Nel's New Day

June 5, 2018

Supreme Court Winds Up Year, More Court Cases

Mondays in June mean decisions from the Supreme Court. This week the justices gave extremely narrow rulings on two major case, leaving both sides dissatisfied. The first, dealing with whether religious beliefs can be used to discriminate against others, concerned a Colorado baker who would not sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. The ruling came out on the side of the baker but left no decision for the legality of allowing religious beliefs or free speech rights as justification for refusing services to LGBTQ people. The Supreme Court decision, with only Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg dissenting, claimed that the members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed “religious hostility” which “cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner for the baker approved of the statement that “government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society,” a ruling that may also be used to assert that hostility from people’s faith likewise has no place in the United States. She refused to answer a question about future rulings if the baker again refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-gender couple. Using state anti-discrimination laws requiring public businesses to equally serve all potential customers, several courts have turned down self-identified artists such as florists, bakers, and photographers who claim violation of their rights if they have to give business to same-gender couples, a claim that this ruling doesn’t decide.

Author of the ruling, Anthony Kennedy, wrote that LGBTQ people “cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.” He added that future cases “must be resolved … without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.” According to the ruling, the U.S. has a “general rule” that religious and other objections “do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny … equal access to goods and services.”

In dissension among justices, Gorsuch and Alito asserted that the Supreme Court cannot tell a baker “that a wedding cake is just like any other,” using sacramental bread as an analogy. Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer disagreed, stating that a wedding cake doesn’t change just because “a vendor like Phillips invests its sale to particular customers with ‘religious significance.’ ” Kagan referenced a 1968 decision requiring a barbecue restaurant owner to serve black customers despite his claim that his religion opposes racial equality.

The cake people failed to get a ruling that the Constitution protects discrimination, but it does give states the right to legislate against discrimination, including against LGBTQ people. The ruling against religious animus is an interesting comparison to the religious animus in DDT’s travel ban, another Supreme Court ruling to be released this month.

In a case about the DOJ imprisoning an undocumented migrant girl so that she could not get a legal abortion, the Supreme Court gave a mixed ruling. It declared the lower court’s ruling to be moot and therefore not binding because the girl had already had an abortion but declined to sanction the opposing lawyers to the DOJ for what the DOJ called deception because the procedure was rushed through before the DOJ could appeal to the Supreme Court. The high court has never before been petitioned to sanction lawyers. The decision in this case does not affect an ongoing class-action case about the rights of immigrant teens in government custody to obtain abortions. DOJ is declaring the case a win for them, but the narrow ruling was for only one girl who had already had an abortion.

The Supreme Court is also due to consider whether to review a Washington state Supreme Court decision that a florist could not legally decline to provide flowers to a same-gender wedding. Major decisions in June concern partisan gerrymandering and DDT’s travel ban.

The Supreme Court refused to address an Arkansas law that ends the use of medication abortions in the state and closes two of the state’s three abortion clinics because they perform only medical abortions. Doctors who provide medication abortions must have a contract with a specialist who has hospital admitting privileges, a burdensome, unnecessary mandate because complications are extremely during the use of two pills in the first nine weeks of pregnancy and can easily be dealt with in an emergency room or hospital. A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court had earlier upheld the Arkansas law, but Planned Parenthood will appeal the case to lower courts. U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker temporarily blocked the law, saying that it was “a solution in search of a problem.” Two years ago, the Supreme Court overturned a Texas law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges in a local hospital.

In a more positive ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that police need a warrant to search a person’s property, specifically vehicles parted on a driveway or carport. The 8-1 decision followed a 2013 ruling that police may not bring drug-sniffing dogs to the front porch of a home without a search warrant. Samuel Alito said that a search is reasonable because “the vehicle was parked in plain view in a driveway just a few feet from the street.”

Other rulings outside the Supreme Court:

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge has ruled that Donald Trump must have a seven-hour deposition before January 31, 2019, as part of the defamation lawsuit by Summer Zervos, who accused Trump of groping her in 2016. July 13 is the deadline for both parties to issue demands for documents with September 13 the deadline for responses. The case goes to trial after June 7, 2019.

A Maine judge ordered Gov. Paul LePage to start voter-approved Medicaid expansion after he missed the April 3 deadline to file a plan with the federal HHS. After LePage vetoed the expansion in legislature five times, he argued that he couldn’t implement a law not funded by the legislation although the state has a $140 million surplus.

Felony charges have been dropped against ten people arrested protesting DDT’s inauguration because the government failed to turn over evidence it got from Project Veritas, known for James O’Keefe’s doctored videos. The judge barred the government from bringing back the charges in the future. A D.C. jury is deadlocked regarding three others involved in the protest. Forty-seven people of the original 200 charged are still facing court cases, but no defendant has been convicted.

And new cases:

Ambridge Event Center, which managed an event center owned by the Holy Rosary Church in Portland (OR), is suing the church for almost $2 million because its anti-LGBTQ bias hurt business. The negative press from the company’s inability to rent to a PFLAG chapter lost business from government and businesses that believe in equality. If Ambridge worked for the church, the law violation is employment discrimination; if Ambridge is a renter, the church violated the law with housing discrimination. Oregon’s exemption for religious groups applies only if “the use of facilities is closely connected with or related to the primary purposes of the church.” Ambridge has gone out of business.

Rustem Kazazi, a 64-year-old Cleveland resident, is suing U.S. Customs after customs agents at an airport took the family’s life savings–$58,000—that he was taking to Albania to help his family and buy a vacation home. The agency’s website says that there is no limit to the amount of money brought into or taken out of the U.S., but the agents refused to return Kazazi’s money although the family, all four citizens, was not charged with any crime. Agents also refused him a translator, strip-searched him, and gave him a receipt without the amount of money they took. A month after the money was taken, the agency wrote them, claiming that the money was “involved in a smuggling/drug trafficking/money laundering operation.” The letter also reported $770 less than Kazazi had been carrying. The federal government took over $2 billion in assets from people in 2017.

Phoenix is suing the government over the proposed census question on citizenship for fear of losing federal funds and marginalizing residents.

The American Federation of Government Employees, representing 700,000 workers, is suing DDT after he signed an executive order severely restricting the time employees may spend on union activity. The lawsuit claims his order violates the First Amendment and oversteps his constitutional authority. The order restricts “official time” for union leaders to represent workers during work time in grievances about unfair labor practices or disciplinary actions during work time, a guarantee provided by Congress 40 years ago.  The order still allows individuals to work on their grievances while on duty but without union assistance. Administration says that the change could save up to $100 million a year—equivalent to about two-thirds of DDT’s weekend junkets. Other orders instruct agencies to restrict unions in contract negotiations and fire employees more rapidly.

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa and ISU student Taylor Blair are suing Iowa’s secretary of state over the state’s voter ID law “apparently timed to disrupt the June 5 primary elections.” Facebook advertisements had stated that “Iowa voters will be asked to show a form of valid identification,” omitting the information that voters without ID could sign a form swearing to their identity and then cast a normal ballot. Another part of the lawsuit claims that the secretary of state’s website omitted some ID permitted under the law, such as an Iowa student identification plus proof of address.

Worried about getting DDT’s conservative judicial nominations approved after the midterms, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has reduced the August recess from four weeks to one week. Another theory for the change is that Democrat senators, defending 26 Senate seats this year, will be hobbled by less time to campaign while their Republican opponents have a free field. The GOP has nine incumbents on the ballot, including Nevada’s Dean Heller who is struggling with re-election.

October 25, 2015

Offensive Religion Positions

The Duggars (19 Kids and Counting) just seem to stay in the news. Now a lawsuit has accused The Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), the homeschooling program used by the Duggar family, of covering up sexual assault against underage girls. Founder, former director, and Josh Duggar counselor, Bill Gothard, left IBLP on “indefinite administrative leave” because of sexually harassing and abusing employees. He wasn’t named in the suit but is accused of abusive actions against the plaintiffs. IBLP’s homeschooling teachings were depicted on the Duggar reality program.

The series notorious for using plots “ripped from the headlines,” Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, will use the Duggars’ story in its November 4 episode. In this segment, “Patrimonial Burde,” a 13-year-old daughter of a famous television family of ten children discovers that she is pregnant. The plotline also has a few allusions to Sarah Palin’s unwed daughter Bristol, now pregnant with her second child as she follows her abstinence-only program.

GOP leaders continue to focus on the Christian bible to promote their conservative beliefs. For example, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used the Good Book as his authority in requiring nonviolent criminals to “pay back” their crimes in a form of enslavement. Answering radio host Jan Mickelson about paying restitution in embezzlement, Huckabee wants forced repayment to be “twofold, fourfold,” through labor if necessary.

The Constitution actually allows this involuntary slave labor through the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery except in prison. Corporations owning private prisons generate a great deal of profit because the wages go to them and not to the prisoners. For example, up to 40 percent of the forest firefighters in California are prisoners; the state opposes an early prison-release program to minimum custody inmates because they would lose the cheap labor for fighting fires. Huckabee’s philosophy of imprisonment of people who can’t “pay back” is illegal, however, because of several Supreme Court cases that prevent imprisonment for the inability to pay court fines, fees, and restitution. Yet many conservatives want a return to the days of Charles Dickens.

Thanks to the Maine governor, Paul LePage, a creationist is the state’s new “acting educational commissioner,” meaning that the appointment cannot be challenged by the state for six months. Bill Beardsley ran against LePage on a single issue platform, that only creationism should be taught in schools. Like most creationists, the new official also believes that worrying about climate change is foolish because it “[hasn’t] been proved in science.” LePage tries to control government by threatening to veto every bill on his desk unless he is permitted to pass anything he wants without complaint. Even his own party is concerned about his mental health.

Another Maine scandal is LePage’s threat to cut off state funding to a charter school unless it fired state House Speaker Mark Eves (D) for a top position. The school reluctantly let Eves go. LePage hasn’t denied the blackmail and even compared what he did in a domestic violence dispute. “It’s just like one time when I stepped in … when a man was beating his wife,” the governor said. “Should have I stepped in? Legally, No. But I did. And I’m not embarrassed about doing it.”

Eves filed a federal civil lawsuit, and the state Government Oversight Committee is investigating the situation with subpoenas for two members of LePage’s administration who refused to cooperate. The governor is unsuccessfully trying to force the committee’s Republican chair to recuse himself. The chair of the charter school’s board of directors agreed that the governor had cut off funding after the school hired Eves, but LePage said that he had the discretion to withhold funding under his control of the budget.

Known for campaigning by demonizing the Arabs, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now blaming the Palestinians for the Holocaust. In a public speech, Netanyahu said that Hitler’s elimination of the Jews in Europe was the idea of Haj Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who told Hitler to burn the Jews rather than deport them. History shows this to be a lie because Hitler put forth the “Final Solution” two years before the mufti met with Hitler. The Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, has come forward to protest Netanyahu’s claims, remarking that “history clearly shows that Hitler initiated” the Holocaust.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Netanyahu was wrong, that the German people were “very clear in our minds” about where the responsibility for the Holocaust falls. Despite reports from historians, Netanyahu continues with his propaganda to block a two-state agreement in a portrayal of the Palestinians as committee to the extermination of Jews.

Today’s Meet the Press addressed Jeb Bush’s statement that he doesn’t want to participate in the election if the gridlock can’t be solved:

 “If this election is about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, then I don’t want anything, I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want to be elected president to sit around and see gridlock just become so dominant that people literally are in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation. I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.”

Rumors of Bush’s failing campaign has caused reporters to asked about whether it is falling apart. Bush’s only response was one that smacks of entitlement. “Blah blah blah, Blah,” he said. “That’s my answer.”

http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/meet-press-october-25-2015-n451121  A panel member of today’s Meet the Press, biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin addressed Bush’s behavior:

“Compare that with how McCain handled himself in a similar situation in ’07. He was cutting staff as Mr. Bush has, his poll numbers had gone down, he was in a bad place. And he said, ‘It’s how you face a challenge politically and physically that determines your character and your courage.’ And he said I’m going to be going on a bus, I’m going to be lean and mean, and he said I’m going to go out among the people. And eventually, Mac was back.

“I mean you have to take these moments of adversity, and you have to show strength and courage and forward optimism. You can’t blame the process. You’re it– you’re in it.”

Later she quoted Adlai Stevenson, “The challenge is not how to win an election, but how you win without proving yourself unworthy to win?”

If there’s one commonality among all the GOP presidential candidates, it’s that they have shown themselves “worthy to win.”  Carson is another example. Preening after the Iowa polls show himself on top, he said that he didn’t need experience to be the president, that all it takes is common sense. His solution is to surround himself with advisors—something that George W. Bush did during his failed presidency. Carson’s other excuse is that the U.S. Constitution is easy to read because it’s written at an eighth-grade level. According to the well-respected Flesch-Kincaid readability test, the Constitution is scored at a 17.8 grade level.

Almost any mention of religion by politics causes “religion rage.” Ben Carson wants Donald Trump to apologize for his statement that Trump doesn’t know anything about Seventh-day Adventists, Carson’s religious following. Trump didn’t denigrate the religion, but the Internet flows with demands for apologies from Trump. It may have seemed offensive, but Carson has been far more offensive, comparing women who have abortions to Nazis, saying that homosexuality is chosen because straight people become gay in prison, accusing Planned Parenthood of deliberately killing black babies, etc. Trump’s statement about Carson’s religion is very mild compared to Carson’s attacks on people who don’t following his religion.

July 1, 2015

Chris Christie: Bridge to Disaster

Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s governor, became the unlucky #13 in the GOP presidential race when he declared his candidacy in the same week with media-obsessed Supreme Court decisions. This week, he lost all visibility after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced that he will save the country with his magnificent leadership. Even Donald Trump may have to briefly take a back seat to Christie as the two huge egos battle for the front of the “clown car” of GOP candidates.

Chris christie

Although he told Matt Lauer that he has controlled his temper and uses it only for injustice, he told the press corps to buzz off after asked about the recent shortages of press conferences. He finished by saying, “Get over it” and called reporters “you people.” Christie tried to explain to them that he didn’t want to answer questions because reporters will decide what to talk about and it will “muddle the message of the day” that he wants. His bombast brings back the memory of Rudy Giuliana, who “now occupies the role in American politics as the crazy uncle who starts media trash fires by saying things like Obama doesn’t love America,” according to Jack Shafer.

Before “Bridgegate,” in which he dodged his involvement in closing the George Washington Bridge between his state and New York for retribution against a mayor who wouldn’t support his gubernatorial candidacy, Christie had his admirers. Many of them have disappeared after his continual childish, bullying behavior and the information about his excesses and failures. His in-state approval rating is 30 percent, just two points above Jindal’s, and the 6.5 percent unemployment, worse than 48 states, reflects the fact that the state hasn’t regained even half of the jobs lost during the recession.

His governor’s record shows how he would lead the country:

Scrapping a tunnel project which would have alleviated New Jersey residents’ commutes and created jobs so he wouldn’t have to raise the gas tax.

Cutting $2.1 billion in taxes for corporations by taking money from New Jersey residents.

Falling credit rating nine times, the second worst among all the states, during Christie’s five years.

Reducing the earned income tax credit.

Vetoing legislation to raise the minimum wage to $8.50, and calling it “truly ridiculous” before voters approved an increase last November.

Driving the state to the brink of a pension disaster until the state Supreme Court let him off the hook for $1.57 billion in payments, leaving it $80 billion in the red. (Public workers are still insisting that he pay the promised pensions to 800,000 working and retired employers.) Christie wants to cut back Social Security for anyone making over $80,000 and eliminate payment for those making over $200,000, despite the payments that these people made into Social Security.

Settling with Exxon for $225 million in a $8.9-billion pollution lawsuit after the corporation donated over $1.9 million to the Republican Governors Association.  Christie’s first AG worked for Exxon for seven years, and his deputy chief of staff left for a job with Exxon’s lobbying firm. New Jersey law allows Christie to take money from the environmental litigation to the general fund where it covers budget gaps.

Passing on the state health care exchange by vetoing for the second time legislation directing him to set this up.

Vetoing bills to expand early voting, a ban on the Barrett .50 caliber rifle, and a bill to prevent gender wage discrimination in public contracts.

Cutting $7.4 billion in family funding for Planned Parenthood to provide such health care services as mammograms to women. (The program never funded abortions.)

Enacting strict and unneeded quarantine practices for Ebola, raising questions about his management of public health issues as president.

Christie, who wants candidates who “believe in what they say and don’t change depending on what state they’re in,” also has a strong record of flip-flopping:

Citizenship: From advocating for immigrants in 2008 to describing it as an “extreme way to go” and not “where the American people are.”

Reproductive rights: From supporting a woman’s right to choose and donating to Planned Parenthood to becoming anti-choice and defunding Planned Parenthood five times.

Common Core education guidelines: From criticizing the GOP for their “knee-jerk” opposition to the president in 2013 to saying that it is “simply not working.” (He is still using the same Common Core tests.)

Gun violence protections: From speaking out against the NRA in 2012 and signing a bill to keep terror suspects from buying guns in New Jersey to claiming that he would change the gun violence protections if he had a GOP legislature.

Climate change: From agreeing that climate change is real and impacting his state in 2011 to no proof that it had an affect on Superstorm Sandy to agreeing that human activity contributes to climate change.

What reporters have discovered about Christie:

Anger: “His Jersey-style directness is … often mean-spirited and vicious. Challenge him at your own risk. He’s a bully.”

Revenge: Even before the Bridgegate scandal, “Christie went after sexually abused kids, heartlessly cutting the funding to a facility that nurtures these vulnerable children in a heated budget battle with Democrats. And he killed a college internship program after the founder sided with Democrats in a redistricting fight.”

Rough play: His personal vision of being a “uniter” is negated by any YouTube video where he is challenged by an audience member. He treats legislators the same way.

A street fighter—for Wall Street: By the second year of his first gubernatorial term, he had “vetoed higher taxes on millionaires, but raised the tax burden on poor families by cutting the earned income tax credit. (He has also been blind to the needs of the poor, targeted seniors with his cuts and slashed women’s health programs.)” Under his watch, annual fees paid to New Jersey’s pension managers leapt from $200 million in 2012 to $600 million in 2014. A few hundred thousand dollars goes to Angelo Gordon that hired Christie’s wife, Mary Pat Christie, for $475,000 a year. New Jersey no longer invests with the company, but the state pays them hundreds of thousands of dollars because the state has an “illiquid” investment valued at $6.6 million in the firm. No one knows that what it.

Blind to own ethical lapses: He flies on private planes owned by executives with pending business in his state. Christie also charged $82,594 at MetLife Stadium to the state on 58 different occasions during 18 months while he had free seats. To avoid a scandal, the state GOP committee paid back the state. During five years in office, Christie spent almost $300,000 from his state allowance to buy food, alcohol and desserts. There are also 60 unofficial out-of-state travel expenses, taxpayer-fueled fundraising, potentially breaking pay-to-play laws, and 23 court battles to keep public documents secret. He has also been accused of withholding $800 million of disaster relief after Superstorm Sandy.

Contempt for women: Sheila Oliver? A liar. Loretta Weinberg? Someone should take a bat to her. Valerie Vainieri Huttle? A jerk.

Tom Moran, who covered Christie for over a decade, wrote an op-ed for the Newark Star-Ledger about Christie’s being a pathological liar. The piece is well worth reading.

Christie has fallen from 7 percent in the national primary polls in January to just 3 percent, putting him in danger of missing the first debate on Fox. In Iowa he comes in 13th. Harry Enten wrote, “Chris Christie’s bid for the presidency, which officially began Tuesday morning, is likely to fall off the George Washington Bridge and end up in the Hudson River.”

Christie tried to explain that the reason 65 percent of the people in his state thinks he would be a terrible president by saying that they don’t want him to leave.That doesn’t explain why 69 percent of New Jersey voters think he’s lying when he said he didn’t close the bridge.

The latest GOP presidential candidate is fact challenged, ethics challenged, and economically challenged while he nixes infrastructure projects, fouls traffic, bullies people, defunds pensions to give Wall Street money, and profligately spends money.

Right now Christie is spending a lot of time in Maine where Gov. Paul LePage has endorsed Christie for president. Maine’s legislature is investigating LePage for abuse of power because he threatened to withhold state funds from a private school for at-risk children until the school withdrew a job offer to Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves.

Christie said he’s happy to receive the support from somebody who “knows what it’s like to make tough decisions, knows what it’s like to engage in hand-to-hand combat.” That’s the kind of combat that people could expect from Christie if here were president.

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