Thursday, June 29, 2017
No one likes paying taxes and the husband an I certainly pay our share - or more than our share per Republican thinking. Yet we realize that the nation needs roads, defense and, yes, to have a social safety net for the less fortunate. We may not be regular churchgoers (gave that up years ago when I realized the Catholic Church leadership was morally bankrupt), but we understand that moral imperative. It seems, however, that most Republicans do not, most especially the party leadership that depicts those receive assistance as lazy and undeserving and living on lavish benefits. As an editorial in the New York Times lays out, such is not the case and much of the GOP agenda is merely based on a big lie when this false premise is stripped away. The true motive becomes greed with a strong dose of racism aimed at those who are "undeserving." The irony is that most welfare recipients and Medicaid beneficiaries are poor whites. Here are editorial highlights:
With the Senate effort to upend Obamacare suspended for the Fourth of July holiday, there’s a chance to step back and examine the assumptions behind Republicans’ longstanding objections to the social safety net — as well as the flaws in those assumptions.
From Ronald Reagan’s invocation of a “welfare queen,” to Mitt Romney’s derision of “takers,” to the House and Senate bills to cut taxes for the rich by taking health insurance away from tens of millions of people, the premise of incessant Republican tax cutting is that the system robs the rich to lavish benefits on the poor.
But here is an essential and overlooked truth: As a share of the economy, federal spending on low-income people, other than for their health care, has been falling steadily since it peaked in 2011, after the Great Recession, and while it’s still slightly above the long-term average, it is declining, according to a recent series of reports by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Mandatory non-health programs like food stamps, earned-income tax credits and Supplemental Security Income for impoverished elderly and disabled people currently equal 1.5 percent of the gross domestic product, only modestly above the 40-year average of 1.3 percent. Moreover, if spending on those programs continues its current downward trend, it will fall below the long-run average by 2024.
Spending on these programs — including housing assistance, worker training and heating aid — equals 0.6 percent of the economy, the lowest level since 1970. If current trends hold, it will fall to 0.5 percent by 2027, the lowest level since 1966.
Spending has risen for Medicaid, which the Senate and House health care bills would slash. But the increase is not the result of generosity or waste. Much of it is from rising nursing home admissions as the population ages. Medicaid insures most nursing home residents — after they have exhausted their savings.
Medical inflation, which usually rises faster than the general inflation rate, also pushes up Medicaid costs. But Medicaid is not driving that inflation. In fact, compared with privately insured care, Medicaid’s costs have risen more slowly over the past decade and its costs per beneficiary are lower, partly because it has no profit margin.
By using Medicaid to cover millions of previously uninsured people, Obamacare chose the most economical and efficient part of the health care system to achieve a historic reduction in the number of uninsured. And by using tax increases on the well-to-do to pay for expanded coverage, the expansion did not add to budget deficits.
[T]otal federal spending on people struggling to get by is projected to hold steady. That is not lavish. And it is not an excuse for tax cuts that deprive tens of millions of people of health insurance.
I cannot help but wonder at the irony: church going evangelicals support this horrific attitude and would be treatment of the sick and poor, while I and other gays who they view as sinful and "degenerate" believe we have a duty to care for the sick, elderly and less fortunate. Who are the ones showing true loyalty to Christ's message?
|Cardinal Pell with Pope Francis|
As has happened in many parts of the world, Australia has seen an ongoing and growing sex abuse scandal involving the Catholic Church and its leadership's systematic cover up of sex crimes against children and youths. While not yet on the scale of what happened in Ireland where the Church's power has collapsed and the country now has a gay prime minister, the problems have been growing. Now, Cardinal George Pell, Australia's highest Catholic cleric has been charged with at least three (3) sex offenses. For many months Pell has been pummeled for his role in cover ups. Now, it seems that Pell may have been a predatory himself. The Sydney Morning Herald reports on this development that one can only hope will put new pressure on the Vatican to clean house of bishops and cardinals involved in the aiding and abetting of predator priests and their subsequent protection. Here are story excerpts:
Cardinal George Pell, Australia's highest ranking Catholic will face at least three serious sex assault charges, including at least one count of rape. Victoria Police has confirmed Cardinal Pell has been charged on summons over multiple allegations against multiple victims and is due to face Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 18 for a filing hearing.
Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton confirmed in a brief press conference that Cardinal Pell had been issued with multiple charges relating to historic sexual abuse allegations. The charges were served on Cardinal Pell's legal representatives in Melbourne on Thursday, Mr Patton said.
Police did not take any questions during the press conference and did not detail what the allegations were. Mr Patton said it was important that due process was followed.
"Preserving the integrity of that process is essential to us all and so for Victoria Police, it is important that it is allowed to go through unhindered and allowed to see natural justice is afforded to all the parties involved, including Cardinal Pell and the complainants in this matter," he said.
All was quiet at Cardinal Pell's Roman residence as the news broke. He lives in a block of apartments on a square just outside the Vatican walls, metres from St Peter's Square, and a minute's walk from the doors to the Basilica.
[T]he announcement is set to send shockwaves through the Catholic Church in Australia and around the world. . . . Cardinal Pell is the third most senior Catholic at the Vatican, where he is responsible for the church's finances.
The charges are likely to force Cardinal Pell to step aside from his Vatican post while he fights the charges. . . . . a legal source told Fairfax Media that the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions, John Champion, has been assessing whether Cardinal Pell should face charges of rape, buggery or indecent assault.
As Australia has no extradition treaty with the Vatican, Cardinal Pell may avoid prosecution should he choose not to return to Victoria, but he is expected to come back to fight the charges.
One can only wonder if and when accessories to child sex crimes within the Church hierarchy will ever be held accountable by the Vatican. I am not holding my breath. Meanwhile, moral people should walk away from Catholicism until a thorough house cleaning takes place against bishops and cardinals involved in sex abuse and sex abuse cover ups.
If there is any part of Virginia that is an economic basket case it is large swaths of Southwest Virginia that comprise a part of Appalachia. Much of the economic malaise derives from the decline of the coal industry. But much also comes, in my view, form the region's social backwardness and religious extremism that keeps new industry from entering the region. The combined result is that young people are fleeing the region, leaving the region inhabited by an increasingly elderly and less educated population. If Congressional Republicans have their way and gut Medicaid, the regions economy will be even more distressed as rural hospitals are forced to close and some of the few large non-coal related employers cease to exist. Two editorial in the Roanoke Times - here and here - suggest that perhaps parts of Appalachia should be allowed to simple become depopulated. The pieces recognize the reality that before the rise of the coal industry, the region was very sparsely populated. A few counties and small cities are trying to embrace education and woo new 21st century businesses. Many, however, are not and the downward spiral, if anything, is accelerating. Here are excerpts:
Here’s an uncomfortable question: Instead of trying to build a new economy in Appalachia, should we simply depopulate the place?
Mind you, that’s not a position we’re advocating. It does, however, make for a sobering thought experiment — one that has some important policy implications.
Here’s who got us thinking about this: A friendly fellow named Lyman Stone who issues some dire warnings. By day, he’s a cotton economist in Washington, concerned with the ups and downs of the global cotton trade. On the side, he runs a website called In A State of Migration, which tracks migration trends around the world. A native of Kentucky, he writes a lot about Appalachia. One of his posts — laden with charts and graphs and maps — shows population trends in Appalachia.
The basic point: Westward settlement mostly bypassed Appalachia, likely for the obvious topographic reasons. From 1800 to 1870, what he calls “the classic core of Appalachia — West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and Southwest Virginia — was mostly empty.
Then something happened. Coal happened. Railroads happened. People — many of them immigrants — poured into Appalachia. Roanoke was not the only boom town to spring up then. So did lots of other communities deeper in coal country.
Between 1870 and 1890, the population of many counties in Southwest Virginia (we’ll just focus on our part of Appalachia) nearly doubled. Over the 20 years after that — between 1890 and 1910 — many nearly doubled again. Wise County’s population more than tripled. From 4,785 in 1870 and 9,345 in 1890, Wise County’s population surged to 34,162 in 1910. The coal boom wasn’t over yet. By 1950 — the year most coal counties in Virginia peaked — Wise County topped out at 56,336. West of the Blue Ridge, only Roanoke was bigger.
Put another way, Appalachia was where the jobs were. Now it’s not.
First, coal-mining became more mechanized. People started moving out decades ago, long before the demand for coal dropped. The collapse of the coal economy has only accelerated that population exodus.
All but one of Virginia’s coal counties is smaller than it was in 1950, sometimes dramatically so. . . . . And their populations will surely continue to decrease for two reasons, one economic, one demographic.
The economic reason: Last year marked the first time that coal was not the nation’s biggest energy source; natural gas surpassed it. Coal will not come back in any appreciable way. The demand of metallurgical coal — used in steel-making — may rebound some, depending on the economy. However, when utilities make decisions on new power plants, they’re looking decades ahead. They are putting their money into natural gas — hence, Dominion Energy’s interest in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — and, to a lesser extent, renewables such as wind and solar. You can’t simply flick a switch and turn coal back on.
The demographic reason why coal counties will continue to lose population: It’s young adults who are leaving. Rural areas in general are getting older, but Appalachian counties even more so. . . . . There is not going to be a baby boom in the coalfields — so all these counties will simply get older and older, which means another way they lose population: Deaths outnumber births. All that’s old news, of course, just a backdrop for getting to this question: How much lower will Appalachia’s population drop? And should we really try to stop that?
So what is Appalachia’s economic future? There are certainly efforts to change the equation. Wise County is now rich with broadband Internet — thanks in part to investments by the state’s tobacco commission — and is now making a play for data centers. It’s already landed one. The University of Virginia’s College at Wise and the community college there are training students for drones and cybersecurity. There are similar efforts in eastern Kentucky to create what some are calling “Silicon Hollow.”
On the other hand, Appalachia is a lot bigger than just one forward-thinking county. And President Trump’s proposed budget zeroes out funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission, the federal agency that makes a lot of that training possible. It also zeroes out funding for the program that converts abandoned mine sites into marketable industrial sites.
Trump has lifted environmental regulations on coal. This helps the coal economy in the short term, but does nothing to change its long-term trajectory in the marketplace. Meanwhile, he is trying to take away the few tools that Appalachia does have to remake its economy. Even with those tools, though, the challenge to create an economy to match its existing population is daunting.
Stone puts it in clinical terms: “The market equilibrium for Appalachian population may be even lower than the levels we see today. I know this will cause deep sadness for locals who long for recovery; and as someone who genuinely loves Appalachia, it does for me too. But we can’t let hopes blind us to realities. On some level, population must be associated with economic activity to support it. Coal mining is still declining, and when it’s completely gone, it’s not clear how much economic activity will remain, and therefore how much population can be sustained.”
So what is the solution - beside Appalachia dropping its religious extremism and bigotry towards those who are :other"? The second o-ed suggests something abhorrent to many whites in Appalachia: immigrants. Here are excerpts from that piece:
In most localities in Southwest Virginia, more people are dying than being born. In 2015, there were about 1,800 babies born in Virginia’s coalfields. But about 2,400 people died.Furthermore, the number of deaths is only going to accelerate in coming years, because there are bigger age cohorts moving into their senior years. Meanwhile, the number of births is probably going to fall, because there are fewer young adults left to have babies.
That means right now the coalfields’ population declines by about 600 people a year just through the natural process of deaths and births — even if nobody moves out. And that annual deficit is likely to increase to 1,300 to 1,800 per year — again, even if nobody moves out. That’s a lot of people to make up.
So what would it take to keep the population of the coal counties even? To stop the population losses entirely? Hold onto your seat.
There is another solution, one that could repopulate the coalfields. It’s a policy that’s been proven to work elsewhere, but isn’t likely to be very popular in Southwest Virginia. Still, we’ll mention it anyway: Immigration.
One of the great ironies of our current political situation is that anti-immigration sentiment runs highest in rural areas, yet it’s rural areas that logically should be the loudest champions for increased immigration.
The United States is not Canada — a little matter in 1776 made sure of that — but there are some things we might learn from our northern neighbor. Rural Canada faces the same demographic pressures that rural America does, yet some Canadian communities have responded very differently.
Consider the case of Cape Breton, the northernmost part of Nova Scotia. It looks and feels a lot like Southwest Virginia — mountainous, with an economy that was once based on coal. Now the coal mines are shut down, and the population is declining. Sound familiar? The problem does but the solution doesn’t: Community leaders there are actively encouraging immigrants to settle in Cape Breton — and the leadership complains when their provincial and federal governments don’t do enough to direct immigrants there.
Not just Cape Breton either. The Calgary Herald recently looked at two small towns in what it called Manitoba’s “Bible Belt”: “In 2011, Winkler’s population stood at 10,700; Morden’s was 7,800. Both cities and the surrounding region have grown by more than 3,000 people since, thanks to immigration programs that have drawn people from all over the world.” The Herald said the two towns were now economically “booming,” as employers are enticed there by the larger talent pool of workers.
Canadians see more clearly than Americans that immigrants drive the economy, not slow it down. So what would it take to reverse the demographic collapse in the coalfields? A baby boom would help. So would increased immigration. Without one or both of those, the coalfields will continue to die, quite literally.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Evan McMullin, the former CIA operations officer who ran as an independent candidate in the 2016 presidential election, has an op-ed in the Washington Post that is less than kind to the Republican Party and Congressional Republicans in particular. The premise of McMullin's piece? That the Republican Party is becoming the party of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Worse yet, they are putting America's democracy at risk - all because they place their party and lining their own pockets ahead of the best interests of the nation. Here are op-ed highlights:
Whether its leaders and members realize it, the Republican Party is at risk of becoming the Vladimir Putin-aligned party in the United States. It can be convincingly argued that it’s already similar to Putin-supported parties in Europe, given Donald Trump’s presidency, the Republican base’s increasingly favorable views of Moscow and the House GOP leadership’s disinterest in investigating and preventing Russian interference.
Increasingly sophisticated Russian influence and cyberoperations threaten Americans’ ability to choose their own leaders. This isn’t hyperbole; in fact, it’s hard to overstate just how serious this issue is. Yet President Trump continues to sow doubt about whether Moscow even interfered in the 2016 presidential elections and to suggest the question’s insignificance by ignoring it all together.
Our commander in chief seems more interested in protecting Moscow than he does in deterring its future attacks. The Post reported that the administration is actually considering allowing the Russian government to reopen the two spy compounds that President Barack Obama closed in late December in response to Russia’s election attack. There are also reports that the White House plans to step up lobbying efforts against a new Russia sanctions bill that the Senate passed with overwhelming bipartisan support this month. The measure would add new financial sanctions and require congressional review before Trump could lift these or other retaliatory measures currently levied against Moscow, including the closing of the two compounds.
Worse, Trump appears to have some support in this from Republican leaders in the House. Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have delayed the bill, citing the constitutional requirement that such bills originate in the House.
This is little more than a red herring. . . . . . Instead, Ryan and McCarthy appear to be more interested in delaying and weakening the bill.
Behind their neglect are changing Republican voter opinions, which are becoming alarmingly more pro-Russian. According to a Morning Consult-Politico poll conducted in May, 49 percent of Republican voters consider Russia to be either an ally or friendly. Only 12 percent consider it an enemy. In 2015, only 12 percent of Republicans held a favorable view of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Gallup.
Because they control both the executive and legislative branches, it is ultimately up to Republican leaders to prevent future Russian attacks on American democracy, even if such attacks may benefit the party electorally. Deterrence is an indispensable part of this equation. It cannot be accomplished without punishing Moscow for its violations of our sovereignty and threatening harsher responses for future trespasses.In passing the Russia sanctions bill, Senate Republicans have shown they understand this. . . . [Trump] simply cannot be trusted to protect the integrity of America’s democracy on his own.
Republican leaders and the party are at a crossroads. They will either choose liberty in an independent America or to serve a distant, foreign master who seeks no more than to enrich and empower himself at the expense of free society everywhere. If Republican leaders choose the latter, the majority of Americans will have no choice but to hold them accountable as opponents to the cause of freedom.
As a piece in New York Magazine argues, the opponents of Der Trumpenführer simple need to just wait and maintain pressure on Congressional Republicans. The piece reminds us that Watergate did not become a presidency ending phenomenon over night. Despite the efforts of Vichy Republicans who would happily turn a blind eye even to Trump's murder of someone in broad day light in the middle of 5th Avenue, if the spotlight remains focused on obstruction and lies and self-dealing, at some point Trump may become too much of a burden for them. We can only hope that that day comes sooner as opposed to later and that Mike Pence gets caught up in the collapse of a presidency that should never have occurred. Here are article highlights:
“Let others wallow in Watergate, we are going to do our job,” said Richard Nixon with typical unearned self-righteousness in July 1973. By then, more than a year had passed since a slapstick posse of five had been caught in a bungled burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex. It had been nine months since Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reported in the Washington Post that the break-in was part of a “massive campaign of political spying and sabotage” conducted by all the president’s men against most of their political opponents. Now the nation was emerging from two solid months of Senate Watergate hearings, a riveting cavalcade of White House misfits and misdeeds viewed live by 71 percent of the public.
Even so, Nixon had some reason to hope that Americans would heed his admonition to change the channel. That summer, the Times reported that both Democratic and Republican congressmen back home for recess were finding “a certain numbness” about Watergate and no “public mandate for any action as bold as impeachment.”
Gallup put the president’s approval rating in the upper 30s, roughly where our current president stands now — lousy, but not apocalyptic. There had yet to be an impeachment resolution filed in Congress by even Nixon’s most partisan adversaries. . . . . Might Tricky Dick pull off another Houdini? He was capable of it, and, as it happened, it would take another full year of bombshells and firestorms after the televised Senate hearings before a clear majority of Americans (57 percent) finally told pollsters they wanted the president to go home. Only then did he oblige them, in August 1974. [A]mong those of us who want Donald Trump gone from Washington yesterday, there’s a fair amount of fear that he, too, could hang on until the end of a four-year term that stank of corruption from the start. Even if his White House scandals turn out to exceed his predecessor’s — as the former director of national intelligence James Clapper posited in early June — impeachment is a political, not a legal, matter, and his political lock on the presidency would seem secure. Unlike Nixon, who had to contend with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, Trump has the shield of a Republican Congress led by craven enablers terrified of crossing their Dear Leader’s fiercely loyal base. That distinction alone is enough to make anti-Trumpers abandon all hope. I’m here to say don’t do so just yet. . . . . . If you look through a sharp Nixonian lens at Trump’s trajectory in office to date, short as it has been, you will discover more of an overlap than you might expect. You will learn that Democratic control of Congress in 1973 was not a crucial factor in Nixon’s downfall and that Republican control of Congress in 2017 may not be a life preserver for Trump. You will find reason to hope that the 45th president’s path through scandal may wind up at the same destination as the 37th’s — a premature exit from the White House in disgrace — on a comparable timeline. The skids of Trump’s collapse are already being greased by some of the same factors that brought down his role model: profound failings of character, disdain for the law (“If the president does it, that means that it is not illegal,” in Nixon’s notorious post-resignation formulation to David Frost), an inability to retain the loyalty of feuding White House aides who will lawyer up to save their own skins (H. R. McMaster may bolt faster than the ultimately imprisoned Nixon chief of staff H. R. Haldeman), and dubious physical health (Trump’s body seems to be bloating in stress as Nixon’s phlebitis-stricken leg did). Further down the road, he’ll no doubt face the desertion of politicians in his own party who hope to cling to power after he’s gone. The American University historian Allan Lichtman, famous for his lonely prediction of Trump’s electoral victory, has followed up that feat with The Case for Impeachment, a book-length forecast of Trump’s doom. The impeachment, he writes, “will be decided not just in the halls of Congress but in the streets of America.” I’d go further to speculate that Trump’s implosion is more likely to occur before there’s an impeachment vote on the floor of the House — as was the case with Nixon. But where Nixon’s exit was catalyzed by an empirical recognition that he’d lost the votes he needed to survive a Senate trial, in Trump’s case the trigger will be his childish temper, not the facts. I suspect he’ll find a way to declare “victory,” blame his departure on a conspiracy by America’s (i.e., his) “enemies,” and vow to fight another day on a network TBA.
But as was also true with Nixon, some time and much patience will be required while waiting for the endgame. The span between Nixon’s Second Inaugural and his resignation was almost 19 months. Trump’s presidency already seems as if it’s lasted a lifetime, but it’s only five months old. Never forget that the Watergate auto-da-fé wasn’t built in a day.
The top three Republicans in America, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are all utterly amoral, if not immoral men. Likewise, all make a pretense of having varying regards for the Christian faith. None, in actuality give a damn for the Christian social gospel as has been strikingly demonstrated first by the GOP House healthcare bill and now the Senate GOP bill which proved so horrific in its impact on millions of Americans that McConnell had to scrape a vote on the nightmare bill this week as previously planned. More time to twist Republican arms will not change the ugliness of the bill or its treatment of virtually millions of Americans as disposable garbage. As for Trump, he continues to lie about the bill to his ignorance embracing base somehow believing they will continue to believe his lies even when their health care coverage evaporates or triples in cost. Hopefully, Trumpcare is moribund. A New York Times looks at the exposure of the GOP's constant lies on health care. Here are excerpts:
Senator Mitch McConnell hoped that keeping his wretched bill to destroy the Affordable Care Act secret until the last minute would make it easier for him to railroad fellow Republicans. The facts the majority leader had hoped to suppress came back to bite him on Monday when the Congressional Budget Office released a detailed review of the bill that confirmed what governors, doctors and indeed the American public had been saying for days: The bill is a cruel hoax that would help the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the poorest.With members of his own party balking at even bringing the measure to the Senate floor, Mr. McConnell announced on Tuesday that a vote would be delayed until after the July 4 recess. A wiser course — for his party as well as the nation — would be to concede defeat and give up what now seems a desperate quest to fulfill a seven-year-old party commitment to kill an Obama-era program that, as it turns out, a large number of Americans would like to see preserved and improved.
The budget office said the measure would leave 22 million more Americans without insurance by 2026. Hit hardest would be lower-income people between the ages of 50 and 64 and people struggling with chronic illness or battling addiction — many of the same voters who believed President Trump’s promises to improve their health care. The bill would cut $772 billion over the next decade from Medicaid, which covers most of America’s poor children and nursing home patients, to help finance tax cuts for the wealthy.
Some Republican senators — Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas — actually complain that the bill is too generous and doesn’t deliver sufficient spending cuts. But others — Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio, Dean Heller of Nevada — have listened to those who are outraged that they’d even consider such a harmful measure.
Mr. McConnell and his allies promoted it with fibs. Mr. McConnell, for instance, claimed it would “strengthen Medicaid.” John Cornyn of Texas said it would “save the people who are currently being hurt.” Some states that would be most deeply hurt by the bill are represented by Republicans who back it. Looking at you, Richard Burr of North Carolina; Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania; and Mr. Cornyn, the majority whip hellbent on forcing a vote this week.
And then there’s Mr. McConnell. Under Obamacare, the majority leader’s home state, Kentucky, experienced one of the biggest reductions in the rate of uninsured people of any state in the nation . . . . Even so, despite all evidence, Mr. McConnell seems determined to impose his will and deny these very same people access to the benefits of Obamacare when he returns to Washington.
What has blocked the bill’s progress on Capitol Hill, at least for now, is that ordinary Americans have begun to pay attention to the facts instead of the fearmongering and falsehoods emanating from the White House and the congressional leadership.
As I have noted before, I do not know how any morally decent person can vote Republican given what the party has become. As for all those Republican voters who flock to church pews each Sunday (seemingly only caring about condemning abortion and gay sex), it is all to obvious that it is all an act. These very same people have forgotten how Christ said one would be judged by how they have treated others. This bill embodies utter moral bankruptcy and a betrayal of Christ's message.
Perhaps it is because I am an attorney and I have enjoyed writing appellate briefs in the past, including one to the Virginia Supreme Court equating anti-gay employment discrimination with impermissible - at least before the age of Der Trumpenführer - religious based employment discrimination (my former law school classmate then on the Court was none too pleased to even have to hear my argument since, I believe she knew I was right). Or perhaps it is because I realize that court rulings have often moved forward the fight for LGBT equality. Whatever the cause, I watch U.S. Supreme Court rulings that impact LGBT issues closely to see what allies or enemies we may have on the Court. As Facebook friend and writer Michelangelo Signorile sets out in a piece in HuffPost, Trump appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch is showing his hand as an enemy of LGBT citizens. More decisions will be coming and it is likely that Gorsuch will put disingenuous "religious liberty" claims - which in essence translate to special rights for Christofascist - ahead of basis civil rights for LGBT Americans. As I always caution people, Hitler could be charming when he wanted to be. That doesn't mean that he wasn't deranged and dangerous. Personal one on one relationships are never guaranteed to be indicative of the lack of animus or contempt that people can hold toward a group as a whole. Here are highlights form Michelangelo's piece:
Back in February, when Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, I wrote a piece: “Why Neil Gorsuch Likely Believes It’s Perfectly Fine To Ban Gay Sex.”
It brought out some Gorsuch defenders, including some of his students (at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where Gorsuch taught) and friends of Gorsuch, who responded to me on Twitter and elsewhere, some angrily, accusing me of wrongly portraying Gorsuch as a homophobe.
In fact, I did nothing of the kind, even pointing to the fact that Gorsuch had a former clerk to whom he reportedly offered support upon the former clerk’s same-sex marriage in 2014. My point was that whether he was a homophobe or not, Gorsuch is a constitutional originalist like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom Gorsuch revered. Scalia based his own opposition to overturning sodomy statutes ― and his other anti-LGBTQ opinions ― on originalism.
[A] New York Times story, [came out] just as the organized campaign for Gorsuch by right-wing groups and the White House was gearing up, [entitled] “Gorsuch, Hard to Pigeonhole On Gay Rights, Friends Say.” I was quoted in the piece:
Just this past week, the gay author and blogger Michaelangelo Signorile published a piece in The Huffington Post headlined: “Why Neil Gorsuch Likely Believes It’s Perfectly Fine to Ban Gay Sex.” In it, he argued that Judge Gorsuch “may be all mild-mannered and cuddly, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t in a heartbeat deny your very existence under the Constitution if you happen to be queer.”
The Times article seemed almost designed to counter those kinds of opinions ― which were based on Gorsuch’s judicial decisions and writings ― by presenting us with Gorsuch’s gay friends, who spoke glowingly of him as a person.
Christian Mammen, described as “a Democrat” and someone who “grew close” to Gorsuch when they were at Oxford together, was referred to in the piece as one of several friends who, rather than viewing Gorsuch as in the mold of Scalia, “wonder if his jurisprudence might be closer to that of Justice Anthony Kennedy who has carved out a name for himself as the court’s conservative defender of gay rights.”
But as I pointed out in a second piece I published later that day in response ― drawing upon the analyses of the highly regarded Supreme Court reporters, Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times and Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio, specifically on the histories of both LGBT rights and originalism at the Supreme Court ― this was naive at best, as Justice Kennedy is not an originalist:
It’s not “everybody” else who has Gorsuch pegged as being like Scalia ― it’s Gorsuch who has willingly, unequivocally pegged himself that way. He gave a major speech about the importance of the late justice and his philosophy last year and, again, publicly adheres, like Clarence Thomas, to Scalia’s philosophy of originalism. Based on that and his decisions, the Times put Gorsuch on a chart as just to the right of Scalia, with only Thomas further to the right. And, much as Gorsuch’s gay friends would like to believe otherwise, Justice Kennedy is not an originalist. In fact, his sound rejection of originalism is what had him lead the court majority in ruling that gays are protected against discrimination in the Constitution, should not be criminalized, and most certainly have the right to marry.
And now we have the proof of just how wrong Gorsuch’s friends were, looking at the actions of the court this week. Gorsuch revealed a dangerous disregard for the Obergefell marriage equality decision, in a 6-3 ruling that overturned an Arkansas law that prevented both parents in a same-sex marriage from being named on the birth certificate when one gives birth to a child ― as is the case for heterosexual marriages in the state.
Gorsuch took pride in writing the dissent, joined by far-right Justices Thomas and Alito, clearly supporting flat out discrimination and ignoring precedent ― something even Justice John Roberts, who dissented in Obergefell but joined the majority in this case, would not do.
Slate legal writer Mark Joseph Stern, noting that Gorsuch is “everything that liberals most feared,” explained how Gorsuch is laying the groundwork to harm or even reverse Obergefell:
On Monday, Gorsuch indicated that he opposes equal rights for same-sex couples, dissenting from a ruling that requires states to list same-sex parents on birth certificates ... That, alone, is startling: In Obergefell v. Hodges, the court held that the Constitution compels states to grant same-sex couples “the constellation” of “rights, benefits, and responsibilities” that “the states have linked to marriage,” including “birth and death certificates.” Obergefell, then, already settled this issue. Gorsuch’s dissent suggests he may not accept Obergefell as settled law and may instead seek to undermine or reverse it.
The court also announced it would take the case of a Colorado baker who was penalized for refusing to serve a gay couple ― a couple that wanted a wedding cake but hadn’t even yet discussed design with the baker, and were turned away when they simply identified they were having a same-sex wedding. Many legal observers believed that when the court didn’t take a similar case a few years ago that involved a wedding photographer in New Mexico, it was deferring to state sovereignty in states like Colorado and New Mexico where LGBT people are protected under state law against discrimination in public accommodations.
It takes four justices for the court to accept a case. It’s hard to believe that Gorsuch is even farther to the right on this issue than Scalia. But Scalia did have a reverence for states’ rights, while Gorsuch seems to have a fetishistic obsession with “religious liberty.” As I’ve described in looking at his opinion on Hobby Lobby while he was a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, he went much further than both Justice Alito, who wrote the Hobby Lobby decision for the Supreme Court, and Kennedy, who wrote a concurring opinion.
Last week I thought that the first case to be the test of the reach of Gorsuch ’s view of religious liberty might be the abominable Mississippi law that a federal appeals court allowed to go into effect ― considered the worst anti-LGBTQ law ever by many LGBTQ activists and legal experts.
But obviously that will likely be the second act, after the Colorado baker case. All of this is part of the long-term strategy I’ve written about, interviewing those on the right and attending their conferences, in which religious conservatives, dealt a blow by Obergefell, will now work ― as they did regarding Roe v. Wade ― to weaken the decision, and try to turn same-sex marriage into second-class marriage.
As for my "friends" who voted for Trump and put this likely nightmare in motion, you are on notice that I WILL hold you personally accountable for the harm done to LGBT citizens. Your laziness in not becoming informed on Trump's promises to Christofascists and/or rote voting Republican are not acceptable excuses. Saying "I did'nt know" or that "things will be alright" simply do not cut it. Do not expect my forgiveness, be cuase it will not be forthcoming.