One Person, No Vote

One Person No VoteA new book was released today.  No, I’m not talking about Bob Woodward’s Fear:  Trump in the White House, although I did start reading that last night … actually this morning around 4:00 a.m.  No, the new book I’m talking about is by Carol Anderson, and the title is One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy.

From Amazon …

From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of White Rage, the startling–and timely–history of voter suppression in America, with a foreword by Senator Dick Durbin.

In her New York Times bestseller White Rage, Carol Anderson laid bare an insidious history of policies that have systematically impeded black progress in America, from 1865 to our combustible present. With One Person, No Vote, she chronicles a related history: the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Known as the Shelby ruling, this decision effectively allowed districts with a demonstrated history of racial discrimination to change voting requirements without approval from the Department of Justice.

Focusing on the aftermath of Shelby, Anderson follows the astonishing story of government-dictated racial discrimination unfolding before our very eyes as more and more states adopt voter suppression laws. In gripping, enlightening detail she explains how voter suppression works, from photo ID requirements to gerrymandering to poll closures. And with vivid characters, she explores the resistance: the organizing, activism, and court battles to restore the basic right to vote to all Americans as the nation gears up for the 2018 midterm elections.

Carol AndersonMs. Anderson is Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies at Emory University and well-qualified to write on this topic.  One example from her book is astounding, and not in any good way:

Jeff Sessions, for example, when he was Alabama U.S. attorney, referred to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as an “intrusive piece of legislation,” then “rounded up twenty elderly blacks and had Alabama state troopers drive them away from their community into a predominately white area to be fingerprinted, photographed and grilled before a grand jury” to intimidate them out of voting. – From an interview published in Kirkus Reviews

And, as if to prove the point, just yesterday the Editorial Board at The Washington Post published the following:

The GOP finds yet another way to suppress the vote

IT WAS 5 p.m. on a Friday, just as Labor Day weekend was starting, when, without warning, faxes arrived at North Carolina’s state board of elections and 44 county election boards. The faxes contained a demand so outlandish — and so blatantly in violation of state privacy laws — that several officials assumed they were a hoax. A federal subpoena demanded practically every voting document imaginable, going back years. Absentee, provisional and regular ballots. Registration applications. Early-voting applications. Absentee ballot requests. Poll books.

In fact, it was no hoax. The subpoena sought a list of items which, if satisfied, would force state and local officials to produce at least 20 million documents — in less than four weeks. Prosecutors also demanded eight years of records from the state Division of Motor Vehicles, through which voters are allowed to register to vote. No explanation was provided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement or federal prosecutors, who sought the documents. It is a fishing expedition by the Trump administration to support the president’s repeatedly discredited assertions that voting fraud is widespread, especially by noncitizens casting illegal ballots.

The effect of this expedition, led by Robert J. Higdon Jr., the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, is easy to foresee: This is one more in a long line of GOP efforts to suppress the vote. Members of the state board of elections, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, voted unanimously to fight the subpoena, which would overwhelm local boards’ administrative capacity. It also would intimidate voters who, with good reason, would fear their votes and other sensitive information were being handed over to federal officials.

Faced with an outcry from state and local officials, prosecutors dropped their initial, preposterous demand that the records be handed over by Sept. 25, a deadline that would have played havoc with preparations for the fall elections. They also said state officials could redact voters’ choices on some 2.2 million early and absentee ballots — a clerical task that would consume untold hours of work. (More than 3.3 million regular ballots cannot be traced to the voters who cast them.)

The absurdity of the document demand, and the president’s broader assertion that the U.S. voting system is “rigged” and marred by massive fraudulent voting and the participation of illegal immigrants, was underscored by indictments announced last month, also in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The indictments charged 19 foreign nationals — from Japan, Italy, South Korea, Germany, Poland, Mexico, Haiti, Grenada and several other countries — with voting illegally in the 2016 elections.

Nineteen illegal votes, out of more than 4.5 million ballots cast in North Carolina that year, is minuscule. Far from justifying a demand for millions of documents, it underscores the conclusion by dozens of reputable scholars and other investigators that illegal voting is exceedingly rare. That the administration pursues its crusade to show otherwise is an exercise in unicorn-spotting, but it is also something far more sinister. The real agenda is to discredit American democracy and to scare away Democratic-leaning voters. It represents an abominable misuse of law enforcement powers.

It would seem that the GOP is fairly certain they cannot maintain their majority in Congress in a fair and honest election, so the next best thing is to stifle the voters’ voices.  Trump’s claim of the system being rigged may be prophetic, rather than historical.  The North Carolina subpoena reeks of corruption, but it also appears to signal panic within the GOP.

Anderson’s advice for overcoming the challenges is to “Be engaged. Register and vote. Get the people around you to register and vote. Really engage with the issues. Understand the position of the Secretary of State in your state who sits over election machinery. Donate to the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, who are fighting to open up the ballot box, to rid the nation of unequal democracy.”

The election on November 6th is our last best hope to curtail the rampant corruption that defines the Trump administration.  Spread the word …

Ready For More … Snarky Snippets?

There is so much to write about that I don’t know where to start.  I have two posts started, but they are both a bit heavy on the research, so I decided that rather than strain my brain tonight, I would go with some more of Filosofa’s Snarky Snippets to start your Sunday morning!


He believed the “enemy of the people” b.s.

Many of us predicted it would happen, and it damn near did.  When Donald Trump repeatedly, hundreds of times, refers to the press as the “enemy of the people” and his followers, already looking for a fight, believe him, it is a recipe for disaster.  Last week, that disaster almost happened.

A 68-year-old man, Robert Darrell Chain of Encino, California, began making threatening phone calls to The Boston Globe on August 10th, the day the Globe announced a cooperative effort among media outlets to publish editorial responses to Trump’s political attacks on the media.

Robert-Chain

The face of a Trump supporter …

According to the New York Times

“In one call to the paper’s newsroom, Mr. Chain threatened to shoot the newspaper’s employees in the head, the F.B.I. said. Three days later, in another call, Mr. Chain said: “You’re the enemy of the people.” Using profane language, he threatened to kill “every” Globe employee.”

Altogether Chain made twelve threatening calls, one in which he threatened to shoot employees in the head.  It was at that point that the FBI was called in and Mr. Chain was arrested on Thursday.  As if right on cue, Trump tweeted …trump-tweetMr. Chain was 3,000 miles from Boston, where The Boston Globe is located, and quite likely would never have gone beyond the threatening stage.  Or … would he have?  Maybe, maybe not … we won’t likely ever know, but that isn’t the point.  The point is that sooner or later somebody will.  Somebody who doesn’t care if they are gunned down, as long as they accomplish the deed for their beloved Donald Trump.

Chain was released on his own recognizance later on Thursday, and as soon as he left the Los Angeles Federal Courthouse, he had something to say …

“America was saved when Donald J. Trump was elected.”

Saved from WHAT???  Sanity??? Mr. Chain is not, I am certain, the only one out there who would, as a zombie blindly following orders, attempt to kill journalists, thinking they were doing Trump’s bidding.  And who knows?  Perhaps they are.  All I can say for certain is that if one single reporter is killed “in the line of duty”, his or her blood will be on Donald Trump’s hands.

Hey, republican friends!  Will there come a time that you agree Trump’s mouth needs to be taped before he gets somebody killed?  Or are you still clapping for him?


When will they ever learn????

mark-harrisMark Harris is the Republican Party nominee for the United States House of Representatives from North Carolina’s 9th congressional district.  Mark Harris is also a former minister at the First Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.  And Mr. Harris is among the most bigoted people I have never had the pleasure to meet.

Harris is as anti-LGBT as they come, but that is not surprising in the Republican Party these days, and wouldn’t earn him space on this blog in and of itself.  But Harris is also an unabashed misogynist. The evidence …

  • “Many marriages could save beaucoups of marriage counseling money if they would just understand; husbands love your wives even as Christ loved the church. Wives submit [emphasis added] yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord.” Submit???  Did you say, “submit”, Jack?

And regarding women having careers …

  • “But nobody has seemed to ask the question that I think is critically important to ask: Is that a healthy pursuit for society? Is that the healthiest pursuit for our homes? Is that the healthiest pursuit for our children? Is that the healthiest pursuit for the sexes in our generation?” And I suppose we should bring you your slippers and pipe when you come home from work, huh?

This isn’t religion … this is male chauvinism taken to the nth level, pure and simple.

50s homemakerThe estimated population of the state of North Carolina as of July 2017 is 10,273,419, of which 51.3% are women.  If Mark Harris wins this one … we will know the women were too busy baking cakes, cleaning house, and ‘submitting’ to go to the polls and vote.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr …


Is he finally going to pay?

Ol’ Alex Jones is back in the news, only not quite on the end he likes to be on.  For some reason (I would call it narcissistic arrogance) he thought that he could snap his fingers and make his troubles go away.  He is, after all, the one and only great Alex Jones!  But guess what?  His magic seems to have worn off and he is now being held to some of the same standards as the rest of us.Republican National ConventionJones’ attorney, Mark Enoch, had filed a motion to have the $1 million lawsuit filed by Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa thrown out on the grounds that he was simply “dispensing political speech”.  You may remember that Pozner & De La Rosa were the parents of Noah Pozner, one of the children murdered in the Sandy Hook mass shooting.  When Jones put forth his conspiracy theory that Sandy Hook was a hoax and the parents were crisis actors, Pozner and De La Rosa were harassed and received persistent death threats by Jones’ followers.  The couple has had to relocate 7 times since 2012 to protect their family, and finally decided enough is enough, bringing a defamation lawsuit against Jones.  Jones’ bid to have the suit thrown out was denied by district Judge Scott Jenkins in Austin, Texas.

This isn’t the only lawsuit that is currently pending against ol’ Alex.  Six other families, an FBI agent, and a Foreign Service Officer have filed their own similar lawsuits.

I seriously doubt Jones will see prison time, even if found guilty in every case, but perhaps the blow to his ego and his career will be punishment enough.  Then again, the fools who fall for his disgusting trash-talk may just put his pedestal a notch higher and his career could soar.  Stranger things have happened.


I could go on, but it’s late and I’m tired, so I’ll give you a break from my snarkiness for a bit.  Have a great Sunday, folks … I’ll be back with more later.

McCrory’s Last Stand

In North Carolina, last month’s election unseated Governor Pat McCrory.  It was well past time, even though McCrory has been in office for less than four years.  McCrory, a one-term governor, has done tremendous damage to the state of North Carolina in his four-year tenure and needs to go.  Back in March/April, I wrote two posts about his homophobic actions: Let the South Secede and Sue???  Who’s suing who’s suing whom?  or … No More Potties.  To make a long story short, the topic of both posts was that McCrory passed legislation that forbade cities or municipalities from passing anti-discrimination laws to protect the rights of the LGBT community.  With McCrory’s move, LGBT persons living in North Carolina would be subject to discrimination in the workplace, in housing, in any public venue.  What followed was a series of lawsuits which remain in process at this time.

Last month, McCrory was defeated by a democrat, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper in an extremely close election. Not one to exit quietly, McCrory first refused to accept the results of the election, and when that didn’t work, he and his cronies got to work to limit the power of the governor’s office before Cooper takes office in January.

McCrory, who passed his anti-LGBT law through both houses of the North Carolina Congress, and signed the bill, all within an unprecedented twelve hours, is at it again.  Typically, it takes months, sometimes years to pass legislation through both houses and the executive branch, but McCrory, with a Republican-controlled state congress, is able to cut that time dramatically. Once again, he called a last-minute ‘special session’ as he did back in March, leaving almost no time for public discourse.

“Two major bills were approved by the legislature Friday. One of them, which was quickly signed by the departing Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, strips future governors of their power to appoint a majority to the State Board of Elections. The number of board members was expanded from five to eight, with the eight members to be evenly divided between the two major parties. It also changes the state court system, making it more difficult for the losers of some superior court cases to appeal directly to the Democratic-controlled Supreme Court. A second bill, which had not been signed by the governor as of Friday afternoon, strips the governor of his ability to name members of the boards of state universities, and it reduces the number of state employees the governor can appoint from 1,500 to 425. In another change, and one that could have the greatest impact in the near term, the bill makes the governor’s cabinet appointees subject to approval by the State Senate. Republicans currently enjoy veto-proof majorities in the House and the Senate, and the North Carolina governorship is historically a relatively weak office.”The Washington Post, 16 December 2016

Ever since McCrory took office in 2013, his approval ratings have dropped each year.  Democrats have widely protested his actions in a number of areas, including abortion, LGBT rights, and voting rights.  Earlier this year, GOP leaders launched a meticulous and coordinated effort to deter black voters, who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats. The law, created and passed entirely by white legislators, evoked the state’s ugly history of blocking African Americans from voting. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the 4th Circuit recognized the legislature’s discriminatory intent and struck down the law. McCrory tried to appeal, but the Supreme Court refused to overrule the lower court’s order.

In other discriminatory moves, McCrory and his congressional minions have blocked Medicaid coverage for a half-million North Carolinians, transferred $90 million from public schools to voucher schools and cut pre-K for 30,000 children, repealed the earned tax credit for 900,000 people, denied, among other things, victims of employment discrimination the ability to sue in state courts, and blocked municipalities from raising the minimum wage. President of the North Carolina branch of the NAACP, Reverend William Barber hit the nail on the head: “If you want to know what a Donald Trump presidency will look like, all you have to do is look to North Carolina.”

The actions taken this month to reduce the power of the incoming governor are akin to trashing the inside of one’s house right before new tenants are to move in.  It is childish and in my opinion proves that McCrory did not have the temperament nor intelligence to become governor to begin with.  Yet, he still enjoys much support from North Carolina Republicans who, like Republicans in much of the rest of the nation today, are not interested in the greater good of their state, their nation, but concern themselves solely with their own comfort, pleasure and convenience.  In the words of Time Magazine writer Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., “Republicans in North Carolina have revealed their true colors, and they are not red, white and blue.” Pat McCrory attempted to set his state back decades with his discriminatory policies.  Good riddance, Mr. McCrory!

Foolish Friday

As I perused this morning’s news stories, a number of things struck me. First, there was Howard Dean’s wild accusation that Donald Trump showed signs of cocaine use on the night of the debate. Just a day or two ago I cautioned a friend about believing or repeating such obvious malarkey. And then there was the story about Congress, specifically good ol’ Mitch McConnell, having second thoughts about overriding President Obama’s veto of JASTA, saying that they “should have been told” of the potential ramifications. The ramifications have been explained to them over and over, so I had to shake my head at that. At any rate, when I began reading blogs by friends and fellow-bloggers this morning, I found this one from blogger-friend Keith Wilson, and it hit multiple nails right on the head with a single hammer. Please take a few moments to read what he has to say, and drop him a comment to share your own thoughts. Thank you, Keith, for some timely reminders!

musingsofanoldfart

After an interesting few weeks of the election season and legislative comments, I feel obligated to note some foolish behavior that we need to highlight and cease.

– I recognize that one of the Presidential candidates is quick with demeaning remarks and labels for people who dare criticize him or are good foils, but that does not mean others should do the same with him. Howard Dean said Trump’s sniffles at the debate may have been caused by his being on Cocaine. We do not need that Mr. Dean. I read an entertaining post where commenters used every bad word to describe Trump. That gets us in the mud with him. Set aside all of his remarks and focus on two things – his history and his economic plan for our country. The former tells you all you need to know about how he will operate. The latter is…

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Sue??? Who’s suing who’s suing whom? or … No More Potties

coffeecinnrollsWelcome!  Pull up a chair, coffee is brewing, and I will also have some fresh-baked cinnamon rolls ready in just a few.  Relax and enjoy the ride, because by the time you finish this, you are going to feel as if you just got off of the world’s wildest ride.  Or perhaps you will feel like you have entered a new dimension, another world altogether.

 

ncLet me begin by saying that I used to like North Carolina.  I remember more than a few weekends spent at Nags Head on the Outer Banks, trying to put a broken psyche back together again.  I loved it there, especially in the off-season.  I also love the Smokies, and although I am partial to the Tennessee portion, I like the North Carolina side also.  So no, I do not hate North Carolina per se. I mention this, because I caught some flak on my original post from readers and a personal friend about ‘south-bashing’, so I am trying to be kinder.

However … NC is the hotbed for Controversy (with a capital C) at the moment.  On April 2nd, I published a post titled ‘Let the South Secede’ both here and also on Dailykos, an on-line, liberal publication.  The post was about an unconstitutional law that North Carolina had passed through both houses of the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, all within a record 12 hours.  The law, essentially, blocks local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules to grant protections to gay and transgender people. At the time of my original post, I chose not to discuss one aspect of the bill, but since that one point has become the biggest domestic issue in the news today, I find I must address it at this time.  That is the question of what, if any, public restrooms transgender people should be allowed to use.  This is, in my mind, the most ludicrous issue for lawmakers to waste their time on and I am still stunned (though obviously not speechless) that it has raised such a stink (pun intended).

So, what happened after the bill was passed and signed into law in March? First, over 100 companies expressed their displeasure with the discriminatory law and some announced plans to curtail or cease business operations within the state of North Carolina.  Several musicians cancelled scheduled concerts in the state. Within a week after passage of the legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Lambda Legal and Equality North Carolina all filed lawsuits suing the state, specifically McCrory, Attorney General Roy Cooper III and W. Louis Bissette Jr., the chairman of the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina. They argue that the law: deprives the residents of their constitutional right to equal protection under the law; violates their right to privacy; violates their freedom to refuse unwanted medical treatment by forcing them to undergo medical procedures to use facilities in line with their gender identity; and violates Title IX protections against discrimination based on sex.

Have another cup of coffee?  Just wait … this is only the beginning of the ride.  North Carolina’s Attorney General, one Roy Cooper (a democrat) refused to defend the state in the lawsuits (he is actually running for governor against McCrory this year). Last week, the federal Department of Justice announced that the North Carolina law is in violation of the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act and its ban on discrimination based on sex. The governor was advised that he had until Monday, 09 May, to repeal the law, else risk losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.  McCrory’s response was that he felt it was a ‘common-sense’ law about privacy, and every indication was that he would not step away from it.

Monday, 09 May – Governor McCrory makes his position clear by filing a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, accusing the federal government of “baseless and blatant overreach.”  THEN … {drumroll, please} the Justice Department filed its own lawsuit, claiming the North Carolina law is discriminatory and violates civil rights.

McCrory accuses the federal government of “being a bully”.  Meanwhile, in somewhat more mature language, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms. This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them.”  She does not sound like a bully to me.

By my count, there are currently at a minimum, five lawsuits pertaining to this highly discriminatory law.  Each of these lawsuits will cost taxpayer dollars … lots and lots of taxpayer dollars.  Meanwhile, at least five federal agencies are considering withholding further funding from the State of North Carolina, among them the Department of Education which provides more than $4 billion in aid to North Carolina, much in the form of student loans.

Amidst all the lawsuits, the pros, the cons, the screaming and yelling, the transphobia, a woman named Kayel Tator posted the following on her Facebook page:

“Was it a man in the woman’s restroom? I cannot say for sure because I was in the stall but every indication tells me it was a man. There were 3 stalls, they checked the first one then came into the middle one that was next to me. I could see their feet. They had on blue jeans and blue/white Van slip on tennis shoes. I didn’t think anything of it until I soon heard them peeing and their feet were still in front of and FACING the toilet. WTF! I sat there frozen in disbelief, my mind trying to come to grips with what I was visually seeing and hearing. Were they peeing, were they puking? Whatever they did, it was a one shot and as soon as they were done they left the restroom without washing their hands. Everything tells me this was a man in the woman’s restroom. I was in there alone so no chance of asking someone.

I walked out and peered into the nearby bar area to see if I could see the ‘shoes’ that I would recognize in a heartbeat but I didn’t. I don’t know if the person went back in the restaurant or the bar, but I know what I saw! I was prepared to confront the shoe wearer if I spotted them and it was not a woman. I was already on my way out the door when this happened so not easily seeing ‘those blue jeans and feet’ that was the end of it.

Like really, am I going to have to start going into the bathroom with the video keyed up on my phone and ready to roll for crap like this?

WHY did this have to happen to me? *grrrrrrr*….”

This woman has more serious problems than she realizes.  I find her to be pathetic, disgusting, homophobic, and other adjectives too numerous to list here.

My money is on the federal government in this race, however remember that the wheels of justice turn very slowly most times. Meanwhile, however, no matter what the eventual outcome, which is likely to be at least a year away unless McCrory decides to capitulate, there can likely be no real winner and there are a lot of losers, including you, me, and everyone who pays taxes in this nation.  The law has come to be known as the “bathroom bill”, which is truly a misnomer, because, as I said in my original post, the language has far broader implications for the LGBT community, such as the right to equal employment opportunities and being able to be expect service in public restaurants, etc. It would seem to me, then, that the only real solution to this manufactured problem is to do away with public restrooms altogether.

Thank you for listening to my rant … hope you don’t feel too ill after that wild ride … just leave your coffee cups in the sink on your way out, please.

One Man’s Freedom …

“Religious freedom” acts are popping up all over the country, particularly south of the Mason-Dixon line, but where is the freedom?  The freedom in most of these acts seems to be granted only to one specific group of people:  Religionists.  Religion is a touchy subject and I respectfully try to avoid it in this blog, but sometimes it is simply unavoidable.  For the record, I take no sides other than the side of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of choice to all people to follow any chosen religion, or not.  It is a very personal and individual choice, and I believe we should all honor that.  That said, there are limits.  An individual certainly has the right to believe as he or she will, to attend the church of his/her choice – or to attend no church, but … nobody in this nation has the right to force their religion or beliefs upon another individual, either directly or indirectly.  Nobody – neither the government nor churches nor private citizens.  It is rather like my right to own a dog and keep him on my property.  Yes, I have that right, but if he barks all night and keeps the neighbors awake, then my right to own that dog has infringed upon their right to sleep at night.

So often I hear people say that the United States is “a Christian country”.  But that is not true.  Though it is true that Christianity is the most common religion in this nation, it is not the only one, and our government is a secular government. The Constitution grants the exact same rights to Muslims, to Hindus, to Jews, and to atheists as it does to Christians.  Every person has the same rights.  I think, however, that in the past decade or so, we have come to misunderstand what a “right” is.  It is past time that we try to put this all into perspective so that we can get back to the business of trying to live together in peace and harmony, rather than arguing over who has a right to be married, who has a right to eat in a restaurant or use a public restroom, and who has a right to live in a neighborhood.  We need to be looking for solutions that can protect the rights of one group without robbing another group of their rights.

If a restaurant owner denies service to gay people or Jews or black people or Muslims, then he is discriminating against another human being.  Businesses are open to the public.  The public is inclusive, not exclusive.  If the only people a business owner wishes to serve are those who look, act and think like himself, then I think it is safe to say that he should not own a business that serves the public.

To be sure, there are cases where the rights of certain religious groups are infringed, and in those cases legislation is needed.  Things such as coroners conducting autopsies on people whose religion barred them, city rezoning that excluded churches in certain neighborhoods, thereby requiring residents to travel longer distances to attend services, and local governments dictating the design of churches, overriding the wishes of the congregations.  These were the types of infringements that prompted the passage of Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.  That federal law made sense, ensured the rights of religious people, and did so without infringing on the rights of others.  The spate of state laws that we are seeing now, however, have taken the concept of “religious freedom” far outside the boundaries of that which is sensible and well into the territory of discriminatory.

Last year, the United States Supreme Court, the highest law of the land, released a landmark opinion giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide, establishing a new civil right.  Now a number of states are passing laws that infringe upon that right.  Why?  Because the religionists wish it.  I can almost guarantee that if the states do not repeal or at the very least modify these laws quickly, we will start to see cases challenging the law work their way through the legal system, eventually ending up at the Supreme Court level.  It will take years and cost large sums of taxpayer money, all of which could be avoided with a bit of tolerance, compassion, and common sense. Tolerance, religious and otherwise, is surely to be valued over closed-mindedness.

Mississippi and North Carolina are just the two most recent states to enact highly discriminatory laws in the last week.  Many others have similar, though less restrictive, less discriminatory laws.  It is one thing to condemn a person based on their behaviour.  A bar owner certainly has the right to refuse service to a customer who is inebriated or starting trouble.  A shop owner can and should refuse service to a customer who is behaving inappropriately and disturbing other customers or damaging merchandise.  But it is not ever okay to judge or condemn a person because of his race, the colour of his skin, his religion or personal choices.

If, in fact, we need to “make America great again”, this is why.  I personally still think America is great, especially when I read news from the Middle East, from African nations, when I talk to my neighbors from Syria, Pakistan and Iraq, and when I see the plight of refugees in Greece and Turkey.  But America is fraying, not at the edges, but from within.  We are taking steps backward toward the past, unraveling the threads of progress that we made over the course of the past 230 years.  We are heading back toward a time when people believed that one person was better than another based on irrelevant differences.  It is time we start having these difficult conversations, trying to understand and learn about others, rather than merely shunning people because they do not look, act, or think exactly as we do.  Underneath those superficial differences, we are all humans, we all have essentially the same goals, hopes and aspirations.  We must stop passing “hate laws” and start trying to act like the kind and caring human beings we were meant to be. Remember, one man’s freedom may be another man’s prison.

Let the South Secede?

Perhaps it is time to let the southern states secede from the United States of America, as they tried to do in 1860-61.  Recently the southern states appear to be determined to destroy the values on which this nation was founded, the notion that “All men are created equal”.

On Wednesday, March 23rd in North Carolina, the legislature convened a special session. A bill was introduced, it passed through both the House and Senate (both Republican controlled) and Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed it into law. All inside of 12 hours. This may be a legislative record, but not all records are things of beauty. Just like that, North Carolina became the state with the most hostile laws against LGBT people in the country. The rushed special session was ingeniously planned to avoid all of the various resistance that has held back similar bills from being considered in previous years. For example, the bill’s language was only made public minutes before it was considered, and there was only a total of 30 minutes of public comment, meaning there was basically no opportunity for public input. Businesses had no opportunity to chime in about the economic impact on the state.

The bill came a month after the city of Charlotte passed a measure protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from being discriminated against by businesses.  The state law passed 10 days ago effectively blocks local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules to grant protections to gay and transgender people.  Though the state bill seems to have been triggered by the question of what, if any, public restrooms transgender people should be allowed to use (a subject that I choose not to discuss at this time), the language has far broader implications for the LGBT community, such as the right to equal employment opportunities and being able to be expect service in public restaurants, etc.

In the ten days since the bill was signed into law, there has been a tremendous backlash.  Some 100 national companies have signed a letter objecting to the law. They join the several businesses that had already spoken out against it in the days immediately after it passed. Likewise, several cities and states and have banned all government-funded travel to the state of North Carolina. On Friday, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) added D.C. to a growing list, which includes San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, and Portland, as well as the states of New York, Vermont, Connecticut, and Washington. Braeburn Pharmaceuticals was planning to build a $20 million manufacturing and research facility in Durham County, but it announced this week that it is “reevaluating our options based on the recent, unjust legislation.”  Additionally, a federal lawsuit was filed against Governor McCrory and other state officials … the first of many, unless I miss my guess. Governor McCrory and his cronies are standing firm for the time being, but one must wonder how long that will last once the economy begins to feel the pinch of lost jobs and revenue.

A similar bill was being considered in Georgia, though Georgia governor Nathan Deal announced on Monday that he intends to veto the bill, saying “I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which I and my family have been a part of for all of our lives.”.  If passed, it would have: (1) prevented people from having to perform or attend same-sex marriages (note that nobody is forced to do either anyway) (2) permitted faith-based groups like churches and religious schools to refuse service and employment to individuals if serving said people violated the group’s religious beliefs and (3) allowed those same organizations to deny employment to individuals “whose religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.” For Georgia, the economic impact would have been catastrophic.  Consider this:  Disney, Marvel, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and Apple have all opposed the bill.  Disney & Marvel have used Georgia as a venue for their films in recent years.  They stated in no uncertain terms that they would “take [their] business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.”  This alone could have had a negative economic impact of some $6 billion annually.  Additionally, the NFL indicated that they will not consider Falcons Stadium, set to open in 2017 and in contention to host the Super Bowl in 2019 or 2020, as a site for its biggest game of the year. A trio of other Atlanta teams — the Braves, Falcons, and Hawks —opposed the bill as well.  Predictably, there has been praise for Deal from the LGBT community and criticism from religious leaders.  There was an attempt by Georgia State Senator Mike Crane to override the veto, but it fell short of the requisite 2/3 majority in both chambers.

Then there is Mississippi.  I have saved the worst for last.  The bill in Mississippi, titled the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”, goes much further than simple approval of discrimination against the LGBT community.  It would, in essence, allow for discrimination against any person who engages in premarital sex.  In short, it gives business owners and religious organizations wide berth in discriminating based on the three tenets of the bill: “(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; (b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and (c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”  I could write an entire post on this one, which goes beyond bigoted, beyond despicable … in fact, I cannot find words to express my thoughts about this bill. However I will wait and see what happens when it reaches Governor Phil Bryant’s desk next week.  I hope he is human or at least savvy enough to veto the bill, though early indicators are that he will sign it. If you can stomach it, you can read the text of the bill here.

These bills/laws are called “religious freedom” acts. They would be more accurately called “sanctioned bigotry” acts.  In reality, they are laws that give the right to discriminate.  These laws give anyone and everyone the right to discriminate without being punished under the law.  Discrimination is contrary to the values of this nation.  When the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1787, slavery was still legal.  African-Americans were considered property.  We came a long way in realizing that to judge any person based on anything other than their behaviour is wrong.  Are we doomed to backpedal?  Are certain religious groups so damn sure that their way is the only right way, that they are willing to deny human rights to people who are different in some way?  Make no mistake … if these laws are allowed to pass and to stand, we are headed back down the road toward slavery.  The Constitution calls for protection of religious freedom, but it also calls for separation of church and state.  With these laws, states are making laws that are contrary to the secularism mandated to governments. It is neither the responsibility nor the right of the state to make any law discriminating against an entire group of people in favor of the choices of a handful of religions.  There is not a single state in the deep south, from Texas to North Carolina that has any state laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment practices.  Not a single one. The states in grey on the map below are those that have no anti-discriminatory employment laws for LGBT:

LGBT_employment_discrimination_law_in_the_United_States.svg

 

Just as the south held on tightly to slavery, just as the south fought bitterly to keep schools, public venues and transportation segregated for more than half of the 20th century, the trend of bigotry and racism continues even now, well into the 21st century. Ultimately, I suspect each of these laws will come under the scrutiny of the U.S. Supreme Court and will be struck down.  Meanwhile, an estimated 3.5% of the adult population in the southern states will be discriminated against in the workforce, in public venues such as restaurants, and in such as homeless shelters and daycare facilities and clinics.  I realize this is a long post, but I think this is important and if we don’t speak up, who will? If not now, then when?

As always, I welcome your thoughts and opinions on this topic!