First Amendment

Probably Not Helpful (#trumpstyle)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump): "I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!" [via Twitter, 25 February 2017]

Frankly, this just won’t help. Meanwhile, The Hill reports on deteriorating relations between White House and press:

Bloomberg L.P., which hosts a high-profile after-party for the dinner, had pulled the plug on the event. Vanity Fair, which usually partners with Bloomberg in throwing the party, announced earlier this month that it would not participate.

The New Yorker, the magazine that hosts a kickoff party before the dinner, cancelled its event earlier this month, while CNN and MSNBC are also reportedly deliberating whether they will pull out of the annual dinner.

Trump’s announcement comes a day after his administration’s latest clash with the media.

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A Failure to Grasp (Strategically Tactical)

#antiMuslim | #WhatTheyVotedFor

White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivers his first statement in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017. (Shawn Thew/EPA)

Ladies and gentlemen, this is White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer:

Q Southern Poverty Law Center said that the number of anti-Muslim groups in the U.S. has tripled between 2015 and 2016, during the time of the campaign. Is this message within the administration―anti-Semitism is not allowed, xenophobia is not allowed―anti-Muslim sentiment within the administration, has the President been forceful about that particular issue?

MR. SPICER: I think that the President, in terms of his desire to combat radical Islamic terrorism, he understands that people who want to express a peaceful position have every right in our Constitution. But if you come here or want to express views that seek to do our country or our people harm, he is going to fight it aggressively, whether it’s domestic acts that are going on here or attempts through people abroad to come into this country. So there’s a big difference between preventing attacks and making sure that we keep this country safe so that there is no loss of life in allowing people to express themselves in accordance with our First Amendment. Those are two very, very different, different, different things.

The only caveat, of course, is that this is not an accident.

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Image note: White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivers his first statement in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017. (Shawn Thew/EPA)

Spicer, Sean. “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 2/21/2017, #13”. The White House Office of the Press Secretary. 21 February 2017.

An American Lamentation (Two by “Huh?”)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

Americans often lament the fact of their essentially two-party political league, and the top of the Libertarian ticket, Gary Johnson, is capable of providing spectacular reminders of why we tend toward the binary. The former New Mexico governor and middle-tier celebrity stoner has managed to reduce a human atrocity to yet another icon of American stupidity, which really is no good legacy to build. Yet it is true, in the American discourse, “Aleppo” is … well, Matthew Kitchen tries to explain for NBC News:

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson struggled to name a single foreign leader when asked who his favorite was during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night.

“Any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that your respect and look up to. Anybody,” host Chris Matthews pushed during the event, causing Johnson to sigh loudly as his VP pick Bill Weld tried to jump in.

“I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment,” Johnson finally said, referring to his recent gaffe on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when he asked “What is Aleppo?” after he was questioned about how he would handle the conflict in the Syrian city.

So, yeah. Aleppo is … Gary Johnson being inexcusably stupid. (Look, dude, I mean, you’re, like, running for president, you know, like, aren’t you?)

And then there is Donald Trump.

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Another Obvious Question (House Divided Hot Mess Mix)

Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, listens to Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz as they speak with her at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. (Photo: Ty Wright/Getty Images)

Let us start here:

Importantly, Davis is not claiming a substantial burden on her religious freedom or free speech rights if someone else authorizes and approves a SSM license devoid of her name.

(Mihet and Christman [Liberty Counsel], 28 August 2015; accents per source)

Follow the bouncing ball:

“The stay request offers several options such as removing Davis’s name from the marriage license, thus removing the personal nature of the authorization,” Staver pointed out. “Another accommodation would be to allow licenses to be issued by the chief executive of Rowan County or developing a statewide, online marriage license process,” Staver suggested. “There is absolutely no reason that this case has gone so far without reasonable people respecting and accommodating Kim Davis’s First Amendment rights,” Staver concluded.

(Liberty Counsel, 31 August 2015; boldface accent added)

And then came Friday:

Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel which represents Davis, said he believes Friday’s licenses are invalid because they were not issued with her approval. Davis’ name does not appear on the licenses.

“They are not worth the paper they are printed on,” Staver said, standing in front of the Grayson, Kentucky, detention center where Davis is being held. He added she had no intention of resigning as clerk.

(Bittenbender; boldface accent added)

Would any among Ms. Davis’ defenders care to attempt reconciling, or at least merely explaining that sleight? This much is true: We don’t expect Mr. Staver, nor his colleagues, Messrs. Christman and Himet, to do so. Indeed, we might wonder if they would find demands for such an explanation offensive to their religious freedom.

To be clear, because some need it so expressed:

If Kim Davis’ name was not on the marriage licenses, then the “personal nature of the authorization” would be removed. (Liberty Counsel, 28-31 August)

If the licenses were issued without Ms. Davis’ name on them, then they are “not worth the paper they are printed on” because Ms. Davis has not given authorization of a personal nature.

In the end, Mark Joseph Stern’s question of whether Kim Davis is “getting taken for a ride by her lawyers”, as the headline put it, asserts itself more insistently.

More and more, it’s beginning to look like the Liberty Counsel is taking Davis for a ride, using her doomed case to promote itself and its extremist principles. Davis has certainly humiliated and degraded the gay couples whom she turned away. But I wonder if, on some level, she isn’t a victim, too.

(Boldface accent added)

I mean, really.

This is a sick joke playing out before our eyes.

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Image note: Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, listens to Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz as they speak with her at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. (Photo: Ty Wright/Getty Images)

(Tip o’ the hat I don’t actually wear: JoeMyGod)

Mihet, Horatio G. and Jonathan D. Christman. “Emergency Application to Stay Preliminary Injunction Pending Appeal”. Davis v. Miller et al. Supreme Court of the United States. 28 August 2015.

Liberty Counsel. “Accommodations Would End Rowan County Dispute”. Press Release. 31 August 2015.

Bittenbender, Steve. “Kentucky clerk’s office ends ban on same-sex marriage licenses”. Reuters. 4 September 2015.

Stern, Mark Joseph. “Is Kentucky’s Infamous Anti-Gay Clerk Getting Taken for a Ride by Her Lawyers?”. Slate. 31 August 2015.

The Not-So-Gay Divorceé

VIII. Adjustment.

The question of a divorceé has long plagued Christian supremacists who denounce marriage equality and gay rights, but, you know, really? Not only has Kim Davis already licensed transgender man and his pansexual wife, and most likely also issued plenty of marriage licenses to divorceés, but it also turns out that Ms. Davis is herself a serial adulterer.

On this point, Travis Gettys of Raw Story considers an appearance by Dan Savage on msnbc; the author, advice columnist, and editor of The Stranger, Mr. Savage spared no punches:

“I think Kim Davis is waiting to cash in,” Savage told MSNBC. “I predicted from the beginning that she would defy all the court orders, defy the Supreme Court, she would ultimately be held in contempt of court, lose her job, perhaps go to prison for a short amount of time. And then she will have written for her, ghost written books. She will go on the right-wing lecture circuit and she’ll never have to do an honest day’s work ever again in her life.”

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, in a mugshot, 3 September 2015, after being held in contempt of court by U.S. District Judge David Bunning, after she refused to comply with the law and issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples.“This is about someone hypocritically cashing in, and she is a hypocrite,” he added.

Savage referred to the defiant clerk’s statement complaining that courts were asking her to “violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage” — which the columnist dismissed as ridiculous.

“This is a woman who’s been divorced three times and married four times,” he said, reading from the US News & World Report article that pointed out Davis “gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband, (and) they were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second husband.”

“She’s now onto her fourth husband,” Savage said. “Jesus Christ himself in scripture condemned divorce, called it adultery and forbids it. Jesus Christ himself in scripture says not one word about same-sex marriage.”

Savage said the U.S. Supreme Court had already decided the issue of same-sex marriage, and he said Davis clearly should have followed the law all along.

“She’s not being asked to perform a sacrament, she is tasked with ascertaining that the people in front of her, the couple in front of her, have a legal right to get married and to provide them with that license,” he said. “She is not a minister. She actually thinks she works for God there in the county courthouse, when she actually works for Caesar — and someone needs to acquaint her with that fact.”

Or we might attend Mr. Savage himself, who recently blogged, among other notes:

I would say I can’t wait for a Muslim county clerk in, say, Dearborn, Michigan (which has a huge Muslim community), to refuse to issue a marriage license to a Christian couple on the grounds that the this kafir couple hasn’t been paying jizya… but that’s not going to happen. Religious minorities in this country intuitively understand that to empower religious bigots like Davis is to paint bullseyes on their own backs. So the Jesus-freak goons at the Liberty Counsel work to frame discrimination as a “religious freedom” because they’re confident that American Christians will be the ones doing the discriminating, not suffering from it.

This is an important point. Something about functional reality goes here.

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Sheila Butt

Detail of cartoon by Daryl Cagle, 27 February 2015, via The Cagle Post.

There is little to be said that the news from Lucas L. Johnson II of Associated Press, well, does not already say itself:

The Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus on Thursday called on Republican Rep. Sheila Butt to apologize for what they said was a racist Facebook post, and said she should be removed from her leadership position ....

.... Butt’s post said, “It is time for a Council on Christian Relations and an NAAWP in this Country.”

It was a comment on a Jan. 26 open letter from the Council on American-Islamic Relations urging potential Republican presidential candidates to reject “Islamophobia” and reach out to American Muslim voters.

Critics say “NAAWP” has been used by white supremacist organizations and stands for the “National Association for the Advancement of White People.”

Butt, who is white, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that “NAAWP” stands for the “National Association of Advancement for Western Peoples,” and said her post had been misinterpreted. It has since been deleted.

On the House floor Thursday, Butt said she “never intended to offend anyone,” then cited her right under the “First Amendment to speak our minds.”

Tennessee.

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Image note: Detail of cartoon by Daryl Cagle, 27 February 2015, via The Cagle Post.

Johnson II, Lucas L. “Tennessee Black Caucus Seeks Apology from GOP Lawmaker”. Associated Press. 26 February 2015.

Your Republican Party (Twenty-First Century Edition)

The American conundrum: Too stupid for freedom?

So … right. And then there’s this:

A Republican candidate seeking to represent Georgia’s 10th U.S. House district believes that the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty does not apply to followers of Islam.

“Although Islam has a religious component, it is much more than a simple religious ideology,” Rev. Jody Hice wrote in his 2012 book It’s Now Or Never, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It is a complete geo-political structure and, as such, does not deserve First Amendment protection.”

(Dolan)

Laugh it up, fuzzball, but you do realize, this keeps happening?

And, it should be noted, Hice goes on and on. One of his best lines would seem to be, “This is not a tolerant, peaceful religion even though some Muslims are peaceful.” Indeed, it is evident in his own words that he defines Islam according to the adjective radical:

“This is not a tolerant, peaceful religion even though some Muslims are peaceful. Radical Muslims believe that Sharia is required by God and must be imposed worldwide. It’s a movement to take over the world by force. A global caliphate is the objective.”

Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican Party.

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