Nel's New Day

July 2, 2013

Conservatives Hate the U.S. Constitution

When the United States Supreme Court ruled 50 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education that all public schools must be desegregated, almost ever Southern Congressman signed the Southern Manifesto that declared their states would nullify this ruling. Within the past decade, almost 80 percent of the states have adopted laws opposing federal legislation regarding marijuana use, gun control, health insurance requirements, death with dignity, and identification standards for driver’s licenses.

Federal authorities delayed implementation of the 2005 Real ID Act, an anti-terrorism law that set stringent requirements for photo identification cards to be used to board commercial flights or enter federal buildings, because half the states oppose the law. Gun control nullification started with Montana’s 2009 law declaring that federal firearms regulations don’t apply in that state. Since then eight other states have followed suit, and Missouri is trying to be the tenth state, also allowing people to own machine guns. Because the Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that local police did not have to comply with a federal gun control law, some states declare they don’t have to follow any federal laws that they don’t want to.

July 2 is actually the nation’s “Independence Day” become on that date in 1776 the Continental Congress voted for the Declaration of Independence.  The U.S. Constitution was adopted over 11 years later when the Constitutional Convention accepted it on September 17, 1787 and then sent it to 11 states to be ratified. March 4, 1789 is the actual date that the document went into effect.

During the drafting of the constitution, framers discussed the possibility of states nullifying parts of the document. One framer, James Madison, argued that nullification would “speedily put an end to the Union itself” by allowing federal laws to be freely ignored by states. Conservatives in the 21st century proclaim their love and reverence for this foundation of the nation’s laws, but they spend their time legislating it out of existence.

The media has shown how dependent some conservatives are on the Second Amendment, so much so that they read far more into it that it declares. They want individual ownership of as many and as powerful weapons as they can purchase with their credit cards with no responsibility for knowing how to use these. Although the Second Amendment doesn’t address background checks and lists of buyers, they claim that this is infringement on their rights.

Those who claim that they are fighting for freedom in the United States probably approve of a few other amendments. States rights (Amendment Ten) and lack of foreign rights (Amendment Eleven) fit the selfish conservatives’ need for no federal meddling in their affairs.  The two amendments involving prohibition (Amendments Eighteen and Twenty-One) are a nonissue for most conservatives. Election rules (Amendments Twenty, Twenty-Two, and Twenty-Five) are fine with them as long as they don’t let anyone of color vote. (See Amendment 13.)  And the last amendment, Twenty-Seven, limits the rights of Congress to increase its own salaries, fine with all conservatives except those in Congress.

Conservatives, however, have shown that they want to destroy the rest of the amendments.

Amendment One: Conservatives really hate freedom of religion, and they’re not happy with freedom of assembly if it’s progressives who are gathering. Even the FBI has tried to stop protesting since the reign of J. Edgar Hoover began.

Amendment Three: Quartering soldiers in the home is prevented only in peacetime—and the U.S. is permanently at war with someone. Conservatives would likely go ballistic if soldiers are housed in their personal domain.

Amendment Four: The freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures without warrants issued for probable cause has gone by the wayside through NSA’s technology. A secret court gave NSA a warrant to obtain “on an ongoing daily basis…all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad (and) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.” The man who leaked this information is now labeled a “traitor” by both conservatives and progressives.

Amendment Five: SCOTUS ruled in Salinas v. Texas that the silence of the defendant, Genovevo Salinas, could be used as an admission of guilt because he was questioned voluntarily without having his rights read to him. Forget the part in the amendment that a person has the right to remain silent. That will show the person’s guilt, according to the 5-4 SCOTUS ruling decision. In addition, Rep. Mo Brooks (R- AL) wants a law that would automatically fire federal employees if they “take the Fifth” while testifying before Congress. Due process of law has long gone with the faintest whiff of “terrorism”—which is defined anyway that conservatives wish.

Amendment Six: No longer do people have the right for the accused to a speedy trial. The people who can’t escape the “no-fly” list are just one prime example of this problem.

Amendment Seven: The right to a jury trial if the amount exceeds $20 was severely cut back by a Texas law that orders the loser to pay for the winner’s legal fees. Corporations are far more likely to win: there goes the “right to a jury trial.”

Amendment Eight: Freedom from excessive bail as well as cruel and unusual punishment–gone. For example, Bradley Manning, of the infamous WikiLeaks, was forced to sleep naked in a cell with no sheets or pillow where he was left for 23 hours each day and then allowed no physical exercise during his remaining one hour.  At least 80,000 prisoners in the U.S. are in solitary confinement, leading to serious mental problems when they are released.

Amendment Nine: Conservatives are passing more and more laws that infringe on the rights not listed in the Constitution including the reproductive rights of women and the equal rights of LGBT people.

Amendment Twelve: The Electoral College is a thorn in conservatives’ side because it allows for somebody like President Obama to win the election—twice. Instead of repealing it, however, they’ve decided to rig it so that the popular vote will never elect a president again.

Amendment Thirteen: Not every conservative thinks that the country should have abolished slavery.

Amendment Fourteen: Conservatives largely object to this amendment because it confers citizenship on anyone born within the country. Many conservatives are also not happy with the freedom from discrimination and equal protection under the law because they want to decide who they discriminate against and deny legal rights to.

Amendment Fifteen: The right of blacks to vote is being abrogated through a large number of state voting restrictions. With SCOTUS overturning the guts of the Voting Rights Act, voting will be a privilege for only whites and the elite.

Amendment Sixteen: Obviously conservatives want to do away with the income tax—in fact, any taxes.

Amendment Seventeen: Conservatives really hate the idea of a popular vote for U.S. senators; they want the original method of state legislators appointing them, especially with the majority of red states.

Amendment Nineteen: Many conservatives are almost as distressed about women voting as they are about the people of color voting. Think about Rush Limbaugh’s objection to this amendment.

Amendment Twenty-Three: After voters in Washington, D.C. got permission to vote in presidential elections, they seem to think that they should have the right to make their own rules. Conservative Congressional legislators are quick to disabuse them of this notion, making sure that they aren’t allowed their laws in gun control, abortion rights, and financial control. After all, according to one representative, D.C. leaders are like children who would go crazy if they were given rights.

Amendment Twenty-Four: Conservatives have found a way to get around the abolition of poll taxes for voting: they just make people pay lots of money for the extensive documentation necessary for voting. And SCOTUS now lets all the states do this.

Amendment Twenty-Six: The right of people to start voting at the age of 18 has also enraged conservatives who think that they’re not smart enough to make the correct decisions. That’s one of the reasons that GOP legislators have worked to disenfranchise college students from voting.

The conservatives want to overturn 19 of the 27 amendments, almost 75 percent of them. Even within the first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights, only two suit their purposes, and they are badly distorting the meaning of one of them.

The next time that conservatives talks about the importance of following the Constitution, ask them how they feel about some of its amendments.

April 7, 2013

Religious Views in Red States

With DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) possibly disappearing over the western horizon, is there the chance that DORA will appear in the east? North Carolina is the first state that considered a try for an “official state religion,” and conservative legislators in Congress might be unconstitutional enough to attempt a “defense of religion act” for the entire country. Although the GOP House speaker in North Carolina has killed the legislation, it doesn’t mean such a law is dead across the nation.

The original argument is that  the constitutional prohibition in making laws to establish a religion fits only the United States, not individual states. Other states may try for it next.

House Joint Resolution 494, the Rowan County Defense of Religion Act of 2013, stated that North Carolina “does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.” GOP state Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford introduced the bill after the ACLU sued Rowan County to stop them from opening public meetings with a Christian prayer. Their argument was that the Constitution only protects separation of church and state federally, not in individual states.

Right now, this bill and any similar one could not go into effect, based on the U.S. Supreme Court case, Lemon v. Kurtzman. The law advances one religion, in this case Christianity, as a primary goal. But some legislators thought they had a way around the “Lemon Test.”

Using nullification, lawmakers think they can disregard or subvert federal law and court rulings, and they’ve been getting away with their approach as shown by the proliferation of anti-abortion laws, including “personhood” that violates Roe v. Wade. In Mississippi, legislators have filed a bill creating a state committee to determine which federal laws the state will obey and which ones they will ignore. Lawmakers claim that they have that power because of state sovereignty.

In another Sunday story from the South, evangelical Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell, has been known for banning alcohol, dancing, kissing, women wearing skirts “shorter than the top of the knee,” R-rated movies, music not “in harmony with God’s word,” and a Democratic Party group. The school will, however, allow loaded guns everywhere on campus including in classrooms. Jerry Falwell, Jr. is proud “that Liberty is a little more open than some schools.”

Also from the Rachel Maddow blog, Morality in Media is calling Attorney General Eric Holder the nation’s top “pornography facilitator” for not using law-enforcement resources to crack down on pornography. Pat Robertson has also decreed that ignorance is necessary for miracles: that’s why  “people raised from the dead, blind eyes open, lame people walking” seem to “happen with great frequency in Africa.”

Those who follow Robertson, famous for his televangelism program The 700 Club airing on his own Christian Broadcasting Network, shouldn’t be surprised at some of his recent statements:

Men with “rebellious” wives should live where wife-beating is legal. “I don’t think we condone wife-beating these days but something has got to be done” about wives who fail to “understand authority.” Robertson recommended moving to Saudi Arabia where a husband can legally batter a wife.

Secondhand clothes have demons that must be cast out before the previous owner’s evil infects the purchaser. Because witches may have cursed these clothes, praying over them is a good precautionary measure. “Hey, it ain’t going to hurt anything to rebuke any spirits that happened to have attached themselves to those clothes.”

Women’s newfound discovery in sex and eroticism is amazing.  “The thing that shocks me. We always thought this was a male thing. But now it looks like 30% of women are involved in pornography.” He was referring to Fifty Shades of Gray and was surprised that the author doesn’t look like a “glamour queen.”

People should beware of “scamsters in religious garb quoting the Bible.” This came from the man who requested that people who cannot afford to pay their bills continue to send him money. “There is no way you can out give God. You can’t do it. It’s just $20 a month. And if all of us do it together, it gets to be millions and millions and millions of dollars!” And that’s why Robertson is wealthy—millions and millions and millions of dollars.

The government will soon round up Americans for unknown reasons. “Long trains full of armored vehicles, personnel carriers with armor, what are they for, the army going into battle against the enemy? They’re used by Homeland Security against us.” This conspiracy theory has been making the rounds back into the last century. 

Abortion is a lesbian conspiracy. Lesbians have a “deficiency” of not having babies, and therefore, “If these married women don’t have children, if they abort their babies, that puts them on a level playing field.” Robertson missed the studies showing that unwanted childbearing is strongly associated with poverty and stress.

Atheists want to steal Christmas to make Christians miserable. “Atheists don’t like our happiness, they don’t want you to be happy, they want you to be miserable. They’re miserable so they want you to be miserable.”

The earthquake punished Haitians for overthrowing slavery in the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries.

“…something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, uh you know Napoleon the Third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said we will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French. True story. And so the Devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. That island is Hispaniola is one island. It’s cut down the middle. On one side is Haiti, on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island.”

Divorce is wrong unless the woman gets sick. For a man whose wife’s senility is making him lonely, Robertson said, “I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again. But to make sure she has custodial care, somebody looking after her.”

Robertson may seem fairly moderate compared to Pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe (AZ). Part of his ministrations includes his rant about how women shouldn’t have sex, publicly speak, read books of their own choosing, dress how they want, and look at/think about/acknowledge any men apart from their husbands who they must always, always obey.

Regarding the marriage equality debate in the Supreme Court at the same time as North Korea’s war threat, Southern Baptist Convention leader Fred Luter asked on a Christian talk show, TruNews with Rick Wiles, “Could the two be connected?”

Also Dave Agema, Michigan RNC chair, claims, in addition to other disgusting lies, that LGBT people account for a high number of murders in cities. The new kinder, gentler GOP is not calling for his resignation. Agema has support from Michael Reagan, the former president’s son, who said that marriage equality will lead to legalizing murder.

Yesterday, I wrote about the massive differences between red and blue states. Obviously this runs to conservative religious beliefs which, ironically, also correlate with high use of prescription drugs. A study released earlier this year shows that Mississippi is still the most religious state in the nation, closely followed by other southern states—Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma—and then Utah.  These states also have the highest use of anti-depressants topped by Utah where residents are twice as likely to be on these medications as the average U.S. population. Of the top ten religious states, nine have higher than average use of anti-depressants.

Of the ten most religious states in the nation, six are also on the list of top-ten most medicated states. Dr. Jane Barlow, vice president of medical strategy and clinical quality for Medco Health Solutions, said that the rates of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes are higher in these states than the national average, particularly West Virginia. “The growth in prescription drug use [is driven in part by] chronic diseases that are largely preventable and are linked to lifestyle and physical activity.”

Once again, states with the highest level of mental and physical health issues want to drag the United States down to their level.

December 13, 2011

Republicans Deny Obama’s Nominees, Nullify Law

The Congressional recess is frequently a time when presidents appoint nominees to official positions after the Senate refuses to act on these nominations. President Obama missed his chance last summer because the Senate didn’t officially call a recess: a senator showed up each day to hold a fake meeting, that they call brief “pro forma” sessions, to avoid recessing. Those sessions, typically lasting just minutes with a handful of members present, exist because of Article 1, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution, which states that neither chamber will adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other. If House Republicans do not agree to the Senate’s recess or vice versa, those brief sessions are required. GOP members have forced several of these sessions over the last few months, precisely to block recess appointments.

The Congress is nearing its usual winter recess after the conservatives’ customary refusal to approve nominees. So what’s Obama to do if they continue to hold pro forma sessions?

Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution states that if there is a disagreement about when the chambers should adjourn, the president has the power to “adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper.” The power has never been used before perhaps because no other Senate has refused to approve such a large number of nominees.

Also the 20th Amendment of the Constitution states that the Congress shall assemble at least once a year, with each session beginning at noon on Jan. 3. That means that the Congress has to break in order to assemble. Theodore Roosevelt once made a recess appointment during a recess that was less than a day long, creating an historical precedent. Doing this, Obama would bring criticism from Republicans in the Congress, but that is nothing new for him.

A major position left empty for over a year is the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Because Senate said they would reject Elizabeth Warren before she was appointed, Obama named Richard Cordray to be the financial watchdog. He has impeccable credentials, having been Attorney General of Ohio, and 30 other state attorney generals wrote to the Senate requesting his approval.

Although the Senate could have passed Cordray with a 53-45 vote, the Republicans filibustered—again—which required 60 votes to bring the matter up for a vote. The only Republican who voted for cloture was Scott Brown (R-MA), a practical approach because he is running against the extremely popular Elizabeth Warren for his Senate seat.

As of last September the Republican stall campaign in the Senate had sidetracked so many of the Obama’s judicial nominees that he has put fewer people on the federal bench than any president since Richard Nixon at a similar point in his first term 40 years ago. Despite the Democrats’ substantial Senate majority, Republican filibusters have caused fewer than half of Obama’s nominees to be confirmed and 102 out of 854 judgeships to be vacant.

Six years ago 14 Senate Republicans and Democrats made an informal agreement that a filibuster would be used for presidential nominees only in “extraordinary circumstances” in order to break a logjam on judicial nominees. Four of these Republicans who participated in this agreement are still in the Senate, and some of them are continuing the filibusters. An example of this is the 54-45 vote that failed to bring cloture to debate regarding the judicial nomination of Caitlin Halligan to join the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sen. Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK) was the only Republican to vote against the filibuster.  Murkowski said Halligan deserved an up-or-down vote. “I stated during the Bush Administration that judicial nominations deserved an up-or-down vote, except in ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and my position has not changed simply because there is a different President making the nominations,” she said.

Senate Judiciary ranking member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) voted present. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he opposed the nomination not because of Halligan’s views but also because he doesn’t believe the position is needed. The slot that Halligan was nominated for, to replace U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, has been vacant for years.

Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, said in a release, “Let me be clear: Senate Republicans blocked a supremely qualified nominee today. Halligan is a lawyer’s lawyer. She clerked for the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court, she has a long and distinguished record of service in New York, and she has support across party lines–including from former George W. Bush nominee Miguel Estrada.  She is an exemplary nominee, supported by a majority of Senators. She was first nominated in 2010, and she should have been sitting on the D.C. Circuit by now.”

Cordray’s tenure would be five years if he were approved; federal judges are permanent. The more Obama nominees that can be avoided, the happier the conservatives will be. Their hope is that they will take over the Senate and presidency next year so that the entire judicial system will be as far right as possible.

Opposing Cordray has been profitable for several senators. Wall Street banks are fighting the new agency tooth and nail, and the 45 Republicans who vowed to block the agency’s director have received nice donations from the financial services industry, over $6.5 million from the financial industry in 2011 and nearly $125.6 million during their careers. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the ranking member of the Senate Banking committee (and lead signer of the letter), received at least $81,850 in 2011 and $6.2 million from the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector throughout his career.

What the senators are practicing in these two cases can be called “nullification.” Senators voted against Halligan because they didn’t see the need for the position (as declared by law), and they voted against Cordray because they don’t want the bureau to exist despite the fact that is passed Congress. They have been very open about their votes opposing the law that passed the bureau, not the person himself—in short, openly trying to keep an already-approved piece of legislation from taking effect. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told the New York Times: “This is not about the nominee, who appears to be a decent person and may very well be qualified.” The Republicans are simply saying that they don’t like a law that was legally passed so they are going to behave as if it didn’t.

It’s not the first time that the Republicans have used nullification during Obama’s term. They refused to allow a vote on Don Berwick, Obama’s first choice to run Medicare and Medicaid–not because they seriously doubted his qualifications but because they don’t like the Affordable Care Act.

Nullification may have led to the Civil War. In 1830 Vice-President John C. Calhoun theorized that states had the power to “nullify” federal laws, using arguments from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison opposing the Alien and Sedition Acts. When he finally understood the danger of this position, he worked to develop a more bipartisan attitude, but the southern states continued to simmer until South Carolinacame to boil thirty years later followed by ten other states.

According to Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, Acts of Congress “shall be the supreme law of the land…anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” Every member of Congress takes an oath to “support and defend” the Constitution and swears that they take that oath “without mental reservation or purpose of evasion.” Senate Republicans are pretending that they don’t have to follow the Constitution. The question is whether what they are doing is unconstitutional

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