Appeals Court Gives Christofascists License To Discriminate

Once upon a time there was a nation founded with religious freedom granted as a natural right. For about 200 years in America religious freedom meant exactly that; the freedom to worship, pray, sing Psalms, believe in loving air-fairies and evil fire-gnomes, and frequent whatever building one wanted to praise some kind of man-made god en masse. However, about 35 years ago when extremist Christians needed an emotional lure to garner electoral support for the Republican Party, Catholic Bishops taught them how to morph religious freedom into unchallenged power and authority to force a bastardized version of Christianity down the throats of every man, woman and child in the United States – according to “the Christian’s conscience.” It was a power Republicans were more than happy to grant their reliable voting bloc as remuneration for flocking to the polls with bibles in hand to keep the GOP in power.

Part and parcel of the GOP Christofascist cult’s religious freedom is more than just imposing their religion on the entire population, that isn’t nearly enough dominion for the tyrants working in their “god’s name.

What Christofascist Republicans intently  lust after is controlling the entire population and denying them their 200-plus year-old “god-given” Constitutional rights; including the freedom not to be controlled by barbarically savage evangelical fundamentalists. For an idea of what Christians really want, just imagine ISIS or the Taliban without the “righteous killing” in god’s name; something that is not that far off if the evangelical right gets any more religious freedom.

Yesterday in a biblical Appellate Court ruling, Republicans in the most “Christofascist” state in the nation won the right to deny other Americans’ basic human and Constitutional rights because it is what Mississippi Republicans believe religious freedom entails. Mississippi’s religious Republicans awarded evangelical theocrats the unchallenged right to legally discriminate against any state resident according to their newly-granted religious freedom.

The Appellate court ruling gave religious Republicans the license to discriminate exactly as the bible thumping cult has demanded for decades. Now in Mississippi, state-sanctioned discrimination is the law of the land and freedom from religious persecution was stripped from any non-compliant citizen. It is a giant step towards Christian “Sharia” in America.

Now with a theocracy-driven cabal running the federal government, that evangelical version of Sharia will spread throughout Republican-Dominated states just ahead of its imposition nationwide by a Republican-dominated federal government.

Yesterday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a challenge to Mississippi’s bible-based legislation, HB 1523. The theocratic legislation was signed into law by religious Republican Governor Phil Bryant about a year ago. In a gross understatement, HB 1532 was labeled “the most extreme anti-LGBT bill introduced anywhere in the nation,” but it impacts more than just LGBT Americans. The Court said that the Constitution loving plaintiffs were not “personally harmed by the law,” so they had no right to bring a challenge to the religious law.

Writing for the majority opinion, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry E. Smith said:

Under this current record, the plaintiffs have not shown an injury-in-fact caused by HB 1523 that would empower the district court or this court to rule on its constitutionality. We do not foreclose the possibility that a future plaintiff may be able to show clear injury-in-fact … but the federal courts must withhold judgment unless and until that plaintiff comes forward.”

The ruling fulfills extremist evangelicals’ ultimate fantasy and likely gave them massive wet dreams. Now the Christofascists have the legal right to discriminate based on their belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, that sexual relations are biblically reserved to such a union, or that “male” and “female” refer to someone’s “immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.

The theocratic law also grants legal authority to any individual, business, government employee, nonprofit and any other possible entity to discriminate against not only LGBT people, but also same-sex couples and anyone who has ever had extramarital sex; all according to the Christian bible’s Old Testament edicts.

It is noteworthy that last April (2016) a federal Judge, Carlton Reeves, called HB 1523 exactly what it is; “state-sanctioned discrimination;”  Judge Reeves refused to allow Mississippi Christofascists to enforce the biblical law. In fact, about a month later Judge Reeves prohibited the Mississippi theocrats from attempting to impose the edict again. In his ruling he actually addressed the “religious freedom” issue for the bullshit it really is. He wrote:

HB 1523’s absence does not impair the free exercise of religion. In addition, issuing a marriage license to a gay couple is not like being forced into armed combat or to assist with an abortion. Matters of life and death are sui generis. If movants truly believe that providing services to LGBT citizens forces them to ‘tinker with the machinery of death,’ their animus exceeds anything seen in Romer, Windsor, or the marriage equality cases.” (author bold)

Judge Reeves is right, of course, except he didn’t add that “their animus” is purely religious hatred, not just “hostility.” And it is worth mentioning that if Mississippi residents believe the evangelical extremists will limit their religious hostility to the gay community, unmarried cohabitants, or the sexually adulterous crowd, they are stupider than they appear.

Remember, that phrase “based on their deeply held religious beliefs” will allow untoward acts, save paying taxes, against anyone if a person “claims” someone else’s actions violate their “deeply held religious beliefs;” even if they aren’t religious or affiliated with any religion and their deeply held beliefs are founded in bigotry. Now, no-one is safe in Mississippi. Because not only are they unfortunate enough to live in the most “Christian” state in the Union, those Christians now enjoy state sanctioned discrimination as the law of the land.

H/t New Civil Rights Movement

Poll: Majority Say Democrats Care More About The Middle Class

 

Any American who believes there is a Republican alive that cares about anything other than the wealthy elite, corporations, evangelical theocracy or self-advancement is either a blind, dumb fool, or a dyed-in-the-wool Republican. It’s no matter that Donald J. Trump is a dumb, blind fool, he is a Republican and knows the party cares about no-one but themselves and the rich. Although they greedily use the evangelical white crowd as an electoral weapon, deep down Republicans hate them unless they’re filthy rich. Still, Trump and Republicans spent a fair amount of time on the campaign trail last year feigning great concern for the plight of the dwindling middle class. Whether that phony regard helped Trump’s move into the White House or not, now a majority of the population says it is the Democrats, not Republicans, who care more about the middle class.

According to a recent Pew poll, it appears a majority of Americans recognize that Republicans really don’t care about the middle class any more than they care about the poor, minorities or the unhealthy. Most Americans already knew the GOP could not care less about the poor, but if one listens to Republicans at all levels of government, they claim to exist for the benefit of the middle class; a claim most Americans don’t believe for a second. If the media were doing its due diligence instead of covering every Trump Tweet and his all-too-frequent golf outings, it’s certain that more Americans would be aware of the dastardly anti-everyone hostility coming from congressional Republican legislation. But that’s a subject for another column.

The Pew Research poll released Tuesday revealed that only 42 percent of Americans believe that Trump or his Republican Party truly cares about the middle class. However, fifty-seven percent of the population said Democrats care more about the middle class; it may be due to the minimal media reporting that congressional Democrats are battling to stave off the extreme Republican austerity cuts and “reforms” that will affect the middle class in a big way. In fact fifty-four percent of Americans say Republicans are “too extreme,” and curiously, 45 percent said the same about Democrats. Probably because unlike Republicans, Democrats care about the rule of law, equal and civil rights, social programs and the U.S. Constitution; all things Republicans consider “too extreme.”

It is noteworthy that even though most Americans believe Democrats have more empathy for the middle class than extreme Republicans, neither party was viewed very favorably. The Republican Party was viewed “unfavorably” by 54 percent with only 40 percent seeing the GOP as “favorable.” Democrats were perceived slightly more favorably with 44 percent approval, while exactly half of the respondents, 50 percent, viewed Democrats unfavorably. Trump was less favorable than his nasty party, but since the poll was conducted in early June, it is certain his numbers are lower today than two weeks ago.

It really isn’t that surprising a majority of American believe Democrats care more about the middle class than Republicans. Most middle class Americans have watched their incomes decline due to Republican economic policies favoring the very rich, hostility towards unions and decent wages while the very rich continue to make giant income gains. In fact, from 1999 through 2014, the median household income fell by 8 percent;  all while the one-percent reaped monumental income gains that Trump and Republicans want to increase.

Now that Republicans and corporations are running the federal government, the wealthy elite’s gains will surge by who knows how many orders of magnitude; and the poor and middle class? Their income losses during and after the Republican Great Recession will look like massive wealth gains when the Trump Republicans get finished handing over the entire wealth of the nation to their wealthy and corporate donors. Why else would Trump install a billionaire cabal and Wall Street titans to set economic and tax policy?

According to the Pew poll’s results, it’s possible Americans aren’t nearly as stupid as they often seem if a majority sees Republicans as having little, if any, regard for the middle class that make up 51 percent of the population. The tragedy is that the 51 percent number is bound to continue declining because neither Republicans nor Donald Trump care about anyone who isn’t white and rich, and their policy proposals, executive orders, and already enacted legislation reflect that mindset.

If Americans recall, Trump allegedly won a fair number of votes by promising “the forgotten” middle class that he, and only he, could elevate their standard of living by “draining the swamp” of corporate and special interests in Washington. It’s likely that creating a stinking cesspool of corporate billionaires to run the government and set policy did not go unnoticed by a large number of Americans, and a majority of them now know that neither Trump nor Republicans care about the middle class any more than they do the poor. The poll’s results proves that the same majority believe Democrats do understand, and care about, the middle class’ plight. It is just too bad they are impotent to do anything to help them.

 

Ford Punks Trump By Outsourcing American Jobs To China

If there is only one thing most people know about a bully, it’s that their “bark is worse than their bite.” That idiom refers to a person “who is all bluster” verbally, but “lacks the courage when challenged to back up their threats.” By now it’s likely that the phrase “don’t let him scare you” is shared among a growing number of Americans who realize that Trump “is all bluster” and nothing else.

It is almost certain that Trump believes that because he gets to live in the White House, he also gets to be a tyrannical dictator with unchallenged and unchecked power and authority. Of course he has been disabused of that idea often because this nation’s Founding Fathers foresaw a time when some lunatic malcontent in the Oval Office would have to be held in check by one of the equally-powerful other branches of government. It’s why Trump hates the U.S. Constitution he claims is “archaic” and “really bad for the country.”

According to an announcement by the Ford Motor Company, Donald Trump must really think the second largest automaker is “really bad for the country” because it defied him and announced a move that is contrary to what Trump demanded.  Ford also understands that Trump’s bark is worse than his bite; maybe someone told the car giant “don’t let him scare you” and they acted accordingly.

Last year, the Ford Motor company publicized its plans to move its production of “the Focus”  to a new plant that was under construction in Mexico; the company cited cheap labor costs as its reason to outsource American jobs. However, In January of this year Ford scrapped those plans and the rumors were that the 2nd largest automaker was afraid of the bully Trump. But despite Trump’s nearly year-long repeated criticism that Ford was a bad actor for investing in Mexican jobs at the expense of American ones, the car giant is still moving its production facility out of country; in spite of Trump’s threat of economic punishment.

Ford announced yesterday that it is “investing in Chinese jobs at the expense of American ones” and dumb Don was punked again; because he’s all talk and lacks the courage to back up his “bluster” promising to save jobs from outsourcing. He is also likely aware that challenging a corporate giant like the Ford Motor Company is a fight he will lose in a Republican Congress and conservative Supreme Court. But he sure talked big on the campaign trail issuing threats on a daily basis.

Throughout the Republican primary and general election campaign, the Trump threatened to levy huge taxes against any automaker, especially Ford, that moved to import cars into the U.S. from other nations. Obviously, Ford knew Trump’s tax threat was toothless and in choosing China over Mexico, the company not only called Trump’s bluff, it killed American jobs for greed and saved itself about a billion dollars it will not have to invest to build a new manufacturing facility in Mexico; the company also exposed Trump as all bluster..

Trump started running his mouth as early as 2015 when he announced his candidacy and immediately began “sharply criticizing” Ford’s then-proposed new operation in Mexico to take advantage of cheap labor costs. Trump kept up the bully talk throughout the campaign and regularly made solemn promises that he, Donald J. Trump, was going to severely punish Ford or any automaker that moved its production facilities out of country; he even threatened severe action if an automaker dared increase its production output from outside the U.S. and then import those vehicles back to America. At one rally in Iowa, Trumps specifically threatened Ford saying:

I would say to the head of Ford, ‘Sorry, I’m not gonna approve. You’re gonna pay a tax for every car and every truck and every part that comes across that southern border, you’re gonna pay a 35% tax, OK?'”

Ford’s response: “Okay, then we’ll move those American jobs to China and avoid that Southern border like plague.

Today the Trump isn’t threatening Ford with a 35 percent “tax,” or any kind of punishment.  At the White House briefing yesterday, beleaguered Press Secretary Sean Spicer commented on Ford’s announced move to China; sans any criticism or further threats. What he did say about the move was that the “general consensus” is that as soon as Trump slashes corporate tax rates, companies will be anxious to “come back and bring back jobs in manufacturing here in the United States.”  It is worth reiterating that Ford never cited corporate tax rates as the reason it’s outsourcing more American jobs, the company specifically cited dirt cheap labor costs.

Trump’s Commerce Secretary, a former banker and leveraged buyouts of distressed businesses specialist Wilbur Ross, responded to Ford’s announcement and failed to level any threats. Ross said:

The Ford decision shows how flexible multinational companies are in terms of geography, I believe that as President Trump’s policies and reforms take hold, more companies will begin to locate their facilities in America.”

Ross’ remark is curious because it apparently isn’t an issue for Trump if an automaker outsources its production, and American jobs, to a foreign nation so long as the company is “flexible in terms of geography” and avoids moving south of the border.

It isn’t exactly clear what Trump’s issue is with Ford moving jobs to Mexico as opposed to China, but perhaps it’s because the Mexican government mocked Trump mercilessly for boasting that he would make our neighbor to the South pay for his “big beautiful wall.” It is noteworthy, by the way, that Ford also said that NAFTA, or a “renegotiated NAFTA,” had no impact and was not any part of its decision to move its production facilities to first Mexico, and then China. It was the nearly billion dollar investment savings, cheap labor, and awareness that Trump’s threat was just a bully’s bluster.

 

Cuba’s Foreign Minister Assails Trump’s “Grotesque” Cold War Spectacle

No matter that it’s the 21st Century and the Cold War has been over for thirty-plus years, Donald Trump is determined to undo diplomatic progress and return to an era of distrust and provocation for no apparently logical reason. It isn’t surprising though; dunce Donnie is not recognized by anyone as having a logical bone in his flabby orange body, or awareness that any blindfolded third-grader can easily see through his hypocrisy. That being the case, it was prescient that after Trump’s announcement on Friday last that he was returning America to its decades-old cold war footing with Cuba, a high-ranking Cuban Minister would assail the idiot in the Oval Office.

Yesterday in Vienna Austria, Cuba’s Foreign Minister took the time out of his busy schedule to “lash out” at Trump’s announcement restricting travel, business, and prospective economic ties to his country; an announcement Minister Bruno Rodriguez called “a grotesque spectacle that came out of the Cold War.” Mr. Rodriguez’ comments were a couple of days after Trump announced that he canceled the deal President Barack Obama negotiated with the Cuban government to “begin normalizing relations” with a neighboring nation and incrementally remove decades-old sanctions against the Cuban people.

Mr. Rodriguez was meeting with Austrian officials and expressed his disgust with Trump to reporters. He said:

There will not be a presidential directive from the U.S. that will alter the direction of Cuba. We have gone through everything, our people have gone through everything. What could they menace us with now that they haven’t before and failed? It looks like revisiting the same policy that didn’t work for 50 years — it is a failed policy.

Then Mr. Rodriguez addressed the hypocrisy of Trump’s return to Cold War policies because of human rights. He told NBC News:

Trump talks about business interests, making America great again. They have nothing to do with human rights. When it comes to Cuba, the massive and systematic harm to human rights comes from the blockade … and President Trump proposes to harden it.

It is surprising that a president who has based all his policies on things that are very distant from human rights proposes … as a top priority the defense of human rights in Cuba.”

To be fair, there have been human rights complaints against the Cuban government that one of Trump’s puppeteers, the Heritage Foundation, said had incurred “global outrage and a shame.” However, the Heritage Foundation never, never ever, not even once, has an untoward remark to say about Israel that has increasingly drawn serious global outrage over its shameful human rights abuses targeting Palestinians.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Cuban government has repressed criticism; like Trump and his BFFs in Saudi Arabia, Russia, Egypt, and the Philippines have. Although Trump hasn’t been able to arrest journalists like his “most favored” repressive nations, he has embraced their tactics of “public acts of shaming and arbitrary termination of employment” for criticism and dissent. But despite those human rights abuses, those countries are not suffering any of Trump’s Cold War policies being inflicted on Cuba.

However critical Human Rights Watch (HRW) was of Cuba, they also warned that, as usual, the ordinary Cuban people Trump feigned concern over as justification for his moronic action would certainly suffer his return to a Cold War posture. That acknowledgement was in agreement with the managing director of “the Americas” division of HRW, Daniel Wilkinson, who said in a statement:

The previous administration was right to reject a policy that hurt ordinary Cubans and did nothing to advance human rights. The fact that Obama’s approach hasn’t led to political reform in Cuba after just a few years isn’t reason to return to a policy that proved a costly failure over many decades.” 

Mr. Wilkinson needs a quick refresher in rudimentary arithmetic if he thinks President Obama’s “approach” has been in place for “a few years.” The Obama Administration just announced in December of  2014 that it was going to start “charting a new course for relations with Cuba,” and then began lifting restrictions in 2016. Still, the duration of the return to a semblance of normal relations isn’t the point; Trump’s hypocrisy is.

Many pundits have asked rhetorically because they already know the answer, “Why Trump takes the high road when it came to Cuba, but not other nations?”

Trump has openly praised murderous dictators in Russia, Egypt, and the Philippines as “doing a great job” when  referring to how they handle dissent and criticism, particularly in targeting protestors and journalists. And he recently became “good friends” with Saudi Arabia’s leaders who are notorious for beheading citizens for all manner of “religious infractions” that are appalling to the rest of the world. And, Trump just warned the United Nations Human Rights Commission that if it did not stop, immediately, condemning Israel’s blatant and unrelenting human rights abuses against the Palestinian people that America would leave the organization.

The former United States Ambassador to Russia and Special Assistant to the President at the National Security Council, Michael McFaul wrote:

Why is Cuba the only country in the world Trump allegedly cares about human rights? Not Russia? Not China? Not Saudi Arabia? Only Cuba.”  Mr. Rodriguez concurred with McFaul and reminded the world that when Trump was in a veritable capital of human rights abuses, Saudi Arabia, he told the Saudi government and its people: “We are not here to tell other people how to live.’ Last Friday he said quite the opposite [about my country]. Sad.

Trump is targeting Cuba because he is a raging hypocrite, he is not getting money from Cuba, and because it was a real President, Barack Obama, who began ending a five decade-long policy that should have ended with the Cold War.

There is nothing good about Trump’s return to Cold War policies toward Cuba, but there is nothing good about Donald Trump, his administration, his family or his sadistic actions towards most human beings. Although it was important that the Cuban Foreign Minister assailed Trump in front of international reporters in a foreign nation, it was another reminder of why Americans should be ashamed they let a punk-ass reality show celebrity move into the White House.

 

 

DeVos Embraces Anti-Gay Extremists At Education Department

 

It is probably true that normal people who are thrust into a high-level position requiring a specialized knowledge of a subject will gather as many preeminent experts in the field for advice as possible. That would be particularly true if the person in that high-level position has absolutely no experience in the field to avoid being a total and complete failure. Betsy DeVos, the filthy rich Republican contributor and avowed enemy of public education is not a normal person for myriad reasons, but primarily for her lack of even a rudimentary comprehension of the public education system she wants to transform into privatized evangelical madrassas. Besides her sworn intent to use public schools and public money to “advance god’s kingdom,” DeVos has refused, under oath no less, to commit to protect the civil rights of all Americans involved in the education system; whether students, teachers, administrators or college professors.

On Thursday last, a day before the Commission on Civil Rights announced it was initiating a comprehensive two-year investigation into the Trump administration, Betsy DeVos was convening a policy-planning meeting of the most radical religious right anti-LGBT extremist groups in the United States of America. If there were any lingering doubts as to why DeVos “refused repeatedly” to commit to protecting the Constitutional civil rights of anyone associated with education, especially students and teachers, DeVos huddling with notorious evangelical hate groups should clear up her “lack of commitment” to civil rights.

Two days prior to meeting with luminaries of evangelical hate such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, DeVos held a “very private meeting” with a Missouri millionaire and renowned conspiracy theorist because he is openly committed to spending whatever it takes to aid DeVos in eliminating public education. And, it cannot possibly be overstated that besides contributing millions of dollars to Republican candidates, the only reason DeVos was nominated, and then confirmed, as Education Secretary is because she is committed to destroying America’s public education system.

First, DeVos deliberated with the Family Research Council, a bonafide hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), because it and the extremist evangelical group Focus on the Family ardently promote hate-driven anti-gay propaganda more than they promote the Christian bible. FRC president, radical fake Christian Tony Perkins, spent no small amount of time, and donor money, lobbying against anti-bullying initiatives in schools, and the effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He also claims that the LGBTQ community is “disgusting” and exists solely to “recruit children” into the lifestyle – especially in public schools with anti-bullying programs. Perkins, a real pile of feces, heavily promotes programs that abuse LGBTQ children under the guise of “gay conversion therapy,” and appeals to white supremacists for support. Perkins did spend someone else’s hard earned money to purchase the mailing list of white supremacist and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Perkins, the president of a hate group and a truly hateful evangelical, claims that Americans that support LGBTQ rights are:

Very aggressive, they’re intolerant, they’re hateful, vile, they’re spiteful. …. To me, it is the height of hatred to be silent when we know there are individuals that are engaged in activity, behavior, and an agenda that will …destroy our nation.

This is the mindset that the evangelical freak-of-nature DeVos, Secretary of Education, is intent on installing as education policy “to advance the kingdom of god” in the education system. However, “education system” under DeVos’ plans is a monumental misnomer; she promotes for-profit private and religious schools that can hardly be considered “an education system.” It is  a religious indoctrination system,  not an education system.  It is why she held a private counseling session with “Missouri-based” millionaire and heavy Trump supporter Rex Sinquefield.

Sinquefield is a noted conspiracy theorists who “despises public schools” and regards himself, like DeVos, as a major “school reform expert and advocate.” Like everything related to conservative use of the word “reform,” in Sinquefield’s mind reform means eliminate.

According to Sinquefield, the American public education system was a Ku Klux Klan plot created specifically to hurt African American children and claims it’s what drives his “personal mission” to rescue education from those teachers; especially those teachers represented by unions. He also donates heavily to the extremist right-wing Show-Me Institute, a really right wing “belief tank.” The Show-Me outfit “creates studies” to assail the public education system and promote policies that use taxpayer money to subsidize private and religious schools for the very rich who want taxpayers to fund their kids religious indoctrination.

DeVos claims she believes that “Discrimination in any form is wrong,” and that she “doesn’t support discrimination in any form,” but of course she said that at the same time she repeatedly refused to commit to deny funding to schools that do discriminate. DeVos is a dirty liar; and not just because she committed perjury under oath before the Senate during her confirmation hearing. But because she does not believe discriminationin any form is wrong” or that she doesn’t “support discrimination in any form.”

Her invitation to the extremely discriminatory Family Research Council and Focus on the Family at the Federal Department of Education belies her filthy lie that she opposes discrimination. And, her private meeting with another anti-public education extremist with an eye toward aiding her destruction of public schools, and creation of nationwide evangelical madrassas, belies her filthy lie that she cares one iota about America, its children, or its Constitution.

Civil Rights Watchdog Launches Two-year Probe of Trump Administration

 

At this juncture in American politics it is safe to say that there are a great majority of the population that considers Donald Trump, his closest associates, and his family as the epitome of corruption. It would be impossible for all but the Trump family or the Donald himself to dispute that the television celebrity in the Oval Office “acts dishonestly in return for personal or financial gain” as a natural inclination. It is that corruption that has the Trump at the center of a veritable plethora of special counsel, F.B.I., and federal watchdog agency investigations. Now that the Trump has finally admitted he is under investigation for obstruction of justice by a special counsel, among other things, he can add a two-year investigation into “federal civil rights enforcement,” or lack thereof, within the Trump administration.

Trump likely learned of the bipartisan United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) investigation at about the same time he took to Twitter to admit that he is the subject of a special counsel internal investigation. The Commission on Civil Rights operates under the authority of Congress and as a bipartisan agency it is charged with advising the White House and Congress on civil rights matters.

On Friday the Commission announced it had “unanimously approved a comprehensive two-year probe” into the “degree to which current budgets and staffing levels allow civil rights offices to perform” their important functions; especially in an administration that is openly hostile towards the civil rights of an ever-growing number of Americans in nearly every demographic save the filthy rich and white evangelicals.

What prompted the USCCR, a “federal watchdog agency” to launch an investigation into the entire Trump administration was several agencies that oversee civil rights gleefully announcing severe budget and personnel cuts to critical departments tasked with enforcing civil rights. According to a statement justifying a “two-year probe” into the Trump:

The proposed cuts would result in a dangerous reduction of civil rights enforcement across the country, leaving communities of color, LGBT people, older people, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups exposed to greater risk of discrimination.”

The commission, created under the Civil Rights Act and funded by Congress, expressed specific worry about seven federal agencies under Trump’s oversight. Of course the Department of Education and Department of Justice are going to get a very special investigation over the next two years; Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions are notoriously hostile to civil rights of every demographic save white evangelical Christians. The “Commission” will also take a long, hard look into the departments of Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency and the Legal Services Corporation. They are all agencies Trump promises to slash funding from because they closely monitor civil rights and Republicans want that funding sent to the wealthy in the form of tax cuts.

Although the Commission’s statement cited several agencies and departments for a close investigation, it was particularly interested in the Department of Justice under anti-civil rights crusader Jeff Sessions; an agency the Commission said has “completely changed its priorities.” The Commission said in its statement:

Actions by the Department [of Justice] indicate it is minimizing its civil rights efforts. For example, a majority of the Commission criticized DOJ’s decision to site [install] Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers in courthouses as a dangerous impediment to access to justice for all Americans.”

The Commission also singled out Education Secretary Betsy DeVos who has “repeatedly refused” to commit to enforcing federal civil rights. The Commission also  found that, coupled with DeVos’ apparent intent to blow off civil rights for various demographics, the deep budget cuts within the Education Department’s ‘Office of Civil Rights’ is “particularly troubling.”

The statement announcing the two-year probe in the Trump administration actually cited DeVos’ Senate subcommittee  testimony earlier this month where she refused to answer a query whether discrimination against LGBTQ students in private schools would be allowed on her watch. It is highly likely that members of the Commission are acutely aware that DeVos is no more a friend to the gay community than she is the disabled or minority communities.

It is really unfortunate that the Commission on Civil Rights lacks the the ability or authority to enforce its investigation’s findings, but it will at least get to present the results in a “final report to Congress at the end of 2019.” Once the report is presented to Congress, the Commission’s task is completed and it will be left to legislators to take action. The current chairwoman of the Commission, Catherine E. Lhamon, said:

For 60 years, Congress has charged the Commission to monitor Federal civil rights enforcement and recommend necessary change. We take this charge seriously, and we look forward to reporting our findings to Congress, the President, and the American people.”

It is unlikely that regardless how damning the Commission on Civil Rights report is in the final analysis, a Republican controlled Congress and Trump will not take any corrective action any more than they regard civil rights for all Americans as a serious issue. Trump will declare it “fake news,” a “witch hunt,” and then summarily fire or disband the Commission. And Republicans in Congress will claim it was a partisan attack on white evangelical Christians and the Sessions-led Department of Justice will declare civil rights, like the Separation Clause, is unhistorical and unconstitutional overreach.

It is getting to be a chore to keep abreast of all the investigations into Trump, his family, and his administration, but at least with a two-year long investigation into seven different federal agencies in the Trump administration, there will be nothing to report on or opine about until the end of 2019.

Trump Is Sending Christians to Their Deaths in Iraq

As this column has noted often as of late, no-one likes a liar and it’s seemingly apparent that should particularly apply to Ten Commandment-loving evangelical Christians. Donald Trump certainly has accrued quite a record as a pathological liar, and still, the white evangelical sect flocked to the polls to put the serial liar and corrupt television celebrity in the White House. Trump won the support of the religious right on a solemn pledge that he, and only he, could protect them and bring an immediate halt to the so-called persecution they bitch about ad nauseam.

Trump also pledged to protect Christians in the Middle East and went so far as to exempt Christians living in “travel-banned” majority Muslim nations and allow them to emigrate to America. Silly Christians, you thought that your “orange messiah” would never lie to you, the spiritually devout, but his mendacity is pathological; he lies to everyone including you ignoramus evangelicals.

One of the pledges Trump made repeatedly throughout the campaign for president was that he would “champion the cause of persecuted Christians, especially those from the Middle East.” Now, due to his nasty immigration policy, Trump is sending Christians to their deaths in Iraq; a nation many of the deportees know nothing about.

Many of the Christians Trump is deporting to Iraq, a nation many fled as young children to escape persecution, have lived in America for decades. Apparently, some even have criminal records for such abominable crimes as allowing someone else to drive a car they rented, or were caught with a small amount of marijuana – decades ago. Their real crime, though, is not that they may have an infraction or misdemeanor criminal record, but that they are from the Middle East.

It is noteworthy that Trump actually made “costly” concessions to the Iraqi government to be able to “send Iraqi Christians living in America to their death,” so it must be something near and dear to his black heart. Trump agreed with the Iraqis that if they would grant him “permission” to deport Iraqi expatriates in America, Christian, Catholic, or otherwise, he would remove Iraq from the dreaded “banned nations list.

Ponder that for a minute; Trump must really hate Iraqi Christians if he forfeited the right to ban Iraqis, 99 percent whom are Muslims, from entering America just for the “privilege of deporting” Iraqi Christians out of “his America.

Although it wasn’t always the easiest life for an Iraqi Christian, they faced increased persecution after America invaded Iraq and allowed a sectarian war to begin in earnest. When the Islamic State (ISIS, IS, ISIL, Daesh) emerged as a force in Syria and Iraq, they immediately targeted Christians and other minority religions for instant extermination. It was such an issue that in 2014 the Republican-majority House of Representatives and Obama Administration State Department recognized the Iraqi Christians as “victims of genocide.”

Now Trump is sending them to be victimized further and it should be a signal to America’s religious right that Trump is not only a pathological liar, he is not going to protect Christians in the Middle East from being persecuted. That also means that he conned the faithful again when he promised to give priority to Iraqi and Syrian Christians who wanted to emigrate to America.

It isn’t just Trump who lies at the rate humans draw breath.  Barely a month ago the lying pretend preacher Mike Pence gave a speech at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians pledging that,

Protecting and promoting religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of the Trump administration.”

Pence promised, specifically, that protecting Christians in the Middle East was of enormous importance to the Trump White House and the administration was all about taking action. 

The suffering of Christians in the Middle East has stirred Americans to action, and it brings me here today.”

The roundups, detentions, and deportations that began this week in Michigan are an indication that Trump has been stirred to action, but it is not to stop the suffering of Christians in the Middle East. It is to increase their numbers with Iraqi Christians who lived peacefully in America, many of them for decades until Trump lied his way to the White House and began deporting them to a country that doesn’t want them.

According to the Huffington Post, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a class-action lawsuit to stop the detentions and deportations. The Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan, Kary Moss said:

Not only is it immoral to send people to a country where they are likely to be violently persecuted, it expressly violates United States and international law and treaties. Our immigration policy shouldn’t amount to a death sentence for anyone.”

This latest example of Trump breaking a promise to the faithful should be a wake up call to all of Trump’s supporters that no-one is safe. The promise to protect Christians from persecution, particularly those in the Middle East, was a major reason the religious right flocked to vote for a self-admitted unrepentant sinner.

Trump doesn’t care about protecting Christians any more than Mike Pence does or they would have done precisely what they promised when issuing a ban on immigrants from mostly Muslim Middle East nations; give priority to Iraqi and Syrian Christians. Instead, they are rounding them up in America and sending them back to the Middle East to face serious persecution if they are fortunate enough not to be killed for being Christians.

Trump Angers Republicans By Calling Healthcare Bill “Mean”

When Donald Trump and House Republicans celebrated passing a horrendous healthcare replacement for the Affordable Care Act, very few of them acted as if they knew exactly how bad for the people the bill really was. Obviously Trump would have celebrated anything, but without any typical Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assessment of either the benefits or damage to the economy or the people, he and the GOP were celebrating a veritable mystery to the public. Now that everyone and their brother is cognizant of the draconian nature of the House Republican bill, even Trump can no longer pretend he doesn’t know it is just “mean, mean, mean.”

That the House GOP bill is mean is what Trump told Republican Senators working on their own mean, and highly secretive, version of a repeal-and-replace healthcare bill. However, House Republicans heard that the Trump’s “inconveniently candid” assessment of their replacement healthcare bill is now public and they are not happy with the cheerful fascist in the Oval Office. They also are aware that he called on Senate Republicans to make their version “more generous” than the “mean” House version.

The Associated Press reported that Trump told Senate Republicans behind closed-doors that they had to revise the “the House repeal-and-replace bill to make it more generous;” the version he praised to high heaven and celebrated in the Rose Garden as “a great plan” is just too “mean, mean, mean.” When the Trump’s comments leaked, House Republicans felt “undercut” politically and are not happy with their fearless leader for expressing out loud what Democrats have been screaming relentlessly about.

Over at Politico there was a fairly accurate assessment of exactly how “thrown under the bus” House Republicans must feel after Trump’s criticism of a bill he pushed them vigorously to pass. They write:

Now you hear the president has gone behind closed doors and told senators the House bill is “mean” and says it doesn’t do enough to cover people. Wouldn’t that anger you? Well, it’s angering a lot of House Republicans, who believe their president put them at political risk with that comment … If you’re a House Republican, are you going to help the White House next time after the president privately just dumped all over you after you cast a vote for him? A lot of GOP lawmakers are buzzing about it, and many are none too pleased with the president right now.”

Of course House Republicans are irritated and most likely all of them feel justified at being disgusted with Trump on some level. Either they voted for a bill that they believed was too harsh or not harsh enough just to sate Trump’s lust for some kind of legislative accomplishment. However, no-one should believe for a second that Trump is gaining a measure of humanitarianism or regard for the people; he wants a bill that only makes him appear reasonable or he wouldn’t have profusely praised the “mean” House bill in the first place. It was the negative media attention and reporting from the CBO’s assessment that tens-of-millions of Americans will be harmed that put pressure on the Trump he’s passing off on House Republicans who believed they were doing him a favor.

As Greg Sargent at the Washington Post noted, just because Trump admitted he knows the House version of healthcare reform is mean, “it should not be taken seriously as an actual statement of [his] values.” He did, after all, champion and celebrate the ‘mean’ bill publicly until news of the CBO assessment became well-reported. What that means for the Senate version is that Republicans will have to devise some clever buzzword or flashy meme to “pretend the final product is more generous than it will surely end up.”

Look, most House Republicans knew exactly how mean their bill was and it is exactly why their version, and now the Senate version, was crafted in “secret” and passed hastily before the CBO could assess its damages. That lack of transparency is a concession that Republicans know just how mean their “final product” is really going to be and why Senate Republicans are crafting their own draconian measure in total secrecy.

House Republicans are slightly more than just “miffed” that their hero Trump admitted in a way that was guaranteed to leak that he knows there will be millions upon millions of people who will be hurt by any Republican “Obamacare” replacement. As the WaPo piece noted, Trump’s primary sin was giving the American people a preview of an impending disaster that Republicans “have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep hidden,” even from Senate Democrats.

Maybe now Republicans in the House will realize that they can’t trust Trump any more than any other American can, and that he will hurt them with the same disregard and contempt as the Republican healthcare bill is going to hurt tens-of-millions of Americans.

 

Creationist Blames Atheists And Media For “Ark Park” Failure

It is always a mystery how the most devout evangelicals who claim their personal god almighty not only created the entire universe in six short days, “he” also maintains control of all things occurring on planet Earth including terrible events and disasters. Such an all-powerful deity, however, certainly fails on many accounts according to the most ardent religious right fanatics; they regularly blame sinners of all stripes and the lack of a god-fearing population for myriad calamities plaguing the nation, particularly during or after a natural disaster.

According to the faithful, as long as they are doing “god’s work” the deity will bless them with spiritual ecstasy, massive material wealth, and complete protection from anything evil. So it was curious that a very zealous evangelical fundamentalist, creationist Ken Ham, recently blamed atheists and secular media for the economic failure of his taxpayer-funded theme park touting the glories of god’s creation, and his wanton destruction of the Earth with a flood. It leads one to ponder exactly how much the faithful really believe in the power of their deity if the existence of some non-believers are able to thwart a mission inspired by the biblical god.

One of the “selling points” creationist cretin Ken Ham touted in seeking taxpayer money to build his Creation Museum and Ark Encounter biblical theme park was that not only would it bring in untold wealth to further spread biblical mythos, it would enrich the surrounding areas beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Since that hasn’t happened, Ken Ham said it is not because his almighty god of the universe is powerless to rain down money on the region, but because atheists and the secular media are “powering the financial failure” of his “Ark Park.”

Ham took to “Answers in Genesis” to “lament” that atheists and “secularist media” are successfully damaging not only the reputation of his “Ark Encounter” theme park, but the local economy and surrounding local business community as well. He wrote:

Recently, a number of articles in the mainstream media, on blogs, and on well-known secularist group websites have attempted to spread propaganda to brainwash the public into thinking our Ark Encounter attraction is a dismal failure.

 Sadly, they (atheists and the secular media) are influencing business investors and others in such a negative way that they may prevent Grant County, Kentucky, from achieving the economic recovery that its officials and residents have been seeking.”

Ham’s remarks are so typical of the religious right, and conservatives in general that refuse to take “personal responsibility” for his, and apparently his god’s, failure to fulfill Ham’s promises – untold wealth for the region because taxpayers paid for Ham’s big boat folly. Ham knows, and so do the local businesses, taxpayers and regional leaders that atheists or the “secularist media” didn’t promise an economic bonanza from an Ark Encounter. Any economic failing is down to Ken Ham which is why he’s blaming atheists for “his broken promises to the citizens and business community of Grant County, Kentucky.”

What likely incited Ham’s blame game was an article in the Lexington Herald Leader that reported on the evangelical malcontent’s “failure to deliver on financial promises he made to community members and local businesses.” In that article, the Grant County Judge-Executive Steve Wood commented that the agreements between Ham’s Ark Encounter and the city and county were founded on “broken promises made by Ham and his people” after they were gifted with “extremely generous tax breaks.” Mr. Wood said,

 It’s a really bad deal for taxpayers. It was a shock for me because I didn’t really know all the details. Maybe I should have.”

The Mayor of Williamstown Kentucky, Rick Skinner, also complained about the evangelical zealot Ham’s broken promises. After being sold a bill of goods about god’s economic blessing as a result of taxpayer’s gift to Ham, the mayor expressed his “disappointment” that he fell for an evangelical’s swindle. He noted that despite the taxpayer’s largesse and the Christian’s pledge of an economic boom:

“There hasn’t been any commercial development here.”

What Mr. Wood and Mayor Skinner should have done, but clearly didn’t, was put down their King James for a minute and  consider that Ham is an evangelical nut-job of the highest order with no reasonable economic credentials. He also lacked comprehension that not very many (sane) people would rush to “experience” a big boat rumored to hold every living creature on the face of the planet. For dog’s sake; who wouldn’t have considered that a fanatic asking for taxpayer money to build a mythological “wooden ship” was an economic disaster waiting to happen?  The Ark Park did not need any atheists or “secularist media” to hinder its make believe economic success, that failure rests solely on Ken Ham; and god if one believes he blesses “good works in his name.”

Regardless of the criticism from “local business people” who should have known better than to be sucked into a con anyone with a pulse could see coming from across the nation, Ham is sticking to the argument that it isn’t god’s or his fault the Ark Park is an economic boondoggle for the region. He still claims the only reason the biblical theme park has failed to rain down money on the region is because of the “intolerant secularists.” The con man wrote:

“… we are in a spiritual battle, and the intolerant secularists are so upset with such world-class attraction like the Ark (and Creation Museum) that publicly proclaim a Christian message. They will resort to whatever tactics they deem necessary to try to malign the attractions.”

Seriously, Ham is a monumental nut-job on a few counts, but this bovine excrement that any “secularist” gives a rat’s ass about either the Ark Park or the Christian message is just a bit much to absorb, even from Ham. It is true non-believers don’t accept as truth that a homemade boat carried the millions of Earth’s living creatures while it was raining for 40 days, and nights,  but they could not possibly care less about an “attraction” representing the big boat. What many Americans, including believers, opposed was the religious-themed Ark Park being subsidized by taxpayers. And, if “secularists” didn’t swarm to the theme park to hand more of their hard-earned money to see Ham’s big boat, it is not because they are “intolerant;” it’s because they aren’t stupid.

As a religious right conservative, and avowed evangelical strictly adhering to the Christian bible, Ham is not embracing the notorious demand that every American has to take responsibility for their own plight. Of course people are not going to flock to see a big boat from an archaic Jewish religious story, but that is not the fault of atheists or the secular media – it is Ken Ham’s fault. Now that businesses and investors are realizing they were played by a snake oil salesman with a promise of riches from a big boat, Ham does what the religious right zealots always do; blame the atheists.

h/t Patheos

Court Rules Trump Violated the Law In Approving Dakota Pipeline

For the sick souls attempting to keep up with Donald Trump’s illegal activities and deliberate flouting of federal laws, it is getting to be an impossibly tiresome chore and frankly a little more disgusting every day. There are, however, those instances when the federal judiciary issues a ruling that some action Donald Trump performed violated federal law. Although he will never be sent to live out his pathetic life in a federal penitentiary, one can at least revel in the knowledge Trump was caught and called out for doing what career criminals do as a matter of course; violate the law. Yesterday was one of those occasions.

On Wednesday a Federal District Court Judge ruled that in serving the greed of the oil industry, Donald Trump “violated [federal] laws in certain critical respects” when he granted federal permits authorizing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to cross the Missouri River upstream of the Standing Rock Reservation. Federal Court Judge James Boasberg used 91 pages to say that the federal permits Trump “hastily issued just days after the [sparsely attended] inauguration” failed on several counts to meet critical federal laws. The Federal Court stopped short of determining whether or not the pipeline operations should be shut down immediately, but that possibility may be in the offing. The Judge requested “additional briefings” on the subject and a “status conference” in the next week.

The Federal Judge wrote, in part:

The Court agrees that [the Corps] did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.”

The Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, Dave Archambault II celebrated the ruling saying:

This is a major victory for the Tribe and we commend the courts for upholding the law and doing the right thing. The previous administration painstakingly considered the impacts of this pipeline, and President Trump hastily dismissed these careful environmental considerations in favor of political and personal interests. We applaud the courts for protecting our laws and regulations from undue political influence, and will ask the Court to shut down pipeline operations immediately.”

An attorney for Earthjustice, Jan Hasselman commented thus:

This decision marks an important turning point. Until now, the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been disregarded by the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Trump Administration—prompting a well-deserved global outcry. The federal courts have stepped in where our political systems have failed to protect the rights of Native communities.”

It is noteworthy that the Court did not give the “Tribe” everything it wanted, but it did alert the Trump that there are protocols and procedures even an aspiring dictator has to follow; including honoring Treaties and sovereign rights of Native Americans and long-standing environmental regulations and procedures.

Where the Standing Rock Sioux won was convincing the court that Trump allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed without due regard for environmental rules. On Trump’s authority, the Corp failed to:

Sufficiently consider the pipeline’s environmental effects before granting permits to Dakota Access to construct and operate DAPL under Lake Oahe, a federally regulated waterway.  Although the Corps substantially complied with NEPA in many areas, the Court agrees that it did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.

To remedy those violations, the Corps will have to reconsider those sections of its environmental analysis upon remand by the Court. Whether Dakota Access must cease pipeline operations during that remand presents a separate question of the appropriate remedy, which will be the subject of further briefing.”

The Standing Rock lawsuit centered around three primary areas.

First and likely foremost, the federal government is forbidden from taking any federal action that harms “the Standing Rock reservation” or “the Missouri River water the people of Standing Rock depend on.” The Standing Rock Tribe has uncontested “Treaty rights that guarantee the integrity of its reservation” that Earthjustice and the Standing Rock Sioux noted the “Obama administration carefully considered in connection with a leak-prone oil pipeline immediately upstream of the reservation.” Because Trump flouts agreements and treaties his fossil fuel masters refuse to accept, dirty Don disregarded the previous administration’s advice, and compliance with federal law, and “acted as if the Tribe does not exist.”

Second, as Earthjustice noted, Federal law requires a full, transparent and public environmental review for any federal action that has “significant” environmental effects anyplace in the country, not just Native Americans’ sovereign land. The environmental advocate righty noted that there have been “full,  transparent and public environmental reviews for decisions as mundane as off-leash dog areas and allowing jet skis in parks,” and yet there were none for a “30-inch crude-oil pipeline under one of the most economically and culturally important waterways in the nation.”

The third point Earthjustice and the “Tribe” argued in their lawsuit was that whether Trump likes it or not, and this is a particularly prescient point for the Trump to acknowledge:

There are limits on the extent to which one administration can reverse the decisions of its predecessor. While federal agencies can change their minds about matters of policy, the courts will set aside reversals that are not fully justified and explained.”

It is already well-documented that Trump is, and has been, on a tear to reverse every environmental policy and decision made during the Obama Administration; in part out of sheer spite and in part to sate the greed of the fossil fuel industry. That Trump “automatically” granted a permit to DAPL within days of his sparsely-attended inauguration informs even stupid people that he gave no consideration whatsoever to established federal laws, long-standing treaties with Native Americans, or National Environmental Policy Act  (NEPA) requirements.

It remains to be seen if after further review by the Court, including a “status conference” and “additional briefings,” the Judge will shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline. But for now the Standing Rock Sioux can celebrate that even with an adversarial tyrant in the Oval Office working solely for the fossil fuel industry against Native Americans and the environment, a Federal Court ruled in their favor and against Trump for doing what he does as a matter of course; violate the law in “certain critical respects” like the common criminal he really is.