California Bill Bans Employers From Firing Women Who Use Birth Control

Trump’s election was wildly celebrated by evangelical fanatics across the nation, and that cheering was certainly related to their potent new weapon in the Republican war on women. Having an anti-women’s rights and misogynist in the Oval Office is a serious threat to women at the federal level, but possibly more so at the state level. Women who are unfortunate enough to live in GOP controlled states are in serious trouble because with an anti-women’s rights administration appointing an anti-women’s rights religious attorney general, it is  certain the DOJ will always support anti-women legislation. Women who live in solidly red states are in the deepest  trouble, but only if they object to religious Republicans aiding evangelicals’ efforts to control their reproductive health choices.

Women in California are a governor’s signature away from receiving a lifeline in the form of legislation that forbids religious employers from forcing women to sign religious “statements of faith” or “codes of conduct” in order to keep their employment. The legislation also prohibits employers from retaliating against a [female] worker for making reproductive health decisions contrary to religious employers’ objects to. The truth is that the religious fanatics generally object to women making any reproductive health decisions that prevent them from becoming perpetual birth machines.

The legislation, AB 569 (Discrimination: Reproductive Health), was introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) who said religious employers have been regularly discriminating against female workers’ based on their reproductive health-care decisions in California. The legislation was sponsored by NARAL, Pro-Choice California, and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, and sixteen faith-based groups signed a letter supporting the anti-discrimination legislation.

The legislation simply “protects workers from discrimination or retaliation for using any medications, medical service, or device related to reproductive health.” The legislation is particularly necessary now because a few months ago Trump signed an executive order  greatly “expanding religious imposition” authority while surrounded by that misogynistic group of Catholic nuns still furious that the Affordable Care Act contained contraception coverage; coverage they still assert is a violation of their religious freedom to control women’s reproductive health.

The bill’s sponsor said the legislation was necessary to stop religious employers from “infringing on a woman’s right to make personal decisions about birth control and pregnancy.” Religious employers, and not just “church-affiliated” organizations, are not shy about their intent to control women’s reproductive choices.

It is important to remember that the private company Hobby Lobby is not a “religious organization” or “church-affiliated.” And yet they convinced the conservative wing of the Supreme Court that contraceptives, including birth control pills, are “abortifacients” and tantamount to having an abortion. The Court’s “religious imposition” ruling was founded on Hobby Lobby’s owners’ “religious belief” that contraceptives are abortions, and since that was “their heartfelt religious belief,” they won the legal right to deny women’s access to contraceptives.

Ms. Gonzalez Fletcher wasn’t stretching the truth when she said religious employers discriminate against women’s healthcare decision. For example, a San Diego Christian College required a financial aid specialist to sign a document pledging to not to have premarital sex, and then fired her for “becoming pregnant” and using her “pledge” as proof she violated the employer’s religious code. In liberal San Francisco the Archbishop attempted to force teachers to sign a “code of conduct” pledging they would refrain from using birth control or attempting to conceive by artificial insemination; fortunately for female teachers in San Francisco the attempt failed, but the attempt should have incited a massive outrage. Instead, California Democrats had to pass legislation making those attempts illegal.

The bill’s sponsor said in a statement:

Women in this country have been fired for getting pregnant while unmarried, for using in-vitro fertilization and for other personal reasons related to their own reproductive health. No woman should ever lose a job for exercising her right to decide when, how, or whether to have a family.”

Sadly, the minority religious fanatics running the United States vehemently disagree with the legislation and one of the bill’s primary opponents is a revolting religious outfit, the California Family Council; It is the policy arm of the Family Research Council and its president was livid that pro-life employers may be prohibited from literally forcing their religious beliefs down their employees throats. Seriously, the California Family Council president, Jonathan Keller said:

“Every organization that promotes a pro-life message must be able to require its employees to practice what they [the employers] preach. It is unconscionable for any politician to attempt to abridge this sacrosanct religious liberty by inserting themselves into the employee-employer relationship.”

Keller, like his dirty theocratic ilk, firmly believes that evangelicals’ “sacrosanct religious liberty” includes controlling women by way of controlling their reproductive health. That bizarro-world version of “religious liberty” is fervently embraced by Catholic organizations and they present a monumental threat to women’s ‘personal liberty” to decide when, how, and if they give birth.

Over the last few years Catholic organizations have been buying up hospitals, clinics, medical networks, and physicians groups  and demanding absolute fealty to the Catholic Hospitals Association rules and regulations regarding women’s reproductive health choices. After coming under Catholic ownership, those physicians, hospitals, clinics etc. are required to abide by the United. States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs). The Vatican-inspired ERDs strictly forbid abortions, even in the case of rape or incest,  and forbid access to contraceptives, sterilization procedures, in vitro fertilization or the use of sperm or egg donors.

If California Governor Jerry Brown signs AB-569, women will have a measure of protection from religious employers who believe infringing on a woman’s right to make personal reproductive decisions is just part of their “sacrosanct religious liberty.”

This dirty religious imposition situation is not going to get any better for women  and California women may want to put any wild celebrations on hold. No doubt if Governor Brown signs AB-569 there will be a flurry of church-funded lawsuits to protect employers’ right to impose their religion on their employees to control their reproductive lives. What should give every American pause is that in 21st Century America a state legislature has to pass legislation banning employers from attempting to control a woman’s reproductive life. It should also leave Americans asking what kind of leaders advocate allowing a fanatical religious sect to control women under the aegis of the federal government that is not the Taliban.

h/t Rewire

Military Chaplain Warns That Serving the Constitution Is Serving Satan

he evidence of the trickle-down effect of President Donald Trump’s relationship with the far fringes of the Christian Right is blatant and rampant, and now it is being exposed in the U.S. Military. Many Americans are unaware of the myriad times Trump has issued executive orders explicitly advancing the prejudices, hate and bigotry of the “far fringes” of the one of his last remaining support groups: the evangelical right. However, they have not gone unnoticed by an Air Force chaplain who is preaching that service members’ obedience to the U.S. Constitution over their Christian faith is serving Satan.

An article in Newsweek elucidated the ‘trickle-down effect” of Trump’s pandering to the religious right in reporting the practices of a United States Air Force chaplain at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The chaplain who ministers to “thousands of men and women” at the Air Force base is blatantly asserting in an essay that “Christians in the Armed Forces serve Satan,” and are “grossly in error” for supporting other service members’ Constitutional right to practice other faiths. The chaplain, Captain Sonny Hernandez viciously criticized Christians in the service who “rely on the U.S. Constitution and not Christ.”

Hernandez posted an article on BarbWire and wrote:

Counterfeit Christians in the Armed forces will appeal to the Constitution, and not Christ, which means they have no accountability for their souls.  This is why so many professing Christian service members will say: We ‘support everyone’s right’ to practice their faith regardless if they worship a god different from ours because the Constitution protects this right.

 Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other anti-Christian worldviews to practice their religions—because the language in the Constitution permits—are grossly in error, and deceived.”

Captain Hernandez is wrong on many levels, religious fanatics typically are, but he definitely knows exactly why “Christian” service members support the rights of other faiths and the U.S. Constitution. Like Captain Hernandez had to do, every member of the American Armed Services swears an oath, to the Christian god no less, to support and defend the Constitution.

“I , _____ , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.’’

It is noteworthy that nowhere in that oath, or the Constitution, is there any reference to Christ, Christianity or swearing “true faith and allegiance” to religion whatsoever. Bear in mind that chaplain Hernandez swore the “so help me god” oath to support and defend the Constitution, and yet he is actively preaching to his charges that doing so is “grossly in error.” Hernandez’ actions have not gone unnoticed and they have elicited “many complaints” from service members according to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF).

MRFF reported earlier in the year that the number of complaints it has received from servicemen and -women in the Army, Air Force, Marines and other branches has doubled since Trump’s election. Service members are reticent, no they are terrified, of lodging complaints with their superiors or the Department of Defense for fear of retaliation at the hands of firmly ensconced high-ranking evangelical fundamentalists in the military.

After fielding “multiple complaints” from service members specifically about Hernandez, MRFF finally filed an official complaint with the Department of Defense’s (DoD) inspector general in April urging the powers that be to investigate Hernandez. After writing the essay in BarbWire, MRFF filed a new complaint this week. As of Friday past, Newsweek reports that neither the Air Force base where Hernandez works nor the DoD’s inspector general has responded to requests for comment or to MRFF’s complaints.

According to MRFF’s most recent complaint, Hernandez’ article “blatantly and indisputably advocates the subordinating of the U.S. Constitution to his personal Christian ideology and violated his Oath of Office as a commissioned officer, as well as Title 18, U.S. Code § 2387.”

That section of the U.S. Code deals with “criminal prohibitions against counseling or urging insubordination, disloyalty, or ‘refusal of duty’ to other military members.” There is little doubt Hernandez has violated his own “so help me god” oath, as well as Title 18, U.S. Code § 2387, but there is little to no chance in proverbial Hell that the Defense Department will take action against a Christian chaplain for fear of inciting Trump’s wrath for “persecuting Christians.”

The founder of MRFF, Michael Weinstein, is a retired Air Force officer that directed blame for Hernandez’ public call to subordinate the Constitution to Christianity at Trump and his intent to always do the bidding of the fanatical evangelical right. Mr. Weinstein said:

America’s military members look to the president for direction and inspiration. Trump’s statements and actions have fully endorsed and validated this unbridled tidal wave of fundamentalist Christian persecution, which is now more inextricably intertwined into the very fabric of our Department of Defense than ever before.”

It is noteworthy that fundamentalist Christianity was already “inextricably intertwined” in the upper echelons of the military long before Trump; and it was heartily encouraged by the George W. Bush administration. The issue became much worse since Trump occupied the White House.

In May, for example, MRFF reported that with the advent of Trump as commander in chief, the organization experienced “a massive influx of new military and civilian personnel complaints of religion-based prejudice and bigotry, most of them coming from non-fundamentalist Christians being persecuted by their military superiors for not being ‘Christian enough.’”

As reported by MRFF, and well-acknowledged by members of the Armed Services, “the U.S. military has long been seeded with radical Christian fundamentalists,” sometimes called Christian Dominionists, who believe “Warrior Jesus” supports their fight against Islam. Like Trump’s choice for Education Secretary, Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions, the “Dominionists” fervently believe their task is establishing a “Kingdom of God” on Earth, starting with the United States. Apparently establishing that kingdom in America is predicated on establishing a fundamentalist military flush with “onward Christian soldiers” according to the Wright-Patterson chaplain.

Americans should be horrified that the military has been infiltrated by fanatical evangelicals who now have a champion in the White House. The idea of soldiers being preached at to put their religion above the Constitution and to stop supporting their fellow soldiers’ constitutional rights is, as MRFF’s Weinstein asserts, a glaring threat to national security. It is also a terrifying sign that theocrats have taken over the military.

Image: U.S. Defense Department

House Bill Will Make Churches Dark Money Super PACs

 

Republicans made a sneaky move on Thursday to give their religious right devotees a long sought after gift that further erodes the Separation of Church and State as well as provide the ultimate dark money cover for Republicans’ corporate donors. It is another monumental gift to special interests and the wealthy; a religious super PAC completely immune to the IRS and FEC auditor’s prying eyes.

As is their wont, House Republicans passed what’s been labeled a “megabus” spending bill on Thursday that is better labeled reverse Robin Hood legislation; it takes from the poor and infirm and gives to the rich. For the evangelical right, the Republican bill is two-fold gift in allowing churches to receive and funnel “unlimited dark money to Republican campaigns” as well as to campaign from the pulpit free of IRS interference. According to the tax code, “tax exempt “charitable” non-profits are forbidden from inserting themselves into campaigns, and currently that prohibition stands for all non-profits including those representing religion.

The House spending bill includes a world of hurt for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamp recipients with significant cuts to help pay for tax cuts for billionaires. But tucked away in the spending bill is a rider with a provision making it nearly impossible for the Internal Revenue Service to enforce the “Johnson Amendment.” The “rider” stops funding attempts by the IRS Republicans, and Trump, claim are unfair attempts to “penalize churches that violate tax law by engaging in explicit political action.”

The new provision states that if there are any funds needed to enforce the Johnson Amendment on lawbreaking evangelical churches, it will “require IRS agents to notify two congressional committees, endure a 90-day waiting period, and then obtain an executive sign-off from the IRS commissioner.” It is noteworthy that this is a “special gift” to churches because all other tax-exempt charitable nonprofits that are not faith based will still be subject to enforcement of the law.

Besides opening up worshippers to suffering weekly campaigning from the pulpit for Republican candidates, this is simply another despicable Republican attempt to deregulate campaign finance laws to aid Republicans. Ironically, destroying the Johnson Amendment is “deeply unpopular among people of faith;” evangelical clergy love the idea. In fact, most religious Americans don’t want politics preached from the pulpit,  and “not a single major denomination” likes the idea of neutering the Johnson Amendment.

That “Johnson Amendment” is hated by the religious right as if it was from Satan because it is part of the tax code that prohibits churches from openly endorsing and campaigning for Republicans from the pulpit. The amendment is founded on the Constitution’s framers’ intent to keep church and state separate; it is a concept that Republicans like Jeff Sessions says is “unconstitutional and unhistorical.

However, this crusade to neuter the Johnson Amendment is almost certainly a Republican ploy to open the floodgates of dark money. There are exceedingly stringent rules prohibiting the IRS from auditing churches and according to the IRS, it is also extremely rare that a church is investigated for violating the Johnson Amendment, much less losing their tax-exemption.

A former IRS attorney and current LSU law school professor, Philip Hackney, told ThinkProgress the IRS typically goes to extreme lengths to avoid enforcing the Johnson Amendment. It is almost a mortal sin in America to even utter an unkind word about religion, so naturally daring to take away a church’s free taxpayer money is tantamount to a sin against the evangelical god. Mr. Hackney said:

There have been very few organizations that have lost their exemption. The typical answer was to slap people on the wrist. There’s a real problem when the answer is ‘you lose exemption’ — the IRS would look for any way it could get around making that choice.

According to the Center for Inquiry’s legal director, Nick Little, the Republican ploy is another “double benefit” for places of worship and Republicans. Mr. Little said:

“You could have unlimited dark money flowing to a campaign [from churches] if this gets passed, and there is nothing the IRS could do about it. They would be getting a double benefit.”

Democrats did attempt to remove the “dark money” provision from the spending bill during debate at the sub-committee level, at the full committee level, and on the floor of the House. But Republicans care more concerned about deregulating campaign finance laws and getting free weekly pulpit campaign time than preserving the Constitution’s Separation and Establishment Clauses in the First Amendment.

The Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, Larry T. Decker said:

Members of Congress had ample opportunities to strike [the provision] from this bill; when it was debated at the sub-committee level, at the full committee level, when Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz offered an amendment to cut it from the bill, and when it was on the floor of the House of Representatives. At every point, Congress failed to stand up for a law which has helped maintain the separation of church and state for more than 63 years.”

Like everything Republicans do, sneaking a measure in a spending bill to advance the religious rights’ crusade against the Constitution’s Separation of church and state, and giving ultimate cover for dark money to aid Republicans is highly unpopular. It is also a despicable attack on democracy. The religious right sees it as a sure-fire guarantee to continue electing Republicans without IRS interference, and help funnel dark money for those Republicans unimpeded and out of the Federal Elections Commission’s prying eyes.

For Americans who are not evangelical fanatics, it is another blatant Republican attack on the U.S. Constitution that is beginning to appear as important to Republicans as it to their standard bearer dirty Don Trump. For dark money purveyors like the Koch brothers and Karl Rove, the Republican move is tantamount to abolishing the FEC because with no way to “follow the money” from the Kochs to the churches to Republican candidates, this atrocity fairly decimates what remains of America’s fragile representative democracy; just like the Kochs and Republicans have planned for decades.

Did Trump Betray His Base By Signing Resolution Condemning Hate?

 

It was lightly reported in the media that most Republicans in Congress joined Democrats on Monday past to “deliver a notable rebuke to President Trump” over his warm embrace of fascists and white supremacists. Both houses of the  legislature fairly dared Trump to condemn his fascist acolytes for “the violence and domestic terrorist attack” that occurred last month around a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Trump finally signed the “joint resolution” yesterday condemning his most reliable supporters as domestic terrorists, but if any American believes for a nano-second that Trump will follow through on any of the “recommendations” Congress strongly urged of him, they are foolish lunatics. Trump loves his fascist supporters because they are white supremacists and they are safe under his administration.

For over a year Trump has put Republicans in the unenviable position of having to suffer his untoward remarks while carefully weighing how much damage they will do to their own careers if they rebuke their  Party’s standard bearer. Even though it’s safe to say many Republicans agree with every word Trump utters, at least most of them have enough self-restraint to keep their true bigoted opinions and racism close to the vest.

After Trump sided with white supremacists and Nazis after they killed a woman and injured dozens for opposing Nazi fascists in Charlottesville Virginia, Republicans refused to sanction  or censure Trump; he is a fellow Republican after all.  All they could bring themselves to do publicly was offer tepid disgust over Trump’s affinity with racists and fascists and his accusation that Americans protesting against hate and fascism are “really bad.”

The resolution Trump signed late Thursday passed with a unanimous vote in the House and a solid majority of the Senate. It had to have stung Trump that Congress actually passed a “joint resolution calling the Charlottesville protest a domestic terror attack” he had to sign to make it official.  This particular joint resolution was rare because Democrats and Republicans structured it specifically to require Trump’s signature to pass. In fact, one of the measure’s sponsors, Senator Tim Kaine explained why he was pleased the bipartisan measure passed so easily. He said:

I think it’s great for [Democrats and Republicans] to be able to make a moral call that white supremacy’s not acceptable, and I want the president to have to sign it. We wouldn’t have had to add in that point had he not demonstrated this moral equivocation at the time, but I think it would be a really good thing.

Here’s the thing, even though Trump signed the resolution, he still demonstrates “moral equivocation” by repeating his claim that inspired the bipartisan joint resolution in the first place.  Trump signed the measure just a few hours after comparing his most ardent supporters that Congress labeled “hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and White supremacy” as “domestic terrorists” to the counter-protestors in Charlottesville.

If Trump was sincere, he would never have repeated the comments that counter-protestors were “just as bad” as the fascists they were protesting against. It is very telling that Trump doubled down on his vile comments that inspired Congress to pass the joint resolution in the first place; he is still solidly behind his fascist base.

The resolution called on Trump to not only speak out against his devotees and condemn them as domestic terrorists and hate groups, it “urged” the administration to “use all resources available to the President Trump and the President’s Trump’s Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.”

Congress also brought pressure to bear on Trump’s racist attorney general calling on Sessions to “investigate acts of violence or domestic terrorism perpetrated by white supremacists.” In fact, it called on Sessions to direct the Department of Justice to work closely with the Department of Homeland Security to:

Investigate thoroughly all acts of violence,  intimidation, and domestic terrorism by White supremacists, White nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and associated groups in order to determine if any criminal laws have been violated and to prevent those groups from fomenting and facilitating additional violence.”

Prior to signing the resolution, Trump told reporters:

“I think especially in light of the advent of antifa, if you look at what’s going on there, you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also. A lot of people are saying — in fact a lot of people have actually written —  ‘Gee, Trump might have a point.’  I said, you got some very bad people on the other side also, which is true.”

No, Trump doesn’t have a point no matter how many times he attempts to equate Americans opposing fascism as “very bad people.” Trump is a punk-ass fascist for attempting to demonize the counter protestors opposed to fascists the bipartisan “joint resolution” never mentioned; except to honor the memory of slain anti-fascist protestor Heather Heyer and the first responders who perished while monitoring the Nazi fascists.

As an aside, and a little historical reminder for dumb Donnie, the advent of the anti-fascist movement goes back to at least World War II when the entirety of the American people banded together and went to war to defeat the same fascists Trump’s supporters are emulating. It is likely why the congressional resolution included no criticism whatsoever of the counter-protestors; even Republicans comprehend that people who oppose fascism, including Trump’s fascism, are not “very bad  people.”

In normal times, standing in opposition to an historical American enemy, the fascists, would be rewarded. Instead, Trump uses a pejorative made up by his Nazi fascist supporters, “antifa” when referring to patriots who oppose him and his fascist sycophants. No doubt most Americans identify as ‘anti-fascists” and if they don’t they are likely Nazi racists.

Even though he signed the joint resolution, no-one should hold their breath waiting for him to “use all resources available to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.” And it is likely that few people expect Jeff Sessions to work with Homeland Security to “investigate acts of violence or domestic terrorism perpetrated by white supremacists.

Remember, one of Trump’s first acts was instructing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to stop investigating domestic terrorism associated with “white supremacist and militia” groups. It is one thing to sign a meaningless joint resolution, but it is contrary to Trump’s worldview to take action against his most valued supporters; particularly after they made a big deal expressing their undying gratitude for his action neutering the FBI and Homeland Security’s investigative power that gave the alt-right (Nazi) fascists what they desired most; “space to destroy.

Trump’s attempt to equate violent fascists and hate groups with patriots opposed to fascists and hate groups was no mistake, and the timing of his comments hours before signing the resolution was no coincidence. He sent a signal to his fascist supporters that he will use his White House platform and authority to portray “his” opposition as the real bad guys; it is a tried-and-true Nazi propaganda technique.

After his remarks defining Americans protesting fascism as “some pretty bad dudes” just hours before signing Congress’ joint resolution, it is possible that there is some kind of White House announcement in the works. Likely to sate his fascist zealots,  Trump will issue an executive order instructing the FBI, Department of Justice, and Homeland Security to target the people who oppose fascism mirroring the language in the Congress’ joint resolution; it is precisely what Americans should expect from the petty fascist in the White House.

 

Under Obama Middle Class Income Reached Highest Level Ever In 2016

It should be no great revelation to any American that the racist Donald Trump has a fixation with attempting to undo everything President Obama accomplished during his 8-year tenure in the White House. Instead, all he has accomplished is shining a spotlight on everything good and right Barack Obama did for all Americans. Whether it was providing access to healthcare for tens-of-millions of Americans, protecting the environment, defending the people from corporate and economic malfeasance, or extending civil and equal rights to all the people, President Obama’s record of serving the people cannot be “erased;” not by congressional repeal efforts or executive orders.

Now there is another major accomplishment that Trump has to grieve over and since it is now part of  a federal government agency’s permanent record, there is no way the Oval Office con man can take credit for something his superior predecessor accomplished or “executive order” it out of existence.

According to the constitutionally-mandated U.S. Census Bureau,  a report details that in 2016 middle class income rose to its “highest level ever.” It is a statistic and accomplishment that dirty Don Trump can never take credit for or erase by virtue of an executive order. That wasn’t the only good news in the Census, but it is a remarkable achievement considering that President Obama inherited a Republican-created economic disaster and subsequent recession that resulted in nearly 8 million jobs lost due to Republican economic incompetence.

Today, the national unemployment rate is hovering around 4.4 percent (in August) which is approximately what it was prior to the Bush-Republican-created financial crisis and Great Recession. In July, enough jobs were generated to officially restore “national employment to where it stood in 2007” before the Republican recession started. Trump gets no credit for that employment achievement because in the same manner President Obama inherited an economic disaster put in place by the Bush administration the previous year, Trump inherited President Obama’s economic growth that is still ongoing.

According to the Census Bureau’s report on “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, 2016,” median household income rose to $59,039 in 2016. That is a 3.2 percent increase from the previous year (2015) and the “second consecutive year of healthy income gains” for working people. What that means is it took 8 long years to correct the previous 8 years of the Bush-Republican economic mess and it was despite a wall of Republican opposition against any and every thing President Obama attempted.

President Obama’s income and employment gains back to pre-recession levels are not the only good news. The national poverty rate also fell to about the same level it was in 2007 prior to the Republican financial crisis and Great Recession that continued to hurt the workforce for several years after the recession’s damage was done.

The 2016 data accompanied another census report revealing that “the rate of Americans lacking health insurance was at its lowest ever in 2016.” Of course that is due in great part to President Obama’s healthcare reform law, but it also strongly implies that the American people overall “were actually in a position of increasing financial strength;” higher incomes and all.  And all of these Obama-era income gains and economic growth were occurring at the same time the main stream media and conservative punditry were errantly reporting that Trump “tapped into the population’s anger about the economy” giving him a victory in November.

That narrative is blatantly false and only imbeciles ever believed it was the case. The only thing Trump tapped into was roiling racism and religious bigotry by white people; what the experts call “social anxiety.” The Census report proves that people were working more and earning more, including Trump supporters. The people who voted for Trump did so because he promised get rid of Mexicans and Muslims and empower the religious right’s theocratic crusade; it’s what they considered necessary to “make America great.”

The good news in the Census report was that the 3.2 percent income increase extended to almost every demographic group; a major factor in making the median household income the highest on record.  The previous high mark was in 1999 at the end of the last Democratic President’s administration and similarly to President Obama, Bill Clinton spent 8 years reversing his Republican predecessor’s dismal economic record with sound economic policies Bush Republicans immediately reversed; not unlike Trump Republicans are doing now.

Despite that good economic news in the Census report, there is some seriously sobering news to neutralize it. Besides reversing, or attempting to reverse the Obama-era policies that increased Americans’ income, put more people to work, reduced poverty, and provided access to healthcare coverage for more Americans, Trump intends to double down on the typical economy-ravaging policies that caused the 2007-2008 financial crisis and Great Recession. In the upcoming tax-cutting and deregulation crusade Republicans and Trump promise, they will not be erasing President Barack Obama’s legacy or accomplishments, Trump will do like his Republican predecessors and erase the economic growth and leave a gigantic economic mess for another Democratic president to repair; it is the American way.

Rand Paul Beds Down With Organization Advocating Prison for Abortion

Republicans are being lured to do an anti-women’s choice organization’s bidding that includes advocating jail sentences for women who have an abortion. While the nation is mesmerized by a con man’s social media use and incompetence, the religious right is making unprecedented progress in the war on women while no-one is watching. Of course it is tempting to only monitor the criminal in the White House, but it is a distraction giving cover to religious anti-choice advocates and Republicans to pass legislation ending women’s reproductive rights and compelling them to become either birth machines or celibate.

It was reported that Rand Paul (R-KY) is pandering for donations for a personhood organization, the National Pro-Life Alliance, to give them more funding leverage to buy Republican support for Paul’s latest “fetal personhood” offering. The nasty religion-driven “non-profit” is making a major push to control women now because Trump signed a solemn pledge to support Paul’s “personhood legislation.” Trump also told the religious group that he supports a “federal” personhood bill, and they expect him to repay them for their ardent electoral support.

National Pro-Life Alliance recently sent out a letter supporting Paul’s “fetal personhood” bill bemoaning the fact that women who exercise their legal right to a medical procedure are not arrested, charged, prosecuted and sent to jail.

Rand Paul’s latestpersonhood” bill, “Life at Conception Act 2017” is short and says much more than it seems.

This bill declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual comes into being.”

What the bill doesn’t say is that anything the religious right deems an “unnatural interference” with that “moment of fertilization” will be considered a crime. Paul did add a “provision” to make his bill palatable to more senators, but it means nothing if the bill is passed and signed into law. The provision states:

Nothing in this bill shall be construed to require the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child, a prohibition on in vitro fertilization, or a prohibition on use of birth control or another means of preventing fertilization.”

If anyone believes the measures Paul inserted to make his anti-choice measure palatable are legitimate, they are stupider than dirt. Remember, once theses religious fanatics get their foot in the door, women’s right to choose their own reproductive health is finished. In the Hobby Lobby ruling, although the conservative Justices acknowledged that according to all known medical and biological science, birth control is not abortion, still ruled for Hobby Lobby. They claimed that because according to Hobby Lobby’s owners’ religious belief that birth control is abortion, then it must be abortion to them. It was that “religious belief” aspect that gave Hobby Lobby and the religious right another means of banning birth control because it is unnatural and interferes with “the moment of conception.”

Now, it is getting old having to remind these “Christ centered” personhood malcontents that according to their god in their Christian bible, there is no “living being” until the moment the fetus leaves the womb and draws breath. The result of “the moment of fertilization” is a single-celled organism called a “zygote.” It is not a living human being and deserves no more constitutional rights than an embryo or a fetus. It is noteworthy that Republicans, particularly the evangelical Republicans, are immensely concerned about protecting the rights of a non-living human being, but the second that fetus exits the womb and draws breath they have no use or regard for its well-being whatsoever.

These “Christ centered” personhood advocates could not care less what their holy book says, and despite that a zygote, embryo, or fetus is not a human being, they hew closely to a document created by a Catholic they believe should be enshrined as the law of the land in America. And it is terrifying that there are religious Republicans who share their conviction and now have the means to make it law.

Most Americans who have heard about the Catholic “Personhood Movement” are either completely clueless to its purpose or laugh it off as just another bizarro-world religious right worldview. Although they didn’t start the personhood crusade, the religious right embraced it whole-heartedly to keep the “faithful” electing Republicans who do the movement’s bidding. Prior to being convinced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that birth control and abortion were brilliant emotional appeals to sway evangelical voters for Republicans, the religious right was not anti-women’s choice.

The ultimate goal of the personhood movement is to force legislation that conforms to the 1968 papal encyclical on human life known as Humanae Vitae. The movement adheres to the “encyclical” thesis that all “unnatural” forms of birth control are sinful and that sexual relations are for the express purpose of producing offspring; but only in marriage.

That is a loose summary of Pope Paul VI’s instructions to the Catholic faithful that the personhood movement has adopted as its raison d’être. Now that the personhood movement has a White House occupant’s signature on a document supporting any personhood bill,  they see an opportunity to finally succeed.  With Trump, and Pence who supports jail for abortion, on board, and two Republican versions of “personhood” bills in the works in Congress, it looks very bad for women and their constitutional right to control their reproductive health.

There has been a methodical effort by the personhood movement, with valuable aid from religious Republicans, to create a strategy to eliminate any and all legal protections for abortions, and eventually any and all “unnatural” forms of birth control. Central to that effort is building a body of laws that define zygotes and fetuses as full U.S. citizens with the same legal and constitutional rights Republicans want reserved for white evangelicals.

Women have never been in as much peril of being controlled by the religious right regarding their reproductive rights as they are today. Since Republicans control all three branches of government, there is no firewall against something as absurd as personhood legislation or the real risk of women being imprisoned for choosing a legal medical procedure. It is true a personhood bill on its own will not technically overturn Roe v Wade, but the result will be exactly the same.

If women, or the men who love them, think the religious maniacs will stop at jailing women for having an abortion, it is worth reminding them that there are pro-life personhood zealots who support charging women for murder for choosing a legal medical procedure. No one should be shocked if Republicans “compromise” and settle for just jailing women who have an abortion.

This is Bad – Now Trump’s DOJ Wants Arpaio Conviction Erased

Although disgraced Arizona former sheriff Joe Arpaio was gifted a with a questionable and completely unwarranted pardon from the crook in the White House, it still isn’t enough to satisfy any of the racists in Trump’s administration. The sad truth is that Trump pardoning Arpaio prematurely signaled that the rule of law took another blow from dirty Don. Now Trump’s racist attorney general is wading in to completely erase Arpaio’s conviction in a blow to a federal Judge, the rule of law and the judicial system.

It was announced yesterday (Monday) that since Trump’s good friend Joe Arpaio demands his conviction on criminal contempt of court be dismissed, Trump’s Justice Department duly filed an amicus brief telling a federal Judge to “give Sheriff Joe” what he wants. Obviously the DOJ didn’t put it in quite those words, but they did, however, reiterate Arpaio’s claim that a pardon from Trump means he was never found guilty and never convicted; Arpaio wants his name cleared of any wrongdoing and Trump’s DOJ agrees. This is a really bad sign going forward.

Shortly after Trump pardoned Arpaio, the former sheriff told the federal Judge he wants the conviction “tossed” as if nothing ever happened and he wasn’t in contempt of court for over five years. Trump’s DOJ filed an amicus brief with the federal court agreeing with Arpaio that he should be declared innocent.

The disgraced Arpaio’s lawyers have argued that even though he will never face justice or be sentenced, the poor former sheriff  has no legal path to be declared innocent. According to Arpaio, that questionable pardon renders his case “resolved” in the eyes of the law, so his conviction must be thrown out and his “good name” cleared of any wrongdoing. He says that presidential pardon “nullifies the guilty verdict in the case.

Federal District Court Judge Susan Bolton canceled an October 5th sentencing date after the ill-advised pardon and set an October 4th date for both prosecutors and defense lawyers to file briefs on why she should, or should not, do what Arpaio demands and pretend he never broke the law.

Although the DOJ has no business wading into the case, they are acutely interested in seeing that Arpaio gets his criminal record wiped clean; it is a slap in the face to a Federal Judge from Trump’s Department of Justice. The DOJ brief states:

A pardon issued before entry of final judgment moots a criminal case because the defendant will face no consequences that result from the guilty verdict. Accordingly, the [Trump] government agrees [with Arpaio] that the Court should vacate all orders and dismiss the case as moot.”

It is as if nothing ever happened. And as if Arpaio’s flagrant flouting the law, and disregarding the constitutionality of a federal court’s authority, is now legal in Trump’s America; but only if the convicted criminal is an anti-immigrant racist and close Trump ally and supporter.

That pardon has elicited legal challenges and there should be a robust stand against Trump’s actions; if for no other reason than Trump failed to follow his own Department of Justice’s protocol and rules for granting a “presidential pardon.” Of course those rules and procedures are not the grounds an activist group, Protect Democracy, is claiming to “thwart Trump’s violations of legal norms,” but it is a path they may want to investigate.

The group of lawyers sent a letter to Raymond N. Hulser and John Dixon Keller of the Public Integrity Section, Criminal Division of the Justice Department, arguing that the pardon goes beyond constitutional limits. In their letter to the DOJ, the Protect Democracy lawyers claim Trump cannot “obviate the court’s powers to enforce its orders when the constitutional rights of others are at stake.” They added:

The president [Trump] can’t use the pardon power to immunize lawless officials from consequences for violating people’s constitutional rights. After repeatedly belittling and undermining judges verbally and on Twitter, now President Trump is escalating his attack on the courts into concrete actions. His pardon and celebration of Joe Arpaio for ignoring a [federal] judicial order is a threat to our democracy and every citizen’s rights, and should not be allowed to stand.”

There is another little matter that should be addressed and it is Trump’s blatant disregard for the long-established process of gaining a presidential pardon; Trump violated each and every one of them.

Just a sampling of the procedures Trump ignored was the requirement that the convicted party files a petition with the Office of the Pardon Attorney at the Department of Justice. According to the DOJ website, Arpaio is required to complete a pardon petition that “must be completed fully and accurately and notarized in order to be considered.” That process, like the U.S. Constitution means nothing to Trump.

The DOJ instructs all petitioners that a presidential pardon:

Is ordinarily a sign of forgiveness and is granted in recognition of the applicant’s acceptance of responsibility for the crime and established good conduct for a significant period of time after conviction or release from confinement. A pardon is not a sign of vindication and does not connote or establish innocence. For that reason, when considering the merits of a pardon petition, pardon officials take into account the petitioner’s acceptance of responsibility, remorse, and atonement for the offense. (Author bold)

Obviously, Arpaio continues claiming, like his racist hero Trump, that he did nothing wrong because he is “above the law” and was “just doing his job” in violating a federal court order for over five years. And he just said yesterday it was a “job” he would never stop doing or apologize for. In fact, he made the same claim in 2011 when the Court ordered him to cease and desist and he has reiterated that claim without pause as he continued violating the federal court’s order.  In fact, in the court’s guilty finding in July the Judge noted that:

The Defendant broadcast to the world and to his subordinates that he would and they should continue ‘what he had always been doing.’”

Arpaio, like Trump, believes he is exempt from following court orders like every other American citizen has to on pain of a conviction for “criminal contempt of court;” which is what Arpaio was found guilty of.

It is also noteworthy that Arpaio never “accepted responsibility for the crime” he certainly committed or established good conduct for a significant period of time “after conviction.” Because in violating the DOJ’s own rules, Trump just pardoned Arpaio barely three weeks after he was found guilty and convicted of a federal crime. Trump was so eager to sate his alt-right Nazis lust for “justice” for a fellow racist, that he didn’t wait for Arpaio to be sentenced and now he wants the conviction and guilty finding erased; to clear “former” sheriff Joe’s good name.

There are rumors that Arpaio is going to challenge one of Trump’s Republican “enemies,” Jeff Flake, for his Arizona Senate seat and he needs his criminal record wiped clean. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Trump is using the federal government agency to aid his racist ally’s electoral chances; Trump’s DOJ stepping in to pressure a federal court fits with any number of dirty tricks Trump will use to game the system.

It was bad enough that Trump pardoned Arpaio without going through the proper pardon process, but the DOJ butting in to pressure a federal Judge portends the “official” end of the rule of law in America.

It is not a stretch to imagine that Trump will issue a blanket pardon for all of his co-conspirators even before they face charges, particularly after he announced publicly that he “has complete pardon power;” a signal to his corrupt players that no matter what crimes they committed, they will never face justice. This should concern every American because there is every indication that no-one in Trump’s corrupt administration will ever face justice; including the dirty crook in the Oval Office.

Republican Mayor Condemns Trump For Not Addressing Climate Change

 

It isn’t often that any American hears a Republican call for action to address climate change, but stunningly that is precisely what occurred this past weekend. There is an old proverb, attributed to both England and Ancient Rome that likely informs why a Florida Republican mayor called on Trump to get real about climate change. The proverb, “it’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye” could just as well be “it’s all a Chinese or liberal hoax until millions of people in a hurricane’s path lose everything.”

Just as Hurricane Irma was beginning to wreak havoc on Florida, Miami’s Republican Mayor Tomás Regalado criticized President Donald Trump and his administration for refusing to acknowledge the connection between climate change and more intense and destructive storms. Mr. Regalado told the Miami Herald:

This is the time to talk about climate change. This is the time that the president Trump and the EPA and whoever makes decisions needs to talk about climate change. If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is. This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come.”

Regalado is right, of course. Just as climatologists and climate scientists have predicted for decades, the intensity and ferocity of weather events going forward will be monstrous and wreak damage never before seen. It is a sad fact of science that no matter what the industrialized nations of the Earth do to stop emitting carbon-related emissions into the atmosphere, the horrific effects of climate change will get increasingly worse, likely for decades, before there is any improvement or normalization of Earth’s climate. However, that long-term forecast of increased devastation is no reason not to take immediate steps for the future of mankind, and America’s security and safety.

Going back decades, scientists have warned incessantly that one of the effects of anthropogenic global climate change is a monumental increase in the intensity of hurricanes. Joe Romm detailed a few of the ways climate change “intensifies hurricanes” regarding the devastation in Texas as the result of Hurricane Harvey.  However, despite personally seeing what climate scientists have predicted come to pass exactly as described, a fair number of Republicans still claim “it’s a hoax,” or that the science is inconclusive; even as mainly Republican states have been decimated by historically-severe natural disasters caused by climate change.

Likely, many Americans errantly believed at some point even Republicans would comprehend that everything climate scientists predicted is coming true after witnessing it for themselves, but of course they were mistaken.

Trump and most of his administration reject, out of hand, the scientific unanimity on climate change, or that it has an “empowering” effect on the intensity of severe weather like the hurricanes ravaging the Eastern seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico. Trump and his underlings proved their concerted rejection of science immediately on taking office and launched a crusade to roll back and eliminate domestic and international climate policies.

Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) run by fossil fuel puppet Scott Pruitt  has repeatedly dismissed or distorted widely accepted climate science, as well as rejecting climate scientists’ efforts to connect Hurricane Harvey’s extreme impact to global warming. The Pruitt-led EPA’s spokeswoman, Liz Bowman, said that now is not the time to talk about climate change or attempt to connect the severity of the hurricanes to it. Bowman said:

EPA is focused on the safety of those affected by Hurricane Harvey and providing emergency response support — not engaging in attempts to politicize an ongoing tragedy.

Trump’s anti-environment EPA chief went farther and actually condemned anyone who dared discuss the cause of the horrific life-ending storms. He said that it is being insensitive to Floridians, but not Texans, to even consider discussing “the cause and effect of these storms … or to use time and effort to address it at this point is very, very insensitive to the people in Florida.”

As Miami’s Republican mayor rightly asserted, “failing to address the underlying cause will doom major U.S. cities like Miami to keep repeating the same mistakes,” and leave Americans unprepared to cope with ever-worsening natural disasters.

Mr. Regalado knows what he’s talking about regarding “repeating the same mistakes.” South Florida is generally regarded as “ground zero” for the severest impacts of anthropogenic (man-made) climate change. Regalado is particularly concerned about the increasing sea level rise and coastal flooding; especially after “decades of unchecked development.” As Bloomberg News’ Christopher Flavelle reported back in April, “Tidal flooding now predictably drenches inland streets, even when the sun (sic) is out, thanks to the region’s porous limestone bedrock. Saltwater is creeping into the drinking water supply.

That “lesser” effect of climate change, “rising sea levels and higher levels of tidal flooding” has nothing whatsoever to do with the hurricane damages, but it is causing the city of Miami to seek a $400 million “obligation bond.” That bond is crucial to aid the city in repairing and improving the storm drains and pumping system necessary to preserve the city’s water supply and keep seawater at bay. And it is noteworthy that “keeping it at bay” is only temporary until the sea level rises, as predicted, to the point when no amount of money, bonds, or pumps will keep the ocean from inundating the entire region.

There is no better time to talk about the cause of this most recent spate of historically-powerful hurricanes because right now there is a fair amount of focus on their damage in lives and property. One would think that Republicans would see the wisdom in addressing climate change if for no other reason than the outrageous amount of funding necessary in disaster relief. It is also curious why the insurance industry, certainly paying out billions and billions for damaged property, hasn’t yet planted their substantial boots on the Republicans’ throats for pretending nothing untoward is happening.

And it is worth noting to Trump’s anti-environment EPA people that discussing the causes of the monumental damage raging in the hurricanes’ wake is not “politicizing an ongoing tragedy,” or being “very insensitive to the victims.” It is an attempt to avert further tragedies. Until more Republicans follow the lead of Miami’s Republican mayor and berate Trump mercilessly, there are going to be further tragedies of epic proportions and inaction from Washington. And along with historically-severe hurricanes there will be more historical droughts, massive wildfires, melting glaciers, and in the near future the most fertile regions of the continent will face desertification.

Those effects, being witnessed now, are not a Chinese hoax or a liberal plot; they are real and as climate scientists at NASA, NOAA, and research universities around the world have predicted quite explicitly, those effects are only going to get worse. It is just tragic, and unfair, that Trump, Pruitt, the Koch brothers, and the rest of the “fact averse” ideologues will be dead and gone when climate change finally accomplishes what Republicans are busy attempting to do today; decimate America.

Trump Appellate Nominee Says Religion Supersedes Constitution

Anyone serving in the U.S. Government has to abide by the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land, but that is not the ardent belief of Trump’s nominee to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The idea that the Constitution is secondary to a judge’s religious belief has been a growing threat for at least a couple of decades or so, but now that threat is becoming reality as America lurches toward an evangelical theocracy. For far too long politicians have looked the other way as theocracy-minded evangelicals have infected the government hoping to spread their evangelical beliefs like an incurable cancer.

At least now some members of the Senate realize the danger of a religious fanatic serving as an appeals court judge, but it is likely far too little to stop a serious threat to the rule of law by a Trump nominee who said judges have a duty to put their faith above the Constitution.

Amy Coney Barrett is a practicing conservative Catholic, and is an extraordinarily enthusiastic opponent of a woman’s right to choose. She has written extensively on the Catholic Church’s need to dismantle a long-standing legal medical procedure, Roe v. Wade. Barrett also does not subscribe to the idea of adhering to long-established legal precedents if they conflict with her religious belief that some laws, or Supreme Court rulings “were gross mistakes” because they are not founded on the Christian religion.

Barrett is a law professor at the Catholic Notre Dame University and except for serving as a “law clerk” for dead SCOTUS justice Antonin Scalia and appellate Judge Laurence H. Silberman, she has not served as a judge: and she damn well never should for one very good reason.

According to a recent report from the Alliance for Justice (AFJ):

As a judge, Barrett could be expected to put her personal beliefs ahead of the law. She wrote specifically about the duty of judges to put their faith above the law in an article entitled “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases.” Among other things, she strongly criticized Justice William Brennan’s statement about faith, in which he said that he took an oath to uphold the law, and that “there isn’t any obligation of our faith superior” to that oath. In response, Barrett wrote: “We do not defend this position as the proper response for a Catholic judge to take with respect to abortion or the death penalty.” (author bold)

If that is Barrett’s position, and she has written extensively that it is what she believes,  it automatically disqualifies her for any position in America’s judicial system. No judge, federal or otherwise, can blatantly disregard the only basis for law in the United States, the U.S. Constitution. Barrett claims the law of the land is secondary to a judge’s religious belief.

And, regarding Barrett’s nomination to a life-long position on a federal Circuit Court of Appeals, AFJ’s president Nan Aron said In a statement:

Amy Coney Barrett is a judicial nominee the likes of which we have rarely seen: a person who believes and has stated that judges can and should put their personal beliefs ahead of the law and Constitution when carrying out their duties. Specifically, Barrett has written that judges should put their religious faith ahead of the law in certain cases. She also has written that judges should not have to abide by precedent if they disagree with how past cases were decided. These views are so contrary to our system of democracy and justice that, in our view, they clearly disqualify her for the federal bench.

That AJF report elicited concerns in the Senate leading Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch to ask about her “questionable record” while quoting directly from the AJF report. But Barrett, a self-admitted “conservative Catholic” did what is becoming natural for so-called “conservative Christian” adherents;  she violated her Christian bible’s Ninth Commandment and lied by denying the AJF’s accusations. She responded to Senator Hatch saying:

That is not true. I totally reject and have rejected throughout my entire career the proposition that the end justifies the means or that a judge should decide cases based on a desire to reach a certain outcome.

Barrett’s assertion was quickly called what it was, a dirty lie, by the legal director for Alliance for Justice, Daniel Goldberg who asserted that Barrett’s testimony is “a point-blank lie.” He said:

Look at our report. It quotes Coney Barrett directly.”

California Senator Dianne Feinstein joined Senator Hatch in expressing her deep suspicions about Barrett’s religious extremism. She noted:

When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”

Minnesota Senator Al Franken actually did the right thing and questioned Barrett’s “fitness to serve” when she claims a judge’s religious beliefs trump the U.S. Constitution. He also rightly chastised “the conservative Catholic’s close ties and communication with the anti-gay Christian hate group Alliance Defending Freedom.”

It isn’t immediately clear who in the Trump administration directed Trump to nominate Barrett as an Appellate Court judge, but it was almost certainly either Mike “preacher” Pence or Jeff ‘bible” Sessions. It may have even been the Christian hate group Alliance Defending Freedom; they all believe the Christian bible supersedes the U.S. Constitution as the law of the land. There is no doubt that the idea of a conservative Catholic panting to overturn Roe on the federal bench almost certainly gave them a 19-year-old’s ‘boner.’

Barrett has no right serving in any capacity as a judge. And no, her religion is not the issue; nobody has any shit to give about what Psalms she sings, how she worships, who she prays to, or what Christian denomination she subscribes. However, every American alive should shudder that Trump is nominating Christian extremists who fervently believe that judges have “a duty to put their faith above the law of the land” because it is a direct line to an oppressive theocracy; exactly what whoever nominated an extremist like Barrett intended.

Image: Patheos

As Environmental Disasters Mount Pruitt Cuts Hundreds of EPA Jobs

No-one in their right mind will dispute that natural disasters are horrific while they are occurring and in their immediate aftermath. The flooding resulting from Hurricane Katrina and most recently, Hurricane Harvey bear witness to the post-event damage unfolding in and around the Houston metropolitan area. However, when any natural disaster occurs, the threats of multiple environmental disasters pose a significant threat that demands a robust response from environment protection experts.

It is no great revelation to anyone that one of Trump’s missions as White House occupant is doing the bidding of the fossil fuel industry. Chief among that “bidding” is neutering, and eventually eliminating, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is why, after all, he appointed a sworn enemy of the federal agency, Scott Pruitt, to slash the agency half-to-death and deconstruct environmental regulations he regards as unfriendly to his funders in the fossil fuel industry.

This week, while Texas, and now Florida and possibly Louisiana face environmental disasters as a result of historically monstrous hurricanes predicted by climate scientists, Pruitt proudly announced he is cutting close to 500 EPA jobs. It’s glaringly apparent that it is more important to Pruitt to advance Trump’s deregulatory crusade than adopt an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to the several environmental disasters still emerging.

In announcing that close to 500 hundred EPA employees are being “pushed out” in a “smaller government” effort, Pruitt boasted about hard-working and long-serving staffers leaving the agency. Pruitt has been pushing for “voluntary buyouts, early retirement and good old fashioned agency budget cuts” as preparation for Trump slashing EPA funding by 31 percent.  Pruitt said in a statement:

We’re proud to report that we’re reducing the size of government, protecting taxpayer dollars and staying true to our core mission of protecting the environment and American jobs.”

Pruitt is probably too much of an imbecile to comprehend how stupid he sounds to sane people when he congratulates himself for “protecting American jobs” at the same time he  announces he’s eliminating nearly 500 American jobs whose core mission is protecting the environment. It is particularly insane sounding that he’s cutting environmental protection jobs even as multiple environmental disasters threaten hundreds of thousands of American citizens in Texas alone. It is far too early in the hurricane season to estimate how many millions of Americans will face environmental disasters after the 150-plus mile-per-hour winds, driving rains, and subsequent flooding will cause. But it will be epic and the environmental disasters in the Houston area are prime examples.

Houston is the undisputed American petro-chemical capital, and the flooding has “triggered a dizzying list of environmental problems.” According to Gizmodo, “at least five toxic Superfund sites were breached by Harvey’s floodwaters,” and that is in addition to several reported oil spills. Of course the floodwaters “distribute” that spilled oil to better damage the surrounding areas.

There was also a chemical plant that housed “large stockpiles” of dangerous organic peroxide that exploded due to massive flooding. And if that isn’t enough environmental damage, health experts have warned that “still-lingering floodwaters” are likely polluted with “anything from weed repellant to animal feces to disease-causing bacteria.” When that polluted floodwater dries up, those pollutants will still remain and it is why having an excess of environmental experts on the scene to assess and coordinate cleanup efforts is crucial to protect the people in the affected area.

But this is Trump’s EPA and despite the damage to the environment, “the EPA’s most noteworthy response” to Hurricane Harvey was attacking an Associated Press journalist because he was covering “the ongoing environmental disaster.”

If these were remotely normal times there would be plenty of advocacy for, and debate about, why having fully-staffed and fully funded federal agencies such as FEMA and the EPA is crucial. But these are far from normal times with increasingly severe weather events wreaking havoc on the country and an administration slashing agencies to death. Now more than ever America needs a robust and fully-staffed EPA and FEMA because they are the only federal agencies created specifically to respond in times of distress.

This is particularly true because, regardless what any fact-averse member of Trump’s administration claims, there will be increasingly devastating natural and environmental disasters due to climate change. Still, Trump’s EPA is staffed at just below Reagan-era levels long before climate change-borne weather events posed the extraordinarily damaging hurricanes ravaging America recently.

Americans affected by the latest natural disasters, and those about to experience climate change’s fury, deserve all the assistance and protection the federal government can muster, and that includes protection from the environmental disasters that will linger long after the winds subside and floodwaters recede.

Image: Rick Bowmer/AP