Trump Marks 500th Day in Office, Gas Tax Gets Dem State Senator Booted and So Much More | Look At News Daily  (June 2-8/Day 134-139) Week 20

By Michael Hernandez


June 2 (Saturday):  Day 134

Trump:  “Senate Democrats resisting the will of the American voter”

During Saturday’s Weekly Address, President Trump accused Senate Democrats of “resisting the will of the American voter,” and Congressional Democrats of not caring about or wanting border security.

“Senate Democrats call it the resistance. They’re resisting the will of the American voter, and it is not good. From day one, Senate Democrats have shamelessly obstructed, stalled, and filibustered the confirmations of hundreds of talented men and women who are eager to come to Washington, DC to make a difference. They want to serve our country.

“My nominees face a longer average confirmation wait than any in the history of our country. Today, more than 300 of our nominees are still awaiting a vote. Last June, I nominated Isabel Patelunas to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Intelligence and Analysis. Now, almost a year later, this tremendously qualified professional, with nearly three decades of intelligence experience, is still awaiting confirmation. She’s given up so much. She’s left areas. She’s moved from homes. And she’s still not confirmed. It’s a disgrace.

“Democrats in Congress are also blocking urgently needed improvements to our border security. They don’t want border security for two reasons: Number one, they don’t care about it. Number two, they’re afraid it’s going to make me and the Republicans look good, and they don’t want that. That comes before our country.

“They’ve blocked every effort to close deadly loopholes to keep out vicious criminals and to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs. They are a disaster at the border. These actions are endangering our citizens, threatening our communities, and undermining our national security.

“It is time for Senate Democrats to stop resisting the will of the American people. So, very simply, stop resisting the will of the American people, and to start working across the aisle to deliver for all citizens.”

California benefits from “Trump bump” according to Bloomberg News

The deep blue Democrat stronghold of California has been the top beneficiary of what Wall Street analysts are calling the “Trump bump” in the economy.

Bloomberg News notes that California has been economically “outperforming the U.S. in job growth, manufacturing, personal income, corporate profits and the total return of its bonds.” California’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by $127 billion, or 4.9%, to $2.7 trillion last year, and the state jumped from the equivalent of the 7th largest economy in world in 2016 to the 5th largest at the end of 2017.

Despite the good news for Californians, the Democrat-controlled state government has been opposed to almost every economic policy on President Trump’s agenda. California Democrat Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed the state’s thirty-first lawsuit against the Trump administration last month.

Bloomberg describes the policies of Democrat California Governor Jerry Brown and Republican President Donald Trump as polar opposites. Brown pushed through the highest state income tax in the nation, created the first “sanctuary state” to protect illegal aliens, passed a $15 minimum wage, and has been the global leader in pushing for radical government solutions to fight supposed climate change.

By contrast, President Trump pushed through the largest U.S. tax cut in history, is trying to build a 30-foot border wall to stop illegal immigration, used executive orders to create a domestic carbon-based energy boom, withdrew from Paris climate accords, dumped the Obama-era mandatory requirement to double average fleet-wide vehicle Fuel Efficiency Standards for the 2025 model year, and slashed regulations on business.

Bloomberg analysts report that California’s 4.9% GDP spike last year was more than twice the gain for the United States as a whole. The state’s unemployment rate also dropped to a 41-year low of 4.2 percent. Since 2013, California had a national-high per capita income growth of 20.5 percent, and created 2 million additional jobs.

Bloomberg called the Trump-friendly State of Texas “an also-ran” in comparison, with just $226 billion in GDP from manufacturing, versus California’s national-high $289 billion of GDP from manufacturing. Although Texas has a slightly lower unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, Bloomberg’s data show that California 17-million-strong workforce is about 37 percent larger than the Texas workforce, and its unemployment rate is falling at a faster pace.

Bloomberg credits California as the best-performing state for investors. Its 462 California companies in the Russell 3000 Stock Index produced a ten-year total return (appreciation and dividends) of 587 percent, a five-year return of 262 percent, a two-year return of 76 percent; and a 27 percent annual return.

California’s returns compared much more favorably to the total return for all 3,000 companies in the Russell Index, saw a gain of 371 percent for the decade, a five-year gain of 154 percent, a two-year gain of 59 percent, and a one-year gain of 22 percent.

Iowa’s historic “heartbeat” law placed on hold by county judge

A county judge has temporarily placed a hold on Iowa’s historic “heartbeat” law that bans abortion from the time a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Polk County District Court Judge Michael Huppert granted a temporary injunction Friday after a hearing that lasted only several minutes, reports the Des Moines Register. Lawyers for the state agreed to a temporary halt of the law – which is slated to go into effect July 1 – as litigation continues through the courts.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman abortion clinic – both represented by the Iowa chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) – filed a legal challenge to the law that received Gov. Kim Reynolds’ signature on May 4.

The Thomas More Society is representing the state because Iowa’s Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, refused to defend the new state law. The law requires physicians to perform an ultrasound test on any woman seeking an abortion and bans abortion if the test detects a fetal heartbeat.

Upon signing the legislation, Reynolds said she anticipated that lawsuits would be filed to stop the law from going into effect. “I understand and anticipate that this will likely be challenged in court, and that courts may even put a hold on the law until it reaches the Supreme Court,” she said. “However, this is bigger than just a law. This is about life. I am not going to back down from who I am or what I believe in.”

Susan Rice’s son is head of Stanford Republicans

John David Rice-Cameron., Standford. Review

Susan Rice, the former national security advisor under President Barack Obama, has an up and coming conservative activist in her immediate family. According to a Fox News report, Susan Rice’s son is the President of Stanford University’s College Republicans chapter. John David Rice-Cameron told reporters this week that he is distancing himself from his mother’s political views. He added that he is determined to “Make Stanford Great Again.”

“My mother and I have a great relationship, and my mother believes strongly in the free and respectful exchange of ideas,” Rice-Cameron said. “We disagree on most of the standard Republican-Democrat disagreements. However, we agree that America is the greatest nation the world has ever seen, and thus, we believe that America has an important role to play as a force for liberty and justice on the world stage.

“This worldview and these principles compel me to promote conservative ideas at Stanford, and beyond,” Rice-Cameron added. “I’m driven by a fundamental sense of urgency over the fact that Americans are slowly losing their liberty, and I believe that liberty is being valued less and less. I want to turn the tide, and college campuses are crucial to doing so.”

Rice-Cameron explained that his mother’s emphasis on open and free debate is what led him on his path to conservatism. Rice was a controversial member of the Obama administration for her role in the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. She came under substantial criticism after she tried to blame the Benghazi attack on an offensive YouTube video.

Hungary’s foreign minister:  “Stop bashing” President Trump

Hungary’s foreign minister has warned the European Union (EU) to stop “bashing” President Donald J. Trump’s administration, saying it will only backfire on European countries.

“I always urge our friends in the European Union not to play this new sport art which is created which is called bashing [the] United States, you know, because the more our European friends bash the U.S., the more negative impact they will cause with that,” Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Péter Szijjártó told CNBC at the annual forum of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris on Thursday.

Mr. Szijjártó’s comments were in relation to the White House placing import tariffs on steel (25 percent) and aluminium (10 percent) on the EU, Mexico, and Canada earlier in the day. The EU promised retaliatory measures and to take the United States to the World Trade Organization (WTO) trade court to have his policies declared illegal — despite having levied heavy tariffs on U.S. goods for years before President Trump proposed measures to protect American metalworkers.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is a supporter of President Trump, calling his election victory in 2016 “great news” and declaring: “Democracy is still alive.”

Likewise, President Trump has the conservative Hungarian.

Szijjártó described to CNBC how in a recent meeting in Washington, D.C., he told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “We have never been part of the U.S. bashing chorus in Europe.  President Trump] definitely represents an honest, straightforward way of communication,” Szijjártó said.

“He definitely gets rid of hypocrisy and political correctness, but I think the bashing of him and the United States was too much. So what I think is that we need to re-engage in a dialogue with the United States. We should foster, strengthen this dialogue in order to avoid harmful situations.”

The Fidesz-KDNP government won a two-thirds majority in parliamentary elections on April 8th, and ran on a patriotic platform of sovereignty, protecting the country’s borders, and stopping intervention large, foreign NGOs — notably those funded by billionaire speculator George Soros — from facilitating illegal immigration, handing Prime Minister Orbán his third consecutive term in office.

Orbán rejected the EU’s progressive, open borders ideology and shut the gates of Hungary during the height of the migrant crisis by erecting a border wall and increasing the number of border guards. Both detractors and supporters of President Trump and Prime Minister Orbán see parallels in their patriotic approach to illegal immigration and national security.

Mr. Szijjártó also told CNBC that future European elections will be about migration, as in Hungary.  “If you put into consideration the last three national parliamentary elections of Europe — Hungary, Austria, Italy — you’ll see that the parties that receive the most votes … [are] those who have a very clear policy on migration, an anti-migration policy,” he said. “It’s obvious that migration became the key factor of deciding the outcome of national parliamentary elections.”


June 3 (Sunday):  Day 135

GOP House doubles women candidates running for office

House Republicans have doubled the number of female candidates they have recruited to run for congressional seats this year as they seek to hold their majority and counter accusations of a gender gap with Democrats.

There are 103 Republican women, including incumbents, running for House seats this election — up from 48 in the previous election cycle, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. The recruitments could be crucial in a year where the majority is likely to be decided in suburban swing districts where college-educated women and independent voters form a crucial voting bloc.

Democrats have been busy attracting candidates in those districts, too, as the #MeToo movement and furor surrounding President Trump’s policies energizes the left.

“The number of female candidates on the Republican side doubling is not an accident,” said Matt Mackowiak, a GOP strategist. “That is a result of a disciplined effort to recruit strong female candidates, both from the party directly, but also from outside groups that believe female candidates give them a better chance to hold, and perhaps expand, their majority.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the youngest member ever elected to Congress and a rising GOP star, is getting credit for the record-breaking recruitment efforts. After House Republicans struggled to add female members to their ranks in the last election cycle, Stefanik, 33, was tapped to lead candidate recruitment for the House GOP’s campaign arm, becoming the first woman to ever hold the position.

Some of the most hotly contested House seats this election cycle feature women running on the right, including the races to replace retiring Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and David Trott (R-Mich.).

“We’ve seen an intense level of interest from Republican women in running for Congress this cycle, and some of the strongest candidates we have running currently are females in competitive districts,” said Jesse Hunt, national press secretary for the NRCC. “It’s a testament to their backgrounds, their careers, and their ability to communicate the Republican message.”

The GOP still lags far behind the Democratic party, which has seen a record-breaking surge of 305 Democratic women run for House seats this year, including incumbents. And Republicans have an extra need to step up their recruitment of women candidates given the shrinking number of GOP women in the House.

Six female Republicans have decided to either retire or seek higher office, which would reduce the number of GOP women in the House by 25 percent. Fixing the underrepresentation of women in the GOP is seen as an almost existential issue.

“Republicans cannot perform poorly with women and continue to be a majority party in the country,” Mackowiak said.

Democrats have the advantage of a longstanding centralized effort to recruit and support female candidates in the form of EMILY’s List, which was founded in 1985. Republican organizations to support female candidates exist, but they don’t have the same level of prominence as EMILY’s List, nor have they been around as long.

Maggie’s List was founded by a group of conservative women in 2010 to serve as a counter to EMILY’s List, while Value in Electing Women (VIEW) PAC was started in 1997 and RightNOW Women PAC was founded in the 2014 election cycle.

But Missy Shorey, national executive director of Maggie’s List, says the eight-year-old organization has increasingly seen more Republican women interested in running for office and that fewer of them need encouragement to do so — which has long been the biggest barrier to recruitment efforts. Part of the reason, she says, is that women are now able to witness other prominent female Republicans who are able to balance their busy congressional careers with other duties, like being a mother.

Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.), for example, was connected with House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), a working mom and the only female member of leadership, before she came to Congress.

Maggie’s List has now endorsed 49 House, Senate and state-wide candidates this election cycle — a record-high for the organization. That includes Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), who recently won a closely-watched special election in Arizona; State Del. Carol Miller, who emerged from a crowded primary field to clinch the GOP nomination for West Virginia’s 3rd district; and GOP businesswoman Lena Epstein, who co-chaired Trump’s campaign in Michigan. Shorey, however, stressed that it’s about the quality, not quantity, of the female candidates — and knowing when someone is a good fit for a race. “Does she have a path victory? And does she have a background that will lend itself to victory as well? Those things have to be there,” Shorey said. “Then you encourage that woman, help them raise money and endorse them in a public way.”

GOP candidates will be facing strong headwinds this fall, where some are predicting that backlash to Trump — and his record with women — will lead to a blue wave. One way to counteract that, according to GOP strategists, is to have more female candidates on the ticket, which can help reach women and independent voters who may be turned off by Trump. “Women candidates often have an advantage in trying to win the votes of women,” Mackowiak said. “Women can access independent voters and mobilize and earn their support in some cases where men can’t.”

While Democrats may try to tie female Republicans to the president on the campaign trail, some GOP women will be more than happy to embrace him. “If you’re looking for a case study in President Trump being a positive motivating factor for women running, Lena Epstein is an outstanding example,” Shorey said. “She’s very pro-active, and intense, and lovely, and she’s a very serious competitor there.” “And because she wants to see the president agenda’s advance,” Shorey added, “that’s why she’s running.”

Former California GOP Governor to vote Democratic in primary

A spokesman for former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that the “Terminator” will not be voting for a Republican in the June 5 primary.

Schwarzenegger’s spokesman Daniel Ketchell told the Los Angeles Times on Friday that the Hollywood action star made his decision based on comments that Republican governor candidates John Cox and Travis Allen have made regarding their disbelief in climate change, and their promise to overturn Assembly Bill 32, which Schwarzenegger and the Democratic legislature passed in 2006, inaugurating California’s “cap-and-trade” program.

Ketchell told the Times that Schwarzenegger was adamant: “He won’t support any candidate that plans to take California backward and undo our environmental leadership.” Schwarzenegger has claimed on CNN that Republicans now only have about 26 percent registration percentage in California because they are “dying at the box office” by failing to have inclusive policies to address health, education, and environmental issues.

But Schwarzenegger somehow has forgotten that when he was first elected governor in 2003, the Rose Institute reported 35.21 percent of California voters registered as Republicans. Although that was down 1.2 percent from 1996, the Democrats’ registration percentage had plunged over the same period by 2.6 points to 44.6 percent.

Then “Govenator” Schwarzenegger left office in January 2011, his popularity was already in a free fall when a scandal exploded in the media regarding the out-of-wedlock son he had with the family’s long-time housekeeper.

The Field Research poll during that period found that Schwarzenegger was seen negatively by 75 percent of California voters, and his approval rating was only 20 percent. To put that in perspective, President Richard Nixon — who left office on the verge of impeachment, and continues to be the most unpopular president in history — had a 25 percent approval rating when he resigned in disgrace.

In January, Schwarzenegger joined Ohio Gov. John Kasich and fired Republican Assembly leader Chad Mayes to launch a new effort called “New Way California.” Assemblyman Chad Mayes was dumped in August as a GOP leader after he provided the crucial Republican swing vote that renewed Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown’s cap-and-trade program

Senate to hear Inspector General report about FBI on June 11th

Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced the date for a hearing on the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) report about Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials’ conduct ahead of the 2016 presidential election, including the Hillary Clinton email scandal. Originally scheduled for Tuesday, the hearing will now take place at 2 p.m. on June 11 and is open to the public.

The hearing, titled “Examining the Inspector General’s First Report on Justice Department and FBI Actions in Advance of the 2016 Presidential Election,” will focus on the long-anticipated IG report.

Fox News reported in May: “Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is slated to testify before congressional committees next month, presumably, after the release of his long-awaited report on the FBI’s Hillary Clinton investigation during the 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News has learned. Both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight Committee are preparing to have Horowitz appear before them in early June, according to a congressional source. Two figures are said to be at the center of the report — former FBI director James Comey (fired by President Donald Trump) and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, (fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions).

Townhall reported: “According to early descriptions the IG investigation will hold former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe accountable for mishandling a number of elements in the case. Key officials at the center of the findings—including DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz—will be called to testify in front of Grassley’s committee, with the goal of getting questions about politically motivated bias at the FBI answered in an open forum.

House Republicans are planning to interview in June three FBI officials linked to the agency’s handling of the Clinton email probe, which is part of an ongoing joint investigation by the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, according to Fox News.

Media outlets, including Fox and the Hill, report House lawmakers also will hold a hearing to question Bill Priestap, assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, Michael Steinbach, former head of the agency’s national security division, and John Giacalone, Steinbach’s predecessor. Priestap oversaw both the Clinton email and Russia probes and will meet with lawmakers in a closed-door hearing ahead of his public testimony, according to Fox. FBI agent Peter Strzok, who has been in the crosshairs of congressional investigation of his anti-Trump communications with a colleague, answers directly to Priestap.

Kansas Secretary of State defends his parade appearance

Kansas Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach is firing back at liberals who are outraged after he rode in a local parade alongside a replica machine gun.

Kobach, a staunch supporter of pro-American immigration policies, rode in the local Old Shawnee Days Parade in a Jeep wrapped in an American flag and a replica machine gun mounted atop the vehicle.  Kobach said the crowd reaction at the parade was positive and cheerful, but the faux machine gun set off a tirade of liberal disgust. Kobach said he is not apologizing and that the outrage over the replica machine gun is an attack on guns in the U.S. and is “part of the Left’s larger crusade to make guns socially unacceptable.

“For centuries in America, most parades have featured men with guns—whether it be the color guard carrying the flag, or military equipment old and new,” Kobach told Breitbart News. “The snowflakes now want to erase this American tradition because someone might be offended.”

Leftists posted online of their outrage that Kobach would ride in the parade with the replica machine gun.


June 4 (Monday):  Day 136

President Trump celebrates 500th day in office

“This is my 500th. Day in Office and we have accomplished a lot – many believe more than any President in his first 500 days. Massive Tax & Regulation Cuts, Military & Vets, Lower Crime & Illegal Immigration, Stronger Borders, Judgeships, Best Economy & Jobs EVER, and much more,” Trump wrote in a tweet on Monday.

“My administration, I think, has had the most successful first year in the history of the presidency,” Trump told the audience during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. “I really believe that…I mean, judges, regulations, everything.” 

Supreme Court sides with Colorado baker in 7-2 vote

The Supreme Court sided with the Colorado baker who refused to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding in a narrow ruling on Monday. In a 7-2 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the free exercise clause of the Constitution when it ruled Jack Phillips had broken the state’s public accommodations law in refusing to make a couple a custom cake even though he morally and religiously opposes same-sex marriage. 

In its majority ruling, the court said the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect gay persons and couples in the exercise of their civil rights, but religious and philosophical objections to same-sex marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression. The Supreme Court sided with the Colorado baker who refused to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding in a narrow ruling on Monday.

The court said Colorado law can protect gay people from being discriminated against by businesses that are open to the public, but the law must be applied in a manner neutral toward religion.

Since the court based its ruling on the state commission’s treatment of Phillips, the decision did not provide the sweeping victory for religious rights that some backing Phillips hoped to see. Phillips had originally asked the court to rule that wedding cakes are an artistic expression of speech and religion protected by the First Amendment, but the court did not go that far.

Kennedy specifically noted court precedent, writing that states are well within their power to enact anti-discrimination measures in public accommodations laws when the legislature believes a given group is the target of discrimination.

But he said the commission showed a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating Phillips’s objections to making the custom cake when it heard the dispute in 2014.

Kennedy said one commissioner on the panel during a public hearing disparaged Phillips’s faith as “despicable” and another member compared his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.

“This sentiment is inappropriate for a commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law — a law that protects discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation,” Kennedy wrote.

“If a member of the clergy were to refuse to perform a same-sex marriage, Kennedy said that would be understood to be a protected exercise of religion “that a gay person could recognize and accept without diminishment to their own dignity and worth.”

But, he said, “if that exception were not confined, then a long list of persons who provide goods and services for marriages and weddings might refuse to do so for gay persons, thus resulting in a community-wide stigma inconsistent with the history and dynamics of civil rights laws that ensure equal access to goods, services and public accommodations.”

Any decision in favor of the baker, he said, would have to be constrained or else all business owners who object to same-sex marriages for moral or religious reasons would be allowed to refuse their services.

Kennedy was joined by justices across the spectrum, including Chief Justice John Roberts, fellow conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, and liberal Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. 

Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissenting opinion, which fellow liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined. Ginsburg said the comments of one or two members of Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission don’t justify reversing a lower court’s decision siding with the couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins.

“Whatever one may think of the statements in historical context, I see no reason why the comments of one or two Commissioners should be taken to overcome Phillips’ refusal to sell a wedding cake to Craig and Mullins,” she wrote.

Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas argued in a concurring opinion that a wedding cake is an expressive form of speech that should be protected under the First Amendment and that the Colorado Court of Appeals was wrong to conclude otherwise.

He said he warned his colleagues when they legalized same-sex marriage in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case that the decision would inevitably come into conflict with religious liberty. “This case proves that the conflict has already emerged,” Thomas wrote.

“Because the Court’s decision vindicates Phillips’ right to free exercise, it seems that religious liberty has lived to fight another day. But, in future cases, the freedom of speech could be essential to preventing Obergefell from being used to ‘stamp out every vestige of dissent’ and ‘vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,’ ” he wrote.

The narrow ruling mollified some critics of the decision.

“I think that the bakery got a get out of jail free card today because of what the court thought of as misbehavior by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, but that doesn’t mean they get to discriminate in the future. Not at all,” James Esseks, director of the LGBT & HIV Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, who represented the couple, told reporters.

Esseks said he reads the court’s decision as limited to this specific case. “If a new same-sex couple walks in that business, I see no reason in this opinion that Masterpiece Cakeshop is free to turn them away,” he said.

The commission had ordered Phillips to make cakes for other same-sex weddings, educate his staff about state civil rights laws and file quarterly compliance reports with the commission for two years.    His attorney, Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Kristen Waggoner, argued that Phillips lost 40 percent of his business and most of his staff for standing up for what he believes.

Waggoner read the court’s decision as farther reaching than opposing groups. “It’s a 7 to 2 ruling. That’s a broad ruling and the court was very clear multiple times in its decision that the government was wrong to punish Jack and cannot express hostility towards people of faith,” she said. “In fact that hostility was so overt that the court just blanketly reversed that decision.”

Waggoner said the question over what services constitute religious expression protected under the First Amendment will reach the court in the future.   In fact, the Supreme Court already has a case waiting in the wings.

Last July, a Washington state flower shop owner appealed to the high court after the Washington Supreme Court held she violated the state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to create custom floral arrangements for the same-sex marriage of a longtime customer. Barronelle Stutzman, who owns Arlene’s Flowers Inc., argues her arrangements are an artistic expression protected by the First Amendment.

Court watchers say the court could use this case to squarely resolve the religious liberty and anti-discrimination claims raised in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. The case has been re-listed for discussion at the court’s next conference on Thursday.

Nancy Pelosi says she will protect gay rights; will seek legislation

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) said she would seek legislation to protect gay rights in response to Monday’s Supreme Court decision. “The Masterpiece Cakeshop case is about the most fundamental right of all Americans: to be free from persecution and discrimination because of who they are or whom they love. While narrowly framed to apply to the decision-making process undertaken by the state commission, today’s wrongheaded decision fails to uphold equality in this case,” she wrote in a statement.

Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, a prominent LGBT group on the right, said the court’s decision shines a spotlight on the glaring absence of federal LGBT nondiscrimination legislation. “The fact that Justices appointed by Presidents Clinton and Obama sided with Masterpiece Cakeshop should be an indication that there is more nuance to this decision than meets the eye,” he said in a statement. 

Craig and Mullins, the couple in the case, said the decision means their fight against discrimination will continue.  “We have always believed that in America, you should not be turned away from a business open to the public because of who you are,” they said. “We brought this case because no one should have to face the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation of being told ‘we don’t serve your kind here’ that we faced, and we will continue fighting until no one does.” 

Italy’s new minister to curb migration

Italy’s new hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini will be in Sicily Sunday to push the anti-immigration platform that propelled him to power at one of the country’s main landing points for refugees.

The head of the far-right League is on the road seeking to rally support for his party’s candidates in municipal elections later this month, as part of a broader effort to boost the traditionally secessionist party’s profile in the country’s poorer south.

But immigration is Salvini’s primary bugbear and the newly minted deputy prime minister in Italy’s populist coalition government has added a stop in migration hotspot Pozzallo.

The port town in Sicily’s south is on the front line: one of the main places where military and humanitarian boats bring refugees fleeing war, persecution and famine across North Africa and the Middle East.

A controversial agreement between Italy’s former centre left government and authorities and militias in Libya has triggered a fall in overall arrivals of some 75 percent since the summer of 2017. But since the start of this year, Italian authorities have registered more than 13,500 arrivals.

The latest came late Friday, just hours after Salvini took his oath of office, with some 158 people, including nine children, landing in Pozzallo after being rescued by a humanitarian boat in an operation coordinated by the Italian coast guard.

Salvini had said after being sworn in that he would ask his ministry’s experts “how to reduce the number of arriving migrants and increase the number of expulsions”.

“The good times for illegals is over — get ready to pack your bags,” he said Saturday at a rally in Italy’s north. “Countries need to start doing their job and no more smugglers should be docking in Italian ports,” he said in a swipe at the NGOs organising rescues at sea, which he has regularly accused of complicity with people traffickers.

Salvini’s fellow deputy prime minister, leader of the anti-establishment Five Star movement Luigi Di Maio, has also called rescue NGOs “taxis on the sea” although his rhetoric on immigration is more measured that that of the League.

To speed up deportations — of which there were just 6,500 in 2017 — Salvini will have to increase the number of detention centres and sign agreements with origin countries, many of which are not eager to re-receive their citizens. In a bid to find funds, Salvini is eying the billions of euros set aside every year to deal with the demands of the asylum seekers.

In 2017, the former government announced a budget of some 4.2 billion euros for migrants, of which 18 percent is for rescues at sea, 13 percent for health care, and 65 percent for migrant reception centres, which host some 170,000 people.

The vast majority of existing centres are run by cooperatives or NGOs who were promised 25-35 euros per day for each person they provide with lodging, clothes and other services including legal aid or psychological support.

Salvini will be in Luxembourg Tuesday for a meeting of EU interior ministers with the agenda set to be dominated by discussion of the EU’s controversial Dublin rule, whereby would-be refugees must file for asylum in the first bloc member-state they enter.

The accord heavily penalises Italy, which has seen more than 700,000 migrants arrive since 2013. In early years the vast majority would continue their journeys to northern Europe, but the introduction of EU-backed processing centres to ensure migrants are identified at their first European entry point and tighter border controls installed by France, Switzerland and Austria are now creating roadblocks along this well-worn route.

First Lady hosts Gold Star family members at White House

First Lady Melania Trump reminded Americans Monday night of the “selfless sacrifice” of military men and women who have given their lives so that we can live in freedom, leaving their own Gold Star family members behind, like those she and husband Donald Trump hosted at the White House.

“It was a privilege to welcome Gold Star Families to the White House today to recognize our Nation’s fallen heroes and their families,” Mrs. Trump said in a statement released after the event. “To all those who have lost loved ones in service to our country, our nation grieves with you.”

She continued, “It is a solemn reminder that we, the American people, are able to live as freely as we do because of the selfless sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. We remain indebted to each of them and we honor them today, together, with their families.”

The first lady thanked not only the approximately 40 Gold Star families who joined her and her husband at Monday night’s event, but also, “the men and women currently serving overseas and to their families, thank you for your service.  We send our prayers to all of those in harm’s way, and may God bless the United States of America,” said Mrs. Trump.

Monday night’s event was kept closed to the press for the privacy of the Gold Star families. It was the first public event that the first lady has attended since a May 14 medical procedure that has kept her out of the public eye in the weeks since.  

The Trumps held a similar event close to Memorial Day last year. She remarked at that time that these families are a “unique and distinct category of individuals who should be cherished.” She said that she and her husband President Trump would “always pay tribute to our active service military, veterans, and the families who love them.”

June 5 (Tuesday):  Day 137

Mitch McConnell canceling the Senate’s August recess

“Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president’s nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled,” McConnell said in a statement. “Senators should expect to remain in session in August to pass legislation, including appropriations bills, and to make additional progress on the president’s nominees.”

Senators who were scheduled to leave Washington on August 3 and return after Labor Day will now work for the remainder of the month.

In response to the announcement, outgoing Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) tweeted, “This is excellent news.” We have lots to do.”

 Evangelist Franklin Graham urges parent action in sex education

Evangelist Franklin Graham is continuing his condemnation of sexually graphic sex education curricula in public schools, urging parents to take action against states that are trying to “lure” children “into promiscuity.”

Graham specifically addressed the concerns of parents in the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) in California who removed their children from school last week to protest a sex education curriculum that teaches anal, oral and vaginal sex, and mutual masturbation to children as young as 11 years old.

“There’s an agenda in California and every other state to target the minds and hearts of children,” Graham posted to his Facebook account. “The agenda is to lure them into promiscuity and condition their minds to accept lifestyles that are against the teaching of God’s Word.”

Graham urged parents to become involved and refuse to accept graphic sex ed curricula. “Using smutty language and imagery to taint the minds of elementary school children—or any age students for that matter— is wrong,” the Christian leader wrote. “Teaching 6th graders about sexual pleasure and how to go to websites to learn to ‘ask for consent in a sexy way’ should not be happening.” Graham further urged people of faith to run for their school boards – both in their local school districts and their states.

“It’s also imperative that Christians vote in every election for candidates who support biblical principles, including the legislators who make these laws,” he urged. “I hope that every pastor will encourage the members of their congregation to let the Christian voice be heard in the elections. Let’s be salt and light as Jesus commanded and make a difference for our children and grandchildren!”

According to KUSI News, as parents of SDUSD pulled their children out of school to protest the sex ed program, the school district delivered the following statement: “Our education program was constructed with input from parents, faith leaders, and community residents to comply with Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s California Healthy Youth Act. After being informed about the program, less than 1% of parents chose to exclude their children from learning about sexual health when the curriculum was implemented districtwide last school year.

However, Fox 5 reported one parent observed, “I’ve studied all the law, the California Healthy Youth Act and the requirements of the California Board of Education. There are only recommended curriculum, there are no mandated curriculum under the California Healthy Youth Act.”

“This is an extreme curriculum for comprehensive sex ed,” parent Ashley Bever, a mother of two middle school-age children, told the SDUSD board in March, according to California Family Council. “It basically tells our kids that even though the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says that early initiation of sexual activity is associated with more partners, not using condoms, teen pregnancy, and more infections—the curriculum tells our middle schoolers the complete opposite. Mutual masturbation, dry sex. Try a flavored condom. No condom? Try pulling out—it’s as effective at preventing pregnancies.”

One parent complained to the school board that the “first thing on the curriculum for sixth graders — we’re talking 11-year-old kids — is ‘gender identity.’ Why is that the first thing on the curriculum?”

SDUSD says its “Sexual Health Curriculum” contains “3Rs lessons” that were “authored by Advocates for Youth, who is funded and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and who collbaorates with the California Department of Education to implement medically accurate sexuality education state-wide.”

Advocates for Youth states it “partners with youth leaders, adult allies, and youth-serving organizations to advocate for policies and champion programs that recognize young people’s rights to honest sexual health information; accessible, confidential, and affordable sexual health services; and the resources and opportunities necessary to create sexual health equity for all youth.”

According to Advocates for Youth, the “3Rs” are “Rights,” “Respect,” and “Responsibility.”

In the first lesson plan for sixth graders, Advocates for Youth states: By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  1. Name at least two characteristics that are stereotypically attached to boys and two that are stereotypically attached to girls. [Knowledge]
  2. Describe their own feelings about behaviors being ascribed to a particular gender. [Affect]

Note to the Teacher: This lesson is designed to look at social roles and characteristics assigned to people based on their gender. It is intentionally set up to explore the gender binary, so the use of “boys” and “girls” is intentional.

 Advocates for Youth further teaches sixth graders that their biological sex is merely assigned to them by others at birth and is not binding. They note their purpose is to be gender-inclusive. The group states, “You may notice language throughout the curriculum that seems less familiar —using the pronoun ‘they’ instead of ‘her’ or ‘him,’ using gender neutral names in scenarios and role-plays and referring to ‘someone with a vulva’ vs. a girl or woman. This is intended to make the curriculum inclusive of all genders and gender identities,” the group adds.

Advocates for Youth partners with the Cultural Advocacy and Mobilization Initiative — which includes, among other groups, the Broward County Youth Council, a partnership with Planned Parenthood South Florida and the Treasure Coast. Its partners also include the Muslim Youth Project, the National Emergency Contraception Initiative, and Youth of Color Initiative.

Regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the Colorado Masterpiece bakeshop this week, Advocates for Youth president Deb Hauser said the decision “could eventually lead to state-sanctioned, discrimination and highlights just how much the fight continues for LGBTQ equality across the country.”

“But rest assured that the fight is not over,” she continued. “Young people are moving this country forwards, not backwards – and they won’t stand for a government-sanctioned right to discriminate.”

In April, Graham also gave his support to the SexEdSitOut orchestrated by parents in cities across the United States and abroad who pulled their children out of public schools to protest pornographic sex ed curricula provided by taxpayer-funded groups such as Planned Parenthood.

June 6 (Wednesday): Day 138

House Speaker Paul Ryan defends FBI’s use of informant

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told reporters Wednesday he believes the FBI acted appropriately in using an informant to contact Trump campaign members during the 2016 presidential election.

“I think Chairman Gowdy’s initial assessment is accurate,” Ryan said in support of his colleague Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who recently told Fox News that he sees no wrongdoing in the FBI’s use of an informant. I have seen no evidence to the contrary of the initial assessment Chairman Gowdy has made,” he said, adding that investigators still “have some more digging to do.”

Last week, Rep. Gowdy told Fox News host Martha MacCallum, “I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.”

The Justice Department is currently slow-walking the transfer of documents related to the Russia probe requested by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes. “It would be helpful if we got this information earlier,” said Ryan. “If we got all the information earlier we could wrap this up.”

Democrat Senator recalled for gas tax hike vote

Voters in California’s 29th State Senate district recalled freshman Democrat Josh Newman in Tuesady’s California primary over his vote for Governor Jerry Brown’s 12-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike, replacing him with Republican Ling Ling Chang and definitively denying Democrats a supermajority in the upper house.

Election results showed Newman being recalled by a margin of 59.5% to 40.5%, despite the fact that saving his seat was the top priority of California Democrats on Tuesday.

Newman was, of course, not the only state senator to vote for the gas tax hike. He was, however, the most vulnerable, and Republicans targeted him in an effort to undo the Democrats’ supermajority.

That supermajority no longer existed by the time of the recall election, thanks to several “#metoo” resignations of Democrats who had been accused of sexual harassment.  However, the recall effort pressed ahead, and is an early barometer of voter outrage at the gas tax, amidst higher prices at the pump.

Republicans have likely managed to place a repeal of the gas tax on the November ballot, hoping to tap into a statewide majority that favors repealing the tax, and to motivate conservative voters to turn out — a task that has been made even easier by the somewhat unexpected second-place finish of Republican businessman John Cox in the primary for governor.

Newman’s recall is a hopeful sign for Republicans, who will need strong statewide turnout to defend several vulnerable congressional seats. Conversely, it is a bitter disappointment for Democrats, who now fear that the highly-anticipated “blue wave” may not materialize in California after all.

Josh Newman

June 7 (Thursday):  Day 138

Alice Johnson thanks Lord and Savior; President Trump for pardon

Alice Johnson publicly thanked her “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and “President Donald John Trump” Wednesday afternoon, after being released from prison after serving 22-years.  After Johnson’s case was brought to his attention by reality TV superstar Kim Kardashian West, Trump commuted her sentence.

This was the scene Wednesday as Johnson was released.  “First of all, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, thank Jesus Christ. Without him, I can do nothing. With him, I can do everything,” she said. “I want to thank President Donald John Trump. Hallelujah!,” she added, as the crowd around her cheered at the sound of the president’s name. “Thank you for giving me another chance at life and restoring me to my family.’

Speaking of Kardashian West, Johnson added, “Bless Kim, our little angel. Thank you, thank you.”

Johnson, who is now 63, had been serving a life sentence in a federal prison in Aliceville, Alabama, since 1996. According to Mic, the outlet that first publicised Johnson’s story, which in turn got the attention of Kardashian West, “Johnson was convicted for her role facilitating communications in a cocaine trafficking operation in Memphis, Tennessee.” She was then handed a sentence of life with no chance of parole, plus another 25 years.

This was Johnson’s first offense. Once incarcerated, Johnson became a model prisoner, a playwright and minister to the other female prisoners. There is no record of her ever having been involved in any kind of violence.

Kardashian West told the Mic that while meeting with Trump, he “really spent the time to listen to our case that we were making for Alice. He really understood, and I am very hopeful that this will turn out really positively.”

Minutes after her GMA appearance Trump tweeted, “Good luck to Alice Johnson. Have a wonderful life.”


June 8 (Friday):  Day 139

President will ‘probably’ support efforts to end federal ban on marijuana

Homegrown indoor pot plants and leaves

President Donald Trump told a gaggle of reporters Friday that he will “probably” support efforts by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) to end the federal ban on marijuana in states that have legalized it.

“I support Sen. Gardner,” the president said before departing for the G-7 summit in Canada, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times. “I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”

President Trump has taken a hard line against drugs. In March, he proposed that the death penalty be made available in prosecutions of drug traffickers. Earlier this year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed an Obama-era policy of not enforcing the federal marijuana ban in states that had voted to legalize the drug for medicinal or recreational use, allowing federal prosecutors in each state to use their own discretion.

In response to that decision, Garnder threatened to hold up future nominations for positions in the Department of Justice. He backed down after he said Trump had agreed not to intervene in states that had legalized the drug, and said privately that he would support Garnder’s legislation. Friday’s statement, however, was the first time Trump had made that support public.

NY Congressman speaks out against discharge petition

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) says the Republican establishment’s discharge petition — which would force a vote on an expansive amnesty for illegal aliens — would be a “vehicle” for “whatever” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wants on immigration.

Zeldin told Breitbart News Sunday:  “I didn’t sign the discharge petition, I actually oppose the discharge petition. It’s a vehicle in my opinion that basically creates a process to pass whatever Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are going to pass. That’s the version that would get the votes.

“I think it’s really important for us to understand that this is a difficult issue, yes, but just because we have such a strong desire to pass an immigration bill doesn’t mean that we should be in a rush to pass any immigration bill. And we can’t repeat the mistakes of the past where if you pass the wrong bill, you end up incentivizing illegal immigration where the numbers start to even multiply.

The group of Republicans have signed onto what is known as a “discharge petition” to force a vote to bring an expansive amnesty plan for illegal aliens enrolled and eligible on the President Obama-created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to the House floor.

The discharge petition could lead to the massive DREAM Act amnesty — which would give amnesty to the majority 12 to 30 million illegal aliens in the U.S. — being passed out of the House and Senate with a veto-proof majority.

Months of polling has revealed that a no-strings amnesty for illegal aliens is unpopular with GOP voters. GOP voters and swing voters have consistently told pollsters by huge majorities that they want to see legal immigration levels decreased to raise wages for America’s working and middle class.

San Bernardino Sun finds “red tide” overcomes “blue wave”

An early analysis of election results in the California primary by the San Bernardino Sun has found that a “red tide” of votes for Republicans overcame the “blue wave” of votes for Democrats, enabling the GOP to win the Inland Empire region east of Los Angeles.

The Sun reported Thursday:  “If there’s a blue wave on Nov. 6, it will have to sweep over the red tide that flowed into the Inland Empire during California’s primary. Republican candidates did very well in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, giving a boost to the GOP in a region where Democrats have made steady progress and providing a counter-narrative, at least locally, to predictions of a Democratic landslide in the general election.

“Republicans did well in those districts relative to their 2016 performance,” said Rob Pyers, research director for the nonpartisan California Target Book, which studies state legislative races.

The Inland Empire suffered deeply during the recession, but has come back over the past several years. As a haven for middle class families and a region where long commutes are enlivened by talk radio, it is fertile ground for conservative candidates.

One of the most promising candidates is Kimberlin Brown Pelter, who seeks to unseat Democrat Raul Ruiz in the 36th district.  Others who did well on Tuesday included Tim Donnelly, who won the right to challenge Rep. Paul Cook in an all-Republican general election in the 8th congressional district, and Sean Flynn, who nearly beat incumbent Democrat Pete Aguilar in the 31st district and will face him in November.

President Trump challenges athletes to suggest whom he should pardon

President Donald Trump extended an offer Friday to professional athletes protesting the national anthem to come up with a list of people they believed should be pardoned for their crimes.

“I am going to ask all of those people to recommend to me, because that’s what their protesting, people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system,” Trump said.

The president made his remarks to reporters before leaving the White House for his trip to Canada for the G7 summit. Trump said it was time to move beyond “talk” and focus on specific actions, and challenged the athletes to come to the table.  “I’m going to ask them to recommend to me people that were unfairly treated, friends of theirs or people they know about and I’m going to take a look at those applications,” he said.


Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens JournalVentura Countys online news service, founder of History Makers Internationala community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor.  He has worked 23 years as a middle school teacher.   Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email:  [email protected].

Mr. Hernandez is dedicated himself to advance the 13 spheresas a City Upon A Hill; developing an interactive California citizens news platform as an alternative to mainstream media; while building local school-community partnerships and supporting constitutional awareness and active citizenship.

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