Federal Judge Says Religion Gives You A Right To Discriminate



There are two narratives, both of which are true, that can be told about America’s long history of bigotry and discrimination.

The first is a narrative of progress and improvement. In this version, the descendants of former slaves serve in Congress. Same-sex couples enjoy the right to marry. A woman is poised to become the next President of the United States. It’s the narrative President Obama appealed to when he implored voters to “choose our better history.” And it is the story of America that allowed him to become the first African-American president.

But there is another, far more sinister American story. In this story, Native American slavery is largely abandoned, but replaced by African slavery. African Americans become freedmen, only to be trampled by Black Codes and peonage. America’s darker history is what led Stokely Carmichael to quip that the only position for women in his civil rights movement is “prone.” It’s the history that brought millions to the polls in 2004 to lash out against marriage equality.

The original Jim Crow, a caricature of people of African descent

In America’s sinister history, someone must always be Jim Crow. Someone must be the scapegoat. The hated other. Bigotry never dies, it just finds a new home.

On Thursday, Judge Sean F. Cox, a George W. Bush appointee,declared that transgender people are the new scapegoats. He did so in a 56-page legal opinion that sits as much on the knife-edge of America’s culture wars as it does at a crossroads between two very different futures for American law.

His opinion, should it be upheld on appeal, offers a license to business owners to engage in anti-trans bigotry. It also opens the door to a whole new round of cases alleging that discrimination is permissible just as long as it is justified by an appeal to religious faith.

What Hath Hobby Lobby Wrought?

Judge Cox’s opinion in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes confronts a legal issue that is genuinely uncertain in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that could remake the balance of power between religious objectors and the rule of law. Prior to the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a religious objector’s right to defy the law ended when such defiance intruded on the rights of others — and this was especially true in the business context. As the Supreme Court explained in United States v. Lee, “when followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.”

Additionally, a long line of cases established that religion cannot be used specifically to justify bigotry. A unanimous Supreme Court held that a restaurant owner’s religious challenge to the ban on whites-only lunch counters was “patently frivolous.” A religious university could not demand tax subsidies so long as it maintained racist policies. A Christian school could not use religion to justify its decision to compensate its women employees less than men.

Then came Hobby Lobby, which held, for the first time, that a religious liberty claim could trump the rights of third parties — in that case, the rights of women seeking contraceptive coverage. Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion did address the question of what impact this new regime would have on civil rights laws, but only incompletely. “The Government has a compelling interest in providing an equal opportunity to participate in the work force without regard to race,” Alito conceded. “And prohibitions on racial discrimination are precisely tailored to achieve that critical goal.” Left unspoken is whether other forms of discrimination, such as discrimination against women or LGBT people, also remains forbidden when someone claims that they have a religious right to disriminate.

Enter Judge Cox

R.G. & G.R. Harris should have been a very easy case. The case involves a funeral home owner who fired one of his funeral directors, Amiee Australia Stephens, after Stephens came out as trans and announced her intention to begin living as a woman. Stephens’ boss admits that he fired her because Stephens “was no longer going to represent himself as a man” and because she “wanted to dress as a woman.” He added that he believes that permitting Stephens to dress as a woman “would violate God’s commands because, among other reasons, [the owner] would be directly involved in supporting the idea that sex is a changeable social construct rather than an immutable God-given gift.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits an employer from firing an employee “because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” where “sex” refers to gender and not sexual orientation. So the law forbids discrimination “because of . . . sex” and this particular employer openly admits that he fired Stephens because of his personal prejudices regarding sex. This really isn’t a hard case.

Judge Cox decides to complicate the issue, however, by denying that firing someone because they are transgender is a form of sex discrimination. Instead, he holds that Stephens sole claim is under a line of cases prohibiting “sex/gender-stereotyping.” Stephens case is allowed to proceed because she was fired for failing to “conform to the Funeral Home’s sex/gender based stereotypes as to work clothing.”

A protester offers a different view than the one expressed by Judge Sean Cox in a recent opinion. (CREDIT:(AP PHOTO/PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS)

As a practical matter, this may seem like a purely semantic difference. Regardless of whether Stephens’ case is framed as a sex discrimination case or a sex stereotyping case, her employer still broke the law. But Cox manages to make a great deal of this seemingly minor distinction.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) permits religious objectors to ignore laws that “substantially burden” their “exercise of religion,” unless the government can show that applying the law “is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest” and “is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” Prior to Hobby Lobby, there was little question that anti-discrimination laws were not trumped by RFRA, and Hobby Lobby itself concedes that laws banning race discrimination further a compelling interest and use the least restrictive means of doing so.

But what about laws banning sex stereotyping?

To answer this question, Judge Cox draws a very fine distinction. The specific conflict in this case arose because of the funeral home’s gendered dress code. Male employees who interact with the public are required to wear a male business suit and tie, while women are required to wear a skirt suit. As a woman, Stephens wanted to wear a skirt suit. Her employer demanded that she wear a male pant suit and tie.

As Judge Cox writes, the federal agency that sued on Stephens behalf “has not challenged the Funeral Home’s sex-specific dress code, that requires female employees to wear a skirt-suit and requires males to wear a pants-suit with a neck tie.” Instead, it argued that “Stephens has a Title VII right to ‘dress as a woman’ (ie., dress in a stereotypical feminine manner) while working at the Funeral Home, in order to express Stephens’s gender identity.” For Cox, this very fine distinction is fatal to Stephens’ case:

If the compelling interest is truly in eliminating gender stereotypes, the Court fails to see why the EEOC couldn’t propose a gender-neutral dress code as a reasonable accommodation that would be a less restrictive means of furthering that goal under the facts presented here. But the EEOC has not even discussed such an option, maintaining that Stephens must be allowed to wear a skirt-suit in order to express Stephens’s gender identity.

In essence, Cox argues that the right Stephens seeks, the right to wear a skirt suit at work, is not the “least restrictive means” of eliminating gender stereotyping at work. Instead of seeking this right, she could have instead sued to challenge the workplace’s rule requiring men and women to dress differently.

It’s a confusing ruling for several reasons. For one thing, Stephens wasn’t seeking a sweeping change to her employer’s policy. She was seeking an narrow, individualized accommodation that would allow her to wear female attire to work. It’s far from clear why Judge Cox thinks that forcing an employer to change a company-wide policy is a “less restrictive” option than simply allowing one woman to wear a skirt to work.

Cox’s solution, moreover, doesn’t really address Ms. Stephens’ concern. The entire point of this lawsuit is that Stephens wants to be able to continue her vocation while also living her life as a woman. Changing the employer’s policy so that women can wear stereotypically masculine clothing does little to address her core concern.

The New Hated Other

So Judge Cox’s opinion is an odd one, but it is also a very clever decision. AfterHobby Lobby, there is some uncertainty about whether religious objectors enjoy a right to discriminate. But pre-Hobby Lobby law is clear that such discrimination is not allowed. And even Hobby Lobby itself says that religious objections are not a license to engage in some forms of discrimination.

Cox resolves this uncertainty in two questionable steps. He denies trans people the right to bring basic sex discrimination suits, as opposed to sexstereotyping suits, and then he limits the force of sex stereotyping suits in a way that neuters their effectiveness against anti-trans employees. In effect, he imposes a kind of least-favored-litigant status on transgender plaintiffs, weakening their civil rights claims without having to dive into the thorny question of whether RFRA permits other kinds of discrimination.

Cox, in other words, chooses America’s sinister history. In his courtroom, someone must always be Jim Crow. And now, Jim Crow is a trans person.

Ian Millhiser

Justice Editor

5 absurd right-wing moments this week: Katrina Pierson displays most stunning ignorance yet

Katrina Pierson (Credit: CNN)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.


Hard to compete, but Tucker Carlson also had the most ridiculous hissy fit ever

Sure, sure, sure, Donald Trump had his worst and most heinous week ever. (If we had a dollar for every time we’ve said that!) The man floated the idea of assassinating Hillary Clinton; insisted repeatedly that President Obama founded ISIS, then chided everyone for taking him seriously; suggested illegally trying U.S. citizens at Gitmo; and railed about a rigged election that has not occurred. More conservatives and dozens of national security officials fled the Republican nominee, as did voters. Just another week in the Trumpoverse.

But man, this guy attracts the best and the brightest. Winners like Katrina Pierson,Jeffrey Lord and now Carl Paladino.

Not familiar with these three outstanding political thinkers, these Trumpian spinners of tales? Read on for some of their latest antics.

1. Katrina Pierson just can’t stop revising history.

It’s very hard for Katrina Pierson to keep track of who started which war. C’mon guys, that’s hard. Especially when these wars go on and on forever. Also history, schmistory. It’s all Obama’s fault.

After being severely dressed down recently for saying that Captain Khan was killed in Iraq under Obama’s watch in 2004 — when Bush was president and Obama a senator who had opposed the war — Pierson decided to put her knowledge of recent wars on display again Saturday.

This time, she accused Obama of owning the war in Afghanistan, which is odd, because he was a state senator when that war was launched in 2001.

“Remember we weren’t even in Afghanistan by this time,” Katrina Pierson told a puzzled CNN host. “Barack Obama went into Afghanistan, creating another problem.”

Asked to clarify whether she meant he launched that war, she said, “That was Obama’s war.”

Well, no, though he did announce a surge there in 2009 when he actually became president.

Next up? Pierson blames Obama for WWII. Stay tuned.

2. Meet Carl Paladino! He’s completely awful!

Although Donald Trump declared the Khan family controversy over and “put to bed” this week (and Mika Brzezinski tried to point out to him that he does not get to choose when people stop talking about it), apparently the chairman of his New York campaign did not get the memo. Carl Paladino, an atrocious GOPer who has run for governor of New York and been thoroughly humiliated in that attempt, is of the belief that it’s always a good idea to attack Muslim families, no matter who they are.

On Friday, Paladino said this about Clinton and Trump to the host of “Imus in the Morning.”

“We’ve got an un-indicted felon [Author’s note: OK, not a thing] as his opponent and you’re talking about Khan, about him making a remark about this man? All right, I don’t care if he’s a Gold Star parent. He certainly doesn’t deserve that title, OK, if he’s as anti-American as he’s illustrated in his speeches and in his discussion. I mean, if he’s a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or supporting, you know, the ISIS-type of attitude against America, there’s no reason for Donald Trump to have to honor this man.”

It’s hard to be worse than Trump himself, but apparently manageable for some.

Keeping the level of discourse as high as possible, Paladino went on insist that Obama is a Muslim and Hillary Clinton is “devious” for hiding her alleged health problems, health problems that have been debunked.

“But if you’re really looking at what’s been exposed about Hillary and Hillary’s demeanor, I mean, just look at the deviousness. If it is true about her health problems, I mean, how devious can a woman possibly be? And not telling the American people that she’s got some sickness, she’s definitely impaired.”

3. Tucker Carlson’s has a new hissy fit defending Trump.

Things are getting desperate over at Fox News. To the difficult question of how to spin the Orange One’s really bad, no-good, horrible week, Tucker Carlson had to dig really deep.

The headscratcher he came up with? The fact that mean old Hillary Clinton acknowledged the existence of white privilege back in June is just as bad as all the bad things Trump has said lately.

Here’s the core of what Hillary said:

“White Americans need to do a much better job of listening when African Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers you face every day. We need to recognize our privilege and practice humility, rather than assume our experiences are everyone else’s experiences.”

Man, that is hurtful stuff. That is like a personal attack on privileged, thin-skinned white guys like Carlson. Why doesn’t the media get all up in her face about that, like they do with Trump when he suggests assassination, or that Obama founded ISIS.

Carlson’s whine fest:

“I think [the media] have a right to ask Trump tough questions…Totally fair. But they are giving Hillary a complete pass. They’re acting on her behalf and they’re devaluing their moral authority in doing it. It’s a big mistake. […]

“He can’t back down. That’s for sure. I just wish that they would apply the same standard to Hillary when she says, for example, all white people are privileged and therefore should apologize. It’s like, really?”

Putting aside the insanity of comparing Clinton’s reasonable and inarguable statement to Trump’s incitement of violence, might we also mention that no one else seems to have heard Clinton saying all white people should apologize.

Tucker tantrumed on, undaunted:

“If you’re an unemployed machinist in Toledo, you’re really more privileged than the millionaire, Harvard educated African-American President of the United States? That’s actually an insane statement. And not one person called her on it or even noticed it. So just apply the same standard to Hillary.”

Get the sense he might still be a little upset about the whole African American in the White House thing?

4. Karl Rove loses his shit.

You know it’s bad when Karl Rove thinks you’ve gone off the deep end.

On a Fox show with host Charles Payne, Republican guru Karl Rove was unable to maintain the fantasy that Trump is a reasonable person to be the party’s nominee for the presidency. The former Bush chief of staff went off at the suggestion that it is in any way a good idea for Donald Trump, “as a New Yorker,” to “hit back” at every perceived slight.

“Yeah, well, you know what?” Rove began. “If he does that between now and the election, what do you think is going to happen? The Clinton campaign is going to provoke him every day to stay off of message. And he is going to fall for all of these things and waste valuable time. Does he want to win or does he want to respond? If he wants to be the New Yorker and punch back at everybody who comes his way — fine! That’s an open invitation for everybody to come his way with things like this.”

Might we just interject that it seems Rove is no great fan of New Yorkers in general? Also, Donald Trump has a message?

Rove was just getting started.

“He has 88 days to make his case,” Rove said. [Author’s note: 85 days now] “He has squandered the last three weeks by responding to the Gold Star mother. The day after he had his presidential nomination, he became the official nominee of the Republican Party. The first news conference he had was not devoted to laying out the case against Hillary Clinton or bashing Barack Obama or laying out what he wants to do as president. It’s renewing and revisiting all of things he said about Ted Cruz, who was yesterday’s news at that point!”

“And why? He felt compelled to do it. He ought to get control of his impulses and keep focused on the main target. Otherwise you’re going to have more of these Republicans saying ‘why do we want to stand by this guy when he just keeps going after the wrong target.’”

Your guess is as good as ours, Karl. No, we don’t exactly feel your pain, but we acknowledge it.

5. We can’t. We just can’t.

Simone Manuel won a gold medal in Olympic swimming competition this week, becoming the first African American ever to do so.

That’s big.

Michael Phelps added four more gold medals and a silver one (how terrible) to his history-making tally.

The San Jose Mercury News covered the news of these events with this headline, and an identical tweet:

“Olympics: Michael Phelps shares historic night with African American.”

And the winner of the most Olympically offensive headline is…!

Note, unlike Trump, the paper’s editors did apologize.


BREAKING: Illinois Governor Vetoes Law That Would Have Registered 2 Million Voters

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R). CREDIT: AP Photo/Seth Perlman


Late Friday afternoon, Illinois’ Republican Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that would have made the state the sixth in the nation to automatically register millions of voters.

Rauner had expressed some support for the policy back in May, telling reporters: “I am a big fan of simplifying the voter registration process and trying to get everyone who should be able to vote, to get them registered and vote.”

By early August, he had a different view. While expressing support for the general idea of automatic voter registration, he wrote in his veto notice on Friday: “The consequences could be injurious to our election system.” Urging the legislature to make reforms to the bill before sending it back to him, he cited the threat of non-citizens registering to vote and casting ballots.

Yet study after study has found such voter fraud to be vanishingly rare, and recent federal court rulings asserted that the threat of illegal voting is not a serious enough justification for laws that make it harder for eligible voters to participate.

Illinois Poised To Automatically Register 2 Million Voters
This week, Illinois took a final step toward becoming the sixth state in the nation to approve a system where residents…thinkprogress.org

The non-partisan watchdog group Common Cause Illinois estimates the policy could help add two million new voters to the states rolls. In a statement Thursday, the group’s lead organizer Trevor Gervais accused the governor of “playing politics with something as important as voting rights.”

“He wants to delay implementation until 2019, after the next gubernatorial election,” Gervais said.

Because the Illinois state legislature passed the measure with anoverwhelming majority in early June, they can now vote to override the veto.

If they do, the state will launch a program in 2018 that automatically registers Illinois residents to vote every time they visit a Department of Motor Vehicles, office of Human Services, office of Healthcare and Family Services, the Secretary of State’s office, or an Employment Security office.

If Rauner had approved the bill, the state would have followed the lead ofOregon, California, West Virginia, Vermont, and Connecticut, which have all approved the policy over the past few years. In Oregon, the only state so far where the policy has gone into effect, registration and voter participation have surged. The primary had one of the highest number of voters in Oregon’s history, second only to 2008’s historic election. The turnout rate also bested Kentucky’s, which held its primary that same day.

Illinois residents hope the policy could do the same for their state, which has seen dismally low turnout in recent elections, including the one that put Rauner in office. Advocates for the measure also say it will save the state money and make the voting rolls more accurate.

“When I go to the DMV and I’m asked if I want to register to vote, I currently have to fill out a separate form, by hand,” Christian Diaz with the organization Chicago Votes told ThinkProgress. “I then give it to a state worker who types the information from the paper sheet into the computer system, even though the government has already collected that same information. Human error also presents a huge issue. So this will make it a lot more efficient.”

But Illinois Republicans have complained that the policy makes political participation too easy.

“I think it’s important for the voter to have a little bit of initiative to do what they need to do and not just automatically be signed up,” said Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights), adding that he worried if voters effortlessly registered, they wouldn’t do the work of educating themselves about the candidates on the ballot.

Alice Ollstein

Va. governor: I’m ‘baffled’ by federal probe

Getty Images


Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.) on Tuesday said he is perplexed by the federal probe into campaign donations to his 2013 gubernatorial run.

“I’m really baffled by this story in the first place,” he told reporter Ronica Cleary during an interview with Fox 5 D.C. “I’ll be honest with you — if I was sitting in the private sector, not as governor, I don’t think someone would, this would have risen to the level.

“But listen, it’s OK. You get in this business. You open yourself up and I’m fine doing that when you’re confident you haven’t done anything wrong.”

Reports emerged on Monday that the FBI and the Justice Department’s public integrity unit are looking into campaign contributions to McAuliffe three years ago.

The agencies are investigating, among other things, $120,000 in donations from Chinese businessman Wang Wenliang. Foreign nationals are not allowed to donate to any American campaign unless they have a green card, which clears such contributions.

McAuliffe on Tuesday said Wenliang has a well-documented record of donating to individuals and institutions in the U.S.

“Well, as I say, he’s a major contributor to Harvard,” he said. “He sits on the board of New York University. Two of our most prestigious universities. He’s very active. Everybody takes his money.”

McAuliffe added that federal scrutiny into his past campaign contributions would not hinder his current duties as Virginia’s governor.

“Listen, I’m carrying on my schedule as governor,” he said. “No one’s alleged I’ve done anything wrong. And you just got to continue to do.

“I’m governor, I’m out doing what I need to do to help the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” added McAuliffe, who has previously endorsed Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.

McAuliffe tried distancing the probe from his ties with the Clinton family during a press conference earlier Tuesday.

“This has nothing to do with Clinton Foundation,” he said at the State Arboretum of Virginia. “This was an allegation of a gentleman who gave a check to my campaign. I didn’t bring the donor in; I didn’t bring him into the Clinton Foundation. I don’t even know if I’ve ever met the person.”

Officials are also purportedly investigating McAuliffe’s role at the Clinton Global Initiative, former President Bill Clinton’s charitable organization.

A Washington Post report from last year found that 120 donors who gave to Clinton charities gave more than $13 million to McAuliffe’s election efforts in 2013.

McAuliffe is a long-time Clinton ally who spearheaded Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008. He also served as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2000.

By Mark Hensch

Biden wants ‘uncomfortable’ racism debate

Getty Images


Vice President Biden said on Thursday that Americans must confront “institutional racism.”

“No one wants to say that,” he told a National Urban League legislative policy conference in Washington, according to Politico. “I know I sometimes speak out too loudly, sometimes, but I make no apologies for it. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but these are uncomfortable times.

We’ve got to shake up the status quo a bit.

“You know, we see this institutional racism today in voting, in children’s education, in the very makeup of our neighborhoods, housing patterns, employment, transportation, access to transportation,” he added.

His speech focused on “the overwhelming problems of the legacy of institutional racism which we still live with,” Politico reported.

Biden said the 2008 economic recession had particularly hurt minorities and the impoverished.

“[The] freefall was particularly bad for poor folk and particularly bad for African-American and Hispanic poor folk,” he said.

“You have a disproportionate share of African-Americans living in cities who do not own an automobile,” he added.

“You can’t have a job if you can’t get there to the interview. So we’ve got to put a lot of money into transportation, meaning everything from streetcars to buses to rail transit, connecting inner cities to the suburbs.”

Biden also said that Americans “can’t pretend that children of different races have the same opportunities.”

“I’ll be here with you pushing the next president to level the playing field,” he said.

“I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do,” Biden joked of his term’s upcoming end. “[I’ll need] career advice from some of you.”

Biden ruled out a third Oval Office bid last October, likely signaling the end of a political career that has spanned four decades.

He concluded that he did not have the time or emotional energy for a viable campaign after the death of his son, Beau Biden, following a battle with brain cancer last year.

By Mark Hensch

The vile core of Trump’s appeal: Here’s the research that shows how racism animates his campaign

The vile core of Trump's appeal: Here's the research that shows how racism animates his campaign

Donald Trump (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)


Has racism fueled Donald Trump’s unlikely ascendence in the GOP? Yes, and here’s how we know

As the idea of Donald Trump winning a major party nomination goes from ugly nightmare to increasingly real possibility, pundits are wondering why they didn’t see it coming. One reason is that many pundits, particularly on the right, have spent decades pretending that the ugly racial sentiments Trump panders to either don’t exist or are a minor aberrance on the radical fringe. Others have tried to blame economic conditions, an important factor that can’t fully explain the Trump phenomenon (there aren’t many poor Blacks rushing to vote Trump). Research suggests that racial animus is a much more powerful predictor of Trump support than “economic anxiety.” We argue that the core of the Trump phenomenon is decades of dog-whistle race-baiting made real: Trump is animating white racial fears in order to race toward the Republican nomination.

The newest American National Election Studies 2016 pilot survey provides an ideal way to explore the Trump phenomenon. It’s a 1,200 person internet survey performed by YouGov between January 22 and 28 of 2016 that includes incredibly detailed questions about race and racism. Though some are skeptical of online surveys, these concerns are overblown. Leading political scientists Stephen Ansolabehere and Brian Schaffner have shown that opt-in panel surveys are just as reliable as telephone surveys.

We examine the stereotyping variables which explore how many white respondents harbor and report negative stereotypes about Black people. The first question asks, “How well does the word ‘violent’ describe members of each group?” and includes Blacks, Whites, Hispanics and Muslims. The question is phrased the same way for “lazy.” To explore how Trump supporters differ, we examine three categories: Republicans, Democrats and Trump Supporters. (We don’t show independents or people who said “something else” separately; they’re mostly between Republicans and Democrats). The categories are not mutually exclusive: about half of Trump supporters are Republican, and half are independent or other (we don’t count the relatively small number of self-identified Democrats who said they would vote for Trump if they were to vote in a Republican primary, because he’s probably not their first choice)

Trump supporters are dramatically more likely to embrace racial stereotypes than the average Republican or Democrat. A full 45 percent of Trump supporters say that the word “violent” describes Blacks “extremely” or “very” well, compared with 31 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of Democrats. (Overall, 25 percent chose “extremely” or “very” well, as did 25 percent of all Whites and 19 percent of Black people, but the number of Black respondents in the survey is small.) On the other hand, 28 percent of Democrats said that violent describes Blacks “not well at all,” compared with 18 percent of Republicans and only 7 percent of Trump supporters. These results suggest that while far too many Americans of all parties hold destructive stereotypes about Black people, Trump’s supporters are far more likely to believe Black people are violent.


Yet, while many Trump supporters Black people as violent, it is these very supporters who have committed racially motivated violence. At a recent Louisville, Kentuckyevent, Trump supporters violently shoved a Black woman to cheers from the crowd. Last October Trump supporters spit on immigrant advocates. After a November incident when Trump’s followers attacked a Black man, Trump responded by saying,“maybe he should have been roughed up.”

Trump supporters were also far more likely to stereotype Black people as lazy. A full 38 percent of Trump supporters say “lazy” describes Black people “extremely” or “very well,” with one-fifth saying “extremely well.” (Overall, 20 percent of whites and 12 percent of Black people agreed.) Only a quarter of Republicans and less than a fifth of Democrats say that “lazy” describes Black people “extremely” or “very” well. Far too many, certainly, but far fewer than the number of Trump supporters.


Trump’s Foreign Policy Sage Is Himself, Of Course

Trump’s Foreign Policy Sage Is Himself, Of Course



Hot off winning every state but Ohio last night, Donald Trump has taken his campaign of self-aggrandizement to the realm of international politics. According to Trump, there’s no one better suited to provide foreign policy insight than… himself.

Trump appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier today. When asked who his foreign policy advisors were, Trump responded, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

What any of that means to anyone is unclear. But does Trump have “a very good brain” when it comes to foreign policy? Does he have the wisdom necessary to make decisions whose consequences may take years to unfold? History says no: just look at Trump’s vacillation over the 2003 Iraq invasion.

One of the greatest foreign policy blunders ever committed by this country, the power vacuum left behind in Iraq — after George W. Bush dismantled the Iraqi army — aided in the rise of ISIS years later. Trump, who presents himself as a tough guy who would bring back torture to keep America safe, started off by claiming that he was against the invasion of Iraq. In a 2002 Howard Stern interview, he was asked directly if he supported the invasion. “Yeah, I guess so,” Trump responded. “I wish the first time it was done correctly.”

This was not a one-off case of supporting interventionist foreign policy. In his book The America We Deserve, he wrote, “We still don’t know what Iraq is up to or whether it has the material to build nuclear weapons. I’m no warmonger,” Trump wrote. “But the fact is, if we decide a strike against Iraq is necessary, it is madness not to carry the mission to its conclusion. When we don’t, we have the worst of all worlds: Iraq remains a threat, and now has more incentive than ever to attack us.”

In fact, in parroting the provocations of the Bush administration, Trump very much was a war-monger.

Fast forward to 2016, and Trump, in an effort to display his solid foreign policy insights, said during a Republican debate in Vermont, “I’m the only one up here, when the war of Iraq — in Iraq, I was the one that said, ‘Don’t go, don’t do it, you’re going to destabilize the Middle East.’” It was not the first time he claimed to be opposed to military intervention.

Even then, his commitment to non-intervention is political opportunism at best, given only 32 percent of registered voters still think the invasion was a good idea. He returned to espousing militaristic rhetoric during a campaign rally in which he promised to bomb ISIS — and the millions of civilians living under their rule — out of existence. “I would bomb the shit out of them,” said Trump during a rally in November. “I would just bomb those suckers, and that’s right, I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up ever single inch, there would be nothing left.”

While Trump may think that he is the best at everything, from his relationship with “the blacks” to world-altering foreign policy calculations, his comfort with taking seemingly opposing positions should worry his supporters. But who are we kidding — it probably won’t.

GOP enters the abyss: The entire party has fallen prey to bigotry and paranoid fantasy

GOP enters the abyss: The entire party has fallen prey to bigotry and paranoid fantasy

(Credit: AP/Dennis Van Tine)


For reasons hard to fathom, the Republicans seem to have made up their minds: they will divide, degrade and secede from the Union.

They will do so with bullying, lies and manipulation, a willingness to say anything, no matter how daft or wrong. They will do so by spending unheard of sums to buy elections with the happy assistance of big business and wealthy patrons for whom the joys of gross income inequality are a comfortable fact of life. By gerrymandering and denying the vote to as many of the poor, the elderly, struggling low-paid workers, and people of color as they can. And by appealing to the basest impulses of human nature: anger, fear and bigotry.

Turn on your TV or computer, pick up a paper or magazine and you can see and hear them baying at the moon. Donald Trump is just the most outrageous and bigmouthed of the frothing wolf pack of deniers and truth benders. As our friend and colleague Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch writes, “There’s nothing, no matter how jingoistic or xenophobic, extreme or warlike that can’t be expressed in public and with pride by a Republican presidential candidate.”

Like the pronouncement of the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984, ignorance is strength, whether it’s casting paranoid fantasies about thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering 9/11, or warning about terrorists in refugees’ ragged clothing and Mexican rapists slithering across the border.

Just four-and-a-half years ago, Washington mainstays Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein shocked the inside-the-Beltway establishment (especially the press, with its silent pact to speak no evil of wrongdoers lest they deny you an interview) when they published their book, It’s Even Worse than It Looks. The two esteemed political scientists wrote, “The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier – ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

In the years since, an ugly situation has only gotten increasingly dire, with right-wing radicals whipped into a frenzy by a Republican establishment that thought it could use their rage, only to find it running amok and beyond their control. In a recent interview with Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg View, Norman Ornstein said, “The future still looks pretty grim.” And Thomas Mann noted, “The burden is on the GOP because they are currently the major source of our political dysfunction. No happy talk about bipartisanship can obscure that reality. Unless other voices and movements arise within the Republican Party to changes its character and course, our dysfunctional politics will continue.”

The fever is pandemic not only among the party’s presidential candidates but throughout the House and Senate right down to our state governments. Witness erstwhile GOP presidential candidate and current Wisconsin governor Scott Walker cutting off food stamps for the hungry and possibly bankrupting food pantries in his state just in time for Christmas – because many of those on the lowest rung of the ladder haven’t yet found a job.

And here’s multimillionaire Bruce Rauner winning the governorship of Illinois after spending some $65 million — half of which came from himself and nine other individuals, families or the companies they control. Now he’s calling once again on his wealthy friends and allies around the country who, The New York Times reports, “are rallying behind Mr. Rauner’s agenda: to cut spending and overhaul the state’s pension system, impose term limits and weaken public employee unions”– even though a majority of ordinary citizens in Illinois are opposed.

Meanwhile, with just a few weeks until they adjourn for the holidays, Republicans in the US Congress will try to cram in as much pettiness and vituperation as they can before they head back to their states and districts, no doubt to lead the home front in the fight against “the war on Christmas” launched this time every year by the Republicans’ propaganda arm (Fox News) and its shock troops on talk radio.

Congressional Republicans have vowed to free Wall Street from oversight and accountability and to prevent children fleeing the Syrian inferno from coming ashore on US soil. And yes, they will once again be in full throat against gun control (despite the latest tragedy in San Bernardino, California). They’re on constant attack against the science of climate change, with the latest salvo two House bills passed December 1 that undermine Environmental Protection Agency rules (the president will veto them). And believe it or not, once again they’ll try to scuttle Obamacare, as in Kentucky where the self-financed, wealthy Republican governor-elect has vowed to cut loose hundreds of thousands of people from health insurance.

Take a look at some of their other plans, including the riders congressional Republicans are contemplating for inclusion in the omnibus spending bill that must be passed by December 11. The whole mess is a Bad Santa’s list of loopholes benefiting High Finance, tax cuts for the rich, and budget cuts for everyone else, even as they drive the nation deeper into debt and disrepair.

All of these sad examples are but symptoms of a deeper disease – the corruption and debasement of society, government and politics. It is a disease that eats away at the root and heart of what democracy is all about. Remember the opening phrase of the Preamble to the Constitution committing “We, the People” to the most remarkable compact of self-government ever – for the good of all? The Republicans are shredding that vision as they make a bonfire of the hopes that inspired it and, in the process, reduce the United States to a third-rate, sorry excuse for a nation.

Why? For an analogy and an answer we have to go back to the slave-holding Democrats of the 1840s and 50s who were prepared to destroy the Union if necessary to protect and expand the brutal system of human slavery on which their economy and way of life were built. The extremism and polarization engendered made it impossible for politics peacefully to resolve the moral dilemma facing our country. If the Republicans – and the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln — had not championed and fought to preserve the Union and its government, the United States would have been no more.

Now it is the Republicans who are willing to wreck the country to maintain the gross inequality that divides us – inequality which rewards the party leaders and their donors, just as slavery rewarded white supremacists. They would tear the Republic apart, rip to pieces its already fragile social compact, and reap the whirlwind of a failed experiment in self-government.


President Obama to Deliver Address on Terrorism Sunday

Obama Statement on the San Bernardino Shootings

Olivier Douliery—AP


President Obama will deliver a primetime address to the nation Sunday night on the threat of terrorism, the White House said, following last week’s killing of 14 Americans in San Bernardino and the recent attacks in Paris.

According to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Obama will speak at 8 p.m. Eastern time Sunday “about the steps our government is taking to fulfill his highest priority: keeping the American people safe.”

The address from the Oval Office is a particularly rare move for Obama, highlighting his administration’s efforts to portray itself as seriously engaged on the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria after the attacks.

Earnest said in a statement Obama would update the country on the investigation into the California attack, which the administration has now branded an act of terror.

“The President will also discuss the broader threat of terrorism, including the nature of the threat, how it has evolved, and how we will defeat it,” Earnest said. “He will reiterate his firm conviction that ISIL will be destroyed and that the United States must draw upon our values – our unwavering commitment to justice, equality and freedom – to prevail over terrorist groups that use violence to advance a destructive ideology.”

In recent months, Obama has come under fire from Republicans and even some Democrats for his struggles to explain the nature of the ISIS threat and the U.S. effort to combat the extremist group. That campaign is being waged in two parts: the on-the-ground and air campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and on cyberspace and the streets of Western cities as ISIS-inspired radicalism spreads. A series of ill-times statements minimizing the group’s threat have only added to Obama’s problems.

In a press conference in Turkey following the Paris attacks, Obama frustratedly lashed out at partisan critics, maintaining that his strategy against the terrorist group is sound. But Republicans have called for an escalation to the air war, while some have called for the deployment of hundreds or thousands of American troops on the ground to fight the group. Meanwhile, intelligence agencies have struggled to spot cases of homegrown extremism as ISIS has embraced more sophisticated methods of securing its communications.

In the days between the Paris and California attacks, Obama and aides had repeatedly stated there was no credible and specific threat to the homeland—an indication of how the San Bernardino attackers planned their assault out of view of U.S. law enforcement.

Obama has only twice previously addressed the nation live from the Oval Office, to discuss the response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and later that year to mark the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq. Five years later, about 3,500 American troops have returned to Iraq to advise and assist local forces against ISIS.

Zeke J Miller

14 Groups Getting Koch Brothers Dark Money To Turn America Into A Right-Wing Playground


The billionaire Koch brothers – industrialists Charles and David from Koch Industries – like to say they aren’t involved in “politics” much. But like everything surrounding the right-wing brothers, that’s a lot of smoke and mirrors.

While the Kochs don’t necessarily directly involve themselves in the nitty gritty of electoral politics all the time through direct donations to candidates and parties, they keep themselves in the loop by funding a variety of pressure groups, advocacy organizations and non-profits that push a right wing ideology on a constant basis. These groups don’t wait for election years to be active, and are in the trenches at a micro-local level promoting a spectrum of causes that often happen to fatten the pockets of the brothers.

One such vehicle used by the Kochs is the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(6) trade association (the Kochs also operate Freedom Partners Action Fund, which directly injects money in political races). In 2014 this group took in $126 million, spent about $41 million on overhead and poured the remaining cash on outside groups. Here they are:

  1. NRA Institute for Legislative Action ($4.9 million) – the lobbying arm of the pro-gun NRA who fights to attack any and all legislation aimed at curbing gun violence
  2. Americans for Prosperity ($22 million) – the biggest Koch group, they organize rallies, run ads against Democrats, truck in conservatives to bully members of Congress at town halls at other events
  3. Chamber of Commerce ($2 million) – the lobbying arm of big business, they have often targeted Democrats for not being as eager to appease business demands as the GOP
  4. Generation Opportunity ($14.2 million) – this is the Koch arm designed to attract young voters. They’ve produced ads and campaigns misinforming voters about the Affordable Care Act, attempting to get them to “opt out” of coverage. In one ad they showed Uncle Sam administering a gynecological exam to a young woman.
  5. Americans for Tax Reform ($100,000) – Republican mega-operative Grover Norquist’s pressure group that forces Republican candidates to sign a pledge promising not to raise taxes under any circumstance
  6. Heritage Action for America ($150,0000 – A right wing pressure group, part of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, which attempts to force right-wing legislation through congress
  7. Concerned Veterans for America ($12.7 million) – with this group the Kochs attempt to hide their right-wing economic policies under the guise of “veteran’s issues”
  8. Center for Shared Services ($5.7 million) – the Kochs use this group as a recruiter and administrative support team for the other organizations in their dark money network
  9. Evangchr4 Trust ($5.7 million)- this group is used to disseminate Koch-friendly data through church-based spokespeople, specifically through pastor outreach
  10. American Energy Alliance ($2.4 million) – this is an outpost of the energy industry, used to attack clean energy initiatives and to smear climate change research
  11. Citizenlink ($1 million) – the political nonprofit division of the virulently anti-gay Focus on the Family
  12. Susan B. Anthony Group ($225,000) – an anti-abortion group
  13. Trees of Liberty ($400,000) – a PAC that attacked Democrats and boosted Republicans in races like the Iowa Senate race that elected Sen. Joni Ernst
  14. IACE Action ($95,000) and Colorado Women’s Alliance ($50,000) – groups that attacked Democratic Senator Mark Udall, helping to lead to his defeat in 2014