I really don’t know of any presidential powers at Trump’s disposal that could be used in regards to a city having a high murder rate outside of two presidential powers: one would be to declare a state of emergency in Chicago, and the other would be declaring martial law in Chicago. Unlike a state National Guard or a state militia, the President cannot take over a city police force.
States United, part of the Mike Bloomberg-aligned pro-gun control political network that has been known to support far-right Republicans, has a couple of infographics about the actual state of the Chicago murder crisis:
As you can see, guns originally purchased in states like Indiana, and, to a lesser extent, Wisconsin and Mississippi, all three of which have weaker gun safety laws than Illinois does, have played a large role in Chicago’s murder crisis, and seven U.S. cities (St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, Cleveland, Newark, and Memphis) all have higher murder rates than Chicago does. Despite the facts, Trump and his Republican allies haven’t hinted at martial law in cities with a higher murder rate than that of Chicago, and Trump and his Republican allies want to make it easier, not harder, for people to take guns across state lines.
While murder is a serious problem in this country, declaring martial law is going to do absolutely nothing to solve the murder crisis of Chicago or any other city.
Multiple media outlets are reporting that Indiana Governor Mike Pence is likely to be picked by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to be Trump’s vice-presidential running mate. This has not been confirmed by Trump himself; Trump intends to officially announce his VP pick sometime tomorrow.
For those of you who have heard of Pence, and for those of you who have not heard of Pence, he’s not worth any pence, and he’s a right-wing bigot with a track record of enshrining bigotry into Indiana state law.
Pence is most infamous for signing into law Indiana’s religious discrimination bill, which allows ordinary Hoosiers to discriminate against people who aren’t like them by, for example, allowing businesses and businesspeople to refuse to serve people because of the religious beliefs of the business owners. That is a law primarily designed to discriminate against Indiana’s LGBT community, and Pence made himself and Indiana a national embarrassment by signing the religious discrimination bill into law.
When it comes to working-class Americans, Pence is solidly against working-class Americans every step against the way. Pence repealed Indiana’s common construction wage law, which was Indiana’s version of a prevailing wage law for state-funded construction projects, and Pence also supports President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed international trade agreement between the U.S. and countries like Vietnam, a country that killed tens of thousands of American troops in a war the U.S. should have never been involved in, and a country where workers are paid far less than the U.S. federal minimum wage. It’s no wonder why the White House is actually praising Pence, despite the fact that Pence is likely to be the running mate of perhaps the single most bigoted presidential candidate to win a major-party presidential nomination.
Earlier today, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died. Even though I strongly disagreed with the vast majority of Scalia’s opinions, I offer my condolences to Justice Scalia’s family.
However, Republicans who hold the majority in the U.S. Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and presidential candidates Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), couldn’t wait for Scalia to be cremated before showing that they are more than willing to evade their constitutional duty, with McConnell flatly saying that the Senate should wait until a new president is in the White House before confirming a new Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
This stands in sharp contrast with President Barack Obama, who intends to fulfill his constitutional duty by appointing a new associate justice to this country’s highest bench, even if Republicans obstruct his nomination.
By fulfilling one’s constitutional duty, I’m referring to, in this specific instance, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution:
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
(emphasis mine; in Article II of the Constitution, “he” refers to the president, regardless of the president’s gender)
The President has the power and constitutional duty to nominate an individual to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, however, the Senate has the power and constitutional duty to either affirm or reject the president’s appointment. It’s clear to me that one party to the process to appoint Supreme Court justices intends to do his constitutional duty (the President), whereas the other party does not (the Republicans who control the U.S. Senate).
The Senate is not required to approve of the president’s pick for the Supreme Court vacancy. The Senate can, if they wish to, establish a process to determine whether or not to approve or reject the president’s pick, and can opt to vote the president’s pick down, either in committee or in the full Senate. However, for the Senate to not establish any kind of process for accepting or rejecting the president’s pick amounts to completely evading the constitutional duty of the Senate.
From an electoral standpoint, it would be absolutely foolish for Republicans to obstruct the president’s pick to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. If the Republicans go through with their threat to obstruct the president’s pick until, at the earliest, a new president is sworn into office, that would, in effect, put control of both the White House and the Supreme Court on the line in the 2016 presidential and senatorial elections. That is the poker equivalent of going all in with a likely losing hand. This strategy could very easily backfire on Republicans, and they would not like the nominees that either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders (I’m a Bernie supporter) would pick. Hillary would likely nominate Obama to the Supreme Court, and Bernie would probably appoint someone who is ideologically similar to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the most progressive of the current Supreme Court justices, if not even more progressive than Ginsburg. If Democrats were to retain control of the White House and regain control of the Senate, stalling on filling the Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court could end up resulting in a more progressive justice than someone that Obama will pick being seated on our nation’s highest bench (I’m guessing that Obama will pick someone to his ideological right for Supreme Court). Furthermore, U.S. Senate races where Republicans are thought to be safe or favored, such as Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri, would become more competitive for Democrats, and U.S. Senate races that are either competitive or where Democrats are favored, such as Illinois and Wisconsin, would become even more favorable for Democrats.
Thanks to a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision issued earlier today, same-sex couples across the entire United States of America can now enjoy the same legal right to marry that heterosexual couples have long enjoyed. To put it mildly, this is a huge victory for love and equality in America.
However, in 32 states, some, if not all, LGBT workers, can legally be fired simply because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity:
In 21 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming), all workers can be fired on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
In 3 states (Arizona, Missouri, and Montana), state employees cannot be fired on the basis of sexual orientation, but state employees can be fired on the basis of gender identity, and private-sector workers can be fired on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
In 5 states (Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio), state employees cannot be fired on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity, but private-sector workers can be fired on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
In 2 states (New Hampshire and Wisconsin), all workers cannot be fired on the basis of sexual orientation, but all workers can be fired on the basis of gender identity.
In 1 state (New York), state employees cannot be fired on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and private-sector workers cannot be fired on the basis of sexual orientation, but private-sector workers can be fired on the basis of gender identity.
If the source I linked to above has inaccurate and/or outdated information, please leave a comment on this blog post with accurate information for a particular state.
While it is a huge victory for the LGBT movement to secure marriage equality in all 50 states, the fight for full equality for gays, lesbians, bisexual people, and transgender people is far from over. The next big fight in the LGBT rights movement should be to push for laws prohibiting public and private employers from firing people based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
The Republican-controlled Indiana General Assembly recently passed legislation to repeal that state’s common construction wage law, efforts are underway in Wisconsin to repeal that state’s prevailing wage law, and Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has made repealing our state’s prevailing wage law a major priority of his right-wing corporate agenda. Prevailing wage laws require construction and other types of workers on taxpayer-funded projects to be paid the prevailing wage in the area in which the work is being done.
While Republicans and conservatives claim that repealing prevailing wage laws would save taxpayers money, Iowa, which neighbors both Illinois and Wisconsin, has proven that to be absolutely false. In Iowa, a state that does not have a state-level prevailing wage law, the per lane-mile cost of maintaining state-maintained roads was $5,732 in 2012. In Wisconsin, which currently has a state-level prevailing wage law, the per lane-mile costs of maintain state-maintained roads was $4,341, or $1,391 less expensive per lane-mile than Iowa, in 2012.
Prevailing wage laws do nothing more than drive down the wages of workers on road construction and other publicly-funded projects and allow construction companies to pad their profits at the expense of workers and taxpayers. Driving down the wages of workers, whether it be construction workers and other types of workers, also hurts the overall economy, because workers whose wages drop have less money to spend on goods and services, which results in businesses not being able to make as much money selling goods and services.
In the wake of Republican-controlled state governments in Indiana and Arkansas passing religious discrimination laws, right-wing bible-thumpers have tried to frame small businesses who refuse to bake cakes containing messaging that LGBT people would find highly offensive. The bible-thumpers are doing this by trying to order a cake containing anti-LGBT messaging and, when the business refuses to make such a cake for them, claiming that the business is discriminating against them.
Azucar Bakery, a Denver, Colorado small business that makes cakes and Peruvian-style desserts, was the target of a bogus legal complaint for refusing to make a cake that contained offensive anti-LGBT messaging. Bill Jack, an anti-LGBT bigot from Castle Rock, Colorado, tried to order a cake from Azucar Bakery that featured icing depicting two groomsmen with a red “X” over them and messages claiming that homosexuality is a sin. Marjorie Silva, the owner of Azucar Bakery, refused to write the messages that Jack wanted on his cake, and Silva offered to bake a cake that contained no messages whatsoever and give Jack a pastry bag and icing so that he could decorate the cake with bigotry himself. Jack filed a state civil rights complaint against Silva and Azucar Bakery, and the Colorado Civil Rights Division rejected Jack’s complaint, ruling that Silva and Azucar Bakery did not discriminate against Jack. Azucar Bakery is selling t-shirts with anti-hate messages printed on them; you can buy the t-shirts here.
Cut the Cake Bakery, a Longwood, Florida small business that also makes cakes, has been subjected to threats and negative online reviews for refusing to provide bigoted televangelist Joshua Feuerstein with a cake decorated with anti-LGBT messaging. After Feuerstein uploaded a video of his phone call with Cut the Cake Bakery to YouTube, Feuerstein’s bigoted followers posted negative reviews of Cut the Cake Bakery online and left phone messages threatening the owner of the business, Sharon Haller. Cyndol Knarr, Haller’s daughter, has launched a GoFundMe campaign to support Cut the Cake Bakery; you can donate to that campaign here.
What the bible-thumping bigots in this country don’t understand is that refusing to provide a certain type of product, in this case, cakes decorated with hateful messages that gays, lesbians, bisexual people, and transgender people would find highly offensive, is not discrimination, so as long as their policy to not provide certain types of products is applied equally to all customers. What is discrimination is when a business refuses to serve customers because of who they are, such as the Walkerton, Indiana-based pizza parlor Memories Pizza publicly refusing to cater to the weddings of same-sex couples because the people who are getting married are of the same gender. Business owners have the right to refuse to manufacture and/or sell a product that they don’t want to provide to anybody, whether it be because the product in question conflicts with their values or otherwise.
I strongly oppose this effort by right-wing hate mongerers to frame small businesses who are unwilling to sell anything with bigotry and hate speech on it.
Hoosier Hospitality has been legally eliminated in Indiana. I’m not kidding.
Mike Pence, the far-right Republican Indiana Governor, signed into law a religious discrimination bill that, among other things, will allow business owners to refuse service to gays, lesbians, and other groups of people because of the owners’ religious beliefs.
Also, a special note to Democrats and progressives regarding religious discrimination legislation: Don’t use the Republican/conservative framing by referring to the legislation as “religious freedom” legislation, as all you’re doing by using their framing is reinforcing the right’s narrative. Refer to it as religious discrimination legislation, as that’s what it is: it allows business owners and other types of employers to discriminate against others based on religious beliefs of the business owners and employers.
You might be surprised by this, but my home state of Illinois is one of the most, if not the most, earthquake-prone states in the entire country.
The New Madrid Seismic Zone and Wabash Valley Seismic Zone, a pair of intraplate seismic zones (i.e., fault systems within one of the tectonic plates that make up Earth’s crust, in this case, the North American Plate) provide a significant threat of earthquakes to a region including parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. The New Madrid Seismic Zone, the better known of the two seismic zones, extends roughly from the southernmost part of Illinois to the Memphis, Tennessee metropolitan area, and any large earthquake in this region would significantly affect parts of Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and other states further away from the New Madrid Zone. The Wabash Valley Seismic Zone, the lesser known of the two seismic zones, extends roughly along the Wabash River from Terre Haute, Indiana southward, and any large earthquake in this region would significantly affect parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and other states further away from the Wabash Valley Zone.
However, there’s two main factors that would make a large earthquake in this region of the country, which hasn’t happened since 1812, even more devastating than an large earthquake in other areas of the country. First, since virtually all homes, buildings, and other structures in this region of the country are not built or retrofitted to withstand large earthquakes, the devastation that would be caused by a large earthquake in this region of the country would be considerably worse than the devastation that a large earthquake in, for example, California would cause. Second, because of the geology of this region of the country, any large earthquake in this region of the country would be felt over a wider area than an earthquake in, for example, California would be.
Jennifer Rukavina, the chief meteorologist at WPSD-TV, the NBC affiliate in Paducah, Kentucky that covers an area roughly corresponding to the northern half of the area that would be the most severely affected by a large earthquake centered in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, did a three-part series of news features for WPSD-TV on the New Madrid Seismic Zone in 2011:
If a 7.7 or greater magnitude earthquake were to occur in either the New Madrid or Wabash Valley seismic zones, it would be one of the worst natural disasters in modern U.S. history. Most, if not all, structures near the epicenter of the earthquake would be destroyed. Roads, bridges, railroads, power lines, power plants, water lines, water pumping and treatment facilities, and other types of infrastructure would be damaged or destroyed for tens, if not hundreds, of miles around the epicenter, many local radio and television stations in the region would likely be knocked off the air for days, if not even longer, sand blows and soil liquefaction would occur in some areas in the region, large rivers in the area, such as the Mississippi, Ohio, and Wabash, could be moved off of their current courses by upwards of two miles, if not even further, fatalities would likely be in the thousands, injuries would likely be in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, the earthquake would probably be felt as far away as places like Boston, Massachusetts, Duluth, Minnesota, and Denver, Colorado, and at least minor damage could occur in places as far away as Madison, Wisconsin, Columbus, Ohio, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Wichita, Kansas.
The areas within and near the New Madrid and Wabash Valley Seismic Zones, which includes parts of several states in the Lower Midwest and South, including my home state of Illinois, are some of the most earthquake-prone areas in the entire country, and that’s something that many people don’t realize.
For those of you who have been following the Wisconsin gubernatorial race extensively, you may have known about a TV ad which the campaign of Democratic candidate Mary Burke is either currently running or has run which features Erin Forrest, the chairwoman of the Jefferson County (WI) Democratic Party who entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and served probation in order to get domestic violence charges against her dropped.
Normally, I would write a blog post on The Prairie Badger, my blog about Wisconsin politics, and criticize Forrest for effectively blacklisting Scott Michalak, a unsuccessful Wisconsin State Assembly candidate in 2012, over some sort of domestic violence issue that Michalak had in which I’m not familiar with the details of, when Forrest had domestic violence issues of her own not long after the 2012 elections in Wisconsin.
However, I’m going to do something completely different instead.
I’m guessing that nobody who is reading this blog knows about this part of my past, but, when I was 9 years old or so, I spent a little over two weeks in a mental institution in Vigo County, Indiana. I spent a little over two weeks in a mental institution when I was an elementary school-age child because, when I was, if I recall correctly, a fourth-grade student at a public elementary school in Westville, Illinois, I frequently acted in a violent manner toward people around me. Because my behavioral issues were so severe, my parents sent me to Charter Behavioral Health (now known as Harsha Behavioral Center) near Terre Haute, Indiana.
I don’t credit spending two weeks in what could best be described as a minimum-security mental institution with improving my behavior, as my behavioral health slowly improved as I grew older to the point that my only behavioral health issues are ones usually associated with people who, like me, have Asperger’s syndrome, such as being obsessive about certain subjects that I’m interested in and having difficulty properly communicating with people. Additionally, I would never act in a violent manner toward anyone nowadays. However, the fact that I once spent time in a behavioral health institution is something that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
I cannot, in good conscience, write a blog post criticizing a political figure for hypocrisy when it would be hypocritical for me to do so. That’s why I felt the need to admit that I once spent time in a behavioral health institution when I was a child.
The latest example of how privatization schemes have failed the American people comes from Indiana. Specifically, the Indiana Toll Road, which was privatized by Republicans several years ago, has officially filed for bankruptcy:
The company that operates the Indiana Toll Road filed for bankruptcy on Sunday, though Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said in a statement Monday drivers of the route through northern Indiana can expect “business as usual.”
Debt-ridden ITR Commission Co., a spawn of the Spanish-Australian company Cintra-Macquarie, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chicago in a prepackaged plan to restructure its approximate $6 billion debt.
The company in 2006 paid $3.8 billion for a 75-year lease of the road that runs between the Illinois and Ohio state lines, but the toll revenue failed to meet company expectations.
This is the main reason why I’m opposed to toll roads, especially ones that are leased to a private entity by the state in which they’re located. If the toll road doesn’t get enough traffic, then the company that owns the lease can’t pay the bills, and motorists and taxpayers get the shaft. We need to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, not let it go bankrupt.