Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Last Call For Our Prosperity Gospel Theocracy

So for those still holding out hope that Jared and Ivanka's brutal pragmatism can be some sort of moderating influence on Donald Trump when it comes to Mike Pence and the GOP's theocracy wing, you should probably consider those hopes shredded starting tomorrow.

President Donald Trump has invited conservative leaders to the White House on Thursday for what they expect will be the ceremonial signing of a long-awaited—and highly controversial—executive order on religious liberty, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

Two senior administration officials confirmed the plan, though one cautioned that it hasn’t yet been finalized, and noted that lawyers are currently reviewing and fine-tuning the draft language. Thursday is the National Day of Prayer, and the White House was already planning to celebrate the occasion with faith leaders.

The signing would represent a major triumph for Vice President Mike Pence—whose push for religious-freedom legislation backfired mightily when he served as governor of Indiana—and his allies in the conservative movement.

The original draft order, which would have established broad exemptions for people and groups to claim religious objections under virtually any circumstance, was leaked to The Nation on Feb. 1—the handiwork, many conservatives believed, of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who have sought to project themselves as friendly to the LGBT community. Liberals blasted the draft order as government-licensed discrimination, and the White House distanced itself from the leaked document in a public statement.

Pence and a small team of conservative allies quickly began working behind the scenes to revise the language, and in recent weeks have ratcheted up the pressure on Trump to sign it. The new draft is being tightly held, but one influential conservative who saw the text said it hasn’t been dialed back much—if at all—since the February leak. “The language is very, very strong,” the source said.

If that's true, this one's going to be certainly challenged in court, but between the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling two years ago and the nearly 25-year-old Religious Freedom Restoration Act (thanks Bill!) there may not be very much opponents can do to keep Trump from exempting nearly everyone from anti-discrimination laws or just about anything else for that matter if they are opposed to them on the grounds of religious belief.  From The Nation:

The four-page draft order, a copy of which is currently circulating among federal staff and advocacy organizations, construes religious organizations so broadly that it covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”

The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act. The White House did not respond to requests for comment, but when asked Monday about whether a religious freedom executive order was in the works, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, “I’m not getting ahead of the executive orders that we may or may not issue. There is a lot of executive orders, a lot of things that the president has talked about and will continue to fulfill, but we have nothing on that front now.”

Language in the draft document specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”

The breadth of the draft order, which legal experts described as “sweeping” and “staggering,” may exceed the authority of the executive branch if enacted. It also, by extending some of its protections to one particular set of religious beliefs, would risk violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

This executive order would appear to require agencies to provide extensive exemptions from a staggering number of federal laws—without regard to whether such laws substantially burden religious exercise,” said Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and an expert on church-state separation and religious freedom.

Almost certainly this would head to the US Supreme Court, with Trump's freshly installed Justice Neil Gorsuch ready to rule in Trump's favor.  Certainly this would be another instance where Kenndy could decide the fate of the country again in a 5-4 decision.

The battle to legalize discrimination begins in earnest tomorrow, it seems.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

So, let's talk about the death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards in Texas, his life snuffed out by a cop because Edwards was a black boy in the passenger seat of a car.  This was his crime, and for this he was summarily executed by police in the town of Balch Springs near Dallas.

The police chief in Balch Springs admitted Monday that a car full of teens was driving away from police when an officer armed with a rifle fatally shot a 15-year-old boy in the head.

After reviewing body-cam footage, Police Chief Jonathan Haber reversed his initial account about Saturday's deadly confrontation, saying the teen behind the wheel Saturday night at first backed down the street but was fleeing the scene when the officer opened fire.

"It did not meet our core values," Haber said of his officer's actions.

Haber had initially said the car was driving backward when Jordan Edwards was shot. The officers had been inside a house where they found a large party. They ran outside after hearing gunshots around 11 p.m. Saturday in the 12300 block of Baron Drive.

Jordan, a freshman at Mesquite High School, was leaving the party over the weekend when the officer shot him through the passenger's side window.

The medical examiner's office said Jordan was killed with a rifle and also ruled his death a homicide, though that doesn't necessarily mean charges will be filed.

The Dallas County Sheriff's Department and the district attorney's public-integrity unit are investigating the shooting.

The medical examiner's office said Jordan was killed with a rifle and also ruled his death a homicide, though that doesn't necessarily mean charges will be filed.

The Dallas County Sheriff's Department and the district attorney's public-integrity unit are investigating the shooting.

Attorney Lee Merritt, who represents Jordan's family, said Jordan and four other teens heard gunshots and decided to get in a car and leave the party. He said the teens heard someone cursing and then three shots were fired into the car.

The officer, who has not been named, has been placed on administrative leave. No officers were injured.

Tuesday the family of Jordan Edwards responded.

In their first statement following Jordan Edwards' death, the 15-year-old's family called him a "loving child with a humble and sharing spirit."

The statement also said he had an indescribably strong bond with his family, especially his siblings. The family said his brothers witnessed Jordan's death.

"Not only have Jordan's brothers lost their best friend; they witnessed firsthand his violent, senseless, murder," the statement reads. "Their young lives will forever be altered. No one, let alone young children, should witness such horrific, unexplainable, violence."

The family asked the public to refrain from protests and marches in Jordan's name as they prepare for his funeral. "We do not support nor do we condone any violence or threats made against the Balch Springs Police Department or any other law enforcement agencies."

"What we desire only second to having our beloved Jordan back, is JUSTICE FOR JORDAN," the statement reads.

Jordan Edwards wasn't a thug or a criminal.  He was a straight-A student and a football star as a freshman with his entire life ahead of him.  That life was taken carelessly and stupidly by police.  Meanwhile the Jeff Sessions Department of Justice is refusing to press any charges against the Baton Rouge cops who killed Alton Sterling last July.  Sterling was black.  The cops killed him.  Case closed in Trump's America.  They're always righteous shoots when somebody who looks like me dies to police bullets.

There is one piece of good news on this front: the officer that shot Walter Scott in North Charleston, SC in 2015, the murder caught on video, will plead to a single federal charge after last December's deadlocked trial.  The officer, Michael Slager, faces up to life in prison.

Black lives matter.

Shutdown Countdown: Maybe You Deserve It

Trump regime budget director Mick Nulvaney seems to think that him completely failing at his job and shutting down the government would teach those pesky Democrats and their supporters a lesson, and that lesson is "you can't have government work for you if it doesn't work at all" or something.

The White House budget director on Monday threatened Democrats with a government shutdown if they don’t “behave” when it comes time to write a federal budget in September. He also defined a “good shutdown,” advocated earlier by President Donald Trump on Twitter, as one that proved Trump correct about the dysfunction of the federal government.

An animated Mick Mulvaney responded first to a reporter who asked about Trump’s Twitter dispatches Tuesday morning, in which the President urged, “Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!”

“I think the President is frustrated with the fact that he negotiated in good faith with the Democrats and they went out to try and spike the football and make him look bad,” Mulvaney said, presumably referring to Democrats’ taunts that Trump got almost nothing his White House budget advocated for.

“I get that frustration because I think it is a terrible posture for the Democrats to take,” he continued. “If we are sitting here trying to prove to people that Washington is going to be different, that we’re going to change things and can figure a way to work with them and they do that to this President, listen, I would have taken offense at that so it doesn’t surprise me at all that his frustrations were manifested in that way. We’ve got a lot to do between now and September. I don’t anticipate a shutdown in September. But if negotiations — if the Democrats aren’t going to behave any better than they have in the last couple days, it may be inevitable.”

“How would a shutdown clean up the mess?” one reporter asked.

Sooner or later, we’ll have to start doing something different,” Mulvaney said, adding: “If we get to September and it is still business as usual, business as usual, business as usual and nothing changes, and takes a shutdown to change it, I have no problem with that.

Later in the press conference, NBC’s Peter Alexander asked Mulvaney to define what he thought Trump meant by a “good shutdown.”

I don’t know,” Mulvaney said, pausing. “We haven’t had one.”

But a Trump™ brand Shutdown would be a good shutdown, because America.

Remember that point I keep making about Trump supporters being fine with whatever pain inflicted by Trump just as long as black and brown people suffer the most?  Watch Trump, or at least the Bannon wing of the Trump regime, start talking up the notion that a shutdown would be vital in "getting rid of the dead weight" in government.  Mulvaney's already on board.

It won't be long before somebody talks Trump into it too.


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