Nel's New Day

August 5, 2015

GOP Wants Return to the 1950s

To conservatives, the 1950s were an ideal time. These quotes show who they’re working to return to a time when “men were men” and everyone except white men was subservient to them.

New Hamphire state Rep. Jeanne Notter to a colleague about oral contraceptives: “As a man, would it interest you to know that Dr. Bernstein just published an article that links the pill to prostate cancer?” She couldn’t explain why, but a study published this week in The Lancet Oncology responds to complaints about “Uncle Sugar” paying for pills for “sluts.” More than helping to reduce pregnancies in 88 percent of women, oral contraceptives help to prevent cancer by imitating pregnancy in the woman’s body. The less estrogen in the body, the lower the risk of uterine (endometrial) cancer. About 400,000 cases of this cancer have been prevented in the past 50 years—200,000 during the past decade alone. For every five years of using birth control pills, a woman reduces her risk of contracting endometrial cancer by about 25 percent. Only 42 percent of women take this medication only for contraception.

Matt Beyon, Rick Santorum’s communications manager on tomorrow’s GOP presidential debate: “The idea that they have left out the runner-up for the 2012 nomination, the former four-term governor of Texas, the governor of Louisiana, the first female Fortune 50 CEO, and the 3-term Senator from South Carolina due to polling seven months before a single vote is cast is preposterous.” The debate is even more preposterous because Fox changed its rules after looking at the polls, possibly because they wanted Gov. John Kasich rather than Rick Perry on the main stage. After all, the debate on Thursday is in Kasich’s state of Ohio. Fox declared that it would use the five most recent polls to determine the top ten candidates but then ignored an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted between July 26 and 30 showing Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Ohio Gov. John Kasich within one percentage point of each other. Instead Fox used a Quinnipiac University poll gathered between July 23 and 28 showing Kasich ahead by three percentage points. Fox claimed it dismissed the NBC/WSJ poll “because it did not meet our criterion that the poll read the names of each Republican candidate in the vote question.” The RNC has officially put Fox in charge of selecting the GOP candidate.

Last night on All In, Alex Wagner, substituting for host Chris Hayes, asking Ted Cruz’s spokesman, Rick Tyler, about the problem of the Fox debate: Tyler started by explaining the advantage of the “kiddie table” because “5:00 p.m. on the East Coast is 8:00 on the West Coast. And 9:00 start for the second debate is midnight on the West Coast. So, look, the 5:00—I think—you know, the network has done the best they could.” Wagner had to explain him that 5:00pm EST is actually three hours earlier—not later—at 2:00 pm that that the 9:00 pm main event would begin on the West Coast at 6:00. Then the Cruz spokesman extolled the virtues of Donald Trump.

The outline of the scientific study, “Historically unprecedented global glacier decline in the early 21st century” in The Journal of Glaciology: “Centennial glacier retreat is a global phenomenon.” One example of the rapid glaciers’ disappearance is the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland where the ice is moving at 10 miles a year, twice the record in 2003, which was twice as fast as in 1997. “The observed glaciers currently lose … two to three times more than the corresponding average of the 20th century,” said the study’s lead author, Michael Zemp. Glaciers help maintain the climate zone differences that drive weather patterns and provide distinct ecosystems to support precisely adapted lifeforms, from mountain wildflowers to snow leopards. Some glaciers may now be doomed.

New York pastor James David Manning: “Let’s just say I know [Starbucks is using semen in lattes].”  That’s what he said last year and repeated on a Daily Show segment with Jessica Williams last night when she re-interviewed him. Manning also ratcheted up last year’s comparison between President Obama to Adolf Hitler to this year’s statement that the president is the “Son of Satan.” Last month he described a “sodomite demon” contracted by women who kiss or have sex with men who have had sex with other men. According to Manning, the semen in gay sex goes directly into the blood.

A growing conservative movement against marriage equality: “What if a city decided that it was important for children to have mothers and fathers, declared itself a sanctuary city for traditional marriage, and refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?”

Jeb Bush on defunding Planned Parenthood: “You could take dollar for dollar. Although I am not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women health issues.” (Spoken like a true elitist!) When George H.W. Bush was elected to Congress from Texas, he so strongly supported Planned Parenthood that some House colleagues called him “Rubbers.”Bush’s grandfather Prescott Bush was the first treasurer of Planned Parenthood when it was founded in 1947, yet Jeb defunded Planned Parenthood while he was Florida governor and wants to send women to “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” where they receive bad care and lies to keep them from having abortions. These centers also don’t provide health care for men; Planned Parenthood does.

Donald Trump: “We have to get rid of that whole gun-free zone nonsense and just stop it.” Managers at many Trump hotels, golf clubs, and other properties are gun-free zones; even people with concealed carry permits can’t bring their firearms onto the property. The Trump properties that do allow guns require concealed carry permits and do not allow any open carry. Gun shows also forbid guns on the premises. A person at the Crossroads Gun Show explained, “Safety is our Number One Priority, and a safe environment in the show can only be maintained if there are no loaded guns in the show.”

Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd: “We all have a responsibility here I think to say, you know, has [Donald Trump] earned his way on this stage? I mean, again, we’re four years removed from the ridiculous spectacle of birtherism…. It’s not fair to what is the strongest Republican party presidential field in 36 years.” Scott Walker is not removed from the question of whether President Obama is a Christian and bought off the Wisconsin state Supreme Court to skip his indictment, while Rick Perry is still under indictment. Sen. Ted Cruz is threatening a shutdown for Planned Parenthood’s legal behavior. Mike Huckabee is a huckster for bogus medical cures. Chris Christie yells shut up at teachers who try to reason with him. Sen. Rand Paul’s campaign leader just got indicted for conspiracy in falsifying campaign expenditure reports. And the list goes on.

rondesia-jarrett-schell-and-peter-schell-with-their-sonPolice Stop in the South: You have to read the entire dialog in this link to understand the abuse by racist law enforcement after a police officer pulled over Rev. Peter Schell, an Episcopal priest and the lead pastor of Calvary Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., for not signalling that he was pulling over for the officer. He was traveling with his interracial family (right).

Apple in 2013: “[The company] “powers all its data centers [in Maiden, NC] with 100 percent renewable energy” and has been “100% renewable since opening June 2010.” It wasn’t. In 2015, 76 percent of the data center’s energy was generated on-site by two photovoltaic solar arrays and its fleet of biogas-powered fuel cells, but it must turn the energy over to NC GreenPower and buy all its energy needs from Duke Energy Carolinas (Duke). By March 2015 Duke had less than 0.02 percent renewable energy in its grid mix. About 33 percent of the energy Duke sells comes from nuclear, half is from fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), and 15 percent comes from hydroelectric sources. When Duke’s grid fails, Apple relies on backup diesel-powered generators from fuel stored on on-site tanks. Annual emissions from the Apple facility are on an upward trajectory, by now the equivalent of burning 262 million pounds of coal.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on defunding Planned Parenthood—my favorite: “Did you fall down, hit your head, and think you woke up in the 1950s or 1890s?” Chris Christie may brag about “telling it like it is,” but Warren is far ahead of him:

“The Republican scheme to defund Planned Parenthood is not some sort of surprised response to a highly edited video. Nope! The Republican vote to defund Planned Parenthood is just one more piece of a deliberate, methodical, orchestrated, right-wing attack on women’s rights.”

Unfortunately, conservative men claim that they want to return to the 1950s. That’s their aim—no reproductive rights, no threat of climate change, no problem with being racist, and no “homosexuals.” A return might require them to give up some of their guns, though.

July 25, 2015

Marriage Equality Not for All

Every month in editing a newsletter for our local PFLAG group, I write articles about national and global news. This past month has been filled with the aftermath—and sometimes backlash—to the Supreme Court decision that LGBT people should have equal rights in marriage. The media frenzy began when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-gender couples should have the right to marry in all 50 states. Here are some of the issues that emerged from that decision.

Of course, conservatives were traumatized by the possibility that LGBT people could get married. Judges refused to marry same-gender couples or said that they were too busy. A Texas judge required everyone who he married, LGBT or straight, to sign a document stating that he was opposed to the decision and that no one should even mention marriage equality in his presence. Some clerks decided to quit rather than issue marriage licenses. One of them refused until threatened with a lawsuit.

Jacob WilsonThe three members of Dent County (MO) commission unanimously voted to lower the flags “below halfstaff” at the county courthouse once a month for a year in order to “mourn” the legalization of marriage equality. Within a day they had to back down because of protests from the population of 15,000 for its violation to flag protocol and its bigotry. Out of this discrimination came a positive action from Jacob Wilson (right), a gay alumnus of Salem High School, who establishing a scholarship fund to support LGBT students and allies.

Other good things have happened since the decision. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch confirmed that married same-sex couples will have access to full federal benefits after the Supreme Court ruling to legalize marriage equality. Prior to the SCOTUS decision, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration were required to deny full benefits for married same-gender couples living in states that did not recognize marriage equality.

One segment of the U.S. population not covered by the Supreme Court ruling that legalizes marriage equality is Native Americans living on reservations. The decision does not extend to sovereign Indian Nations because the fate of that judgment lies in Congress. Unless Congress passes legislation to require same-gender marriage on Indian Nations—a highly unlikely act—tribes create and enforce their own laws governing marriage. Many tribes have changed their laws to legalize marriage equality or ruled that they will follow the rules of the state where reservations are located, but ten tribes, including the two largest ones of Cherokee Nation and the Navajo, have acts that prohibit same-gender marriage. The Navajo changed Navajo law accepting same-gender unions when they passed the Diné Marriage Act of 2005 in response to former President George W. Bush’s call for amendments to state constitutions banning same-sex unions.

Alray Nelson & Brennen YonnieAlray Nelson (left), an openly gay man living on the Navajo reservation in Arizona with his partner Brennan Yonnie, is working to change the 2005 act because same-gender couples are denied the rights of married heterosexual couples in issues such as housing, property rights, and custody of children. Many contemporary LGBTQ Navajo talk about historical accounts of same-gender unions and even the prominence of the nádleehí–third-gender people–in Navajo creation stories. Nelson said, “When I’m reading comments from Navajo leaders, it seems like the majority of them came from the boarding-school era, and so everything that they were taught from that time of assimilation is so full of misunderstanding, fear and hate for our own people. It seems like the U.S. government did a very good job at training our Navajo men and women–our brothers and sisters–to be their own oppressor.”

Bans on LGBT marriage is not the only problem on Nelson’s reservation. LGBT bullying and teen suicides are high, and the Navajo Nation has seen an unprecedented spike in new HIV diagnoses because the people lack information about the disease.

navajo_hastiin_klah2Navajo history includes Hastiin Klah (1867-1937), weaver and medicine man who embodied both male and female spirits as a nádleehí Navajo. Farther back are drawings, photographs, oral histories, and language that advocates say is evidence LGBT Navajo tribe members were once accepted. Anthropologist W. W. Hill noted Navajo nádleehí indivudals were associated with wealth and that the families they were born in to were considered fortunate. But that began to change. The change came when the U.S. ordered Native Americans to attend U.S. schools and accept European religion.

Marriage equality is just the beginning of LGBT rights in the United States: we need laws and rulings to give us equality in credit, housing, employment, lodging, jury service, federal financial assistance, education, etc. Legislators such as Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) are introducing bills to restrict federal funding to municipalities that don’t comply with the ruling. Other legislators, including Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, are behind a bill to stop LGBT discrimination through an update to the Civil Rights of 1964. Pocan is also one of the Democratic congressional members who introduced Restore Honor to Service Members Act that would help service members discharged from the military to correct the military record, reflecting their honorable service.

cartoon

 

Marriage equality opponents who struggle to stop same-gender marriage through amending the Constitution should realize that only one amendment to that document took away rights—the 18th Amendment starting prohibition—and it lasted only 13 years before being overturned by another constitutional amendment. The history of the U.S. Constitution has been to give rights, not take them away. The so-called First Amendment Defense Act on allowing discrimination through “religious freedom” has a restrictive nature rather than opening up rights to everyone and should not be allowed.

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.

 

July 12, 2015

Religion in Birth Control, Cakes, Ignorance

Birth control is an obsession with Republicans. Instead of just letting women use contraceptive devices, the GOP tries to stop them and then accuses them of being fallen women who just want welfare if they get pregnant. Colorado is a great example of this GOP problem.

For the past six years, Colorado offered no-cost, long-acting birth control such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants to teens and poor women. From 2009 to 2013—just five years—the program reduced the birthrate for teenage girls by 40 percent and the rate of abortions by 42 percent. It is truly a pro-life program. In the poorest areas of the state, the decline in unplanned pregnancies among single women dropped the greatest. In 2009, half of all first births in these areas were to women under 21 years of age; by 2014 the age increased to 24. About 20 percent of women ages 18 to 44 in Colorado use a long-acting form of birth control in comparison to the national average of 7 percent.

The success rate is saving the state $5.85 for each $1.00 spent in Medicaid—that’s $80 million–something that conservatives claim that they want. Yet the same conservatives rejected funding to continue the program. Excuses given for discontinuing the funding are all based on individual morality of legislators: it increases promiscuity and subsidizes sex. One GOP lawmaker said, “Does that allow a lot of young women to go out there and look for love in all the wrong places?” Other excuses were that the program might fail, despite the amazing success in its first five years. Colorado Republicans also “misrepresented” the facts, claiming that IUD use led to increased abortions (no!), that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would cover long-term birth control devices (no!), and contraction access increased teen sex rates (no!).

A year ago the Supreme Court ruled that the corporation Hobby Lobby held such deep religious convictions that it and other “closely held” stock corporations can choose to be exempt from the ACA mandate that employers’ insurance programs include free contraception for women. A spate of similar lawsuits followed the Hobby Lobby decision. One of these, East Texas Baptist University v. Burwell, came before an extremely conservative judge on the 5th Circuit Court. Nominated by Ronald Reagan almost 30 years ago, Judge Jerry Smith objects to abortions rights and has called feminists a “gaggle of outcasts, misfits and rejects.”

The participants in the lawsuit could be exempted from federal rules just by submitting a form or otherwise telling the federal government that they won’t do it. The plaintiffs refused to complete the paperwork, claiming that doing so makes them complicit in the employee’s decision to use contraception. Smith wrote the unanimous opinion for a three-judge panel that the plaintiffs failed to show that the regulations “substantially burden their religious exercise” through filling out a simple form because a letter is not contraception. He also wrote that ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would lead to such absurd challenges to government functions as a person who disapproves of working on Sunday refusing to apply for Social Security disability because it might assist people to work on Sunday if the form is processed on that day.  Smith summarized that “the possibilities are endless, but we doubt Congress, in enacting RFRA (the religious freedom act), intended for them to be.”

Smith’s ruling led to President Obama issuing new guidelines for contraception and the ACA. If a company wants to deny contraceptives to its employees, it must submit a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stating its objection. The government will then provide free birth control to employees through a third-party insurer. Sen. Patty Murray, irritated with the convoluted process of getting contraception for women, is working on legislation to repeal the Hobby Lobby ruling.

10_commandments_In another religious battle, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is defying the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s recent order to remove the Ten Commandments monument in front of the state capitol building. In a 7-2 decision, the state’s highest court upheld the constitution that states “no public money or property” would be used to support any specific religion. When asked about her defiance, Fallin said, “You know there are three branches of our government: the Supreme Court and the legislative branch and you have the people. The people and their ability to vote.”

According to a survey last year, only 36 percent of the people in the United States know the three branches, a situation that raised cries to improve the education in the country. Growing up in Missouri, Mary Fallin, 59, was subject to the ignorance that most people educated in the South experienced. The instruction about slavery, for example, is that masters gave the happy-go-lucky slaves a family and protected them from the attacking northerners. One popular textbook wrote that slaves experienced the first social security with great clothing, medicine, and lots of food. “The slave … suffered little or no want.”

Education is rapidly returning to the falsehoods of the 1970s with the acceptance of Texas textbooks promoting “tea party manifestos.” A conservative Christian minister who helped push the standards through said in 2010, “We’re in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it.” The new history textbooks barely address segregation and lack any mention of either the Ku Klux Klan or Jim Crow laws. The Civil War was caused by “sectionalism, states’ rights, and slavery,” minimizing the part of slavery in driving the conflict. A school requirement is reading Jefferson Davis’ Confederate inauguration address which fails to mention slavery while ignoring the speech from Davis’ vice president, Alexander Stephens, in which he explained that the South’s desire to preserve slavery was the cornerstone of its new government and “the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.”

In today’s South, people still fight the Civil War because their ancestors never conceded defeat or signed a treaty to end the war. The only surrender was military. The North never accepted that the Southern states had seceded, and the Southern states never admitted that they had rejoined the North. Because there was no treaty, Southern leaders were never even tried for treason. Texas will lead the South into continued ignorance, one in which governors can’t even name the three branches of the federal government.

A wedding cake is seen at a reception for same-sex couples at The Abbey in West Hollywood, California, July 1, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS FOOD SOCIETY) - RTX119FY

A wedding cake is seen at a reception for same-sex couples at The Abbey in West Hollywood, California, July 1, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS FOOD SOCIETY) – RTX119FY

In another big lie about “religious freedom” during the past week, the far right is promoting one huge “misrepresentation” with a giant omission after Oregon levied a $135,000 fine against Sweet Cakes by Melissa because Aaron and Melissa Klein refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

The lie: The Kleins claim that there is a “gag order” against their talking about the case.

The truth: They are ordered only to “cease and desist” from advertising that discriminates against same-sex couples. The Kleins are free to talk about the case—the decision, their disagreement, etc.

The omission: Aaron Klein posted the lesbian couple’s personal information—name, home address, phone numbers and email address—on his Facebook page. After the Kleins campaigned at anti-LGBT hate rallies, the women received death threats. They feared that they would lose their foster children because state adoption officials warned them of their responsibility to protect the children and keep privileged information confidential. (The children have since been adopted.) The judge in the case also received death threats.

The Kleins’ martyrdom is also profit-making. Although the fine is $135,000, they have raised over $250,000 online—a nice payment for bigotry.

July 7, 2015

Who Do Conservatives—and Fox Hate?

 

The Homeless (and Bill DeBlasio): A Bill O’Reilly segment used Jesse Watters to wander around Penn Station asking homeless people where they slept and whether they had drinking problems. After five minutes of this, he asked mostly white commuters about how scary homeless people are, going so far as to repeatedly asking a young child because she initially expressed some compassion for the homeless. Watters blames New York Mayor DeBlasio because, as O’Reilly and Watters agreed, the homeless knew their place under Giuliani and Bloomberg. 

Black People (ala Geraldo Rivera): After criticism of Kendrick Lamar and hip hop, Rivera concluded that black people’s clothing styles and art forms are responsible for racism and excessive police violence against blacks. Hoodies and sagging pants kill. Peter Johnson, legal analyst for Fox, called people who fight against racism “cultural cousins” of the Charleston killer. Hearing that the anti-racism group Disarm NYPD was to hold a rally against the Confederate flag on July 1, he agreed with Fox and Friends commentators that the rally could be a “precursor” to a terrorist attack and called them “the essence of anarchist values that seek to destroy the country.”

Immigrants: Following Donald Trump’s accusations that undocumented immigrants are largely rapists and other criminals, Megyn Kelly cited Ann Coulter’s “whole book right now that makes this point….  She cites data that does support the fact that some, obvious, immigrants who come across the borders do turn out to be criminals.” Rivera’s statement that “undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than the citizen population of the United States” didn’t faze her.

Looking at Donald Trump’s amazing popularity in the polls, Rick Santorum decided to follow the presidential candidate in bashing immigrants. Sunday he told CBS John Dickerson, “People who are coming illegally obviously are coming with a bad intent. Let’s just be honest, they coming with the clear intent of breaking the law.” Trump has support from other GOP candidates New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Ted Cruz (TX).

In Dublin (Ireland), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told an audience that immigration reform is on the top of his agenda. He told people in the United States the same thing two years ago but hasn’t made a move on the issue.

Hollywood “Elite”: Sen. Rand Paul is making a name for himself by railing against the $25,000 seed money that the National Endowment for the Arts awarded the Academy of Motion Pictures Films and Sciences a $25,000 grant to aid in the planning of exhibits for a privately funded $300 million museum in Los Angeles. The man who opposes raising the minimum wage, pay for women, and spending on infrastructure calls the $25,000 the “equivalent of the tax burdens of four Americans.” He also wants to give big oil money while taxing the poor with a regressive flat tax. I call the $25,000 the equivalent of 15 percent that the country gives a member of Congress to do nothing but block progress.

Workers: Objecting to President Obama’s proposal to extend overtime protections to 5 million workers, Ainsley Earhardt explained that this was a bad idea: “I was making 20-some-odd-thousand dollars with my first job as a reporter, and I always said yes to everything that they asked me to do.” Co-host Sandra Smith agreed because former McDonald CEO Ed Rensi told Fox that “these jobs are not careers.”At this time, only workers who make less than $23,660 are eligible for overtime pay. The new rules would extend those protections to workers making as much as $50,440 a year. 

Same-gender couples Who Marry: Crazy Glenn Grothman, Wisconsin state representative, claimed that legalized marriage equality is an offense to those killed in the Civil War, “a strong religious war to further a Christian lifestyle by getting rid of slavery.” According to Grothman, people who died in the Civil War would be “shocked” to learn that the recent Supreme Court ruling used the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. According to GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, marriage equality is “an attack on Christians and their religious liberty is a hate crime that must be prosecuted.” In Colorado, the hatred is pointed at “almost all people who want to marry” because the ballot initiative for a state constitutional amendment would allow the rejection of almost any marriage.

The Supreme Court: The solution to progressive rulings at the end of June is to have “retention elections” by the “American people,” according to GOP presidential candidate Sen.Ted Cruz (R-TX). He wants a majority by the U.S. population and majorities in at least half the states to agree that justices are fit for retention. He said, “Who in their right mind would design a system where every major public policy issue of the day is decided not by the people, not by the Constitution, not by the elected representatives, but by nine elite lawyers in Washington, D.C.?” He forgets that the Founding Fathers put that into the Constitution that conservatives claim to revere.

Everyone in the U.S. Who Uses Any Infrastructure: Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) introduced the Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA) to terminate the gas tax that funds federal transportation projects and turn the responsibility of maintaining the interstates over to the states. Congress is trashing the country’s valuable infrastructure by refusing to increase the 18.4 cents per gallon put into effect 22 years ago. Just one example is the Arlington Memorial Bridge linking the Lincoln Memorial to Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River where several bridge lanes were closed in May and the weight limit eliminated the use of thousands of tour buses.

Recently, eight more states—seven of them Republican—are increasing gas taxes to provide vital repairs to falling bridges and crumbling roads. Nebraska even overrode the governor’s veto. Eight years ago, the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis killed 13 people and injured another 145. The same problems are evident at thousands of other bridges. The man responsible for this devastation is Grover Norquist who has blackmailed almost all GOP candidates into signing a “no-tax” pledge through his Americans for Tax Reform.

Presidential campaigning affects the way that states look at the infrastructure problem. In an attempt to avoid being known as a “tax-and-spend” candidate, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has proposed $1.3 million in transportation bonds. GOP legislators are not happy about his idea, and Walker has pushed back his official candidacy announcement because of the ensuing battles.

Marijuana-Businesses-Donate-Big-Bucks-To-Clean-Up-Highways-In-Colorado

In Colorado, legalized marijuana is helping save the infrastructure. “Pot shops” are putting money into roads and highways, one of them as much as $100,000, beyond the 28-percent taxes that they pay. Republicans have had no comment thus far.

Human Rights Advocates: After the Human Rights Council of the UN condemned Israel for violating human rights of innocent Palestinians last summer, Cruz called for the U.S. to drop its membership in the council. The UN action was pretty tame, considering that Israel emulated the Nazis during World War II by officially calling for genocide against the Palestinians. Cruz has accused the UN of being anti-Semitic—but then he also thinks that UN is trying to close the golf courses in the United States.

People Who Use National Parks and Other Public Lands: The Koch brothers, through its executive director at the Koch-backed Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), is calling for no more national parks. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Reed Watson said that the government doesn’t need to care for lands because “true conservation is taking care of the land and water you already have.” He calls for the end to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a budget-neutral program using funds from offshore oil and gas development fees for federal, state, and local outdoor projects across the country—such as ones at the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. PERC’s goal is to sell off public lands to the highest bidder so that they can be used for mining, oil drilling, and cutting down trees.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), GOP presidential candidate, supports the Koch brothers plan to turn land back to states to use in any way that conservatives wish. Cliven Bundy, the man who succeeded in not paying the federal government for grazing by calling in renegade gun groups, met with Paul and said that they are “in tune with each other.”

And lots more hatred from conservatives later!

July 2, 2015

Jindal Joyfully Joins ‘Party of Stupid’

tannedBobby Jindal was lucky that he received little media attention last week when he announced his candidacy for GOP president. One reason is his ridiculous campaign slogan: “Tanned. Rested. Ready.” It first appeared in 1968 from Richard Nixon, the former president who had to resign. Posters with images of Nixon and the slogan continued to appear. It’s never a good idea to copy someone else, and it’s even worse when that person was driven from the highest office in the United States, the one that Jindal wants.

portraitAnother problem is that “tan” implies Jindal is trying to avoid his Indian-American background. Many Indian-Americans in the U.S. are upset with Jindal because he depicts himself as separate from them. Even his official portrait in the Louisiana capitol depicts Jindal as very white. [Guess which one is the real Bobby Jindal!]

Jindal was born in the United States four months after his parents arrived. His name is Piyush, but he wanted to be called Bobby after one of The Brady Bunch. As a teen, he converted from Hinduism to Catholicism at Brown University. He and his wife are very clear about not observing Indian traditions, and he declared he wants to be known as just an “American.”

After he lost his gubernatorial run in 2003, he cultivated a group called “Bubbas for Bobby” for his successful run in 2007. He wore cowboy books, got a hunting license, and sent out a Christmas card with himself, his wife, and his three kids in camouflage. A long-time family friend, Sumir Chehl, was asked to wear Western dress for his 2008 inauguration because that’s what the governor’s political advisers wanted. Jindal has even drawn away from Indian-American donors and failed to attend a rally for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Madison Square Garden. The crowd booed at Jindal’s name.

Lamar White wrote that Jindal is “rested” because he never shows up to his job.

“He’s spent nearly half of the last two years outside of Louisiana. John Kennedy, the Republican state treasurer, claims that he hasn’t had a substantive conversation with Jindal since he was first elected, which seems almost negligent when one considers the shape of the state’s finances. Through his state campaign fund, Jindal has spent nearly $4 million with OnMessage, a D.C.-based political consultancy, and perhaps as a result, his name has appeared in the byline of more national editorials than any other presidential candidate. He’s been everywhere but where he was supposed to be.”

Bobby Jindal big smileAt this time, Jindal’s biggest claim to fame is his executive order to “protect” Christians from LGBT people through “religious freedom” after the legislature didn’t  pass this into law. In an op-ed, Jindal wrote his intent to fight “discrimination against Christian individuals and businesses.” No other religions need apply.  Jindal issued the order after he roundly criticized President Obama for his lawful use of executive orders.

After the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality in all 50 states, Jindal told his legal counsel to draft a memo stating that his executive order shields government employees from issuing a marriage license to same-sex couples or officiating at same-sex couples’ weddings. Lawsuits and a ruling from a lower court may have forced him to order the issuance of licenses.

Protesting marriage equality Jindal fought to keep mixed-race marriages in the state because of the law. In 2009, Keith Bardwell, JP for Tangipahoa Parish, refused to issue marriage licenses to interracial couples because of his belief that these marriages don’t last. He asked everyone who called him if they were a mixed-race couple. If they said yes, he told them he wouldn’t marry them. Although Bardwell referred these couples to other JPs, Jindal declared his action “a clear violation of constitutional rights and federal and state law.” Six years later, Jindal stated that people in government have the right to follow their personal beliefs in deciding whether to do their jobs.

While other candidates smoked marijuana while they in college, Jindal participated in an exorcism. At Oxford University, he wrote about a close friend, “Susan,” who started having visions and smelling like sulfur—which Jindal noted “supposedly accompanies the devil.” In the midst of a seizure during a prayer group, Susan said, “Bobby, you cannot even love Susan.” The students chanted, “Satan, I command you to leave this woman” and exhorted all “demons to leave in the name of Christ.” Jindal reported that he had shortness of breath and decided to leave the demon alone “to find peace for myself.”

Jindal does have an alternative to the Affordable Care Act. It would give states full control over Medicaid and pool people at a high risk of illness, offering them subsidies. It would also get rid of the business tax break for offering employees health insurance. Unfortunately for Jindal, it’s very expensive, and Ramesh Ponnuru wrote  for National Review that the plan might be too disruptive to the existing system.

He also believes in both the market and cutting government services. Becoming Louisiana’s Secretary of Health and Hospitals at the age of 24, Jindal closed clinics, dropped wages for nurses and tried to gut the Medically Needy Program and restrict Medicaid recipients to five prescriptions per month. Louisiana has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country.

As governor, Jindal inherited over $800 million in budget surplus and ran up a $1.6 billion deficit while creating $800 million in tax cuts and destroying the tax code. The billions of dollars in tax subsidies for business forced him to raid rainy day funds and savings accounts, sell public assets, and treat one-time credits as annual revenues. He ranted against “corporate welfare” while rolling back corporate giveaways to forced corporations such as IBM to accept his discrimination against LGBT people. Louisiana loses $300,000 every time the A&E show Duck Dynasty films an episode, and the state gave an oil refiner $10 million to create 43 jobs. Jindal hated the Obama stimulus money but he quietly took them.

When Jindal tried to fund private schools with funding for public education, the state supreme court called a halt to his unconstitutional action, especially after he promoted the teaching of creationism. He is hostile to women’s reproductive rights, protects his office from open-record laws, and allows his wife’s charity to pocket millions from corporations negotiating with the state.

Jindalthreatened to cut 82 percent in funding for higher education, the highest cut ever seen in the nation. Louisiana is 49th in college attainment with only 29 percent of adults with degrees. Between 2008 and 2014, the state’s per-student state allocations dropped by 43 percent, exceeded only by Arizona.

Once calling the GOP “the party of stupid,” Jindal has wholeheartedly joined them to get his foot into the presidential primaries. In England, he claimed that the Muslims had created “no-go” zones which the English knows don’t exist. He used his position as Louisiana governor to sign the Senate’s letter to Iran claiming that any agreement between the countries could be easily invalidated by another president. Through all this, Jindal has a 28-percent approval rate as a governor, the lowest in every state, and he’s polling at 1 percent in Iowa.

Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and potential 2016 GOP candidate attends APPs State luncheon discussion on Common Core at the Mayflower Hotel on February 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo by Olivier Douliery/Sipa USA

Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and potential 2016 GOP candidate attends APPs State luncheon discussion on Common Core at the Mayflower Hotel on February 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo by Olivier Douliery/Sipa USA

Other Louisiana problems from Jindal:

The largest gender pay gap in the country with women paid $.66 for each man’s $1.00.

The second-highest rate of gun deaths in the nation.

The highest rate of incarceration in the nation with two-thirds of the prisoners doing time for a drug crime or other non-violent offense. Last year, Jindal vetoed a bipartisan measure to make more inmates eligible for parole and directed the money saved from their early release to fund rehabilitation programs.

Second-highest rate of gonorrhea, third-highest rate of syphilis, and fourth-highest rate of chlamydia after Jindal blocked funds for STD prevention and Planned Parenthood.

The fifth-highest rate of teen pregnancy with a law barring anyone connected with Planned Parenthood teaching about sexual health of family planning.

A creepy part of Jindal’s declaration for candidacy was his pre-announcement announcement as he sat in the yard with his family and asked his children if they wanted to go to Iowa. In a video for the entire world, Jindal told the kids that he’s going to do something special but they can’t tell their friends. “This is our secret. Don’t let anyone know.”

This would be life under President Jindal.

June 28, 2015

‘Christian’ Opposition to LGBT Rights, Healthcare with Love for Confederate Flag

The white, entitled male, Christian fundamentalists were traumatized last week with important events negating their view of how the United States should benefit only them and their beliefs. Their reactions show that they are close to insanity.

On legalized marriage equality:

American Family Radio’s Bryan Fischer covered the complaint waterfront by comparing the ruling to the attacks on the U.S. on 9/11 and Pearl Harbor with a nod to Sodom and Gomorrah, “From a moral standpoint, 6/26 is the new 9/11 because it was on this day that five justices of the United States Supreme Court became moral jihadists.” He continued by saying that June 26, 2015 is “a date which will live in infamy. On this day, the United States became Sodom and Gomorrah.”

GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee predicts that Christians will fight same-sex marriage just as Dr. Martin Luther King fought racial discrimination. He called on conservative Christians to participate in his “Biblical disobedience” campaign against the “false god of judicial supremacy” before he compared the ruling to the Dred Scott case upholding the Fugitive Slave Act returning slaves to their “owners.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) believes that God won’t protect the United States any more because the court “violates the law in order to destroy the foundational building block for society provided by Nature and Nature’s God—that was stated as divine law by Moses and Jesus.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who signed an executive order to discriminate against LGBT people in the name of “religious freedom,” said, “If we want to save some money, let’s just get rid of the court.” Jindal declared himself a GOP presidential candidate last week.

On Breitbart, John Nolte wrote about the need to take down the “fascist, anti-Christian gay-pride flag” because it fosters hate and intolerance against Christians.

A growing movement in conservative states to eliminate same-sex marriage is to eliminate all marriages.

  • Utah Republicans are drafting a bill to “end government agencies’ involvement in issuing marriage licenses.” (Rep. Jake Anderegg, a supporter of the bill, admitted that it had problems because of the laws including probate, inheritance and other benefits tied to marriage. Mr. Anderegg, that was the reason that LGBT people went to court for marriage rights!)
  • Michigan is working on legislation requiring all marriages be “ordained” by clergy, who are not required to perform ceremonies against their “firmly held religious beliefs.”
  • Alabama probate judge Wes Allen of Pike County has declared that he will protest the marriage equality ruling by no longer issuing any marriage licenses, and Geneva County Probate Judge Fred Hamic said he plans to permanently close his office’s marriage license bureau. Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore also says he will resist the ruling.
  • Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said the decision is not effective in the state until the 5th Circuit Court lifts its stay, and State House Judiciary Chairman Andy Gipson suggested that Mississippi follow other states in no longer issuing marriage licenses.
  • Louisiana Attorney Gen. Buddy Caldwell said his office is not immediately enforcing the ruling because there wasn’t a specific mandate in the decision for Louisiana to issue marriage licenses.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton stated that the SCOTUS marriage equality ruling will “embolden” people to abuse Christians because “an increasingly-activist [sic] judiciary” takes away First Amendment rights, which Paxton thinks are there to abuse anyone who doesn’t follow Paxton’s religion.

Pastor Rick Scarborough has decided not to set himself on fire, despite his promise that he would do this if the U.S. enshrined marriage equality. He said that “we will burn” really means that “we will accept any sanction from the government for resisting today’s Supreme Court decision. We do not support any violence or physical harm.” In the same discussion about burning, Scarborough encouraged pastors to say “shoot me first” if bakeries, and florists are “persecuted” for refusing service to LGBT individuals. No follow-up for that statement, but he didn’t ask anyone to shoot him—just recommended that they shoot other pastors.

On keeping healthcare subsidies for low-income people:

Huckabee complained about the Supreme Court rulings being made by “five unelected lawyers … who decided they knew better than the legislators who actually get to make law.” (I don’t remember his complaining about the five unelected lawyers who took contraception for millions of women in the United States.) He also used the usual term “judicial tyranny” to describe court decisions that he hates.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told Elizabeth Prann on Fox network yesterday that Obamacare is “a malignant tumor that is metastasizing, and feeding on God-given American liberty.” He concluded by saying that people “were fine before they met Obamacare, and will get along fine without Obamacare.”

On the killings in the Charleston (SC) church and the pleas to remove the Confederate flag from government property:

South Carolina State Rep. William Chumley blamed his colleague, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, and eight other people in the church for being killed. Echoing the NRA claimed, Chumley said that there would be “less funerals” if the people hadn’t “sat in there [and] waited their turn to be shot.”

Pat Boone knows that Satan caused the Charleston murders and criticizes President Obama for connecting the killings with racism. According to Boone, the killer “was carefully prepared and led by the Devil himself to kill as many Christians as he could. The fact that they were black was an excuse more than a reason.”

Tennessee State Sen. John Stevens compared the suggestion of renaming the Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park to the actions of ISIS. Forrest was a terrorist member of the KKK.

Pundit Ann Coulter accused Nikki Haley of not understanding “America’s history” because she is “an immigrant” because the governor of South Carolina suggested that the Confederate flag be removed from state grounds. As a self-identified “student of American history,” Coulter should remember that the Confederacy attacked the United States of America and caused 620,000 deaths. She did remember that it was a “battle flag” but said that “anyone who knows the first thing about military history, knows that there is no greater army that ever took the field than the Confederate Army.”

Bill O’Reilly told Juan Willians on the Fox network that the Confederate Flag “represents bravery.”

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said he totally “disregarded” a report that white supremacists, anti-government extremists, and others have killed nearly twice as many people as radical Muslims since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Instead, he talked about organized attacks by Muslim extremists, including the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Huckabee, who has something to say about everything, says that the cure for racism is Christianity—the same religion that still has members who want “separate but equal” for blacks and whites.

Usually, disasters bring out the prejudice against the LGBT community. That position is transitioning to hatred primarily for transgender people. On Red State, Erick Erickson blamed Caitlyn Jenner for the killings as did Erich Pratt of Gun Owners of America.

Alabama GOP Gov. Robert Bentley ordered the Confederate flag be removed from the state Capitol grounds so that it won’t be a “major distraction” for the budget talks. At the same time, South Carolina refused to remove the flag or even lower it when one of the slain people at the Charleston church, state senator and Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was taken to the capitol for public viewing by hundreds of people. Rep. James Clyburn, the elder statesman of South Carolina politics, requested that they take it down just for the viewing, but the legislators refused. State Sen. J. Thomas McElveen III spoke for millions of people in the United States when he said, “I am troubled that the flag a murderer waved as a banner of hatred flies as his body lies in repose.

bree newsomeEarly yesterday morning, Bree Newsome climbed the 30-foot flag pole on the South Carolina capitol grounds to tear down the Confederate flag. The protest was shortlived; a black state employee was ordered to return the flag. The action needed to be fast because of the “Confederate flag pride” rally scheduled that morning where white people waved dozens of Confederate flags. The black man who told them that the flag represents a time of black slavery and the war fought to keep them in bondage was told to “go back to where you came from.” He responded, “I am where I came from.”

Since the killings, nighttime fires have damaged or destroyed at least six predominantly black churches in four southern states in the past week. At least three of them were from arson. The first one was at a Tennessee Seventh Day Adventist Church last Monday, followed by a fire at God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon (GA) and another in North Carolina.

Last week saw remarkable advances for people in this country, but we have a long way to go to overcome the strong sense of entitlement by people like the shooter and the white fundamentalist Christians who think that they own the United States.

June 26, 2015

I’m Really Married!

A couple of days ago, I ran into a friend while shopping for groceries—one of the perks of living in a small town—and the conversation moved to an imminent Supreme Court ruling about marriage equality. I commented that it feels odd to have to wait for a court ruling to find out if I’m legally married, something that heterosexual couples don’t have to consider. She replied that she thought the ruling was only for the four states in the current SCOTUS lawsuit. Remembering how Citizens United dealt only with one film and was expanded by a highly conservative court to allow hidden donations of unlimited amounts for elections, I pointed out that the Supreme Court can do anything it wants—and frequently does.

Luckily my doubts about a Supreme Court decision rescinding marriage rights in some of the 36 states because of “states rights” or “popular vote” or some other beliefs that create uneven rights across the nation did not come to fruition. In 11 years, the number of states where same-sex couples can legally marry has gone from one to 50. I encourage you to click on this link to revel in the changes within just a little over a decade.

As most of you have heard, today, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. This ruling is exactly two years after the Supreme Court struck down the badly named Defense of Marriage Act and twelve years after the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws. On the right side of history, sometimes conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote of the majority and author in all three of these cases. In today’s 34-page opinion, Kennedy wrote that “no union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.” He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Jose Diaz-Balart wrote:

“The Supreme Court ruled Friday that the U.S. Constitution requires states to license and recognize same-sex marriages, making marriage equality officially the law of the land.

“Two questions stood before the high court: Does the 14th Amendment require states to license a marriage between two people of the same sex, and does that same amendment require a state to recognize legally valid same-sex marriages performed elsewhere?

“The court ruled that the answer to both questions is ‘yes,’ clearing the way for gay and lesbian couples to marry in all 50 states.”

This Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges, was named after Jim Obergefell, who sued to have his name placed on the death certificate of his late spouse, John Arthur. Marriage equality in his state of Ohio and the other three states of the 6th Circuit Court—Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee—had been blocked by that court’s ruling against same-sex marriage. It was the only appellate court to rule against marriage equality in the past nine years.

Thanks to today’s ruling, LGBT military families have access to full federal veterans benefits denied to them because of the patchwork laws granting legalized marriage equality across the nation. Even after the partial demise of DOMA, the VA determined the validity of marriages for benefits  by the state of residence, not the state of celebration. Veterans could even be denied full rights to VA home loans. Off the bases where military members were stationed, many married same-sex couples lost their marital rights, and the military could re-locate them to non-equality states where a lesbian or gay could lose the ability to make healthcare decisions for a spouse or enroll a child in school.

Justice Antonin Scalia, roundly ridiculed for his ridiculous and pretentious language in this and other dissents, aptly described the problem of the current court when he wrote that the court is “strikingly unrepresentative” of the country as a whole.

“To allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.”

The “unrepresentative panel” didn’t bother Scalia when the court turned elections over to the wealthy in the cases of Citizens United and American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock. Nor was it a concern of Scalia when the court disenfranchised millions of voters two years ago in Shelby County v. Holder. Scalia had no problem with District of Columbia v. Heller that took states’ rights away from sensible gun laws. Of course, Scalia never criticized the court ruling in Bush v. Gore that put Bush in the presidency although both the popular vote and the electoral vote (proved when the Florida count was completed) were in favor of Al Gore.

The dissenters—Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and John Roberts—each wrote his own dissenting opinion. For the first time since he joined the court over ten years ago, Roberts read his dissent from the bench. Thomas’ dissent may have been the most bizarre: he claimed that same-sex couples don’t lose their dignity without marriage just as slaves didn’t lose their dignity in slavery. Roberts said the majority decision was “an act of will, not legal judgment.” He also expressed concern about transforming a social institution forming “the basis of human society for … the Carthaginians and the Aztecs.” I’m still scratching my head about that logic. You can find more mind-boggling dissents here.

The ruling gives the losing side about three weeks to ask for reconsideration. What the 14 states fighting marriage equality at this time will probably compare to the fight against school integration in the 1960s. Rick Scarborough, a former Texas Baptist pastor, told right-wing Virginian E.W. Jackson that he will set himself on fire if the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage. There’s been no record thus far that he has carried out his threat.

GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is on the front line of the fight with his statement that “the Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage than it can the law of gravity.” In addition to imposing his personal beliefs on everyone in the United States, he describes himself as being persecuted and advocates for overturning the constitution. Huckabee wants free speech for the Confederate flag but not for accepting same-sex marriage. Other candidates indicated different levels of distress about the ruling.

Scalia is enraged at Kennedy because Scalia claims to know exactly what the authors of the constitution intended and fits his interpretation to his rulings. Kennedy wrote:

“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times,” he wrote on Friday. “The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”

Future LGBT rights may come from Kennedy’s use of the word “immutable”—twice—in his opinion. The Supreme Court has now declared that sexual orientation is not a choice because it is of an “immutable nature.”

Kennedy also wrote:

“The challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and they abridge central precepts of equality. The marriage laws at issue are in essence unequal: Same-sex couples are denied benefits afforded opposite-sex couples and are barred from exercising a fundamental right. Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial works a grave and continuing harm, serving to disrespect and subordinate gays and lesbians.”

 

i dough i doughThe “sweetest” thing I read about the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality is Ben and Jerry’s decision to change one of its ice cream flavors to “I Dough, I Dough.” The company selected my favorite flavor, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, for the change. Unfortunately, it’s only temporary, but the sleeve for the pint of ice cream is available from the Human Rights campaign with proceeds going to HRC. According to its website, Ben & Jerry’s 1989 decision made it “the first major employer in Vermont to offer health insurance to domestic partners of employees, including same sex couples, and we haven’t spent one minute regretting it.” The company also celebrated Vermont’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2009 with “Chubby Hubby” replaced by “Hubby Hubby.”

Facebook will also “rainbowify” profile photos.

Kennedy also wrote that the petitioners’ “hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” My spouse is almost 82, and I turned 74 this year. We celebrated our 46th anniversary yesterday. Equal dignity to us means that neither geographical location nor new court rulings can determine the legality of our marriage of one year, eight months, two weeks, and six days. At least for now.

[Note: George Stephanopoulos has asked Family Research Council’s Ken Blackwell to be on Sunday’s ABC This Week. Blackwell has said that marriage equality leads to mass shootings, and the FRC has lied about LGBT people including the claim that gay men molest children. Other mainstream networks no longer feature FRC spokespeople. Tell ABC to do the same.]

May 29, 2015

Pataki, Santorum Widen GOP Candidate Field

Rick-Santorum-at-CPAC-638x439

The GOP presidential candidate field increased by one-third this week with former candidate Rick Santorum and former New York governor George Pataki entering the fray. Rebranding himself without his iconic sweater vest, Santorum, a Catholic, is setting himself up as the evangelical alternative to Mike Huckabee, and the largely unknown Pataki will counter with his moderate—for Republicans—positions.

Santorum wants to move forward after unforgettable  statements on the Internet. He told an audience that President J.F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on religious liberty made him want to “throw up” and accused President Obama of trying to get college education for more youth to turn them into liberals. His inarticulate ramblings against marriage equality became a Google sensation:

 “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality—”

Associated Press reporter Lara Jakes Jordan interrupted Santorum:

“I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was going to talk about ‘man on dog’ with a United States senator, it’s sort of freaking me out.”

After that, Santorum stuck to showing the difference in marriages by waving napkins and paper towels. Columnist Dan Savage, however, ran a contest for a Santorum definition, the winner being “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex.” Santorum continued by criticizing the Supreme Court’s right that its ruling in Lawrence v. Texas would lead to bigamy and incest. In other references he accused gays of being pedophiles and engaging in bestiality. Santorum’s incest statement is unfortunate because he is a good friend of the Duggar family, and Savage is working on a definition for “duggary.”  

Contraception is “not OK,” according to Santorum. “It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” At the same time, he hates single mothers because he thinks people who “look to the government for help” give Democrats an advantage in getting votes. He believes that building two-parent families will “eliminate that desire for government.”

According to Santorum, the separation of church and state, although not in the U.S. Constitution, is “in the constitution of the former Soviet Union,” another GOP myth. Scholars have translated Article 124 of the Soviet Union’s 1947 version constitution: “In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church in the USSR is separated from the state, and the school from the church. Freedom of religious worship and freedom of anti-religious propaganda is recognized for all citizens.”

Santorum’s impassioned bombasts also led him to claim that blacks are those who get benefits from the country’s safety net. In Sioux City (IA) he told his audience, composed primarily of whites, that he didn’t want to “make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” He later denied using the term “black,” saying he meant “blah people.” Later, he began a sentence with “We know the candidate Barack Obama, what he was like – the anti-war government nig …”

Other Santorum statements:

The United States shouldn’t put women in combat because “emotions that are involved,” rendering them not fit for the battlefield. His dire predictions about letting lesbians and gays serve in the military have not come to fruition.

“The NBA” and “rock concerts” are corrupting U.S. culture, possibly because of the “blah people.”

Obamacare is like apartheid as well as a plot to kill the opposition’s voters and the “final death knell” of America. The apartheid statement was made after the death of Nelson Mandela to illustrate Santorum’s believe that people having health care in the U.S. is a “great injustice.” Santorum explained that health care is a system to “take care of the people who can vote and people who can’t vote, get rid of them as quickly as possible by not giving them care so they can’t vote against you.”

Health insurance companies should discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. Santorum’s reason is the expense to the insurance company.

People who don’t have IDs are trying to rig the election. Although over ten percent of people living legally in the U.S. don’t have a government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or a passport, Santorum said, “The only reason you don’t have a voter ID is you want to continue to perpetrate fraud.”

Consensual LGBT sex should be illegal. “We can’t have a constitutional right to consensual sexual activity, no matter what it is,” Santorum said.

The U.S. is on the path to behead religious (aka Christian) people because of their faith, because of President Obama’s “overt hostility to faith in America.” Santorum’s faith, however, supported Penn State’s former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky because the “conclusions … [regarding child molestation] aren’t matched by the evidence that they presented.”

Some may declaim that these comments are in the past. Last night, however, Santorum said on the Kelly File that President Obama wasn’t killing enough people because he was afraid of “blowback” from killing civilians. Santorum’s position is that if the U.S. isn’t killing enough civilians because “it’s a public relations campaign.” If he became president, Santorum said, he would order air strikes on Iran if the country didn’t open up all their suspected nuclear program facilities.

To Santorum, “all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians. There is no ‘Palestinian.’ This is Israeli land.” In his announcement speech, Rick said he wants to “drive a stake” through Common Core, junk the IRS, and institute a flat tax so that the poor pays the same percentage as Bill Gates.

Yesterday, Santorum said he worries about “anti-government rhetoric” and argued there is a place for government. “Government’s us,” he said. It’s a radical—and probably not permanent—shift from his claims that President Obama is a tyrant who “intentionally turned his back on evil and let it prosper around the world.” He has also said that the president is faking a war with ISIS to permit Christian persecution and “has a deep-seated antipathy toward American values and traditions.”  According to Santorum, business owners who refuse service to gay customers have been sent to “reeducation camps” and pastors will soon be jailed or martyred.

Every candidate needs a billionaire, and Santorum’s major donor is the same as during his last presidential run: Foster Friess, who claims that he won’t be using a super PAC which reports donors. “The money I give will be hard to track,” said Friess. The donor is memorable for suggesting that women use an aspirin for birth control by putting one between their knees.

George Pataki, who announced his candidacy the day after Santorum, is about as far from the rest of the current crowd as a Republican candidate can get. In supporting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S., Pataki said that the country cannot “send 11 million people back in railroad cars and buses and trains.” When signing a law to legalize marriage equality in New York, he said that the GOP’s focus on issues such as marriage equality and abortion are a “distraction” that hurt the party’s chance of retaking the White House. After the recent disastrous Amtrak derailment, Pataki called for major investments in the rail system and pushes for high-speed trains in the Northeast Corridor. He is also in favor of environmental preservation efforts, abortion rights and gun control laws.

In its endorsement for Pataki’s third gubernatorial term in 2002, the so-called liberal New York Times praised Pataki’s “generally progressive stance on social issues.” This time, the NYT wrote that Pataki wants to deploy ground troops to take out ISIL and opposes government regulations to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and promote green energy. If elected, Pataki said he would cut the federal work force by 15 percent through repealing the Affordable Care Act, ending Common Core, and curbing the “overreach” of the Environmental Protection Agency. He also wants to start the federal tax code from scratch.

That that’s it for this week’s GOP presidential candidate announcements. Pataki most likely won’t win, but he’ll create an interesting dialog. Next week, watch for Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) and former Texas governor Rick Perry to join the eight GOP presidential candidates.

May 10, 2015

Face It: The U.S. Constitution Protects the Minority

Evangelical leaders cannot be this ignorant, but passing lies to their followers is how they keep their control. On James Dobson’s radio, Rick Scarborough again claimed that banning “ex-gay” conversion therapy for minors will outlaw Christianity and cause pastors to be arrested and imprisoned. He lied about how the 2009 Hate Crimes law was written to make any pastor preaching against homosexualty guilty of an accessory to a hate crime if a listener hearing the sermon attacks someone. Later in the program, Dobson opposed pastors “who are compassionate toward those who have attractions to same-sex individuals.” He said:

“I would like them to think, just for a moment, about ‘LGBT,’ The ‘B’ stand for bisexual! That’s orgies!  Are you really going to support this?”

In reference to the misguided far-right premise that Christians suffer discrimination, Alvin McEwen wrote:

“For decades, anti-gay organizations and their supporters have portrayed the LGBT community as child molesting, diseased, sexually aggressive miscreants whose sole desire is to cause chaos before being sent to the lower pits of hell after we die for our supposed sins. Through lies, distortions, and bad science, anti-gay groups made it difficult for laws to be passed to protect our interests, health, and families. They created and repeated ad nauseam the false mantra that we are a “public health hazard” and our lives are fraught with pain, sadness, loneliness, and early death.

“Suddenly … they want the world to forget all of the ignorance they exploited, the lies they told, and the tactics they undertook to dehumanize the LGBT community. They want us to forget the times when folks like Anita Bryant accused LGBTs of ‘recruiting’children to ‘refreshen’ our ranks. They want us to forget the officials in the Reagan Administration who kept the president from adequately addressing the AIDS crisis in its early days. They want us to forget the names and faces of people whose lives were destroyed via homophobic violence or suicide most likely spurred on by the nods of societal homophobia….

“And most of all, they want us to forget that all of this was done either directly by them or through their tacit approval.

“Sorry guys, you are not victims. You never were. You can’t pretend that any of these things I just talked about didn’t happen. You can’t pretend that somehow where we are now when it comes to LGBT equality just happened in vacuum.”

The philosophy of fundamentalist Christian churches may, however, be shifting. Andy Stanley, evangelical pastor of Atlanta (GA) megachurch North Point Ministries, disagrees with his pastor father Charles Stanley, the anti-gay leader of First Baptist Church Atlanta. The younger Stanley said that church should be considered the “safest place on the planet” for young LGBT people and wants religion to stop chasing them away. He added:

“If all the Christians for just one year, would quit looking at porn, would quit smoking weed, would quit having premarital sex, would quit committing adultery, would pay their taxes, and every church just foster one kid—in one year our nation would feel different.”

A recent poll shows how the religious right is losing the opposition to LGBT people. In a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, 61 percent of the respondents said they’d be either enthusiastic or comfortable with a gay presidential candidate. Only 52 percent said the same thing about an evangelical candidate, and the percentage went down to 33 percent for a Tea Partier. The same poll shows that 58 percent want the Supreme Court to rule in favor of marriage equality while only 37 percent opposed this ruling. Only 20 percent thought society had gone too far in accepting LGBT people.

Courts may also be moving away from the far right as they rule for separation of church and state. Almost exactly one year after the Supreme Court ruled in Town of Greece v. Galloway that chaplains could open town meetings with prayers, a federal court decision struck down sectarian invocations before Rowan County (NC) Board of Commissioners. Because 97 percent of these prayers between 2007 and 2013 were Christian, the court concluded the prayers coerced people into participating in religious practices. U.S. District Court Judge James A. Beaty concluded that the prayers coerced people into participating in religious practices because 97 percent of the prayers between 2007 and 2013 were Christian. Five years ago, he had made the same ruling for Forsyth County, a decision that was overturned by Greece.

MITCHEMAfter the decision came down for separation of church and state in Rowan County, a county commissioner in neighboring Lincoln County railed against “changing rules on the way the United States was founded, Constitution was founded.” Carrol Mitchem declared, “I don’t need no Arab or Muslim or whoever telling me what to do or us here in the county what to do about praying. If they don’t like it, stay the hell away.” He’s pretty sure than all the houses of worship in his county are Christian: “I just don’t know that there’s any Jewish pastors or anything like that in Lincoln County.” Mitchem doesn’t even know that Muslims believe in the same god as Christians and Jews. He might take comfort in knowing that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas believes that states are exempt from the constitutional separation of church and state.

In Nebraska, U.S. District Court Judge John M. Gerrard dismissed the lawsuit Driskell v. Homosexuals, in which Sylvia Driskell, 66, wanted the court to decide that homosexuality is a sin. Gerrard ruled that the matter is not within the court’s jurisdiction and found the lawsuit without merit. He wrote:

“The United States Federal Courts were created to resolve actual cases and controversies arising under the Constitution and the laws of the United States. A federal court is not a forum for debate or discourse on theological matters.”

Not all jurisdictions are as enlightened. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) told lawmakers that “we must improve early education,” but hand-picked aides to the further-right (if possible) Lt.Gov. Dan Patrick oppose putting children in the “Godless environment” of preschools. “We are experimenting at great cost to taxpayers with a program that removes our young children from homes and half-day religious preschools and mothers’ day out programs to a Godless environment with only evidence showing absolutely NO LONG-TERM BENEFITS beyond the 1st grade,” a letter stated. It compared preschools to programs “historically promoted in socialistic countries, not free societies which respect parental rights.”

ChristianFlag2-800x430Cochran (GA) decided it will take down the Christian flag flying over City Hall for the planned Bible Reading Marathon annually conducted on the city hall steps since 2008. The city’s attorney couldn’t discourage them from selecting only this one religion, but letters from Americans United for Separation of Church and State increased pressure on the town to follow the U.S. Constitution. A letter from the City Council citing “a second legal opinion from a constitutional lawyer” promised to remove the flag on May 8—after the Bible Reading Marathon was finished. There was no word about the flags flying at the Bleckley County Courthouse and other public places. Of course, the flag didn’t come down until the town had finished its Christian business on the steps of the city hall.

The most classic refusal of service this past week isn’t because of religion, but it shows that people working at businesses have the opinion that they have the choice not to provide services. A male clerk in Iowa refused to sell British singer/songwriter and podcaster Mary Epworth tampons because he thinks that menstruating is “gross.” When Epworth put the box of cotton plugs on the counter, the clerk said, “I can’t sell these.” He called on a female clerk, who looked as if this wasn’t the first time he had done this. This denigration toward women’s needs is the same as a House hearing on female contraception that had no women witnesses.

Conservatives fight regulations, but these may be important so that women can get something as simple as a box of tampons. Or so that people can attend a meeting or send their kids to preschool without religion forced on them. Or LGBT people can get jobs—or just wedding cakes. Carrol Mitchem thinks that the U.S. Constitution protects only the majority of people. At this time, white men are a growing minority, and Mitchem may need his nation’s constitution to protect his minority rights.

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