Nel's New Day

June 5, 2016

Conservative Governments Push Christianity with Taxpayer Funds

North Carolina’s law that forces all communities to maintain the lowest minimum wage and discriminate against veterans gained fame for keeping transgender people from the restrooms and other facilities that match their gender identities. Far-right religious conservative leaders are taking pride in proclaiming their determination to keep their version of Christianity in laws. For example, that state’s Lt. Gov. Dan Forest made the following statement on a far-right conspiracy theorist’s radio show. He justified HB2, the discriminatory measure, because “we have a lack of moral compass in our country right now, we’ve taken our eyes off God in America, we have turned our back on God, we have forgotten God in a lot of ways, so the moral compass is broken here.”

Forest continued by explaining that these discriminatory laws “discriminate against behavior, not against people.” He compares them to traffic laws: “If I want to go out and drive 95 miles an hour down the interstate in North Carolina because I feel like doing that, I don’t have the right to do that. It doesn’t mean the law is discriminating against me, it’s discriminating against my behavior of wanting to drive 95.” His logic is problematic: traffic laws aren’t created because people have “turned their backs on God.” The other piece of his illogical statement is that a car’s speed has nothing to do with a person’s sexual orientation or identity. Forrest also blamed the media for the entire controversy.

Phil Bryant, governor of Mississippi, is also busy defending his state’s new discriminatory law:  “About 60 days ago, it seemed as if all of the secular, progressive world had decided they were going to pour their anger and their frustration—their friends in the media willingly joining with them to bring all that they could upon the governor of the state…  How dare them [sic]. How dare them [sic].” He finished by stating that he was willing to be crucified for his beliefs against transgender people using the appropriate bathrooms.

In Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad signed a proclamation in April encouraging “all Iowans” to participate in a statewide Bible-reading marathon, a declaration that the ACLU argues is unconstitutional. The marathon is scheduled for four days starting on June 30 and located in front of all 99 state courthouses. The declaration also states that “the Bible is recognized as the one true revelation from God” and that  “I, Terry E. Branstad, Governor of the State of Iowa, do hereby encourage all Iowans to read through the bible on a daily basis each year until the Lord comes.” The “Lemon test” for constitutionality, taken from the 1971 case Lemon v. Kurtzman , establishes three criteria for government action:

  1. Does the government action have a secular purpose?
  2. Does the government action have the primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion?
  3. Does the government action foster an excessive entanglement between government and religion?

Violation of any one of the above violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment which prohibits the promotion of one religion over another. Both Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas objected to the Lemon test, but Scalia is gone from the court.

Mike Robertson, the mayor of Beebe (AR), has selected the celebration of the nation in its freedom from religious and other domination by Britain, to pay for a gospel band at the 4th of July festivity. His letter encouraging people to attend the concert read in part: “Their goal for the evening is to usher in the presence of god and to celebrate the Christian message. They feel privileged and honored to enjoy the freedom to honor Christ with any and all of their abilities.” Robertson’s justification of using taxpayer funds for a religious concert is that people can just stay home if they don’t approve.

Two years ago, Beebe approved a small temple in a garage, thinking that it was Christian, but then falsely claimed the zoning laws would prevent worship on that property after they found out that the temple would be pagan. Robertson’s justification of using taxpayer funds for a religious concert is that people can just stay home if they don’t approve. Beebe is also the town of under 10,000 where tens of millions of blackbirds have died in multiple years, possibly because of its fireworks during a temperature inversion. Or maybe God-created events against the city’s bigotry.

Not every government rejects all religions except Christianity. Philadelphia has followed New York City in adding two Muslim holy days to the school calendar. Students will be given the days off for Eid al-Fitr, celebrated following the month-long observance of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, which marks the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham in Judaism and Christianity) to sacrifice his son for God.  In the upcoming school year, Eid al-Adha falls on September 13 and Eid al-Fitr on June 25, a Sunday.

The 2016-2017 Philadelphia school calendar has already been drafted so students and staff who wish to celebrate the two holidays will have excused absences. After that the Philadelphia school district will send the holiday dates to the School Reform Commission, which oversees Philadelphia’s public schools. These holidays vary each year as Muslims follow a Lunar calendar. Philadelphia is also exploring how to make the two holy days city holidays.

bible emoji

My favorite story of today! Emojis have popped up—briefly—almost everywhere, but they may have hit the ultimate location—the Bible.  Now available is the newest bible translation, Bible Emoji: Scripture 4 Millennials. This project follows The Twible: All the Chapters of the Bible in 140 Characters or Less … Now with 68% More Humor, published in 2013. Jana Riess’s four-year project translates the holy book into tweets; she sent out one tweet per chapter every day.

The creator of Bible Emoji used the translation engine Lingo Jam to automatically translate all 66 books of the Bible. The person chose about 80 emojis from Unicode and 200 corresponding words, linking each with words that are often repeated in the Bible. About 15 percent of the total character count of the biblical text was replaced with modern slang.

The anonymous author of the emoji version who represents himself or herself on Twitter, @emojiBible, shows God as a smiley face. The six-month project had a few glitches. One respondent suggested that the author might be wrong in emojing  “in the beginning angels created the stars & the earth.”

The emoji bible is an excellent example of how Western culture tries to colonize Africa, South America, and the Inuit communities. The bible emoji for prayer hands fails to represent cultures that pray without outstretched hands, and emojis of supernatural figures—angels, the devil, the halo, etc.—are pop Western cultural depictions.

Someday, texting will be passe, and people will communicate completely with emojis. Unfortunately, miscommunication will most likely be even more rampant as opposite little critters can look almost exactly alike. The same thing may happen in the emoji bible.

April 6, 2016

Mississippi Wins Most Hateful Contest

If the states had a contest to see which one could pass the most hateful and broadly discriminatory law, Mississippi would be the winner—at least for now. Mississippi is the “South of the South,” according a friend familiar with “the South.” To keep their pride—and poverty— the state legislature has passed, and Gov. Phil Bryant has signed, a law that may be the model for the conservative extremists in other red states. Legislators started with right-wing reaction to giving marriage rights to same-gender couples and then accelerated with the thought of transgender people using the bathroom that matches their gender identity—and their appearance. The claim is protecting “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” but its purpose is to allow discrimination against most people to run amok. It allows employers to use not only bathroom and locker access policies but also dress code and grooming.

Bryant claims that “this bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizens of this state under federal or state laws” and “is designed in the most targeted manner possible to prevent government interference in the lives of the people.” It actually doesn’t limit the rights of any Christians who profess religious liberty, but everyone else has lost their rights.

The law has the standard stuff about permitting people to be turned away from businesses, refused marriage licenses, denied housing, and turned down for essential services and care. On July 1, 2016, the law grants this “religious freedom” not only to the organizations that IRS grants freedom because of religion but also any private sector or government entity that wants to decline goods and services to anyone who they find objectionable.

In addition to LGBT and human rights groups, the Mississippi Economic Council has come out against the law for fear that it will negatively impact both customers and employees of businesses. The Mississippi Manufacturers Association also opposes the law because of the negative impact on business and industry in Mississippi. The law violates corporate policies, keeping b businesses from staying in or moving to the state. Nissan, Toyota, and IBM have all expressed concern about the new law.

Mississippi isn’t alone in a hate bill based on protecting religion: almost three dozen states introduced almost 200 anti-LGBT bills in their legislatures this year. Most states have failed, including South Dakota and Georgia where the governors vetoed these bills. North Carolina succeeded before Mississippi, and it will be a litmus test on how hate legislation affects the state’s economy. PayPal has already abandoned plans to expand into Charlotte (NC). Both Kansas and Missouri have new “religious freedom” bills.

New York, Vermont, and Washington have already banned  ban state-financed travel to Mississippi. As in North Carolina, federal agencies are reviewing the possibility of pulling funding because of the law.

The law makes any sex outside marriage illegal. According to the Washington Post,it prevents the government from ‘discriminating’ (through taxes, fines, withholding benefits, or other forms of retaliation) against a ‘person’ (broadly defined as an individual, religious organization, association, corporation and other kinds of businesses) for acting on their religious convictions regarding sexuality and marriage. That includes employers, landlords and rental companies, adoption and foster care agencies, people and companies that provide marriage-related services (rental halls, photographers, florists, etc.).”

All state employees can openly express their beliefs without consequence because the law states that no one can be sued for discrimination.Doctors using the religious conviction excuse are protected if they refuse to provide counseling, sex-reassignment surgery, fertility treatments, and other services. Counselors, even those paid by taxpayers, can refuse to serve people. Foster and adoptive families may religiously “guide, raise or instruct” children anyway that they want, including forcing children into “conversion therapy.”

People can decide “whether or not to hire, terminate or discipline an individual whose conduct or religious beliefs are inconsistent” with their beliefs or moral convictions as well as decide to whom they will sell or rent housing they control based on their religious beliefs or moral convictions. Any person  or school can establish “sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming,” and can manage the access of restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities.

Protect Thy Neighbor, a project of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, listed some hypotheticals of the law’s results beyond the LGBT community:

  • An adoption agency could refuse to place a child with a family if the parents lived together before they were married.
  • A counselor could refuse to help a teen who called a suicide hotline.
  • A car rental agency could refuse to rent a car to a single unmarried mother.
  • A corporation could fire a woman for wearing slacks.

All people who use religion as a reason to discriminate are protected from tax penalties, loss of contracts or grants, or loss of other benefits such as licenses or certification. And on and on! Citing religious beliefs for discrimination not only gives people victory in court but also compensatory damages. The law also voids any anti-discrimination laws in cities or counties.

Five years ago, 46 percent of Mississippians wanted to outright ban interracial marriages, and now a Mississippi landlord is able to refuse rental to a married interracial couple, a Hispanic/Native American woman and a black man. The man is a member of the National Guard. The law legalizes this egregious act.

Although anyone can be blocked from being served by both private companies and government agencies, the Mississippi legislature does have concern about safety in church. The state senate passed the “Mississippi Church Protection Act” allowing concealed carry in churches without a permit and provides immunity from civil and criminal penalties for any designated “sergeant at arms” who has supposedly undergone training. The bill also includes a provision allowing people to concealed carry without a permit. If it passes, Mississippi would be the ninth state to have this law. The Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police strongly opposes the bill, but they have no say about the lack of concealed carry permits.

Bryant said that Mississippi law is all about giving freedom to people, but he must not consider women to be people. Women who want to have an abortion in the one remaining women’s clinic in the state must have state-directed counseling in person to discourage her from the procedure and then wait another 24 hours–meaning two different trips to the clinic. A woman must undergo an ultrasound and be offered the option of seeing the image.

Health plans under the Affordable Care Act can cover abortion only in cases when the woman’s life is endangered, rape or incest. Insurance policies for public employees cover abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape, incest, or fetal abnormality. Telemedicine with medication abortion is prohibited. Abortions are performed after 18 weeks only if the woman’s life is endangered, her physical health is severely compromised or there is a severe fetal impairment because state legislators believe that a fetus can feel pain after that time.

Thus Mississippi protects Christians—except for women who need abortions—and no one else. My question is when two different people’s Christian beliefs conflict? Which one will have the rights?

Jesus-Facepalm

In an effort to interpret “what would Jesus think,” the anti-discrimination organization Planting Peace has put up this billboard a few blocks away from the state capitol.

March 31, 2016

“Small Government” in Kentucky, Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 20, 2015

LGBT Equality Only Partial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LGBT discrimination

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

February 7, 2015

Social Democracy Saves U.S.

Socialism is a horrible concept for most conservatives. Instead of articulating specific problems, they use the word to denigrate any governmental action they don’t like. Giving money to the poor so that they don’t starve is “socialism”; on the other hand, giving subsidies to huge oil companies that make hundreds of billions is a Good Thing. While screaming that health care for all is socialism, people forget how they rely on social democracy, government-funded institutions established to benefit everyone through taxes and government regulation.

Following are respected ways that taxpayer funds collectively benefit people in the United States, despite income, contribution, or ability:

The Military/Defense/War: As the largest and most expensive socialist program in the world, the U.S. military protects everyone—not just the wealthy.

Customs and Border Protection: Conservatives love the biggest law enforcement agency in the nation.

Law Enforcement/Firefighters: Services from these people are available to almost all the communities in the country (except Tennessee).

Highways/Roads/Bridges: Almost all roads and highways in country have no charges for people who use them. The interstate highway system came from a Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. During his time, the top 1 percent also had a 91-percent tax rate as compared to today’s 35 percent—and they dodge out of that to pay a lower percentage than the middle class does.

Transportation/Street Lighting/Road Signs/Power: City buses, snow removal, Amtrak—these are a few of the ways that the government helps move people from one place to another. The government built the Hoover Dam, a vital source of power for the West Coast.

Public Libraries: Ever use their books, computers, information services, etc.? This is the place that stocks all the books that talk about how bad socialism is. Don’t use it? It’s still available to you—for free.

Postal Service: People who bitterly complain about this service still get their mail delivered. Those who think that the USPS is operating in the red don’t know that Congress forces them to pay forward into the retirement fund for 75 years.

Student Loans and Grants/ G.I. Bill: People who borrow money to get a higher education still have to repay the money, but they don’t have to face a big bank refusing a loan. Educational grants are a form of socialism. Veterans can get an education or help with loans, savings, and unemployment benefits.

Farm Subsidies: Congress keeps voting for this form of socialism because they either benefit personally by getting subsidies or receive money from wealthy farmers for political campaigns.

Corporate/Business Subsidies/Bailouts/Welfare: Big corporations receive hundreds of billions for performing ethical actions such as hiring people and not sending businesses offshore. Congressional members who vote for these subsidies know that the same money will end up in the politicians’ pocket, a form of campaign welfare. Whether good or bad, subsidies are socialism.

Congressional Health Care/ Veteran’s (VA) Health Care: While Republicans have voted against the evils of government-run health care at least 56 times, they benefit from the same government-provided health care. Recently, people have criticized health care for veterans, but that’s because, unlike Social Security and Medicare, Congress controls how much–or little–money is allotted to this program.

Polio/Bird Flu/Swine Flu Vaccines: After Dr. Jonas Salk invented a vaccine to rid the country of this disease’s ravages, he gave it to the federal government instead of selling it on the open market. He took the position that he made enough money as a scientist. To him, it was more important that the government eradicate the country of polio. The government also sends vaccines to prevent bird flu  and swine flu across the country.

EPA/FDA/Departments of Agriculture and Energy: As all the conservatives whine about this government agency, they are largely protected from breathing deadly chemicals, drinking dirty water, and eating poisoned food. Part of the Energy Department’s responsibility is to keep everyone from radioactivity poisoning and a nuclear holocaust.

Social Security/Medicare: Everyone who works pays taxes to help seniors, disabled, and survivors while providing health care for seniors and disabled.

Public Schools:  Despite all the hype about private charter schools, the public school system is still the best in the country.

Jail/Prison System: This institution is slowly changing to privatization resulting in far more prisoners than in the past because contracts force states to guarantee a minimum number of prisoners. It’s just one of the systems that worked better and cheaper as a public institution.

Public Parks/Museums/Zoos/Beaches/Monuments: Pleasurable places where people can go for free or a small fee are part of the benefits that all people in the United States enjoy.

Elected Government Officials: Every person elected in the country is paid by taxes, supposedly to benefit all the citizens.

Court System: People too wealthy for public defenders have to pay for their own lawyers, but the rest of the system is government-funded.

FEMA: Most conservatives in Congress complain about the agency that provides help after disasters—until the disasters affect their own constituents.

Many conservatives buy into the myth of the “self-made man,” but the above examples show that no one is successful without assistance from government help. When she was a candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) explained the process:

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.”

People are successful because of the social democracy in the United States, and health care is an important part of our U.S. success. Before the Affordable Care Act went into effect at the beginning of 2014, medical bills were the biggest cause of the two million bankruptcies in 2013, outstripping credit-card bills or mortgages.  About 56 million adults—more than 20 percent of the population between the ages of 19 and 64—struggled with health-care-related bills in 2013. During 2013, 15 million people depleted their savings to cover medical bills, and another 10 million couldn’t pay for necessities such as rent, food and utilities because of those bills. More than 25 million people skipped dosages by taking less medication or delaying refilling prescriptions.

People who call the United States the greatest nation in the world need to care for everyone, not just big businesses. With the ACA threatened by the Supreme Court case of King v. Burwell and half the states in nation refusing to accept the federal government Medicaid plan, the country needs single-payer plan instead of the privatization of health insurance. The result would be similar to the way the nation deals with military, law enforcement, education, courts, disasters, transportation, highways, etc.

At least one GOP legislator understands this concept, and he’s changing from the GOP to the Democratic party. Mississippi State Senator Tim Johnson also plans to run for Lt. Governor in the next election. His reason is the state’s refusal to take $5 million to expand Medicaid. He said:

“Elected officials should be in the business of helping all Mississippians. Not picking out who to hurt. In the current way of doing business in our State Capitol and especially in the State Senate, has hurt a lot of my fellow Mississippians. We watch these current leaders make excuses for underfunding our schools. We see them refuse to repair and maintain our crumbling roads and bridges. And we stood by while they ignored the twelve thousand dollars pay gap between working women and men. We have also witnessed shocking corruption on their watch.

“But the failure of the Republican leadership in the Senate to help sick people was the final straw. My home town hospital in Kosciusko Mississippi was up here the other day asking for a five million dollar stopgap bond loan to try to stay open due to the drastic hit they are taking because of Republican leadership refusing to take and accept the return of federal tax dollars through Medicaid Expansion. Instead of doing the right thing, the Republican leadership would rather see five million dollar tax burden on the backs of the eighteen thousand citizens of Attala County. That’s not right. That’s my hometown. And that’s my home county.

“If Montfort Jones Hospital had been closed three weeks ago, we wouldn’t have had a place to take my mother when she suffered a stroke. Thank goodness they were still open when we rushed her there for help. Because all indicators are that they won’t be open much longer all because of Republican political grandstanding.”

Mississippi is the poorest state in the Union. It gets about $3 back for every $1 that it send to the federal government. Fourteen states, including California and New York, get less than $1 back. That’s the way that this country benefits all–and that should include  health care.

November 9, 2014

Christians Attempt to Subsume Freedom in U.S.

When I write my weekly blog on religion, I worry that I’m obsessed with it. At least one newly-elected senator shows that I’m right to be worried about the growing flood of intolerant Christians.  For example, James Lankford, Oklahoma’s GOP senator-elect, who plans to use his Christian bible to make decisions:

“I look at Nehemiah and how he handled things when he stepped into Jerusalem. It was that the people were in disgrace and the wall was broken down, but the two things that he focused in on was the constructive side of things and the debt. Half of the Book of Nehemiah is just getting the people out of debt, so they could actually take on the other things.”

Think Progress gave the award for most extreme election winner to Colorado’s state senator Gordon Klingenschmitt with his history of attempting to run the country according to his personal Christian beliefs.

In a prayer “against the enemies of religious liberty”—anyone who disagrees with him–he said, “Let their days be few, and replace them with godly people. Plunder their fields and seize their assets. Cut off their descendants. And remember their sins. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

He blessed Lowes Home Improvement stores for stopping its advertising on the TV show All-American Muslim, which is nothing but Islamic propaganda.” According to Klingenschmitt, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act promotes beastiality, and “federal bureaucrats will enforce Obamacare to exterminate the elderly, systematically.” He tells everyone to get a gun, “sell your clothes and buy a gun.”

Klingenschmitt is big on exorcisms: “I said, “You foul spirit of lesbianism, this woman has renounced you, come out of her in Jesus’ name,’ and she began to wrestle with that and suddenly her eyes began to bug out and then she began to weep, and weep, and weep as the Holy Spirit forgave her sins.” He also performed one on President Obama long-distance on his television show when he tried to remove “the demon of tyranny who is using the White House occupant … to oppress us.” In his book, The Demons of Barack H.Obama, Klingenschmitt claims he discovered fifty demons “ruling” Obama , including the dark spirits of “sexual abuse,” “genocide,” “paganism,” “witchcraft,” and “homosexual lust.” Klingenschitt’s overriding policy is that “only people who are going to heaven are entitled to equal treatment by the government.”

Another example of the merging of church and state is Ava Maria (FL), billed as a utopia where kids are safe, neighbors are friends, and life is good. Created in 2005 by Domino Pizza’s founder, Tom Monahan with Barron Collier companies, it’s a place where then-governor and possible future presidential candidate Jeb Bush described it as “a new kind of town where like-minded people live in harmony between faith and freedom.” That’s because Monahan intends to create the city “according to strict Roman Catholic principles”—no sale of pornography, any contraception (including condoms), and X-rated channels on cable TV. Monahan also created the Ave Maria University and the Ave Maria School of Law where Justice Antonin Scalia had “significant input” in the law school’s curriculum.

The ACLU started paying attention to the religious control of Ave Maria when Naples Community Hospital negotiated with Ave Maria to open offices in the town. That process brought the questions that all Catholic control brings: would the hospital respect an order of Do Not Resuscitate? what advice and referrals would a rape victim get? would she get information about abortion of emergency contraceptives? Eventually Ave Maria did not get a Naples Community Hospital satellite because the health center refused to restrict the availability of birth control, abortion, and abortion referrals.

As Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State pointed out, Ave Maria is not an anomaly. Among insular religious communities attempt in the U.S. are Zion (IL), founded in 1901; Rehoboth (DE), founded in 1873; and Ocean Grove (NJ), founded in 1869. Although these municipalities are now secular, other such as Kiryas Joel (NY), Hildale (UT), and Colorado City (AZ) still exert religious authority over their residents.

“Historically,” Boston adds, “one of two things typically happens in places run by religious denominations. First, outsiders often move in and change the character of the area. Secondly, these communities tend to be riven by internal dissent.” In Hildale and Colorado City, run by polygamist Warren Jeffs before his 2010 imprisonment on child endangerment and sexual abuse charges, so-called “outsiders” have had to contact the FBI and Department of Justice because they were denied housing and public utilities.

Police in another Utah town, St. George, closed down a party because people were dancing without the permission of the city council. Organizer Jared Keddington had even gotten a permit from the council, but the police said that it was missing pages that Jeddington had not received that stated the party could not allow “random acts of dancing by patrons.”

Kiryas Joel, 50 miles north of New York City, is an enclave of over 22,000 Hasidic Jews. The New York ACLU learned in late 2012 that the town planned to make a public 283-acre park into a sex-segregated play area restricting boys and girls according to the town leaders’ religious law. Fifteen months later the suit was dropped after the town removed signs mandating the separation of genders.

Frederick Clarkson, senior fellow at Political Research Associates, quoted Thomas Jefferson when he talked about whether a town can take away individual rights: “Are you as free to go out of a church as you are to go into one? Or are you a captive of the company store?”

Determined to keep students ignorant, the Gilbert School District in Arizona voted 3-2 to tear out pages from the biology book used in the schools Advanced Placement curriculum. The offending portion of the textbook describes methods of contraception and includes Mifepristone, also called RU486, that can terminate pregnancies in their early stages. Members of the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom objected to this information and claimed that it violated a state law requiring schools to emphasize childbirth and adoption over adoption. One of the minority said that the textbook “discussed biological principles and in a very understandable way.”

The ACLU protested the censorship, and a state Department of Education official agreed that the textbook doesn’t violate the law. Texas also wants censorship about climate change, affirmative change, and segregation while trying to teach students that Moses inspired modern American democracy. Last year, the Kentucky governor used an executive order to provide accurate science standards in public schools after the legislature tried to do away with these.

Actions in West High School in Tracy (CA) invite a challenge to school policies. Assigned to lead the school in the Pledge of Allegiance, Derek Giardina, 17, received detention and a considerably lowered grade after he omitted the words “under God,” added to the Pledge in 1954. A California high school is practically begging to be sued in court after school officials punished a student for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance without the words “under God.” The school demanded the “traditional way,” used for less than half the time since a Christian Socialist wrote the Pledge in 1892.

Arizona’s GOP Rep.Trent Franks has also gained notoriety by warning that ISIS will succeed because “the secular left” in the United States is diluting the country’s Christian heritage. He claims that secularism is telling people in the United States that they can’t wear crosses, say “God bless you,” and show Bibles. According to Franks, a lawsuit is trying to take religious icons from tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery. In fact, the United States government has approved 65 religious symbols for engraving on markers in national veterans’ cemeteries.

In a reversal of Christian beliefs in Florida, even Jesus would be arrested in Fort Lauderdale if he tried to hand out loaves and fishes. Ninety-year-old Arnold Abbott was arrested and is facing 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for giving food to homeless people. This didn’t stop the man who has been giving food to the homeless for 23 years; he was back, doing the same thing, after his arrest. As Stephen Colbert pointed out on his show, this is the same town where police ignore college students drinking, puking, and partying with abandon every spring.

Neo-Confederates in Mississippi, the poorest state in the Union, are trying to declare the state Christian and English-only, designate “Dixie” as the official state song, and require preservation of Confederate symbols at the University of Mississippi. The proposed initiative also establishes a Confederate History Month and a Confederate Memorial Day. Its rationale is that “the Holy Bible is acknowledged as a foremost source of her founding principles, inspiration, and virtues. Accordingly, prayer is acknowledged as a respected, meaningful, and valuable custom of her citizens.”

Meanwhile, a federal district court in Oregon has declared that Secular Humanism is a religion, defined as “an ethical and life-affirming philosophy free of belief in any gods and other supernatural forces.” Humanism may end up the same special rights as traditional religions. California’s West High School might want to take notice.

April 6, 2014

Christians Want a U.S. Theocracy

Eight-year-olds are smarter than legislators, as Olivia McConnell from South Carolina proves. She wants a state fossil to go along with all the other state stuff such as tree, flower, bird, stone, fish, fruit, dog, opera, etc. The third-grader at Carolina Academy (Lake City) wrote her state lawmakers, Rep. Robert Ridgeway and Sen. Kevin Johnson, asking them sponsor a bill to make the woolly mammoth the official state fossil. She gave them three reasons:

  • One of the first discoveries of a vertebrae fossil in North America was on an S.C. plantation when slaves dug up wooly mammoth teeth from a swamp in 1725.
  • All but seven states have an official state fossil.
  • “Fossils tell us about our past.”

McConnell’s representatives  introduced bills on her behalf, and the state House passed it by 94 to 3. State Sen. Kevin Bryant (R), however, demanded an amendment with terminology from Genesis to give “the creator” credit for creating woolly mammoths and everything else.  Ruled out of order, he insisted that the bill explain that the mammoth was “created on the Sixth Day with the beasts of the field.”

Another GOP state senator who represents the district with Bob Jones University put a hold on the legislation. National attention forced the majority leader to bring the resolution to the floor without the “creator” reference but with the “sixth day” reference. The bill passed unanimously. The United States has officially become a theocracy.

Arizona may have backed down on a state law allowing discrimination in the state using the excuse of religious beliefs, but Mississippi’s Gov. Phil Byrant (R) has signed a similar bill for his state. According to the law, people’s “right to the exercise of religion” should not suffer a burden, which is defined as “any action that … compels any action contrary to a person’s exercise of religion.”  That term “includes, but is not limited to, the ability to act or the refusal to act in a manner that is substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.” In other words, people can deny goods, services, medical care, etc. to anyone and ignore civil rights legislation if they claim “exercise of religion.”

Other Christian claims from the last couple of weeks:

  • World Vision: “If we cannot love one another, how will we show Christ’s love to the world?” That was what President Richard Stearns said when one of the world’s biggest Christian charities decided to hire LGBT people who are either married or abstinent. The love lasted for only two days after Christians objected. The reversal of the former policy has now been reversed.
  • Pat Buchanan: God is on the side of Vladimir Putin because he is “planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity.” Putin was also right in annexing Crimea, and the decline of the U.S. began with declaring “[t]hat women and men are equal” and “[t]hat all races, religions and ethnic groups are equal.” Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s grandson, agrees that Putin is right about LGBT people because he’s “taken a stand to protect his nation’s children.”
  • Pat Robertson: Signing up for a health insurance plan will make personal information readily available, and the Affordable Care Act is “killing people.” That’s what Robertson said on air before he announced a safe telephone number for people to enroll in a private health insurance plan. The number goes to healthcare.gov.
  • Robertson asked Daniel Lapin, “What is it about Jewish people that make them prosper financially? You almost never find Jews tinkering with their cars on the weekends or mowing their lawns. That’s what Daniel Lapin says and there’s a very good reason for that, and it lies within the business secrets of the Bible.” Robertson added that Jews are “polishing diamonds, not fixing cars.” The far-right rabbi agreed and said that paying for such services is all about “taking care of God’s other children.”
  • In Robertson’s world, Jesus would not have had to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding because the bible calls for gay couples to be stoned to death. He seems to miss the good old times when he said, “But we don’t have that in this country here so that’s the way it is.” And atheists are possibly possessed by demons or survivors of rape or other abuse.
  • Pastor Steven Anderson (Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, AZ): Women are to be silent in church so that men can teach them their place during “learning time.” Chatting before the service and singing praises to God are okay. No “amens” out of them. A year ago, he preached about how women should not choose what they read or wear. They should also be banned from having sex, speaking in public, and leaving their homes. He probably agrees with Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson who thinks that women should not be allowed to vote.
  • The American Decency Association/One Million Moms of the American Family Association: These two groups are boycotting Honey Maid graham crackers because its “This Is Wholesome” ad includes a same-sex couple with children. ADA’s Steve Huston claims that the ad is part of Satan’s “attack on God’s design.”
  • Ralph Reed: It is becoming too easy for women with children to get a divorce from their husbands. The Faith and Freedom Coalition founder also said that the national debt is related to the decline in the nation’s morality.

Gay Crazy:

  • News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch: The News Corp chairman urged “all Irish” to boycott Guinness because they chose not to sponsor the discriminatory St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston.
  • Lt. Colonel Oliver North: The man arrested for illegal sales of arms to Iran said that the GOP must ban marriage equality just as the abolitionists fought to end slavery.
  • Bobby Jindal: The Louisiana governor claims that efforts to overturn bans on marriage equality are a war.
  • Ted Cruz: The GOP Texas senator who called on Congress to shut down the government calls the current administration’s support for LGBT equal right is an “abuse of power and lawlessness” and calls on a defense against this equality.
  • Fox News, the Christian Right, and the GOP: The far-right equates the “horror” of a business being required to sell a wedding cake to same-sex couples with the religious discrimination of the Holocaust and the Shia versus Sunni violence in Iraq.

Sex Ed Classes in the South:

  • Oxford (MS): Teachers asked students to take a piece of chocolate out of its wrapper and then pass it around the classroom. The message is that girls having sex are just as dirty as the candy becomes after it has been touched by all the class members. In that state, 76 percent of teenagers will have sex before they leave high school.
  • Texas: A school district told teachers to compare sex to used toothbrushes or chewed gum. No one wants either of these after they have been used; they just get thrown away.

U.S. Catholics:

  • Wilton Gregory, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta, apologized for his building a new $2.2 million home and may sell it. After parishioners protested, Gregory wrote: “I failed to consider the impact on the families throughout the Archdiocese who, though struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, tuition and other bills, faithfully respond year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services.” Not all parishioners are convinced that he will leave his mansion.
  • Sister Jane Dominic Laurel told students that divorce and masturbation make guys gay, according to a the Dominican nun’s speech at a Charlotte Catholic High School (NC) assembly. After parents protested, her subsequent lectures were cancelled and she has requested a sabbatical.

Question of the Week:  Bible literalists claim that their good book opposes abortion, birth control, LGBTs, etc. Yet many verses in the book support the belief in a flat earth. Why don’t fundamentalist Christians oppose the belief in a round earth and boycott airplanes?

The God Finale: Almost a year ago when Colorado floods killed at least 8 people, Roy Ortiz lived because North Metro Rescue first responders saved him from drowning in a creek. Ortiz thinks that God saved him so he’s suing a fire district, four cities, a dive team member, and two Boulder County sheriff’s deputies for not closing the road. He wants $500,000 in damages from taxpayers. There are several questions about Ortiz’s actions, including the fact that he called his wife before he called 911 when he went into the water.

August 27, 2012

Cut Defense; Leave NOAA, FEMA, Safety Net Alone

The GOP convention was intended to be the big story for this week until Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) brought abortion and rape into the dialog and dug up the GOP’s position. The biggest story, however, is Tropical Storm Isaac which probably will become a hurricane before landfall somewhere in the Gulf Coast states.

Gov. Bobby Jindal cancelled his speech at the GOP convention to get back to Louisiana because of the threat to New Orleans, and Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott dropped out of the convention to protect his state. Nobody knows Isaac’s actual destination when it’s predicted to his land early Wednesday morning. Governors of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana have started evacuations in their states and joined Scott in declaring emergencies.

The irony of the Isaac story is that Republicans have received early warning after trying to drastically cut funds for disaster preparedness and response. Their continuing resolution 2011 budget shrank funding for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Operations, Research, and Facilities by $454.3 million. The National Weather Service, part of NOAA, lost $126 million; FEMA dropped $24.3 million with FEMA state and local programs losing $783.3 million. Fortunately, this budget didn’t stick.

As part of last August’s Budget Control Act, Republicans agreed to make it easier to fund disaster relief but then reneged on this agreement. This isn’t new. Back in his 2009 response to the State of the Union, Jindal ridiculed the stimulus for having “$140 million for something called volcano monitoring.” Jindal is governor of a state that has hurricanes, not volcanoes. Not everyone else in the United States is in the same situation.

NOAA warned Congress that Republican cuts would stop them from warning people about hurricanes five to ten days out because of its aging satellites. Without the funding, the United States could go up to 18 months or even longer without any satellites.  If that were to happen, the Republicans might not know a hurricane is imminent for their 2016 convention.

Even when NOAA doesn’t want extra money for a project, Congress refused to allow them to make their activities more efficient. Last fall, when NOAA wanted to reorganize its existing climate capabilities and services into a “single point of entry” for users, Congress said no. NOAA cannot be permitted to “more efficiently and effectively respond to the rapidly increasing demand for easily accessible and timely scientific data and information about climate that helps people make informed decisions in their lives, businesses, and communities.”

The idea was that efficient, up-to-date information is important because of the likelihood of more droughts, floods, and storms; Republicans can’t admit that climate is changing. Since Congress turned down NOAA’s proposal, the organization has announced the last year and last half year are the hottest on record. The second half of this past June saw at least 170 all-time high temperatures either broken or tied. As of July 3, 56 percent of the contiguous U.S. experienced drought conditions, the largest percentage in the 12-year record of the U.S. Drought Monitor. During the June 2011-June 2012 period, each of the 13 consecutive months ranked among the warmest third of their historical distribution for the first time in the 1895-present record. The odds of this occurring randomly is 1 in 1,594,323.

When disastrous tornadoes hit Missouri, Republicans threatened to hold up any assistance until there were cuts in other places. The same for Virginia’s earthquake and the east coast’s Hurricane Irene.  A year ago House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) demanded that “that no more money be allocated for disaster relief unless it is offset by spending cuts elsewhere”—until he asked for FEMA money for his own district a month later.

If Republicans don’t get the FEMA aid that they request, they are angry. When FEMA refused a request for federal aid for wildfire victims in Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin called a government agency’s rejection letter “bureaucratic” and “cruel.”

If anything is “bureaucratic” and “cruel,” it’s the Republicans’ refusal to allow states’ residents to get the health care from the federal government that costs the states nothing. Texas is a prime example: the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has now upheld Texas’s decision to deny women any health care through Planned Parenthood or other clinic that simply makes referrals for abortions.  The court decision will deny health care to at least 50,000 women.

Texas has also refused to accept the federal money that would provide Medicaid for people with salaries between one-fourth of the poverty level and one and one-fourth of the poverty level. Because of Gov. Rick Perry’s arrogance and indifference, families making between $5,000 and $25,000 will not qualify for Medicaid or any other remedy from the Affordable Care Act. That’s bureaucratic and cruel.

If Republicans want FEMA help for people who need assistance, they need to allocate funds for it. They also need to revise their position in denying all people any safety net except the wealthy—who don’t need it. And they need to stop using their personal morality to control women.

Where can the government get the money to help people? Defense expenditures went from $583.38 billion in 2003 when we were in two wars to $711.42 billion in 2011 when we were no longer in war. About a half century ago, Dwight Eisenhower said, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.” We are now living in Eisenhower’s nightmare.

If Republicans want small government, they should start with the defense budget. Support the programs that actually help people, such as the safety net and NOAA.

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