Sunday, September 08, 2019

Sharpie President? Alabama National Guard Mobilized for Hurricane Dorian

On Thursday, Twitter lit up with the hashtag #SharpiePresident, as people mocked President Donald Trump for drawing a circle around the path for Hurricane Dorian, showing the hurricane threatening the Great State of Alabama. The memes are hilarious, but the hurricane really did threaten Alabama, as Rear Admiral Peter J. Brown said in a letter defending the president. In fact, the Alabama National Guard mobilized for the hurricane days before Trump's infamous Sharpie snafu.

On Wednesday, Trump shared the original projections, to which someone added a circle in Sharpie to emphasize the threat to Alabama. Note: in the video, Trump does not claim that Dorian was still headed toward Alabama, only that the original projections suggested it would be.

The president told The New York Times he did not know who added the Sharpie circle to the map. Liberals rushed to mock the president on Twitter, however, sharing memes about "President Sharpie."

Liberal commentators had a field day, with Stephen Colbert joking that Trump would be going to "weather jail." Democratic members of Congress also attacked the president over the image, claiming he had committed an illegal act by doctoring the map.

Rear Admiral Peter J. Brown, Trump's homeland security and counterterrorism advisor, released a statement explaining the president's position.

"As the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, I briefed President Donald J. Trump multiple times concerning the position, forecast, risks, and Federal Government preparations for and response to Hurricane Dorian," Brown wrote. He noted that Trump's comments on September 1 "were based on that morning's Hurricane Dorian briefing, which included the possibility of tropical storm force winds in southeastern Alabama. In fact, from the evening of Tuesday, August 27 until the morning of September 2, forecasts from the National Hurricane Center showed the possibility of tropical storm force winds hitting parts of Alabama."

Yet perhaps the most important piece of evidence came from the Alabama National Guard itself. The state's National Guard started mobilizing for Hurricane Dorian because the storm was projected to hit their state.

"[Hurricane Dorian] is projected to reach southern Alabama by the early part of the week. We are watching closely and [ready] to act. Are you?" the Alabama National Guard tweeted.



DNC Resolution Takes Aim at Christians, Warning Against 'Religious Liberty'

Last month, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) passed a resolution praising the religiously unaffiliated, saying their values align with those of the Democratic Party and recognizing them as the largest religious group in that party. Yet the resolution also took up arms against "misplaced claims" of "religious liberty," warning that religious freedom threatens the "civil rights and liberties" of many liberal interest groups.

"[T]hose most loudly claiming that morals, values, and patriotism must be defined by their particular religious views have used those religious views, with misplaced claims of 'religious liberty,' to justify public policy that has threatened the civil rights and liberties of many Americans, including but not limited to the LGBT community, women, and ethnic and religious/nonreligious minorities," the DNC resolution states.

The DNC likely intended this clause to appeal to the religiously unaffiliated — better known as "nones" — but it also represents the cementing orthodoxy of the Democratic Party. Democrats have united around H.R. 5, the so-called "Equality Act," which would enshrine in American law a vision of gender identity as more important than biological sex. A broad coalition of feminists, pro-lifers, and religious freedom advocates have united to oppose this bill, including outspoken Democrats like feminist lawyer Kara Dansky.

Senate Democrats have launched attacks on the religious faith of Trump nominees, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) infamously saying, "the dogma lives loudly within you." Former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) compared a conservative Christian law firm to the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot, and many Democrats have repeated the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) "hate group" accusation against conservative Christian groups, something that's  been outed as a cynical fundraising scheme.

The type of religious liberty the DNC attacked as "misplaced" likely refers to the very public court battles over whether or not religious artistic professionals can opt out of endorsing same-sex weddings.

Christian baker Jack Phillips, for example, refused to bake a custom cake for a same-sex wedding, although he gladly sells all sorts of pre-made cakes to LGBT people in his shop. Yet the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that he had discriminated against people on the basis of sexual orientation. He appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court and won — because members of the commission displayed animus against his religious faith, comparing his views to those of the Nazis.

Even after this Supreme Court victory, Phillips again faced the commission. A transgender lawyer asked him to bake an obscene custom cake celebrating the lawyer's gender transition. Phillips refused, citing his free speech right not to be forced to endorse a view with which he disagrees. The commission again found him guilty of discrimination, but it dropped the complaint in March 2019. The lawyer promptly sued Phillips.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represented Phillips and many similar cases. The SPLC has accused this group of being a "hate group," leading Franken to demonize it on the scale of Pol Pot. Yet ADF's ideological opponents — former ACLU president Nadine Strossen and Mikey Weinstein, current head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (a secularist group) — have insisted that ADF is not a "hate group." The demonization rapidly gaining steam in the Democratic Party goes too far for some outspoken secular lawyers.

Of people like Phillips and those who defend them, like ADF, LGBT mega donor Tim Gill said, "We're going to punish the wicked."

The DNC also mentioned attacks on women, likely a reference to the religious liberty of doctors, nurses, and Catholic medical facilities to opt out of performing or assisting in abortions in violation of their consciences. Yet pro-abortion activists have dressed up as handmaids from The Handmaid's Tale in protest of such liberties, suggesting that any restriction on abortion is tantamount to a misogynistic dystopia where women are ritualistically raped in order to bear children at the dictates of a conservative Christian government.

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, compared the Trump administration's refusal to pay for an illegal immigrant woman's abortion to — you guessed it — The Handmaid's Tale.

According to research by sociologists George Yancey and David Williamson, animus against conservative Christians is just as strong as animus against other religious groups besides atheists. This "Christianophobia" is mostly directed against "fundamentalism," and those with such animus "are more likely to be white, well educated, and wealthy." The factor most connected to Christianophobia in their study was politics: "Nearly half of the anti-fundamentalists in our sample were political progressives."

Jack Phillips Opens Up About Being Compared to a Nazi, Though His Dad Liberated a Concentration Camp
In fact, one of Yancey's studies showed that some people who did not have a high view of LGBT people nonetheless supported LGBT activism while reporting high levels of animus against conservative Christians. Yancey suggested that "hatred of Christians" can lead to "support for sexual minorities."

Many liberals do genuinely fear that religious liberty protections will make it impossible for LGBT people to find and keep a job, to find a place to live, and to flourish in society. Current activism goes far beyond these legitimate concerns, however.

Cases like that of Jack Phillips represent an overreach far beyond a "live and let live" compromise. These cases are less about making sure that LGBT people can thrive and more about forcing Christians to violate their consciences.

Liberals often claim that religious liberty is a tool to protect religious minorities, and it seems that argument is on full display in the pro-nones resolution. Indeed, it is fundamentally important to protect the religious liberty of all.

But the logic of opposing religious liberty for Christians — who are nominally a majority in the U.S. despite the stigma against conservative Christians — would also result in a loss of religious liberty for religious minorities like Muslims, Jews, and even nones.

Last year, lawyers for the State of Minnesota argued that the state should be able to force a Christian media company to make videos celebrating same-sex weddings in violation of its Christian beliefs. In arguments before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, those lawyers admitted that if the state could force Christian filmmakers to violate their religious beliefs, it could force a Muslim tattoo artist to write a message that tattoo artist disagrees with, like inking "Jesus Christ is the Son of God" on a Christian customer.

Religious liberty must be for everyone or no one. Democrats want to excoriate Christians when they want to live according to their consciences, but they want to champion religious minorities in the same struggle. This is rank hypocrisy.

The DNC could have welcomed religious nones into the party without a gratuitous attack on the religious liberty claims of conservative Christians. Instead, it arguably appealed to a Christianophobia that has gone too far, even for prominent secular lawyers like Mikey Weinstein.

And some people wonder why evangelicals are flocking in droves to Donald Trump.



The Left Has a $500 Million Dark Money ‘ATM Machine’ Called Arabella

A largely unknown, massively funded strategy company pushing the interests of wealthy leftist donors has been quietly behind a hydra-like dark money network of pop-up groups designed to look like grassroots activist organizations. These front groups push everything from opposition to President Trump’s proposed border wall to support for Obamacare to gun control to government control of the Internet to pro-abortion activism and other leftwing causes.

The secretive Arabella Advisors may be one of the most impactful and sophisticated leftist funding outfits that you never heard of, a centralized hub that runs nonprofit arms that in turn have spawned a nexus of hundreds of front organizations outwardly designed to appear grassroots but that evidence the common theme of more government control in the lives of Americans.

Arabella’s vast network was unmasked in an extensive exposé by conservative watchdog Capital Research Center, which documents the shadowy system developed by, housed in, and staffed by the for-profit, privately held Arabella Advisors.

The Arabella firm in turn manages four nonprofits: the New Venture Fund, Sixteen Thirty Fund, Windward Fund, and Hopewell Fund. It is these nonprofit entities that play host to hundreds of groups and projects that promote interests and political movements strategically deployed in an ongoing campaign to nudge the country to the left.

Arabella’s nonprofits spent a combined $1.16 billion from 2013-2017 alone with the aim of advancing “the political policies desired by wealthy left-wing interests through hundreds of ‘front’ groups,” according to the report. “And those interests pay well: the network’s revenues grew by an incredible 392 percent over that same period.”

“Together, these groups form an interlocking network of ‘dark money’ pop-up groups and other fiscally sponsored projects, all afloat in a half-billion-dollar ocean of cash,” states the report. “The real puppeteer, though, is Arabella Advisors, which has managed to largely conceal its role in coordinating so much of the professional Left’s infrastructure under a mask of ‘philanthropy.’”

A specialty of the Arabella network seems to be the quick turnover of hundreds of “front” groups, especially websites timed to impact current events and designed to look like “grassroots” Astroturf organizations but that actually function as part of an orchestrated movement to advance the political interests of hidden leftist donors.

“At a glance, these groups — such as Save My Care and Protect Our Care — appeared to be impassioned examples of citizen activists defending ObamaCare,” according to the report. “In reality, neither ‘not-for-profit’ advocacy group appears to have paid staff, held board meetings, or even owned so much as a pen.”

In one case, an organization calling itself Demand Justice, founded by former members of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, quickly thrust itself into the center of opposition to Trump’s Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh.

Even before Trump announced Kavanaugh as his nominee, Demand Justice committed to spending about $5 million to oppose the eventual pick. As soon as Kavanaugh’s name was selected, the organization immediately deployed an anti-Kavanaugh website and helped lead news making national activism during the confirmation hearings.

Yet what the news media missed is that Demand Justice is fiscally sponsored by the Sixteen Thirty Fund, one of Arabella’s nonprofits, as the Capital Research Center report reveals.

The report shows similar setups have spawned organizations that serve as the backbone of the Obamacare support network, promote gun control, support pro-abortion activism, champion open border policies, and even advocate for a centralized government role on the Internet.

Arabella nonprofits also evidence close financial workings with initiatives for the Democracy Alliance, another network of highly influential donors, including billionaire George Soros. Democracy Alliance itself coordinates funding to even more leftist outfits.

Arabella Advisors was founded by Eric Kessler, whose bio on the firm’s website identifies him as “a serial entrepreneur who has started, led, and advised organizations pursuing social change across the country and around the globe.”

Curiously missing from his official bio, but documented in the Capital Research Center report, is the detail that Kessler served as a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, an arm of the controversial Clinton Foundation.

The report concludes by asking, “Given that many of the groups managed by Arabella frequently call for transparency in the funding of campaigns and policy advocacy, they may first consider voluntarily disclosing their own funding sources. Why shouldn’t transparency begin at home?”



$3 Billion State Stem Cell “Flop” Now Wants $5.5 Billion More

This month, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), California’s state stem-cell agency, hands out its final grants. By the count of Anna Ibarra of California Health Line, that marks $3 billion CIRM has spent—“6 billion with interest”—with scant returns for California taxpayers. In 2004 Proposition 71, which authorized CIRM, promised a host of life-saving cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases, but the FDA has yet to approve “any treatments funded by CIRM.”

In similar style, founder Robert Klein, a wealth real-estate developer, promised a stream of fees and royalties that would make CIRM self-supporting. The stem-cell agency reported no royalties until 2018, and only in the amount of $190,345.87. That is less than the salary of former state senator Art Torres, whom CIRM hired when it had a biotech professional willing to work for no salary. With royalties amounting to chump change, and none of the promised cures in the offing, CIRM bosses have a plan.

“Supporters already plan to go back to voters in November 2020 to ask for even more money than last time,” Ibarra explains, “$5.5 billion, plus interest.” As Marcy Darnovsky of the Berkeley Center for Genetics and Society told Ibarra, “it’s a lot of money, even for the state of California.” The original $3 billion was redistributed to cronies.

In 2012, it emerged that CIRM was handing out more than 90 percent of its grants to institutions with representatives on its governing board. That was the sort of thing that got state education superintendent Bill Honig busted on felony conflict-of-interest charges in 1993. In 2012, state Attorney General Kamala Harris looked the other way at CIRM, and so did legislators. Klein wrote Proposition 71 to install himself as chairman, and he kept CIRM from legislative oversight by requiring a 70 percent supermajority of both houses to make any structural or policy changes.

As it happens, Robert Klein was also the prime mover of the California Housing Finance Agency, the state’s “affordable housing lender.” CalHFA claims to be “a completely self-supporting state agency, and its bonds are repaid by revenues generated through mortgage loans, not taxpayer dollars.” CalHFC’s 15-member board of directors includes former assemblywoman and current state treasurer Fiona Ma, who is also on the “audit committee.” CalHFA does not indicate whether it ever directed public funds to projects in which board members have a financial interest, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has not tasked state auditor Elaine Howle to investigate.

Meanwhile, $5.5 billion is a lot of money, even for California, and especially for a state agency that Marcy Darnovsky describes as “a flop.”



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


No comments: