deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.” The rationale has been that sex is only for procreation, but laws typically don’t affect opposite-sex couples although they can also engage in sodomy, “sexual intercourse involving anal or oral copulation.”

Andrew McDonald, a senior associate justice on the Connecticut Supreme Court, pointed out Thomas’ hypocrisy. Biracial marriage is not in the long list of constitutional rights Thomas threatens to overturn although an Indiana member of the U.S. House raised that specter. In a Facebook post, Andrews wrote about the Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia (1967), permitting the Black justice to marry a white woman in Virginia:    

“Mr. Justice Thomas had much to say today about my loving marriage. Oddly he didn’t have much to say about his ‘Loving’ marriage.”

Thomas has also attacked Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Supreme Court decision making contraception a U.S. constitutional right for married couples. Single couples didn’t have the same right until 1972, in the Supreme Court ruling in Eisenstadt v. Baird. The decision in Loving, like those in Griswold, Eisenstadt, Lawence, and Obergefell, was partially on the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Three justices–Barrett, Gorsuch, and Thomas–may join a far-right legal group to allow states to remove religious freedom by declaring that states are exempt from the First Amendment declaring “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Their position is that Congress can’t establish a religion but that states can. Some theocrats, including the far-right group America First Legal, argue that states have the constitutional right to decide “whether and to what extent they will establish religion within their borders.”

The others in the six conservative Supremes claim they have no intention attacking any other rights. Yet legislators promised not to remove rights with laws to prohibit the “non-existent” critical race theory in public schools before they attacked books about LGBTQ people, sex, women’s rights, etc. Rochelle Garza, the Democrat running against Paxton in November, tweeted:

“Roe was just the first—they won’t stop till they roll back all of our civil rights.”

Freedom of the press also seems to be on Thomas’ cutting board after his dissent to denial of certiorari warranting a review of Coal Ridge Ministries Media v. Southern Poverty Law Center. Thomas wrote that the court should “revisit” (aka “overrule) New York Times v. Sullivan (1964). Public figures—like Thomas—could much more easily sue—and threaten—the press which would lose its ability to be at all critical about these figures such as elected officials—and judges. Destroying the free press, DDT’s desire, is just one more piece of authoritarianism.

DDT’s Supreme Court made a 180-degree turn this year when it opposed the “stare decisis,” “to stand by things decided” to make very slow changes to keep social stability through consistent and evenly applied law. Important reversals of former SCOTUS rulings in the past, such as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka desegregating public school, moved the country to individual rights. Two major rulings this past week overturned the 1913 gun safety law and erased the policy for agencies to successfully operate with the intent of eliminate any federal regulation of business. No longer can government effectively respond to climate change, and future laws may move that restriction to all federal agencies. The six Supremes voting in favor of this law knew that the Senate filibuster would block any legislation from dealing with crises and destroy the U.S. standing in the world.

Eugene Robinson likens the U.S. Supreme Court’s socially conservative majority to a “secretive and unaccountable junta in long black robes.” He explained:

“Junta is a strong word, but considering that one-third of the justices were appointed by former President Donald Trump—the most authoritarian and dangerously corrupt president in U.S. history—it doesn’t seem like an exaggeration.”

To be continued.

April 11, 2022

Happenings from the Past Few Days – 4/11/22

During the past several weeks, the media had a lot to say about into Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, after the discovery of her texts with former chief of staff Mark Meadows for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) strategizing the overturn of Joe Biden’s legal win in the 2020 presidential election. These weren’t the only conflicts of interest from his wife’s involvement in corporate and far-right political activities—or Thomas’ personal activities. Conservatives claimed Ginni Thomas has First Amendment rights and that spouses could do anything they want, that her lobbying has nothing to do with Thomas’ decision on the court.

The latest story, however, concerns the justice himself; this photo shows him supporting Herschel Walker, DDT’s candidate for Georgia’s U.S. senator. Walker will likely use it for his campaign. Although personal ethics have kept justices out of political campaigning until now, the Supreme Court has no mandate for judicial ethics, unlike for every other judicial position in the U.S. Republicans accused Ketanji Brown Jackson, confirmed as the first Black female justice about her prejudice for affirmative action although no white person has been accused of bias.  decisions. She plans to recuse herself because of her relationship with Harvard, but Thomas will almost surely not recuse himself from any cases involving Walker’s election. [Visual – Thomas Walker]

In a harbinger of future GOP control, a woman was jailed for homocide in southeastern Texas for a “self-induced” abortion. The Texas vigilante law against abortion is civil, not criminal, and state law specifically exempts people from criminal homicide charges for having abortions. For now. The DA’s office got an indictment from a grand jury with a $500,000 bail, but the backlash against the DA’s action forced him to release her. The hospital staff reported her miscarriage after she told them she tried to induce her abortion.

Fed up with Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) rejection of democracy when he joined Republicans to block the right to vote, the “Coal Baron Blockade” gathered at the Grant Town Power plant. Police started arresting protesters where Manchin earns $500,000 a year from the use of coal waste from Enersystems, owned by Manchin’s son. Manchin also refused to vote for the Democratic Build Back Better Act because it promotes renewable sources and extends the Child Tax Credit, paid family leave, and other anti-poverty measures. West Virginia is the second poorest state in the U.S., up from the third poorest since Manchin went into leadership. In 2006, Manchin, then governor, oversaw the increase of electricity from Grant Town from $27.25 per megawatt to $34.25, giving West Virginians some of the highest electricity rate increases in the nation because of coal.  

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, paid almost $3 billion for 9.2 percent of Twitter’s private stock shares and went on its board. He planned to stop Twitter from blocking white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Deposed Donald Trump (DDT). The company said that his appointment was “contingent on a background check and formal acceptance”; Musk said he won’t be joining the board. Musk no longer has the board restriction of owning no more than 14.9 percent of the shares and can now publicly share all his comments about Twitter. Over the weekend, Musk tweeted removing the “w” from Twitter and questioned whether Twitter is “dying” because some of its most-followed accounts don’t often tweet. He criticized Twitter for not permitting free speech.

Six months after DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, left the White House, Saudi Arabia sank $2 billion into Kushner’s new private equity firm, Affinity Partners. The screening panel for investments opposed the loan based on its risk, but Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman mandated the loan within a few days. The money could be either payback for Kushner’s past favors while he was in the White House or hope for future ones if DDT wins another presidential term. Or both. Kushner led the defense of his good friend MBS after he approved the 2018 murder and dismemberment of U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi and orchestrated $110 billion in weapons sales to Saudi. In addition, Kushner had access to sensitive information after DDT overrode the denial of his security clearance from concern about his foreign connections. Kushner’s few investors are foreign. 

Kushner got twice as much—with more generous terms—than former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for his new fund. Munchin also did favors for Saudi Arabians. He chaired a committee vetting merger deals with foreign companies and “shaped” the new fund to permit foreign government investments.

Two years ago, DDT’s inaugural committee was investigated for selling access to foreign governments, money that could be moved on to DDT. He made at least $200 million from foreign deals while he was in the White House and had 3,403 conflicts of interest during the time, according to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). 

Saudis may be disappointed about DDT’s chance as a 2024 candidate. Although becoming president might keep him out of prison, he turns 78 several months before the election, and his health doesn’t look good. Recognizing that, at least nine leading Republicans have PACs collecting a war chest for possible presidential campaigns. Until candidates declare themselves, they don’t need to divulge any funding. Pence’s Advancing American Freedom spent $787,000 in the past year. Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-SC) group collected $650,000, far less than the $9.3 million gathered in 2020 by Nikki Haley’s Stand for America. One-third of that sum was spent on fundraising in 2021. Democrats with non-profit groups include Joe Biden, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, but they are more quiet than the GOP ones.

Texts to Meadows from DDT’s older son, Donald Trump Jr., two days after the 2020 election—before it was called for Biden—show he was a leader in trying to keep his father in the White House. Jr. asked Meadows to communicate his stragegies to “everyone that needs to see it.” His message:

 “It’s very simple … We have multiple paths[.] We control them all.”

Jr.’s texts laid out the same ones that DDT’s team pursued to spread lies about election fraud and pressure state and local officials: lawsuits in swing states (which were rejected) and “having a handful of Republican state houses put forward slates of fake ‘Trump electors.’” If those failed, Jr. wanted lawmakers to reject electoral results and vote in DDT. The texts may implicate DDT’s former trade adviser Peter Navarro as well as Meadows in corrupt obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the US.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), vice-chair of the House January 6 investigation committee, said it was “absolutely clear” that DDT and several people around him knew their actions were “unlawful” but “did it anyway.” She called it “a massive and well-organized and well-planned effort that used multiple tools to try to overturn an election.”

QAnon people have become fixated on sex-trafficking and education about racism but don’t mind kidnapping plots for elected officials—if they are Democrats. A Michigan jury acquitted two men charged with their plan to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; the other two weren’t convicted because of a hung jury. State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, a Democrat, said that one of the acquitted men had threatened to kill her. The defense attorney used the excuse of dirty FBI tactics and “rough talk.” Talk about killing the governor, blowing up a bridge, and other violence wasn’t shocking, according to the men’s attorney. At the time of the threats and plots, DDT had supported violence in Michigan, but the rationale for acquittal was the men’s weakness, that they were easily influenced.

Facing competition from Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and DDT’s former VP Mike Pence for a platform, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) came out with—something. It wants continued immediate expulsion of noncitizens, even refugees, a talking point after Biden lifted the COVID excuse to not permit these people into the U.S.

As for the remainder of the platform, McConnell said it “will be focused on … crime, education, beefing up the defense of our country.” Missing from his “platform” are the economy (which is good), abortion (because anti-abortion is getting unpopular), taxes (which infuriated people after Scott’s desire for “skinning” poor people), and inflation (which McConnell can’t figure out a solutions).

In her article “Cancel Your Disney Vacation and Go to Dollywood Instead,” Joy Pullmann, managing editor of the conservative Federalist and research fellow at the Heartland Institute, gives the usual conservative damning comments about Disney because they objected to Florida’s “don’t say gay” law. Instead she advocates for Dolly Parton’s playground in Tennessee because Disney’s support for LGBTQ rights “works to undermine sexual wholeness. Pullmann also has a “fact-checking” column; she missed some of this information:

  • Dolly supports marriage equality.
  • Many in the LGBTQ community consider her a gay icon.
  • She advocated for trans people in the midst of North Carolina’s bathroom bill and called it bad legislation.
  • She frequently dedicates her hit “Jolene” to drag queens who dress like her at concerts.  
  • She contributed an Oscar-nominated hit song to Transamerica.

Thus far Pullmann doesn’t seem to have made any comments about the hilarity her article ensued.

October 14, 2020

Barrett: Polar Opposite of RBG, Part I

This week Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and the GOP Senators continued the process of packing the Supreme Court by trying to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed for the 7th Circuit Court in 2017 by a vote of 55-43. She has achieved even more notoriety than thought possible after DDT’s event at the White House to make the appointment is now called either the “super-spreader” or “The Rose Garden Massacre” for its vastly increase in White House COVID-19 cases.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-CA), who appeared to the hearing in person despite his refusal to be tested for COVID-19, opened yesterday’s session by saying the hearing is “to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.” He views the committee’s vote as a done deal, not even pretending the hearing’s purpose is to consider the nomination.

The biggest disappointment among GOP senators was no Democratic mention of religion. GOP senators were ready for that topic but nothing else. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) was so desperate to attack his Democratic colleagues for anti-Catholic bigotry he leaped on a comment from Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) about Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 Supreme Court decision permitting married couples to buy and use contraception. Coons, a Catholic, said nothing about Barrett’s religion. No Republican attacked Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) in 2017 when he asked Barrett about Griswold during her earlier confirmation hearing. She said she hadn’t thought about the case because she wasn’t born in 1965, and Kennedy responded:

“Okay. I am going to move on. I get it. I do not agree with the position you are taking where you will not talk to me about the law, but if that is what you are going to want to do, that is your call. It is America. It is a free country.”

Just three weeks before Election Day, Republicans aren’t at all bothered about Barrett’s ignorance regarding a major case for women’s reproductive rights. Asked about it again today, she again professed ignorance about the case.

Much of the GOP fear comes from exposure regarding Barrett’s membership in a fringe religious group called People of Praise, population 1,700. Colin Kalmbacher describes the group as “a right-wing ecumenical group centered on an amalgamation of Catholic scripture and charismatic practice with a male-dominated hierarchy that has been characterized as cult-like.” Like other Pentecostal groups, People of Praise members speak in tongues. Barrett’s history indicates she could be the farthest-right justice in a field of far-right high court members.

Barrett used what she called “the Ginsburg Rule” in refuse answers on vital issues—“no hints, no previews, no forecasts”—but the former Supreme Court justice did offer substantive views about some contentious topics, for example abortion. In 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg affirmed Roe v. Wade and said at her confirmation hearing:

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When Government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”  

Barrett refused to answer if she agreed with her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. Barrett’s history, however, has left a trail of her opinions on issues of immediate concern. Several of these had been left off her questionnaire until the media uncovered them, with the possibility of trying to cover them up.

Anti-abortion:

  • Member of founding group of University of Faculty for Life at Notre Dame: voted “for a letter calling on the university to rescind an award given to then-Vice President Biden because of his beliefs on abortion”; promoted a South Bend (IN) crisis pregnancy center, a clinic misleading women seek abortions and pressuring them to continue their pregnancies with advertising pretending to help women get abortions.  
  • Signature on a 2006 anti-abortion advertisement demanding “an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe vs Wade.”  
  • Supporter of St. Joseph County Right to Life which believes life begins at fertilization, wants to criminalize the discarding of unused embryos created for the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process, and believes doctors who perform abortions should be charged as criminals.
  • Teaching anti-abortion groups at Notre Dame: lecture and seminar in 2013; talk on Roe v. Wade now “lost” by the university. 
  • Participation in dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Box (2019) about rehearing a case blocking an anti-abortion law before it took effect with the conclusion she would not block the anti-abortion law.

Anti-LGBTQ rights:  

  • Defense of the dissenters to Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case legalizing marriage equality in a lecture at Jacksonville University and calls transgender women “physiological males.”
  • Signature of letter in 2015 including her belief about “marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.”
  • Recommendation of lawmakers’ review of Title IX rights for transgender people because “this kind of transgender bathroom access … does seem to strain the text of the statute to say that Title IX demands it.”
  • Devoted follower of late Justice Antonin Scalia’s approach who ruled against LGBTQ rights, including the overturned Texas sodomy.  
  • Board member of private school enacting a policy prohibiting students with unmarried parents, that includes same-gender couples at the time.
  • Hearing testimony: use of term “sexual preference” indicating it is a choice, and her experience with an anti-LGBTQ groups was “wonderful” including her links with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) supporting criminalization of consensual sex between LGBTQ adults. (She said she wasn’t aware of ADF’s attempts to criminalize LGBTQ people or repeal marriage equality, cited on its website.)

Voting/Gun Ownership Rights:

  • Past dissent opinion (Kanter v. Barr) that states can ban felons from voting but cannot ban them from owning a firearm. Barrett argued for restricting participation in political rights to people not deemed “virtuous.”  

Affordable Care Act (ACA):  

  • Author of academic article in 2017 criticizing Chief Justice John Roberts who wrote the majority opinion upholding the ACA.
  • Signature on petition protesting the ACA’s coverage of contraception.  
  • Denial that a majority opinion in the current Supreme Court case to erase the ACA would also erase pre-existing conditions.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) angered Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) by tying him to the Senate’s rushing to put Barrett on the high court before hearing arguments to strike down the ACA on November 10.

“The district judge in Texas who struck down the ACA in the case now headed for the court is a former aide to the senator, who has become what the Texas Tribune calls the favorite for Texas Republicans seeking big judicial wins like torpedoing the ACA. The senior senator from Texas introduced in committee the circuit court judge who wrote the decision on appeal striking down the ACA.

“Sen. Cornyn has filed brief after brief arguing for striking down the ACA. He led the failed Senate charge to repeal the ACA in 2017. He has said ‘I’ve introduced and cosponsored 27 bills to repeal or defund Obamacare and I’ve voted to do so at every opportunity.'”

Republicans have tried to convince the public for two days of hearings Barrett wouldn’t dream of taking away their health care. Tuesday morning, Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) punctured that myth in his introduction, “All of you want to impose Obamacare in South Carolina — we don’t want it. We want South Carolina-care, not Obamacare.” He claimed the ACA was “a disaster for the state of South Carolina” and expressed outrage South Carolina got less money than some other states. He concluded that the issue “has got nothing to do with this hearing.”

The uninsured rate in Graham’s state dropped by more than one-third within the first three years of ACA. Eliminating ACA would uninsure hundreds of thousands in his state, and many more would lose current benefits and protections. Other states get more money because South Carolina refuses to take the Medicaid expansion which would insure more low-income families.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed “no one” seriously expects the Supreme Court to tear down the ACA. Two weeks ago, DDT demanded that would happen. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said at the hearing that Barrett would tear down the ACA because, as a mother of seven children, she understands the importance of health care. Her mentor, who had nine children, voted twice to destroy healthcare. Republicans voted 70 times to eradicate, and they surely had hundreds of children.

Nebraska’s Sen. Ben Sasse also didn’t do his homework. Accusing Democrats of using the ACA only for political purposes, he claimed that changing jobs is the Number One reason for being uninsured. Of uninsured nonelderly adults, 45 percent stated they were uninsured because the cost is too high, and another 13 percent said they had lost their Medicaid. Only 21 percent listed losing jobs or changing employees as a reason.  

With DDT’s case going to the Supreme Court on November 10, 57 percent disapprove.

Republicans know how unpopular their positions are. Only one-third of the people want to overturn Roe v. Wade, and over 60 percent favor marriage equality. To deflect the Democrats’ questions, GOP senators talk about Barrett’s darling family, her motherhood, and her impressive résumé. With them, however, the basic issue is getting her vote to put DDT back into the Oval Office and destroy conditions for workers. More later!

October 7, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-seven – Raking Up Big Numbers

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) can now take credit for the deadliest massacre in modern U.S. history—59 59 dead and at least 527 people in Las Vegas this week. These are the “secret” White House talking points in an effort to stop any talk about common sense gun laws, as indicated in a leak: pray and monitor; wait for any “political debate” until facts are known; protect the people through the Second Amendment; can’t stop a “mad man” with “new laws” because “they will curtail the freedoms of law-abiding citizens; don’t need guns for terrorist attacks; allow people to protect themselves with concealed carry; and don’t “rush toward compromising our freedoms before we have all the facts.” In other words, legislative business as usual—tax cuts!

Another leak this week that hit the comedy routines was DDT’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling DDT a “moron” in a Pentagon meeting last July. Tillerson was forced  to call DDT “smart” in a press conference, but he didn’t deny that he used that term for DDT. The comment was made after DDT’s appearance at the Boy Scouts Jamboree; Tillerson was its leader from 2010 to 2012.

Tillerson has also been frustrated because DDT’s publicly undermines him, for example, the dispute when Middle Eastern countries blockaded Qatar, sanctions on Venezuela, aid to Israel, and, most recently, DDT’s tweet that Tillerson should not negotiate with North Korea. The day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reached out to North Korea for talks, DDT tweeted that he was “wasting his time” and “we’ll do what has to be done!”  Just 37 percent trust Trump to responsibly handle the North Korea standoff.

In opposition to Tillerson, DDT indicated that he will back out of the Iranian agreement, leaving them free to develop nuclear weapons. The Nobel Committee cited this as one reason to award its Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for its efforts in advancing negotiations leading to the first treaty to prohibit nuclear arms. The world’s nine nuclear-armed powers and their allies—including the United States—boycotted the negotiations, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis threatened Sweden with retribution if the country supported the treaty. Fifty-three UN member states signed the treaty, and three of them have formally ratified it since the process started on September 20.

Tillerson has formed a “pact” with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Treasury that all three will resign if DDT fires one of them.

DDT did get to Puerto Rico almost two weeks after Maria was the second hurricane to hit the island, stayed in populated areas, and left an hour early. [Right: DDT shows a different kind of “compassion” to hurricane victims.]

While there, DDT:

  • Refused to mention or communicate with the mayor of San Juan;
  • Complained about the cost of the two hurricanes’ damage while saying how happy he is to spend “hundreds of millions” on the F-35, a plane has never flown a mission and “you can’t see” (according to DDT);
  • Said that Puerto Rico was not a “real catastrophe like Katrina;
  • Ignored the devastation on the island;
  • Threw rolls of paper towels into a crowd of survivors in a church, perhaps appearing to “distribute” supplies;
  • Praised the place for its beautiful weather;
  • Told hurricane victims to “have a good time”;
  • Said he was doing an “A+” job.

DDT has not yet submitted a request for aid to Puerto Rico. As he bragged about the wonderful response to the disaster, over half the people have no clean drinking water, and 95 percent of them have no electricity. DDT handed out flashlights but said that the people didn’t need them. Only one of the island’s 69 hospitals is fully operational, 59 of the 69 hospitals are operating on generators. Local officials talked about the lack of assistance. The mayor in a city of 54,000 said that they had received 10,000 meals, and one woman in the city said she had seen no supplies except for a case of water after 11 days. DDT waited ten days to waive the requirement that food stamps be used only in grocery stores despite the inability of these facilities to process the stamps.

After he returned from Puerto Rico, DDT said that he might wipe out the territory’s $72 billion debt, mostly held in huge hedge funds, but his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said, “We’re absolutely not going to bail them out.” As the U.S. seems incapable of helping Puerto Rico, Germany is donating 15 microgrids around the island for power emergency centers that combine solar panels and batteries.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley voted no for a resolution calling on countries to not use the death penalty for discrimination in cases of consensual adultery and same-gender relations. Twenty-seven countries supported the resolution while the U.S. was one of 13 countries, primarily those in the Middle East and Asia, that opposed it. Seven countries abstained. Former UN Ambassador Susan Rice tweeted about the vote, “Not even Russia and Iran stooped as low as we did.” The U.S. does use the death penalty as discrimination against minorities, women, and poor people.

The congressional conclusion that Russian attempted to hack into U.S. voting machines and influenced U.S. voters through social media has been followed by DDT’s request that the Senate Intelligence Committee investigate the U.S. press. DDT’s constant attacks on the media as “fake news” has a benefit for the media. The 48 percent of people who have confidence in the press is up nine percent since last November whereas the same 48 percent having a measure of faith in DDT is down three percent.

Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, is also being investigated for his reassignment of Joel Clement after Clement showed how climate change affects Alaska’ Native communities. An earlier probe came from his threats to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in an attempt to get her vote for the health care bill.

Ivanka and Donald Trump, Jr. are in the hot seat with their emails, including publicity about how they barely evaded indictment on felony fraud charges in 2012 regarding their failed project, Trump SoHo, but donations to a campaign saved them. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. made prosecutors drop the case after DDT’s attorney Marc Kasowitz gave $25,000 to the DA’s reelection campaign with another $50,000 from DDT and other donors later on.

The use of official emails on Ivanka’s and Don Jr.’s personal accounts may have compromised national security:

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have shared official White House materials on the Kushner family’s private domain, in a third private account recently discovered. The emails to the third account were largely sent from White House accounts but occasionally came from other private accounts, one of these people said. Kushner set up ijkfamily.com when he joined DDT’s administration.

Apps on Kushner’s and Ivanka’s private email automatically deleted communications for official matters, an illegal action that other of DDT’s White House officials have also taken.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter to White House counsel last week requesting more information about the White House staff use of private email addresses for official business, including disappearing message apps.

Both Kushner and Ivanka moved their email accounts to Trump Organization after the letter stating that the records not be destroyed, modified, or transferred. Cummings pointed out that their action also violates their pledge to not be a part of Trump Organization.

https://www.mediaite.com/online/rachel-maddow-reports-that-secret-service-is-banning-mobile-devices-from-west-wing/  More problems arose after it was discovered that the cell phone of John Kelly, former National Security Advisor and current chief of staff, was compromised with the establishment of new guidelines. Personal mobile devices—including tablets, cell phones, and smart watches—are to be prohibited from the West Wing. The question is whether DDT’s cell phone is part of this ban.

ACLU immediately filed a lawsuit against the government after AG Jeff Sessions announced that businesses and organizations can use religious belief or “moral conviction” to avoid providing free birth control on its insurance plans. A majority of people, even Republicans, disagree with DDT. The same excuse can also be used to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

The ACLU is also suing to lift unreasonable FDA restrictions on Mifeprex, a safe and effective method of ending an early pregnancy up to 10 weeks, from pharmacies.

DDT may also be able to take credit for the worst hurricane destruction of any president. The fourth major storm to hit the U.S. in less than nine months has killed 30 people in Central America and has now hit the Louisiana coast. Nate, the fourth major storm to strike the United States in less than two months, killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on the US South. Over 40 percent of the Gulf’s staffed oil- and gas-producing platforms were evacuated. The storm, now a Category One, still has winds of about 100 mph and possible storm surges of 10 feet but should weaken on land. It may be the worst hurricane in Mississippi since Katrina in 2005.

May 2, 2017

DDT’s Licence to Discriminate

Filed under: LGBTQ Issues — trp2011 @ 9:39 PM
Tags: , , , ,

“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens.” That’s what Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said at the Republican National Convention almost a year ago. Immediately after DDT’s inauguration, his press secretary said:

“President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election.”

In his 15th week in office, DDT plans to sign another executive order, this one removing all rights that he can from LGBTQ people. It is labeled “religious liberty,” the term that allows anyone to discriminate against not only LGBTQ people but also anyone else based on what people call their “religious beliefs.” DDT waited until after his first 100 days in office to make this move. Supposedly his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, talked DDT out of signing the hateful order in early February, but super-“religions” VP Mike Pence worked with administration officials to “rewrite” the order. New verbiage is very little different from the original, according to people who have seen it. With Pence involved, discrimination is not surprising: when he was governor of Indiana, he signed a “religious freedom” bill that had to be redone because of millions in lost revenue to the state.

The grand signing is scheduled for Thursday, National Prayer Day, in front of a proud Pence and other conservative leaders. The original draft order, leaked on February 1, was highly criticized as government-licensed discrimination and quietly disappeared. Thursday is also the day that Leonard Leo, DDT’s adviser to select Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court, receives the annual Canterbury Medal from the Becket Fund—a “religious freedom” activist group.

DDT has already shown animosity toward the LGBTQ population through his selection of Cabinet members and other administration leaders. AG Jeff Sessions consistently opposes legal protections for LGBT people and voted against the 2009 Hate Crimes Prevention Act, protections for LGBT survivors of sexual violence under the Violence Against Women Act, and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He led the support for the amendment to a constitutional amendment that would have kept same-gender couples from marrying. Sessions’ Hate Crime Subcommittee protects people only on the basis of “religious beliefs or background.” Sessions also withdrew the lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2 that included discrimination regarding which bathrooms could be used by transgender people. At the same time, he “persuaded” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to revoke early guidance on equal access to facilities for transgender students, stopping lawsuits regarding the rights of transgender students.

Other DDT discrimination against LGBT people:

  • LGBTQ content was removed from White House and Department of State websites on the very first day of Trump’s presidency at the same time that other federal websites kept its content.
  • DDT’s Muslim and refugee ban is a death sentence for many LGBTQ people seeking safety in the United States.
  • DDT’s State Department sent two anti-LGBTQ organizations as the only civil society representatives to the UN annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This UN commission is important to LGBT rights because of its recommendations. Both DDT delegations rely on fake science and fabricated data to support their views.
  •  DDT’s appointment to lead the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, Roger Severino, has said that transgender equality is “the radical left using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology.”
  • DDT revoked the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act that removed mandates from companies receiving labor contracts that included the removal of LGBTQ rights. Less than two months earlier, the White House had declared that “the executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.”
  • LGBTQ questions measuring sexual orientation and gender identity disappeared from the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census because, according to the Department of Commerce, there was “no federal data need” to measure numbers of LGBTQ people.
  • DDT nominated for Army Secretary a LGBTQ-hater, Mark Green, who referred to being transgender as a “disease.” If confirmed, Green would replace, Eric Fanning, the first openly gay may to be the Secretary.
  • DDT’s recently hired Department of Agriculture employee James Renne helped orchestrate an anti-LGBT purge of longtime LGBTQ government employees during the George W. Bush presidency.

A leaked copy of an earlier draft executive order, “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” may be similar—if not as bad as—the order to be revealed later this week. The four-page draft covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.” It creates wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity as well as curtailing women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.

Language specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.” To summarize, the February order said that “Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their conscience.”

The definition of “religious exercise” extends to “any act or refusal to act that is motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the act is required or compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” It lists specific beliefs and gives governmental protection to those who have those beliefs. The language seems similar to last year’s law from Mississippi, declared in violation of both the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. The original draft exempted people or organizations from complying with the Affordable Care Act’s preventative-care mandate that includes contraceptive coverage and require insurance not be required to cover abortion or “subsidize[s] plans that do provide such coverage.” The government could also not take action against federally funded child-welfare organizations, such as those providing foster, adoption, or family support services, if they deny services based on “the organization’s religious beliefs.” The order would allow federally-funded organizations to refuse services to LGBTQ people to the point of removing children from their homes.

The ACLU is prepared to sue whenever DDT signs the order. His mandate violates federal law and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution as well as licensing individuals and private parties to violate federal law. In addition, it could violate the 1st Amendment regarding religion and state. Such an order uses a set of beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity to control everyone.

As Nico Lang wrote about the upcoming order:

“LGBT people, for lack of a better word, would be screwed. This order, if it were to be signed, would allow employers to fire workers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, permit doctors to deny life-saving services to trans people, and enable landlords to refuse housing to same-sex couples. It would realize the worst fears of the LGBT community by relegating us to second-class citizens.”

Conclusions: DDT never keeps his promise unless it gets him money or good press, and one of his basic goals is to overturn anything that President Obama did. Fourteen percent of LGBTQ people—mostly gay white men—voted for DDT because they love guns and hate minorities. We’ll see if DDT keeps their loyalty after he signs the order.

April 11, 2014

Day of Silence

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 2:05 PM
Tags: ,

Today is the annual Day of Silence, the one day a year that students in 70 countries around the world go silent to protest against the silencing effect of anti-LGBTQ bias. In solidarity, I am silencing my blog for the day.

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