Nel's New Day

February 10, 2017

DDT: Week Three – Part 1

Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) third week was rougher than the first two. His declaring moral equivalence between the United States and Russia called out condemnation from both conservatives and progressives. General Barry McCaffrey, now retired, said his statement was “the most anti-American statement ever made by the president of the United States.”

The UK’s House of Commons Speaker said that he didn’t want DDT to speak before Parliament because of its opposition to racism and sexism and support for equality and an independent judiciary. One of three people to make the decision about DDT’s speaking in Westminster Hall, John Bercow said to applause, “An address by a foreign leader to both houses of Parliament is not an automatic right. It is an earned honor.”

Dissatisfaction with the government—now entirely Republican—is the most important issue facing the nation. DDT, in his continued war against the press, tweeted, “Any negative polls are fake news,” and deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka added that the White House will use the phrase “fake media” to attack journalists “until the media understands how wrong that [anti-Trump] attitude is.” In DDT-World, all protesters are also paid; his counselor Kellyanne Conway told GOP legislative staffers that the constituents calling their bosses don’t represent “real people.”

Other DDT disasters in the past week:

Russia & Michael Flynn: Nine intelligence officers have declared that DDT’s National Security Advisor discussed lifting sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last December, and two of them said that Flynn promised that the problem would be reviewed just immediately after DDT’s inauguration. Until two days ago, Michael Flynn denied doing this, but yesterday his spokesman said that Flynn couldn’t remember but maybe he did. Flynn’s behavior can be considered an illegal interference between the President Obama’s White House and Russia as well as continuing the conclusion that Russia had interfered in the recent presidential election. VP Mike Pence, who swore that Flynn never discussed sanctions with Russia, is disturbed about finding out the truth, according to his aides. DDT, who cannot be separated from his television watching, said that he is unaware of the controversy.

Judicial Review of White House Muslim Ban: A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled to continue blocking DDT’s travel ban because it violated the Fifth Amendment’s due process access to courts. Some of the findings:

The ruling applies nationwide even if no federal court blocks it.

Two states have standing to sue on behalf of thousands of foreign students, employees and residents with legal visas.

Courts can receive classified information to determine its findings—in answer to DDT’s statement about how the courts don’t know how scary the world it.

The court cannot rely upon the government’s contention that the Executive Order no longer applies to lawful permanent residents….

“Moreover, in light of the Government’s shifting interpretations of the Executive Order, we cannot say that the current interpretation by White House counsel, even if authoritative and binding, will persist past the immediate stage of these proceedings.”

Before the decision, DDT tweeted nine times criticizing and threatening the judges if they didn’t rule in his favor. He hasn’t decided whether he will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. My guess is that he’ll sign more executive orders to ban Muslims, ones written again by Steve Bannon, that DDT thinks will survive a court hearing.

Lies about Terrorist Attacks: DDT accused the press of “intentionally” covering up terrorist attacks and then issued a list of 78 “underreported” global attacks since 2014 to prove the statement. The list included the San Bernardino shooting, the nightclub massacre in Orlando last summer, and the terrorist attacks in Paris, all widely reported, but skipped any terrorist acts by white supremacists and Islamophobes, including the mass killing by a white French Canadian at a Quebec mosque.

Trouble with Obamacare?: DDT suggested that he might wait until 2018 to do anything about the Affordable Care Act. Protesters are inundating town hall meetings with members of Congress who are sneaking out of meetings, calling the police for protection, locking the door so people can’t get in, or just canceling scheduled sessions. Even the representative from the reddest district in the nation is afraid to hold  town hall meetings because of protesters supporting health care. It’s just like the Tea Party from 2010 but in reverse.

Keeping the health care plan doesn’t stop DDT from hurting the people who voted for him—and others who didn’t. Proposed new rules would increase premiums for older customers 3.49 times as for the young, people applying for coverage during the year would have to prove a qualifying life change, and insurance could cut off insurance if premiums are a month late.

What Voter Fraud?: Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) won’t spend federal money to investigate a non-existent 3 million illegal voters in last fall’s election, DDT has assigned VP Mike Pence to head up a commission for that purpose. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 3 million votes.

Revised Executive Orders: DDT has been given a new version of his torture order that retreats his decision to open “black site” prisons with “coercive interrogation methods.” Thus far, DDT has not signed the new order. Even John Yoo, the George W. Bush DOJ torture official, expressed concern about the White House’s alarming conception of executive power.

Ridicule for Hotelier in the Oval Office: DDT’s obsession with his décor leads him to schedule as many events in the room as possible. Although suffering from a lack of concentration on intelligence details, DDT dwells on the new opulent golden drapes as he gives tours to visitors as he pages “through a book showing 17 window covering options,” according to The New York Times Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman.

DDT’s Ownership of Business: Despite his claims that he has nothing to do with his businesses, DDT still retains ownership and personally benefits from the government’s decisions, and his sons, who now supposedly operate the business, also participate in governmental decisions. DDT may no longer be president of the multiple companies, but he still financially profits from its activities. Documents show that the trust does not do away with other conflicts, such as his being executive producer of Celebrity Apprentice, which DDT cited in his speech last week, asking his audience to pray for the program’s ratings. A question also exists about the legality of his continued lease of the Washington hotel, owned by the federal government which prevents any elected official from benefiting from the property.

Attack on Nordstrom: After the retail chain decided not to carry Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, her father launched official tweets about how the corporation had treated her “so unfairly.” Former Obama White House ethics expert Norm Eisen called Trump’s tweet “outrageous” and offered to help Nordstrom sue the president. Two more retailers downgraded publicity on Ivanka’s “made in Asia” clothing line, eliciting a statement from Press Secretary Sean Spicer that the decision, based on the free market, was an attack on Ivanka.

Even “roll over and play dead” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the Oversight Committee, chastised Kellyanne Conway for her blatant endorsement of Ivanka’s clothing line on Fox network. He found it “unacceptable” while ethics experts call it a definite violation of regulations banning executive branch employees from endorsing products and using their office for private gain of friends. Earlier Chaffetz had said that DDT’s attack on Nordstrom was not “a big deal” and that he was just acting like a doting father.  Thousands of people showed up at a Chaffetz town hall meeting, booing and chanting “do your job.”

Loss of Second DDT Legal Case in Two Weeks: South Carolina environmental regulators denied DDT’s request that he get state-paid pollution cleanup at his son’s company. Donald Trump, Jr. bought a company on possibly polluted land and named it Titan Atlas; when it failed, DDT bought out the debt, called the new company D B Pace, and then claimed he didn’t have to pay for the cleanup because he was a brand new owner. To qualify for state cleanup, the buyer can’t be related to the seller, and regulators stated that DDT didn’t give them enough financial information to rule in his favor. Last week, a judge ruled that DDT had to pay $6 million to members at the Trump National Jupiter Golf Course

Melania Trump’s Lawsuit against the UK Daily Mail: Four days ago, DDT’s wife announced in a defamation lawsuit that it would damage her ability to make new “licensing, branding, and endorsement” deals while she is the U.S. president’s wife. Her lawyer described this opportunity as a “once-in-a-lifetime” money making opportunity for clothing, cosmetics, fragrance, etc. She told the court she intended to pursue deals in “apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care, and fragrance.” The publication retracted information from a Slovenian magazine that she had once been a paid escort. Like her husband, Melania Trump admits that she is illegally using her position to make “millions.”

In addition to selecting a “security advisor” who sides with Russia, losing lawsuits, and finding himself involved in conflicts of interest, DDT’s popularity is dropping in Europe as well as in the United States. Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign minister, listed the differences of opinion between EU and DDT, including refugees, migration, climate change, the Iran deal, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She said that putting “America First” can find Europe, vital to U.S. economy and security, to be equally self-interested. Donald Tusk, EU Council president, has put DDT on a list of threats with radical Islam.

And that’s just part of DDT’s week—more tomorrow!

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?

April 6, 2014

Christians Want a U.S. Theocracy

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

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

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

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

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

Other Christian claims from the last couple of weeks:

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

Gay Crazy:

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

Sex Ed Classes in the South:

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

U.S. Catholics:

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

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

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

May 7, 2013

GOP, the Party of Ignorance

Mark Sanford lied to the people of South Carolina when he was governor by leaving the state ungoverned for five days while he visited his mistress, spent taxpayer funds to go there, broke the law by trespassing in the home of his ex-wife, published the telephone numbers of people who called him, and showed other instances of unethical behavior. This is the candidate who has just been elected to the District #1 of South Carolina, defeating Elizabeth Colbert Busch.

Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler, called Sanford “America’s great sex pioneer,” and said in his endorsement of the candidate, “Mark Sanford has demonstrated by his words and deeds that traditional values are shameful and that he will not live by such rules.” And now the conservatives of South Carolina have chosen a “sex pioneer,” who demonstrates “that traditional values are shameful” to represent them.

Joining a group of hypocrites and downright ignorant GOP lawmakers in Congress, Mark Sanford was able to run for his new position after Gov. Nikki Haley (R) appointed Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) to senator after Jim DeMint (R) left to head up the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation. Arriving in Washington on the Tea Party wave of 2010, Scott’s actions demonstrate what we have come to expect from conservatives:

  • Impeach President Obama because the conservatives claimed that the debt ceiling is an unconstitutional infringement on the 14th Amendment.
  • Cut off food stamps for a family if one member goes on strike—no exceptions for children or other dependents.
  • Spend an unlimited amount of taxpayer money to display the Ten Commandments outside a county building in Charleston to “remind council members and speakers the moral absolutes they should follow.”
  • Protect over $50 billion in oil subsidies at the same time that oil companies are raking in tens of billions in profit every quarter.

Although South Carolina has only six Congressional districts, one-sixth of those in Texas, the state seems to be cornering part of the market on crazy. Last week, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) introduced a bill to bar the U.S. Census Bureau from conducting almost all surveys except for its decennial population count. If this were to pass, President Obama couldn’t be criticized for the unemployment rate: the bill removes statistics for that. Businesses, researchers, academics, and government agencies would lose information about commuting, income, family structure, education, housing, and finance. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) proposed making part of the this survey optional. Actually, they already are.

Duncan’s proposal, with 10 co-sponsors, would also eliminate the agricultural census, economic census, government census, and mid-decade census. Also lost would be the measurement of the nation’s GDP. Duncan has other bizarre positions, some of them about the Boston bombing, which led the patient Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to say that his ignorant inquiries were “full of misstatements and misapprehensions,” and “not worthy of an answer.”

In an attempt to keep up with South Carolina, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced a bill, ironically called the “High Quality Research Act,” to mandate that any research using federal funds—and there’s lots of that in the United States—must have its results and findings approved by the House Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. If those House representatives don’t agree to the findings, then the research is removed from those who performed the studies and then disposed of. Smith claims that “the intent of the draft legislation is to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent on the highest-quality research possible.” With a couple of college science courses, he also sees himself as a “peer” to the researchers.

Smith voted to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, voted no several times on tax credits for renewable energy and incentives for energy production and conservation, voted against raising fuel efficiency standards, and rejected implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. In addition, he denies that climate change has been caused by humans. Chair of the science committee, he is its most moderate GOP member.

Several senators joined in the conspiracy theory that Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) announced on MSNBC about the Obama administration deliberately orchestrating airline delays. “The administration is clearly manufacturing a crisis for political gain,” Toomey said. The short term fix for air-traffic controller furloughs comes out of airport repair and improvement, a move which will start long-term delays in a few years.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has brought back the disgusting term “anchor babies.” While discussing immigration reform at a town hall meeting last week, he insisted on border control before allowing undocumented immigrants a “probationary” status. Ryan wants to change the constitution so that people don’t come into the United States and have children. “That’s what they call it, anchor babies.”

During the same town hall meetings, Ryan suffered serious memory lapses. When an EPA worker talked about losing thousands in his income because of the sequester, the House Budget Committee Chairman blamed the president for the sequester, failing to remember that he bragged about the GOP getting legal caps on spending with the sequester. His excuse now is that the president won’t promote Ryan’s budget plan. Ryan, however, failed to tell the EPA employee that the Ryan budget plan guts the EPA.

Governors aren’t exempt from ignorant prejudice. In Pennsylvania where Tom Corbett (R) has low job approval ratings and economic recovery, he tried to explain why his state is 49th in the nation for job creation last March. “There are many employers that say we’re looking for people but we can’t find anybody that has passed a drug test, a lot of them.” His state has a pilot program that requires drug testing for those convicted of felony drug offenses who apply for welfare. In the past 15 months, only two people have failed these tests.

Also on the state level, California GOP Assembly President Celeste Greig voiced agreement with Todd Akin’s infamous “legitimate rape” comment:

“Granted, the percentage of pregnancies due to rape is small because it’s an act of violence, because the body is traumatized. I don’t know what percentage of pregnancies are due to the violence of rape. Because of the trauma the body goes through, I don’t know what percentage of pregnancy results from the act.”

California is not as understanding as other states: the Assembly voted her out, but only by six votes.

North Carolina State Senator Tommy Tucker summarized how the GOP feels about the people in the United States. A recent bills that he pushed through committee is to not inform people with important government decisions through omitting the requirement that the government publish legal notices about these decisions—such as a sewage plant in the neighborhood. Questioned by the Charlotte Observer about his bill, Tucker said:

“I am the senator. You are the citizen. You need to be quiet.”

This is where the United States is going these days—everyone should just be quiet.

[Note: The Republican Party has removed the word “Republican” from its website: now it’s just NRCC. Currently in their attempt to attract minorities, it has an article called “The History about Cinco de Mayo That You Might Not Know.”  The article headlined “Nancy Pelosi: The Least Liked Person in Congress” is actually about only the four Congressional leaders. Rep. Pelosi (D-CA) is actually tied with House Speaker John Boehner at 31 percent favorability. Always interesting to see how the GOP—excuse me, the NRCC—twists and tortures the facts.]

September 2, 2012

Good News on the Voting Restriction Front

During Condoleezza Rice’s speech last Wednesday at the GOP convention, she said that “failing neighborhood schools” are the “civil rights struggle of our day.” She must have skipped the news since the last election about the number of states that are removing voting rights from minorities (and many others) through draconian restrictions of voting.

This last week, however, saw a movement toward correcting the injustices of this past two years when federal judges, appointed by both Republicans and Democrats, struck down these laws in six different rulings in Ohio, Florida, and Texas. Sunday has a tradition of spreading the “good news,” and this Sunday finally has good news.

Florida: A three-judge court restored early voting in five counties that are subject to the Voting Rights Act. An even more important ruling voids the state law that prevents groups such as the League of Women Voters from registering new voters because of drastic restrictions on them—a 48-hour time frame on submitting registration forms as well as fines against organizations and individual volunteers who violated the new guidelines.

Ohio: The state is required to open election polls on the weekend before Election Day. Early voting began in Ohio after the long waits in 2004 for voting. In 2008, almost 100,000 people cast their vote on the Sunday before Election Day, many of them people who had to work during the week. The judge cited Bush v. Gore (the decision that appointed George W. Bush president in 2000) in restoring this early voting.

Another Ohio achievement was the ruling that the state has to count votes cast in the wrong precinct because of mistakes made by election officials. Ohio had said that votes cast in the wrong precinct could be discarded even when the voter went to the right polling place and was told to go to another, wrong, place. In the last general election, approximately 14,000 votes were not counted because of election official mistakes.

Texas: Federal judges struck down both a strict new photo identification requirement and the election redistricting that undercut the voting power of Latinos and blacks.

South Carolina is fighting the Voter Rights Act because the state is among the 16 jurisdictions with historic voting rights violations that require approval from the Justice Department to alter election procedures. The case has gone badly for South Carolina. State Rep. Alan Clemmons (R), denied that the bill was motivated by any desire to hurt minority voters, but civil rights attorney Garrard Beeney presented evidence that Rep. Clemmons had responded positively to a racist email from one of his constituents about the bill. Sen. George “Chip” Campsen III testified at length about alleged cases of fraud he had heard about but could not cite any instances of fraud related to voter impersonation.

Other states or parts of states challenging the Voting Rights Act include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, and Texas.  Unfortunately, the conservatives on the Supreme Court have indicated sympathy for these states.

In Tennessee, Memphis is suing the city, Tennessee’s photo identification requirement for voting for “imposing an undue burden on registered Tennessee voters’ right to vote.”

Working people’s fighting against conservatives to gain and keep the Constitutional right to vote is nothing new in the United States as shown in Alexander Keyssar’s The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. Originally, only men, primarily white, who owned, not leased, a certain amount of property could vote in this country. Only Vermont, which gained statehood in 1791, had no property or tax requirements for voting. During the early 19th century, veterans mobilized to gain the right to vote, and Western states loosened the requirements. In Wisconsin, even non-citizens could vote if they said they would become citizens.

Conservatives, fearing that the urban factory workers would overrun the country, pushed against the workers’ rights. The anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic movement especially hostile to the Irish controlled voted through literacy tests, long residency requirements, and long waits for new citizens to gain voting rights, wanting 21 years but compromising on two years in Massachusetts

Even after the Civil War, blacks could not vote in 15 states and territories in 1870. The 14th Amendment declared “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” to be citizens and prohibited states to deny citizens “equal protection of the laws.” It didn’t address voting, but the 15th Amendment did. When political alliances between blacks and poor whites threatened the power of the local elites, the conservatives created the “Jim Crow” system of strict racial segregation and the end of black civil and political rights, violently enforced by Ku Klux Klan terrorism and one-party rule by ultra-racist Democrats. Poll taxes and literary tests could disenfranchised many poor whites, and the country failed to enforce the 15th Amendment until the 1960s.

Meanwhile California had banned anyone born in China from voting, and other state constitutions barred “paupers” from voting to prevent striking workers or the unemployed during the depressions of the latter half of the 19th century. Other states determined that Native Americans were not citizens because they lived on reservation land outside the state’s jurisdiction. By the early 20th century they were allowed to vote if they severed their tribal connections and sold tribal lands to non-Indians.

Women didn’t vote in federal elections until 1920 although 17 states, over one-third of the United States, permitted voting within the states. The Voting Rights Act expanded the absolute right to vote in 1965, requiring, for example, New York to drop its literacy test to keep many Puerto Ricans from voting. The 24th Amendment permanently banned poll taxes, and the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 mandated allowing voter registration by mail and in government offices such as motor vehicle bureaus.

A common ploy in this century to keep people from voting has been the purges of voter lists. Florida started this in 2000 where they disenfranchised many people with names similar to that of an ex-convict and used the excuse that it was legal because convicted felons cannot vote in that state. After an extremely close—and mis-managed—vote in Florida, the Supreme Court ruled that “the individual citizen has no constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States…” State legislatures can allow voters to choose the states’ electors who vote for president in the Electoral College, said the five justices, but the legislature can also “take back the power to appoint electors.”

Conservatives have been open about not wanting minorities, seniors, students, disabled, and the poor to vote. The following quotation from Matthew Vadum in American Thinker is just one example:

“Why are left-wing activist groups so keen on registering the poor to vote? Because they know the poor can be counted on to vote themselves more benefits by electing redistributionist politicians.  Welfare recipients are particularly open to demagoguery and bribery. Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals.  It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country — which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote.”

How ironic that federal law defines the ages of people who vote but not their felony status or their ability to get a photo ID. If people are supposedly rehabilitated because they have served their time, they should be able to take their full place in society. And photo IDs have not stopped any fraud. I’m grateful that I live in Oregon where felons can vote once they leave prison and where we all vote by mail. When the law was first passed, I worried about fraud and coercion. Any possibility of that is far overshadowed by the restrictions that conservatives have placed on the majority of U.S. citizens.

A judge in the Texas case said, “As the Supreme Court has ‘often reiterated…voting is of the most fundamental significance under our constitutional structure.’ Indeed, the right to vote free from racial discrimination is expressly protected by the Constitution.”

Cheers for Vermont, the only state that upholds the spirit of the U.S. Constitution.

 

May 31, 2012

ALEC Continues Downhill Slide

ALEC used to be the secret right-wing group that provided millions of dollars to write conservative laws such as “stand your ground,” voter repression in the name of identifying fraud, and unconstitutional anti-choice laws. I say “used to be” because  the American Legislative Exchange Council was forced out of the closet into the light of media’s day last month. Until today the list of corporations running away from ALEC had included 19 large corporations such as amazon.com, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield have dropped from ALEC. Nonprofits like the gigantic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also separated themselves from the far-right Koch-sponsored organization. Today both retail giant Wal-Mart and Medtronic, a medical device company, dumped ALEC.

ALEC has more than 2,000 legislative members, primarily Republican, from all 50 states, nearly one-third of all sitting legislators and more than 85 members of Congress and 14 sitting or former governors who are considered “alumni.” Approximately 300 corporate, foundation, and other private-sector groups are other, higher paying, members. ALEC’s chair, currently David Frizzell (IN)  rotates with a new legislator appointed to the position each year.

Wisconsin under Gov. Scott Walker is the poster-child for ALEC with its anti-consumer, union-busting, voter-repression laws while giving huge tax cuts for corporations and the richest of its citizens. Of the 132 legislators, 49 are ALEC members, including top leadership in both houses.  Walker began his devastation with an ALEC “omnibus” tort bill, making it harder for Wisconsin residents to hold corporations accountable after dangerous products injure or kill people.

Another poster-child, albeit much quieter than Wisconsin, is Louisiana. Gov. Bobby Jindal used ALEC bills that advocate for the privatization of traditionally public services, like health care, prisons and education based on the misguided conservative belief that the results will be more efficient and competitive. Privatization is far more costly and less efficient as seen by the replacements in the military and prisons.

In Louisiana, laws were rushed through without any thought, for example the “parent trigger” law that allows a majority of parents connected with one school to change it into a charter school. There is no evaluation for the converted school, either before or after, and no way for failed charter schools to be “re-triggered.” Student placement is also limited. ALEC advice is to push a large quantity of bills very fast, to get them passed before people notice.

One influential trade association staying with ALEC is the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) that represents companies providing water services to almost 73 million people in the country. That’s almost one-fourth of the population. The goal of NAWC and ALEC is to legislate loopholes for water protections and federal oversight of fracking, a method of extracting oil that forces millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals into the ground. This practice not only puts drinking water resources at risk but also may be the reason behind the increasing number of earthquakes in the Midwest.

Another powerful corporation—and ALEC member—pushing for fracking is ExxonMobil. Model legislation from ALEC, based on a Texas law, gives guidelines for the public disclosure of chemicals in drilling fluids used to extract natural gas through fracking. The model bill has loopholes allowing energy companies to withhold the names of certain fluid contents, meaning that companies—like ExxonMobil—are then allowed to use any contaminants that they want without anyone knowing what these are.

One organization dropping ALEC last month is the national certifying body for teachers in the United States, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Supposedly a non-profit organization focusing on teacher certification, NBPTS also takes positions on political positions affect teacher certification.

Some legislators seem incredibly naïve about how ALEC truly lobbies. For example, state Rep. Paul Bandy, co-chair of the New Mexico branch of ALEC, said in an interview that he didn’t solicit donations from ALEC, that money just appears in his mailbox from ALEC-connected corporations. I guess he considers himself really lucky. He did understand that the ALEC laws might not pass if people know their origin. Bandy opposes the use of tax-deductible money for political purposes but didn’t seem to object using ALEC’s tax-deductible money for political purposes.

The South Carolina legislature is so supportive of ALEC that it has created a special ethics exemption for the organization. Lobbying rules that govern how public officials can interact with lobbyists prevent legislators from having their lodging and transportation provided by lobbyists—with the exception of ALEC—because “the outings that ALEC organizes for politicians are essential to its influence. At these retreats, ALEC officials work with state lawmakers to craft new legislation.” They certainly do!

When ALEC’s activities became widely known last month, there seemed to be a slight bit of hope after the organization announced that they would eliminate its Public Safety and Elections task force. Hope was short-lived, however, after the task force’s chair, state Rep. Jerry Madden (R-TX) said many of the issues would be transferred to other committees. ALEC’s definition of “public safety” is passing laws allowing people to go after others if they “feel threatened” and kill them if necessary, as happened to Trayvon Martin in Florida a year ago.

Disturbed when ALEC dropped its voter suppression arm, the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) stepped in and formed a “Voter Identification Task Force.” The NCPPR also criticized ALEC for withdrawing the voter-oppression task force after losing only 11 corporate sponsors. Part of NCPPR’s past activities have been to help Jack Abramoff launder millions of dollars and to raise funds by “bombarding senior citizens with ‘fright mail,'” money used to do things like help Exxon Mobil oppose efforts to address climate change.

One organization is fighting back against ALEC through its fraudulent tax-exempt status. The watchdog Common Cause has obtained hundreds of pages of documents and shared these with the New York Times. They are also using these documents and public records to support its Internal Revenue Service complaint, stating that ALEC does not deserve its tax-exempt status because it is a lobbying organization. ALEC denies that it is writing laws, but its membership brochure bragged that the group introduces over 1,000 bills annually and passes about 17 percent of these.

ALEC also sends talking points to its lawmakers to use when speaking publicly about issues like President Obama’s health care law. Alan P. Dye, a lawyer for ALEC, acknowledged that the group’s practice of communicating with lawmakers about specific bills could meet the federal definition of lobbying. His justification is that these communications were a result of “nonpartisan research and analysis.” Lisa Graves, the executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy disagreed, stating that as of last August, all but one of 104 leadership positions within the organization were filled by Republicans and that the policies ALEC promoted were almost uniformly conservative.

Common Cause has made progress in at least one state. The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board will investigate ALEC for lobbying violations in that state. The board will likely address the complaint in July. In Minnesota, Common Cause also filed a complaint with state Attorney General Lori Swanson alleging that ALEC has misrepresented its role by filing as a 501 (c) (3).

The icing on the cake is within the IRS procedures: According to IRS policies, an analyst in the Whistleblower Office must consider the information provided by Common Cause. Common Cause could receive between 15 and 30 percent of any taxes, penalties and interest collected, if certain requirements are met. Only the IRS can challenge a nonprofit organization’s tax-exempt status because of court rulings.

The only thing better than ALEC having to pay taxes is for a watchdog organization to get some of it!

January 28, 2012

Buchanan, Other Republicans Exhibit Racism

Sixteen years ago, Pat Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary for presidential candidate; now he may be fired from MSNBC. Three months ago, the activist group Color of Change started a petition against his employment at the television network after a number of racist insults, including calling President Obama “your boy” on Al Sharpton’s show.

Buchanan hasn’t appeared on the network since he headed out on his book tour. Suicide of a Superpower includes chapters  with titles such as “The End of  White America” and “The Death of Christian America” for chapters, and he stated that the country is in the “Indian summer of our civilization.” An MSNBC’s top executive has said that Buchanan will be allowed back on the network.

Buchanan gave two scenarios for what happened. On Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, he said that he had medical issues, that there was nothing permanent about the separation. Two days later he told Sean Hannity that the problem came from the gays and the people of color. He also blamed the Jews because of his position that the United States shouldn’t go to war with Iran to protect Israel.

MSNBC President Phil Griffin hasn’t come right out and stated that Buchanan is suspended, but thus far he hasn’t appeared on the network.

The Republicans have had a history of racial prejudice in the past decades, and people like Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman tried in the past to overcome this image. Almost seven years ago, he apologized to the NAACP, saying that Republicans had pushed racial strife to get white voters, especially in the South. Since then the racial divide has only worsened.

In Tennessee Tea Party groups are demanding that the state legislature remove references to slavery in school textbooks. Their goal is to erase any negative portrayals of the rich white men who wrote the Constitution: “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.” Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.”

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, the 800-square-mile Wake County School District in Raleigh wants to segregate its schools, stating that concentrating poor children—usually minorities—in a few schools has merit. John Tedesco, one of the new Republican-majority board, said, “This is Raleigh in 2010, not Selma,Alabama, in the 1960s–my life is integrated.” The NAACP has filed a civil rights complaint arguing that 700 initial student transfers the new board approved have already increased racial segregation, violating laws that prohibit the use of federal funding for discriminatory purposes.

Concern about the Republican presidential candidates’ racist pandering to the white base has also been growing throughout the past few months. Rick Santorum said, “I don’t want to make Black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.” Criticized for this statement, he tried excuse himself by saying that he listened to the tape and must have same something like “bla…” Doesn’t work.

Ron Paul wants to overturn the Civil Rights Act because he thinks white private business owners should have the “freedom” not to serve minorities. His virulently racist newsletters from the 1990s have also found more and more publicity. Despite Paul’s denials stating that he knew nothing about the newsletters’ content, associates declare differently, saying that they watched him proof and sign off on what was said.

Newt Gingrich criticized Paul for the newsletters and accused him of knowing about the content. That was right after Gingrich offered to talk to the NAACP to urge African-Americans to “demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.” When Juan Williams, a moderator for the South Carolinadebate from Fox News, asked Gingrich if his use of such language was “intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities,” the white audience booed Williams. Gingrich evidently doesn’t know that fewer than one quarter of food stamp recipients are African-American.

Mitt Romney wants to “keep America America.” Whatever he means by this statement, it’s far too close to the Ku Klux Clan motto, “keep America American.”

Fortunately Michelle Bachmann is gone, but many of her statements remain embedded in our memory. One of these is that the black family was stronger during slavery than in freedom. She probably read the proposed Tennessee textbooks because of her belief that the white men who wrote the Constitution in the 1700s were abolitionists who “fought tirelessly to eliminate slavery” and that the slaveholding Christian whites “loved their slaves.”

The candidates were asked in one debate to address the grossly disparate impact of the Great Recession on black and brown communities. The unemployment rate for African-Americans is two to three times higher than the 9 percent for whites; the middle-class minorities have had their income, assets, and wealth gutted so thoroughly that whites have almost 20 times the average net worth of African-Americans. The candidates had no response other than people should work harder because the opportunities to succeed are all through the country.

It appears that the Republicans think that they can be elected with just the white vote. From what minorities are saying, they’ve lost anyone else’s vote, At a Martin Luther King Day concert in South Carolina just five days before the Republican primary, Kathy Edwards said, “It’s all about this with the Republicans,” she says pinching her own black skin. “I’m 58 now. It’s better than it was, but with the Republicans it’s all about race even if they don’t say it.”

Four years ago, less than 2% of those voting in the South Carolina Republican primary were from racial minority groups whereas more than half of those who participated in the Democratic primary were black.

“White folks around here talk about taking the country back when it hasn’t been anywhere,” Edwards said. “The fact is they don’t like a black man as president. They think he has taken something that belongs to them.”

Lottie Gibson, one of only two African American members of the Greenville county council and a former teacher with a long history of working with the poor, said that the Republican message has been racially divisive by persuading poor white people, who overwhelmingly vote Republican in South Carolina, that a large part of the cause of their economic problems is poor black people.

Edward echoed Gibson’s position. “To me the Republicans just don’t include African Americans. They don’t connect to us. They seem mean spirited people,” she said. “This election is not about black and white, it’s about rich and poor. But whenever the Republicans talk about poor, then they start talking about welfare and single mothers. They always associate single mothers with black women and welfare. I was a single mother for a long time before I married. I never took welfare in my life.”

Shelly Roehrs, chair of the Spartanburg County Democratic Party, said, “The Republicans are blind. They don’t see any disparity between rich and poor. White voters vote based on their religion and out of fear. They can barely afford the rent, but they vote Republican because whenever poverty is mentioned, the very first thing that comes up is that black people are milking the welfare system.”

Many African Americans in South Carolina voted Republican until the 1960s because the Democratic party held power and strongly supported segregation.  In the early 1960s, leading segregationists such as Senator Strom Thurmond, protested civil rights legislation by changing to the Republican party in protest at national civil rights legislation. The Republicans have kept the anti-civil rights policy for the past half century.

The civil war memorial in Greenville, next to the sprawling cemetery with a separate section for black people, is marked with an inscription observing that history will prove the Confederate slave states to have been “in the right.” The statehouse still flies the Confederate flag.

The more the Republicans talk, the more minority votes they lose—perhaps enough to guarantee their losing the election in 2012 if the country doesn’t lose 5 million voters because of Republican laws restricting voting.

© blogfactory

Genuine news

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

Rainbow round table news

Official News Outlet for the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: