Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Nazis, racists, bigots: Extremism on US ballot in 2018

Ku Klux Klan protests removal of Confederate flag in South Carolina.
Arthur Jones is an avowed Nazi. John Fitzgerald says the Holocaust is a myth. Rick Tyler wants to "make America white again." 

Their fringe ideas are reminiscent of another age, but the unapologetic men who espouse them are all on US election ballots in 2018.

Extremism and bigotry, even outright white supremacy and anti-Semitism, have found new lives in 21st century US politics and the era of President Donald Trump, beyond just the toxic rhetoric of a few little-known cranks.

They have received more exposure this year on the national stage than at any time in recent memory. And the mainly conservative proponents of hate running for office are proving to be a major embarrassment for the Republican Party.

In Illinois, Jones, who called the Holocaust "the biggest, blackest lie in history" and once ran a newspaper ad with a large swastika in the middle, is the Republican candidate for Congress, after he won the party primary by running unopposed in a largely Democratic district.

Russel Walker, running for a seat in North Carolina's state house, proclaims "there is nothing wrong with being a racist" and that Jews are "descendants of Satan."

In Wisconsin, Paul Nehlen, the leading Republican running to fill the seat in Congress currently held by retiring Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, has emerged as a leader of the alt-right movement, someone who critics warn wants to provide white nationalists and anti-Semites a stronger foothold in US culture and politics.

And the campaign website for Tyler, a Trump supporter running for Congress in Tennessee, depicts the Confederate flag flying atop the White House. One of his campaign billboards read: "Make America White Again."

Experts say there is an unprecedented number of openly bigoted candidates this year, and that their chief enabler may well be the president of the United States himself.

"Trump's unorthodox use of racism-related and anti-Muslim stuff -- all of that bigoted language -- has opened a door in politics that wasn't there before," Heidi Beirich, who as an expert at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has been tracking hate groups since 1999, told AFP.

"We've always had a smattering of neo-Nazis... but this is ratcheting the situation up much higher than it was before."

No more 'taboos'?

Overt bigotry by a candidate would spell his or her "death knell" up until recently, Beirich said. But in today's hyper partisan political environment, such rhetoric may no longer be a deal breaker.

"By blowing through those taboos, and winning the presidency, Trump has shown a path to electoral success that people assumed wouldn't work," she said.

This bigotry has spread into public life. Several incidents caught on video showing white people calling the police on African-Americans going about their business have gone viral. 

One, which showed two young men dragged out of a Starbucks coffee shop in handcuffs, helped spark a national dialogue about race.

Demonstrators hold Confederate and Nazi flags in Charlottesville, Virginia.The racial and ethnic divides are on clear political display in places like Virginia, where the Republican Senate nominee, the anti-immigration county supervisor Corey Stewart, is under fire for his provocative associations.

Stewart has praised Nehlen as "one of my personal heroes," and has appeared with Jason Kessler, the man who organized a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last August. 

However Stewart has since disavowed both men, and the move may have swayed some voters. On June 20 he won the Republican Senate primary.

Last week he found himself on the debate stage with Democratic Senator Tim Kaine -- Hillary Clinton's 2016 vice presidential nominee -- where Stewart insisted "there's not a racist bone in my body."

But he maintained he is a vigorous defender of Virginia "heritage," and strongly opposes the removal of any Confederate monuments. 

Extremist candidates tend to flourish when they and their supporters feel unrepresented and ignored by the mainstream US parties, either the GOP or Democrats.

In 2016 Trump appealed to millions of such blue collar voters, unemployed coal miners or factory workers or farmers whom Trump labeled the "forgotten man."

They felt betrayed by globalization and US trade agreements, worried about illegal immigration, and mindful that their communities were changing.

Stewart says Democrats had the chance to reach those voters. But their failure to do so helped contribute to a scenario where far-right candidates can thrive.

Democrats "abandoned the working guy," Stewart told CNN. "They slammed the door in their face, and now it's president Trump and the new Republican Party that is supporting working Americans."

The GOP has disavowed several extremist candidates, including Jones and Nehlen.

But the SPLC's Beirich says Trump's embrace of controversial Republicans like former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who ran concentration camp-like jails for undocumented immigrants and is now running for Senate after being pardoned by Trump, is dog-whistle messaging to his party's fringe elements that there is space for them in political discourse.

Source: Agence France-Presse, Michael Mathes, July 29, 2018

Trump administration confirm that they won’t “press” African nations to repeal their anti-LGBTQ laws

white house
The reason they gave was because it would amount to “religious persecution.”

Mick Mulvaney, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, has confirmed that the Trump administration will not be “pressing” African nations to repeal their anti-LGBTQ laws in a speech that he gave at the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.

In the speech, Mulvaney lashed out at the Obama administration for pressing for the rights of the LGBTQ community to be protected worldwide. “Our US taxpayer dollars [were] used to discourage Christian values in other democratic countries,” Mulvaney said.

“It was stunning to me that my government under the previous administration would go to folks in sub-Saharan Africa and say, ‘We know that you have a law against abortion, but if you enforce that law, you’re not going to get any of our money. We know you have a law against gay marriage, but if you enforce that law, we’re not going to give you any money.’

“That’s a different type of religious persecution. (…) That is a different type of religious persecution that I never expected to see. I never expected to see that as an American Christian, that we would be doing that to other folks.”

Mulvaney continued, saying: “I am here to let you know there are many people in our government who care about [these issues]. There are a lot of people in this government who want to see things done differently. They want to do something.”

Mick Mulvaney’s comments don’t come as a surprise, given that he has a terrible track record when it comes to LGBTQ rights. He co-sponsored a bill which would have permitted anti-LGBTQ discrimination on the grounds of religion, and scored zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard for both of his terms.

However, the news is disappointing, especially since homosexuality is illegal in the vast majority of Africa. In four of its countries, being gay is punishable by death. These countries are Somalia; the parts of Nigeria that have adopted Sharia law; Mauritania, although only if you are a Muslim; and Sudan if you are convicted for a third time.

During the Obama administration the then President made a number of speeches condemning anti-LGBTQ violence, including dedicating a Father’s Day speech to the victims of the Pulse shooting.

And in his final speech as President, Obama championed a “global fight” for LGBTQ rights. In the speech, he said: “That’s why we cannot withdraw from global fights to expand democracy, and human rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights, no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem. That’s part of defending America.”

Source: Gay Times, Matt Moore, July 29, 2018

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?