Saturday, March 28, 2015

Last Call For Indiana Pence And The Backlash Of Doom

Things aren't going too well for the Hoosier State since GOP Gov. Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act State Permission To Discriminate Act last week, and the backlash has been fierce.  Companies ranging from gaming convention Gen Con to clomputing firm Salesforce to Apple CEO Tim Cook have blasted the law and have even threatened to pull out millions of dollars of investments in the state.

What the law doesn't have is a whole lot of defenders, as Indianapolis Star columnist Tim Evans notes.

Oddly and conspicuously missing has been a strong counter-show of public support by the law's backers, including evangelical Christians.

Polling shows Americans are divided nearly evenly on the issue of gay marriage — even down to whether wedding-related businesses should be forced to serve same-sex couples in the face of a strongly held religious objection — but you wouldn't know the split was so close based on the noise swirling around Indiana in the last few days.

The ceremony where Gov. Mike Pence's signed the bill into law Thursday was deliberately low-key and private. The event was closed to the media and, even though the governor's office issued a photograph of Pence surrounded by a clutch of backers — many in religious garb — the governor's staff refused to provide their names.

So what's the deal?

An excellent question.  The law was sold as a necessary bulwark to protect Indiana Christians from secular assault, but there aren't tons of people celebrating the law in the streets.  So why not?

Is it that backers don't want to appear to be gloating in the wake of a major victory in the cultural war?

Or is it something deeper, reflecting a changing attitude about the broader issue of discussing religion in public — a shift that has left many who hold deep religious beliefs leery, maybe even afraid, to speak out for fear of being marginalized, labeled as fanatics or targeted for retribution?

The answer, according to the few backers who responded to questions from The Star, appears to be a mix of the two. But it also is true that some religious groups have not backed the new law.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) sent a letter to Pence this week threatening to cancel its 2017 convention in Indy if he signed the measure into law.

"Our perspective is that hate and bigotry wrapped in religious freedom is still hate and bigotry," Todd Adams, the associate general minister and vice president of the Indianapolis-based denomination, told The Indianapolis Star.

Now that's interesting.  A Christian church that doesn't find the law to be very Christ-like.  Maybe that's the difference here in 2015.

Of course, there are those who are happily using the law for its intended purpose.

An Indiana business owner went on a local radio station and said that he had discriminated against gay or lesbian couples even before Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a law on Thursday protecting business owners who decide to discriminate for “religious liberty” reasons. He then defended the practice and suggested he would do it again.

The business owner, who would not give his name or the name of his business, said he had told some LGBT “people” that equipment was broken in his restaurant and he couldn’t serve them even though it wasn’t and other people were already eating at the tables. “So, yes, I have discriminated,” he told RadioNOW 100.9 hosts. The hosts were surprised the owner said he was okay with discriminating.

Well, I feel okay with it because it’s my place of business, I pay the rent, I’ve built it with all my money and my doing. It’s my place; I can do whatever I want with it, “he said. “They can have their lifestyle and do their own thing in their own place or with people that want to be with them.”

And the law expressly prohibits any legal penalties to be levied against this fine, upstanding pillar of the community for his ignorance, because that's exactly what the law was meant to do.

And everyone knows it.

The Big Bug Out In Aden

With Yemeni President Hadi gone and even despite Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, it looks like there's very little to stop Houthi rebels in Yemen from capturing the port city of Aden and removing the last vestiges of the US-backed government. Foreign diplomats and UN staffers are taking advantage of the Saudis offering an exit by naval route.

Saudi Arabia's navy evacuated dozens of diplomats from Yemen and the United Nations pulled out international staff on Saturday after a third night of Saudi-led air strikes trying to stem advances by Iranian-allied Houthi fighters.

Residents reported heavy clashes between the Houthis and mainly Sunni tribal fighters in the south of the country, while the Saudi-led air campaign sought to stall a fresh offensive by the Shi'ite Muslim group on Aden from the east.

Riyadh's intervention, a surprise move from a conservative monarchy better known for flexing its muscle in oil markets than through military might, is planned to last a month but could extend for five or six, a Gulf diplomatic source said.

He said satellite imagery had shown that the Houthis had repositioned long-range Scud missiles in the north, close to the Saudi border and aimed at Saudi territory. A Yemeni official said Iran was providing parts for the missiles.
Dozens of diplomats were shipped out of Aden to the Red Sea port of Jeddah, Saudi television said, escaping the city where President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi had taken refuge until Thursday, when he left for Egypt to shore up Arab support for his crumbling authority.

Again, the Saudis are involved because the notion of a failed state now fallen to the point of being a base for Shi'a terrorists (not to mention the remnants of Sunni AQ Yemen) is something of a security problem on their southern doorstep.

Hadi running for Egypt shows you just how bad the situation is here, and oh yes, Iraq to Saudi Arabia's north is still very much a problem, with Islamic State running around from Basrah all the way over to Homs in Syria.

The Middle East is in pretty bad shape right now, and nothing I've seen makes me think anything's going to improve after a six month air strike campaign in Yemen.

Bank On Their Hatred Of Warren

Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren's call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said.
Representatives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, have met to discuss ways to urge Democrats, including Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, to soften their party's tone toward Wall Street, sources familiar with the discussions said this week.

Bank officials said the idea of withholding donations was not discussed at a meeting of the four banks in Washington but it has been raised in one-on-one conversations between representatives of some of them. However, there was no agreement on coordinating any action, and each bank is making its own decision, they said.

The amount of money at stake, a maximum of $15,000 per bank, means the gesture is symbolic rather than material

Moreover, banks' hostility toward Warren, who is not a presidential candidate, will not have a direct impact on the presumed Democratic front runner in the White House race, Hillary Clinton. That's because their fund-raising groups focus on congressional races rather than the presidential election

Still, political strategists say Clinton could struggle to raise money among Wall Street financiers who worry that Democrats are becoming less business friendly.

The tensions are a sign that the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis - the bank bailouts and the fights over financial reforms to rein in Wall Street - are still a factor in the 2016 elections.

Frankly, that's the best news I've heard about Senate Dems in quite some time.  I'm sure banks will still give to the Dems, but if they are publicly declaring Warren, Brown, and maybe even Hillary as their enemies, then it will only help the Dems in 2016.

Good work, banks!
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