Nel's New Day

February 23, 2019

Hope from Elections, Courts

In a desperate move last fall after Democratic governors and state legislators were elected, several GOP-dominated state legislative bodies passed laws that would hamstring the elective preferences of the people. The Wake County Superior Court has determined that the illegally gerrymandered North Carolina General Assembly cannot put constitutional amendments on the ballot because it lacked the full will of the state’s people. The court voided two of these amendments related to a photo voter ID requirement and lowering of the state income tax cap. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that many of North Carolina’s legislative districts were illegally drawn on racial lines and required that 117 districts be redrawn by the 2018 election. Legislators from the illegally-drawn lines passed the two amendments that tend “to favor white households” and would “reinforc[e] the accumulation of wealth for white taxpayers,” according to a lawsuit.

North Carolina is also the only state without a seated representative in the U.S. House from the 2018 election. This past week, the state election board unanimously required a new election for the seat that Baptist pastor Mark Harris claimed to have won by 905 votes after he stepped down. The election board had investigated Harris and his employee who had been accused with “stuffing the ballot box” by requesting, collecting, and completing absentee ballots in favor of Republicans. A closer look at Harris’ actions shows more anomalies. One was Harris’ testimony that he paid the employee through a PAC, a violation of election laws, and then tried to retract that statement several times later in the day. North Carolina has never addressed the type of voter fraud that Harris exhibited, concentrating instead of non-existent “in-person” voter fraud in the GOP attempts to restrict Democratic voting.

Wake County DA Lorrin Freeman is bringing investigation findings of the 9th District election fraud in both 2016 and 2018 to a grand jury next month. She took the case from Marion Warren, the director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, after it was discovered that Warren had introduced Mark Harris to his employee, who is now under scrutiny. Warren has announced a new job at Regent University School of Law in Virginia next month.

David Whitley, Texas’ acting Secretary of State, needs to have two-thirds of a vote for confirmation. His problem is that he inaccurately stated that 95,000 possible noncitizens registered to vote in the state before checking his facts—that tens of thousands of them are citizens. He did apologize for his “mistake,” but 12 Democrats are refusing to vote for him in committee, which would sink his nomination requiring a two-thirds state Senate vote for success. Whitley still hasn’t retracted the list although one of his deputies said the office knew that flagged voters included names of naturalized citizens. The office used outdated driver’s license data to determine citizenships so there is no accurate count of voter fraud. The state is now facing three federal lawsuits over Whitley’s actions, at least one of them about voter disenfranchisement for the March 2, 2019 election. Verifying Whitley’s misinformation is a nightmare, especially for large counties, because Texas law mandates voter registration on paper only. Verifying naturalization also causes problems because data on ceremonies is limited to counties.

The U.S. Supreme Court made an amazing decision this past week—and did it unanimously. All nine justices ruled that states cannot ignore the Constitution when imposing fines or confiscating people’s property in civil or criminal cases. Although to many of us, the ruling sounds like common sense, but states have been confiscating money and property for centuries, but the profits made by governments accelerated with a 1978 federal law. Although the law may seem reasonable on its surface, law enforcement officials have been taking money from people even if they aren’t charged with any crime and then keeping it. By 2018, the DOJ had about $1.5 billion in its forfeiture fund. Reporters have found several cases when people were pulled over with no justification and had their money taken with no proof of a crime. After the police took $11,000, a college student’s life savings, he had to fight in court to get his money returned.

The high court heard Timbs v. Indiana, a case in which police kept a $42,000 Land Rover purchased with legal funds after Tyson Timbs was charged in selling two grams of heroin to an undercover officer. The maximum fine for the infraction was $10,000—four times less than the value of his vehicle that he lost. Indiana is one of four states that claims that the Constitution didn’t cover state law. The justices found that keeping the Land Rover violated the Eighth Amendment’s “excessive fines clause” that applies to state and local courts as well as federal ones.

In a win for Montana, after the Supreme Court wiped out its campaign finance law in American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock (2012), the high court let stand the state’s Disclose Act requiring the disclosure of donors to groups spending money or mentioning a candidate with 60 days of a state-level elections. A lower court had ruled the law constitutional, and the Supreme Court declined to take the case. Montana is the third state after New York and California to have disclosure laws for dark money.

A federal judge in Seattle told the Defense Department that it may not require soldiers who are naturalized citizens to undergo “continuous monitoring,” security checks every two years if the military doesn’t scrutinize U.S.-born soldiers in the same way. The 17 plaintiffs are among the 10,000 who enlisted in the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program that recruits immigrants with critical foreign language or medical skills in exchange for a fast track to citizenship. In mid-2018, the Pentagon began discharging MAVNI participants but reversed the policy a month later.

The research into which whities wore blackface in the past went deep after a photo allegedly with Virginia Ralph Northam (D) initiated the media examination during Black History Month. Most of the photos lacked captions, but 78 USA Today reporters, assigned to the search, found one in the 1989 Arizona State University’s yearbook. Their current editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll was editor of that yearbook and designer of the page with the blackface photo. She has apologized.

Oregon is considering a bill that would drop the voting age from 18 to 16. If the legislature passes the measure, it would be on the 2020 ballot for a vote by the people. My first thought was that 16-year-olds are too young to vote—until I read this article about a 12-year-old journalist. This past week, Hilde Kate Lysiak visited Patagonia (AZ) on the trail of a stories including resident’s opinions about the Border Patrol and the proposed border wall when Joseph Patterson, who passes for the small town’s police chief, stopped her and asked for ID. She gave him her telephone number and address before she told him that she was a member of the press. Patterson said, “I don’t want to hear about any of that freedom-of-the-press stuff.” He also threatened to have her arrested and thrown into juvey. [Photo by James Moorehead]

Lysiak decided to tape him when she asked him what she was doing that was illegal. Patterson sat in his white Chevy Silverado truck and said, “You taping me? You can tape me, okay, but what I’m going to tell you is if you put my face on the Internet, it’s against the law in Arizona.”

The conversation continued as he accused her of lying to him and disobeying his commands. He finally told her, “I’ll be getting a hold of your parents” before he drove off. When Lysiak posted the video to her blog later, she explained that the first Amendment protects recording a law enforcement official in a public place that no law prevents her actions. She also posted her story about the wall.

Lysiak reported on a murder in her hometown when she was nine and has reported on bank robberies, alleged rapes, and other crimes in her Orange Street News, which she helped found almost five years ago and publishes from her parents’ home in Selinsgrove (PA).

Patagonia has taken action against Patterson but won’t say what that is. This is not the first time that Patterson has threatened people with arrest after they started to video him, but it’s the first time that he went after a 12-year-old—and the first time that he had to back down. Lysiak’s taping of Patterson’s threats has received almost 250,000 views and almost 1,000 comments.

I’d pick 12-year-old Hilde Lysiak as an educated voter over Joseph Patterson any time.

December 27, 2018

Disasters in Iraq, More Bad news in North Carolina

Day Six of the Government Shutdown:  The Senate returned today for four minutes to discuss the federal shutdown and then went home until the afternoon of January 2, the last day of the 115th Congress. The House lasted two minutes and 55 seconds. Republicans denied the attempt of Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) to get a vote on legislation to reopen the government. DDT’s only visibility are his irate tweets.

Nine federal departments and several federal agencies stay unfunded, leaving 25 percent of the government unable to continue operations. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (R-CA) said that the Democratic House may put forward a bill to fund the government without the wall on its first day of January 3. The legislation would mirror the bipartisan Senate bill passed last week before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) refused to sign any budget bill without his wall. All bills passed before January 3 expire, and the Senate would have to repass the legislation with seven new members. The the Office of Personnel Management shared advice for federal workers such as doing building chores in exchange for reduced rent.

DDT said he was “proud” to cause the shutdown and would wear the “mantle.” A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted primarily before the beginning of the shutdown shows that 47 percent of adults agree that he is to blame. Only seven percent fault Republicans in Congress with another 33 percent blaming the Democrats.

On Christmas Day, DDT tweeted, with no evidence that “many” of the 800,000 workers without paychecks want him to hold out for the wall and that they’re doing “just fine.” By today, he declared that most of those workers are “Democrats.”

After 706 days in office, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) visited troops in a combat zone for the first time since he was inaugurated. The visit occurred the week after he announced victory over ISIS, a claim that his Pentagon and State Department disputed, and the same day that the New York Times blew the whistle on DDT’s claims of bone spurs to dodge the Vietnam War. Reports from a podiatrist’s doctor’s daughter describe how Fred Trump may have kept his son from the Vietnam War draft. Long ridiculed for using bone spurs as an excuse, DDT received his medical exemption from Dr. Larry Braunstein, according to his daughters who said Braunstein talked about doing a favor for DDT’s father. Braunstein practiced in one of dozens of buildings that Fred Trump owned in Jamaica, Queens. Dr. Manny Weinstein, who lived in two Brooklyn apartments owned by Trump, may have also been involved. Weinstein died in 1995, and Braunstein in 2007. DDT always said that he had a high lottery number, but that process didn’t begin until a year after his bone spur 1-Y exemption. DDT’s earlier exemption as a student came from his attending Wharton, thanks in part to “an interview with a friendly Wharton admissions officer who was one of [his father’s] old high school classmates,” according to Gwenda Blair’s book The Trumps.

While talking to the troops in Iraq, DDT repeated his lies—that they were getting “one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received” and that they “haven’t gotten one in more than ten years.” He continued, “I got you a big one,” claiming that it is over ten percent. Fact check: U.S. troops received pay raises for every year back to 1975 except for 1983. The latest pay raise was 2.6 percent. And there was no debate with anyone who wanted smaller races.

DDT tweeted video of his meeting in Iraq with members of a Navy Seal team on covert operations who were wearing camouflage gear with night vision goggles, putting the men into danger. Their location was considered classified—until DDT announced it. A Defense Department official said that it is the first time that special-ops forces serving in a war zone didn’t have their faces covered or digitally blurred for a photo release. The troops who asked DDT to autograph their MAGA hats might also be violating the DOD’s position on politics.

Although DDT outed special ops, possibly putting them in danger, he failed to meet with any Iraqi officials during his three hours in their country. He said that the trip had been planned for three weeks, but Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi was invited to meet the president only two hours in advance. The prime minister said that any meeting was canceled because of a disagreement of how to conduct the session. After DDT’s visit, Iraqi politicians and lawmakers, angered and insulted by DDT’s swift and unannounced visit, demanded that U.S. troops leave Iraq. Sabah al-Saadi, leader of Iraq’s Islah parliamentary bloc, asked that an emergency parliament “discuss this blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and to stop these aggressive actions by Trump who should know his limits: The U.S. occupation of Iraq is over.”

DDT also raised conflict in South Africa, not for the first time, by tweeting that State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo should investigate the “killing of farmers” and “land and farm seizures” there. The South African government declared DDT “misinformed” and accused him of stoking racial divisions. The country’s rand currency dropped over 1.5 percent against the U.S. dollar. Farm murders are at a 20-year low, and conservative Australian politicians have falsified the number of deaths last year.

The trip wasn’t even kept a secret. An amateur plane enthusiast and photographer spotted Air Force One over Sheffield, England on its way to Iraq. According to Alan Meloy, the only two VC-25s alternate as Air Force One. He posted his photograph on Flickr, and the secret was out three hours before the plane landed at Al Asad Airbase west of Baghdad.

Distressed about DDT’s moves to pull out troops from the Middle East, GOP senators are looking for someone to stand up to DDT now that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has died. The name of Utah’s incoming GOP senator, Mitt Romney, has been tossed out as a solution to take this role—sort of “let Mikey try it.” Evidently no sitting senator has the courage to take on the task.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), known for choosing his words carefully, sent out one of his most critical statements to date, saying he was “distressed” to read Mattis’s reasons for resigning. He added that Trump should pick a successor who shares Mattis’s “understanding” of the “vital principles” that he outlined in his resignation letter. He didn’t. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said he didn’t believe Trump’s views on foreign policy aligned in many ways with his or most Republicans’.

“I think General Mattis has put his finger on where the president has views that are very, very distinct from the vast majority of Republicans and probably Democrats, elected and unelected,” Toomey told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), asked about Mattis, quipped that he was “still depressed” and “too emotional” to talk about the impending departure. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) said “the vast majority of senators both Democratic and Republican are totally opposed to this policy. We’re trying to get the administration to rethink it.”

Asked if he thought Trump understood foreign policy, the highly conservative senator smiled briefly before adding, “I kind of scratch my head.”

Senators need to get started if they have any involvement in DDT’s decisions about the Middle East.

The North Carolina 9th District issue of election fraud keeps getting worse. In the midst of the GOP candidate’s absentee ballot harvesting to create his win, the state legislature passed an override of the governor’s veto that permits the state elections board to hide any allegations of campaign law violations. The new law also requires new primaries and general election for the 9th District if the board determines that fraud existed in the 2018 election, a law that would force primaries on innocent participants as well as the guilty. The GOP legislature rushed to pass the law because it loses its veto-proof majority at the end of December. At that time, a lawsuit has reinstated the power of overseeing elections, ethics enforcement, and lobbyist reporting to the governor after a GOP legislature removed it from the Democratic governor, changing a century-long practice.

Another problem is that the state Supreme Court dissolved the current elections board as of tomorrow. The board had scheduled a hearing on the 9th District issue on January 11, 2019. Because the state board of elections has not certified Mark Harris as the winner of the 9th District election, Harris cannot go to the U.S. House with the newly elected members on January 3. The governor may be able to appoint a new elections board, but the bill passed into law by the state legislature today mandates that the board doesn’t take effect until January 31, 2019. The House can also refuse to seat a candidate until after an investigation. The 116th Congress will most likely start with 235 Democrats, 199 Republicans, and one vacancy.

Before the shutdown, DDT’s approval rating had dropped to 39 percent, the lowest since he was inaugurated. It’s not likely that these events will bolster the figures.

 

December 26, 2018

Government Shutdown, North Carolina Election Fraud

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 8:18 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Day Five of Government Shutdown:  Adam Taylor points out three ways that the closure of over half the federal government by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) affects the entire world:

People: Those employed at U.S. embassies are required to work without paychecks in any shutdown, but they may not be paid at the end of the debacle, especially non-U.S. citizens contracted to work for the U.S. government.

Procedure: The State Department claims that it will issue passports and visas throughout the shutdown, but other services may not be provided. The Department told U.S. citizens to follow the embassy Twitter account in Jakarta after Indonesia’s tsunami that killed at least 429 people but the embassy tweeted that the shutdown has stopped regular tweets. The U.S. Geological Survey could also not provide data on the tsunami. A shutdown stops no new funding commitments or obligations except to protect life and property; further restrictions may be implemented.

Prestige: Most other political systems don’t leave hundreds of thousands of government workers without pay because of a political dispute. Of the 22 federal government shutdowns in the past 40 years, three have been in just the past year.

The shutdown caused lights to be turned off the National Christmas Tree near the White House because of no repairs after a man climbed the tree before the shutdown. A National Park Foundation grant got the lights back on by Christmas Eve. Roads at national parks are not plowed, and no one services trash and toilets. A holiday organ concert was not held in Mount Vernon (NY) because St. Paul’s Church is a national historic site operated by the National Park Service. Tickets to Alcatraz Cruises were refunded, and bald eagles were safe from voyeurs on the Skagit River in Washington state when observation of their migration was closed. The sled dog puppy webcam from Denali National Park (Alaska) was one of several shut down. The panda site at the National Zoo in Washington was supposedly operating, but not when I tried to connect. You can get the one in China.

The shutdown is all about DDT’s desire for a “wall.” [Orange lines above are fences already in place.] In his desperation to please his base, he tweeted:

“I am in the Oval Office & just gave out a 115 mile long contract for another large section of the Wall in Texas.”

He added on Christmas Day that he got a “great price.” Those statements contain a few lies:

  • A president cannot give out a contract; only  U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may award contracts for border wall construction after Congress approves funding.
  • Congress approved funding for 33 miles in the Rio Grande Valley last March, and CBP announced in November that the construction would begin in February 2019.
  • The approved funding last March for 84 miles, including the 33 miles in Texas, may cost about $22 million per mile with a contract costing $313 million for 14 of those miles.

The 33 miles include the nonprofit National Butterfly Center, a state park, and privately owned ranches and farmland. Another $5 billion that DDT demands in exchange for closing the shutdown could build 215 miles, including 159 miles in Texas. The U.S. already has 653 miles of border fence, funded in 2006, at a cost of $2.3 per mile in 2015, ten percent of the projected cost in 2019, because the fence, on easier terrain, also had a less complicated design. More detailed information about the wall.

The Senate has one week to pass funding for the wall before the GOP-dominated House disappears for the next two years. The session begins tomorrow at 4:00 pm. DDT has dropped his $5 billion demand to $2.1 billion plus $400 million as DDT’s “slush fund” for his other immigration priorities and more money to secure the border with no requirement, but Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is sticking at $1.3 billion. Even with a miracle, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) would be forced to drag the representatives back to Washington at the end of the week to vote on a Senate bill, and the approximately 70 Republicans who won’t be returning to the House next year, almost one-third of the GOP members, may be reluctant go to that effort.

When the 116th Congress takes effect on January 3, 2019, a representative from North Carolina’s 9th District won’t be present. After DDT’s two-year obsession with “voter fraud,” even the claim that all of Hillary Clinton’s popularity majority of three million people came from “illegal aliens,” the problem of election fraud is front and center in at least two North Carolina counties  The media exposed the practice of Republicans paid to collect absentee ballots and either change or destroy them to favor GOP U.S. House candidate Mark Harris, a Southern Baptist minister for over three decades. In the past eight weeks, the news about GOP illegal behavior has spread although Republicans waited almost a month to express concern about the election fraud.

Harris’ campaign owes over $34,000 to Red Dome Group for its contract with Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. who illegally collected absentee ballots, an action that put Harris ahead in the race for U.S. House by 905 votes. Voters have testified that they gave their signed ballots to someone who came to their houses and asked for them, ballots which were never counted. Others did not fill out the signed ballot before they gave it to the person who asked for them.   Harris deliberately directed the hiring of Dowless because of the operative’s shady tactics.

In 2016, Dowless paid $225 to two ballot harvesters for each ballot, half for completed ballot request forms and the other half for the ballots themselves. He provided a “sample ballot” to show which candidates should be selected and coached them on what to say if they were caught harvesting ballots. Ten days after DDT’s inauguration, N.C. Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach warned his administration about the illegal absentee ballot activities in Bladen County and urgently requested criminal charges against Dowless. In February 2017, state investigators had the first of several in-person meetings providing FBI agents and federal prosecutors with evidence about criminal activity by Dowless and others. By then, DDT had fired DOJ’s deputy AG Sally Yates, who was acting as AG, and DDT’s AG replacement took no action. Instead he told his staff to prosecute a few non-citizens who had allegedly voted among over 6.9 million citizens. Several of those prosecutions were against longtime legal permanent residents; four of those prosecuted pleaded guilty with the only sentence, a $200 fine, against an Italian man who legally lived in the U.S. since 1985.

Earlier this year, Harris’ opponent in the primary warned the state and national GOP officials about possible fraud after 96 percent of absentee ballots were marked in favor of Harris. The North Carolina elections board issued subpoenas to the Harris campaign and Red Dome Group, and the Wake County district attorney’s office in Raleigh, the State Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, and federal prosecutors are examining voting irregularities in the 9th District.

Harris’ illegal actions were compounded by the Bladen County board illegally counting early votes three days before Election Day and possibly sharing the result with the candidate. In 2016, Dowless said that Bladen County Elections Director Cynthia Shaw knew his staffers illegally put their initials in the corner of ballots they returned. Shaw retired last month before her scheduled January 1 retirement. Dowless also admitted that he took cash from the campaign to pay his workers to elect Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVickers at the request of former GOP Chairman Landon Bordeaux. Several hundred absentee ballots “were physically seen and confirmed as votes for sheriff McVicker by Mr. Dowless.”

The state GOP sticks with Harris, who has said he was “absolutely unaware of any wrongdoing.” By December 17 the state GOP and Harris’ GOP officials demanded that Harris be certified as the winner and seated in the House. https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/roy-cooper-to-veto-bill-with-race-redo-unless-sections-removed    On December 18, the North Carolina GOP legislature passed a bill to have a new primary and general election for Harris’ district that includes cover for lobbyists and those who violate campaign finance law. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the legislation because of the latter provisions.

The state Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement rescheduled its hearing about absentee ballot fraud for January 11, 2019 because investigators are looking into activities in both Bladen and Robeson counties. One option is to hold a general election for the race with Harris, the GOP nominee, unless he dies or moves out of state. Another is to begin the process with a primary. If no candidate were to win more than 30 percent of the vote, a second primary would be required to select a candidate with a plurality. That would be followed by the general election. need to be triggered to determine the nominee.

North Carolina is also the state where the modern power-stripping trend began. In 2016, Republican legislators passed a law to hamstring the governor’s office after a Democrat won that seat.

Now the state is using election fraud to push for more voter suppression.

 

September 17, 2018

Court Rulings Mostly Right Wrongs

Election Day is only 50 days away, and the GOP continues its attempts at voter suppression. In an honest move that may cause them to lose the 2018 North Carolina election, progressive groups Common Cause and the League of Women Voters that won the redrawing of gerrymandered districts said that there was not enough time to complete the task in the next two months. The contortions of district lines caused the state to have 10 of 13 seats in the U.S. House with only 53 percent of the vote.

The majority in a panel of three judges from the 9th Circuit, two appointed by George W. Bush, upheld Arizona laws that prevent anyone except a family member, caretaker, or postal worker from turning ballots into elections officials and blocked out-of-precinct voting. The decision is especially onerous for Native Americans who are many miles from both voting precincts and post offices. As usual, the fake reason for the law is to avoid voter fraud, but the rationale comes from white entitlement and lack of understanding about other cultures and living conditions. The decision will be appealed to the full court but stays in effect for the upcoming election.

A Missouri judge made Republicans happy when he removed a redistricting measure for this fall’s ballot.

Yet not all bodes well for Republicans in court decisions.

Federal prosecutors have postponed their demand that North Carolina state and local elections officials give them well over 20 million ballots, poll books, and voter authorization forms going back almost nine years by September 25. Subpoenas also required photo images of voters, and subpoenas to the state DMV required DMV voter registration documents and those completed in a language other than English from both citizens and people not born in the U.S. Almost 2.3 million absentee ballots could be traced back to individual voters which caused privacy concerns. The subpoenas for these records cited ICE and a grand jury in Wilmington as the source for the demand after U.S. Attorney Bobby Higdon announced charges against 19 non-U.S. citizens for illegal voting. A state audit counted 41 non-U.S. citizens acknowledged voting out of 4.8 million ballots. Higdon hopes to get the documents in January 2019.

A court in North Carolina also ruled in favor of expanding Gov. Roy Cooper’s authority to make certain appointments, ruling that the legislators had overstepped their authority and violated the separation of powers’ requirement. When Cooper was elected, the GOP legislature immediately passed several laws to restrict his abilities compared to that of his GOP predecessor.

For the second time in four years, federal judges struck down the GOP Virginia General Assembly boundaries of 11 electoral districts that pack minorities together so that white candidates in adjacent districts can win elections. Little progress has been made before the October 30 deadline. With the GOP failure to more forward, the governor has asked the GOP speaker of the state house to turn the project over to the courts. The districts will be used for state elections in 2019.

A Virginia judge also removed an independent candidate from the ballot in the 2nd District congressional race because of “forgery” and “out and out fraud” on her petition. Staffers working for the GOP candidate had collected many of the signatures to get her onto the ballot to split the progressive vote and ensure a win for their boss. Of the 377 signatures that five of them put on petitions, at least 146 were false, some of them for people who had died.

Florida Republicans thought they could keep Puerto Ricans who had fled their island after Hurricane Maria from voting if they refused them Spanish-language ballots. A district judge disagreed and ruled that 32 counties across the state had violated the Voting Rights Act. He ordered them to provide bilingual voting materials, including ballots and poll worker support, for Spanish-speaking Puerto Rican voters. According to his ruling:

“Puerto Ricans are American citizens. Unique among Americans, they are not educated primarily in English — and do not need to be. But, like all American citizens, they possess the fundamental right to vote.”

The enactment is on an expedited basis to give Florida officials “ample” time to appeal if “they seek to block their fellow citizens, many of whom fled after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, from casting meaningful ballots,” according to the judge. “It is remarkable that it takes a coalition of voting rights organizations and individuals to sue in federal court to seek minimal compliance with the plain language of a venerable 53-year-old law,” he added.

A federal appeals court has ruled that the so-called “charity” Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Foundation, linked to billionaire Charles Koch, must disclose its donors to California officials. The three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court reversed a lower court ruling from last year.

A grand jury will be convened to investigate whether Republican gubernatorial candidate and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach intentionally failed to register voters in 2016.

The court woes of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continue. He tried to get out of going to court over paying hush-money for a nondisclosure agreement with Stormy Daniels so that he and former attorney Michael Cohen don’t have to give dispositions. By not contesting the suit, DDT thinks that he has escaped, but Daniels still has a defamation suit against DDT.

The fate of DDT’s IRS returns is still in court, this time the Washington, D.C. Circuit. EPIC’s Freedom of Information Act case is arguing that IRS must release his returns to correct misstatements of fact about his financial ties to Russia in his tweets. At least two-thirds of people want DDT to release the returns. The 98-page financial disclosure that DDT is forced to make public shows that his biggest windfalls come from his property that he frequently visits. For example, he made $37 million from Mar-a-Lago, up from $15 million in 2015, and $20 from his nearby golf club.

A federal judge refused to stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, ruling that Texas and six other conservative states couldn’t prove irreparable harm from the program. He also stated that he believed the program is unconstitutional, but the time has passed to rescind it.

Cities can’t prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go because it amounts to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, according to a 9th Circuit Court ruling in Boise (ID). Six homeless people sued the city in 2009. The judge also wrote:

“A city cannot, via the threat of prosecution, coerce an individual to attend religion-based treatment programs consistently with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

A federal judge in Boston ruled that ICE should not remove undocumented people in the process of applying for green cards even if they have final orders of removal. The ruling may not require a penalty from the government or apply outside the New England area. Five couples are suing DHS, ICE, DDT, and law enforcement because spouses were detained by ICE when they went for marriage interviews with U.S.-citizen spouses, a requirement for the application process to prove they have legitimate marriages. Emails show coordination between ICE and Citizenship and Immigration Services to coordinate interviews and arrests. The suit began with a woman who was brought from Guatemala when she was three years old and married U.S. citizen Luis Gordillo. They have two children.

A Canadian court unanimously overturned Ottawa’s approval of a pipeline project because the government failed to consider concerns of some First Nations and did not consider the impact of increased tanker traffic. The pipeline, almost 700 miles long, would take bitumen from Alberta to the western ports to ship to Asia. The ship traffic has already had a devastating affect on southern resident orcas which are almost extinct.

Parents of a Sandy Hook victim may continue its defamation lawsuit against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones after his repeated lies that the 2012 massacre killing 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school was a “fraud.” Six other Sandy Hook families also filed a defamation lawsuit against Jones in May. Jones’ Infowars is also facing a lawsuit for misidentifying a person as the shooter at the Parkland (FL) school who killed 17 people and another defamation suit from the person who recorded the vehicular murder of Heather Heyer at the Charlottesville (VA) rally last year. Jones’ law firm is also representing the co-founder of the neo-Nazi, white supremacist website The Stormer.

An arbitrator has denied the NFL request to throw out Colin Kaepernick’s grievance that owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his protests for social injustice. The ruling shows that Kaepernick has sufficient evidence of collusion for a lawsuit. Eric Reid’s grievance for joining the protests is still pending. The NFL had to put on hold its policy that would require players to stand if they are on the sideline during the national anthem because of problems that it classified protests as conduct detrimental to the team.

August 30, 2018

Lawsuits Proliferate As Progressives Win

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 8:58 PM
Tags: , , ,

Lawsuits about the orders of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continue to pile up, and decisions continue to go against him and his conservative views.

In a union victory against DDT’s attempts to weaken organized labor, a judge struck down most of three executive orders to enable government agencies to easily fire workers and restrict union negotiation with managers. The decision stated that DDT violated congressional opinion that good-faith union negotiations are vital to the public interest:

“It is undisputed that no [executive] orders can operate to eviscerate the right to bargain collectively as envisioned in the [statute].”

DDT’s failed orders would have reduced improvement of work performance from four to three months before employees are fired, created greater difficulty in appealing performance evaluations, blocked negotiations on important workplace issues could not be negotiated, and greatly reduced time for union business during work hours. One remaining provision allows agency changes to a union agreement for bargaining in bad faith.

A federal judge ruled against DDT and the NRA in favor of AGs from 19 states and Washington, D.C. to stop the posting of 3-D printed guns online until the lawsuit is settled. The DOJ had stated that posting the directions was a national security problem until last April when it reversed that conclusion.

The judge who ordered the DOJ to “turn that plane around” has demanded the government not to deport a pregnant Honduran woman seeking asylum after she fled her home country because her partner “beat her, raped her, and threatened to kill her and their unborn child.”

A Maryland KKK leader, 53-year-old Richard Preston, was sentenced to four years in prison for firing a gun at a black counterprotester within 1,000 feet of school property during last year’s deadly white supremacy rally in Charlottesville (VA). Most of the racist protesters at the rallies who haven’t been given prison time lost their jobs, Patreon has blocked Robert Spencer from its platform, and white supremacist Richard Spencer can’t find a lawyer for a federal lawsuit about his role in the rally.

In North Carolina, the Supreme Court permitted two constitutional amendments to be on the ballot after a panel had blocked them.  Voters are being asked to change the way that state boards and commission members are appointed and the way that judges are picked to fill vacant spots. GOP legislators initiated these amendments to remove power of appointments from the governor after the state elected a Democratic governor, Roy Cooper. All five living governors from both political parties objected to the amendments and supported Cooper’s position. GOP legislators’ rewrite of the amendments still lacks clarity, according to Democrats, and Cooper will appeal because the court did not rule on the merits of the case.

In a loss for GOP legislators, a panel of three federal judges from the 4th Circuit Court ruled that North Carolina’s congressional districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans over Democrats and mandated new districts before the November elections although primaries have already resulted in the selection of candidates. Courts have already determined that the districts violate constitutional standards. North Carolina legislators plan to ask the Supreme Court for help which could result in a 4-4 split leaving the decision with the lower court. The Supreme Court had told the three-judge panel to review their decision after the high court’s decision in the Wisconsin partisan gerrymandering case stopped because the plaintiffs lacked standing. The Supreme Court addressed gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland but avoided any decision of their merits. The 4th Circuit Court panel suggested appointing a special master to draw new districts, ignore party primaries for the general election, or making the November elections a primary with a general election before January when the 116th Congress convenes.

A federal judge dismissed a suit from conservatives accusing Dallas County (TX) commissions of discrimination against white voters. He said the reverse was true, that the white voters’ “voting power has been strengthened, rather than diluted, by the concentration of Anglos in [Precinct 2].” Three of the five county commissioners are white, but only one is a Republican. A strategist pointed out that redrawing the map might cause the board to have only Democrats.

A judge ruled that Nick Lyon, Michigan’s state health director, will stand trial for involuntary manslaughter over two deaths linked to Flint’s water crisis because he failed to notify the public about Legionnaires’ disease in Flint that killed 12 people and sickened another 90 in 2014 and 2015.

Smithfield Foods, the biggest pork producer in the world, was hit with a $473.5 million judgment to neighbors of three hog farms in North Carolina. Another 500 neighbors are awaiting litigation because North Carolina lawmakers are trying to protect Smithfield. This description shows an unhealthy and stinking environment around the farms and the maltreatment of the pigs. Unlike North Carolina, Missouri forced Smithfield to reduce the odor.

Approximately 600 LGBTQ inmates at San Bernardino County Jail (CA) have been awarded up to $1 million for being forced into the jail’s “Alternative Lifestyle Isolation Tank,” pending approval by the U.S. District Court in Riverside. They were locked in the “Tank” for up to 23 hours a day with no access to specialized programming, social interaction, or other outside activities, denied equal access to opportunities that other prisoners were provided in job training, educational, drug rehabilitation, religious, and community re-entry programs. Openly gay Dan McKibben, former sheriff’s deputy who died in 2016, initiated the lawsuit in 2014.

In Illinois, Marsha Wetzel won a landmark court victory after suing her retirement home that failed to protect her from harassment because she is a lesbian. The 7th Circuit Court disagreed with a lower ruling that claimed a landlord cannot be held responsible for other residents’ behavior. Instead, the court determined that the Fair Housing Act bars landlords from “purposefully failing to protect” a tenant from “harassment, discrimination and violence” and sent the case back to the lower court.

Pending suits:

Seven states—Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia—suing to end the DACA program have been joined by Kansas, Maine, and Mississippi. Their unsubstantiated excuses of additional costs for education, health, and law enforcement ignore losses from losing DACA recipients who contribute to the economy through employment (89 percent), business entrepreneurs (6 percent, car purchases (62 percent), and home purchases (14 percent). The loss of 144,000 DACA recipients in these ten states can remove $7.4 billion in their annual GDP, 82 percent of it in Texas. The ten states would also annually lose $311 million in tax revenue, $245 million in just Texas. A win for these ten states against DACA could cause the same losses for the other 40 states that would lose $35 billion in annual GDP.

People for the American Way (PFAW) is suing to get information about the Bible study sessions for Cabinet members in the capitol after being refused any materials for nine months. Conservative pastor Ralph Drollinger has influenced U.S. members of Congress and brags about his influence with Cabinet members, describing Capitol Ministries as a “factory” to produce politicians like Michele Bachmann who “sees the world through a scriptural lens.”

Sixteen states are asking the Supreme Court for permission to legally fire people for being transgender. The 6th Circuit Court had ruled against the firing of Aimee Stephens for transition while at her job with a Michigan funeral home. The mis-named Alliance Defending Freedom maintains that the word “sex” means only biological sex and cannot be used for gender identity. The states in the suit include Nebraska, Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming as well as Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R), Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R). Kentucky AG Andy Beshear (D), who refused to sign the brief on behalf of the state, called Bevin’s decision to sign on “surprising” given that Kentucky state employees do enjoy protections against anti-LGBTQ discrimination, thanks to an executive order that Bevin has not rescinded.

Approximately 8,000 U.S. lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto, recently purchased by the German drugmaker Bayer, regarding the possible cancer risks of glyphosate-based weedkillers. The most recent settlement against Monsanto was $289 million.

Released from Central California Women’s Facility after a 15-year term, Stacy Rojas filed a lawsuit against the sexual abuse that she and other inmates suffer in the prison. Rojas reported that guards stamped on one woman’s breast, cut the clothing off another, left women in isolation cells so long that they had to soil themselves, and harassed them with graphic sexual insults and suggestions. In addition to seeking damages, Rojas wants a whistleblowing process externally managed to hold guards and other staff accountable for mistreatment and excessive force as well as accessing adequate medical care, food, and clothing.

Across the country, people are suing public schools to get a quality education for their children.

  • Racial integration: a father in Minnesota is fighting for children to attend racially integrated schools because segregated schools lower test scores and graduation rates for low-income and nonwhite children.
  • Funding: parents are turning to state courts for sufficient school funding because a 1973 Supreme Court decision ruled that unequal school funding does not violate the U.S. Constitution. A New Mexico judge mandated a new funding system for schools because of underfunded schools, especially those that serve large numbers of Native American, Hispanic, and low-income students. Kansas ruled that underfunding schools is unconstitutional, and Pennsylvania and Florida courts agreed to hear similar cases.
  • Literacy: last year a federal judge in Michigan ruled that “access to literacy” is not a fundamental federal right for Detroit students, but most state constitutions guarantee the right to an adequate education.

AG Jeff Sessions expressed his discontent with federal judges to an audience of judicial system officials in Iowa, especially their rulings against DDT’s Muslim ban and for so-called “sanctuary cities” because the decisions brought media criticism of DDT. Yet DDT abuses Sessions every day.

May 14, 2016

How Far Will the GOP Go?

Republicans are going crazy after “the people” spoke and chose a candidate that they—and the majority of people in the United States—consider unsuitable. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) met with other GOP legislators and presumptive GOP heir Donald Trump to lay down the law. Trump appeared to back down on all the backing down that he had done during the past week, and Ryan, who foolishly believes that he can control a loose cannon, found him “warm and generous”—although not enough to endorse him. Other Republicans are going off on their own crazy ways.

Ryan’s governor, Scott Walker, blames the state’s deferment of $101 million in debt on President Obama, costing taxpayers at least $2.3 million in just interest plus tens of millions more. Wisconsin has the money, but Walker put it into the general fund for any shortfalls. The president’s economy has added jobs every month for six years, but Walker’s failed policies badly hurt Wisconsin. Yet Walker’s rainy day fund has $280 million thanks to the president’s gains in the stock and job market. His reason for looking poor is to make future budget cuts to use the Koch brothers’ “starve the beast” government strategy.

Some of the GOP craziness is ongoing. The Platform Committee of the Texas GOP is voting next Wednesday on an “independence” resolution. Then Gov. Rick Perry hinted that Texas might separate itself from the “United States,” but this vote will be the first action in its 171-year history about a decision to make the “state” an independent nation. With ten county chapters supporting the resolution, the Texas Nationalist Movement seems to be moving toward the political main stream from a fringe group.

In the GOP’s effort to “Benghazi” Hillary Clinton, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is working with Fox host Adam Housley to find the fake witnesses swearing that military assets could have saved the lives of four people at the diplomatic compound almost four years ago. Fox has no evidence, but Gowdy wants these non-existent people for his committee. Housley is known for finding Dylan Davies who claimed that he scaled the wall on the night of the attack and engaged combat with the terrorists—before Davies admitted he lied.

Randy BarnettRandy Barnett is blaming John Robert for Donald Trump’s popularity because of Robert’s vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act. He claims:

“Roberts increased cynicism and anger at play-by-the-rules conservatives and decreased respect for institutions across the board.”

Barnett’s article in highly conservative The Federalist is based on the premises that John Roberts knows that the health care law violates the constitution but he pretends that it doesn’t because of his belief that courts should not overturn law passed by majorities. The argument overlooks Roberts’ deciding votes that gutted the Voting Rights Act, campaign finance law, and gun control legislation—and other decisions. Somehow, however, Barnett has convinced himself that the Trump supporters vote for the businessman because of a judicial review. This man who teaches lawyers at Georgetown University has even crazier ideas—so far right that the John Birch society doesn’t agree with them.

A recent GOP fit (they have so many!) comes from a report claiming that Facebook suppresses conservative articles in its Trending Topics feed. There is no support for the allegations from former Facebook workers, and Republicans have never expressed any concern that “fair and unbalanced” Fox is anything but. The RN accuses Facebook of “censoring” the right and using its power “to silence view points and stories that don’t fit someone else’s agenda.” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has declared that he “wants to haul Facebook employees before Congress.” He wrote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with the demand that Trending Topics employees brief the Commerce Committee by May 24.

Despite all the vacation days and the health crisis of the Zika virus moving through the southern states, GOP finds that “Facebook hearings are a matter of urgent national interest.” Even if someone could find support for allegations, the question begs congressional oversight for a private social-media company. Thune now worries about Facebook’s integrity whereas his opposition to net neutrality declaimed that any political interference in Internet operation is unacceptable. In 2007, during a fight against the “Fairness Doctrine,” Thune argued:

“I know the hair stands up on the back of my neck when I hear government officials offering to regulate the news media and talk radio to ensure fairness. I think most Americans have the same reaction. Giving power to a few to regulate fairness in the media is a recipe for disaster on the scale that George Orwell so aptly envisioned.”

In avoiding a consideration of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Republican congressional members decided that the last elected year of the president’s four terms is a “lame-duck session,” but they are considering a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the real “lame-duck session” between the general election and the changing of the guard at the end of December. Only three trade-related bills have been voted on in a lame duck: 1974, 1994, and 2006.

TPP is a really bad idea: extending drug company monopolies over their products, undermining environmental and labor regulations, allowing corporations to send more jobs oversea, voiding U.S. consumer laws with unelected international tribunals, etc.  Republican legislators who lose in November can vote for the TPP before they leave Congress and then take jobs for giant corporations grateful for their vote.

Publicity about the North Carolina “bathroom law” keeping trans people out of the appropriate facilities just hasn’t stopped. The Department of Justice has ordered the state to rescind the law to keep its federal funding, and North Carolina is suing the DOJ for its order. At the same time, all 10 GOP House members gave the Department of Education until yesterday to promise—provide the state with “immediate assurances”—that the North Carolina won’t suffer monetary penalty for violating federal civil rights. GOP state leaders, who complain about being “bullied” by the federal government are telling lobbyists that their employing corporations that they can expect retribution for speaking out against HB2, the potty law.

Gov. Pat McCrory wants to overturn the Civil Right Act of 1964 to make segregation legal again so that the state can “make special circumstances for those individuals [transgender students].” He also claimed that the “far left … brought this [agenda] up.”

Middle Age RiotThe latest lawsuit against the federal government, filed by “North Carolinians for Privacy,” is identical to a suit in Illinois from the Alliance Defending Freedom. It begins with the falsehood that DOE’s guidance “forbids educational institutions from maintaining sex-specific restrooms and locker rooms” and moves on to the argument that gender identity is not a component of sex. The lawsuit’s main claim is that the DOJ “unmistakable ultimatum” to either prohibit sex-specific restrooms or lose federal funding endangers all the students’ access to education. Another premise in the lawsuit is accusing the DOJ of violating the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) because the agency discriminates on the basis of gender identity against non-transgender people because it allows “some, but not all, biological males the right of entry and use of female restrooms and locker rooms.” The suit claims that North Carolina’s HB2 “treats all persons the same, regardless of their gender identity.”

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has dived into the bathroom controversy by describing it as the “biggest issue facing families and schools in America since prayer was taken out of public schools.” About potentially losing $5 billion of federal funding for Texas education, he added, “Well, in Texas, he can keep his 30 pieces of silver.” The analogy indicates that either he or Texas—or both—should be compared to Jesus who was betrayed by Judas for “30 pieces of silver.” Answering Patrick’s comments, including the one about no longer giving poor students free lunches, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “I think this does underscore the risk of electing a right-wing radio host to elected statewide office. No one should be discriminated against because of who they are.” Texas cut school funding 25 percent in the ten years following 2002 and ranks 38th in the nation in per K-12 student funding.

The U.S. disdain for the Republican party is at its highest level since 1992; 62 percent look at it unfavorably whereas only 33 percent view it with favor. The positive perception fell four points in the past six months. Only 68 percent of self-identified Republicans approve of their party, an 11-point drop from October. Independents prefer the Democrats to Republicans, 37 to 28 percent. The majorities of minorities oppose the GOP: women, 62 percent; blacks, 79 percent; and Hispanics, 61 percent. Among whites, 37 percent view both parties favorably while 59 percent have an unfavorable view of Democrats and 58 percent—only one percent less—have the same view of Republicans.

Update: Wisconsin’s debt deferment was erroneously listed as $101. It is $101 million.

 

April 29, 2016

Thanks to the Bathroom Police, No One Is Safe

Thank you, religious conservatives. You have now given police the right to drag women out of a woman’s bathroom. Here’s a video showing this happening. Oxford (AL) has passed a law allowing transgender people who use the “wrong” bathroom—in the city’s eyes—to be jailed. That was after North Carolina passed draconian laws, including the one keeping transgender people out of facilities that match their gender identities, and then got it signed in less than 12 hours in a special session. That may be fastest that legislators have ever moved.

When North Carolina lawmakers came back into session last Monday, police arrested 54 protesters. People should use the ballot box for their protests, common wisdom has sometimes decreed, but that’s close to impossible in North Carolina because the GOP passed laws to keep progressives from voting. Judge Thomas Schroeder supported the conservatives, eviscerating voting rights for the state’s residents. In his ruling, George W. Bush’s appointee found “little official discrimination to consider” and left in place one of the most regressive and restrictive voting laws in the country that disenfranchised 218,000 North Carolinians, about five percent of registered voters, in the recent primary.

Voter ID laws were enforced differently across the state, polling workers were untrained or overworked, and some voters weren’t allowed to cast provisional ballots. In Durham, the county board of elections had failed to record the correct location of precincts.    Schroeder’s ruling will certainly be appealed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, but a solution may be too late for the 2016 general election. Another problem for overturning the North Carolina bathroom law is the GOP gerrymandering of election districts after the Tea Party took over in the Democratic rout of 2010.

The new law eliminates a Charlotte ordinance that expanded protections for LGBT people, but it goes far beyond just “bathrooms.” No city or county can extend state laws in eradicating discrimination in the workplace and public accommodations. In addition, the minimum wage of $7.25, required by the federal government, cannot be increased anywhere in the state.

North Carolina lawmakers filed legislation Monday to repeal the state’s law, which, since its passage last month, but GOP legislators, in the majority, oppose this attempt. Lawsuits such as the ones filed by the ACLU and Lambda Legal may have a better result as might written requests for the law’s repeal. Thus far, 180 businesses have joined to pressure Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature, and a coalition of civil rights, faith and business leaders delivered more than 150,000 signatures to the governor’s office, urging a repeal of the law.

The danger of going to North Carolina and Mississippi which has passed a similar anti-LGBT law under the guise of “religious liberty” has traveled far and wide. The British Foreign Office has updated its travel advisories to caution LGBT travelers about travel in these two states because businesses may refuse service to anyone based on personal beliefs. Small businesses in North Carolina have already started losing business. Outfitter Bicycle Tours reports that inquiries about Asheville area bicycle tours are down by one third. The owner has changed his advertising on social media to tours in California, France, and Italy.

Four conferences in Raleigh which would have brought in $3.5 million have been canceled or scaled back. Cancellation of these conventions and concerts, started by Bruce Springsteen, hurt restaurants, hotels, and small businesses. Twelve groups have canceled events in Wake County, and another 31 are reconsidering their plans, costing the area $36 million. The travel industry brings the state about $21 billion each year.

Recruiting employees is now another problem for North Carolina companies. A big industry in the state is craft beer brewing, but owners fear that people experienced in beer making will be more attracted to California and Colorado after the new law was passed.

The economy several years ago boosted North Carolina, the first Southern state to invest heavily in public and secondary education. By the election of the Tea Party in 2010 and McCrory in 2012, the legislature had raised its Moody’s rating to a triple-A bond because it balanced the state’s books and filled up the rainy day fund. The new GOP regime wiped out services for the poor, hacking away at unemployment benefits and reducing per-pupil-spending by $500 while refusing to expand Medicaid.

toilet paperIn a move reminiscent of the “Flush Rush [Limbaugh]” boycott five years ago, a North Carolina-based advertising agency wants to send the new law down the toilet. Durham-based agency McKinney explained that they are making this action “safer for city plumbing” by printing the law “on rolls of toilet paper.”

After one month of the law, $500 million in corporate investment and tourism dollars are at risk, and as many as 1,000 high-paying jobs, including 400 from a PayPal expansion, have been lost. The National Basketball Association announced that the 2017 All-Star Game won’t be played in Charlotte unless the law is overturned. Google refuses more venture capital in the state, movie-making will be moved out of the state, and the furniture market, an economic cornerstone, will lose thousands of buyers.

Tracking these laws shows that influence from a well-funded network of lawyers called Alliance Defending Freedom is coordinating the cross-country discrimination. Based in Arizona, the group has more than 3,000 allied attorneys and offices around the world headed by Alan Sears, a former Justice Department official under President Ronald Reagan. ADF claims involvement in 47 Supreme Court victories, including the Boy Scouts win in banning LGBT people as troop leaders. It describes gay sex as “a distinct public health problem” and defended business owners who deny services to same-gender couples.

Over a year ago, ADF sent letters to school districts recommending a policy that requires transgender students to use private bathrooms or those that correspond with their birth sex. Many lawmakers mirror or copy ADF’s draft in their own bills. North Carolina is one of those states. So are Nevada and Minnesota. Kansas state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook said that they used the ADF model legislation. ADF also offers free legal representation to any district sued for blocking trans students from bathrooms of their choice. The group also sent letters to school administrators in five states, pushing them to overturn policies that would permit trans students to use facilities corresponding with their gender identities.

ADF’s website states that the group “refrains from participating in or promoting any type of legislation” and “does not lobby government officials.” Yet its lawyers have offered testimony and legal analysis to state legislatures in Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Colorado in favor of restrictive bathroom bills and against legislation that protect gay and transgender people from discrimination. Perhaps not coincidentally, one of the first states to seriously consider a bathroom bill, back in 2013, was Arizona—where the ADF is headquartered.

A counter-backlash has evolved from individuals and organizations supporting the rights of transgender people. The Gill Foundation recently funded a study examining methods of changing voters’ minds about transgender people through door-to-door canvassing. Freedom for All Americans’ Transgender Freedom Project focuses on building support for transgender people and nondiscrimination laws that protect them. Organizations are collecting stories of transgender people and holding training sessions to use for media campaigns and rallying at statehouses. The Arcus Foundation and the NoVo Foundation have begun a multi-year $20 million project to increase visibility as well as the quality of life for transgender people globally.

Kendall BalentineKendall Balentine, resolved to live her retirement quietly in Deadwood (SD), spoke out after her state legislature passed a bill forcing transgender students into bathrooms wrong for their gender identities. The former Marine and deputy sheriff decided she would put herself into harm once again to fight for people without a voice. She has joined a movement to expand minority civil rights protections to transgender people.

Balentine met with Gov. Dennis Daugaard and told him that she compensated for her feminine feelings as a child by becoming an “uber male.” After her disciplinarian, Vietnam-veteran dad told her that her feelings about being a girl were unwelcome and unnatural, she dated many women, immersed herself in athletics, and volunteered for the riskiest assignments in the military and law enforcement. Her “wall of lies” made her “want to die.” She moved with her wife Pam to an isolated property near Mt. Rushmore and decided to transition. Her wife stayed with her, and her father accepted her. One week after Balentine talked with Daugaard, he vetoed the bill to discriminate against transgender people.

Tomorrow: How the new hate laws endanger the health and lives of transgender people.

April 10, 2016

Bathroom Police Head to South Carolina

Imagine wanting to be picked for vice-president and finding yourself faced with a discriminatory hate law and businesses oppose? That’s Nikki Haley’s problem in South Carolina as the legislature heads to pass a “bathroom police” law.  A legislator introduced the bill on the pretense of “safety” despite the fact that no problems have existed in any of the places where transgender people can legally use the facilities of their gender identities instead of their birth genitals.

Has no one tried to figure out how to enforce the law? Will every public bathroom be forced to be staffed with a security guard who demands birth certificates and visual inspections of genitals before everyone is allowed to go into the restrooms? Would any violation cause a fine? Or jail time? Or both? Imagine the headlines: bathroom sting catches local resident in sting—perp gets six months for peeing.

Haley has good reason to be reluctant for the bill to pass. Massive corporate fallout has hit North Carolina after their hate legislation that hits almost everyone in the state, and the state is losing money and jobs.

Compare the beliefs of people who want these to laws with their feelings about sensible gun laws. In the latter, conservatives protest restriction of the rights of lawful citizens because potential criminals might use guns to break the laws. They also fight any gun control because laws don’t stop criminals. People with guns kill other people as well as themselves. Transgender people who use bathrooms don’t attack anyone else. In addition, the GOP is also virulently against regulations, yet they want to watch people in bathrooms.

lee-bright-x750GOP state Sen. Lee Bright’s bill is similar to that in North Carolina by banning all “units of local government” from enacting any “local laws, ordinances, orders, or other regulations that require a place of public accommodation or a private club or other establishment not in fact open to the general public to allow a person to use a multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility regardless of the person’s biological sex.”

As in North Carolina, the bill could stop federal funding to the state because its policies oppose the current interpretations of federal protections guaranteed to transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Unlike North Carolina’s new law, however, Bright’s bill doesn’t go into public accommodations, employment, and housing.

Bright has a history of anti-LGBT actions. One of his bills in 2014 would have allowed public employees to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples without any punishment. Last year he delivered an anti-LGBT rant during the debate over the state’s flying the Confederate battle flag and said the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling served to “sanctify deviant behavior” and that “the devil is taking control of this land and we’re not stopping him.”

bathroomcop

In a satiric column, Andy Borowitz wrote about a possible scene at the North Carolina state capitol in Raleigh where Gov. Pat McCrory swears in 1,000 officers to enforce the new bathroom laws. Borowitz wrote:

“Speaking to the newly graduated bathroom-enforcement cadets, McCrory impressed upon them the gravity of their responsibility. ‘You are the thin blue line charged with protecting the gender sanctity of North Carolina’s bathrooms,’ he said. ‘Be careful out there.'”

After reading Borowitz’s column, Samantha Michaels called North Carolina police departments to see how they plan to enforce the new law. Answers from both Raleigh and Greensboro police departments indicated that they would probably wait for complaints. At the Wilmington Police Department, spokeswoman Linda Rawley said, “So that means people have to go to the bathroom with birth certificates? Yeah, that was curious to me.” Asheville flat out said that lack the police power to check birth certificates. A prime question is whether police can demand birth certificates.

Cathryn Oakley, a senior legislative counsel for the HRC, said that the law, passed in less than ten hours, is “incredibly poorly drafted” and “not motivated by solving a real problem.” Instead, it’s only “a political statement.”

The new law is civil, not criminal, and doesn’t lay out any civil penalties for violations. Police departments don’t know if they can arrest a person who uses the “wrong bathroom.” The Chapel Hill and Carrboro news site Chapelboro pointed out that hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery allow many transgender women to look like biological women even if they don’t have female birth certificates.

CortneyBogorad400xHate bills and laws are leading to danger for anyone who does not fit a strict male or female stereotype. Almost a year ago, Cortney Bogorad, a woman who identifies as a woman, was thrown out a woman’s bathroom because the security guard marched into the bathroom yelling, “This is a woman’s bathroom, if you are a man, come out! Boys aren’t allowed in this restroom.” He pulled her out of a stall as she opened the door and pushed her up against the wall. Bogorad said that he was about three times bigger than she is. She and a friend kept telling him that she is a woman and offered to show him her identification. He refused to look at it and instead shouted inches from her face, “Get out of the women’s restroom!” Once outside the bathroom, she tried to show her ID to someone she identified as a restaurant manager, but he too wouldn’t look at it. The guard finished by picking her up by her shirt and bra, exposing her upper torso to other customers, and threw her out of the restaurant onto the street. Bogorad is now suing the restaurant chain Fishbone’s for physical injury.

The more laws, the more violent the right-wing has become. After the North Carolina and Mississippi laws, conservative are threatening transgender people by beating them into a “bloody pulp,” slitting their throats, etc. Gun laws in some states could allow violent people to legally shoot and kill transgender people if the conservatives felt “fear.”

Haley has said that her state doesn’t need Bright’s law, but what will she do if the legislature disagrees with her?

March 29, 2016

Cracks in LGBT Discrimination, SCOTUS Hearings

Two huge events in LGBT rights occurred in the past week—one for and one against. A week ago, North Carolina’s legislators, traumatized by Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance, went into a special session that cost taxpayers $42,000 in order to prevent any city or county from allowing LGBT people rights—especially using the bathrooms that match their gender identities. The justification for this legislation, deemed the “worst anti-LGBT bill in the country,” was that straight men would have the freedom to go into public restrooms and molest women. Shortly after the successful North Carolina legislation, Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a bill that would allow any government entity or private business to discriminate against LGBT people by declaring “religious belief.” The bill was similar to the one in Indiana last year that caused such an uproar that GOP Gov. Mike Pence most likely lost his hopes for a presidential candidacy after he signed the bill.

The uproar this time against Georgia and North Carolina came from the GOP darlings, big business. The Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United  and a later case from Montana  cemented the control of corporate control in both elections and political positions. Corporations know that bigotry keeps them from appealing to a broad customer base. The bigger the business, the more they rely on global acceptance, and the businesses that spoke out against the discriminatory bills are some of the biggest ones in the nation, especially in tech, entertainment, and sports industries. These include Google, Facebook, Paypal, Disney, Sony Pictures, CBS, Netflix, NFL, and NBA.

A great deal of discretionary spending comes from millennials who they are far more accepting than older people. Gen X is even more so. According to a recent study, less than 48 percent of U.S. youth ages 13 to 20 describe themselves as “exclusively heterosexual,” and over 70 percent of these young people “strongly agreed” that public spaces should be required to provide gender neutral bathrooms. About 18 states and 200 towns and cities have added specific LGBT non-discrimination protections.

After Indiana’s law was slightly narrowed, the state lost only about $60 million with its “religious freedom” act, but North Carolina are aggressively marketing themselves as good for business. The nine other states joining the “War on Bathroom Use” may look carefully at the differing success rates between two states who have taken opposite stances on human rights. Missouri is facing both a discrimination bill and rejection from many businesses, including Petco, with its passage.

North Carolina’s Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill in the same 12 hours in which it was introduced and passed in the legislature, but he faces opposition from the state AG Roy Cooper in this fall’s election. Cooper claims that McCrory’s action not only jeopardizes the state’s economy but also allows discrimination against protection of veterans and wages. The new law may revoke a fair housing ordinance in Greensboro and a policy governing municipal contracts in Raleigh.

North Carolina’s law has also frozen the minimum wage everywhere in the state to $7.25. Thus far, New York (both city and state), Washington State, San Francisco, and Portland (OR) have banned state travel by state workers to the state, and 20,000 retail and interior-design companies won’t attend the twice-annual High Point furniture market. The largest economic event in the state, this market generates over 600,000 visitor days to the state with an annual economic impact of $5.38 billion. The Market and the home furnishings industry provide 37,000 jobs in the state. The NFL may pull out the Super Bowl in 2019, an event that brought $800 million to Arizona’s economy last year. ESPN may look elsewhere for its summer X games, and the NBA may change its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.

payton_transgender_ncIf McCrory and his Republicans stick to their guns, they’ll lose a lot more than economic support from big business. States fighting marriage equality lost millions of dollars in lawsuits, and legal action against North Carolina has already started. The ACLU, Lambda Legal, and Equality North Carolina are suing the state, and AG Cooper said he won’t defend the state against the lawsuit. One plaintiff is Payton McGarry (right), a transgender student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is one of the people who McCrory wants to send into the public women’s bathroom.

ACLU lawyer Tara Borelli, said:

“[In 1996], Colorado enacted a law that said there could be no statewide protection whatsoever for lesbian, gay, bisexual people. The law was so clearly aimed at lesbians and gay people that the Supreme Court didn’t have any trouble striking it down as being clearly motivated by animus against them. This law goes further because it says there are no protections for transgender people. Even more than that, the law specifically requires discrimination against them in all schools and all public agencies.”

By violating Title IX in keeping transgender student out of bathrooms, North Carolina could also lose more than $4.5 billion in federal funding for schools.

McCrory is trying to justify the law with a series of false arguments:

 “We are not taking away any rights.” McCrory overturned the rights that Charlotte provided to its residents along with 11 other cities and five counties. The University of North Carolina system can no longer enforce its LGBT nondiscrimination policy on its 17 campuses.

No business has threatened to leave the state. News articles show how laughable this claim is.

“We have the same rights … that Houston, Texas has [after they overturned the Equal Rights Ordinance.]” North Carolina’s law goes much farther by mandating discrimination in all public arenas. Transgender people aren’t banned from accessing the appropriate restrooms in Houston’s public spaces, and other Texas cities and counties aren’t banned from providing protections.

Discrimination is just “common sense.” McCrory complains about too much “political correctness,” a frequent excuse currently used for conservative bad behavior.

Donald Trump came to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) home town of Janesville today; last night the city approved an ordinance to protect LGBT people from discrimination. The Speaker’s home now has broader protections than provided at the state and federal level. In Janesville, transgender people can use a public restroom based on the gender they identify with, rather than the gender on their birth certificate. Ryan has no comment.

Corporations have created the monster of discrimination that they now decry. The Bank of America’s PAC consistently donated large sums to campaigns for McCrory, state Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, state House Speaker Tim Moore, and the North Carolina GOP. The PAC’s treasurer is Wendy Jamison, BofA senior vice-president for public policy. North Carolina-based Lowe’s “opposes any measure in any state that would encourage or allow discrimination,” but its PAC treasurer, Lowe’s Assistant Treasurer Cindy Reins, donated heavily to the same politicians. Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, criticized the new state law, but its PAC, run by Managing Director for Government Affairs Edward Ingle, has donated to the same GOP campaigns. The American Airlines PAC gave to Berger and Moore.

 

The best news today! A case about public sector unions got a 4-4 vote in the Supreme Court, meaning that union members must still pay for the benefits that they receive because of the lower court ruling. Unions are required by law to bargain on behalf of all the workers, even if workers don’t join the union. One union benefit is the wage premium of almost 12 percent higher than in non-union shops. In California a wealthy organization trying to break unions found a teacher to challenge this law. A win against the unions would create a class of “takers” who would then starve the union by not paying fees for these benefits. Justice Antonin’s Scalia’s death caused the 4-4 split in the Supreme Court for Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association which kept the mandated fees.

Today’s tie retains a 40-year SCOTUS decision, impacting unions for millions of government workers. The plaintiffs stated that they would ask for another hearing because of the tie, but the justices may be reluctant to provide them with one especially if the number of court justices stays at eight for the next two or three years because of GOP obstructionism.

Today’s judgment may be the shortest ever delivered. It reads: “Per Curium. The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.”

Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) maintains his refusal to consider any President Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia, 16 Republican senators now say they will meet with Merrick Garland. That’s more than 25 percent of McConnell’s senators who are defecting.

June 14, 2015

Christian Unjustified Paranoia Leads to Discrimination

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) may be a Catholic, but he opposes his church’s leader in climate change. Santorum thinks that Pope Francis should stay quiet about this subject because the pope isn’t a scientist. Santorum said,”I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality,” he said. Francis has an advanced degree in chemistry—which makes him a scientist.

During his interview on the Fox network, host Chris Wallace asked Santorum:

“I guess the question would be, if he shouldn’t talk about it, should you?”

Santorum answered that “there are more pressing problems confronting the earth than climate change.”

Santorum has company in Bill Donohue, Catholic League president, Bill Donohue, who thinks that the pope’s authority lies only with faith and morals. Donohue wants Pope Francis not to talk about climate change because “no one has ever said that air pollution is intrinsically evil.”

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who proved to his personal satisfaction that climate change doesn’t exist because he threw a snowball on the Senate floor, is equally upset with Pope Francis. He said:

“Everyone is going to ride the pope now. Isn’t that wonderful,” he said. “The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours…. I am not going to talk about the pope. Let him run his shop, and we’ll run ours.”

A Presbyterian, Inhofe doesn’t need to follow the Pope’s precepts, but Santorum and Donohue should. And the pope is scheduled to speak to Congress in a little over three months.

The persecution complex of fundamentalist Christians ratcheted up when Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, a far-right mega-church leader in Texas, compared the treatment of Christians in the United States to Germany’s treatment of Jews before the Holocaust. “They marginalized the Jewish people, disparaged them, and make them objects of contempt.” Questioning from Fox’s Sean Hannity led Jeffress to add that Christians in the United States are “treated as objects of contempt by the media and once that happens then the taking away of further rights will be very easy.” Jeffress’ terror comes from LGBT rights in receiving businesses and services.

After Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order allowing refusal of services based on the provider’s religious beliefs, the “religious freedom” fans scored victories in other states. In Michigan, faith-based adoption groups can refuse to work with any couples that violate the groups’ religious beliefs. The bill was put on the state Senate’s agenda at the last minute with no notice, and the House immediately concurred. North Carolina now allows magistrates and registers of deed to recuse themselves from performing marriage duties that might violate their religious beliefs. The number of legislators required to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto was lowered because of absent legislators, some who had voted against the bill the first time. North Carolina’s bill has an interesting twist. Any North Carolina officials opting out in writing cannot perform marriage duties for the next six months, creating long delays for couples wanting to marry in rural areas. [My question is whether they still get paid.]

Although both Michigan’s and North Carolina’s laws are intended for same-sex couples, the legislation is so broad that anyone can be the brunt of discrimination. Almost 40 years ago, Carol Ann and Thomas Person, two legally blind North Carolinians, were denied a marriage license by two different magistrates because of their skin colors. This happened nine years after the Supreme Court had declared that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional. Person recently wrote, “The magistrate told us that marrying an interracial couple went against his religious beliefs.” The current law gives magistrates the right to discriminate against couples because of their race, religion, divorce status—in short, anyone.

At least one presidential candidate thinks that Christian discrimination is more important than LGBT rights. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson is positive that being LGBT is a choice and that LGBT people don’t suffer discrimination because they don’t have to drink out of different fountains from heterosexual people. He refused to discuss LGBT rights further, insisting that they talk about discrimination against Christians in the United States. T. Steelman wrote:

“When you have your Bibles confiscated, churches burned and gun-toting idiots protesting outside your sanctuary then you can talk about being persecuted. Nobody is stopping you from worshiping as you wish or burning you at the stake for heresy. Until they do, please just stop it.”

On his 700 Club program, Pat Robertson first explained that the death of a woman’s child was human error rather than the fault of God.  Then he explained to her that God killed the woman’s baby because he could grow up to be Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin or a serial killer. According to Robertson, God deliberately terminated the baby’s life to save the world.

The Duggar story keeps growing after the revelation that the oldest of 19 Kids and Counting molested at least four of his sisters, one of them five years old at the time, and another young girl several years ago. Two weeks ago, the parents refused to let DHS talk to a child in their care after a 911 call. The refusal led to a county DHS employee calling police for help. The information was revealed after Fox’s Megyn Kelly gave a cozy interview with the parents when patriarch Jim Bob Duggar said that child molestation is common in Christian families.

The Duggars had a compelling reason for not divulging Josh Duggar’s molestation of his younger sisters. While Jim Bob was in state legislature, Arkansas passed a law that the children could not have been homeschooled if Josh were forced to register as a sex offender. Jim Bob said that he knew Josh’s actions were crimes, but he didn’t trust government-sponsored programs to help Josh.

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee continued to support the Duggars after the truth came out. He told Megyn Kelly that “a person is innocent until proven guilty” although Kelly said, “But he confessed.” That didn’t matter to Huckabee, who joked that he wanted to be transgender as a teenager so that he could shower with high school girls.

Another of Huckabee’s friends has also been accused twice of child molestation. John Perry, the man who co-authored several of Huckabee’s books, escaped “sustained” allegations of “sexual battery” against children because the statute of limitations had expired. Perry was ex-communicated from the Presbyterian church because he “has confessed to committing heinous and repetitive sin […] and has not shown evidence of repentance.” Perry molested one of the girls for three years.

Have you read what the religious right has written about the alleged history of former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert molesting his high school students? No? There’s a reason. The conservative religious media is staying mum on the issue: to them, it’s not really news.

People who think that separation of church and state might delight in this exchange between Australian comedian and satirist David Thorne and the self-proclaimed “School Chaplain” at his son’s school. The email exchange is five years old but priceless.

“Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins,” according to Mayor Will Rogers’ sign in Hawkins (TX). Putting the sign on public land isn’t any violation of the constitution, according to Rogers, because “Jesus is part of every major religion in the world, so you can’t pin one religion on Jesus.” No wonder U.S. ranks 14th in the world in education. I’m surprised that the nation isn’t lower.

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