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Archive for February, 2014|Monthly archive page

FANATICS AS VICTIMS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 28, 2014 at 12:05 am

Chicago radio host and former Illinois Republican Congressman Joe Walsh knows why Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona Senate Bill 1062.

“The LGBT community has become nothing more than a group of constitutional terrorists,” tweeted Walsh.

Nor was that all Walsh had to say on Twitter.

“Stop saying she vetoed an ‘anti-gay bill.’  Stop distorting reality to advance your liberal agenda, media.”

“ObamasAmerica, where Christians must participate in gay weddings and Catholics forced to pass out birth control like communion.”

Joe Walsh

The legislation had been passed by the Republican-controlled State House and Senate.  It would have:

  • Allowed business owners to turn away gay and lesbian customers.
  • Allowed employers to deny equal pay to women.
  • Allowed individuals to renege on contract obligations.

And all of these actions would have been legally protected–so long as “sincere religious belief” was cited  as the reason.

The legislation was written by the Right-wing advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian legal organization, Alliance Defending Freedom.

Gays and their supporters reacted by threatening a legal business and tourism boycott of Arizona.  And the business community and its supporters, alarmed, took notice:

  • Large businesses–such as Apple, American Airlines, AT&T, Delta Airlines, Verizon and Intel–publicly opposed the measure.
  • With Super Bowl XLIX scheduled to be played in 2015 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee expressed concerns.
  • Arizona’s United States Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake publicly urged Brewer to veto the measure, citing worries about the economic impact on the state’s businesses.

Faced with a choice between monetary greed and ideological fanaticism, Governor Brewer chose to veto the legislation–and forestall a costly boycott.

During the 12-year insanity of the Third Reich, Nazis labeled their acts of aggression as “self-defense.”  But they denounced acts of self-defense by others against Nazi assault or terror as “naked aggression.”

American Fascists who anticipated becoming victimizers now similarly claim themselves to be victims.  Among their rants:

  • “CNN led full court media press to take away rights of Christians. Just the beginning. Using tolerance as weapon against us. Wake up.”  –John Nolte (@NolteNC)
  • “Not sure what the GOP stands for when it stands against religious freedom out of pure fear of political correctness.”  –Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro)
  • “Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer makes Christians in her state second class citizens.” –toddstarnes (@toddstarnes)
  • “A sad day for Arizonans who cherish and understand religious liberty.” –The Center for Arizona Policy 
  • “Freedom loses when fear overwhelms facts and a good bill is vetoed. Today’s veto enables the foes of faith to more easily suppress the freedom of the people of Arizona.”  –Alliance Defending Freedom

American Rightists believed they had a God-given right to withhold their business services from gays and lesbians.

But they considered it unfair and even demonic for gays and their supporters to withhold monies from discriminatory Arizona businesses.

The Right had suffered a similar reversal-of-discrimination misfortune in 2012.

Karen Handel, vice president of public affairs for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, had it all worked out.

She had fashioned what she believed was a politically viable plan for Komen to pull its grant monies from Planned Parenthood (PP).

Karen Handel

She didn’t care that this money went entirely for breast cancer screenings for poor women.  What she did care about was that about 3% of all PP revenues went toward providing abortion services.

Since being hired by Komen as vice president of public affairs, in April, 2011, Handel had been pushing to drop PP from grants.  More than anyone else at Komen, she was the driving force behind the decision.

And why not?  She had promised to de-fund PP during her failed 2010 campaign for governor of Georgia.

She believed that:

  • she could strip PP of future grants from the Komen Foundation, and
  • make the decision look as if it resulted from a legitimate tightening of eligibility criteria.

The official version, as put out by Handel and the top brass of Komen, went: “We’ve halted grants to Planned Parenthood because it’s under investigation by Congress for misuse of funds.”

Unfortunately for Komen, the public instantly saw through the lie.  And the results for Komen were as devastating as those that threatened to engulf Arizona two years later.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 27, 2014 at 12:17 am

On February 18, 2012, GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum warned about the “phony theology” of President Barack Obama.

Rick Santorum

“It’s not about you,” Santorum told supporters of the right-wing Tea Party in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s not about your quality of life.

“It’s not about your jobs. It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.”

Which raises an interesting question: What would a Bible-based agenda mean for the country?

The death penalty would be vastly expanded to cover such “crimes” as:

  • Sabbath-breaking: Because the Lord considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.  (Exodus 31:12-15)
  • Adultery:  If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
  • Fornication: A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death.  (Leviticus 21:9)

A Biblical-era stoning

  • Nonbelievers: They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13)
  • Homosexuality:  If a man also lies with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death.  Their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20-13)

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution–which forbids slavery–would be repealed. The Bible not only permits slavery but lays out rules for its practice–such as:

  • When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. (Exodus 21-7)
  • However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you.  You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. (Leviticus 25:44-45)
  • Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (1 Peter 2:18)

Almost all scientific progress would be discarded, since most of its findings conflict with the Bible:

  • One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4). This claim is totally contradicted by what astronomers now know about the eventual fate of the Earth: In about 7.6 billion years, the sun will exhaust its nuclear fuels.  This will vastly increase its heat and gravitational pull, and at least Mercury, Earth and Venus will be vaporized.
  • The Bible speaks of a world where physical laws are often violated by the will of God.   Thus, Jesus turns water into wine and raises Lazarus from the dead; Jonah lives inside a fish for three days; Noah dies at 950 years; and demons are exorcised.
  • In Biblical times, mental illness was seen as a manifestation of demonic possession.  Today we know that mental illness has nothing to do with evil spirits.

Laws guaranteeing equal rights for women would be repealed:

  • I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 12:10)
  • Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)
  • A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. (1 Timothy 2:11)
  • But if…evidence of the girl’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsman shall stone her to death. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

Military conflicts would be fought without regard to the Geneva Convention–as the Israelites did:

  • “You are my battle-ax and sword,” says the Lord.  “With you I will shatter nations and destroy many kingdoms…. With you I will shatter men and women, old people and children, young men and maidens.  With you I will shatter shepherds and flocks, farmers and oxen, captains and rulers.”  (Jeremiah 51:20-23)
  • Samuel said to Saul, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” (1 Samuel 15, 1-3) 

Yes, a nation governed by “a theology based on the Bible” would be one far different from the United States we know today.

Since a number of Old Testament practices might lend themselves to easy abuse, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy on February 26, 2014 at 12:31 am

Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, America’s most famous preacher, spends a lot of time thinking about who qualifies as a Christian–and who doesn’t.

Franklin Graham

He said just that on the February 21, 2012 edition of the MSNBC show, “Morning Joe.”

First, however, he offered his views on the relative Christian dedication of the major contenders for the Presidency in 2012:

President Barack Obama: “Islam sees him as a son of Islam…. I can’t say categorically that [Obama is not Muslim] because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.”

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich:“Newt’s been married several times… but he could make a good candidate. I think Newt is a Christian. At least he told me he is.”

Former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum: “His values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it. I think he is, no question, a man of faith.”

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney: “I’m just saying most Christians would not recognize Mormonism. Of course they believe in Jesus Christ, but they have a lot of other things that they believe in, too, that we don’t accept theologically.”

Thus, Graham had no problem in pronouncing as “saved” a notorious multiple-adulterer like Gingrich, or a rights-denying religious zealot like Santorum.

But he clearly refused to pronounce as “saved” a longtime church-goer like Obama or a Mormon like Romney (whose faith, most evangelicals like Graham believe, is actually a non-Christian cult).

Toward the end of the program, Mike Barnicle, one of the panelists interviewing Graham, said: “You must spend a big part of the day checking out what you conceive to be people’s depth of faith, in terms of measuring.”

“This is my business,” replied Graham. “You guys go through newspapers every day. I look at a person’s political interest, but more importantly I look at their spiritual interests….

“You have to go by what a person says, and how they live their lives… Are they faithful church goers? Or do they just go when the cameras are on them?”

Another man who dedicated his life to judging the religious commitment of others was Bernard Gui, the chief inquisitor at Toulouse from 1308 to 1322.

Bernard Gui

His inquisition of those suspected or accused of heresy led to over 900 guilty verdicts. Of those convicted during examination by Gui, 42 were executed–by being burned at the stake.

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

In this, he offered a vivid example of how such interrogations might go. The following is taken from that manual:

Interrogator: You call your faith Christian, for you consider ours as false and heretical. But I ask whether you have ever believed as true another faith than that which the Roman Church holds to be true?

Accused Heretic: I believe the true faith which the Roman Church believes, and which you openly preach to us.

Interrogator: Perhaps you have some of your sect at Rome whom you call the Roman Church. I, when I preach, say many things, some of which are common to us both, as that God liveth, and you believe some of what I preach. Nevertheless you may be a heretic in not believing other matters which are to be believed.

Accused Heretic: I believe all things that a Christian should believe.

Interrogator: I know your tricks. What the members of your sect believe you hold to be that which a Christian should believe. But we waste time in this fencing. Say simply, Do you believe in one God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

Accused Heretic: I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe in Christ born of the Virgin, suffered, risen, and ascended to heaven?

Accused Heretic: (Briskly) I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe the bread and wine in the mass performed by the priests to be changed into the body and blood of Christ by divine virtue?

Accused Heretic: Ought I not to believe this?

Interrogator: I don’t ask if you ought to believe, but if you do believe.

Accused Heretic: I believe whatever you and other good doctors order me to believe.

Inquisitor: Those good doctors are the masters of your sect; if I accord with them you believe with me; if not, not.

Accused Heretic: I willingly believe with you if you teach what is good to me.

Inquisitor: You consider it good to you if I teach what your other masters teach. Say, then, do you believe the body of our Lord, Jesus Christ to be in the altar?

Accused Heretic: (Promptly) I believe that a body is there, and that all bodies are of our Lord.

Interrogator: I ask whether the body there is of the Lord who was born of the Virgin, hung on the cross, arose from the dead, ascended, etc.

Accused Heretic: And you, sir, do you not believe it?

Interrogator: I believe it wholly.

Accused Heretic: I believe likewise.

NUREMBERG COMES TO ARIZONA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 25, 2014 at 11:20 am

Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old columnist in Saudi Arabia, decided to celebrate the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammed in a truly unique way.

In February, 2012, he posted on Twitter a series of mock conversations between himself and Muhammad:

“On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.”

“On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.”

“On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.”

“No Saudi women will go to hell, because it’s impossible to go there twice.”

The tweets sparked some 30,000 infuriated responses. Many Islamic clerics demanded that he face execution for blasphemy.

Kashgari posted an apology tweet: “I deleted my previous tweets because…I realized that they may have been offensive to the Prophet and I don’t want anyone to misunderstand.”

Soon afterward, King Abdullah ordered his arrest.

Kashgari served a prison sentence until October, 2013, when he was released.

Outrageous? By Western standards, absolutely.

Clearly there is no tolerence in Saudi Arabia for the freedoms of thought and expression that Americans take for granted.

But before you say, “Religious oppression like that could never happen in the United States,” think again.

Right-wing American ayatollahs are now working overtime to create just that sort of society–where theocratic despotism rules the most intimate aspects of our lives.

One of these ayatollahs was/is GOP Presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. In early January, 2012, he said that states should have the right to outlaw birth control without the interference of the Supreme Court.

Rick Santorum

In an interview with ABC News, Santorum said he opposed the Supreme Court’s ruling that made birth control legal:

“The state has a right to do that [ban contraception]. I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. It is not a Constitutional right. The state has the right to pass whatever statutes they have.

“That’s the thing I have said about the activism of the Supreme Court–they are creating rights, and it should be left up to the people to decide.”

In the landmark 1965 decision, Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court struck down a law that made it a crime to sell contraceptives to married couples. The Constitution, ruled the Justices, protected a right to privacy.

Two years later, in Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Court extended Griswold by striking down a law banning the sale of contraceptives to unmarried couples.

Santorum has left no doubt as to where he stands on contraception. On October 19, 2011, he said:

“One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘“Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’

“It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also…procreative.”

“How things are supposed to be”–according to right-wing fanatics like Santorum and the evangelicals who support him.

Like the Saudi religious religious zealots who demand the death of a “blasphemer,” they demand that their religious views should govern everyone. Both groups have far more in common than they want to admit.

The important difference–for Americans who value their freedom–is this:

The United States has a Supreme Court that can–and does–overturn laws that threaten civil liberties. Laws that GOP legislators–such as those in Arizona–clearly want to force on those who don’t share their peculiar religious views.

The Right is not waging a “war for religious liberty.”

It’s waging a bitter struggle to establish a government that uses force or the threat of it to impose highly conservative religious beliefs on those who do not share such religious beliefs.

And on atheists or agnostics, who share none at all.

These Rightists and their theocratic allies have more in common with Tomas de Torquemada (1420 – 1498) the infamous Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition, than with Jesus Christ.

Tomas de Torquemada

Christ never ordered the torture or death of anyone. Torquemada–claiming to act in “defense” of the Roman Catholic Church–presided over the deaths of at least 2,000 “heretics.”

For such people, Torquemada believed, the only road to salvation lay in being “cleansed” of their sins. And nothing burns away impurities like fire.

Men like Torquemada and the anti-gay legislators of Arizona do not seek a golden future.

They crave to return to a “golden” past–which includes the one-time power of Christians to forcefully impose their religious beliefs on others.

NUREMBERG COMES TO ARIZONA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 24, 2014 at 6:08 pm

One party, just one, not both, not together, just one, is the party that seeks to judge others, limit access to goods/services and promote hate in America.

The reasons behind this bill are no different than the Jim Crow laws of the 60s and other acts of bigotry.  If you vote Republican, this is you and your party across the nation.

–Scott Ackeridge

Scott Ackeridge wasn’t referring to the Nazi Party.  But he could have been.

On September 15, 1935, the Nazis–who had taken power in Germany in 1933–introduced a series of anti-Semetic laws at their annual Nuremberg rally.

Adolf Hitler addressing a Nuremberg Rally of the Nazi Party

Under the Nuremberg laws:

  • Marriages between Jews and German citizens were forbidden.
  • Extramarital relations between Jews and German citizens were forbidden.
  • Jews were forbidden to employ female German citizens under the age of 45 as domestic workers.
  • Jews were banned from employment as attorneys, doctors or journalists.
  • Jews were forbidden to use state hospitals.
  • Jews could not be educated by the state past the age of 14.
  • Jews were forbidden to enter public libraries, parks and beaches.
  • The names of Jewish soldiers were to be expunged from war memorials.

With anti-Semitism now codified in German law, the foundations for the coming Holocaust were firmly laid.

Now, fast-forward to February 20, 2014.

The Republican-dominated Arizona legislature sends a bill to Republican Governor Jan Brewer that:

  • Allows business owners to turn away gay and lesbian customers.
  • Allows employers to deny equal pay to women.
  • Allows individuals to renege on contract obligations.

All of these will be legally allowed–so long as “sincere religious belief” is claimed as the reason.

House Bill 2153/Senate Bill 1062 was written by the right-wing advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian legal organization, Alliance Defending Freedom.

Specifically, the legislation proposes to:

  • Expand the state’s definition of the exercise of religion to include both the practice and observance of religion.
  • Allow someone to assert a legal claim of free exercise of religion regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceedings.
  • Expand those protected under the state’s free-exercise-of-religion law to “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution or other business organization.”
  • Allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination.
  • Allows the business or person to seek an injunction once they show their actions are based on a sincere religious belief and the claim places a burden on the exercise of religion.

Advocates often cited the case of a New Mexico wedding photographer who was sued after refusing to take photos of a same-sex couople’s commitment ceremony due to the photographer’s religious beliefs.

“We are trying to protect people’s religious liberties,” said Representative Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park.

“We don’t want the government coming in and forcing someone to act against their religious sacred faith beliefs or having to sell out if you are a small-business owner.”

Arizona Representative Steve Montenegro

But opponents say the law would:

  • Protect a corporation that refuses to hire anyone who isn’t a Christian; and
  • Block gays and lesbians from access to nearly any business or service–including fire and police.

“The message that’s interpreted is: We want you to work here, but we are not going to go out of our way to protect you, to protect your rights, to protect your family,” said Representative Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix.

Similar anti-gay legislation has been introduced by Republicans in other states:

  • In Kansas, lawmakers voted to exempt individuals from providing any service that was “contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
  • That bill passed the state’s House chamber on February 11, triggering national backlash.  It has since stalled in the Senate and is not expected to advance this year.
  • In January, South Dakota Republicans introduced a bill to allow businesses refuse to serve same-sex couples on the grounds that “businesses are private and that their views on sexual orientation are protected to the same extent as the views of private citizens.”
  • The bill–which was killed in February–would have made it illegal for a gay person to file a lawsuit charging discrimination.
  • A ballot initiative in Oregon would let business owners refuse to serve same-sex couples “if doing so would violate a person’s deeply held religious beliefs.”
  • The initiative could be voted on this year.

Ironically, many Right-wingers who support the right of Christians to discriminate fear that they will become victims of religious persecution if Islamic Sharia law comes to the United States.

CRIMINALS WILL ALWAYS BE CRIMINALS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 21, 2014 at 4:08 pm

State and local governments are trying to deny their part-time employees healthcare benefits under the Affordable Care Act.

These workers include prison guards, police dispatchers and substitute teachers.

President Barack Obama’s health-care reform law requires employers to provide insurance for part-time employees who work more than 30 hours per week.

Yet many government employers claim they can’t afford it–and plan to limit worker hours to 29 per week instead.  Among those states affected:

  • “Our choice was to cut the hours or give them health care, and we could not afford the latter,” Dennis Hanwell, the Republican mayor of Medina, Ohio, said in an interview with the New York Times.
  • Lawrence County, in western Pennsylvania, reduced the limit for part-time employees to 28 hours a week, from 32.
  • In Virginia, part-time state employees are generally not allowed to work more than 29 hours a week on average over a 12-month period.

President Obama and those who helped craft the Affordable Care Act may be surprised at what has happened.  But they shouldn’t be.

It was, in fact, entirely predictable.  Consider the following:

When William J. Casey wa a young attorney during the Great Depression, he learned an important lesson.

Jobs were hard to come by, so Casey thought himself lucky to land one at the Tax Research Institute of America in New York.

His task was to closely read New Deal legislation and write reports explaining it to corporate chieftains.

He quickly learned that businessmen neither understood nor welcomed Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to reform American capitalism.

Businessmen didn’t want legal commentary.  Instead, they wanted to know: “What must we do to achieve minimum compliance with the law?”

In short: How do we get by FDR’s new programs?

Fifty years later, Casey would bring a similar mindset to his duties as director of the Central Intelligence Agency for President Ronald Reagan.

He was presiding over the CIA when it deliberately violated Congress’ ban on funding the “Contras,” the right-wing death squads of Nicaragua.

But the “Casey Doctrine” of minimum compliance didn’t die with Casey (who expired of a brain tumor in 1987).

It’s very much alive among the American business and political communities as President Obama seeks to give medical coverage to all Americans, and not simply the ultra-wealthy.

For part-time employees, who work fewer than 30 hours, a company isn’t penalized for failing to provide health insurance coverage.

Obama prides himself on being a tough-minded practitioner of “Chicago politics.”  So it’s easy to assume that he took the “Casey Doctrine” into account when he shepherded the ACA through Congress.

But he didn’t.

The result was predictable.  And its consequences are daily becoming more clear.

Employers feel motivated to move fulltime workers into part-time positions–and thus avoid

  • providing their employees with medical insurance and 
  • a fine for non-compliance with the law.

Some employers have openly shown their contempt for President Obama–and the idea that employers actually have an obligation to those who make their profits a reality.

One of these is John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, who has been quoted as saying:

  1. The prices of his pizzas will go up–by eleven to fourteen cents price increase per pizza, or fifteen to twenty cents per order; and
  2. He will pass along these costs to his customers.

“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” Schnatter told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”

After all, why should a multi-million-dollar company show any concern for those who make its profits a reality?

Consider:

  • Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza takeout and delivery chain in the United States.
  • Its 2012 revenues were $318.6 million, an 8.5 percent increase from 2011 revenues of $293.5 million.
  • Its 2012 net income was $14.8 million, compared to its 2012 net income of $12.1 million.

Had Obama been the serious student of Realpolitick that he claims to be, he would have predicted that most businesses would seek to avoid compliance with his law.

To counter that, he need only have required all employers to provide insurance coverage for all of their employees—regardless of their fulltime or part-time status.

This, in turn, would have provided two substantial benefits:

  1. All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
  2. Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones, since they would feel: “Since I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, I should be getting fulltime work in return.”

The “Casey Doctrine” needs to be kept constantly in mind when reformers try to protect Americans from predatory employers.

WHY SO MANY PEOPLE DISTRUST GOVERNMENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 13, 2014 at 3:51 pm

In 2005, Rahinah Ibrahim, a Malaysian architect, was placed on the United States Government’s No-Fly list, operated by the Terrorist Screening Center.

It wasn’t because she was a member of Al Qaeda.  It happened because of an FBI screw-up.

The mess started in January 2005, when Ibrahim and her 14-year-old daughter arrived at the San Francisco Airport.  Their destination: Hawaii, to attend a conference trip sponsored by Stanford.

Ibrahim, still recovering from a recent hysterectomy, was in a wheelchair.

When she approached the United Airlines counter to check in, she was seized, handcuffed, thrown in the back of a police car and taken to a holding cell.

There she was interrogated.  During this, paramedics had to be summoned because she hadn’t taken her surgery medication.

Then, to her surprise, she was released–and told that her name had been removed from the No-Fly list.  She boarded a flight to Hawaii and attended the conference.

But in March 2005, the situation suddenly changed.

Having returned to Malasia, she bought a ticket to fly back to California to meet with her Stanford thesis adviser. But at the airport, she was banned from the flight.

She was told that her student visa had been revoked, and that she would longer be let into the United States.  When she asked why, authorities refused to give a reason.

She would not learn the answer for another eight years.

An FBI agent in San Jose, California, had conducted a background check on Ibrahim.  He hadn’t meant to place her on theNo-Fly list.

FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

He had simply checked the wrong boxes on a form.  He didn’t even realize the mistake until nearly a decade later, during his deposition in 2013.

In fact, he filled out the form exactly the opposite way from the instructions provided on the form. He did so even though the form stated, “It is recommended that the subject NOT be entered into the following selected terrorist screening databases.”

Thus, Ibrahim was placed on the No-Fly list.

That was bad enough–but at least understandable. FBI agents are human, and can and do err like anyone else.

What is not understandable or tolerable is this:

After Ibrahim filed a lawsuit against the United States Government in 2006, the Justice Department ordered a coverup–to prevent word from leaking that one of its agents had made a mistake.

Moreover, Ibrahim was ordered by the Justice Department to not divulge to anyone that she was suing the United States Government–or the reason for the lawsuit.

Ibrahim is currently the dean of architecture at University Putra Malaysia.

Because the Justice Department refused to admit its mistake, attorneys working pro bono for Ibrahim incurred a reported $3.8 million in legal fees, as well as $300,000 in litigation costs.

In his recent decision on the case, U.S. District Judge William Alsup, based in San Francisco, called the agent’s error “conceded, proven, undeniable and serious.

Once derogatory information is posted to the Terrorist  Screening Database, it can propagate extensively through the  government’s interlocking complex of databases, like a bad credit  report that will never go away,” he wrote.

If only the Justice Department had readily admitted the mistake and quickly moved to correct it.  But the egos of Federal law enforcement agents and prosecutors effectively ruled out this option.

Robert Gates, who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama (2006-2011) had a completely different approach to dealing with mistakes.

In his new autobiography, Duty, he writes of his determination to promote good relations between the Pentagon and the reporters who covered it.

In his commencement address at the Anapolis Naval Academy on May 25, 2007, he said:

“…the press, in my view [is] a critically important guarantor of our freedom.

“When it identifies a problem, the response of senior leaders should be to find out if the allegations are true.  And if so, say so, and then act to remedy the problem.

“If [the allegations are] untrue, then be able to document that fact.”

Millions of Americans not only distrust the Federal Government–they believe it is aggressively conspiring against them.

But the vast majority of Federal employees do not come to work intent on destroying the lives of their fellow Americans.

They spend most of their time carrying out routine, often mind-numbing tasks–such as filling out what seem like an endless series of forms.

But even where no malice is involved, their actions can have devastating consequences for innocent men and women.

Especially in cases where “national security” can be invoked to hide error, stupidity, or even criminality.

The refusal of the Justice Department to quickly admit the honest mistake of one of its agents prevented Ibrahim from boarding a commercial flight for seven years.

Federal agencies should follow the advice given by Robert Gates:  Admit your mistakes and act quickly to correct them. 

Unless this happens, the poisonous atmosphere of distrust between the Government and its citizens will only worsen.

WONDER WOMAN: COARSENING THE CULTURE

In Business, Entertainment, Military, Social commentary on February 7, 2014 at 1:32 am

On November 7, 2013, American television culture took yet another step deeper into Toiletville.

It was the Two and Half Men episode, “Justice in Star-Spangled Hot Pants.”  And it starred Lynda Carter as the target of a crush that was both infantile and obscene.

Carter, of course, is the singer/actress best-known for her role as Wonder Woman (1975-1979).

And watching this episode of Men, it was hard to tell where the real-life Carter left off and the fictional character she was playing took over.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman

Here, in brief, was the plotline:

Alan Harper (Jon Cryer) learns that his roommate, Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher) knows Lynda Carter.

Having an enormous crush on Carter from his years of watching her as Wonder Woman, Alan asks Walden to set him up on a date with her.

Against his better judgment, Walden agrees to invite her to the house for dinner.

Now, if Carter had been playing a fictional character, there wouldn’t have been anything wrong with this premise.

Nobody, for example, would have mistaken Laurence Olivier for Richard III.

But she wasn’t.  She was playing herself.

And, in her real-life self, she’s 62.  An admittedly good-looking 62, but, even so, a woman about 40 years older than the character (Alan) who wants to meet her.

And not simply meet her.  Bone her.

Bone her?  Yes–that’s exactly what he says when Walden initially turns down his request to introduce him to her: “Now I’ll never get to bone Lynda Carter.”

And since Carter was playing herself, it’s useful to recall that she is, in real-life, a married woman (since 1984 to attorney Robert Altman).

And the show achieves an even lower level of crassness when Walden says Alan is so desperate to meet Carter that he’d skulk around in the bushes in front of her house.

“Wow, Lynda Carter’s bush,” says Alan, practically salivating over the contemplation of a 62-year-old woman’s vagina.

But males aren’t the only gender who get to descend to new depths of bad taste in this episode.  There’s the character of Jenny (Amber Tamblyn), the lesbian sister of the departed character Charlie (Charlie Sheen).

Again, the show’s writers simply couldn’t resist the temptation to mix real-life with fantasy.

Jenny is, at first, not even aware who Lynda Carter is until Alan, shocked, clues her in on the infantile series she’s best-known for.

And, after meeting Carter, Jenny remain unimpressed.  There’s an edginess in her voice as she comes face-to-face with the actress who’s well-known for supporting gay and lesbian rights.

“I understand you’re into cuffs,” she tells Carter–a reference to the “magic bracelets” worn by her character, Wonder Woman.

But it’s also a double entendre, conjuring up the image of Carter (perhaps in her Wonder Woman outfit) staked out on a bed in a bondage fantasy.

For all of Alan’s over-the-top infatuation with Carter, it’s not him that she’s interested in.  It’s his buddy, Walden (Ashton Kutcher).

Lynda Carter and Ashton Kutcher

And to prove it, she gives him a real smackeroo of a kiss.

Which may well have conjured up, for him, real-life memories of his May-December marriage to the actress Demi Moore.

Kutcher was 27 when he tied the knot with Moore in 2005.  Moore, by contrast, was 42.

The marriage ended in 2013, amid tabloid reports that Kutcher had cheated on her with Sara Leal, a 22-year-old San Diego-based administrative assistant.

Kutcher, born in 1978, was still rolling around in his cradle while Carter–born in 1951–was wrapping up her third and final season as Wonder Woman.

So, for Kutcher, maybe it was a case of deja vu all over again.

On Veterans Day from 2001 to 2004, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) aired the 1998 Steven Spielberg World War II classic, Saving Private Ryan, uncut and with limited commercial interruptions.

Both the grity, realistic battle scenes and profanity were left intact.

Storming the beach at Normandy in Saving Private Ryan

But in 2004, its airing was marked by pre-emptions by 65 ABC affiliates.

The reason: The backlash over Super Bowl XXXVIII’s halftime show controversy (starring the infamous bared breast of Janet Jackson).

The affiliates—28% of the network—did not clear the available timeslot for the film.

And this was even after the Walt Disney Company–which owns ABC–offered to pay all fines for language to the FCC.

No complaints, however, were lodged with the FCC.

It speaks volumes to the priorities–and values–of American television when a film honoring the wartime sacrifices of American soldiers is banned from network TV.

And it speaks volumes as well to the priorities–and values–of American television when a casually juvenile and crudity-laced series like Two and a Half Men becomes CBS’ biggest cash cow.

WHO’S THE VICTIM?

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on February 4, 2014 at 11:35 am

Joy Stewart, 22, was nearly eight months pregnant when she encountered Dennis McGuire in Preble County, Ohio, while visiting a friend.

McGuire wanted to have sex with her but Stewart refused.

Dennis McGuire

So he raped her.

No, not vaginally.  She was so pregnant he couldn’t have sex with her.

So he anally sodamized her.  With a knife.

Not surprisingly, Stewart became hysterical.  And this made him fear that he would go to jail for raping a pregnant woman.

So he choked her.  Then he stabbed her with the same knife he had used to anally rape her.

Finally, he severed her carotid artery and jugular vein. He wiped blood off his hands on her right arm and dumped her in a wooded area where she was found the next day by hikers.

Joy Stewart

The date was February 11, 1989.

When questioned by police, McGuire blamed Stewart’s kidnapping and murder on his brother-in-law.  But the accusation didn’t hold up–and DNA evidence clearly implicated McGuire.

McGuire was convicted of kidnapping, anal rape and aggravated murder on December 8, 1994.  But even while facing a grim future, McGuire managed to postpone his fate as victim could not.

First, his attorneys appealed his conviction to the Ohio Supreme Court on June 10, 1997.  To the dismay of him and his mouthpieces, the court upheld the verdict on December 10, 1997.

By this time, McGuire had already outlived his ravished victim by eight years.

Second, his attorneys appealed to the United States Court of Appeals, for the Sixth Circuit.  During this appeal, as in the first, McGuire’s attorneys didn’t argue their client was innocent.

They simply claimed that a jury never got to hear the full details of his chaotic and abusive childhood.

As if that had been so much more horrific than the details of Joy Stewart’s rape and murder.

The case was argued on December 16, 2013, and decided on December 30.  The court upheld the death penalty verdict.

By that time, McGuire had outlived Joy Stewart by 24 years.

But McGuire’s lawyers weren’t through.

Third, they asked Ohio Governor John Kasich to spare McGuire, again citing his chaotic and abusive childhood.

Kasich rejected that request without comment.

Fourth, on January 6-7, 2014, McGuire’s lawyers argued in Federal appeals court that Ohio’s untried two-drug execution method would cause their client “agony and terror” as he struggled to breathe.

Supplies of Ohio’s former execution drug, pentobarbital, had dried up as its manufacturer put it off limits for executions.

Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction planned to use a dose of midazolam, a sedative, combined with hydromorphone, a painkiller, to put McGuire to death.

That appeal proved unsuccessful.

Finally, on January 16, 2014, McGuire kept his long-delayed date with the executioner in a small, windowless room at the Lucasville Correctional facility.

Strapped to a gurney, McGuire gasped, snorted and snored as it took him 26 minutes to die.

“I’m going to heaven,” were his last words.

His surviving family members, of course, feel that a travesty of justice has occurred.

On January 25, they filed a lawsuit in Federal court, claiming that McGuire’s execution was “unconstitutional.”

According to the lawsuit, McGuire suffered  “repeated cycles of snorting, gurgling and arching his back, appearing to writhe in pain.  It looked and sounded as though he was suffocating.”

The McGuire family wants to ensure that such an execution never happens again.

During the execution, his adult children sobbed in dismay.

For him.  Not his ravaged and innocent victim.

The old saying, “Justice delayed is justice denied” remains as true–and relevant–as ever.

In order to be effective, punishment must be certain and swift.  To repeatedly postpone it–literally for decades after the perpetrator has been convicted–is to inflict further agony on the victim.

Or, in this case, the surviving family and friends of the murdered victim.

And it sends an unmistakable message to those thinking of victimizing others: “Hey, he got to live another 25 years.  Maybe I can beat the rap.”

Opponents of capital punishment have long argued that the death penalty is not a deterrant to crime.

In fact, it is.

Having finally had sentence carried out on him, Dennis McGuire will never again threaten the life of anyone.

Prisons scheduled for executions are now facing a chronic shortage of the drugs used to carry out such sentence.  The reason: Many drug-makers refuse to make them available for executions.

This has caused some states to reconsider using execution methods that were scrapped in favor of lethal injection.

Methods like

  • hanging
  • the gas chamber
  • the electric chair
  • even the firing squad.

In line with this debate should be another: Whether the lives of cold-blooded murderers are truly worth more than those of their innocent victims.

And whether those victims–and those who loved them–deserve a better break than they now receive under our legal system.

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