Evangelical extremist fires employee for not attending bible study classes

Some Americans may be aware that since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration, the religious right has ramped up its crusade to force the evangelical religion into all segments of society beginning with public schools and state governments. It is probably not as widely known that there are also evangelicals who are forcing their brand of Christianity down the throats of Americans at their places of employment. It is likely less well known because employees are reticent to complain about employers forcing religious compliance because doing so will result in losing their jobs.

One Oregon man is the rare exception and is doing more than complaining; he is suing his former evangelical employer for terminating his employment in construction because he refused to attend mandatory bible studies. It is the ultimate example of what is likely on the near horizon now that Trump has given the religious right unwarranted and unconstitutional authority over the people.

The 34-year-old construction worker in Albany Oregon, Ryan Coleman, filed an $800,000 lawsuit against Dahled Up Construction Company because the owner, Joel Dahl, terminated his employment after Coleman refused to attend any more bible study classes. Shortly after beginning his construction job last October he realized his boss required all employees to attend Christian bible classes during work time as a condition of continued employment.

Mr. Coleman, who is not a practicing Christian, informed his new boss that he was uncomfortable attending Jesus lessons and that it was illegal for him to require employees to study the Christian bible. The boss was not going to bend and insisted that to keep his job Coleman would have to come to Jesus class. Since he needed a job, Mr. Coleman said that he believed he had no other choice and suffered forced bible study classes just to keep his job.

That began in October of last year. Fast forward to April 2018 when Mr. Coleman had enough Christianity forced on him and told his boss by phone that he had a constitutional right to refuse being forced into religious studies. That was too much for the evangelical to take and he summarily terminated Mr. Coleman’s employment for not coming to Jesus. The termination prompted Coleman to file the lawsuit alleging that Dahl discriminated against him due to his non-Christian religious beliefs.

Coleman said that because he is half Native American, his religious beliefs are indigenous. In fact, despite not legally having to submit to religious indoctrination, Coleman tried to “keep an open mind about being forced to study the Christian Bible to keep his job;” by April, “he could no longer continue the practice.” Coleman lasted at the evangelical’s company a little over six months until he was terminated for exercising his constitutional right to freedom of religion. He took the time to explain to “The Oregonian/OregonLive” how he was terminated over the phone after he told Dahl:

I’ve kept an open mind, and it’s [forced bible study] just not my thing.”

The company owner replied, “Well, I’m going to have to replace you. You’re not going to tell me how to run my own company.’”

Mr. Coleman said, “I’m not trying to tell you how to run your own company, but you’re not going to tell me what god to pray to.”

Corinne Schram is Mr. Coleman’s attorney and she stated the obvious:

This is so illegal. Unless you are a religious organization like a church, you cannot force your employees to participate in religious activities.”

It is unclear if churches or any religious organization can legally require an employee to suffer religious indoctrination or be forced to participate in religious activities. However, what is clear is that a private employer forcing an employee to participate in any religious activity is illegal. It is also immoral, unconstitutional, and patently un-American. But not many people are accusing religious extremists of being moral or law-abiding – it is a direct result of an immoral criminal in the White House giving evangelical extremists authority over the rest of the population.

According to the evangelical malcontent forcing his employees to sit through Jesus training, it is legal to force religion down his employee’s throats because he pays them. The cretin, as true an evangelical extremist as one could imagine, dispatched his lawyer, Kent Hickam, to inform The Oregonian/OregonLive that there is no dispute that the religious extremist requires all employees to attend Bible study classes, and that it is legal because the company owner pays them to attend.

The attorney also played the persecuted Christian card saying his client is being taken advantage of with the lawsuit Mr. Coleman rightfully claimed is about discrimination against him due to his non-Christian religious beliefs. The evangelical’s lawyer said:

“Mr. Dahl feels that it’s unfortunate that he (Coleman) is now trying to exploit Mr. Dahl’s honorable intentions for unjustified financial gain.”

Mr. Coleman was satisfied with the financial gain he earned working for the construction company, but he lost that “gain” when Dahl dishonorably terminated his employment because he did not want to be indoctrinated with Jesus lessons.

This idea of evangelicals forcing their employees to comply with their religious beliefs is not necessarily new, but it is becoming more blatant since evangelicals aided Trump’s ascendancy to a place he has no right visiting, much less occupying. Remember, the Hobby Lobby case centered around the company owners’ belief that they have a constitutional right to force their employees to adhere to the owners’ religious belief that using contraception is a sin. It is a similar situation in the Catholic hospital industry where employees have to comply with Vatican prohibitions on any form of birth control considered unnatural or lose their jobs.

Although this unconstitutional practice of forcing religion on employees or public school students is not common knowledge, it is a common occurrence; and it is going to increase now that Trump is prodding evangelicals to violate the law. That is precisely what the criminal did last week when he directed about 100 members of the clergy to campaign for him and Republicans from the pulpit in direct violation of the Johnson Amendment. Of course the faithful, whether they are members of the clergy or evangelical extremist employers, do not need permission from Trump to force religion down Americans’ throats, but the assurance that Trump’s Department of Justice will support the faithful over the Constitution does embolden and empower the extremists.

It is almost impossible to believe that Mr. Coleman will not win his discrimination lawsuit and one hopes it is financially painful for the evangelical malcontent. Whether a painful financial settlement will encourage the evangelical to stop forcing his employees to suffer mandatory bible classes is unclear. What is abundantly clear is that the company’s owner did force religious indoctrination on his employees in direct violation of the Constitution and anti-discrimination laws. Because like evangelical extremists and their facilitator Trump, Coleman’s employer believes the Constitution, like the rule of law, does not apply to the faithful. It is a dangerous mindset that is going to get much worse as America continues its lurch towards an evangelical theocracy.

Image: Patheos

It’s time to end religious freedom to rape children and conceal it from authorities

There are myriad reasons many Americans detest organized religion, and it is unclear if two of the main reasons have contributed to more Americans leaving “the church” in droves. Of course, one of the reasons is evangelical and Catholic groups claiming their “religious freedom” gives them constitutional authority to demand universal compliance to their religious edicts. Another reason is the idea that members of the Christian clergy are free to commit all manner of heinous criminal acts with impunity because they are granted salvation – because their religion’s namesake died on a stake. It is likely that the “saved by grace” reasoning is a contributing factor to both Catholic and evangelical leaders’ inclination to cover up what is probably the most monstrous sin a human being can commit – raping children.

For those who have followed the regular reports that yet another Catholic priest was revealed to be a child rapist, and then “forgiven” by the faithful and rewarded by Church officials with a new assignment, the horrors reported recently were not unexpected. The response from the “official church,” and rash of platitudes from local church leaders, also were not unexpected or new; Catholic officials probably have Vatican-approved comments prepared for these hideous “revelations.”

It is important to note that this sexual abuse (rape) by clergy is not unique to Catholic priests by any means. Evangelical clergy are regularly caught up in “sexual misconduct” scandals and just like the Vatican and local Catholic leaders, there are typically insincere, often tearful, appeals for forgiveness; often from the stage of a wealthy megachurch. A tearful mea culpa with gratitude for being saved by grace and all is well with the faithful. All the while, the sexual predators are free to return to the flock because they enjoy “salvation by cross.”

Here is a little biblical information about the reason the faithful are so forgiving of child molesters and rapists; there is no salvation for members of the clergy that sin – there just isn’t and it is not this author’s opinion. It is, in fact, written in what Christians consider god’s “immutable and infallible” word – the Christian bible.

According to the archaic rule book Catholics and evangelicals claim rules their lives:

There is no longer any sacrifice that will take away sins if we purposely go on sinning after the truth has been made known to us.”

Of course sacrifice can be replaced with salvation because according to scripture, the only reason Christian are saved is because their deity “sacrificed” his son for the faithful who do not “purposely go on sinning.” In fact, the concept of sinning after learning the truth is regarded as apostasy; a major religious sin that warrants ex-communication. It is no mystery why evangelical and Catholic leaders are not defrocking and ex-communicating the child rapists, and it is precisely the same reason Republicans refuse to evict Trump from the White House or even publicly criticize him; it will damage the brand.

Regarding the revelation that for decades Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania, about 300 of them, had raped over 1,000 children, the Pope issued a sternly worded letter. But he did not suggest any penalty except for the pedophile priests to devote their lives to prayer and penance.  No doubt there are thousands of pedophiles sitting in American prisons who would welcome a harsh penalty like devoting their lives to prayer, but those non-clergy pedophiles do not enjoy religious freedom to rape children with impunity.

The most damning part of the Pennsylvania grand jury report is detailing the effort church leaders exerted to “cover-up the crimes.”  The church leaders are complicit in the crimes because their protection emboldened the pedophile priests to continue to rape and sexually abuse children for decades. The report also noted, “in great detail,” that the rapes were “widespread and systematic” with “the full knowledge and tacit approval of church leaders.”  It is worth mentioning that in every other aspect of American society, having full knowledge of a crime and not reporting it is a federal felony. According to 18 U.S. Code § 4 – Misprision of felony:

Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

There is no doubt that Catholic leaders, from the lowliest nun to the Pope, not only knew about the pedophile priests’ vile crimes, they covered them up to protect the brand. Republicans are doing the same thing in protecting Trump, but that is the subject of another opinion piece. To make matters worse, church leaders, whether the Catholics or evangelicals, are excused from following the rule of law because they enjory religious freedom to ignore the law of the land like they ignore their own bible.

It is a travesty for victims of rape-by-clergy, but in most states there is no requirement for church leaders to report crimes against children. It is true that some states have “mandatory reporting laws” for clergy, but it is also a fact that in most states “any information protected by the clergy-penitent privilege is not admissible in a court proceeding;” even if the “protected information” regards members of the clergy raping children.

Although imprisonment is not guaranteed to deter pedophiles whether they are filthy members of the clergy or just filthy street perverts, sending clergy convicted of raping children to prison would be a “come to Jesus” moment and possibly spare children a lifetime of grief and misery. It is obvious, or it should be, that the Pope issuing another “sternly-worded” letter, or penalizing pedophile priests to a life of “prayer and penance,” or the faithful “considering” withholding financial donations has not worked. However, if the Catholic priests and evangelical clergy were sent to prison for raping children, or if the Church leaders were convicted of “misprision of felony” and spent three years in a federal penitentiary, there may be a rapid reduction in the number of innocent children scarred for life.

There is no reason why members of the clergy, whether Catholics or evangelicals, should be exempt from abiding by the laws of the land like every other American; especially laws prohibiting adults in positions of authority from raping children. In California, if a school teacher, nurse, cafeteria worker, janitor, or counselor even suspects a student has been abused and fails to immediately report their suspicions, they face up to six months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine. Moreover, if a school teacher et al “intentionally conceals his or her failure to report an incident  of abuse or severe neglect, the failure to report is a continuing offense.” Clergy are exempt from mandatory reporting requirements in California because of religious freedom.

It is true that although no church leader has claimed religious freedom to cover up child rape-by-clergy yet, they know that the only reason they can legally cover up pedophilia is because religious freedom exempts them from adhering to the law. Until that changes, the Pope can issue all the sternly-worded letters he wants, and Catholic adherents can continue “considering” withholding donations to the Church with the same results. Catholic priests and evangelical preachers can rape children with impunity because in America religious freedom means, among other things, the law of the land applies to everyone except child rapists that are Catholic priests, evangelical preachers and their leaders.

Trump’s EPA destroys his justification for slashing California fuel economy standards

It seems like it would be a Herculean task to convince the American people that it is in their best interests to spend more of their hard-earned wages on fuel to go to work, school, the doctor, and the local grocer. Obviously, no sane American thinks it is a good idea to purposely spend more on fuel than is necessary, but that kind of thinking is not going to create more wealth for the fossil fuel industry; higher fuel efficiency is anathema to big oil.

So Trump, in a continuing effort to sate the greed of big oil, is now proposing all manner of bovine excrement reasons to put a stop to higher fuel-economy standards for motor vehicles; and he claims he has scientific and expert proof to justify his crusade.

In an effort to stop Obama-era fuel economy standards, Trump has come up with some seriously bizarre arguments for why Americans will welcome paying more to drive. It was almost incomprehensible that the meathead administration claimed that lower gas mileage was Trump’s way of protecting the lives of Americans. The assertion was a typically unbelievable Trump contention in technologically advanced  21stCentury America: If fuel economy is poor, then the people could not afford to drive and would just stay home and off the roads. The administration’s reasoning was that being economically forced to spend less time on the road would reduce Americans’ chances of getting in a car accident. The claim might have made sense if America was the size of Vermont and had a robust mass transit system, but mass transit, like environmental protections, is as terrifying to the oil industry as higher-fuel economy vehicles.

The administration also claimed it had Americans’ well-being in mind in promoting the safety advantages of driving heavier cars as another justification for Trump’s campaign to slash fuel efficiency standards by about 25 percent.

Trump’s plan to aid big oil was alleged to be supported by data based on computer modeling the Department of Transportation and EPA said  justified slashing fuel economy standards. However, it was just revealed that back in June “senior officials at the Environmental Protection Agency privately warned [the data] is flawed and unsupportable.” After a month of peddling fake news with fake data about why Americans will have to buy more gas and drive heavier, less fuel-efficient vehicles; the “private warning” became public courtesy of “newly released agency documents.”

Despite senior officials’ warnings, the special interests running Trump’s EPA made clear when it first unveiled the proposal that Trump is resolved to freeze mileage targets for six years. That intention is precisely “the alternative the senior EPA officials found the  least supportable.” Indeed, even automobile manufacturers were concerned that Trump is overreaching and creating uncertainty and distress in the industry. Car makers may not like working to achieve higher fuel efficiency, but they damn sure know the consumers want and will continue buying higher-mileage vehicles.

It is no joke. Trump’s EPA is promoting an archaic idea to frighten Americans to convince them that California’s fuel efficiency targets have to be drastically weakened to prevent more Americans from dying. It is noteworthy that 17 other states have joined a California-led coalition suing to block Trump’s gift to big oil because it includes revoking “the authority California and other states were granted under the Clean Air Act to pursue clean air targets” – something that actually protects citizens’ health. Now California and its cohort states have Trump’s EPA warnings to justify their battle to provide their residents something every American alive likely believes is not insane – higher fuel efficiency automobiles and cleaner air due to less carbon emissions.

As a smattering of outlets, primarily those concerned with the environment, have noted, the revelations from EPA officials will be “a potent weapon in the legal arsenal of California and the states allied with it suing the Trump administration.” As noted in the L.A. Times, Trump proceeded with an insane plan after his EPA officials “raised multiple red flags in June about Trump’s assertion that higher fuel efficiency targets will result in a surge of traffic deaths.”

A month after those “official warnings,” Trump released a plan that is “grounded in several assumptions experts cautioned were indefensible,” and in fact “would be detrimental to safety, rather than beneficial.” The proposal would force Americans to buy more gasoline, and suffer the adverse health effects of higher carbon emissions that are the result of burning more gasoline. (author bold)

The director of the Safe Climate Campaign and affiliate with the Center for Auto Safety, Dan Becker, addressed Trump’s intent to sell more gasoline by contradicting his assertion that higher fuel economy standards contribute to higher traffic fatalities. Mr. Becker said:

Fatalities have declined while fuel economy standards have become more stringent since they first took effect in the 1970’s. The reason is better technology and design, not the changing weight of vehicles.”

Senator Thomas R. Carper (D-DE) is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and he stated the obvious:

“As if it isn’t bad enough that the Trump administration’s proposal deals a major blow to American consumers, automakers and equipment manufacturers, and the environment, today we obtained even more evidence that it’s based on bogus science and fundamentally flawed assumptions.

The administration’s own EPA itemized its technical concerns about the plan’s baseless claims, but the White House seems to have willfully ignored much of it and chose instead to release a deeply flawed proposed rule that almost certainly will be struck down in court. The facts might be inconvenient for the Trump administration, but this White House cannot simply dismiss the clear science, especially against the advice of its own experts.”

Mr. Becker is right, of course, except the part about the White House not dismissing “the clear science” or “the advice of its own experts.” Trump doesn’t accept scientific evidence about anything, and as far as following, or even considering, the advice of his own experts, remember that he was advised against withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Paris Climate Accord, and the Iran Nuclear agreement, as well as imposing tariffs on America’s allies.

Although the recently revealed “warnings” from Trump’s own EPA dealt primarily with the insanity of imposing rules to sell more gasoline, the devastating impact on the environment of burning more fossil fuels cannot be ignored or understated. States like California and its partners pursuing higher mileage standards are not on a crusade to hurt big oil or create problems for the auto industry; they are attempting to protect their residents from the dire health effects of purposely increasing carbon emissions.

Of course Trump could not possibly care less about the health of Californians or any American alive now or the foreseeable future. It is worth mentioning again that even before his drive to force Americans to buy more gas due to reduced fuel efficiency, his EPA actions thus far will, “under the most conservative estimate, cost the lives of over 80 000 US residents per decade and lead to respiratory problems for many more than 1 million people.”

The only good news out of this story is that although legal experts claimed the Trump crusade would be difficult to defend in court, it will be even more of a task to defend an action his own experts claim is “unsupportable, indefensible, and detrimental to safety, rather than beneficial.” The bad news is that Trump is as opposed to experts as he is determined to decimate the environment no matter how many Americans he kills in the process – a fact that became evident to many Americans shortly after his poorly attended inauguration.

Mormons say Utah marijuana ballot initiative violates their religious freedom – file 2nd lawsuit

Most thinking individuals likely consider that being forced to comply with or abide by a religious group’s dictates is a violation of their constitutionally protected religious freedom. Unfortunately for Americans, one specific religion and its various subsidiaries believe their religious freedom entails constitutional authority to force other Americans to comply with their religious beliefs. In Utah, that idea of religious freedom is taking an extreme turn toward theocracy.

A group of Utah Mormons is attempting to exercise what they perceive is their religious freedom to silence the voice of voters and control the democratic process. They are crusading to force removal of a Utah ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana to prevent voters from exercising their right to vote; because Mormons apparently don’t like weed for wellness. It is the second time the Mormons, led by a Mormon attorney and pharmaceutical company owner, have went to court to keep the measure off the ballot in November.

The Mormon attorney financing the religious crusade, Walter Plumb III, is a friend and former legal partner with United States Senator and fellow Mormon Orin Hatch. It seems reasonable to question whether as owner of a pharmaceutical companypeddling “nutritional supplements and products,” Plumb is attempting to block any possible competition from cannabis. Unlike many supplements, cannabis is a well-documented treatment option for a variety of conditions.

After dropping the initial lawsuit, the Mormons followed the tactics of the evangelical extremist cult and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) claiming that if the Utah residents are allowed to participate in the democratic process and vote to legalize medical marijuana, it will “violate the religious freedom of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

According to Plumb and the forces behind the anti-medical marijuana group’s crusade;

If the ballot measure succeeds, Mormon landlords would be forced to rent to medical marijuana cardholders and people who use cannabis violating Mormon code.”

Although the “official” Mormon Church has refrained from openly opposing the ballot measure, it told the Salt Lake Tribune that it has “grave concerns;” it is really grave opposition.

Whether Plumb knows it or is just playing the fool, Mormon landlords already violate the Mormon code by renting to marijuana users, and cocaine users and legal opioid addicts. They also violate the Mormon code when they rent to people involved in extra-marital affairs, and people in homosexual relationships, and church members addicted to Mormon code-violating pornography.

Plumb’s group is citing a “technical” Supreme Court decision, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, because it allowed a bigot to use his religious objection as grounds to refuse making a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. However, that particular case was “decided on a technicality;” specifically that “the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was unfairly biased against Phillips.” As most sane people and the Court acknowledged, “the ruling did not directly give people a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on their religious belief.”

As bad as refusing to provide a service based on objections borne of religion is, and it is vile, the idea of using religious freedom to prevent an entire state’s voters from exercising their right to weigh in on a legal ballot measure is beyond the pale; but it should have been expected. This monstrous idea of using religious freedom as a cudgel against non-compliance in America’s lurch toward theocracy has grown to the point that maybe now the people will comprehend that no American is safe.

Here’s the thing most normal people comprehend: if Utah residents suffering various maladies are legally allowed to use cannabis for relief, it will have no impact whatsoever on Mormons or their Constitutional freedom to exercise what they call religion. They can still wear magic underwear, prepare for an afterlife on their own personal planetviolate the Christian bible with an addendum created by Joe Smith, ride bicycles two-by-two and annoy innocent strangers, and follow the teaching of an honest-to-dog charlatan reading from a magic hat.

This issue is not about whether cannabis has myriad and valid medical applications, the data is overwhelming that it does. It is also not an issue of whether the people should be allowed to vote on a legal ballot initiative, Utah law says they do. The issue is also not whether Mormon landlords are violating the Mormon Code by renting to people who obtain a medicinal marijuana card or actually use the weed for its documented medicinal purposes. It is about another religious extremist claiming his religious freedom is being violated by allowing voters to exercise their right to vote on a ballot measure. No matter how one distills it, the issue is a religious group’s attack on the democratic process.

It may appear that this piece is heavily biased against Mormons; that is not the case any more than being inordinately biased against Catholics or evangelical extremists imposing their religious dictates, and forced compliance, under the guise of religious freedom. Every person in America has religious freedom, but there is only one faith and its various subsidiaries citing their religious freedom to control the rest of the population. It is a major escalation that this time the Mormon subsidiary is attempting to control a state election and it should terrify Americans that the “faithful” feel so religiously emboldened – but it won’t and it is why they continue unabated.

Hitler devotee’s primary victory informs the state of the GOP base

It would be a monumental miscalculation to assume that the alt-right’s poor showing in Washington over the weekend was a sign that the white supremacist movement is not as robust as it was directly following Trump’s poorly attended inauguration.

In fact, based on the number of alt-right (Nazi) candidates running for public office as Republicans, the white supremacist movement is growing with support of the party of Trump. No American should be fooled by “official party” criticisms of Republican candidates running under the Trump-Aryan banner because there are never any “official” condemnations until the candidates’ bigotry is widely exposed.

A perfect example occurred last week in Missouri after a Hitler sympathizer’s easy primary victory for the state legislature. That win informs that white supremacists are taking control of the GOP because they have support of the base, as well as the white supremacist-in-chief Trump.

It was only a race for the Missouri state legislature, but the victory of a conservative Christian renowned for raging against Jews, Muslims, LBGTQ Americans and any other non-Aryan, non-Christian person is a portent that the GOP is rapidly becoming the “official” party of white supremacists. Of course racists and all manner of religious bigots flocked to Republicans prior to Trump, but they were primarily closeted bigots; anti-gay and anti-women Republicans were never in the closet, they were in mega-churches with mega broadcast networks.

The racist, Steve West, easily won the four-way Republican primary race for a Missouri house seat by 25 points, garnering nearly 50 percent of the vote. West is, besides a Republican politician, an alleged “businessman” and KCXL radio show host. He is also a raging anti-Semite and a devotee of Adolf Hitler whom West asserts had the right idea in “dealing with who was behind” what was happening in Nazi Germany.

The Kansas City Star, in an effort to describe West’s background after his victory, reported that last week on his  radio show West promoted “fanatical conspiracies” about “Jewish cabals harvesting baby parts through Planned Parenthood, and torturing and molesting children.” West also claims that they [Jews] “run the Republican Party” he belongs to. And as far as his adoration of Adolf Hitler, West celebrated the evil monster claiming:

Looking back in history, unfortunately, Hitler was right about what was taking place in Germany. And who was behind it.

The only thing West did not do was praise Hitler for his solution to the “who” behind what the dictator claimed was taking place in Germany.

The “Star” also reported that West hosts a YouTube channel where he is less restrained from spouting his particularly dangerous brand of Trumpism – demeaning and defaming non-Aryans and non-Christians. Apparently West “dons a wig and fake beard and calls himself Jack Justice … unleashing an array of bigotry including homophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and outright racism.”

West’s Democratic opponent, incumbent State Representative Jon Carpenter, hoped that the people who voted for West simply were unaware of his views. That is highly doubtful since West is the host of a radio talk show and not some character who crawled out of an alley. Mr. Carpenter issued an email statement:

“I just want everyone who lives in this community to know that they’re welcome here. Muslims, Jews, Catholics, the LGBTQ community, people of all races and national origins, and everyone else Steve West has targeted with hate. His views do not reflect our values. We’ll stand together and love will conquer hate, as it always does.”

That West won a four-way race by 25 percentage points, if typical of the GOP base, is a bad omen that the nation is even more deeply divided than even a dark cynic might have thought. Of course the Missouri Republican Party issued a statement disavowing West as one of their “fine people,” but the group waited two days after West won to issue a statement saying in part:

Steve West’s shocking and vile comments do not reflect the position of the Missouri Republican Party or indeed of any decent individual. West’s abhorrent rhetoric has absolutely no place in the Missouri Republican Party or anywhere. We wholeheartedly condemn his comments.”

Like all official Republican Party condemnations, it is purely for convenience and far too late. Where were the official condemnations prior to the primary? West has been a hateful broadcast bigot long enough that the party knew who they allowed on their ballot; just like the RNC knew what kind of bigoted pig Trump is and yet they still support him. No sane human being can imagine the RNC or GOP Congress  issuing an “official” statement condemning Trump’s “shocking and vile comments” or his perpetually “abhorrent rhetoric;” because they appreciate that it incites the base to flock to the polls. West’s shocking and vile comments and abhorrent rhetoric certainly incited Missouri Republicans to vote for the Hitler-loving anti-Semite.

Regardless of the accusations Omarosa Manigault-Newman made about Trump being a racist and using the “N” word to refer to African Americans, there are plenty of indications that he is a bigot inciting his racist base he knows oppose any non-Aryan and non-Christian. His attack on professional athletes exercising their rights under the Constitution is specifically focused on African Americans to divide the nation.

His praise of the “very fine” alt-right (Nazis) after they brutally assaulted peaceful protestors in Charlottesville was offered as an official commendation to “his people.” On the anniversary of Charlottesville, he issued another dog whistle condemning “all types of racism;” he did spend the 2016 campaign convincing his base that there is raging discrimination and institutionalized bias against white people, and it is a beliefthat is growing among Republicans.

As much as Democrats, and decent human beings, should beware of the powerful evangelical extremist voting bloc in an important midterm election, they should give particular attention to the white supremacist bloc. They are just as driven as the fundamentalist cult, and most certainly hate the same people as the religious right.

As an aside, although evangelicals claim to support Israel, it is only because it is cited in their scriptural mythos. If the Christian’s bible said that Havana was the home of the “chosen people” and the site of an Earth-shaking spiritual battle, Israel would just be another Middle East country and Cuba would get an inordinate amount of taxpayer dollars and weaponry. It is important to remember that Nazi Germany was a Christian nation with support from the Christian, primarily Catholic, population and they participated in an unimaginable atrocity against the Jews. In addition, despite the complete demise of the Aryan Reich, many German Christians wanted the Nazi leadership back after the war.

It almost seems natural for a bigot like Steve West to run for office as a Republican after praising Hitler and using flagrantly bigoted dog whistles; his is aping Trump and tapping into his base. If Trump is not inciting racial and religious animus against non-Aryans and non-Christians like Hitler, he is doing his best to rule with an iron fist like der Führer. It should be unfathomable that a publicly acknowledged bigot like West could run for political office anywhere in America and beat his opponents handily, but this is Trump’s America now and the Republican base is sick with white supremacists and evangelical extremists.

Image: Patheos

Trump’s new asbestos rule will kill Americans to aid Russians

It has been widely accepted since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration that he epitomizes a despicably bad human being. A pair of related stories late last week confirmed that Trump is inherently greedy, has no regard for American lives, has utter contempt for the law and a glaring predilection to provide aid and comfort to foreign nations hostile towards America.

Any sane human being knows it was no coincidence that at about the same time Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to relax prohibitions on using a globally known and almost universally banned carcinogen, asbestos, a Russian asbestos producer released images of Trump’s face on asbestos packaged for export.

First, the EPA announcement about allowing asbestos back in America attempted to portray the administration’s “concern” for American lives with some bovine excrement claim that new uses of asbestos “would require manufacturers and importers to receive EPA approval before starting or resuming manufacturing, and importing or processing of asbestos.

Despite EPA claims to the contrary, the new rule explicitly allows new uses for asbestos with the caveat that the EPA evaluate any new uses based on “risk evaluation, selected studies, and use the best available science.” However, the EPA evaluation process will not use “existing” science despite “the significant body of work around the inherent health risks associated with asbestos.” It is noteworthy that according to Russian asbestos producers, Trump and his former EPA chief Scott Pruitt have already deemed asbestos application “100 percent safe;” there will be no need for risk evaluations, selected studies, or any science.

The Russian asbestos producer, Uralasbest, is one of the world’s largest asbestos producers and included an image of Trump stamped on packaged asbestos with a caption: “Approved by Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States.” An English translation of the text accompanying the Trump image read:

Donald is on our side! … He supported the head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who stated that his agency would no longer deal with negative effects derived from products containing asbestos. Donald Trump supported a specialist and called asbestos ‘100% safe after application.’”

The prescient question that anyone with a pulse already knows the answer to is: if asbestos is safe, why is it banned in 55 developed and developing nations? The known carcinogen is still in use in Russia, Canada,  China, India and the United States. To be fair, sometime in the 1970s America  “had stopped” using asbestos in most buildings, and banned it from products like flooring felt and corrugated paper because it was too toxic to use around human beings. However, despite nearly 1 million Americans suing for asbestos-related diseases and deaths, Trump still claims the carcinogen is safe. So he directed his special interest running the EPA to do something he claims is “long overdue;” help asbestos make a comeback.

In one fell swoop Trump demonstrated again that he has no regard for established science or American lives, and that he will use Americans’ lives to repay his debt to Russia. By directing the EPA to pronounce asbestos “100 percent safe” for use in America, Trump confirmed to Russian asbestos producers that he is indeed “on their side.

Trump, an expert in peddling snake oil, treasonous acts, and pathological mendacity concluded as far back as 1997 that asbestos is perfectly safe and the rest of the developed world was wrong to ban its use. He also asserted that “the mob” was responsible for promoting fake news that gave a known carcinogen negative press and a bad reputation. Trump said in a book he could not possibly have written:

I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal. Great pressure was put on politicians, and as usual, the politicians relented. Millions of truckloads of this incredible material were taken to special ‘dump sites’ and asbestos was replaced by materials that were supposedly safe.”

Trump has also claimed several times that the only reason the two World Trade Center towers collapsed was because of the absence of asbestos. Chris Hayes provided a video clip of Trump defending the carcinogen in front of Congress in 2005. He was doing in 2005 what he has done regularly since Russia aided his ascendancy to the White House – parrot a claim by Fox News. Trump told Congress in 2005 what he heard on Fox News in 2001:

A lot of people [Fox News] say that if the World Trade Center had asbestos it wouldn’t have burned down, it wouldn’t have melted. O.K.? A lot of people in my industry think asbestos is the greatest fireproofing material ever made.”

Trump lied, of course. According to Asbestos.com:

Builders constructed the World Trade Center using  asbestos in the structure’s insulation, drywall, fireproofing materials and steel because of the mineral’s affordability. The 9/11 terrorist attacks released the deadly toxin in a dust cloud across Manhattan.”

What Trump failed to tell Congress, and the only reason he is an ardent champion of a known carcinogen he claims is safe, is that like “a lot of people in his [hotel] industry,” he is furious that he was required to remove asbestos from his buildings to save lives. Trump has vehemently opposed any rule or regulation created to protect people, and because asbestos removal is an expensive and hazardous process, Trump naturally opposed paying to remove it to protect human lives because it impacts his bottom line.

In the late 1990’s “Trump fought a bill by ex-mayor-turned-presidential-lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, requiring all residential buildings to be retrofitted with sprinklers;” Trump claimed at the time that it was too costly to protect people living in buildings his corrupt organization owns. Just a few months ago, a Trump Tower resident perishedbecause he lived in an upper floor residence where there were no working sprinklers. Trump has no regard for human life and relaxing America’s asbestos prohibitions as remuneration to his Russian facilitators will add to the 12,000 to 15,000 American deaths annually due to asbestos.

According to “The World Trade Center Health Registry,” about 410,000 people were exposed to toxic asbestos “during the rescue, recovery and clean-up efforts that followed 9/11.” As of two years ago at  the 15-year anniversary of the WTC’s collapses, the greatest concern among medical professionals was the certain increase of cases of asbestosis, lung cancer, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and a rare but aggressive cancer with no cure, mesothelioma. It is exactly what medical professionals expect after nearly  half-a-million people were exposed to over 400 tons of airborne asbestos long after the Towers collapsed.

There is no coincidence surrounding the EPA’s plan to help asbestos make a comeback and Russian asbestos producers stamping Trump’s image and approval on packaged asbestos likely slated for export to America. Obviously, the Russian asbestos company knew in advance that Trump’s EPA was going to help asbestos make a comeback and further the Trump administration’s goal of killing off Americans in the name of helping Russia. It is not exaggeration or hyperbole to claim Trump’s administration disregards American lives at the same rate Trump lies and disregards the law. In fact, a recent (2018) Harvard University analysis revealed that Trump’s EPA crusade to rollback and/or reverse environmental protections will, under the most conservative estimate, cost the lives of over 80 000 US residents per decade and lead to respiratory problems for many more than 1 million people.”

If any American is looking for one example to convince skeptics that Trump is greedy, a liar, supports Russia and has contempt for American lives, this one incident should serve to disabuse them of any doubts that Trump is a monster. In addition, it is noteworthy that “helping asbestos make a comeback,” like all of Trump’s assaults on the environment, will indiscriminately kill and injure American citizens regardless of their race, religion or economic station.

That is the problem with allowing a greedy, lying, inhumane and traitorous piece of work to occupy a place he has no right visiting, and why Trump’s legacy will feature his inclination to kill American citizens on American soil like homegrown terrorists Trump calls “fine people.” The primary difference between Trump and other  homegrown terrorists is that the latter are driven by religion, racial animus and an ideology founded on hate. The former is driven by greed and allegiance to a hostile foreign state that happens to be the major producer of the toxic mineral Trump wants to impose on the American people.

Alabama woman’s experience portends the American Taliban’s rise to power

It is unclear why Americans love war, or why some Americans particularly love wars against other Americans. Despite the horrors of the American Civil War, many of Trump’s acolytes yearn to wage war against other Americans opposed to Trump and his tyrannical style of ruling, but there is a particular bent among his religious right devotees to wage war against women. That is, after all, one of the primary reasons so-called Christians lovingly embraced a confessed sinner like Trump – he pledged to win the war against women by eliminating their constitutional right to self-determination regarding their reproductive health and so much more.

It is a sad state of affairs, but since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration the evangelical extremist cult’s rise to power has resulted in a wave of attacks against women and their constitutional rights.

Those assaults are borne of what the religious right regards as its constitutional religious freedom to put women in their biblical place – under control of religious men. It is also noteworthy that since Trump handed control over to evangelical extremists, his acolytes in the “family values” movement have felt emboldened to take matters into their own hands and forego Trump and Pence bestowing official government authority to control women.

Not too long ago an emboldened “family values” sycophant created a humiliating scene for two women who were legally breastfeeding their infants in public; because doing so offended what is becoming the “unofficial” modesty police.

Apparently, because Trump and Pence are dragging their feet in designating a Taliban-like religious agency to police women’s activities, the “family values” cult is preparing the population for the official modesty police. The breastfeeding “incident” in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago humiliated a breastfeeding mother because a “modest” family values woman was uncomfortable, but at least she was not forced to leave by management. It was not so “easy” for a woman in bible-thumping Alabama who dared wear shorts in oppressive 100 degree heat in the dead of summer.

The incident occurred in a Mobile shopping mall where security guards at The Shoppes at Bel Air are harassing women for wearing shorts. The shopper, Gabrielle Gibson, described on Facebook how she was “harassed” and “abused” by mall security serving as “modesty police” for the “family friendly” management. Ms. Gibson was “kicked out” of the mall because she was wearing shorts “prompting other women to come forward to share their personal stories of abuse and harassment by mall security guards doubling as family values police.”

Ms. Gibson explained that she was shopping when a security guard approached her after “looking at her a** cheeks” and told her she was being evicted for wearing shorts. Ms. Gibson’s “a** cheeks” were not exposed, but that is not the point. According to Ms. Gibson:

“I was literally harassed and kicked out of the Bell Air mall in Mobile, AL today because of what I’m wearing. Apparently grown men couldn’t contain themselves so I get kicked out. Security officer J. Mathis initiated that he was looking at my a** cheeks and it was a problem. Don’t look at my a** then; there’s a thought? As well. security officer Davis and head of security Jim Chavis were extremely rude and completely unprofessional about the situation.

They went as far as to threaten to call a police officer. From what I saw today everyone had short shorties on. I mean come on, its August and 100° outside. I don’t know why I was pinpointed. I’m just disgusted with the behavior of all these people.”

Of course, being residents of the evangelical cult’s second most religious state in America and one Hell-bent on exercising some evangelical religious freedom, the mall’s management denied ever doing anything wrong; they were simply freely exercising their religious freedom to enforce their Puritanical dress code. The Shoppes at Bel Air released a statement in support of a blatant attack on a woman exercising her constitutional right of self-determination regarding clothing. The mall management’s statement:

Given the high degree of importance we place on maintaining a family-friendly shopping environment, our policy requires all of our customers to dress in a manner that reflects our [religious] code of conduct. Anyone who violates this [religious] policy will be asked to change or to leave the premises.”

A perusal of the corporate ownership of the “mall” failed to turn up any known evangelical extremist involvement, so it is apparent, at least to this author, that enforcing a “family-friendly” dress code was under purview of the local bible-thumpers, not the corporate office in New York. Alabama is, after all, the second “most religious” state in the nation and also contains a vile religious freedom amendment that gives veritable impunity to “freely exercise” religion without interference of any state or federal law – such as anti-discrimination laws. It is likely why the mall’s modesty police threatened to summon the real police to officially enforce the family friendly “code of conduct.”

As it should have, the incident drew outrage from women whose only recourse is protesting what was a very public “slut shaming” to enforce some nasty Puritanical malcontent’s “code of conduct.”  A group of “concerned women” organized a protest as a response to Ms. Gibson’s horrible experience at being “slut-shamed”  by modesty police. The concerned ladies are calling their protest the “Bel Air Mall “Daisy Duke” SlutWalk.”

“Ok ladies – it’s time to bring out the booty shorts and crop tops (if you’re feeling it.) One gorgeous young woman was SHAMED and ASKED TO LEAVE because her shorts were “too short.” I have personally worn shorts shorter than what she wore and walked past security and police and no one said one word. It’s summertime. In South Alabama. It’s hot. WEAR WHAT YOU WANT. Don’t allow anyone to shame you for what you choose to wear. We’re banding together to support our sister in solidarity – women’s bodies are not shameful. We shouldn’t be forced to cover up because men can’t control themselves. Bring your ass (literally) and descend on Bel Air with us. Share with your friends! #SistersInSolidarity #StopShaming#WhatIWearDoesntEqualConsent

Now, although this ardent feminist author fully supports the “concerned” women rushing to defend Ms. Gibson and other women’s right to wear what they want, the choice of a name for the protest, “slut walk,” is curious. It plays directly into the narrative the religious right promotes ad nauseam; that women wearing shorts, short skirts, crop tops etc. are sluts.

For dog’s sake, feminists have been screaming about being “slut shamed” for years over how they dress, and sleazy defense attorneys have convinced juries for decades that raped women deserved what they got for “dressing like sluts.” Of course that is not the case, but the last thing women living in a misogynistic society need is other women donning “daisy Dukes” to participate in a slut walk. Women have a difficult enough time living in a burgeoning theocracy – giving the theocrats more ammunition is foolish and dangerous.

It is important to reiterate that this flagrant discrimination against women, and “slut-shaming,” although not unique, is on the rise due to Trump emboldening the faithful to use “religious liberty” to attack women.

It is worth mentioning that the modesty police are not confined to uber-religious states like Alabama. Some Americans may recall that about a year ago Speaker of the House Paul Ryan laid down some modesty rules against women who exposed their shoulders – sleeveless tops apparently violate the House’s Puritanical dress code. In July of last year a female reporter was attempting to do her job and enter the speaker’s lobby when she was told her dress wasn’t appropriate for entry. The offensive dress was of the sleeveless variety and just like in Puritanical America, a woman exposing her shoulders is “inappropriate.” It is also verboten for women to wear “sleeveless tops, sleeveless dresses, open-toed shoes or sneakers.

It is nearly impossible to believe that 21st Century American women are being subjected to Taliban-like abuse at the hands of religious extremists. And make no mistake, these assaults on women’s rights are solely the purview of religious extremists. Whether it is being evicted from a public place for their choice of attire, or being humiliated for choosing to breastfeed in a public place, or being restricted from using birth control because the religious right opposes women having “consequence free” sex, or daring to choose when to give birth; there is a war against women borne of religious zealotry. The religious right loves to demean Muslim adherents for following Sharia law, but they are on a crusade to impose their evangelical version of Sharia on American women under the banner of religious freedom. It would be considered a horrific situation in normal times, but now that the “American Taliban” have two champions running the Executive Department, America’s women are in deep trouble.

It is still a mystery why American men are sitting idly by watching passively as their mothers, girlfriends, wives, daughters, and sisters are subjected to maltreatment by what can only be defined as the American Taliban.  Today the evangelical modesty police are just evicting women from public places for not wearing family friendly attire, perhaps American men will wake up when women in their lives are stoned to death for wearing shorts, or baring their shoulders – it is what occurred under Taliban rule.

Image: Patheos

Trump theocrats claim abuses against women and LGBT people are Christian values

If Americans are the least bit doubtful that the Trump theocrats are on a White House-sanctioned global crusade to spread their savage version of Christianity, a recent announcement at the State Department should disabuse their reservations.

It is not a revelation that evangelical extremists yearn for an executive order from Trump asserting that punishing women for making their own reproductive choice is exercising “religious freedom,” and legal. It is also common knowledge among cognizant Americans that part and parcel of the religious right’s definition of “religious freedom” is brutalizing the LGBTQ community according to their “Christian values.” Now it is an official policy of the Trump administration intent on imposing the evangelical extremists’ style of “religious freedom” around the world; and any opposition to that imposition of “religious freedom” is officially “religious persecution.”

In yet another move legitimizing the evangelical rights’ bigotry and hatred, the Trump administration sent a clear signal that “Christian America” will no longer denounce countries that punish LGBT citizens or women for making their own reproductive health choices. In fact, going forward, nations that embrace religious-driven hatred leading to imprisonment and/or death of LGBTQ people, and abuse targeting women, will be rewarded by Christian America; because Christian-inspired hatred and bigotry exemplify “Christian values” according to Trump’s theocrats.

During an atrocity in a secular nation in Washington D.C., the “Christian Values” proclamation came during the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The Trump theocrat honored to tell the world that Christian bigotry and hatred epitomize America’s Christian values was the director of Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney.

Mulvaney’s announcement entailed attacking the Obama Administration for threatening to withhold foreign aid to countries that punish women and members of the LGBTQ community. The evangelical right’s war on women and gays is now a global crusade sponsored by the Trump theocrats’ pushing a brutal version of religious freedom according to evangelical extremists.

Mulvaney said the theocrats in Trump’s administration will no longer encourage countries to abandon their draconian and deadly anti-LGBT and anti-women’s choice laws. Instead, Mulvaney “defended criminalizing and punishing homosexuality” as an American “religious freedom” issue, and that abusing and discriminating against women and gays embodies “Christian values.” According to Mulvaney and evangelical zealots, it is a disgrace that President Obama dared represent America as promoting women’s and LGBTQ rights.

As part of his remarks to the “State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom,” Mulvaney said:

Our US taxpayer dollars are used to discourage Christian values in other countries. It was stunning to me that my government under a previous administration would say, ‘We know that you have a law against abortion, but if you enforce that law, you’re not going to get any of our money. We know you have a law against homosexuality, but if you enforce that law, we’re not going to give you any money.’

That is a type of religious persecution that I never expected to see.

I never expected to see that as an American Christian, that we would be doing that to other folks.

I am here to let you know there a lot of people in this government who want to see things done differently. They want to do something.”

What that means is that in the Trump theocracy denying women access to reproductive health care and criminalizing homosexuality indicates “Christian values;” while opposing discrimination against women and homophobia is “religious persecution.

As Zack Ford at ThinkProgress noted,  “Mulvaney’s implication that the Trump administration would turn a blind eye to anti-gay persecution around the world is consistent with actions it has already taken.”

As part of the “religious freedom” crusade promoting “Christian Values” globally, Trump already rejected a United Nations resolution condemning the use of the death penalty to target LGBTQ people. The Trump theocrats gave some lame excuse about not opposing the “proper” use of the death penalty, but it is noteworthy that Trump has mentioned that according to the head of domestic policy, Mike “preacher” Pence, “proper use” of the death penalty would be hanging all gays based on the Christian bible’s Old Testament rules.

It is also noteworthy that another Trump theocrat, Attorney General J. Beauregard Sessions proclaimed earlier this summer that America has ceased granting asylum to people who are victims of violence and abuse, and that America would be adding many new barriers to the asylum process. That includes new policies targeting LGBTQ people fleeing persecution to make it impossible for them to escape the brutal “Christian values” cult Trump’s theocrats are defending as part of their global “religious freedom” crusade.

It should be painfully obvious now that in America under Trump’s theocracy, “Christian Values” include criminalizing anything the evangelical extremist cult deems “ungodly.” And it is significant that the religious right supporting Trump’s theocrats are self-appointed authorities on what is “ungodly,” such as women’s reproductive rights and homosexuality. Further, anything resembling opposition to or non-compliance with those “Christian Values” is “religious persecution.” It is something that has been happening in America for a decade, at least, but it was never an official policy position until now.

Most Americans keeping abreast of the GOP’s crusade towards theocracy were already aware of what evangelical zealots considered “religious persecution,” but it has never been proclaimed publicly at the State Department by a high-ranking government official . However, it is now official and Americans should shudder at the revelation. It is a damn frightening prospect that anyone opposing the evangelicals’ brutal Christian values faces being accused of “religious persecution;” especially in an evangelical theocracy in the midst of an honest-to-dog religious crusade.

It is true that all Americans claiming Christianity do not embrace “Christian values” focusing on punishing homosexuality and criminalizing a woman’s right to self determination regarding her reproductive choices, but those “Christians” are not running the government. They are also not screaming in the streets that Trump and his theocrats do not represent Christian values. And why should they?

After all, they embrace the same Christian bible that the vicious evangelical extremist sect asserts gives them religious freedom to abuse women and gays – what they claim expresses their “Christian values.” And anyone opposing the imposition of “Christian values” is committing religious persecution. It is not a new policy by any means, but it is now the official position of America under Trump’s  theocracy and it began in earnest the day of Trump’s poorly attended inauguration.

Image: Patheos

DeVos gives for-profit schools a gift while punishing defrauded students

t is getting more difficult by the day to keep pace with the barrage of nasty policy “reforms” and attacks on domestic programs because of the never-ending distractions centering on the criminal in the White House. No doubt a few Americans overlooked another abominable action from Trump’s evangelical extremist running the Education Department that fairly epitomizes why Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary is an epic disaster. It also shines a glaring light on Trump’s greatest lie that his primary reason for running for office was to “drain the swamp” in Washington when in fact he began transforming the so-called “swamp” into a rotting special interest cesspool the day of his poorly attended inauguration.

Despite the best efforts of a real President, Barack Obama, to aid students defrauded by unscrupulous for-profit schools, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos devised “new rules” to protect the for-profit private education industry that DeVos represents; the plight of the defrauded students was never a consideration despite they were fundamentally scammed out of a reported $13 billion.

The corporate-friendly plan eliminates regulations requiring for-profit colleges to prove that they provide a quality education that allows enrolled students to secure gainful employment. The plan is being criticized as “the most drastic in a series of moves that DeVos has made to free the for-profit sector from safeguards.”

The Obama-era regulations would have cut off federally guaranteed student loans to colleges if their graduates did not earn enough money to pay those loans off. The rule sent many for-profit colleges and universities into an economic tailspin because so many of their alumni were failing to find decent jobs due to fraudulent claims and inadequate education.

The DeVos-Trump private-school protection plan was hailed as a long-needed reform to “correct Obama-era” rules created to protect consumers. It is noteworthy that DeVos blocked the “Obama-era borrower rule”  from ever being implemented to protect her personal special interest – the for-profit private school industry. The action obviously garnered rave reviews from the for-profit education industry because it provides them with a field-tested means of defrauding students with veritable impunity.

Education activists, however, sharply criticized the action because it leaves defrauded students with $13 billion indebtedness with  little-to-no recourse or relief. At best, education advocates and defrauded students learned that in Trump’s America past corporate corruption and fraud is richly rewarded, and future corruption will be nearly impossible to prosecute – at least that is the case for industry that DeVos exists to enrich. It is worth noting that a government ethics report listed DeVos as invested in a “student debt collection agency” that does business with the Department of Education, but DeVos is only looking after the interests of the cheated students to hear her tell it.

DeVos said the proposal will assist for-profit private schools avoid trouble – by describing how best to avoid being caught or held accountable for cheating. She also lied and claimed the “new rules” actually protect any student who was economically devastated by deliberate deception. According to DeVos, her plan is really focused on protecting the significantly indebted students, but only if “they can prove the [private for-profit] schools deliberately misled them.” If DeVos’ past actions are any indication, students will have to  prove they were defrauded by a for-profit private school to a committee made up of for-profit private school officials.

Education Department documents that were alleged to support DeVos’ plan claimed that although students “really should be protected” from fraudulent private schools, it is really their fault they picked the wrong schools. The Department said:

Postsecondary students are adults who can be reasonably expected to make informed decisions;  if they have access to relevant and reliable data about program outcomes.”

That giant pile of bovine excrement statement fails to mention that one of the primary purposes of President Obama’s “borrower protection rule” was to pressure for-profit private schools to provide prospective students with something they resisted like plague – “access to relevant and reliable data about program outcomes.”

DeVos claimed the new proposal will save nearly $13 billion by reducing the amount of loan relief awarded to students who were defrauded to the tune of at least $13 billion by the people DeVos exists to enrich and protect. Under the new proposal, likely written by the for-profit school industry, private schools can now defend themselves against fraud claims and prevent damage to their reputations; all while preserving the billions in revenue from students who were defrauded. It also authorizes for-profit fraudulent schools to “force students into arbitration agreements as well as bar them from ever suing the schools that defrauded the students.” It is a practice that many for-profit colleges use regularly and “would have been banned” under President Obama’s rules that DeVos prevented being implemented.

While the private education industry cheered another means of cheating students, education advocates “blasted the proposal.” They rightly claimed DeVos’ plan “places [unscrupulous] private schools ahead of students while discouraging victims from ever pursuing financial relief.”

The director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard University explained the real purpose of the Trump-DeVos gift to the for-profit education industry.  Toby Merrill said:

“It encourages abusive and predatory institutions to continue to rip off students with impunity, while slamming the door on the debt relief that Congress has instructed the department to provide to cheated students.”

A senior fellow at the Century Foundation and a former Education Department official, Bob Shireman said:

The proposal is perhaps the most damaging action Betsy DeVos has taken since assuming office. These changes would effectively strip students of their right to recourse if a college or university misled them, making it next to impossible for defrauded students to get the relief they are entitled to.”

The for-profit school industry and their Republican facilitators hailed the corporate-friendly changes as a “great improvement for the for-profit college industry.” The president and chief executive of the trade group, Career Education Colleges and Universities, said the old rules allowing fraud claims to reach fruition were not only unfair, they were very detrimental to for-profit private schools, even though they were never implemented. Steve Gunderson said:

The department has undertaken a thoughtful and deliberate approach to this rule, and we applaud their hard work on this important matter.”

It is unclear how much Mr. Gunderson’s “private school trade group”  was involved in devising the rules to benefit the industry, but it was likely substantial. DeVos does not make any education move without consulting, and then enacting the demands of special interests .

DeVos belied the publicly-stated motivation behind what is her gift to the for-profit education industry she helped create and now represents. She told an assembly of her close business associates in the private school industry: “Our commitment and our focus has been and remains on protecting students from fraud.”

Of course the private education leaders applauded DeVos’ new policy because they perfectly understand that DeVos’ commitment and focus “has been and remains” protecting charlatans in the private education industry. If that was not the case, she would not be making it virtually impossible for defrauded students to ever get relief, much less restitution. It is the only reason she made suspending President Obama’s  2016 “borrower defense rules”  one of the first acts as the most “unqualified Education Department head” in history.

As a reminder, President Obama’s action followed the total collapse of two for-profit schools, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute to give defrauded and indebted students a possible means of “relief” after suffering far too many for profit private schools’ obvious breach of contract.

It is almost certain that the average American is repulsed at the thought of being scammed, or defrauded, out of any amount of dollars – especially if they had to borrow those dollars with the hope of  improving their future. Trump is firmly behind this act because his so-called “Trump University” epitomized what at least 100,000-plus defrauded students experienced and now have the Herculean task of waiting until 2019 to attempt to “prove the schools deliberately misled them.”  The new rules will not go into effect until 2019, and because DeVos canceled President Obama’s “borrower defense rule” before it was implemented, defrauded students have no recourse.

Although this Trump-DeVos atrocity is not nearly as exciting as the myriad other troubles currently plaguing the criminal in the Oval, it should enrage the population whether they support education or not. It is yet another monumental monetary gift to special interests and that is ire-inspiring in-and-of-itself. But the real outrage is yet another Trump administration “reform” devised to allow special interests to inflict harm on consumers with the full protection of a corrupt federal government that is run by special interests and theocrats.

Trump’s love of tyrants hits “religious freedom” limit

Anyone keeping track of the world leaders Donald Trump has lovingly embraced surely noticed one overriding characteristic and defining trait, they are predominately authoritarian dictators. In addition, the tyrants Trump is enamored with have human rights abuses on their records that seemingly make them more appealing to Trump for the obvious reason that his dream is imposing harsh punishment on the people he regards as enemies.

There is little doubt, at least to this author, that if he believed he could get away with it, Trump would parrot the actions of tyrants such as Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, North Korea’s Kim Jung un, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and of course the tyrant he is most enamored with Vlad Putin. It is beyond doubt that one particular reason Trump is enamored with the aforementioned tyrants is the regularity of their human rights violations, particularly against dissenters.

During the 2016 presidential campaign Trump told supporters at a rally that he’d like to punch a protester in the face, and that he lusted for the “good ole’ days” when protesters could be  carried out on a stretcher.” During one rally he appallingly urged his supporters to “stand ready to knock the crap out of hecklers;” something he would instruct law enforcement to do if he had the same dictatorial authority his favorite tyrants enjoy. Instead, he offered to pay the legal fees of supporters arrested for assaulting peaceful protestors.

One of the tyrants Trump admires, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, must have held a special place in Trump’s black heart because after the terrible Turk  observed his security detail “brutally assault” American protestors in America’s capital, Trump’s silence was tacit approval. His silence also reinforced what many Americans already believed about Trump; an overwhelming desire to allow his vile supporters to “brutally assault”  anti-Trump protestors. It is certainly why he fairly praised white supremacists as “very fine people” after they attacked peaceful protestors in Charlottesville Virginia killing one woman for protesting against Trump’s fascist acolytes.

Trump has been silent about all of his favorite dictators’ record of human rights abuses since his poorly attended inauguration leaving many Americans to wonder what kind of atrocity would inspire Trump to condemn his authoritarian heroes. This week Americans learned there is a limit to Trump’s pleasure in human rights abuses at the hands of tyrants, but that limit was set by his extremist evangelical supporters and the aspiring preacher-in-chief Mike Pence – not any sense of common decency or regard for human rights.

It is telling that Trump condoned Turkish President Erdogan’s security detail viciously assaulting peaceful American protestors on American soil, but he is reportedly incensed at Erdogan for detaining an American evangelical preacher accused of causing dissent. This week, Trump threatened to “impose large sanctions” on Turkey over the detention of evangelical preacher Andrew Brunson. Trump’s threat was on the same day as  Mike “preacher”  Pence’s warning during a “religious freedom” summit. To keep pace with the “religious freedom” crusade to pressure an ally,  the Senate Foreign Relations committee passed legislation that would use America’s influence on the World Bank to withhold financial assistance to Turkey – for as long as the evangelical preacher is being detained.

Of course Turkey’s foreign minister responded to the threats in the same way America responds to threats from religious extremists:

No one dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception.”

The particulars of why preacher Brunson is being held under house arrest are, for the purpose of this screed, primarily irrelevant. Harsh treatment, whether it is being imprisoned or summarily slaughtered, in Turkey has not incurred any untoward comments, much less threats, from the Trump theocrats. But there is a new “international religious freedom” campaign underway and it was during one such confab led by Pence that a tyrant is being reproached by America’s theocrats – over the treatment of one “man of the evangelical faith.”

What is noteworthy is that the Muslim-majority nation charged Brunson with “dividing and separating the majority-Muslim country by spreading his Christian faith.” That is the reason preacher Pence called on “believers across America to pray for Brunson” while warning the sovereign Muslim nation:

That if it does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey – until pastor Andrew Brunson is free. To President Erdogan I have a message on behalf of the president of the United States of America: Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences.”

Trump is no more interested in a tyrant’s aggression toward people in his nation than he is fulfilling the pledge he made to uphold and support the U.S. Constitution during his poorly attended inauguration. If that were the case he would be dispensing threats of “significant sanctions” on all manner of nations including his heroes Kim Jung un, Vlad Putin and Rodrigo Duterte et al for committing real human rights abuses, not just “detaining” an evangelical “man of faith.”

In fact, Trump and Pence had a prime opportunity to deliver threats and warnings against Egypt just recently for sentencing 75 people to death for participating in a “sit-in” in 2013. Just like when Turkey’s president watched his security detail brutally assault American protestors on American soil, Trump and Pence have been silent over a tyrannical nation imposing the death sentence for protesting; because the protestors are Muslims.

This absurd round of threats against a sovereign nation for imposing its own laws is a very bad sign that the Trump administration’s “international religious freedom” crusade has nothing to do with promoting religious freedom internationally. Frankly, it is nearly impossible to have any empathy for an American evangelical preacher who relocates to a majority-Muslim nation to “convert” Muslims to Christianity. For dog’s sake, the evangelicals  championing “religious freedom” in America do not comport Muslim adherents whatsoever, much less if they came from foreign nations to proselytize Christians and convert them to Islam.

It is worth noting that as an American of Armenian descent, this author has little-to-no regard for Turkey or its tyrannical leader – no matter if the country is an American ally. However, Turkey is a sovereign nation and if according to its laws the evangelical preacher violated some statute against using his religion to divide the country, then it is the evangelical’s problem regardless of his nationality. He may enjoy “religious freedom” to ignore and violate the law and U.S. Constitution with impunity in America, but he is not in America. Moreover, regardless of how one views a nation guilty of exterminating 1.2 million Armenians, at least in Turkey “the rule of law is for everyone; no exception.”  If only that were the case in America that was founded on the “rule of law,” it is highly likely the threat of “religious freedom” to impose a theocracy would not exist.

Image: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci