Nel's New Day

March 8, 2019

Think Equal: International Women’s Day

On March 8, International Women’s Day, 28 members of the world champion United States women’s soccer team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit regarding the lack of pay equity and working conditions. According to the lawsuit, discrimination against the women athletes not only leaves them with much less than pay than men in the soccer field but also restricts their place of play, training, medical treatment, coaching, and even travel accommodations.

The women, stars for over a decade, head to France this summer to defend the Women’s World Cup that they won almost four years ago. Since their third win of the contest in summer of 2015, they have made some gain—doubled prize money pool for the upcoming tournament, the disappearance of artificial turf, and even a chartered flight. Female soccer teams in other countries such as Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and Norway have made a few gains since protests by the U.S. women’s team.

FIFA, pro soccer teams’ employer, still favor the men by give a pool of $400 million to 32 men’s teams compared to $30 million for 24 women’s teams. According to pay schedules for players participating in 20 games a year, men get an average of $263,320 while women get a maximum of $99,000. That’s after the $17 million more in profit for 2016 that women made over the men. Although the male team lost the 2014 World Cup in Round 16, their bonuses were $5.375; after winning the Cup in 2015, women received $1.725 for bonuses.

Women suffer far worse inequities around the world than lack of pay. Poverty, lack of justice and rights, abuse, poorer health, discrimination in education—all these are just a few of the ways that women are wanting in gender equality. But sports is one area that symbolizes the subjection of women to male values. A recent example occurred in a cycling race in Switzerland. In the annual Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, men started two minutes before women—because women are faster. No matter—Nicole Hanselmann took a big lead over the men’s field, that is, before she was told to sit by the side of the road to “neutralise the women’s race in order to restore the gap between” the men and women’s groups. Maybe the men should have had a five-minute head start so that they could win.

Women ride the Tour de France through traffic and without media on the day before men get the attention, and the women’s Olympic race is half the length of the men’s race. Olympic cycling events for women didn’t exist until 1984, the same year that events included a women’s marathon but almost a century after the modern Olympic revivals in 1896 included these events for men.

Bobbi Gibbs entered the Boston Marathon in 1966 without an application after being told that was told that “women are not physiologically able to run a marathon.” She beat over half the field in 3 hours, 21 minutes. The next year, Kathrine Switzer entered the marathon under her initials and beat her boyfriend. Her time of 4 hours, 20 minutes might have been better if the race co-director had not physically attacked her during the race. Not until 1972 did the AAU allow women to run more than a mile and a half.

Other sports still have the  gender restrictions: women play two out of three sets in tennis, but men play three out of five. Men said that the rules are meant to protect women’s “reproductive organs” from undue endurance. In the beginning, women’s cycling threatened men because women gained independence with their own transportation. The lack of chaperones caused people to refer to bicycles as “prostitution on wheels.” The reason for gender inequality is to show women that we are inferior.

Other inequalities in sports:

In the U.S., 40 percent of sportspeople are women, but only six to eight percent of the total sports media coverage is devoted to them. Women-only sports stories comprise just 3.5 percent of all sports stories in the four major US newspapers.

Each year, male athletes get $179 million more in athletic scholarships—50 percent more—than female athletes receive.

Colleges and universities spend only 24 percent of their athletic operating budgets on female sports and just 16 percent of recruiting budgets for women.

Coaches for college women’s team sports earn 63 cents for every dollar earned by head coaches of men’s teams.

The 2015 Women’s World Cup soccer final was the most watched soccer match—male or female—but its players were far less compensated than male soccer players. In professional soccer, the National Women’s Soccer League has a pay ceiling per player of just $37,800 compared to an average of more than $300,000 and a median of about $100,000 for men’s Major League Soccer. Each team in the NWSL has a salary cap of just $265,000—compared to more than $3 million for men.

Of total commercial investment, 0.4 percent goes into women’s sport.

People who discriminate against women in sports claim that they won’t receive any attention, that the public wants to watch only men play. This attitude, however, comes from the top. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) makes news with male championship sports teams, either being rebuffed by them or feeding them fast foods like hamburgers and pizza. Yet he has not invited one female championship team to the White House to honor them on a solo visit—not the 2018 women’s NCAA basketball champions Notre Dame, not the 2017 WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx, nor the 2018 WNBA champion Seattle Storm. The latest invitation, however, was a men’s lower-division NCAA football championship team, the first one invited since Bill Clinton’s time. Every other president going back to Ronald Reagan invited the women’s NCAA basketball champions. Here’s President Obama with the 2016 NCAA winners.

Politics this year has brought out the worst—thus far—in conservative misogyny. From the minute that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected a Democratic U.S. representative from New York, journalists stalked her, intent on photographing her from behind, questioning how much she pays for her clothes, why she took an Uber instead of the subway. A Texas city council member called her a “bimbo,” and one of her congressional colleagues yelled “Go back to Puerto Rico!”  Conservative pundits call her a “little girl” and fantasize about dating her. On The View, Meghan McCain said she was “really surprised” that Ocasio-Cortez had asked an intelligent question at Michael Cohen’s House hearing. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has the same political views, but it’s the conservatives who cried at CPAC that Ocasio-Cortez wants to “take your hamburgers” and replaced incessant smears of Hillary Clinton to those directed at Ocasio-Cortez.

The hatred and sexism directed toward Ocasio-Cortez moved to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) after she criticized the control of Israel over U.S. policy. For decades, GOP congressional members and conservative media protected rampant racism from colleagues and now fail to call out their racist president while becoming livid about Omar’s suggestion that candidates receive millions of dollars to oppose Palestine and support Israel. The attacks didn’t start with her supposed anti-Semitic remarks used to revile her; threats against her began before she was sworn into the 116th Congress also because of her Islam religion. Every word she uses, even “hypnotize,” is classified as an “anti-Semitic trope” while DDT and other white male GOP congressional members escape any criticism. Yet 23 of them voted against all expressions of prejudice such as racism, Islamophobia, and anti-LGBTQ rights except for anti-Semitism. Omar is even being blamed for the spike in anti-Jewish hate crimes that began with DDT’s election.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, said that while anti-Semitism is a “hateful and dangerous ideology,” it must not be confused with criticism of Israel’s government under the right-wing leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) joined Sanders in defending Omar because they, too, have suffered from the misogyny, especially since the women declared their candidacies for the 2020 presidential election. After condemning Hillary Clinton for being too “icy,” pundits slam Warren for being “aloof” and Harris for connecting with audiences “too much.” For weeks, opinionists agonized over whether the women presidential candidates were “authentic” and found stories to show that they are phonies. Warren’s oral history of Native American background from the 1980s appears again and again—and again. (The same people overlook DDT’s 9,000 lies.) Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was attacked for talking about how to eat fried chicken, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar is “mean.” Authenticity for women is being a secretary or staff member.

The theme for the 2019 International Women’s Day is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change.” Almost half the Democrats running for president in 2020 are women, and a pro sports team is suing for equality. Ocasio-Cortez and Omar are making changes in Congress along with the other 108 Democratic women plus their allies. These changes plus millions of others may bring women into the 21st century.

October 7, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-seven – Raking Up Big Numbers

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) can now take credit for the deadliest massacre in modern U.S. history—59 59 dead and at least 527 people in Las Vegas this week. These are the “secret” White House talking points in an effort to stop any talk about common sense gun laws, as indicated in a leak: pray and monitor; wait for any “political debate” until facts are known; protect the people through the Second Amendment; can’t stop a “mad man” with “new laws” because “they will curtail the freedoms of law-abiding citizens; don’t need guns for terrorist attacks; allow people to protect themselves with concealed carry; and don’t “rush toward compromising our freedoms before we have all the facts.” In other words, legislative business as usual—tax cuts!

Another leak this week that hit the comedy routines was DDT’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling DDT a “moron” in a Pentagon meeting last July. Tillerson was forced  to call DDT “smart” in a press conference, but he didn’t deny that he used that term for DDT. The comment was made after DDT’s appearance at the Boy Scouts Jamboree; Tillerson was its leader from 2010 to 2012.

Tillerson has also been frustrated because DDT’s publicly undermines him, for example, the dispute when Middle Eastern countries blockaded Qatar, sanctions on Venezuela, aid to Israel, and, most recently, DDT’s tweet that Tillerson should not negotiate with North Korea. The day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reached out to North Korea for talks, DDT tweeted that he was “wasting his time” and “we’ll do what has to be done!”  Just 37 percent trust Trump to responsibly handle the North Korea standoff.

In opposition to Tillerson, DDT indicated that he will back out of the Iranian agreement, leaving them free to develop nuclear weapons. The Nobel Committee cited this as one reason to award its Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for its efforts in advancing negotiations leading to the first treaty to prohibit nuclear arms. The world’s nine nuclear-armed powers and their allies—including the United States—boycotted the negotiations, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis threatened Sweden with retribution if the country supported the treaty. Fifty-three UN member states signed the treaty, and three of them have formally ratified it since the process started on September 20.

Tillerson has formed a “pact” with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Treasury that all three will resign if DDT fires one of them.

DDT did get to Puerto Rico almost two weeks after Maria was the second hurricane to hit the island, stayed in populated areas, and left an hour early. [Right: DDT shows a different kind of “compassion” to hurricane victims.]

While there, DDT:

  • Refused to mention or communicate with the mayor of San Juan;
  • Complained about the cost of the two hurricanes’ damage while saying how happy he is to spend “hundreds of millions” on the F-35, a plane has never flown a mission and “you can’t see” (according to DDT);
  • Said that Puerto Rico was not a “real catastrophe like Katrina;
  • Ignored the devastation on the island;
  • Threw rolls of paper towels into a crowd of survivors in a church, perhaps appearing to “distribute” supplies;
  • Praised the place for its beautiful weather;
  • Told hurricane victims to “have a good time”;
  • Said he was doing an “A+” job.

DDT has not yet submitted a request for aid to Puerto Rico. As he bragged about the wonderful response to the disaster, over half the people have no clean drinking water, and 95 percent of them have no electricity. DDT handed out flashlights but said that the people didn’t need them. Only one of the island’s 69 hospitals is fully operational, 59 of the 69 hospitals are operating on generators. Local officials talked about the lack of assistance. The mayor in a city of 54,000 said that they had received 10,000 meals, and one woman in the city said she had seen no supplies except for a case of water after 11 days. DDT waited ten days to waive the requirement that food stamps be used only in grocery stores despite the inability of these facilities to process the stamps.

After he returned from Puerto Rico, DDT said that he might wipe out the territory’s $72 billion debt, mostly held in huge hedge funds, but his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said, “We’re absolutely not going to bail them out.” As the U.S. seems incapable of helping Puerto Rico, Germany is donating 15 microgrids around the island for power emergency centers that combine solar panels and batteries.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley voted no for a resolution calling on countries to not use the death penalty for discrimination in cases of consensual adultery and same-gender relations. Twenty-seven countries supported the resolution while the U.S. was one of 13 countries, primarily those in the Middle East and Asia, that opposed it. Seven countries abstained. Former UN Ambassador Susan Rice tweeted about the vote, “Not even Russia and Iran stooped as low as we did.” The U.S. does use the death penalty as discrimination against minorities, women, and poor people.

The congressional conclusion that Russian attempted to hack into U.S. voting machines and influenced U.S. voters through social media has been followed by DDT’s request that the Senate Intelligence Committee investigate the U.S. press. DDT’s constant attacks on the media as “fake news” has a benefit for the media. The 48 percent of people who have confidence in the press is up nine percent since last November whereas the same 48 percent having a measure of faith in DDT is down three percent.

Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, is also being investigated for his reassignment of Joel Clement after Clement showed how climate change affects Alaska’ Native communities. An earlier probe came from his threats to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in an attempt to get her vote for the health care bill.

Ivanka and Donald Trump, Jr. are in the hot seat with their emails, including publicity about how they barely evaded indictment on felony fraud charges in 2012 regarding their failed project, Trump SoHo, but donations to a campaign saved them. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. made prosecutors drop the case after DDT’s attorney Marc Kasowitz gave $25,000 to the DA’s reelection campaign with another $50,000 from DDT and other donors later on.

The use of official emails on Ivanka’s and Don Jr.’s personal accounts may have compromised national security:

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have shared official White House materials on the Kushner family’s private domain, in a third private account recently discovered. The emails to the third account were largely sent from White House accounts but occasionally came from other private accounts, one of these people said. Kushner set up ijkfamily.com when he joined DDT’s administration.

Apps on Kushner’s and Ivanka’s private email automatically deleted communications for official matters, an illegal action that other of DDT’s White House officials have also taken.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter to White House counsel last week requesting more information about the White House staff use of private email addresses for official business, including disappearing message apps.

Both Kushner and Ivanka moved their email accounts to Trump Organization after the letter stating that the records not be destroyed, modified, or transferred. Cummings pointed out that their action also violates their pledge to not be a part of Trump Organization.

https://www.mediaite.com/online/rachel-maddow-reports-that-secret-service-is-banning-mobile-devices-from-west-wing/  More problems arose after it was discovered that the cell phone of John Kelly, former National Security Advisor and current chief of staff, was compromised with the establishment of new guidelines. Personal mobile devices—including tablets, cell phones, and smart watches—are to be prohibited from the West Wing. The question is whether DDT’s cell phone is part of this ban.

ACLU immediately filed a lawsuit against the government after AG Jeff Sessions announced that businesses and organizations can use religious belief or “moral conviction” to avoid providing free birth control on its insurance plans. A majority of people, even Republicans, disagree with DDT. The same excuse can also be used to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

The ACLU is also suing to lift unreasonable FDA restrictions on Mifeprex, a safe and effective method of ending an early pregnancy up to 10 weeks, from pharmacies.

DDT may also be able to take credit for the worst hurricane destruction of any president. The fourth major storm to hit the U.S. in less than nine months has killed 30 people in Central America and has now hit the Louisiana coast. Nate, the fourth major storm to strike the United States in less than two months, killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on the US South. Over 40 percent of the Gulf’s staffed oil- and gas-producing platforms were evacuated. The storm, now a Category One, still has winds of about 100 mph and possible storm surges of 10 feet but should weaken on land. It may be the worst hurricane in Mississippi since Katrina in 2005.

March 23, 2017

Deny Gorsuch for Supreme Court Justice

The Senate hearings for Neil Gorsuch ended today, and Republicans are already congratulating themselves for getting such a far-right justice after refusing to even speak to Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee almost an entire year before the end of his second term. “Unreasonable” and “obstructionist” are two popular terms from the conservatives who completely ignored Garland for almost a year while they claimed that Supreme Court justice decisions should never be considered during a campaign season. Yet the United States is in the midst of a campaign season: Dictator Donald Trump (DTT) declared his 2020 candidacy on the day of his inauguration, and he’s already holding rallies funded by his campaign donations.

Even worse, the evidence keeps piling up that DDT was not legitimately elected to his current office following testimony by FBI director James Comey and other reports from intelligence agencies. The strong suggestion of an impeachment for DDT began swirling even before he was inaugurated, and the daily occurrences of his conflicts of interest make the length of his term even more tenuous. Further, DDT’s behavior is make the United States increasingly unstable.

Just 45 percent favor Gorsuch’s nomination’s nomination for the Court, the lowest level of public support for a Supreme Court nominee since Robert Bork (31 percent) and Harriet Miers (44 percent). Even the Fox poll could find only a 49 percent approval for Gorsuch, and approval among women was only 42 percent. The Senate rejected Bork, and Miers withdrew under intense criticism. Gorsuch’s glib charm will almost surely not have the same result for him as Bork and Miers, but he’s no more deserving than they were.

Gorsuch’s philosophy as shown in Chevron is that unelected judges should have far more power to strike down regulations, a belief extremely popular with Republicans. He believes in blocking agencies from writing regulations that implement congressional laws signed by the president as shown by his opposition to a long-standing legal doctrine tried in a case involving Chevron. Even Antonin Scalia supported the importance of regulations that allow “flexibility, and appropriate political participation, in the administrative process.” Gorsuch wrote that liberals are focused on achieving goals, such as marriage equality, through litigation, but like other conservative judges, he supports the use of corporation lawsuits to strike down laws they oppose. The chart below shows that the only current justice farther right than Gorsuch is Clarence Thomas, but his rulings and writings may show that he’s even more right. Justice Thomas voted this week to overturn one of Gorsuch’s rulings.

Republicans are obsessed with replacing Antonin Scalia with an even more far-right justice. They conveniently forgot that they replaced Thurgood Marshall, one of the finest justices in history, with Clarence Thomas, who is severely flawed with conflicts of interest and other issues while he votes as far right as possible. The only “replacement” that Republicans made was choosing another man of color in Thomas.

Gorsuch’s history shows that he attacks women’s equality by putting employers’ preferences ahead of women’s rights, failing to protect women from pregnancy discrimination, eliminating women’s access to health care, and even denying women access to justice. During a discussion in Gorsuch’s law class, he said that employers should ask female applicants if they plan to start a family because women manipulate maternity leave policies at the company’s expense before resigning—a flagrantly illegal action. In the hearings, Gorsuch first denied saying this but then refused to state whether questioning women and not men about plans for adding to the family would violate the law.

In his writings, Gorsuch has argued against the legal principals of Roe v. Wade and disagrees with the right to privacy allowing legalized abortion. Removing that right removes constitutional rights for individuals to make decisions about sex, reproduction, and marriage. Gorsuch tends to bar women from litigating discrimination claims, going so far as to ignore U.S. Supreme Court precedent in his refusal. When he did take a case of sexual harassment, he ruled that it didn’t exist because the manager was also hard on the men—although UPS drivers testified that the manager was worse on the only female on the team.

Gorsuch’s opposition to substantive due process shows that he disagrees with the Supreme Court’s affirmation that a person’s right to liberty also protects their dignity, to life free of interference and to making personal decisions free of discrimination. As an “originalist,” he believes that this right is not in the Constitution although SCOTUS has disagreed with his position. Gorsuch prefers equal protection which denies medical aided death because of his belief in an inalienable right to life. The right to dignity was the basis for Justice Paul Stevens’ dissent to upholding Georgia’s anti-sodomy laws in Bowers v. Hardwick. Stevens maintained that federal judges have the responsibility to protect an individual’s right to decide “how he will live his own life.” Justice Anthony Kennedy used Stevens’ dissent to overturn sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and to declare marriage equality in United States v. Windsor and later in Obergefell v. Hodges. Gorsuch could attempt to overturn these rights as well as Roe v. Wade because he doesn’t believe in “dignity.”

As part of the GOP culture of cruelty, Gorsuch ruled that a truck driver should die rather than leave his rig in sub-zero weather, that a woman recuperating from a bone marrow transplant should risk getting the flu rather than work from home for a short time, and that disabled children don’t deserve an education. He called the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014, leading to a prolonged painful death, an “innocent misadventure” when he ruled that Oklahoma should continue its untested lethal injection protocol. He also wrote two separate opinions against blocking felons from possessing guns.

An examination of Gorsuch’s cruel votes shows that he almost always sides with the “big guys”—corporations and school systems rather than individuals. His strong support for corporations may come from his associates in his personal life. A lawyer at a Washington law firm in the early 2000s, Gorsuch represented Philip Anschutz and his companies. Anschutz successfully lobbied Colorado’s lone Republican senator and the Bush administration to get Gorsuch onto the federal appeals court in 2006. Now a multi-millionaire, Gorsuch is welcome among that wealthy at Anschutz’ ranch, and he is partners in a company with two of Anschutz’ colleagues. They are so close that Gorsuch has built a vacation home with them.

What Gorsuch says in the hearings means very little because GOP-supported candidates show that their answers mean nothing. Asked in his hearing about the right to vote being “a fundamental constitutional right,” Chief Justice John Roberts said, “It is preservative, I think, of all the other rights.” He said he had no issue with upholding the Voting Rights Act that he gutted eight years later. He also said, about having no agenda, “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules, they apply them.” That was before he pushed the court to the right in outlawing school integration, blocking Medicaid expansion, and allowing—not once but twice—unlimited secret corporate spending for political campaigns.

In the hearings, Gorsuch talked about judicial modesty and not being a “super-legislator,” but his rulings show that he has tried to establish law in ruling against employees in cases involving federal race, sex, age, disability and political discrimination and retaliation claims. In a count, it’s corporation 21, humans 2. There’s a very good reason that big special interests are spending millions of dollars in dark money to push his confirmation.

Republicans praise Neil Gorsuch because he writes well and concisely, because he calls himself a textualist or originalist, and because he votes for big business, big donors, and big bosses. He was hand-picked by the far-right Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation and has close ties to a conservative billionaire. These are all reasons that he should be opposed. It was rumored that some Democrats would vote to confirm him in exchange for a promise from the Republicans to keep the filibuster for Supreme Court justices. The argument that another candidate might be worse than Gorsuch is invalid because he’s on the far-right edge of current Supreme Court justices’ ideology. In addition, the GOP is not known for keeping its promises.

Keeping the filibuster is of no value if Democrats don’t use it. Democrats should live up to the party’s values and not support a Supreme Court justice who is anti-woman, anti-LGBT, anti-worker, anti-voting rights, anti-education rights, anti-civil rights, and anti-dignity. I want Democrats to develop the same “intestinal fortitude” as the far-right House Republicans who refuse to vote for the new health care act even after the president threatens them with losing their next election. I disagree with the views of these GOP representatives, but I want Democrats to stand for their values in the same way that these conservatives are doing.

Gorsuch will probably be a Supreme Court justice, but Democrats should not be complicit in putting him in that position.

August 26, 2016

Women’s Vote Can Change the World

Pickets-Women-White-HouseMy mother was born on November 12, 1899, just ten days too late to vote the United States legalized the vote for women. After 72 years of ridicule, imprisonment, forced feedings, and other forms of opposition to women gaining their full citizenship rights, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed on August 18, 1920—thanks to one state legislator from Tennessee who followed his mother’s advice. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the proclamation after the certified record from Tennessee arrived at the capitol.

it's a woman's worldIn the first election, only nine million women, about 35 percent of those eligible, voted, compared to almost twice as many men. Public sentiment followed one of the headlines about the event: “Is suffrage a failure?” For the next 45 years, black women in the South joined black men to eliminate literacy tests, poll tests, and other voter suppression activities. Since 1980, however, women have been the majority at every general election, electing Bill Clinton in 1996 with 11 percent more women’s votes than from men up to 13 percent greater number of votes from women for President Obama in 2008. Whoever thought that the feminist movement failed after 1920 is wrong.

As historian Jo Freeman wrote in A Room at a Time:

 “[Women behind the scenes] prepared women for political work and enlarged their sphere of activity. They did this through education, legitimation and infiltration…. And by doing what was possible, women went into politics the same way they got suffrage: slowly and persistently, with great effort, against much resistance, a room at a time.”

This evolution laid the foundation for women’s progress throughout 96 years, leading to Hillary Clinton’s nomination for presidential candidate this year. The biggest move forward after 1920 was the 1964 Civil Rights Act, initially created to deal with race discrimination. At the last minute, however, the category of sex was added to those of race, color, religion, and national origin that are outlawed in employment discrimination. While no one is sure that this story is accurate, a tale has been told of Virginia’s Howard W. Smith, opponent of all civil rights legislation, adding “sex” to Title VII in order to kill the bill. After the laughter, the Civil Rights Act—with the addition of “sex”—passed.

The first two years after the Civil Rights Act didn’t show much movement forward to support women until another milestone occurred 50 years ago on June 30, 1966. That was the day that the National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded. Thanks to this group’s actions, President Lyndon B. Johnson expanded affirmative action to include women in 1967, and the 1968 Equal Credit Opportunity Act allowed women to get credit—including credit cards—without their husbands’ signatures.

Even so, women weren’t guaranteed an equal education during the late 1960s, and sexual harassment was legal. Domestic violence favored men over women. The movie Twelve Angry Men represented the way that women were barred from serving on juries or had difficulties in being selected as jurors. A clerk advised Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren that permitting women to serve “may encourage lax performance of their domestic duties.” Women were also not employed as TV news anchors, airplane pilots, astronauts, firefighters, movie directors, CEOs—the list was endless.

When women were paid much less, the excuse was that they were single and living with their parents or married and earning “pin money” as a supplement to husbands’ earnings. (The same excuse is used 50 years later to excuse companies from paying teenagers the same wage for the same job as older people.) The medical and law schools that didn’t bar females from being students greatly limited the number of women in classes.

The “pill,” available in 1960 and to all married women after the Supreme Court ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut, was still kept from unmarried women until the Supreme Court ruled that unmarried women also could purchase contraceptives in Baird v. Eisenstadt (1972). The next year saw a Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortions on a limited basis. By 1978, employers were required to hire pregnant women. For the first four decades of NOW, women won pay discrimination lawsuits, and courts decided that the law covered sexual harassment.

The 21st century, however, brought reversals of women’s rights in health and finances. The Supreme Court allowed states to pass unbelievably restrictive anti-abortion laws and even prevent women from getting contraceptives from their insurance. In 2011, the John Roberts’ Supreme Court ruled that thousands of women bringing a class action lawsuit against Walmart for discrimination at work couldn’t sue as a group. Since the Dukes v. Wal-Mart ruling, judges have sided with employers so often that women are now finding it impossible to even find lawyers to take their cases.

Fifty-two years after the equality declared in the Civil Rights Act, women on the average make only 79 cents for every dollar made by a man, and breaking down this statistic by race makes the picture even worse. Black women have to work an additional seven months—19 months—to make the same salary as a man does in one year. That’s a lifetime pay gap of $877,480. one-third of all women in the nation—about 42 million people—live in or on the edge of poverty.

Fifty years later, women still struggle with many of the same issues as in the 1960s, frequently through the combination of racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism. Rape is illegal, but too often men are not punished for their behavior because women are accused of being at fault. Protection for women because of domestic violence can be based on a woman’s race, gender identity, and zip code. Because of this intersectionalism of prejudice, NOW plans to focus on reproductive rights, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, and a criminal justice system that puts thousands of female victims of sexual assault—many of them women of color—into prison, especially with newer laws mandating sentences.

Bobbi1The year 2016 marks 50 years of women running in the Boston Marathon. Bobbi Gibbs (left) was told that “women are not physiologically able to run a marathon.” She entered without an application and beat over half the field in 3 hours, 21 minutes. The next year, Kathrine Switzer entered the marathon under her initials and beat her boyfriend, who had thought “if a girl can run a marathon, I can run a marathon.” Her time was only 4 hours 20 minutes, but she was physically attacked by the race co-director. In 1972, the AAU changed its rule barring women from running more than a mile and a half, and Title IX provided equality in education for women.

Women need one more amendment to the U.S. Constitution: The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Originally written by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman, the proposed amendment to guarantee equal rights for women was first introduced in Congress in 1923 and introduced in every session between 1923 and 1970. Yet it reached the floor only once in 1946 when it was defeated in the Senate, 38 to 35. In 1972, however, the ERA passed the Congress and was sent to state legislatures for ratification.

Phyllis Schlafly mobilized conservative women with the fear that they would have to use the same toilets as men, and the amendment failed to get four of the necessary 38 state ratifications by 1977 with a deadline of March 22, 1979. Later five states rescinded their ratifications, which meant that the ERA failed to get enough states although the deadline was extended three years. This is the text of the amendment that so terrified conservatives throughout almost a century.

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Activists have pushed for the ERA over the long haul just as they did for the vote. The amendment has been introduced in every Congressional session since 1982. As of now, 11 states have adopted constitutions or constitutional amendments providing that equal rights under the law shall not be denied because of sex.

When it was founded, “NOW’s purpose was to take action, to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society,” according to Terry O’Neill, the president of NOW. After 50 years, we have a start.

On the 96th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the one that allowed women to vote, think what our country would be like in the 21st century if brave people had not fought for 72 years to make women equal citizens of the United States.

July 28, 2015

Oregon, Model for State Legislatures

After the Oregon legislature finished five months of work earlier this year, the conservative Oregonian published an editorial titled “2015 Legislative Session Will be Remembered More for Failures.” The writer lamented what was not accomplished–the lack of raising the gas tax, inability to increase the minimum wage, and allowing “rural communities exceptions to land-use policies in certain circumstances.”

The sometimes more liberal Register-Guard followed with the same moaning a few weeks later, repeating the failure of a plan to pay for repair of the state’s infrastructure. Both papers are correct in the frustration of not advancing this one issue although the fault came from Republicans, upset because a low-carbon fuels program due to sunset this year was extended to reduce carbon content of fuels by ten percent in the next ten years.

The gas tax is important, but both editorials ignored the fact that the 2015 Oregon legislature passed, and Gov. Kate Brown signed, 689 progressive laws in five months while the U.S. Congress managed only 40 percent that number in all of 2014. This happened at the same time that many other states passed a majority of regressive laws. These states should use Oregon as a model for ways to benefit women and children.

Highlights:

Schools: Without raising taxes, the legislature increased the K-12 budget by 25 percent since 2011 and provided funding for all-day kindergarten for all Oregon children. State community colleges got a 20-percent increase, and universities did better at 30-percent increase. Knowing that the suspension and expulsion can lead to prison, new laws limit school suspension in grades 5 and lower and stops expulsion being used for truancy. Hunger keeps students from learning so all students eligible for reduced-price lunches will now receive their meals free, and students may count time for getting their free breakfasts as instructional time. Students can attend community colleges free if they meet certain criteria, and students brought into the state who pay in-state tuition are eligible for grants.

Youth: The Oregon Health Authority is required to establish and maintain a list of chemicals of concern for children’s health used in children’s products.

Gun Sense: While other states make their laws more lax, Oregon passed laws to keep the possession of guns from domestic violence offenders and people subject to domestic abuse restraining orders. Federal background checks are required for all private gun sales except between family members.

Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence/Stalking/Other Sex Crimes: A number of laws should make life safer for victims of these crimes. Release orders for defendants charged with sex crimes or domestic violence must prohibit attempted contact with victim and third-party contact with victim while defendant is in custody. Personal support workers and home care workers are added to the list of mandatory reporters of abuse of children, elderly persons and other vulnerable persons, and short term, emergency protection orders for victims are available on a 24 hour, 7-day a week basis.

Stalking victims no longer have to pay fees to get a protective restraining order. Rape charges can be made for 12 years after the alleged crime. The posting of naked photos of lovers or partners on the Internet without their permission with the intent to humiliate or ruin reputations is prohibited. Upskirting—intentionally photographing a person’s “intimate areas”–is prohibited in all cases as is setting up hidden cameras in places where privacy is presumed—a crime now a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

Victims are now free to access support and advocacy without fear of disclosure. Conversations between sexual-assault survivors and specially trained advocates are private. Patients can redirect their explanation of benefit documents away from the policyholder to keep medical information private from others such as parents and abusive or estranged spouses. Oregon universities, colleges and community colleges must give sexual-assault victims written information on their rights, legal options, campus services, confidentiality policies, school disciplinary procedures and off-campus resources.

Low-Income Relief: Tax credits for low-income families have been expanded for another six years. Seniors and other Oregonians surviving on Social Security Housing and other income exempt from collections will not be subject to collection of unpaid state income taxes. In another law that helps low-income people, unclaimed damage awards from class-action lawsuits will be directed to the Oregon State Bar’s legal-aid fund. Community Services Department may use moneys in Housing Development and Guarantee Account for housing for persons with low or very low income, and a new law provides $40 million to build hundreds of affordable housing units for low-income people and $25 million to build housing focused on people with mental illness.

LGBTQ Issues: Oregon became the third state to ban mental health therapy to change sexual orientation or gender identity for anyone younger than 18 and the first state to provide help to veterans discharged because of their sexual orientation. A coordinator will help LGBT veterans change their discharge status and access benefits since the repeal of illegal status because of sexual orientation as well as providing outreach and assistance to spouses and dependents of these veterans. The Oregon no longer uses the word “husband and wife.” All these references have been changed to “spouses in a legal marriage” in the state code.

Employment: A significant win in Oregon is paid sick leave for all state and private employers with ten or more employees. Each person will receive one hour per 30 hours of work up to 56 hours of annual paid sick leave. Employers cannot punish employees who ask or give information about wage information. In another important law called “Ban the Box,” employers are forbidden to ask about criminal history on a job application. Workplace rights for domestic workers have been extended to overtime pay, rest periods, and paid personal time off. Employees on family leave must receive the continuation of group health insurance coverage.

Health & Safety Issues: All people with ongoing medical prescriptions can get a 90-day supply, and insurers must pay for a 12-month supply of contraceptives to qualifying women. Hospitals who rely on certified nurse midwives will have to give them admitting privileges. Homes and schools have a 60-foot, no-spray buffer from herbicide spraying. In an attempt to fight the result of “bomb trains” carrying volatile fuel, the Oregon State Fire Marshal will be in charge of and receive funding for coordinating outreach, developing a spill response plan, and conducting exercises, training, and support in the area of train safety. (HB 3225)

Law Enforcement: The Department of Corrections will continue the Family Preservation Project for parent inmates at Coffee Creek for ongoing contact with children and extend the program at other prisons. This program has been highly successful in keeping parents from returning to prison after they are released. Some non-violent custodial parent offenders may have the alternative of intense supervised probation so that they can keep their children. Police cannot target suspects based on age, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, language, gender, sex, political affiliation, religion or other identifying factors–unless the officer is acting on precise information from a report.

Voting: Another first for the nation is the “Motor Voter” law that automatically registers Oregon (with an opt-out window) for voting with the data on driver’s license records.

gomberg 2Everyone in Oregon should be proud of living in a state where the legislature protects and serves the residents. At the end of the five-month session, my representative, David Gomberg, described the session as “one of the more challenging and productive in recent memory.” Challenging, I don’t know, but productive, certainly. In addition to the laws that were passed, the Oregon legislation rejected laws that would overturn Jackson County’s ban on GMOS and several laws that would make the gun laws more lax in the state, including a reciprocity agreement with other states that do not do careful background checks on gun sales.

Thank you, Oregon!

More information about laws in the 2015 Oregon Legislature here and here.

October 31, 2014

It’s Halloween! Be Afraid of the GOP

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 8:21 PM
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With four days until the 2014 election results start to trickle in, the polls are up and down. A week ago, carpet-bagger Scott Brown and former Massachusetts GOP senator, was even with New Hampshire’s Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Now he’s down by 8 points. The robotic creature for the New York Times, assigned with determine winners, reported that its conclusions were 3 percent accurate. The GOP is chortling—at least publicly–that it’s taking over the senate. This is what we can expect if Republicans have a majority by January 1, 2015:

Agenda control through the budget process: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy.” It will be a return to 2011 when Congress threatened to not raise the debt limit to pay for what they had already spent as well as 13 months ago when the GOP shut down the government 13 months ago in an attempt to get their own way and cost the economy at least $24 billion.

More tax cuts for the wealthy and further spending cuts for middle- and working-class families: Although the senate needs 60 votes to break a filibuster, congressional budget resolutions can squeak through with an ordinary majority of 51 votes and cannot be filibustered. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2015 budget bill sent to the senate gives those making over $1 million another $200,000 in tax cuts while cutting nondefense spending by $4.8 trillion. Almost 70 percent of that money takes from programs helping low-income and middle-class families—Medicaid, Pell Grants for college, etc. The GOP also wants to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Right now, the reality is an average U.S. corporate tax rate at 27 percent with small businesses paying a disproportionately large percentage because of loopholes and subsidies for the big companies. GOP leaders claim that they will close these loopholes, but they can’t afford to do this because they’ll lose campaign funding. GOP austerity cost the economy 2.4 million jobs from December 2010 to October 2013.

Obstruction of well-qualified judicial nominees, leaving vacancies on federal courts: The record shows continued filibustering of the president’s judicial nominees. Only 16 judicial nominees were filibustered during George W. Bush’s eight years compared to the 77 nominees from President Obama filibustered in a six and a half years. There would have been more than 77 if the senate had not changed its rules to require a simple majority vote for reasonable debate times for these nominees. A GOP senate means the return of the filibuster for judicial confirmations. Currently federal courts have 63 vacancies and 32 judicial nominees.

Another vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act: The GOP has promised that the first vote would be to repeal the ACA if they control the senate. The vote would take place at a time that the uninsured rate is at a record low: 7.3 million enrolled and paying premiums through the marketplaces; 8 million with health coverage through Medicaid; and 5 million signed up for ACA-compliant plans outside the marketplace. And that’s with almost half the states refusing to participate in the ACA. Insurers also cannot deny coverage with a pre-existing condition or put lifetime and annual coverage limits on their care. They have to spend at least of the premiums on health care and cover young people up to the age of 26 on their parents’ policies.

Greater rollback of women’s health needs: McConnell says he will push for narrower exemptions on abortions after 20 weeks than the Supreme Court has allowed. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) has a bill to allow businesses the ability to refuse contraceptive coverage for their employees. Before the ACA required equal insurance charges for both genders, women were charged up to 150 percent more than men for the same coverage. Over 48 million women receive preventive care without deductibles or co-payments and saved $483 million on just birth control pills, $269 per woman, because of ACA.

Use of the Congressional Review Act to weaken environmental rules, jeopardizing public health: Congress can pass a joint resolution stopping a major rule submitted to the legislative branch. The senate can accomplish this in 60 days without any possibility of a filibuster. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said that he will challenge every EPA rule under the current administration, including the proposal to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants by up to 30 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. The rule would curb dangerous pollution, save money on energy bills, and improve public health by avoiding 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in children every year. Full implementation would save $93 billion in 2030. For every dollar, people will see $7 in benefits.

Expansion of carrying concealed and loaded guns: The NRA wants the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, allowing people to get gun permits in states that have the weakest gun safety laws and carry them all over the United States. This is a race to the bottom as states with the weakest standards set national standards for these permits. People like George Zimmerman, who killed a teenage boy and has a history of violence including assaulting a police officer and domestic violence, would have permission to carry his gun everywhere instead of in only those states with weaker gun safety laws. Local law enforcement would have no recourse. This legislation failed by only two votes in 2009 and was included in the compromise measure developed by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Fortunately, it was three votes short of breaking the filibuster because it could have passed with 57 votes.

Legislation removing any LGBT rights: At this time, 33 states recognize marriage equality with another three that may soon marry same-sex couples after courts release rulings. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has announced that he will be “introducing a constitutional amendment to prevent the federal government or the courts from attacking or striking down state marriage laws.” Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, reiterated the party’s support for a constitutional amendment that would unmarry loving and committed same-sex couples. The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act currently pending in Congress would, if passed, allow for government-sanctioned discrimination against the LGBT community and gut existing workplace protections for the now thousands of legally married same-sex couples employed by the federal government or its contractors. For example, this Act would permit federal workers to ignore paperwork from same-sex couples for processing tax returns, approving visa applications, or reviewing Social Security applications and allow a federally funded homeless shelter or substance abuse treatment program to turn away LGBT people.

Legislation to deport DREAMers: Children who were brought to the United States and who meet strict criteria may currently stay in the U.S. and work legally. A senate bipartisan bill that passed 68 to 32 would have made this administrative rule into law as part of immigration reform for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, but the House refused to consider the bill. A GOP senate would most likely reverse its former position on immigration reform. Cruz said he would “use any and all means necessary” to prevent the administration from allowing undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to stay in the place they know as home.

More cuts to programs and rules that increase college access, affordability, and readiness:  Ryan’s budget cuts Pell Grants by $90 billion, makes monthly student loan payments higher, and eliminates $107 billion from early education and K-12 education programs over the next decade. A GOP senate would most likely block regulations on for-profit colleges with a history of predatory practices that saddle students with higher rates of debt and low-quality degrees and charge 3.5 times as much as public institutions for the same degree.

On the other hand, the GOP may suffer if it wins the senate. The Tea Party will put more leverage on the GOP establishment to toe the far-right line. Their unwillingness to compromise and move to the right will cause them to lose more voters in 2016, including those for the president. Repealing health care, rejecting minorities, and taking more rights from women will lose the party a huge constituency.

The GOP may win some seats this year because they keep minorities and low-income people from voting, but these people will have the next two years to get the necessary ID. In addition, the courts may overturn the discrimination of the new voter suppression laws. Judicial rulings during the past few weeks to keep these laws have cited only an excuse that they can’t be changed this close to the election. During the next year, there will be many lawsuits from people denied their constitutional right to vote in next week’s election.

March 30, 2014

Hobby Lobby: Business or Religion?

I was born in a country that wouldn’t allow me to buy oral contraceptives or get a legal abortion. I could be denied a job because I am a woman. Homosexuality was illegal. Women could be denied health insurance by their employers because religion decrees that husbands should provide for their wives. That country is the United States.

Many people don’t know what life was like in the United States less than 50 years ago. They may find out if the religious right sends us back to the 19th century. That’s the crux of the case that the U.S. Supreme Court heard on March 25. SCOTUS’ earlier decisions on marriage equality and voting rights joined Citizens United in a trio of culture-changing court cases, one moving society forward and the other two in reverse. In the current cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, SCOTUS has the power to determine the trajectory of the United States.

The Affordable Care Act requires businesses with over 50 employees to provide insurance that includes FDA-approved methods of birth control; 58 for-profit companies have challenged the law. On its surface the two SCOTUS cases, nicknamed Hobby Lobby, are about whether a corporation can refuse to cover employees’ contraception because of the owners’ religious beliefs. The Green family believes that contraception is abortion because they think that life begins when a woman ovulates.

As usual, Fox network promulgates the lies surrounding ACA. Its “judicial anlysist” Andrew Napolitano told “Fox News” host Megyn Kelly that “contraceptive services means contraception, euthanasia and abortion.” According to Napolitano, any ovulating woman is “pregnant.” Hobby Lobby is actually about preventing pregnancy which saves money for insurance companies.

The case isn’t about whether the Green family is accurate in its beliefs; it’s about whether any belief , no matter how inaccurate, can be used in the argument for “religious freedom.”  If Hobby Lobby wins, corporations could use personal religious beliefs to deny any healthcare—vaccinations, blood transfusions, HIV drugs, pregnancy care, mental health care, etc. LGBT people can forget about consistency in obtaining goods and services or finding employment. Justice Elena Kagan also brought up the question of religious employers objecting to gender equality, or the minimum wage, or family medical leave, or child labor laws. The Christian bible also supports human sacrifice. A ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby could mean that states would no longer need to pass laws permitting discrimination: SCOTUS would have already declared this the law of the land.

Paul Clement, lawyer for Hobby Lobby, agreed that a decision in favor of Hobby Lobby could result in for-profit corporations denying anyone anything based on personal religious beliefs. He shrugged off any problems because he didn’t believe large for-profit corporations would do anything like this. If they did, according to Clement, each of the issues could be handled separately. Chief Justice John Roberts agreed with him.

The lower court argument in Conestoga was based on punctuation—specifically a comma with a dot above it called a semi-colon. According to lawyers, “the authors of the First Amendment only separated the Free Exercise Clause and the Free Speech Clause by a semi-colon, thus showing the continuation of intent between the two.” Because SCOTUS gave free speech to for-profit corporations in Citizens United, the court should give free exercise of religion to for-profit corporations in Conestoga, lawyers argued.

These are some ways that religious groups already deny individuals:

  • Timberlake studentTimberlake Christian School (VA) threatened to not enroll 8-year-old Sunnie Kahle because she doesn’t look feminine enough and directed Sunnie to look like a “female” as God ordained. She followed the dress code that allows pans and has no appropriate hair length. “Heart-broken” that Sunnie’s grandparents “made her the subject of a public discussion,” the school immediately withdrew Sunnie.
  • Chase Paymentech of JPMorgan Chase, which handled about 29 billion transactions in 2012, refused to handle credit card payments for a condom company created by a mother-and-daughter team. The Lovability condom company defines its mission as “to empower women to take responsibility for their sexual health.” One in four women in the U.S. suffer from an STD that they most likely received from a man. My question is whether Chase handles transactions for condom companies run by men and for retail stores that sell condoms.
  • The Catholic Duquesne University of Pittsburgh argues that adjunct teachers cannot form a union because unions are against Catholic values. One of their adjunct teachers, 83-year-old Margaret Mary, a 25-year-long adjunct French teacher at the school, saw her under-$25,000 wage reduced to under $10,000 last year because of her cancer before the university fired her. With no benefits and unable to even afford to pay her electric bill, Mary was found dead on her front lawn after a massive heart attack. Over half the college courses in the United States have adjunct teachers who are paid only by the classes that they teach.
  • Most states sanction parents’ killing children through the adults’ belief in faith healing with no medical interference. Hundreds of children have died because parents refuse to call in a doctor for serious illnesses.

 

“One of the well known truisms in ethics is that good moral judgments depend in part on good facts,” according to Dr. Ron Hamel, senior director of ethics for the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA). He wrote this as the ACA was being born almost four years ago. The law’s  mandate allows women free access to all FDA-approved forms of contraception that include oral medication, long-term reversible contraceptives such as IUDs, and sterilization.

Only one drug, RU-486 (mifepristone) has been approved to induce abortion, and it is not on the FDA’s list of approved contraception. No FDA-approved contraception can destroy an embryo.

A basis for Hobby Lobby is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993, passed in response to a 1990 SCOTUS ruling that allowed Oregon to deny unemployment benefits to two Native American men fired for using peyote as part of a religious ceremony. Antonin Scalia argued in the majority opinion, “To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.” He said that “[a]ny society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy.”

The SCOTUS decision held that a person’s religious beliefs are not sufficient grounds to break laws that are considered “neutral” or generally applicable. Concerned about people in minority religion groups, Congress passed RFRA to safeguard against large entities from oppressing individual rights.

“How does a corporation exercise religion?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked. Justice John Paul Stevens’ dissent in Citizens United stated,”[C]orporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires.”

knitting-needles1-375x250Hobby Lobby already sells items used for abortions. Women who become pregnant because they lack access to birth control have used knitting needles for abortions and will continue to do this because abortions—and possibly contraceptions–are becoming less and less accessible throughout the nation. An affirmative ruling for Hobby Lobby in this case will cause decades of anguish to untold number of people in the United States as well as a fortune for the lawyers.

There is one bright light affecting the Hobby Lobby decision. SCOTUS knows that the current separation between corporations and owners is already fragile because of their ruling in Citizens United. Declaring in favor of Hobby Lobby would shred that is known as the “corporate veil.” The terms “Lifting the corporate veil” or “piercing the corporate veil” means that corporate rights, duties, and liabilities would be the same as for the shareholders.

The purpose of a corporation is to separate debts and benefits so that the owner cannot be sued. Ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby’s request not to follow a federal law would destroy the corporate veil. The corporation would no longer be treated as a distinct entity from its owners or shareholders. No Fortune 500 company has supported Hobby Lobby. Allowing a corporation to take on the owners’ beliefs and actions would cause corporate indemnity to disappear.

Two powerful opposing forces of religion and business are at work in this case. Will SCOTUS allow the religious beliefs of five family members to dominate those of 13,000 other people? Does SCOTUS want to maintain the financial separation between corporations and their owners? In this case, I’m guessing business trumps religion.

October 22, 2012

Presidential Debate Three

Those who watched all three presidential debates in the last few weeks have now seen four different debaters. After the first debate, commentators discussed how remote President Obama was while Mitt Romney attacked him. Talking with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show,  even the president laughed at himself about having slept through the debate. Viewers of the second debate saw much more combat with Romney coming out as a greater bully than the first one because President Obama pointed out his opponent’s “fact-challenged” statements. The same president showed up tonight, but a different Romney—quiet, agreeable, middle-of-the-road, and meek, almost pathetic—decided to attend. This new Romney didn’t push the moderator, Bob Schieffer, to get more time.

As far as fact-checking, Romney slipped in a few of his standard lies such as creating 12 million jobs (which has already been debunked by the conservative Washington Post) and accusing the president of making an “apology tour” when soon after his inauguration (which the president pointed out had been debunked by every fact checkers).

But the majority of Romney’s “lies” were in agreeing with the president in almost all the policies after having opposed them. He wants to leave Afghanistan in 2014, help women gain equality in foreign countries, use drones—the list goes on and on. The man who ridiculed the president for wanting to heal the planet now stressed that he wanted peace across the planet—a dozen times.

Romney even supported the president in forcing Mubarak out of Egypt, an action that he had earlier criticized. Six days ago, Romney almost turned purple when he talked about the president’s failure in the attack on Benghazi; tonight he just looked benevolent during the discussion about Libya.

Probably realizing that he knew little about foreign policy, Romney avoided looking like a radical, settling for occasional sniping. President Obama stressed the idea that the U.S. needs a careful, thoughtful approach toward foreign policy and should proceed in a strong, steadfast manner instead of the “reckless” manner that Romney has proposed.

Although Romney obviously did some studying before the debate, he had a bit of problem with his geography. He said, “Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.” In fact, Iran not only has a large southern coastline with access to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman but also no land border with Syria.

Roger Simon’s description of the event was right on target: “Romney wasn’t terrible. But he was on the defensive for much of the evening, a fine sheen of sweat popped put on his forehead long before the debate ended, and – – worst of all – – Romney was repeatedly forced to say he agreed with Obama on policy after policy.”

Both candidates used the tactic of counting in many of the answers. Some undecided voters had earlier stated that they liked Romney’s “five-point plan” despite the lack of any details in these five points. They also said that they didn’t know what the president stood for so he took great care tonight in not only being high specific but also counting off all the items in a series.

People who know Romney’s past positions (like those he espoused last week!) realized that he had reversed himself in almost all of his positions. But I wondered how those less familiar with his past statements would react. One Republican pundit described him as reasonable, thoughtful, presidential, and circumspect with a reset to more traditional style of Republican policy.

The early polls erased much of my concerns that watchers would swallow Romney’s statements. CNN’s poll of registered voters gave the president 48 percent and Romney only 40 percent. Stronger was the CBS poll of uncommitted voters: President Obama – 53 percent; Mitt Romney – 23 percent; and tied – 24 percent. The 30 points difference was greater than the 24 points difference between the two men in the first debate with Romney winning.

In some ways, foreign policy is more important than domestic policy in a presidential debate because the president has greater latitude than foreign affairs. With U.S. foreign policy less constrained by Congress and relatively free from the media scrutiny that attends the president’s more domestic endeavors, foreign affairs largely remains the domain of the commander in chief.

In this discussion of foreign affairs, however, Romney merely looked pleasant as he largely agreed with the president during this narrow view of the country’s foreign affairs. Missing were issues such as drug traffic from South America, European economics and global finance, consequences of bombing Iran, keeping our planet habitable.

While Romney claims that he wants to help women, nothing was said about the “gag order,” the restriction that denies federal money for family-planning work abroad to any organization that provides information, advice, referrals, or services for legal abortion or supports the legalization of abortion, even using its own money.” Government financing for abortions overseas is already illegal under federal law, but the Republican’s gag rule forced clinic closures, reduced services, and increased fees. It also violated principles of informed consent by requiring health care providers to withhold medical information from female patients. By stifling political debate on abortion-related issues and violating free speech principles, the gag rule also badly undermined America’s credibility as it tries to promote democracy abroad.

Not mentioned in this debate, Romney also vows to renew another of George W. Bush’s shameful policies which blocked the United States from contributing to the United Nations Population Fund. This fund supports programs in some 150 countries to improve poor women’s reproductive health, reduce infant mortality, end the sexual trafficking of women, and prevent the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. The Republican presidential candidate purports the debunked claim that the Population Fund supports coerced abortions in China.

The annual federal contribution to the fund is now down to $35 million, compared with $55 million in fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Overall support for international family planning and reproductive health programs stands at $610 million, far short of the need but still paying for contraceptive services and supplies that reach more than 31 million women and couples, averting 9.4 million unintended pregnancies, 4 million abortions (three-quarters of them unsafe), and 22,000 maternal deaths annually.

Romney may have known that criticizing President Obama for the death of four men at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi would have gotten him into more trouble.  Even Fox Republican pundit Juan Williams pointed out that Romney’s political strategy is based on deliberate misinformation about the Benghazi assault. These are Williams’ corrections for the myths that Republicans have been spreading:

Correction #1: U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice told the truth based on existing intelligence when she said that the violence grew out of a spontaneous demonstration that was prompted by an American anti-Muslim video. Even two days later, CIA Director David Petraeus confirmed Rice’s statement when he briefed the House Intelligence Committee. Both of them said that there was an ongoing investigation where conclusions were subject to change.

Correction #2: Extra security was requested, not for Benghazi but for Tripoli, 400 miles away. Also U.S. security officials reported that more guards could not have repelled heavy weapons used by the attackers. Nine armed guards were at the embassy as well as four other unarmed Libyan guards inside to screen visitors. House Republicans are also conveniently forgetting that they voted to cut $300 million from Embassy security.

Correction #3: The Taliban threat has diminished, despite Romney campaign claims. Under President Obama, missions have killed the top commanders of the terrorist group including Osama bin Laden, and drone strikes are decimating the other Taliban members. The third and final correction comes in response to the charge that the attack on Benghazi is evidence that al Qaeda is resurgent.

Romney didn’t want the debate to be interesting: he just wanted to survive the 90 minutes without losing more votes.

Much more information available here.

June 3, 2012

Women Need to Take Back Their Power

As I share this privileged moment with you, Your Holiness, I urge you to be mindful of the intense suffering and pain which is part of the life of many women in these United States. I call upon you to listen with compassion and to hear the call of women…As women, we have heard the powerful messages of our church addressing the dignity [of] and reverence for all persons. As women, we have pondered these words. Our contemplation leads us to state that the church, in its struggle to be true to its call to reverence and dignity for all persons, must respond by providing the possibility of women as persons being included in all ministries of the church.

These were the words of Sister Theresa Kane in 1979 when she was asked, as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), to give four minutes of welcoming remarks to the newly elected Pope John Paul II during his first papal visit to the United States.

In the audience was Joseph Ratzinger, the bishop from Bavaria, who is now Pope Benedict XVI. This pope is the Vatican leader who tried to quell the nuns in the United States because all they do is serve the poor. These nuns were reprimanded because they “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

Their punishment includes giving Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle the final say on every speaker at the group’s conference and every public utterance made in its name. Sartain will also revise LCWR’s governing statutes, and investigate links between LCWR and two liberal Catholic groups.

Sister Maureen Fiedler said yesterday, “If this were the corporate world, I think we’d call it a hostile takeover.” But the nuns are not peacefully accepting the Vatican’s actions. Yesterday, they issued a statement showing LCWR’s intent to contest the hostile takeover:

Board members concluded that the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency. Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission. The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.

LCWR President Sister Pat Farrell and Executive Director Sister Janet Mock plan to go to Rome to take up these concerns with the prefect and Sartain before they consult with the organization’s general membership in August.  If necessary, LCWR can entirely disassociate with Rome and reconfigure itself as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. According to its website, LCWR “has approximately 1500 members who are elected leaders of their religious orders, representing approximately 80% of the 57,000 Catholic sisters in the United States.”  A reorganization would mean that the group would be only required to operate under U.S. law with the constitutional freedom of religion.

Some people view the Pope’s crusade against the nuns and the fury with which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops attacked the birth control mandate, as opposition to women. Adele Stan believes it goes farther, that  “the church hierarchy is a cult of power.” She cites the scandal regarding the Vatican bank and the battle waged by partisans and enemies of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to keep him from presiding over the group electing the next pope as well as the pay-offs that Cardinal Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, while Archbishop of Milwaukee, to priests accused of abusing children.

Theologian Mary E. Hunt, co-director of the Catholic feminist resource center WATER, describes the Vatican’s attack on nuns as a method of maintaining the clerics’ power, thus keeping people in the church from claiming the power that reforms of the Second Vatican Council give them. Cardinal Ratzinger attacked the nuns before when 24 sisters were threatened with expulsion from their orders for having signed a statement that asserted “a diversity of views” on the subject of abortion existed within the church. This time the reason was the support that LCWR, joined by leaders of 55 religious orders and umbrella groups, gave to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, which represents some 600 Catholic hospitals and 1400 health-care facilities, also backed the bill in defiance of the Vatican. In addition, she  supported the compromise regarding the birth control mandate when the White House required health insurance companies to pay for contraception. Although the bishops gave a hue and cry against the compromise, the majority of Catholics in the country support the nuns’ position, not that of the bishops.

While the nuns pay for food for the poor, the bishops pay for lawsuits against the administration challenging the requirement that all health insurance companies contracted for employer-provided health plans offer contraceptive coverage to the insured, with no co-payment by the patient. According to a New York Times editorial, “The First Amendment is not a license for religious entities to impose their dogma on society through the law.” Even ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia disagrees with the Catholic Church’s position: in 1990, he said that making “the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land” would mean allowing “every citizen to become a law unto himself.”

The Catholic leadership’s supposed desire for “religious freedom” comes from the same people who want to make laws against all people in the United States regarding women’s reproductive rights, marriage equality, and other issues that result solely from religious interests. They threaten religious liberty by their efforts to impose their doctrine on everyone. The same desire for this freedom comes from Catholic Church leadership’s desire to protect all priests who sexually abuse children. One such bishop was William Levada, who served as archbishop of San Francisco and Portland (OR) and is now the Vatican prefect in charge of the nuns’ persecution.

According to Hunt, the Vatican’s power structure is very similar to that of a corporation, while the structure of the U.S. coalition of women’s religious orders functions more on the process-oriented and deliberative model of a local food co-op. About the Vatican, she said, “This is a business, where people do what people do in business.” The Catholic Church’s fiscal problems pattern those of big business.

Two U.S. archdioceses in the U.S. declared bankruptcy after making settlements to abuse victims: Milwaukee, less than two years after Cardinal Dolan became Archbishop of New York; and Portland (OR) under the leadership of Cardinal Levada. Levada punished a priest who reported a child-abusing fellow priest to the police, but the whistle-blower, Father Jon Conley, brought a defamation case against the archdiocese after paving the way for the family of an abused child to win a $750,000 settlement from the archdiocese.

The New York Times’ Laurie Goodstein reported about Catholics protesting in more than 50 cities against the Vatican removing nuns’ rights “for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping ‘silent’ on abortion and same-sex marriage.”

The Catholic Church is not the only religion suffering protests against their actions. The fundamentalist pastors who call for imprisonment and death of LGBTQ people are also experiencing backlashes from their communities. One Million Moms of the hate group American Family Association keeps failing in its boycotts with JC Penneys and Olay making more money after the group publicizes advertising by gays and lesbians.

In a Washington Post column, Lisa Miller wrote about women leaving the church:

There are churches in America in which women aren’t allowed to speak out loud unless they get permission from a man first.

There are churches (many of them) in which women aren’t permitted to preach from the pulpit.

There are churches in America where a 13-year-old boy has more authority than his mother.

Between 1991 and 2011, the number of adult women attending church weekly  declined 20 percent. The number of women going to Sunday school dropped by about a third, as did the number of women who volunteer at church.

It is not only Rush Limbaugh who demeans all women by calling one a “slut” and a “prostitute.” It’s Rick Santorum–that man of faith–who has stopped just short of calling working mothers selfish and who lumps all single moms together as his opposition, as he did in an interview with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council last year.

Unless the strident, authoritarian social conservatives loosen their stranglehold on American women, American women will abandon the Republican Party (as they’re quitting church) and look for their candidates elsewhere.

Conservatives won’t give up their power. Let’s hope that women just take it.

March 30, 2012

Don’t Let Conservatives Silence Women

Republican legislators—primarily men—continue to create bills to oppress women, but people are beginning to fight back, sometimes successfully. Even courts are recognizing the unconstitutionality of these laws. The most recent ruling is from federal District Judge Brian Dixon, who declared that the Oklahoma law mandating ultrasounds before abortions is unconstitutional.  An appeal will send the case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has already permitted a similar law in Texas.

“The right is ours. Have it we must. Use it we will.” This is a statement from Susan B. Anthony over a century ago as she fought for women’s rights by the side of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Born less than 50 years after the Revolutionary War, the two women fought for another half century to change the repressive laws against women.

When Anthony and Stanton met on a street corner in Seneca Falls, New York, women were considered weaker and more inferior to boys and men. Women who spoke for their rights in public were ridiculed, reviled, threatened, called vicious names. Men believed they shouldn’t leave their homes without a male escort. Ministers declared women’s roles through bible verses: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” and “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

Anthony started to work for women’s suffrage after she was prevented from speaking at a temperance conference because she was a woman. That was when she learned that women had to have the vote if they could change any laws or policies. Anthony also knew that women have no independence without money and they can have no money without equal property rights and the right to keep their wages.

A transformative experience for Anthony was meeting a woman whose husband had first beaten her and then committed her to an insane asylum after she confronted him about his affair with another woman. She spent 18 months in the institution until her brother, a U.S. senator, got her released. Yet when she wanted to see her children, he said, “The child belongs by law to the father, and it is your place to submit. If you make any more trouble about it we’ll send you back to the asylum.” The woman fled with her daughter but could not find a hotel room because she was unaccompanied by a man. A year later the husband found them and abducted the child. The mother never saw her again.

Together Anthony and Stanton fought the language of the Fourteenth Amendment, passed after the Civil War, that delineates “male citizens” and injected gender into the Constitution for the first time. Because the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment defines citizens without gender, Anthony and many others decided to vote—and were arrested. During Anthony’s trial, the judge refused to allow her to testify because she was “not a competent witness” and instructed the jurors, all men of course, to “find a verdict of guilty.” Anthony was fined $100 and court costs, which she refused to pay.

As a Quaker, Anthony believed in a religion that allowed women to preach and participate in governance. She believed that if women were enfranchised that conservative churches and clergymen would become more liberal. “Get political rights first and religious bigotry will melt like dew before the morning sun,” Anthony wrote to Stanton. Disagreeing, Stanton believed that women must question religion that justifies the elevation of men over women. Toward that end, she published The Woman’s Bible.

For half the 19th century these two women helped lay the groundwork for the great gains accorded women, a foundation that women like Alice Paul and others imprisoned for their belief in women’s suffrage built upon. The constitutional amendment for suffrage was created as the 16th Amendment but ended up being the 19th because of three other national amendments passed in the interim: government collecting taxes, people directly electing senators to the U.S. Congress, and prohibition of alcohol.

Women still had a long way to go after women’s suffrage was legalized across the country in 1920. Only fifty years ago, people in this country could be arrested, fined, and sentenced to prison for distributing birth control. Sex between consenting adults of the same sex was illegal in every state. Employment discrimination against women was legal—and pervasive.

By the end of the 1970s Congress had outlawed some of the country’s gender discrimination. The Supreme Court ruled against statutes outlawing birth control and abortion, and half the states had repealed anti-sodomy laws. During the same decade women helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, battled sex education in schools, and fought federally-funded child care.

“Failure is impossible,” Anthony said in her last speech. As long as women are willing to vote for their equal rights, despite the laws that white men attempt to impose on us, Anthony’s statement will be true. Only when we women abdicate our power to vote, that hard-won power, or allow men to subjugate us through our vote will we return to a time when we could not own property, gain custody over children, obtain contraception, inherit property, keep wages, even serve on a jury—a right that we have had for only 40 years. In the United States, women are in the majority. We are in control as long as we wish to be.

If women have any doubt about whether they need to keep control over their reproductive rights, we should consider a finding from the National Bureau of Economic Research. During the 1980s, oral contraception accounted for 10 percent of the narrowing of the wage gap the gap in median annual wages between women and men.

Remember, too, the “common scold” laws begun in Colonial America and continued until 40 years ago. Women were criminals if we expressed strong opinions because this action was attacking male privilege. In the early days, women were chained in the town square, dunked in lakes, or wore a scold’s bridle—a metal cage with a tongue piece forced into the mouth. This could break teeth, cause vomiting, slash the inside of the mouth, and even cause death. The last “common scold” case, State of New Jersey v. Marion Palendrano, arrested a woman for arguing with two men over a parking space.

Conservative men are once again attempting to silence women. The Republican legislators kept women from testifying about birth control in Congress, and Rush Limbaugh verbally abused women who use birth control. Women need to stop men from silencing them and taking away our rights. We need to guarantee that next year’s Women History Month shows how much we have gained, not all the rights that we have lost.

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[The above information about Anthony and Stanton was taken from Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World by Penny Colman; check it out for more about these amazing women.]

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