Friday Reads: America Held Hostage Day 90

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Today’s cartoons come from The.Daily.Don!  Artist Jesse Duquette is the Daily Don: “Documenting this administration each day from the Inauguration to the Election.” They’re wonderful!  Go look at his Instagram page! There’s one for every day we’ve been held hostage by Kremlin Caligula.

This compelling Op Ed written by retired Army officer Sheri Swokowski is another indication that Trump staffs every position with the wrong person. “Trump’s anti-LGBT Army secretary nominee thinks veterans like me have ‘a disease’”

Like Mark Green — President Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Army — I served my country in uniform. I was proud to be an infantry officer and retired honorably after 34 years. But as a transgender member of the military, I hid my authentic self for decades to continue serving the country I love. Unlike Green, I was forced to serve in silence the entire time, but I won’t be silent now.

I respect his Iraq War service as an Army flight surgeon, but the disrespect — the bigotry — he’s shown over and over toward the LGBT community, including LGBT service members, doesn’t reflect the spirit or direction of the military I know. Rather, his selection reflects poorly on the president and our armed forces. He’s the wrong choice to be Army secretary.

As a Tennessee state senator, Green has targeted the LGBT community. He introduced legislation that would enable businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals. At a town hall meeting with his constituents, he expressed support for the idea of his state’s government defying the Supreme Court’s decision upholding marriage equality in all 50 states. He argued being transgender “is a disease.”

Now that he’s been nominated, Green says “politics will have nothing to do” with how he would do the job of Army secretary. Wrong. Leading the Army requires an appreciation for every individual, without exception, and Green wouldn’t have the confidence of the thousands of LGBT soldiers proudly and openly serving today. Every soldier needs to know that those at the top, uniformed and civilian, have their back. But based on the way he has used anti-LGBT politics to advance his career, that’s not him.

The You Tubes I put here will just give you a moment of zen and peace via Scotland.  I’ve been listening to the haunting bagpipe music of my Gaelic ancestors for the last few days and finding some peace.  I thought I’d share.

We’ve always known that Fox News was a basically a nuclear reactor of hate generation. Read this on Marie Claire.

After 15 years of providing legal protection and millions of dollars to his accusers, Fox News finally fired their marquis star, Bill O’Reilly, on Wednesday. In an age when a self-proclaimed “pussy-grabber” occupies the Oval Office, any public consequences for harassing women feel particularly significant. And this move was particularly satisfying for me—just a few years ago, O’Reilly sent a tidal wave of harassment my way.

On May 31, 2009, an anti-abortion zealot murdered abortion provider George Tiller. At the time, I was 21 years old and working as a counselor at an abortion clinic in Philadelphia. Dr. Tiller’s murder drove a hot spike of fear and anxiety through my entire body. I walked through anti-abortion protestors a few times a week to get to work; I found their gruesome signs annoying, but not threatening. But Dr. Tiller’s assassination forced me to confront the terrifying reality that my co-workers and I faced more than just screams. We could actually get killed for providing people with legal, safe, and compassionate medical care.

My boyfriend walked me to work the next day, a sweet but feeble attempt to shield me from the protestors. What could he actually do if one of them had a gun? Inside, my coworkers and I gathered to talk about how we felt. As I listened to each person share why they were still so committed to this work despite the danger, I wondered what it would be like for our stories and motivations to be shared in a bigger way. One colleague made a comment about all of us being Dr. Tiller now, and I texted my boyfriend—did he know how to make a website? And how much work would it take?

We stayed up all night with him writing code and me writing content for IAmDrTiller.com. The next day, I told my coworkers to take photos with a sign that said “I Am Dr. Tiller,” and asked them to email me their own explanation of why they provide abortion care. My boss sent the website around to other abortion providers, and overnight I received dozens of submissions from abortion-clinic staff all over the country. Somehow, conservative media got wind of the website, and on June 10, Bill O’Reilly discussed the project on his show.

Read the story of how O’Reilly basically ginned up a group of crazy domestic terrorists to stalk, harass and haunt here.  I’ve been at the receiving end of attacks from those freaks.  They’re an ugly, mean, nasty, and hateful lot.

President Obama will be giving a speech in Chicago after spending a lot of time resting in the tropics. I’d personally like to hear why we didn’t get all this T-Russia information back last summer from him.  I believe we’re owed an explanation but I will take a little bit of hope and a lot of change talk.  I could use it.

Former President Barack Obama will return to Chicago on Monday to speak to young people at the University of Chicago, in what will be his first public event since leaving the White House.

Obama and young leaders will hold a conversation on civic engagement and discuss community organizing at the university’s Logan Center for the Arts, his office announced Friday.

Hundreds of people are expected to attend, chosen from area universities that were given tickets for distribution, said Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for the former president. About six young people will appear on stage with him for the 11 a.m. discussion, Lewis said.

The event will be a homecoming for Obama on multiple levels. He formerly taught constitutional law at the U. of C. and his family has a home nearby in the Kenwood neighborhood. It also lets the former president, who came to Chicago to work as a young community organizer, fulfill one of the commitments he set out for his post-presidential years: to engage and work with the country’s next generation of leaders, Lewis said.

One SCOTUS decision could do serious damage to the First Amendment. Will this SCOTUS destroy Church/State Seperation?

One of the many travesties endemic in a government controlled by Republicans is that the evangelical right now has the full weight and force of the federal government to institute a theocracy. Now that religious conservatives control the Supreme Court with Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the bench, they have an instant ally to achieve the Dominionist movement’s highest priorities: tearing down any and all constitutional barriers between church and state.

Yesterday, in a case the High Court’s conservatives postponed for 15 months wishing and hoping for an evangelical majority, they heard oral arguments in a case very few Americans are aware of. The people should be terrified because a ruling for theocracy will effectively demolish church-state separation and completely neuter the First Amendment’s religious clauses. And it will force every taxpayer to fund religious organizations; like it or not.

This one case will have far reaching effects on every American, and every facet of government, that will make the Hobby Lobby, Voting Rights, and Citizens United rulings seem petty and insignificant in comparison. Sadly, due to the media, including the cowards in the liberal media, and their resistance to reporting the rash of evangelical legislation they claim are simply born of “conservative ideology,” most Americans are clueless as to what is awaiting them; a High Court ruling establishing a veritable evangelical theocracy.

The case, “Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer,” is about forcing Missouri taxpayers to fund upgrading a church school’s playground despite a state and federal prohibition against it. Even though there is a long-standing Constitutional statute against using taxpayer money to fund religious organizations, Missouri is one several states that enshrined the same prohibition in its state Constitution. Still, the “churches” cried foul and claimed that if taxpayers fund public schools, then they damn sure better start funding religious schools and organizations.

One might think that churches earning well-over $82.5 billion annually (in 2013) from taxpayers subsidizing religious non-profits (churches) was enough welfare for the “charitable Christians.” Add to that staggering annual figure the $41.7 billion in annual payments (in 2004) in welfare from Bush’s “faith-based initiative” programs. Money well spent according to W. Bush who wanted the taxpayer’s money to “save one soul at a time.” Still, even that unconstitutional abomination didn’t satisfy their greed for more taxpayer money and more control over government. And, the sad truth is that tearing down the barrier between church and state will set a Constitutional precedent allowing evangelicals to do so much more than just force taxpayers to support their “ministries.”

Since before America was a nation, the Founding Fathers were preparing, and went to great lengths, to keep religion out of government. The concept of not funding, or legislating according to evangelicalism, is not a new idea.

I hold this near and dear as the descendant of Hugenot French who fled the Alsace Lorraine/Rhinelands area as Jews and Protestants being forcefully removed and slaughtered at the behest of the Roman Catholic Church.  The parts of my family who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution made a refuge for folks suffering from state-sanctioned religious persecution.  I’d hate to see us dump on this most important right.

Speaking of Judges, have you ever heard an AG attack one plus show his geography ignorance simultaneously?  I’m willing to bet I can find second and third graders that know Hawaii is a state and is composed of quite a few islands too.  Isn’t this a MaCaCa moment?

The ability of federal judges to strike down actions taken by Congress or the executive branch if they’re deemed unconstitutional is a hallmark of the American system of government. It’s an important part of the system of checks and balances, ensuring that the president and legislators don’t acquire too much power.

But to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, it’s “amazing” — and he means that in a bad way.

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” Sessions told conservative radio host Mark Levin during an interview Tuesday (as reported by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski on Thursday). “The judges don’t get to psychoanalyze the president to see if the order he issues is lawful. It’s either lawful or it’s not.”

The “judge sitting on an island in the Pacific” in question is District of Hawaii judge Derrick Watson, who ruled in March against the Trump administration’s attempt to temporarily ban residents of six majority-Muslim countries and nearly all refugees from entering the US. (Watson’s ruling is just a temporary injunction while the lawsuit against the ban, brought by states including Hawaii, gets a full hearing in court; the Trump administration is appealing Watson’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and appealing a separate ruling against the ban, issued in Maryland, to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.)

Sessions’s remark has gotten a lot of attention as an attack on the state of Hawaii (not least because it fits a little too easily in a long tradition of racist dog-whistling about the “foreignness” of nonwhite and specifically Pacific Islander Americans), but it’s part of a broader attack from Republicans on the “liberal Ninth Circuit” as a whole — and the first indication that not only President Trump, but his chief law enforcement officer, is uneasy with the idea of judicial review itself.

Daily Don april 16.pngBut Sessions has decided to place the spying blame Julian Assange and flutter his little hands and air his squeaky little Tennessee Crackcer voice to keep the attention off his boss and off all those meetings with Russians of his own.

The arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now a “priority” for the US, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has said.

Hours later it was reported by CNN that authorities have prepared charges against Assange, who is currently holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Donald Trump lavished praise on the anti-secrecy website during the presidential election campaign – “I love WikiLeaks,” he once told a rally – but his administration has struck a different tone.

Asked whether it was a priority for the justice department to arrest Assange “once and for all”, Sessions told a press conference in El Paso, Texas, on Thursday: “We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks. This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious.”

He added: “So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”

Citing unnamed officials, CNN reported that prosecutors have struggled with whether the Australian is protected from prosecution by the first amendment, but now believe they have found a path forward. A spokesman for the justice department declined to comment.

Barry Pollack, Assange’s lawyer, denied any knowledge of imminent prosecution. “We’ve had no communication with the Department of Justice and they have not indicated to me that they have brought any charges against Mr Assange,” he told CNN. “They’ve been unwilling to have any discussion at all, despite our repeated requests, that they let us know what Mr Assange’s status is in any pending investigations. There’s no reason why WikiLeaks should be treated differently from any other publisher.”

We’re all still wondering why Jason Chaffetz is exiting stage left with intense speed. What’s he running from exactly?

Jason Chaffetz is so ambitious that his last name is a verb.

In the political world, to Chaffetz means to throw a former mentor under the bus in order to get ahead, and various prominent Republicans, from former Utah governor and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. to House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, have experienced what it’s like to get Chaffetzed. But the five-term Utah Republican and powerful chairman of the House oversight committee shocked Washington on Wednesday when he announced he would not seek reelection in 2018 or run for any other political office that year in order to spend more time with his family.

“I am healthy. I am confident I would continue to be re-elected by large margins,” he said in a statement. “I have the full support of Speaker [Paul] Ryan to continue as Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That said, I have made a personal decision to return to the private sector.”

His surprise announcement has fueled speculation of a possible scandal, though Chaffetz told Politico there’s nothing to the rumors about a skeleton in his closet: “I’ve been given more enemas by more people over the last eight years than you can possibly imagine… If they had something really scandalous, it would’ve come out a long, long time ago.”

Louise Mensch thinks the Russians have Kompromat. Twitter rumors say that he’s been having multiple affairs.  (Who would fuck a man with a face like that?)

Okay, so I’m still thinking of planning an escape somewhere but meanwhile I’m here in the swamp with the Bagpipes wailing. I’m thinking I should get a set and practice at odd hours of the morning in front of the Air BnBs and the owners of my local nuisance bar. I’d be as unskilled as any of the musicians they hire for pennies there and at least as bad. One thing is certain that Scotland may look better than France if Marie LePen wins.

Have a great weekend! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  The music above is beautiful.  Give it an ear or two.


The Three R’s: Religion, Racism, and Republicans

Klansmen file into an Atlanta church in 1949 to attend Sunday evening services

Klansmen file into an Atlanta church in 1949 to attend Sunday evening services

 Good Thursday Afternoon!!

Christmas is just a week away; and, I’ll be honest, I’ll be glad when it’s all over. Of course there’s still New Year’s to deal with, but then we can get back to “normal,” such as it is. But will life ever feel truly normal to me again?

This morning I was thinking back over the devolution of the Republican Party during my lifetime. The first president I remember was Dwight Eisenhower. He was boring and he led the way for future GOP leaders in bringing religion into the public sphere; he initiated the “national prayer breakfast,” added “under God” to the pledge of allegiance, and “In God We Trust” to our currency. He formed a close relationship with the Rev. Billy Graham, who served as an adviser to Eisenhower’s campaign and his administration. However, he did preside over a healthy economy and improvements in America’s infrastructure.

The next Republican president was Richard Nixon. Nixon was also close to Billy Graham and Graham was a regular in Nixon’s White House. He continued Eisenhower’s prayer breakfast “tradition.” He began the overtly racist “Southern strategy” in order to attract Dixiecrats to switch parties; and thus Nixon began the politics of resentment and hatred of “the other” that dominate the GOP today.

Church-and-State

Gerald Ford was religious, but didn’t try to impose his beliefs on the rest of us, but his Democratic successor Jimmy Carter was a “born again Christian” whose public religiosity may have encouraged Republicans to continue linking politics and religion.

Ronald Reagan was apparently not deeply religious, but he attracted support from the growing religious right groups and often talked publicly about God and Christianity, especially after he was shot in 1981. Once again Billy Graham was a fixture in the White House and Reagan used religion as a political tool.

In 1982, Reagan supported a constitutional amendment to allow voluntary school prayer. A year later he awarded the Rev. Billy Graham the Presidential Medal of Freedom and proclaimed 1983 the “Year of the Bible.” He called on Americans to join him: “Let us take up the challenge to reawaken America’s religious and moral heart, recognizing that a deep and abiding faith in God is the rock upon which this great nation was founded.”

Reagan also used racism, of course. He even announced his run for the presidency with a speech supporting “states rights” in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were murdered because they were trying to register African American voters in 1964. William Raspberry in the Washington Post in 2004:

It was bitter symbolism for black Americans (though surely not just for black Americans). Countless observers have noted that Reagan took the Republican Party from virtual irrelevance to the ascendancy it now enjoys. The essence of that transformation, we shouldn’t forget, is the party’s successful wooing of the race-exploiting Southern Democrats formerly known as Dixiecrats. And Reagan’s Philadelphia appearance was an important bouquet in that courtship.

I don’t accuse Reagan of racism, though while he served, I did note what seemed to be his indifference to the concerns of black Americans — issues ranging from civil rights enforcement and attacks on “welfare queens” to his refusal to act seriously against the apartheid regime in South Africa. He gets full credit from me for the good things he did — including presiding over the end of international communism. But he also legitimized, by his broad wink at it, racial indifference — and worse.

His political progeny include Trent Lott, who got caught a while back praising the overtly segregationist 1948 presidential candidacy of Strom Thurmond, and, I suspect, many Lott soul mates in the current Republican congressional majority.

Today’s Republican majority in the House and Senate is probably far more racist (as well as right wing “Christian”) than the one Raspberry referred to in 2004.

religion politics

George H.W. Bush and his son George W. Bush continued the Republican tradition of race baiting and using right wing fundamentalists–who had by then grown very influential in politics–to get votes.

When George W. Bush was in the White House, I couldn’t imagine this trend could actually get worse. But here we are today in a presidential race in which all of the GOP candidates are campaigning on hate and fear of “the other” and using fundamentalist religious beliefs to fan the flames.

 The leading Republican candidate for president Donald Trump has actually said in a primary debate on national TV that as president he would kill the families of suspected terrorists in order to prevent attacks, and not many media talking heads have expressed shock about it.

Trump wants to round up 12 million undocumented immigrants, put them on buses and drop them off at the Mexican border. He wants to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. and he thinks he can shut down “parts of the internet” to keep potential terrorists from using it.

Another leading candidate, Ted Cruz, said on Tuesday night that as president he would “carpet bomb” any place where ISIS holds territory. Cruz is the favored candidate of fundamentalist “Christians.”

Both Trump’s and Cruz’s proposed actions would constitute war crimes.

Religion

The other candidates are horrible too. For example, Chris Christie has now said twice on national TV that he would shoot down a Russian plane that entered a no-fly zone.

How have we come to this? I can see the progression in my lifetime. What can we do to break the stranglehold of right wing religious extremism and intolerance on the Republican Party? The only thing I can think of is to elect Democrats to the White House, Congress, and State Houses. If we don’t, we’re on the road to fascism.

Interesting Reads for Thursday

A crazy article from the WaPo: ‘Unfriending’ Trump supporters is just another example of how we isolate ourselves online.

Think Progress: Trump Answers Question About Affordable Child Care By Mocking The Questioner.

CNN: Putin praises ‘bright and talented’ Trump.

WaPo: Pentagon chief’s use of personal email will prompt Senate review.

ABC News: Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli Arrested for Securities Fraud.

NYT: Fact Checking Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio on Immigration.

Politifact: Ted Cruz misfires on definition of ‘carpet bombing’ in GOP debate.

ABC News: Carly Fiorina Digs in on Claim That General’s Retirement Was Due to Obama Dispute

Christian Science Monitor: Why are non-Muslim women wearing the hijab?

ABC News: AP Interview: McConnell Suggests New Look at Patriot Act.

NBC News: Criminal Charges to Be Brought Against Enrique Marquez, Ex-Neighbor of San Bernardino Shooters.

Kevin Drum: Strike Two for Pair of New York Times Reporters.

I posted about this guy awhile back. The Cut: Millionaire Cleared of Rape Charge After Claiming He Tripped and His Penis Fell Into Teen.

The Atlantic: Lessons From the Mistrial in the Freddie Gray Case.

What stories are you following today? Or are you just too busy getting ready for the upcoming holidays? Either way, have a terrific Thursday!


Fourth of July Reads

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Good Morning!!

Today we celebrate the Declaration of Independence. I’ve assembled a few informational readings about this day in history.

From The Cagle Post: Fourth of July Fast Facts.

“I’m confused. I thought July 4 was the day our country declared independence from King George III of Great Britain.”

“Actually, according to ConstitutionFacts.com, that’s not so. The Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776.”

“Then why do we celebrate our independence on the Fourth every year? Is that when we started the American Revolution?”

“That is a common misunderstanding, as well. The American Revolution began in April 1775, more than a year earlier.”

“I’m stumped. Was the Fourth the day Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence?”

“Nope. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft in June 1776. Also, Jefferson didn’t write the Declaration alone.”

“He didn’t? I always thought he was the sole author.”

“A common misconception. In fact, the Continental Congress appointed a five-person to write the Declaration. It included Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman.” ….

“Though Jefferson wrote the first draft, it was changed 86 times by other members of the committee and other members of the Continental Congress.”

I did not know that.

liberty1

David Armitage at The Wall Street Journal: The Declaration of Independence: The Words Heard Around the World.

The Declaration of Independence is the birth certificate of the American nation—the first public document ever to use the name “the United States of America”—and has been fundamental to American history longer than any other text. It enshrined what came to be seen as the most succinct and memorable statement of the ideals on which the U.S. was founded: the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; the consent of the governed; and resistance to tyranny.

But the Declaration’s influence wasn’t limited to the American colonies of the late 18th century. No American document has had a greater impact on the wider world. As the first successful declaration of independence in history, it helped to inspire countless movements for independence, self-determination and revolution after 1776 and to this very day. As the 19th-century Hungarian nationalist, Lajos Kossuth, put it, the U.S. Declaration of Independence was nothing less than “the noblest, happiest page in mankind’s history.”

In telling this story of global influence, however, it is important to separate two distinct elements of the Declaration—elements that sometimes get conflated. The first of these is the assertion of popular sovereignty to create a new state: in the Declaration’s words, the right of “one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” The second and more famous element of the Declaration is its ringing endorsement of the sanctity of the individual: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

Read much more at the link.

Declaration-of-Independence-broadside-1776-Jamestown-Yorktown-Foundation2

From the LA Times: The slow-spreading news of American independence.

In this era of instant communication, it’s interesting to note the slow distribution of the Declaration, and the spreading of the word to those on whose behalf independence had been declared. (Imagine the Twitter version: Dudes, we’re on our own. #independence #totallyrad #stickitkinggeorge).

The text was set in type by Philadelphia printer John Dunlap just hours after the Continental Congress approved the manifesto on July 4. He ran off about 200 copies, most of which were then distributed via horse and boat around the Colonies. He reprinted it in his own newspaper, Dunlap’s Pennsylvania Packet, or The General Advertiser (great newspaper names back then). Over the next few weeks, Jefferson’s stirring words were reprinted inlocal newspapers and pamphlets around the Colonies.

And, naturally, in Britain. It took more than a month for the first reports of the Declaration to reach Britain in letters ferried by the Mercury packet ship. Gen. William Howe, who was leading the crown’s forces in the Colonies, included a brief mention in his report to his overseers. So the first public airing of the news came in the London Gazette, the crown’s official paper. If you weren’t a close reader, you could have easily missed it.

In the four-page issue dated Aug. 6-Aug. 10, 1776, the Gazette’s lead story was Howe’s update of the war, reporting that “the Rebels, who are numerous, and are very advantageously posted with strong Entrenchments both upon Long Island and that of New York, with more than One Hundred pieces of Cannon for the Defence of the Town towards the Sea, and to obstruct the passage of the [British] Fleet up the North [Hudson] River, besides a considerable Field Train of artillery.”

Finally, Carina Kolodny at Huffington Post: This Is Not Your Independence Day.

The 4th of July might commemorate the independence of our country — but it also serves as a bitter reminder that in 1776, the country that I love had no place for me in it.

When our founding fathers penned, “All men are created equal,” they meant it. Not all people. Not all humans. Just all men — the only reason they didn’t feel obliged to specify “white” men is because, at the time, men of color were considered less than men, less than human.

The 4th is not my Independence Day — and if you’re a Caucasian woman, it isn’t yours either. Our “independence” didn’t come for another 143 years, with the passage of The Woman’s Suffrage Amendment in 1919. The 4th of July is also not Independence Day for people of color. It wasn’t until the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870 that all men had the right to vote regardless of race — on paper, that is, not in practice. People of color were systematically, and all too successfully, disenfranchised for another century. July 4th of 1776 was certainly not a day of Independence or reverence for Native Americans. It wasn’t until 1924 that Native Americans could unilaterally become citizens of the United States and have the voting rights to go with it.

Now, before anyone argues that Independence is about more than voting rights, I’d like to point out that our Founding Fathers would fundamentally disagree with you. The Revolutionary War was fought, in large part, because of “taxation without representation” — the then English colonists believed they were not free because their voices were not represented. The right to vote, the right to have your say is the delineating characteristic of a democracy.

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The Aftermath of the Hobby Lobby Decision

On that note, today many concerned citizens are looking back at the latest Supreme Court decisions that take women backwards in their pursuit of freedom and autonomy. The court-approved limits on access to birth control go beyond the Hobby Lobby decision. Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog: Broader right to object to birth control.

Expanding the rights of religious opponents of birth control, a divided Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon spared an Illinois college — and maybe hundreds of other non-profit institutions — from obeying government regulations that seek to assure access to pregnancy prevention services for female workers and students.  In the same order, the majority essentially told the government to modify its own rules if it wants to keep those services available.

Three Justices wrote a sharply worded dissent, accusing the majority of creating on its own a “new administrative regime” that will seriously complicate the operation of the birth control mandate under the new federal health care law.  The majority, the dissenters said, “has no reason to think that the administrative scheme it foists on the government today is workable or effective on a national scale.”

The ruling, which the majority insisted was temporary and had settled nothing finally about the legal issues at stake, came three days after the Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby had given for-profit businesses whose owners have religious objections to birth control a right to refuse to provide those services in their employee health plans.

The plea by Wheaton College, a religious institution in Illinois with about 3,000 students, moved the Court beyond for-profit firms to the world of non-profit religious colleges, hospitals, and other charities.  The government had already moved to accommodate their beliefs, but that had not gone far enough for the college and for scores of other non-profits.  With the Court’s new order, they gained additional separation from the birth-control mandate.

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum writes: Supreme Court Now Playing Cute PR Games With Hobby Lobby Decision.

For the last few days, there’s been a broad argument about whether the Hobby Lobby ruling was a narrow one—as Alito himself insisted it was—or was merely an opening volley that opened the door to much broader rulings in the future. After Tuesday’s follow-up order—which expanded the original ruling to cover all contraceptives, not just those that the plaintiffs considered abortifacients—and today’s order—which rejected a compromise that the original ruling praised—it sure seems like this argument has been settled. This is just the opening volley. We can expect much more aggressive follow-ups from this court in the future.

POSTSCRIPT: It’s worth noting that quite aside from whether you agree with the Hobby Lobby decision, this is shameful behavior from the conservatives on the court. As near as I can tell, they’re now playing PR games worthy of a seasoned politico, deliberately releasing a seemingly narrow opinion in order to generate a certain kind of coverage, and then following it up later in the sure knowledge that its “revisions” won’t get nearly as much attention.

At Slate, , and  explain that Hobby Lobby rewrites religious-freedom law in ways that ignore everything that came before.

Monday’s decision in Hobby Lobby was unprecedented. Much of the commentary has focused on the Supreme Court’s decision to extend rights of religious free exercise to for-profit corporations. Hobby Lobby is for religion what Citizens United was for free speech—the corporatization of our basic liberties. But Hobby Lobby is also unprecedented in another, equally important way. For the first time, the court has interpreted a federal statute, theReligious Freedom Restoration Act (or RFRA), as affording more protection for religion than has ever been provided under the First Amendment. While some have read Hobby Lobby as a narrow statutory ruling, it is much more than that. The court has eviscerated decades of case law and, having done that, invites a new generation of challenges to federal laws, including those designed to protect civil rights.

The authors explain how the right wing Roberts Court has moved beyond any concern for legal precedent in making its decisions.

Hobby Lobby is unprecedented because it corporatizes religious liberty. It extends to for-profit businesses the rights and privileges that have long been associated only with churches and religious nonprofits. But that change is the result of a more pervasive and deeper upending of the law of religious liberty in America. Ignoring congressional intent, the court reads RFRA as having shed its First Amendment skin. It is not entirely clear what American law will look like after that change. But if anything is clear, it is that the Roberts Court is now unconstrained by precedent. It has loosened itself from decades of First Amendment doctrine and has begun remaking the law of free exercise.

Please read the whole thing.

Ironically, the Hobby Lobby decision may have also created some serious problems for the human beings who own corporations (h/t Dakinikat). From Mother Jones: How Hobby Lobby Undermined The Very Idea of a Corporation. Basically, now that SCOTUS has said that some corporations are inseparable from the people who own them, those owners could lose their legal protection from debts and lawsuits that result from corporate actions. There’s some instant Karma for you!

In Other News

A few more links for your holiday reading pleasure:

Miami Herald: FBI records: Chilling find in Bradenton dumpster (new clues to Saudi involvement in the 9/11 and the cover-up of that involvement by the Bush/Cheney administration).

Study links Oklahoma earthquake swarm with fracking operations 

Boston Globe: People prefer electric shocks to time alone with thoughts.

LA Times: Tibetans get high-altitude edge from extinct Denisovans’ genes.

What stories are you following on this Independence Day?

 


Rick Santorum “Almost Threw Up” after Reading JFK Speech on Separation of Church and State

The quote comes from a speech Santorum gave last October at the College of Saint Mary Magdalen in Warner, New Hampshire:

“Earlier in my political career I had opportunity to read the speech, and I almost threw up.”

How nice of him to share. This morning on This Week, George Stephanopoulos asked Santorum why JFK’s speech made him feel like throwing up. Here’s his reply:

Because the first line, first substantive line in the speech says, “I believe in America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.

This is the First Amendment. The First Amendment says the free exercise of religion. That means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square. Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, no, faith is not allowed in the public square. I will keep it separate. Go on and read the speech. I will have nothing to do with faith. I won’t consult with people of faith. It was an absolutist doctrine that was abhorrent (ph) at the time of 1960. And I went down to Houston, Texas 50 years almost to the day, and gave a speech and talked about how important it is for everybody to feel welcome in the public square. People of faith, people of no faith, and be able to bring their ideas, to bring their passions into the public square and have it out.

As most minimally educated Americans know, Kennedy’s speech on his religion is considered one of the great speeches of the 20th Century. On September 12, 1960, in Houston, Texas, Kennedy spoke to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in an effort to calm the fears of Protestants who believed that a Catholic President would take orders from the Vatican or other members of the Church hierarchy.

I remember watching the speech on TV. It was a big deal for Kennedy and for Catholics generally. In 1960, Catholics were considered a little weird, and many people even insisted they weren’t Christians. The speech was a success, and Kennedy went on to become the first Catholic President of the U.S.

But according to Rick Santorum, who apparently didn’t get a very good education at Penn State or Dickinson College Law School, Kennedy was opposing the First Amendment. More from This Week:

…to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case? That makes me throw up and it should make every American who is seen from the president, someone who is now trying to tell people of faith that you will do what the government says, we are going to impose our values on you, not that you can’t come to the public square and argue against it, but now we’re going to turn around and say we’re going to impose our values from the government on people of faith, which of course is the next logical step when people of faith, at least according to John Kennedy, have no role in the public square.

Of course Kennedy said no such thing. He was trying to assure Americans that he (Kennedy) would never impose his own religious beliefs on other Americans. Did Santorum actually read the speech? I doubt it. Either he didn’t read past the first line or he’s just mouthing propaganda he heard from someone like James Dobson. On the other hand, I get the feeling that Santorum would very happily impose his religious beliefs on the rest of us–which is a very scary thought.

Let’s take a look at what Kennedy actually said. He began by arguing that the country had much more important problems than the question of his religion:

While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that I believe that we have far more critical issues in the 1960 campaign; the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers only 90 miles from the coast of Florida — the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power — the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctors bills, the families forced to give up their farms — an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space. These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues — for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barrier.

But Kennedy understood that the religious issue had become a distraction and wanted to deal with it up front, once and for all.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

Kennedy then argued that while “the finger of suspicion” was “pointed” at him in 1960, the next time it could be someone of another religion and this kind of questioning of each others’ religious beliefs could lead someday to “the whole fabric of our harmonious society [being] ripped apart at a time of great national peril.” Imagine if he could see what has happened to this country 50 years after that day in Houston!

Kennedy continued:

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end, where all men and all churches are treated as equals, where every man has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice, where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind, and where Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, at both the lay and the pastoral levels, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe, a great office that must be neither humbled by making it the instrument of any religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding it — its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation, nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

One wonders how Rick Santorum would react to a presidential candidate who was a Muslim. Kennedy notes that he and his brother fought in WWII to preserve this freedom.

This is the kind of America I believe in — and this is the kind of America I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we might have a divided loyalty, that we did not believe in liberty, or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened — I quote — “the freedoms for which our forefathers died.”

Did Rick Santorum go into battle and risk his life for his country? I think not. His battle is with an invisible enemy: “Satan.”

Rereading Kennedy’s speech calls attention to the fact that the separation of church and state has broken down since his day. Kennedy asked the assembled ministers to

judge me on the basis of 14 years in the Congress, on my declared stands against an Ambassador to the Vatican, against unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, and against any boycott of the public schools — which I attended myself.

We now have an ambassador to the Vatican, the government provides aid to Catholic schools through voucher programs, and we have a White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Parnerships which, under Bush at least, funded religious-based abstinence programs. While Kennedy said he wouldn’t consult from religious leaders, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have both done so, most recently when Obama met with Catholic Bishops about his contraception policy. Kennedy:

I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President, if I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject, I will make my decision in accordance with these views — in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

Kennedy went on to say that if the day ever came

when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do likewise.

Those are the sentiments that made Rick Santorum “almost throw up.” What more do you need to know about this man? He is not fit to serve as dogcatcher, let alone hold high public office. Below is video of Kennedy’s speech.