Saturday, November 24, 2018
While the administration of Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam has been pressing an "all welcome" campaign and has sought to see statewide LGBT non-discrimination protections enacted - the effort died in 2018 when the legislation was killed by a small cabal of Republicans (including John Cosgrove of Chesapeake - the least LGBT friendly city in the region) - the local cities in Hampton Roads continue to score poorly on the Human Rights Campaign's yearly municipal equality index. Every area city scored well below the national average. The reality is that that to compete on a national and global level for the growing, progressive businesses of the future, much needs to be done if Hampton Roads is to truly be competitive. Between the region's lack of a decent mass transit system and unwelcoming climate, it's little surprise that Amazon chose Northern Virginia - whose cities score more than 30 points higher - over Virginia Beach for its new headquarters. While progressive compared to the reactionary backwaters of Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads will never achieve the economic and social prominence it aspires to unless and until its cities (i) work cooperatively, and (ii) put in place laws and policies that bar discrimination. A piece in the Virginian Pilot looks at the disheartening Equality Index scores:
How LGBTQ friendly is Hampton Roads? Not very, according to a recent report from a national nonprofit civil rights organization.
Of the seven cities that make up the region, five – Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Virginia Beach – were included in the Human Rights Campaign's yearly municipal equality index. And all ranked below the national average.
More than 500 municipalities nationwide were scored across five categories assessing how inclusive their laws, policies and services are of people who live and work there.
According to the study, 78 cities received a perfect score – including Birmingham, Ala.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Los Angeles – and 25 percent scored higher than an 83. About 25 percent scored a 36 or lower, and 15 scored a zero.
Cities could earn up to 30 points for their nondiscrimination laws – whether discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited. A total of 28 points could be earned for the municipality as an employer of people and whether they offer equivalent benefits and protections, and for diversity in their workplaces.
Up to 12 points could be earned for municipal services that ensure residents are included in city-offered services and programs. Another 22 points could be earned for law enforcement, including how hate crimes were reported and the police department’s efforts toward engaging with the LGBTQ community.
Cities could earn up to 8 points for their commitment to pursuing equality.
On average, cities across the country scored 58 points or higher, according to the 2018 report. But across the region, scores were much lower, ranging from 29 to 50.
What Hampton Roads cities lack most, according to the report, is legislation geared toward protecting residents from discrimination in the workplace, housing and public services.
[T]he omission of gender identity and sexual orientation in anti-discrimination laws make residents vulnerable daily. Transgender residents are the most at-risk community, she said. And if municipalities want to protect all residents, Walls-Beegle said comprehensive LGBTQ protections and public accommodation laws are needed.
As an employer of LGBTQ people, Walls-Beegle said attracting talent from out-of-state is difficult. "Trying to get people to come work in a growing LGBTQ community – they tell me no because Virginia has no legal protections," she said.
Of the 11 Virginia cities included in the report, only one – Roanoke, which earned 12 points – scored lower than cities in southeastern Virginia. Charlottesville earned 75 points and Alexandria tallied 82. Arlington County boasted 92 points.
The highest state scorer was the capital, Richmond, with 94 points. The city recently established a human rights commission and passed legislation that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Richmond TV news station WTVR reported last month.
Last month, Virginia Beach City Council included an expansion of Human Rights Act in its legislative packet, which requests the General Assembly add sexual orientation and gender identity to the act's anti-discrimination language.While Virginia may be transitioning to being a "blue state," it still lags behind progressive states on many front. I find the situation particularly upsetting since my son (who is straight) refuses to move back to Virginia from Washington State since he sees Virginia as backward and bigoted. Sadly, his perception is anything but unique. I have received calls from a number of LGBT individuals who have received job offers in Virginia and who want to know the state of Virginia's non-discrimination laws. Many turn down the job offers when they learn the would be losing the non-discrimination protections they enjoy in their current home state.
One of the biggest failings of the American public education system is its failure to continue to teach civics - how government is supposed to work - and history/geography. This failure plays into extremists and would be autocrats by allowing them to lie with impunity about the past - e.g., the Christofascist myth that the United States was founded as a "Christian nation" - and set the stage for a repeat of some of the worst disasters visited on man kind during the 20th century. WWI ad WWII both were the result of unrestrained nationalism and many millions civilians of died as a result. With WWII, we saw an even more dangerous phenomenon as the Nazis refined a method to overthrow democracy and utilize hate and demonizing minorities to gain power and fool citizens into acting against their own true interest, Again, millions died as a result. Now, with a would be dictator occupying the White House whose main message is one of hate and division and who has proven that morality and decency mean noting to him, America seems poised to repeat not only mistakes from the past in its own history but to also condone the ugliest aspects of the 1930's and 1940's. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are largely clueless as to the dangerous precedents being repeated. Former Republican Michael Gerson laments the situation in a column. Here are highlights:
ONE OF THE worst things about our awful political moment is its historical forgetfulness. Many Europeans seem to have forgotten where chauvinistic nationalism and the demonization of minorities can lead. Many Americans seem to have forgotten that a foreign policy of America First allowed international malignancies to grow that made war inevitable and resulted in the deaths of tens of millions. And many in Western countries seem to have forgotten the difficult, desperate project of building a moral and legal structure around the principle of human dignity in the aftermath of World War II.Anti-Semitic attacks in Europe and the U.S. are both atrocities and reminders. They ring with distant but unmistakable echoes of the nightmarish events of the 1930s and 1940s: the racial purity laws, the economic indignities, the despairing suicides, the liquidation of the disabled, the digging up of Jewish graves in cemeteries, the deportations, the ghettos, the shootings in batch after batch, the pits of corpses, the emptied orphanages, the terrified walk to the gas chamber.
It is worth trying to recall how shocking these events were to the conscience of the world. The institutions of the modern state — bureaucracy, propaganda, military power —had been harnessed to the purposes of sadism and mass murder. This indicted a highly sophisticated and educated European society — along with the very idea of sophistication and education as brakes on evil. It indicted other nations who did little, even after the crimes became obvious.
But the response was ultimately an idealistic one. The Allies would institute a new order of justice and human rights. The Tokyo tribunals and the Nuremberg trials were both legal and moral enterprises. The chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, said he would not seek convictions for "mere technical or incidental transgression of international conventions. We charge guilt … that involves moral as well as legal wrong. … It is their abnormal and inhuman conduct which brings them to this bar."
The moral response to World War II-era crimes found expression in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which speaks of "inherent dignity" and "equal and inalienable rights."
[T]he most urgent, comprehensive attack on the universality of human rights now comes from the nativist right. In places such as Hungary, Romania, Germany, Poland and the United States, politicians are attempting to define nationality based on the dehumanization of cultural outsiders — Muslims, migrants and refugees. This type of politics is dangerous wherever it is practiced. In the United States, it also requires the renunciation of responsibilities rooted in the post-war acceptance of human dignity as the basis of global order and peace.
This is the cost of historical amnesia — the cost of electing an American president who is both ignorant of and indifferent toward the lessons of the past century, or any century. A president who always turns, by feral instinct, to an organizing message of bigotry and exclusion. A president who is throwing away an inheritance he does not value and unleashing forces that can easily move beyond control.
Be very afraid. History can repeat itself when the majority of the public forgets the lessons of the past and how horrors were allowed to happen. America's mass amnesia is frightening. The 2018 midterms may yet prove to have put a break on Trump's excesses, but much more needs to be done.
Yesterday a damning report on climate change was released by federal agencies (the report can be found here) that paints a frightening picture for the future if serious changes are not made to strengthen environmental laws and greatly reduce carbon emissions - all things that are the opposite of the Trump/Pence agenda. The date of the release by the White House was thought to be aimed at having the dire warnings lost in the madness of Black Friday and the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. If nothing else, the Trump/Pence regime can be counted on to be deceptive and disingenuous at all times. But back to the report. For those living in coastal areas, sea level rise will be a major problem. Meanwhile Midwestern farmers - the racist, neanderthals who put Trump in office - will see major economic problems as climate change reduces harvests and endangers live stock (no doubt the red state leaches will want federal bailouts with funds derived from blue states). The report is massive and looks at the prospects for every area of the country. Here are excerpts from the New York Times on the report:
WASHINGTON — A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end.
The report, which was mandated by Congress and made public by the White House, is notable not only for the precision of its calculations and bluntness of its conclusions, but also because its findings are directly at odds with
PresidentTrump’s agenda of environmental deregulation, which he asserts will spur economic growth.
[I]n direct language, the 1,656-page assessment lays out the devastating effects of a changing climate on the economy, health and environment, including record wildfires in California, crop failures in the Midwest and crumbling infrastructure in the South. Going forward, American exports and supply chains could be disrupted, agricultural yields could fall to 1980s levels by midcentury and fire season could spread to the Southeast, the report finds.
[T]he report says, climate change could slash up to a tenth of gross domestic product by 2100, more than double the losses of the Great Recession a decade ago.
Scientists who worked on the report said it did not appear that administration officials had tried to alter or suppress its findings. However, several noted that the timing of its release, at 2 p.m. the day after Thanksgiving, appeared designed to minimize its public impact.
“This report will weaken the Trump administration’s legal case for undoing climate change regulations, and it strengthens the hands of those who go to court to fight them,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton.
The report is the second volume of the National Climate Assessment, which the federal government is required by law to produce every four years. . . . . The results of the 2014 report helped inform the Obama administration as it wrote a set of landmark climate change regulations. The following year, the E.P.A. finalized President Barack Obama’s signature climate change policy, known as the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to slash planet-warming emissions from coal-fired power plants. At the end of the 2015, Mr. Obama played a lead role in brokering the Paris Agreement.
But in 2016, Republicans in general and Mr. Trump in particular campaigned against those regulations. . . . . . Since winning the election, his administration has moved decisively to roll back environmental regulations.
The report puts the most precise price tags to date on the cost to the United States economy of projected climate impacts: $141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise and $32 billion from infrastructure damage by the end of the century, among others.
The authors put forth three main solutions: putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions, which usually means imposing taxes or fees on companies that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; establishing government regulations on how much greenhouse pollution can be emitted; and spending public money on clean-energy research.
The report covers every region of the United States and asserts that recent climate-related events are signs of things to come. No area of the country will be untouched, from the Southwest, where droughts will curb hydropower and tax already limited water supplies, to Alaska, where the loss of sea ice will cause coastal flooding and erosion and force communities to relocate, to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, where saltwater will taint drinking water.
More people will die as heat waves become more common, the scientists say, and a hotter climate will also lead to more outbreaks of disease.
Two areas of impact particularly stand out: trade and agriculture.
The nation’s farm belt is likely to be among the hardest-hit regions, and farmers in particular will see their bottom lines threatened.
“Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the U.S.,” the report says. “Expect increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad.”
The report says the Midwest, as well as the Northeast, will also experience more flooding when it rains, like the 2011 Missouri River flood that inundated a nuclear power plant near Omaha, forcing it to shut down for years.
Other parts of the country, including much of the Southwest, will endure worsening droughts, further taxing limited groundwater supplies. Those droughts can lead to fires, a phenomenon that played out this fall in California as the most destructive wildfire in state history killed dozens of people.
The report predicts that frequent wildfires, long a plague of the Western United States, will also become more common in other regions, including the Southeast.
Thursday, November 22, 2018
|Chief Justice John Roberts.|
Since entering the White House - thanks to Electoral College electors failing to protect the nation as envisioned by the Founders - Donald Trump has proceeded to undermine and destroy public confidence in America's core institutions, including but not limited to the federal court system. No doubt Vladimir Putin is smiling broadly as he watches from afar and sees Trump trying to replicate Putin's dictatorial rule in Russia. Typically, the Supreme Court remains aloof from political disputes - although this may change given Trump's placement of rank partisans Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh on the Court - but this week Chief Justice John Roberts found he could no longer bite his tongue and issued a rebuke to Der Trumpenführer's attacks on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that sounded like it came from Hitler or Putin's playbook of how to emasculate the judiciary and turn it into a tool of autocracy. A piece in NPR looks st this rare but much needed rebuke of the foul individual at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Here are highlights:
In a rare moment of direct criticism, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts rebuked
PresidentTrump on Wednesday for [Trump's] the president'sdescription of a federal judge who ruled against his asylum policy as "an Obama judge." Within hours, the president fired back on Twitter, launching an unusual conflict between the executive and judicial branches.
"We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges," Roberts said in a statement. "What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them."
"That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for," Roberts said. Roberts has never responded to any president so directly and publicly before.
Trump's initial response was to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, who issued a temporary restraining order against Trump's asylum policy Monday, saying it violated a provision of the asylum law. Trump called the decision a "disgrace," adding, "this was an Obama judge and I'll tell you what, it's not going to happen like this anymore."
Trump went on to excoriate the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which he wrongly blamed for the ruling, saying, "Every case that gets filed in the Ninth Circuit, we get beaten. And then we end up having to go to the Supreme Court, like the travel ban, and we won," Trump said.
However, Tigar is a district court judge who sits in San Francisco, and the Ninth Circuit, which encompasses much of the western United States, has not yet been asked to rule on his decision. Tigar's decision is also temporary, lasting only until Dec. 19 when the judge is scheduled to hear arguments about whether the order should remain permanent.
This is not the first time Trump has criticized a judge. During the presidential campaign, he called one judge with a Spanish surname who ruled against him a Mexican, alleging he couldn't rule fairly because of Trump's proposal to build a wall along with border with Mexico and called another who ruled against his travel ban "a so-called judge."
The American Bar Association joined in the criticism of Trump's comments.
"Disagreeing with a court's decision is everyone's right, but when government officials question a court's motives, mock its legitimacy or threaten retaliation due to an unfavorable ruling, they intend to erode the court's standing and hinder the courts from performing their constitutional duties," said ABA president Bob Carlson.The Post also noted the rare rebuke to the man seeking to destroy the independent judiciary:
[I]t appeared Roberts, when asked to comment by the Associated Press, was eager to counter Trump’s criticism Tuesday of District Judge Jon S. Tigar. The Roberts statement did not mention the president by name.The chief justice is an aggressive defender of the judiciary and has frequently expressed concern about attacks on its impartiality, whether they come from the left or the right. In 2010, he called the timing of President Barack Obama’s criticism of the court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC during the president’s State of the Union speech “very troubling.”
Roberts made it clear last month that he is particularly sensitive about the image of the courts because of the recent partisan battle over the confirmation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
At an event at the University of Minnesota just after Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Roberts said the court served “one nation” and not “one party or one interest.”
“Our role is very clear: We are to interpret the Constitution and laws of the United States, and to ensure that the political branches act within them,” he said. “That job obviously requires independence from the political branches. The story of the Supreme Court would be very different without that sort of independence.”
Today is Thanksgiving and many Americans while giving thanks for their good fortune and families will slide into accepting the myth that since its founding, America has been a force for good in the world. Buying into this myth requires that one ignore the ugly parts of America's history: slavery, genocide committed against Native Americans, the stealing of Hawaii and the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, the dubious motivations behind the Spanish American War, the Vietnam disaster, and now support for the Saudi Arabian war against Yemen. Der Trumpenführer this week signaled to tyrants and brutal regimes that if they spend enough money on American arms sales, they have a blank check to commit murder and atrocities against civilians. The immediate context of Trump's message was Saudi Arabia's murder of a U.S. based journalist and the wholesale slaughter of civilians in Yemen. Sadly, to Trump's base, since those dying in Yemen are not white, they merit only a shrug of the shoulders. Having a Yemeni client who has described to me the ordeal of his wife and children trying to escape Saudi attacks on civilians (they escaped the episode described to me, but many women and children in boats did not), the horrors ought to make "godly Christians" demand American support to Saudi atrocities stop immediately. A long piece in the Washington Post looks at the growing support in Congress to take action against the brutal regime in Saudi Arabia and to halt arms sales that facilitate the murder of civilians. Here are article excerpts:
The powerful U.S. defense industry is facing a rare challenge to its influence on Capitol Hill as support for arms sales to Saudi Arabia has rapidly eroded following the killing last month of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi government operatives.The defense industry’s typically aggressive lobby has gone quiet as gruesome details of Khashoggi’s death have leaked and American intelligence officials have laid blame at the feet of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
PresidentTrump has reiterated his support for continued sales of U.S. weapons to the kingdom, congressional opposition to those sales and to U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen has mounted in recent weeks . . . .
Growing bipartisan support for Senate legislation to cut off the arms sales marks a historic disruption in a seemingly inviolable arms-for-oil trade relationship that stretches back decades and is an unusual setback for one of the most influential lobbies in Washington.
In the coming weeks, key senators are expected to push for a vote on a measure that would impose sanctions on Saudi officials responsible for Khashoggi’s death and suspend many weapons sales to Saudi Arabia until it ceases airstrikes in Yemen that have killed tens of thousands of civilians.
The bill represents one of the first major breaks between congressional Republicans and the White House, which has embraced Saudi Arabia as a key Middle Eastern ally — a strategy driven by Jared Kushner, . . .
Trump’s staunch support for the kingdom in the face of the CIA’s conclusion that Mohammed ordered the assassination of Khashoggi — a Washington Post contributing columnist — has triggered a backlash on Capitol Hill amid intensifying opposition to the war in Yemen.
In an interview Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump confidant who previously opposed efforts to restrict arms sales to Saudi Arabia, suggested lawmakers might tie federal funding to Saudi sanctions. . . . . “When it comes to the crown prince, it is not wise to look away,” said Graham, calling the crown prince “a wrecking ball” on the global stage.
Other lawmakers who have backed arms deals with Saudi Arabia in the past and are now reconsidering their support include Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), according to recent votes and congressional aides.
In the House, lawmakers are signing on to several proposals that would curtail Saudi deals, including one offered by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) . . . . McGovern’s district is home to Raytheon, which sells hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia each year and whose corporate PAC has been a top campaign donor for McGovern in recent years.
“I care very much about jobs,” said McGovern, who was an early critic of the war in Yemen. “But I don’t want to create jobs by selling weapons to governments that murder journalists in cold blood and then lie about it.”
U.S. defense companies have spent between $125 million and $130 million annually on lobbying in recent years, plus tens of millions more on contributions to federal candidates, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Since the start of the war in Yemen, the defense industry — working alongside lobbyists for Saudi Arabia — has successfully beat back congressional efforts, supported by human rights groups, to end or curtail U.S. support for the air war in that conflict. For now, the defense lobby is keeping a low profile, . . .
Officials from Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics all declined The Post’s requests for comment on the future of arms sales to Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi’s death. . One executive said defense contractors are waiting to see whether the crown prince will be replaced before determining a course of action.
U.S. defense contractors “are really in a duck-and-cover mode, hoping to tie themselves to this as little as possible,” said a prominent defense executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern that publicly discussing the issue would be bad for business. “To say that we’re going to support this because we have a few thousand jobs at stake . . . we don’t want that,” the executive said.
Intense criticism of airstrikes [in Yemen] on civilians led the administration to halt the sale of nearly $400 million in precision munitions guidance systems to Saudi Arabia in December 2016, at the end of the Obama administration. Three months later, the Trump administration reversed that decision and approved a resumption of weapons sales.
Since then, weapons produced by American companies have been tied to some of the worst episodes of civilian casualties.
The bomb that killed more than 50 people, including at least 40 children, on a school-bus field trip on Aug. 9 was manufactured in the United States by Lockheed Martin, a CNN investigation found. Raytheon bombs have been blamed for other airstrikes that killed civilians, including an April 23 attack on a wedding that left 22 people dead.
Since Khashoggi’s killing, contacts with key congressional offices by Raytheon lobbyists have dropped, according to aides. “If I was Raytheon or Boeing or Lockheed, I would keep my damn trap shut and my head low because this is bad for the Saudis,” said a Republican Senate aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid about the defense lobby.
Lockheed has made selling to foreign governments a key target for growth, with Saudi Arabia a major driver of that effort, according to one defense analyst. A photo of the crown prince during his April visit to a Lockheed facility in Silicon Valley remains on the company’s website, even as other corporations have distanced themselves from Mohammed since Khashoggi’s slaying.
n a statement Tuesday, Trump questioned the CIA’s conclusion that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing . . . . Many congressional lawmakers — including some Republicans — reacted with disgust at his dismissal of the CIA’s assessment.
“I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” Sen. Bob Corker (R.-Tenn.) tweeted.
The dynamic is setting up a showdown between Trump and Congress as pressure to curtail Saudi arms deals and the U.S. role in Yemen builds from human rights groups and some conservatives. The Charles Koch Institute, a nonprofit group founded by the billionaire libertarian industrialist, has been warning a bipartisan group of lawmakers about the consequences of continued U.S. involvement in Yemen, foundation officials said.
As you gather around your dinner table today to feast with friends and families, keep in mind civilians are likely dying in Yemen thanks to American arms and Trump's political fellatio of the Saudis. Those dying may have brown skin, but they are just as human as you or eye - or our children, nieces and nephews or grandchildren. Morality and decency ought to count for more that arms merchants' greed.
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
|A Saudi classroom where hatred is taught.|
On the same day that Der Trumpenführer tacitly approved political murder by Saudi Arabia, The Anti-Defamation League released a report confirming that not much has changed since 9-11 in terms of the hatred and misogyny taught in Saudi high school text books. Incitements to violence against Jews, Christians, and gays continues and the beating of women is endorsed "when necessary." This is the false ally that Trump has embraced even as he bleats about about radical Islam, the main financier of which is Saudi Arabia. With Anerican and Russian oil production now surpassing that of Saudi Arabia it is far past time that the indoctrination of hatred towards others be condemned and adverse consequences attached to its continuation. NBC News looks at the ADL report. Here are excerpts:
Textbooks for high school students in Saudi Arabia promote hatred against Jews, Christians, women, homosexual men and other Muslim sects despite repeated promises to return the country to a more moderate form of Islam, according to a report released Tuesday.
The Anti-Defamation League highlighted that some textbooks include anti-Semitic stereotypes.
Among the goals of Zionism is a “global Jewish government to control the entire world," one excerpt states.
Another example reads: “The hour will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, so that the Muslims kill them, until the Jew hides behind rock and tree, so the rock or the tree says: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of God, this Jew is behind me, so kill him.’”
A third passage suggests that “beating [women] is permitted when necessary.”
Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and for decades has exported a strict Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam that views Shiite Muslims as heretics.
Intolerance in the kingdom came under particular scrutiny after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when it emerged that 15 out of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. . . . hard-line views endure in some books taught in high schools.
While the report notes some improvements, “much of the incitement evident in today’s textbooks is still alarmingly similar to what was included in the kingdom’s curriculum around the time of the 9/11 attacks.”
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called on U.S. officials to hold Saudi Arabia to a "higher standard." “The U.S. cannot look the other way while Saudi Arabia features anti-Semitic hate speech year after year in the educational material it gives to its children,” he said in a statement.
The ADL also called for "greater scrutiny of the kingdom's textbooks by the American government."
Many of the excerpts highlighted by the ADL are based on hadiths, or accounts of the sayings, actions or habits of the Prophet Muhammad that are used by preachers and jurists, as opposed to the Quran.
Saudi Arabia is no ally and it is long past time that this reality be faced and action taken against this financier of Islamic extremism.
|Trump with murderer MSB.|
We learned two things yesterday: (i) like a 1930's dictator, Donald Trump wanted to use the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute his political nemesis, Hillary Clinton and James Comey out of what is little more than the vindictiveness of a narcissist whose ego was wounded, and (ii) false American "allies" like Saudi Arabia have a green light to murder political dissidents as long as they pretend to kiss Trump's very large ass and perform roles that American voters (and American and international law) would never allow the U.S. military to engage in such as the slaughter and starvation of children in Yemen. The only reason the first desire of Der Trumpenführer wasn't pursued is because the former White House counsel told Trump that such a move would prove to be an expedited route to impeachment. As for the tacit blessing of murder as a political tool, part of me thinks Trump is jealous: he'd love to order the murder of his political foes if he thought he could get away with it. Decent people - which excludes Trump supporters - should be appalled and one can only hope a majority of the U.S. Senate will force consequences on the Saudis. A piece in The Atlantic looks at Trump's tacit blessing of murder as a political tool:
Today the president of the United States released a statement reaffirming his support for Saudi Arabia and its regent, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, known as MbS. The process of separating the substance of the document from its mortifying semiliteracy took me approximately 15 minutes, but I think I managed it without permanent damage to the Broca region of my brain. . . . . Here’s what close study reveals.We knew—we always knew—that Donald Trump would never ditch an ally who would always support him as long as he reciprocated with loyalty of his own. MbS is such an ally. Recall that Trump’s first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia, a curious choice for a president widely believed to hate and distrust Muslims. . . . . The affirmation of this relationship should be read not as the product of deliberation but as an exercise in apologetics: an explanation of a decision that was never in doubt, even if the explanation proved inadequate. All of Trump’s romances are like this. That is why his supporters love him; he loves them back unconditionally—whether they are racist or murderers or cretins.
But let’s examine the issues with Saudi Arabia that required this apologia. They are broadly divisible into three parts: (1) military, (2) economic, and (3) the assassination of the Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump begins with a foreboding message. “The world is a dangerous place!” he writes, at his most Churchillian. He characterizes the war in Yemen as a “proxy” war in which the American enemy Iran and the American ally Saudi Arabia have met on a field of battle. . . . . The destruction and immiseration of Yemen, including the starvation of children and other civilians, is a price Trump regards as a good deal for the inhibition of Iranian interests.
American economic entanglements with Saudi Arabia go back for many decades, and in this sphere too what Trump says is not entirely wrong, although he exaggerates well past the point of dishonesty. The Saudis, he writes, “agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States.” In other words: our friendship is too sweet to spit out, no matter how poisonous it may be. Trump has a propensity to lie about the magnitude of these deals, and in any case he tends to speak of these deals as if they were grants, rather than mutually beneficial arrangements that should increase American sway over Saudi Arabia, rather than force the United States into permanent Saudi enfeoffment and automatic concession to the Kingdom’s demands. If the Saudis have invested $450-billion, does not the United States have more sway over them, rather than less? (The Saudi role in global energy markets, of course, remains formidable, even if it is now proportionally smaller than that of the United States and Russia.)
And then, finally, comes the matter of Khashoggi. On October 2, a team of Saudis murdered Khashoggi, almost certainly in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. . . . The Turks caught the Saudis in an evil and inexcusable plot, one that (perhaps even worse) was executed with all the grace and competence of a team of howler monkeys on methamphetamines.
The CIA recently leaked its own assessment, which stated that MbS ordered the Khashoggi operation. This leak was calculated to ensure that Trump’s semiliterate valentine to MbS would be maximally awkward, a love-letter to a killer. , , , , He adds that “our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event—maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” This sentence is the ultimate transformation of the American government into a form of reality television. The CIA reports—you decide! Trump neglected only to tell readers how to register their votes.
But, again, the decision was rigged from the beginning. Trump’s alliance with Saudi Arabia long predated his awareness of who Khashoggi was, and the death of a single dissident was never going to freeze into hibernation a romance that was forever spring. Although the murder was indefensible, the relationship (Trump argues) is not. To have an alliance with Saudi Arabia against all forms of Islamism, he suggests, is worth the life of a dissident or two.
And here is the brutal truth behind this amoral love affair: MbS has done what America has asked. Fourteen years have passed since Michael Moore’s risible film Fahrenheit 9/11—long enough to erase America’s collective memory . . . . Saudi Arabia contributed 17 of the 19 hijackers on September 11; it encouraged jihadism while professing to be an American ally; it distorted American politics by wielding influence over the Bush family and the various corporate slaves to its oil industry.
MbS has acknowledged that hydrocarbon feudalism is not a viable form of government for Saudi Arabia in perpetuity. He has laid off criticism of Israel. Crucially, he has undertaken massive economic and political change, precisely along the lines that were the basis of a liberal critique of Saudi Arabia a decade ago. That the implementation of this critique has occasionally taken a homicidal form may have seemed to MbS incidental.
MbS has seemed wounded by the speed with which Western powers have dropped him—even after he has incarnated their fondest hopes for the modernization (and de-Islamization) of the Kingdom. He has alluded to a willingness to seek the friendship of China or Russia, if accession to every demand of the United States is not enough to maintain their relationship. But with Trump’s Tuesday statement he knows that the relationship is a safe one. “If you want a friend in Washington,” goes the adage, “get a dog.” With Trump’s statement we see that the genus Homo can be a more constant and loyal friend than found in any kennel.
America has much ugliness in its past. Trump's actions have underscored the fact that at least in the White House, people have learned nothing from the horrors of the past and have willingly thrown away what little moral standing America may have had in the world.
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
|A billboard in West Des Moines, Iowa, in January 2016.|
Time and time over the years I have argued that rural areas that reject modernity, cling to right wing Christianity and remain outwardly racist are cutting their own throats economically and thriving businesses increasingly locate in urban and/ suburban areas that offer better educated work forces and are more hostile to racial bigotry and religious extremism. Here in Virginia, both the McAuliffe and now the Northam gubernatorial administrations have pushed a "welcoming to all" effort to attract new businesses to the state. Sadly, it's a hard sell to parts of Virginia like Southwest Virginia or the area along the southern border from Emporia westward where racism and right wing religion predominate. Yet, as a column in the New York Times lays out, right wing Republican areas are slowly dying - in no small part because of their hostility to diversity and political liberalism. The recent announcement by Amazon of its new headquarters locations and the results of the 2018 midterm elections underscore the argument of the column. Here are column highlights:
A little over a year ago, Amazon invited cities and states to offer bids for a proposed second headquarters. This set off a mad scramble over who would gain the dubious privilege of paying large subsidies in return for worsened traffic congestion and higher housing prices. (Answer: New York and greater D.C.)But not everyone was in the running. From the beginning, Amazon specified that it would put the new facility only in a Democratic congressional district.
O.K., that’s not literally what Amazon said. It only limited the competition to “metropolitan areas with more than one million people” and “urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent.” But in the next Congress the great majority of locations meeting those criteria will, in fact, be represented by Democrats.
Over the past generation, America’s regions have experienced a profound economic divergence. Rich metropolitan areas have gotten even richer, attracting ever more of the nation’s fastest growing industries. Meanwhile, small towns and rural areas have been bypassed, forming a sort of economic rump left behind by the knowledge economy.
Amazon’s headquarters criteria perfectly illustrate the forces behind that divergence. Businesses in the new economy want access to large pools of highly educated workers, which can be found only in big, rich metropolitan areas. And the location decisions of companies like Amazon draw even more high-skill workers to those areas.
In other words, there’s a cumulative, self-reinforcing process at work that is, in effect, dividing America into two economies. And this economic division is reflected in political division.
In 2016, of course, the parts of America that are being left behind voted heavily for Donald Trump. . . . . But this was, it turns out, fighting the last war. Trumpism turned America’s lagging regions solid red, but the backlash against Trumpism has turned its growing regions solid blue.
Why have lagging regions turned right while successful regions turned left? It doesn’t seem to be about economic self-interest. True, Trump promised to bring back traditional jobs in manufacturing and coal mining — but that promise was never credible. And the orthodox Republican policy agenda of cutting taxes and shrinking social programs, which is basically what Trump is following in practice, actually hurts lagging regions, which depend a lot on things like food stamps and disability payments, much more than it hurts successful areas.
As documented in “Identity Crisis,” an important new book analyzing the 2016 election, what distinguished Trump voters wasn’t financial hardship but “attitudes related to race and ethnicity.”
Yet these attitudes aren’t divorced from economic change. Even if they’re personally doing well, many voters in lagging regions have a sense of grievance, a feeling that they’re being disrespected by the glittering elites of superstar cities; this sense of grievance all too easily turns into racial antagonism. Conversely, however, the transformation of the G.O.P. into a white nationalist party alienates voters — even white voters — in those big, successful metropolitan areas. So the regional economic divide becomes a political chasm.
We can and should do a lot to improve the lives of Americans in lagging regions. . . . . . But restoring these regions’ dynamism is much harder, because it means swimming against a powerful economic tide.
And the sense of being left behind can make people angry even if their material needs are taken care of. That is what we see, for example, in the former East Germany . . .
So the bitter division we see in America — the ugliness infecting our politics — may have deep economic roots, and there may be no practical way to make it go away.
But the ugliness doesn’t have to win. Most rural white voters still support Trumpism, but they aren’t a majority, and in the midterms a significant number of those voters also broke with the white nationalist agenda. . . . the better angels of our nature can still prevail.
Richard Florida who coined the term the "creative class" also noted that the more accepting a city of region was of gays, the stronger its technology based economy (Florida called this the "gay index"). If one looks at the economically lagging red states - or regions of Virginia - the common thread is that they are anti-gay and racist. These aren't traits forced on them by outsiders. Rather, it is the inbred bigotry and right wing religious extremism of the local populace which is the root of the problem. True, Republicans play to these prejudices to win votes, but in doing so, they and those who vote for them are merely making the downward economic spiral accelerate. Blacks and Hispanic immigrants are not the source of these regions' economic problems. If they want to see the real cause, the locals need only look in the mirror.
|Acting AG Matthew Whitaker accepted over $1.2 million in shady money from unknown sources.|
Driving home yesterday evening on satellite radio CNN was reporting that Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker had not filed required financial disclosure forms. Now, perhaps we know why as the Washington Post reports that Whitaker was paid $1.2 million by a shadowy and mysterious "charity" with financial sources flowing from the far right. The disclosure raises yet further questions as to Whitaker's fitness for the position - even if he had received required Senate confirmation - given his role with a business that scammed millions from citizens until it was shut down by government regulators. Adding further to the mix is the requests by Senate Democrats that the Department of Justice investigate whether Whitaker had been relaying confidential information from the Russiagate investigation directly to Der Trumpenführer. It would seem the surest bet to a Trump appointment is to have engaged in unscrupulous business practices and to display a lack of moral integrity. Here are highlights from the Post piece:
In the three years after he arrived in Washington in 2014, Matthew G. Whitaker received more than $1.2 million as the leader of a charity that reported having no other employees, some of the best pay of his career.The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust described itself as a new watchdog nonprofit dedicated to exposing unethical conduct by public officials. For Whitaker, it became a lucrative steppingstone in a swift rise from a modest law practice in Iowa to the nation’s top law enforcement job. As FACT’s president, he regularly appeared on radio and television, often to skewer liberals.
But FACT’s origins and the source of funding used to pay Whitaker — now the acting attorney general — remain obscured. An examination of state and federal records, and interviews with those involved, show that the group is part of a national network of nonprofits that often work in concert to amplify conservative messages.
In its application to the IRS for status as a tax-exempt organization, the organizers reported that the group would study the impact of environmental regulations on businesses, records show. In that incarnation, the group took no action and “only existed on paper,” one man named in IRS filings as a board member told The Washington Post. Another named in a state filing as a board member said he never agreed to be on the board.
Whitaker’s 2017 pay from the charity — more than $500,000 for the first nine months, or half the charity’s receipts for the year, according to tax filings — and the group’s earlier, dormant incarnation have not been previously reported by media.
Whitaker did not respond to requests for interviews. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec declined to answer detailed questions about his involvement in FACT, referring a reporter to the charity.
A FACT spokesman who provided a statement on the condition that his name not be used declined to disclose the source of its funding. . . . . FACT does not and is not required to release its donor information,” the statement said. “This protects free speech rights of all of these groups’ supporters as outlined in the First Amendment.”
[I]n 2012, Whitaker was a former U.S. attorney with a modest legal practice in Iowa that paid him $79,000 that year, according to a later disclosure he filed for a failed Senate bid. He also had several local side businesses, including a day-care center and a trailer manufacturer.
Noah Wall, now a vice president of advocacy for a conservative nonprofit called FreedomWorks, was listed in Virginia state filings as a director of the group in 2014. Wall said he was surprised to learn of his role. He said he was approached by Wotring but never agreed to join.
“I never signed anything,” he said. “I’m not entirely sure what any of this is.”
On July 21, 2014, the IRS approved the group’s application for tax-exempt charity status, which was also signed by Wotring, the group’s secretary. In its application, the group said it would be nonpartisan and aim “to develop unbiased research on how government regulations on environmental policy can impact business.” The group by then had changed its address to a UPS Store in Fairfax, which was also used by Americans for Limited Government. [J]ust six weeks later, the newly approved charity changed its name, according to corporate records in Virginia. It was briefly called Working for Rights to Express & Communication.
The name was changed again in October of that year, to the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, according to records in Virginia. That same month, Whitaker, who had lost a primary bid for a U.S. Senate seat, became the group’s leader, according to Kupec, the Justice spokeswoman.
The charity’s mailing address was moved from Virginia to an office suite at a prestigious spot on K Street in the nation’s capital — a virtual office and mailing address shared by 200 organizations.
After the [2016 presidential]election, Whitaker’s focus in those interviews turned to another target, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Whitaker or hosts named Mueller 185 times.
Tax filings show that one of FACT’s biggest contractors was America Rising, a research and communications firm in Arlington, Va., “whose mission is to help its clients defeat Democrats,” according to its website. FACT paid America Rising at least $500,000 for research from 2015 to 2017, tax filings show.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the article is the large sums of money being given by unidentified sources - which could even be foreign sources. The claim that the First Amendment should allow donor's to remain anonymous is absurd. Having to put one's name on one's donations in no manner denigrates the right of free speech. Indeed, the Founding Fathers contemplated that in exercising free speech, one would not be hiding in some murky background. I am opposed to anonymous donations of any kind unless the "charity" is a real charity that supports the poor, the sick, and the homeless.In the three years he worked at the charity, Whitaker’s pay rose sharply each year, tax filings show. Last year, he was paid $55,000 a month. In all, he earned $1,219,000 — more than a third of the donations the group received from 2014 to 2017.
An IRS spokesman declined to comment, citing federal privacy law.
For decades now, America's marijuana laws have been used by the old white Republican establishment to disproportionately criminalize blacks and, perhaps most importantly, take away their voting rights should they receive felony convictions. Virginia has a truly ugly history of this practice with Norfolk being among the worse cities for utilizing the practice. The push for decriminalizing marijuana and criminal justice reform go hand in hand in part and pressure is growing at both the state and federal level for reform that will cease the needless - albeit in my view, deliberate - criminalization of so many which has also made securing a good job almost impossible. A number of states have legalized recreational use of marijuana and a whole new industry is growing, yet a road block remains at the federal level where Republican intransigence to reform has been the norm as exhibited by Jeff Sessions' (a many with a long racist resume) move to more forcefully prosecute marijuana offenders. Now, as the momentum for legalization grows and as even some conservatives see marijuana as a new crop that can bring economic prosperity, a collision course has developed in Congress. A lengthy piece in Politico looks at the phenomenon. Here are article excerpts:
Congressman James Comer stood in front of a local hemp harvest stacked shin-deep for hundreds of feet in every direction, . . . .Little yellow butterflies flitted across the surface of the crop that filled the once-vacant warehouse with the comforting smell of damp grass clippings.
It was the middle of October, and aromatic plants represented the first harvest for Vertical, a California company that has already become a serious contender in the rapidly expanding legal cannabis industry. Comer, who just won reelection to Congress with 69 percent of the vote, has promoted hemp, the non-psychoactive sister plant to marijuana, as a jobs-creating crop to replace the state’s vanished tobacco industry. Hemp grown for CBD, a medicinal oil used for complaints from arthritis to epilepsy, fetches as much as $8,000 per acre, compared with less than $600 for the same amount of corn. This processing facility, Comer said, will create 125 jobs when Vertical has it fully operational, a not insignificant boost in a town of 2,600 people.
Vertical’s future, as well as the state’s infant hemp industry as a whole, rests in large part with the passage of the vast farm bill that Congress is expected to finish in the lame-duck session. Thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the bill includes an amendment that would permanently remove hemp from the list of federally banned drugs like heroin and cocaine, freeing hemp from the crippling legal stigma that has made it economically unviable for the past four decades. But that amendment also includes a little-noticed ban on people convicted of drug felonies from participating in the soon-to-be-federally-legal hemp industry.
[T]he exception has angered a broad and bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, hemp industry insiders and religious groups who see it as a continuing punishment of minorities who were targeted disproportionately during the war on drugs and now are being denied the chance to profit economically from a product that promises to make millions of dollars for mostly white investors on Wall Street.
Legalization has made steady progress at the state level since California first approved medical marijuana in 1996. As of election night, 33 states now allow medical marijuana, and 10 states plus the District of Columbia allow fully recreational use. But at the federal level, a sizable headwind remains.
[L]awmakers like McConnell, who have discovered the economic benefits of relaxing prohibitions on products such as hemp, have nevertheless quietly found ways, like the farm bill felon ban, to satisfy the demands of their anti-legalization constituents, to the chagrin of pro-cannabis lawmakers and activists. After POLITICO Magazine reported on the drug-crime felon ban in August, three senators—Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)—wrote to Senate leadership demanding the removal of the ban, citing its “disparate impact on minorities,” among other concerns.
“I think there’s a growing recognition of the hypocrisy and unfairness of our nation’s drug laws, when hundreds of thousands of Americans are behind bars for something that is now legal in nine states and something that two of the last three Presidents have admitted to doing,” Booker told POLITICO Magazine. “If we truly want to be a just and fair nation, marijuana legalization must be accompanied by record expungement and a focus on restorative justice.”
The fairness problems inherent in the felon ban are evident even in a predominantly white community like Cadiz. Vertical’s CEO is himself a felon. Todd Kaplan pleaded guilty in 2010 to tax evasion, but because his crime was not drug-related, he won’t be barred from participating in the hemp business. But for many men in rural Kentucky, where illegal marijuana was a staple crop, the lifetime ban included in the proposed farm bill means they’re shut out of a growing industry in which they have have actual job skills.
When I asked Comer about the felon ban at the ribbon-cutting for Vertical's hemp-processing plant in Cadiz, he said it was not something he endorsed. “I would not have added the language preventing anyone with a prior minor drug-felony conviction from being able to produce hemp. I support the basis for criminal justice reform as it pertains to the sheer quantity of senseless petty drug sentences.”
Comer, who approves of the House's plan to force work requirements on recipients of the food stamps program known as SNAP, said he understands a primary reason able-bodied adults aren't participating in the workforce is because of their criminal records. “I’m sure the language was added to appease certain senators,” Comer told me. “But it really goes against the direction our country is headed with respect to criminal justice reform related to minor drug offenses.” But when I asked whether he will vote for the farm bill in spite of the felon ban he professes to dislike, Comer didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”
This once-radical notion that felons ought to gain priority for entry into a newly legal industry—instead of being shut out—has quietly gained bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, albeit not among Republican leadership.
In the House, this mounting opposition to the continuing punishment of felons first cropped up in September, when the Judiciary Committee passed its first pro-marijuana bill. It would expand access to scientific study of the cannabis plant, a notion agreed upon by marijuana’s supporters and detractors alike. However, Democrats almost killed the bill because it included language that barred felons (and even people convicted of misdemeanors) from receiving licenses to produce the marijuana. Felon bans are commonplace in legal marijuana programs. Every state has some version of it, but most of them have a five- or 10-year limit. But the felon bans in both the Senate’s farm bill and the House’s marijuana research bill are lifetime bans, and the House bill includes misdemeanors, too.
In the Senate, the movement to protect the legal marijuana trade has taken the form of the proposed bipartisan Gardner-Warren STATES Act, which would maintain the status quo of federal non-interference in state-legal programs that was upended when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions repealed the Cole Memo, an Obama-era document that outlined a hands-off approach to state-legal programs. Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act would adopt California-style principles and apply them federally, going far beyond the STATES Act, removing marijuana from Schedule I (defined as having no medical value and a high risk of abuse) and eliminating criminal penalties for marijuana. But unlike other pro-marijuana bills, it would also deny federal law-enforcement grants to states that don’t legalize marijuana; direct federal courts to expunge marijuana convictions; and establish a grant-making fund through the Department of Housing and Urban Development for communities most affected by the war on drugs.
Booker’s bill has become popular among Senate Democrats. Ron Wyden, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Merkley and Elizabeth Warren have signed on as co-sponsors—a list that looks a lot like a lineup of presumed candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
“For too long, the federal government has propped up failed and outdated drug policies that destroy lives,” Wyden told POLITICO Magazine. “The war on drugs is deeply rooted in racism. . . . . People across America understand and want change. Now, Congress must act.”
Recent polling shows that Americans agree with Wyden—to a point. There is a widespread acceptance of legalizing marijuana. Gallup has been tracking this number since 1969, when only 12 percent of Americans believed in legalizing it; in October, Gallup put the number at 66 percent, the highest ever number recorded. Pew says it is 62 percent, also its highest number ever. But there is far less acceptance of the idea that the war on drugs has had an adverse impact on poorer, minority communities, . . .
While voters might doubt who has suffered because of laws against marijuana, there should be little doubt about who is benefiting from its legalization. In 2017, the North American marijuana industry was valued at $9.2 billion, and it is expected to reach $47.3 billion by 2027, according to Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics. The excitement around marijuana investment is so high that even John Boehner, who as speaker of the House blocked the District of Columbia from implementing its legal marijuana program, has recently joined the board of Acreage Holdings, one of the largest vertically integrated cannabis operators in America.
Now that Democrats have won control of the House, a co-founder of the Cannabis Caucus, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), is poised to implement his blueprint for how the House under Democratic leadership would legalize marijuana at the federal level. Racial justice is front-and-center in that plan. The memo he sent to Democratic leadership reads in part, “committees should start marking up bills in their jurisdiction that would responsibly narrow the marijuana policy gap—the gap between federal and state marijuana laws—before the end of the year. These policy issues … should include: Restorative justice measures that address the racial injustices that resulted from the unequal application of federal marijuana laws.”
I find it disgusting that no matter the policy issue, racism and harming minorities remains a bedrock of the Republican Party.