Kentucky’s brand new Tea Party governor just broke a campaign promise and REVERSED a positive move by his Democratic predecessor that had restored voting rights to some 140,000 Kentuckians.
Once again, Kentucky will be one of the very few states where people with felony convictions remain disenfranchised after completing their sentences. As ThinkProgress points out, this means that one in five African Americans in the state will be disenfranchised. Studies show that ex-felon disenfranchisement leads to higher rates of recidivism.
In another executive order this week, Bevin reversed former Gov. Beshear’s move to raise the state’s minimum wage for government workers and contractors to $10.10 an hour, bringing it back down to $7.25 an hour. About 800 state workers who have already gotten raises will be able to keep them, but new hires will now have to start at the lower pay rate. In the order, Bevin hinted that he would prefer the state have no minimum wage at all: “Wage rates ideally would be established by the demands of the labor market instead of being set by the government,” he said.
Conservative commentators are running out of time for all of their dire prophecies about President Obama to come true, including fears about the looming imposition of martial law, establishment of Obama’s private army and the assassination of conservative leaders. Right-wing pundits also seemed to have missed with their prophecies about financial collapse, natural disasters and widespread unrest coming in 2015.
Essentially, Cahn claimed that prophecies pertaining to biblical Israel can now apply to the U.S. because the founding fathers, like ancient Hebrews, made a covenant with God. As a result of the country breaking that covenant due to national “sins” like gay marriage and legal abortion, he forecasted that September 13 would be the date that America faced divine punishment.
Contrary to Cahn’s predictions nothing catastrophic happened on that day in the U.S. Cahn defended his prophecy by pointing to an earthquake off the Gulf of California, a body of water which he conveniently forgot to mention borders Mexico, not the U.S. He also claimed that a stock market selloff on August 18 was close enough to his doomsday date, so he was right all along! (The Dow Jones has since rebounded since the August correction). He went on to insist that anything bad that happens between September 2015 and September 2016 would also validate his prophecy.
Televangelist John Hagee went even further, claiming that there could be “a 50 percent correction in the stock market” in the fall due to the Shemitah and blood moon prophecies. “I believe, in the fall of this year, America and the world will face another economic crisis, perhaps as a result of war in the Middle East or an economic crash,” he declared.
Jim Bakker, a televangelist who himself claims to receive personalmessages from God and regularly had Cahn on his program to discuss the Shemitah/blood moons prophecy, and made a few predictions of his own about September 13.
He also said that on September 13, the U.S. could be hit by a typhoon, earthquake, bombing or financial meltdown: “God spoke to me.”
Gay Marriage Punishments
After blowing his September prophecy, Cahn saw a biblical threat from Hurricane Joaquin. He said that the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling and the White House’s LGBT Pride Month celebration with rainbow lights had provoked God’s judgment, and now, Hurricane Joaquin would strike Washington, D.C. Cahn wasn’t alone, as Wiles too said that God was using Hurricane Joaquin to punish the U.S. by striking Washington, D.C., and New York. (It didn’t hit either city).
Cahn and Wiles were far from alone in making wild predictions about the effects of gay marriage.
One month before the Supreme Court issued its ruling, American Family Radio host Bryan Fischer warned that if the Supreme Court struck down state bans on marriage equality, then we would see violence in the streets: “If the Supreme Court continues to overreach and they aren’t checked, we are headed towards civil unrest, I don’t think there is any other way around it. If it’s not stopped and reversed, the tyrannical overreach of the Supreme Court, we are to have social dislocation and I believe we are going to have violence as a result.”
The Jade Helm 15 conspiracy theory, which was cynically fueled by GOP politicians, centered around fears that a military training exercise taking place between July 15 and September 15 of this year would produce grave consequences, such as a federal takeover of Texas, the declaration of martial law and the transformation of closed Walmart stores into FEMA camps. Others thought that Jade Helm 15 was a deliberate attempt to stoke chaos, which would justify military rule in the future.
Gun activist Lawrence C. Mackin similarly warned that “Obama’s private internal army” will include government employees who ally with “a group of radical Islamists,” “illegal aliens from the Middle East” and “Soviet troops.”
That’s all that’s happening right now. This is a show. We’re watching a script and a play play out in front of us. None of this stuff is real. Those riots in Baltimore. That wasn’t real ... At some point, there will be a straw that breaks the camel’s back, and it will set the whole country on fire. And what happens? We will cry out for police help. The police will be overwhelmed. The DOJ will say, 'We’re going to take over policing, we’ll coordinate it from here.' And you’re done. It’s lights out, republic.
Beck went on to explain that he and other leaders who are exposing such deeds to the masses may be killed, just like how Hitler killed potential rivals in the Night of Long Knives and Turkish leaders killed Armenian leaders at the beginning of the Armenian genocide.
“They do that so there is nothing left but sheep and no shepherds,” he explained, claiming that these nefarious agents are going after him and not his 10 million viewers because they know “they cannot kill 10 million people in one night.”
“Prepare for a time when voices like mine or others are no longer heard and yours is the only voice,” he said.
Ted Cruz has been racking up support from Religious Right leaders, and even touting endorsementsfromthemovement’smostextremeactivists. One of the first Religious Right groups to endorse Cruz was the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which hailed Cruz as “a proven champion for marriage and religious freedom and someone we can absolutely count on to fight to restore marriage to our nation’s laws.” In return, Cruz called NOM “a critical voice in protecting our rights.”
The Texas senator also joined Rick Santorum, Ben Carson and then-presidential candidate Bobby Jindal in signing the group’s presidential pledge, vowing to work towards banning same-sex marriage, to order government offices to “restore our policies to be consistent with the proper understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman” and “prevent the promotion of a redefined version of marriage in public schools and other government entities.”
NOM and other anti-gay groups may then be taken aback by what Cruz said at a Manhattan fundraiser where, in an audio recording provided to Politico, the GOP candidate assured one donor who said he disagreed with the senator’s stance on marriage equality that he wouldn’t make opposition to gay marriage a priority in his administration.
Of course, Cruz has been singing a very different tune on the campaign trail, where he has treated marriage equality as nothing short of a national emergency.
The fall of marriage equality bans in all 50 states following the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision was a disaster for the conservative movement, whose leaders have spent years demonizing same-sex couples and warning that the legal recognition of their marriages will unleash a wave of terror on the nation.
Even the not-exactly-pious GOP presidential frontrunner, Donald Trump, is activelycourting the anti-gay Right, although he has trouble explaining why he should be seen as a strong defender of “traditional marriage.”
In the eyes of many conservative activists, Obergefell was the product of a culture that had been slipping away for years, bringing America into an apocalyptic period where growing acceptance for homosexuality is ushering in disastrous consequences.
Weeks before the Supreme Court handed down its ruling, WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah declared that if the court struck down state bans on same-sex marriage and conservative states didn’t seceded from the union in protest, anti-gay activists like himself would flee the country. “Are there any governors or legislatures out there among the 50 states willing to secede to offer a refuge for the God-fearing?” he asked, warning that if states were to stay in the U.S. following a pro-equality decision, the world should expect “a pilgrimage by millions of Americans.”
End Times radio host Rick Wiles told his listeners that the country would “be brought to its knees” if the Supreme Court were to rule in favor of marriage equality and that there would be “pain and suffering at a level we’ve never seen in this country,” caused by “riots or looting or war on American soil or a fireball from space.”
Texas pastors Robert Jeffress and Rick Scarborough also got in the mix. Jeffress said the ruling could pave the way for the Antichrist while Scarborough said conservatives must “fight until we die” and “push back with all our might” against a ruling in favor of gay marriage, which he said would “unleash the spirit of hell on the nation.” Scarborough even boasted that he was ready to go to jail and face death: “We are not going to bow, we are not going to bend, and if necessary, we will burn.”
As one might expect, the responses to the ruling were not much different from the predictions.
The day after the ruling, Wiles declared that he received a message from God, who asked him to tell the people to “flee” the country before God destroys it through economic ruin, food shortages, terrorism, disease and slavery. “America is over,” he declared. Later, Wiles predicted that America is “going to see gunfire” from people resisting the government over gay marriage. “Somebody’s going to jail, somebody’s going to die, somebody’s going to suffer,” he said.
Michael Bresciani of the Christian Post said Obergefell would lead to “an economic crash much more serious than the stock market crash of 29,” while WND’s Farah envisioned “more civil and racial strife” or “an attack on our country from foreign power or terrorist group.”
Fox News pundit Todd Starnes said that “pastors who refuse to perform gay marriage and preach from the Bible should prepare for hate crime charges,” while Illinois pastor Erwin Lutzer told religious parents to prepare to “be diagnosed as culturally intolerant and personality intolerant,” as a result of which “their children will be taken away from them.” Perkins of the FRC claimed that the Supreme Court’s decision would threaten the freedom of speech and gun rights.
American Family Radio host Sandy Rios, who also serves as the American Family Association’s governmental affairs director, said that homosexuality may have been “a factor” in the deadly Amtrak crash in May. She suggested that the engineer, who is gay, may have been having a breakdown as he experienced “some confusion” related to homosexuality.
Fellow AFR host Bryan Fischer specifically blamed flooding in Texas on God’s judgment for homosexuality, saying that “you can make a geographical connection” between flooding and homosexuality. (We wonder what that means for American Family Radio’s home town of Tupelo, Mississippi, which was hit by a tornado last year).
Huckabee also suggested that America is in “a dangerous place” because “if man believes that he can redefine marriage, it’s apparent that man believes he has become his own god,” and God will not protect such a nation.
The Religious Right has a long history of absurdly claiming that evangelical Christians are facing persecution in America, and the Obergefell ruling only amped up such rhetoric.
Huckabee warned that the gay rights movement “won’t stop until there are no more churches, until there are no more people who are spreading the Gospel,” lamenting that too many Christians don’t realize “how close they are to losing all of their freedoms.” Huckabee’s fellow GOP presidential candidate, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, also got in on the action, warning that a gay “jihad” is “going after people of faith who respect the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
Glenn Beck predicted that Obergefell would result in serious repercussions for the media, claiming that “anybody on this show [who] says they’re for traditional marriage” will have their airtime in jeopardy as the ruling “could mean the end of radio broadcasts like mine.”
Nothing set off more persecution rhetoric than the Kim Davis saga, in which the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk blocked her office from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of a court order, citing “God’s authority.” She was temporarily placed in the custody of U.S. Marshals after she said she would continue to flout the courts and was only released after deputy clerks started to issue the licenses.
Even before the Davis case, many Republicans had been insisting that government officials may not have to treat court rulings on marriage as authoritative after all, and can simply flout the process of judicial review. Obergefell gave them the perfect opportunity to put these arguments into action.
Before quitting the presidential race, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal lambasted the decision, explaining that “no earthly court can change the definition of marriage.” Huckabee said that if elected president, he would tell the Supreme Court: “Thank you for your opinion, but we shall ignore it.” “It’s a matter of saving our republic to say that, as president, we’re not going to accept this decision, we will ignore it and we will not enforce it,” he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also claimed that when civil law conflicts with “God’s rules,” then government officials must choose the latter because “God’s rules always win.” Rubio, along with his fellow GOP presidential candidates Cruz, Huckabee, Ben Carson, Rick Santorum and Carly Fiorina, also pledged to sign legislation confronting the supposed discrimination faced by gay marriage opponents.
The “700 Club” host worried in September that gay marriage would trigger a perilous financial crisis, warning that “the rupture of the entire financial framework of our world” could occur because of the Obergefell ruling. He again alleged in November that “the wrath of God” is headed to America now that “it’s a constitutional right for sodomites to marry each other,” possibly in the form of “a massive financial collapse.”
“They’re going to make you conform to them,” he said of gay rights advocates. “You are going to say you like anal sex, you like oral sex, you like bestiality, you like anything you can think of, whatever it is.”
“Christianity, the founding principle of this nation, is criminalized,” he said in response to the Davis controversy. “You go to jail if you believe in God and stand fast for your beliefs against the onslaught of secular humanism and the flood that comes about with it.” (Robertson, of course, has not been jailed).
Warning viewers that “the homosexuals don’t just want to be left alone, now they want to come out and stick it to the Christians,” Robertson said that gay rights laws are creating “absolute tyranny” and “it's high time we call it what it is and we stand up for freedom.”
The televangelist also offered his patented advice to people with gay children.
He told one mother to send her daughter, who is dating another woman, to a Christian summer camp and “pray that God will straighten her out.” He said that the girl was probably “pressured” into embracing a lesbian identity because “there’s so much lesbian stuff, I mean, lesbian this, lesbian the other, so much homosexual — the media is pushing this as hard as they can possibly push it.” He told another viewer who has a gay son to treat him like a drug addict, and advised yet another parent that God could change his gay son if only the son were to start “acting like a man.”
At bat today was North Carolina-based pastor and anti-gay activist Michael Brown, who, before leading the callers in prayer, said that he believed that if God is behind Cruz’s campaign, He will send a “miracle” to propel the Texas senator to the White House and insisted that Cruz would be a “godly president” who could help believers bring about a “radical change” in America.
“When I first met with Sen. Cruz’s dad, Rafael, some months back and he shared with me how Sen. Cruz was elected to be the senator of Texas,” he said, “I knew right then that this was the kind of thing that if this if God was in, we would see a miracle happen, that that was the only way that Sen. Cruz could make it to be president of the United States.”
“We must have a Gospel-based moral and cultural revolution,” he added. “It can only flow from the church, it can only flow from the people of God, but if the people of God across the country were united with a godly president, we could see radical change come.”
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Kobach, who has previously said of Obama that “we’ve never known who this guy is or where his heart is,” told Saleem that he wonders if Obama is intentionally “putting his finger on the scale in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood or the radical Islamists.”
“It seems to me that Obama’s policies, one after another, seem to be ones that if they don’t favor radical Islamism, they open the door to people like Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood time and again,” he said. “And it just makes me wonder, is it incompetence by Obama or is he intentionally using the so-called Arab Spring as a pretense and using what’s going on in Syria as a pretense for opening the door to radical Islamism? I just, I wonder what’s going on.”
“It’s no doubt he’s throwing the grid off and the balance of the entire Middle East off-balance to create chaos for the Muslim Brotherhood to start establishing their power,” Saleem agreed.
Saleem, in a reference to the Christian dominionist Seven Mountains theology, which calls for conservative Christians to take over the “seven mountains” of culture in America, told Kobach that Muslims are “infiltrating our government little by little, with the help of our senior government, to become part of our nation to include the seven mountains of influence in the United States of America.” He lamented that there is now “Islamic leadership on every mountaintop.”
Kobach, who worked in George W. Bush’s Justice Department, said that that was “consistent with what I observed when I was in the Bush administration,” where there was “a constant effort to populate the leadership even of a Republican administration with individuals to show to the world, outwardly, that, ‘Look, we have lots of Muslim leaders within the government, don’t anyone think that this is a broader issue with Islam.’”
The two then turned to discussing what Saleem called the “infiltration of Islam into the GOP,” claiming that Norquist’s “wife is a radical Islamist.”
Saleem also claimed that Republican senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain have backed a “hate crime bill” that says that “whoever speaks against Islam should be penalized and the First Amendment cannot apply to that person.” (We have no idea what he is referring to.)
This all, he said, shows that the GOP is “changing and taking the Muslim side, so you know the infiltration of finances and power is moving that direction.”
Leading up to the December 15 Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, PFAW board member Dolores Huerta traveled to Las Vegas to speak with Nevada voters about the dangerous platforms of Republican presidential candidates. The trip was part of PFAW’s Latinos Vote! program, and this was the third GOP debate where Huerta joined PFAW on the ground to emphasize the extremism of the current Republican presidential candidates.
Her first stop was a Latino voters and leaders roundtable where she addressed the Republican candidates’ far-right platforms on a number of issues, including the environment, immigration, the minimum wage, and women’s health.
Huerta also headlined a press conference with unions and progressive organizations, and a #NoHateDebate rally outside of the debate. As the leading Nevada newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, reported, “Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and civil rights champion Dolores Huerta said ‘there's a war going on’ against women, labor unions and the environment, and it's being waged by the candidates who will take the stage in Las Vegas Tuesday night and their respective party.”
Watch her speech at the #NoHateDebate rally:
Mobilizing voters in Nevada will be a key to Democrats winning the White House in 2016. In 2008 and 2012, Obama won Nevada, but in the 2014 elections, Republicans won up and down the ticket. The state is one of the targets for PFAW’s Latinos Vote! program that works to expose and counter anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric and policies, as Nevada Latinos could be the margin of victory for Democrats in Nevada in 2016. While in 1994 Latino voters were just 5% of the electorate, they’re now 15% of the voting population. By speaking directly with Latino voters and to local media, Huerta was able to address how important the Latino vote will be in Nevada and the dangerous threat that the Republican presidential candidates pose to Latino and immigrant communities.
Last week, PFAW hosted its year-end member telebriefing on the Right Wing in 2015, discussing the parade of horribles we’ve heard in 2015 and previewing what we can expect from the right-wing movement and the Republican presidential candidates going into this critically important election year. PFAW Communications Director Drew Courtney moderated the call, and he was joined by Brian Tashman, Senior Research Associate at PFAW’s Right Wing Watch; PFAW Political Director Randy Borntrager; and PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker.
Tashman gave an overview of the extreme rhetoric and policy positions that the Republican presidential candidates have staked out this year. As Tashman explained, we saw “another dark turn in the GOP field. Trump has moved all the major candidates far to the right, discussing topics once considered beyond the pale, like deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants or banning people from entering our country based on their religion.”
Tashman highlighted that Donald Trump is far from the only extreme candidate in the race. Just a few examples that Tashman detailed of other candidates embracing the far-right included that Ted Cruz is touting the endorsement of radical gun activists and an anti-abortion leader who went so far as to support the death penalty for abortion providers. Marco Rubio, for his part, has actually said that local government officials can violate the Supreme Court if they believe that a ruling interferes with their understanding of religion. And Rubio has spoken out against all abortion – even in cases of rape and incest.
Borntrager laid out the dynamics at play in the 2016 presidential election. He explained that Republican candidates will be forced to take to the general election the extreme policy positions that they’re advocating for now. This will likely prove very problematic for the Republican candidates because, as Borntrager said, the “Republican brand is way out of touch with mainstream America.” From speaking out against refugees to supporting mass deportation policies, the positions of the Republican candidates are far to the right of most Americans.
In responding to questions from PFAW members, Borntrager and Baker stressed the importance of pushing back against the fear mongering that the Republicans are engaging in. Baker encouraged members to continue to speak out against the Republican xenophobia by educating their friends and neighbors through facts about, for example, our nation’s immigration policies and refugee screening process. Of course, she also said that we can and should emphasize that the GOP positions on immigrants, Muslims, and refugees are, quite frankly, un-American.
Borntrager discussed PFAW’s specific efforts to expose and counter anti-immigrant, anti-Latino speech from the GOP candidates through PFAW’s Latinos Vote! program. PFAW staff and members have joined PFAW board member and civil rights legend Dolores Huerta to push back against the GOP candidates’ extremism. Just last week for example, Huerta joined PFAW to participate in a #NoHateDebate in Las Vegas leading up to the most recent GOP debate there. In 2016, PFAW will continue to monitor and expose the far-right movement and will engage even further in holding Republican candidates accountable for their dangerous rhetoric and policy positions.
Here at Right Wing Watch, we listen to hours of video and audio each day in order to find the short clips that we share with our readers. It’s been a doozy of a year, in which presidential politics has collided with the farthest of the far right, and here at Right Wing Watch, we’ve had the dubious pleasure of witnessing it all. It’s hard to pick our favorite/most horrifying memories of the year, so instead we’ve looked back at the 10 most watched videos and most listened-to audio clips of the year.
10. Sandy Rios Investigates The Amtrak Crash
Days after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia in May, killing eight and injuring hundreds, the American Family Association’s Sandy Rios pointed out “an interesting part of the story” that was likely “a factor” in the crash: the conductor’s homosexuality.
June was not a happy month for anti-gay activists, as exemplified by Vision America’s Rick Scarborough, who days before the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision warned that gay marriage was a satanic plot to destroy Christianity and may very well bring God’s judgment on America.
Televangelist Pat Robertson is not always quite on point with the advice he gives to viewers of “The 700 Club” at the end of every program, such as when he told a bereaved mother who had just lost a young child that the child could have turned out to be the next Hitler .
4. The Gay ‘Jihad’
Ted Cruz went there during a campaign event in Iowa in April.
3. Rick Perry’s ‘Accident’
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry had a very ill-timed “oops” moment when he called the mass shooting at a church in Charleston an “accident,” in the process of claiming that the crime was the result of drugs rather than guns.
2. Phil Robertson’s Imagination
Back in March, controversial “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson tried to make a convoluted point about atheists supposedly having no moral code by telling a gruesome hypothetical story about a family of atheists getting raped and murdered.
1. Rick Scarborough’s Martyrdom
Nobody took the hysteria over the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision quite as far as Rick Scarborough, who declared a few days before the court handed down its decision that he was ready to burn to death in his fight against gay marriage.
To: Interested Parties
From: Paul Gordon, Senior Legislative Counsel, People For the American Way
Date: December 21, 2015
Re: 2015: A Year of GOP Obstruction for Judicial Nominees
With the Senate having closed up shop for the year, one thing is clear: the Republican majority has failed miserably in carrying out one of the most important jobs entrusted to the Senate by the U.S. Constitution: confirming judges.
Courts are the infrastructure of justice, just as important to our constitutional rights as roads and bridges are to transportation. Either in spite of this or because of this, Senate Republicans have abused their position in the majority to stymie President Obama’s efforts to put qualified people on our nation’s federal courts. In so doing, they are weakening the entire third branch of the United States government.
Failing to confirm judges has never been the norm even when the Senate and the White House are held by different parties. A useful basis of comparison is George W. Bush’s final two years in office, when Democrats took over the Senate after the 2006 midterms. In 2007, the first year as the majority, the Democratic Senate confirmed 40 of President Bush’s circuit and district court nominees (with a total of 68 by the end of 2008). In stark contrast, the McConnell Senate confirmed only 11 judges this year.
The figure below shows the stark difference in the pace of confirmations under today’s Republican-controlled Senate as compared to the Democratic-controlled Senate of Bush’s last two years.
Another way of contrasting how seriously Senate Democrats took their job in 2007-2008 versus the attitude of Republicans today is to track the number of vacancies. Judicial vacancies open regularly and predictably, since judges usually announce their intent to retire or go into semi-retirement up to a year in advance. Just to keep the number of vacancies at an even level requires that several new judges be confirmed each month.
At the beginning of 2007, there were 56 circuit and district court vacancies. Throughout the next two years, the number of vacancies generally remained at 50 or fewer, getting as low as 34 in the early fall of 2008. Because an unusually high number of vacancies opened up after Election Day, that number climbed back to 55 by Inauguration Day, but even with that increase, the number of vacancies ended up at about what it had been two years earlier.
Today, in stark contrast, the number of circuit and district court vacancies is climbing, from 40 at the beginning of the year to 62 today, a nearly 60% increase.
We see the same thing with judicial emergencies, a formal designation assigned by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts for vacancies where the caseload per judge is so high that it endangers access to justice. Judicial emergencies have skyrocketed from 12 at the beginning of the year to 31 today. As the chart below shows, Democrats in the Senate during Bush’s last two years did not allow the number of judicial emergencies to increase in a similar fashion, and in fact the number generally remained steady or decreased during most of those two years.
The endeavor to sabotage our nation’s judiciary involves multiple senators playing different roles. Most prominently, no confirmation vote is scheduled unless Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agrees to it. When nominees fully vetted by the Judiciary Committee languish on the Senate floor for month after month after month, with no reason for the delay, that is because Senator McConnell wants it that way. Every nominee confirmed this year was forced to wait inordinately long after committee approval for a vote, even though they had strong bipartisan support and, in almost all cases, had no opposition whatsoever.
4/13: Alfred Bennett, TX: 46 days
4/20: George Hanks, TX: 53 days
5/21: Jose Olvera, TX: 84 days
5/21: Jill Parrish, UT: 84 days
7/7: Kara Stoll, Fed Cir: 75 days
9/8: Roseann Ketchmark, MO: 138 days
10/5: Dale Drozd, CA: 123 days
10/20: Ann Donnelly, NY: 138 days
10/26: Lawrence Vilardo, NY: 144 days
11/16: LaShann Hall, NY: 165 days
12/7: Travis McDonough, TN: 151 days
And now, the Senate has left town without voting on 13 fully vetted circuit and district court nominees. Five have been waiting three months or more since committee approval, two of them since July. All were approved by the Judiciary Committee unanimously. Eight are women or people of color, and nine would fill judicial emergencies.
(Also denied floor votes are five nominees for the Court of Federal Claims and one for the Court of International Trade, all approved without opposition by the Judiciary Committee last year in the previous Congress and then again in February in the new one.)
Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, also plays a key role in the obstruction. Senator Grassley held only eight confirmation hearings for circuit and district court nominees this year, not nearly enough to process the available nominees. In part because of that slowdown, nominees this year have tended to wait much longer than necessary for their hearings … unless they happen to be Grassley’s hand-picked judges from Iowa. He also routinely delays without explanation committee votes that he himself called … again, except for Iowa nominees and those lucky enough to be grouped with them. Grassley chose to let the Senate end the year without holding a hearing for five long-waiting nominees: One was nominated in February, two were nominated in July, and two were nominated in September, more than three months ago.
Of particular note are those Republican senators who get great local press for saying good things about nominees from their states … but who, behind the scenes, collaborate with party leaders’ efforts to obstruct those very nominees. Perhaps no one exemplifies this more than Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, who simultaneously praised and helped block L. Felipe Restrepo, President Obama’s nominee for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Restrepo was nominated in November of 2014 with the support of Toomey and Democrat Bob Casey. He could have been confirmed long ago. Unfortunately, Toomey cooperated with Senator Grassley’s efforts at delay, so that Restrepo didn’t get a hearing until seven months after his nomination. Then, even though Restrepo was approved unanimously by the committee in July, Senator Toomey collaborated with his party leadership’s plans to delay a floor vote for as long as possible. Facing increasingly critical in-state press and disappointed constituents, Toomey finally made a public statement in early December calling for a vote, then meekly stood by when Senator McConnell – with no explanation – announced that Restrepo would not get a vote until January 11, more than a month later.
As if Republicans hadn’t already injected enough partisanship into the process, they floated a plan in December to politicize the judicial confirmation process even more for last-minute year-end confirmations. Specifically, they pushed a plan to skip over blue-state nominees in favor of red-state nominees who had been waiting less time for a vote. Recall that every one of these nominees had cleared the Judiciary Committee unanimously, so there was no disagreement on their qualifications. (Ultimately, Democrats prevented them from carrying out this plan.)
Next year may be even worse, as Senate Republicans go to even more extremes to keep judicial seats vacant so that a Republican president (they hope) can fill them in 2017.
This year shows that even when Republicans agree with Democrats that particular nominees are highly qualified to fill critically important positions in our nation’s judiciary, the GOP regards moving the confirmation process along as a major concession to the Democrats. Our nation deserves better.
What we deserve are home-state senators who don’t work to block qualified nominees from having committee hearings. We deserve a Judiciary Committee chairman who gives nominees an opportunity to be questioned about their qualifications and face a vote by committee members. And we deserve a Senate Majority Leader who promptly schedules confirmation votes for fully vetted nominees.
The GOP presidential frontrunner went on his usualrants about the so-called “War on Christmas” and how this anti-Christmas spirit is undermining religious liberty. Trump, who has made attacks on Muslims a central part of his campaign, said that Christians in America are losing their religious freedoms, unlike Muslim-Americans, whom he said have been able to “band together better or something.”
Well, Tony, I can, tell you this, that religious liberty is very important to me, and I see more and more, especially, in particular, Christianity, Christians, their power is being taken away. I just watch it and I get angry at it. You look at what is going on with other religions, you look at, as an example, what’s happening with respect to Muslims and others where perhaps they just band together better or something. But, you know, the Christian, every year, you just see it more and more.
You know, you go from one thing to the next to the point where it’s not politically correct to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to anybody or you go to stores and you don’t ever see the word ‘Christmas’ anymore. You don’t see that term anymore, Tony.
One of the things I always say, and I say it lightheartedly but I mean it, it’s actually not supposed to be so lighthearted, and I get standing ovations, especially in Iowa and certain places, is we are going to start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again. Because you go into these stores and you don’t see anything having to do with Christmas and it’s disgraceful, frankly, as far as I’m concerned, and that’s the way it should be and I feel strongly about it.
Perkins went on to praise Trump’s brave stand in favor of Christmas, which led Trump to discuss the case of a Washington state high school coach who was placed on paid leave after coercing students into religious activity. Trump said it was “incredible” that this coach was disciplined while he, Trump, has been “lambasted” for trying “to see what’s going on with” the “whole thing with the Muslims.”
You know, when I see coaches being fired or suspended because they’re having a prayer for football players, the players are grabbing each other’s hand and praying before or after a game and they suspend the coach or fire the coach in some cases, I say, that’s not happening, if I get in, that’s not happening, Tony, I’ll tell you right now and I’ll make a big deal out of it.
I mean, we have some very important problems, when you look at ISIS and the disaster of Obamacare and our military and our vets not being taken care of properly, but you know that’s still something that is very important to me. How do you suspend a coach because he is practicing his faith?
Then, when I want to see what’s going on with, as an example, you know, it’s been a very big subject, the whole thing with the Muslims, and you get lambasted for doing something and yet they’ll fire a coach who’s a Christian coach because he’s saying a prayer on a football field with his players. It’s an incredible situation that’s taking place and not a good one!
The Republican presidential frontrunner doubled down on his praise of Putin in a radio interview with Iowa’s Simon Conway on Friday, saying that he was confident that he could work well with Putin because he’s “always had a good feeling about him.”
“So, I’m a deal-maker,” Trump said. “So what happens with a deal-maker is you have an instinct, because deals are not deals, they’re people. It’s all about people. And I’ve always had a good instinct about Putin, for me, I just feel that that’s a guy — and I can analyze people. And you’re not always right and it could be that I won’t like him, but I always had a good feeling about him from the standpoint.”
Trump contrasted his potential friendship with Putin with Obama, whom he lamented has “never gotten along” with the Russian leader.
“I really believe that Russia and the United States can be a positive force together as opposed to really working negatively with each other all the time,” he said.
Local Activists Called on Candidates to Talk About How They Would Implement Plans to Fight Big Money and Corporate Influence in Politics
Manchester, NH – On Saturday evening local activists demonstrated outside of the Democratic primary debate at Saint Anselm College urging the candidates to talk to voters about their plans to fight big money and undue corporate influence in politics.
The demonstration was organized by People For the American Way, New Hampshire Rebellion, and the American Friends Service Committee NH Program. All of theDemocraticcandidates have endorsed a range of reform measures aimed at getting big money out of elections. At the event, local activists urged the candidates to take action in their first 100 days as president on this issue, if elected.
“Getting big money out of politics is a top issue for Granite Staters and people across the country,” said Lindsay Jakows, People For the American Way’s New Hampshire Campaign Organizer. “Championing reform measures on the campaign trail is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do.”
“While we appreciate the hopeful statements on campaign finance reform from Sec. Clinton, Gov. O'Malley, and Sen. Sanders, we wanted to hear more discussion of what these candidates will do in their first 100 days in office to end this corruption of our democracy,” said Brian Beihl, deputy director of the campaign finance reform advocacy group, NH Rebellion. “Republican candidates must do the same in their upcoming debates, because the anger about Big Money corruption is palpable among both party loyalists and independents.”
“Regular people don’t have the kind of money that giant corporations spend to get their way. That is why people have to stand up and make their voices heard – even on a cold winter night in New Hampshire,” said Eric Zulaski of the American Friends Service Committee’s Governing Under the Influence campaign.
A recent nationwide poll from the New York Times and CBS News found that eighty-five percent of Americans believe that our country’s campaign finance system needs either “fundamental changes” or to be “completely rebuil[t].”
Ever since Robert Dear opened fire on a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs last month, many anti-abortion activists have been trying to claim that Dear was not motivated by opposition to abortion rights, something that has become increasingly difficult as informationabout himemerges.
But one diehard skeptic, it seems, is Stuart Shepard of CitizenLink, the political arm of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family.
In an interview on “The Meeting House,” an Alabama Christian radio program that was posted on the program’s website last Friday, Stuart speculated that Dear just “ended up at Planned Parenthood” and that he could have been having a “psychotic episode” caused by marijuana edibles.
“If you trace his path backwards from where he ended up at Planned Parenthood to that grocery store where the first person was shot and go back another half mile, you know what they sell there?” he asked. “It’s a couple of marijuana shops.”
“I don’t know the facts of this case,” he acknowledged, “but I’m sure law enforcement is looking into this, we’ve had multiple instances of people consuming what are called marijuana edibles … I’d just be curious to know if he stopped by one of those. We’ve had a number of folks who have eaten these things and then had psychotic episodes.”
“It’s the kind of thing that happens when you make marijuana legal in a state,” he argued, “but it doesn’t get reported widely because it doesn’t fit the narrative of the mainstream news media that’s very, you know. Well, the same thing’s happening here, you wonder, you know, what exactly happened.”
In one of his hourly meltdowns today, InfoWars’ Alex Jones called on viewers to fight back against President Obama’s “idiot followers” who want to ban guns, warning that Obama is turning black people into his “total slaves” who will join his sinister campaign to “destroy and enslave the ‘bitter clingers.’”
“Spread, the word, get aggressive, fire these people in the war,” he said. “Spray them with truth.”
Naturally, this led Jones to talk about the “globalists” who are using things like “Heather Has Two Mommies” and fluoridated water to dumb people down, while boasting that “freedom is exploding” thanks to fellow freedom fighters like Matt Drudge and James O’Keefe.
“I’m just ranting here today,” he said while describing his newfound celebrity status. “It brings tears to my eyes when I go out in public, when I go out in Barnes & Noble — not bragging, just showing how people are awake — and almost everyone I walk by, black, white, Hispanic, old, young, male, female, I can’t go to the mall to Christmas shop, I have to buy everything online, I can’t even go out in public because I can’t get down the street now.”
Mark Crutcher, the president of Life Dynamics, announced in a local radio interview with Cleveland Right to Life’s Molly Smith earlier this month that he is in the process of building a facility and developing a curriculum to conduct “professional training to help pro-lifers understand how to go inside the very cloistered and very closed abortion industry and bring out their dirty little secrets.”
Crutcher, who pioneered the strategy of recruiting what he called “spies for life” to find information about abortion providers in order to harass them out of business, told Smith that the fight over abortion rights “is a war, and one aspect of war is intelligence gathering and undercover work — spying, if you will.”
“We’re going to try to create an army of people who are trained in every part of the country, they will be operating any place there’s an abortion clinic, to go into the abortion industry and bring out their dirty little secrets," he said. "And I think that this is going to change the pro-life movement permanently, and I think it’s going to change it in a pretty dramatic way.”
“Now what we want to do is unleash a whole army of David Daleidens and Lila Roses and James O’Keefes and people like that around the country,” Crutcher said.
Crutcher also discussed his new book, “Siege: A Pro-Life Field Manual,” in which he argues that the anti-choice movement needs to “start applying basic military strategy” to its efforts.
“The book is called ‘Siege,’ which, of course, is a military term, because I look at this as a war,” he told Smith. "There is a war being waged right now and people need to understand, the war is not between the pro-life side and the pro-abortion side or the pro-choice side, whatever you want to call it. The war is between the abortion lobby and the unborn child. We are simply, basically a volunteer army that signed up to defend those who can’t defend themselves, in other words the unborn child. But that’s where the war is. It’s not between us and our enemies, it’s between our enemies and the babies.”
He said that part of the military mindset that the anti-abortion movement must adopt is to “be aware that there are dangers out there that we haven’t thought about.”
As an example, he presented his theory that Planned Parenthood is secretly “positioning itself to become an agency of the U.S. government.”
“I think that we could very easily look up here one day in the not-too-distant future,” he said, “and see a press conference being called with Barack Obama and beside him would be Cecile Richards from Planned Parenthood and them announcing that a new agency has been formed under the Department of Health and Human Services, it would probably be called something like the U.S. Department of Women and Reproductive Health or something like that, and that the name ‘Planned Parenthood’ is going away and that Planned Parenthood is now an agency of the government.”
Mission America’s Linda Harvey is on a mission to stop the Equality Act in Congress, telling Cleveland Right to Life’s Molly Smith on her radio program last week that endorsing such LGBT equality measures is “the least compassionate, the meanest and most hateful thing you can do” because it will cause more people to think it’s okay to be LGBT.
Harvey urged listeners to call their members of Congress and urge them to oppose the legislation and said that she’s trying to get GOP presidential candidates to promise to veto it. (She’s already extracted a veto promise from Marco Rubio.)
She told Smith that the Equality Act would “affect our entire country,” which has already been damaged enough by “the people that want to endorse open homosexual behavior and take us all into this sewer of younger and younger children declaring themselves homosexual or transgender.”
She added that the “tragedies in personal lives that are directly attributable to this is just amazing.”
When Smith interjected a reminder that Christians should “love” gay people even while being “completely, completely opposed to the behavior of a homosexual,” Harvey agreed.
“They’ve been told that this is compassion,” Harvey said. “And we all feel compassion for these people, and some of them are struggling. Some of them are not struggling, some of them are very happy with where they’re at and then they want the whole world to change around them and the desires they have adopted.
“That can’t happen. We want truth. We want truth to be maintained for those people who are struggling and who want to escape it, we don’t want more children to be drawn into this and so, on a public policy level, the least compassionate, the meanest and most hateful thing you can do is to endorse things that will accelerate and confirm this behavior in more and more people in our country.”
Harvey also worried that the Equality Act would accelerate a trend in schools toward students thinking that being gay is “wonderful and you should just embrace it.”
“We should not be implying that to kids anywhere,” she said, “but it’s throughout the curriculum. It’s not just in sex education, it’s in social studies, it’s in English literature. They read these books that have openly homosexual and always attractive homosexual characters. There’s never one that’s presented as if there’s a problem with that.”
No one was surprised yesterday when Donald Trump boasted about the kind words he recently received from Vladimir Putin, even playing down Russian president’s record of persecuting journalists and dissidents.
“He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader,” Trump told Joe Scarborough. “You know, unlike we have in this country.” Trump did eventually get around to condemning Putin’s more repressive actions and his invasion of Ukraine with the bold declaration: “Oh sure, absolutely.”
Trump has been heaping praise on Putin throughout his presidential campaign, even insisting that he met the Russian president when they appeared in the same 60 Minutes segment despite the fact their interviews took place on separate continents.
Putin, of course, has led a widespread crackdown on political and religious freedom in his own country. Earlier this year, a former top government official and opposition leader was assassinated next to the Kremlin in a mysterious case that was likely the work of a government-tied death squad.
Beyond just propping up the brutal Syrian dictatorship, Putin oversaw Chechnya’s transformation into a mini despotic state governed by Sharia law, which may surprise Trump since he has made anti-Muslim bigotry a central part of his campaign platform.