Friday, May 22, 2015

Coast Guard officers trained to deal with continuing climate change

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Remarks by the President at the United States Coast Guard Academy Commencement

United States Coast Guard Academy
New London, Connecticut
11:42 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Class of 2015 -- ahoy!
THE PRESIDENT:  There are now fewer days to go until the Class of 2015 graduates than -- never mind.  (Laughter.)  There are now zero days until the Class of 2015 graduates.  (Applause.)  
Thank you, Admiral Zukunft, for your kind introduction and for your leadership of our Coast Guardsmen on all seven continents.  Governor Malloy, Secretary Johnson, Ambassador, distinguished guests, faculty and staff, families and friends. 
And Admiral Stosz, as you prepare to conclude your time as Superintendent, thank you for your outstanding stewardship of this Academy.  You made history as the first woman ever to lead one of our nation’s service academies.  (Applause.)  And I know you’ll keep making history, because I was proud to nominate you for your third star and as the Coast Guard’s next Deputy Commandant for Mission Support.  (Applause.)   
It is wonderful to be with all of you here today on this beautiful day.  Michelle sends her greetings as well.  She is the proud sponsor of the Coast Guard cutter Stratton -- which is tough to beat.  But as Admiral Zukunft pointed out, both the Coast Guard and I were born on the same day.  So I want you all to know, every birthday from now on I will be thinking about the Coast Guard.  (Laughter and applause.)  
Now, the Coast Guard may be the smallest of our services, but I have to say you may also be the loudest.  (Laughter.)  Whenever I visit our military bases, there are always lots of soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines.  They make a lot of noise.  But wherever I am -- across the country or around the world, including Afghanistan -- nowhere near an ocean -- the most determined cheer from the crowd comes from our proud Coast Guardsmen, because usually there might only be one or two of them.  (Laughter.) 
As Paul mentioned, in my State of the Union address this year, I mentioned how I’ve seen America at its best when commissioning our new officers, including here in New London.  And it's true, some folks across the country didn’t quite get the reference.  One person tweeted that they were pretty sure I just made this up.  (Applause.)  Then there was one person in town who asked, “Did Obama name drop New London?”  So let me do it again. It is a great honor to be back in New London, at the United States Coast Guard Academy -- (applause) -- to salute the newest ensigns of America’s oldest, continuous maritime service.  (Applause.)   
Cadets, this is a day to celebrate all that you’ve achieved over these past four years.  You have excelled at one of the most selective and rigorous academic institutions in America.  You’ve held yourselves to a high code of conduct, proven yourself worthy to be called commissioned officers in the United States Coast Guard.
You pushed yourselves physically -- from Swab Summer to beating your officers at basketball and softball and football.  (Applause.)  You braced up, squared your meals, spent Friday nights waxing the floors -- maybe a little “Rodeo Buffing.”  (Laughter.)  I saw the video.  That looks dangerous, by the way. (Laughter.)  You made your mark, and you will be remembered.  In Chase Hall.  In this stadium.  And at Hanafin’s and Bulkeley House.  (Applause.)  Which reminds me, in keeping with longstanding tradition, I hereby absolve all cadets serving restrictions for minor offenses.  (Laughter.)  Minor offenses. 
You came together as one team.  We are joined today by Commander Merle Smith -- the first African American graduate of this Academy -- (applause) -- Class of 1966, a decorated Vietnam veteran.  His legacy endures in all of you -- because the graduating Class of 2015 is the most diverse in Academy history.  And you took care of each other, like family.  Today we honor the memory of your classmate from the Republic of Georgia, Soso, along with Beso.  Their spirits will live on in the partnerships you forge with Coast Guards all over the world.
Today, you take your rightful place in the Long Blue Line. For Marina Stevens and her family, it is a very long line.  Where is Marina?  Just wave at me real quick.  There she is right there.  Marina’s dad is Coast Guard civilian.  Her mom, Janet, an Academy graduate, was a Coast Guard captain and will pin on Marina’s shoulder boards today.  Marina’s grandfather was a Coast Guardsman.  Her great-grandfather joined the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1918.  That’s four generations, spanning nearly the entire life of the modern Coast Guard.  No wonder she’s named Marina.  (Laughter and applause.)  It’s in her blood.  
And, Cadets, I know that none of you reached this day alone. So join me in giving a huge round of applause to your mentors and your incredible parents and your family members -- so many of them, themselves, veterans as well.  Please give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)
Class of 2015, I’m here as your Commander-in-Chief, on behalf of the American people, to say thanks to each of you.  Thanks for choosing to serve -- for stepping up, for giving up the comforts of civilian life, for putting on that uniform.  Thank you for the service you are about to render -- the life of purpose that you’ve embraced, the risks that you’ve accepted and the sacrifices that you will make. 
But I’m not here to just sing your praises.  I want to speak to you about what comes next.  Soon, you’ll fan out across the Coast Guard and some of you will go to sectors and shore command. Some of you will start your duty aboard cutters.  Some of you will start flight training.  America needs you.  And we need the Coast Guard more than ever.
We need you to safeguard our ports against all threats, including terrorism.  We need you to respond in times of disaster or distress and lead your rescue teams as they jump out of perfectly good helicopters.  We need you in the Caribbean and Central America, interdicting drugs before they reach our streets and damage our kids.  We need you in the Middle East; in the Gulf; alongside our Navy; in places like West Africa, where you helped keep the ports open so that the world could fight a deadly disease.  We need you in the Asia Pacific, to help our partners train their own coast guards to uphold maritime security and freedom of navigation in waters vital to our global economy.
These are all demanding missions.  The pace of operations is intense.  And these are tight fiscal times for all our services, including the Coast Guard.  But we are going to keep working to give you the boats and the cutters and the aircraft that you need to complete the missions we ask of you. 
We’re moving ahead with new Fast Response Cutters, new Offshore Patrol Cutters.  We’re on track to have a full fleet of new National Security Cutters -- the most advanced in history.  And I’ve made it clear that I will not accept a budget that continues these draconian budget cuts called sequestration, because our nation and our military and our Coast Guard deserve better.  (Applause.) 
And this brings me to the challenge I want to focus on today -- one where our Coast Guardsmen are already on the front lines, and that, perhaps more than any other, will shape your entire careers -- and that’s the urgent need to combat and adapt to climate change.
As a nation, we face many challenges, including the grave threat of terrorism.  And as Americans, we will always do everything in our power to protect our country.  Yet even as we meet threats like terrorism, we cannot, and we must not, ignore a peril that can affect generations.
Now, I know there are still some folks back in Washington who refuse to admit that climate change is real.  And on a day like today, it’s hard to get too worried about it.  There are folks who will equivocate.  They’ll say, “You know, I’m not a scientist.”  Well, I’m not either.  But the best scientists in the world know that climate change is happening.  Our analysts in the intelligence community know climate change is happening.  Our military leaders -- generals and admirals, active duty and retired -- know it’s happening.  Our homeland security professionals know it is happening.  And our Coast Guard knows it’s happening.
The science is indisputable.  The fossil fuels we burn release carbon dioxide, which traps heat.  And the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are now higher than they have been in 800,000 years.  The planet is getting warmer.  Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have been in the past 15 years. Last year was the planet’s warmest year ever recorded. 
Our scientists at NASA just reported that some of the sea ice around Antarctica is breaking up even faster than expected.  The world’s glaciers are melting, pouring new water into the ocean.  Over the past century, the world sea level rose by about eight inches.  That was in the last century; by the end of this century, it’s projected to rise another one to four feet.
Cadets, the threat of a changing climate cuts to the very core of your service.  You’ve been drawn to water -— like the poet who wrote, “the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.”  You know the beauty of the sea, but you also know its unforgiving power. 
Here at the Academy, climate change -- understanding the science and the consequences -- is part of the curriculum, and rightly so, because it will affect everything that you do in your careers.  Some of you have already served in Alaska and aboard icebreakers, and you know the effects.  As America’s Maritime Guardian, you’ve pledged to remain always ready -- Semper Paratus -- ready for all threats.  And climate change is one of those most severe threats.
And this is not just a problem for countries on the coasts, or for certain regions of the world.  Climate change will impact every country on the planet.  No nation is immune.  So I’m here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security.  And make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country.  And so we need to act -- and we need to act now.
After all, isn’t that the true hallmark of leadership?  When you’re on deck, standing your watch, you stay vigilant.  You plan for every contingency.  And if you see storm clouds gathering, or dangerous shoals ahead, you don't sit back and do nothing.  You take action -- to protect your ship, to keep your crew safe.  Anything less is negligence.  It is a dereliction of duty.  And so, too, with climate change.  Denying it, or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security.  It undermines the readiness of our forces.
It’s been said of life on the sea -- “the pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”  Cadets, like you, I reject pessimism.  We know what we as Americans can achieve when we set ourselves to great endeavors.  We are, by nature, optimists -- but we’re not blind optimists.  We know that wishful thinking in the face of all evidence to the contrary would set us on a course for disaster.  If we are to meet this threat of climate change, we must be realists.  We have to readjust the sails.
That’s why confronting climate change is now a key pillar of American global leadership.  When I meet with leaders around the world, it’s often at the top of our agenda -- a core element of our diplomacy.  And you are part of the first generation of officers to begin your service in a world where the effects of climate change are so clearly upon us.  It will shape how every one of our services plan, operate, train, equip, and protect their infrastructure, their capabilities, today and for the long term.  So let me be specific on how your generation will have to lead the way to both prepare ourselves and how to prevent the worst effects in the future.   
Around the world, climate change increases the risk of instability and conflict.  Rising seas are already swallowing low-lying lands, from Bangladesh to Pacific islands, forcing people from their homes.  Caribbean islands and Central American coasts are vulnerable, as well.  Globally, we could see a rise in climate change refugees.  And I guarantee you the Coast Guard will have to respond.  Elsewhere, more intense droughts will exacerbate shortages of water and food, increase competition for resources, and create the potential for mass migrations and new tensions.  All of which is why the Pentagon calls climate change a “threat multiplier.” 
Understand, climate change did not cause the conflicts we see around the world.  Yet what we also know is that severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram.  It’s now believed that drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East.  So, increasingly, our military and our combatant commands, our services -- including the Coast Guard -- will need to factor climate change into plans and operations, because you need to be ready.
Around the world, climate change will mean more extreme storms.  No single weather event can be blamed solely on climate change.  But Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines gave us a possible glimpse of things to come -- one of the worst cyclones ever recorded; thousands killed, many more displaced, billions of dollars in damage, and a massive international relief effort that included the United States military and its Coast Guard.  So more extreme storms will mean more humanitarian missions to deliver lifesaving help.  Our forces will have to be ready.
As Admiral Zukunft already mentioned, climate change means Arctic sea ice is vanishing faster than ever.  By the middle of this century, Arctic summers could be essentially ice free.  We’re witnessing the birth of a new ocean -- new sea lanes, more shipping, more exploration, more competition for the vast natural resources below. 
In Alaska, we have more than 1,000 miles of Arctic coastline.  The United States is an Arctic nation, and we have a great interest in making sure that the region is peaceful, that its indigenous people and environment are protected, and that its resources are managed responsibly in partnership with other nations.  And that means all of you are going to have to step up -- because few know the Arctic better than the U.S. Coast Guard.  You’ve operated there across nearly 150 years.  And as the Arctic opens, the role that the Coast Guard plays will only grow. I believe that our interests in the Arctic demand that we continue to invest in an enduring Coast Guard icebreaking capacity. 
I was proud to nominate your last commandant, Admiral Papp, as our special representative for the Arctic.  And as the U.S. chairs the Arctic Council this year, I’m committed to advancing our interests in this critical region because we have to be ready in the Arctic, as well.
Climate change, and especially rising seas, is a threat to our homeland security, our economic infrastructure, the safety and health of the American people.  Already, today, in Miami and Charleston, streets now flood at high tide.  Along our coasts, thousands of miles of highways and roads, railways, energy facilities are all vulnerable.  It’s estimated that a further increase in sea level of just one foot by the end of this century could cost our nation $200 billion.
In New York Harbor, the sea level is already a foot higher than a century ago -- which was one of the reasons Superstorm Sandy put so much of lower Manhattan underwater.  During Sandy, the Coast Guard mounted a heroic response, along with our National Guard and Reserve.  But rising seas and stronger storms will mean more disaster response missions.  And we need the Coast Guard to be ready, because you are America’s maritime first responder. 
Climate change poses a threat to the readiness of our forces.  Many of our military installations are on the coast, including, of course, our Coast Guard stations.  Around Norfolk, high tides and storms increasingly flood parts of our Navy base and an airbase.  In Alaska, thawing permafrost is damaging military facilities.  Out West, deeper droughts and longer wildfires could threaten training areas our troops depend on.
So politicians who say they care about military readiness ought to care about this, as well.  Just as we’re helping American communities prepare to deal with the impacts of climate change, we have to help our bases and ports, as well.  Not just with stronger seawalls and natural barriers, but with smarter, more resilient infrastructure -- because when the seas rise and storms come, we all have to be ready.
Now, everything I’ve discussed with you so far is about preparing for the impacts of climate change.  But we need to be honest -- such preparation and adaptation alone will not be enough.  As men and women in uniform, you know that it can be just as important, if not more important, to prevent threats before they can cause catastrophic harm.  And only way -- the only way -- the world is going to prevent the worst effects of climate change is to slow down the warming of the planet.
Some warming is now inevitable.  But there comes a point when the worst effects will be irreversible.  And time is running out.  And we all know what needs to happen.  It’s no secret.  The world has to finally start reducing its carbon emissions -- now. And that's why I’ve committed the United States to leading the world on this challenge. 
Over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to reduce harmful emissions, unprecedented investments to cut energy waste in our homes and building, standards to double the fuel efficiency of our vehicles.  We're using more clean energy than ever before -- more solar, more wind.  It’s all helped us reduce our carbon emissions more than any other advanced nation.  And today, we can be proud that our carbon pollution is near its lowest levels in almost two decades.  But we’ve got to do more.
So, going forward, I’ve committed to doubling the pace at which we cut carbon pollution.  And that means we all have to step up.  And it will not be easy.  It will require sacrifice, and the politics will be tough.  But there is no other way.  We have to make our homes and buildings more efficient.  We have to invest in more energy research and renewable technologies.  We have to move ahead with standards to cut the amount of carbon pollution in our power plants.  And working with other nations, we have to achieve a strong global agreement this year to start reducing the total global emission -- because every nation must do its part.  Every nation.
So this will be tough.  But as so often is the case, our men and women in uniform show us the way.  They're used to sacrifice and they are used to doing hard stuff.  Class of 2015, you’ve built new equipment that uses less energy.  You’ve designed new vessels with fewer harmful emissions.  Stephen Horvath, selected as a Fulbright Scholar, will research new technologies for renewable energies.  The Coast Guard is building more fuel-efficient cutters.  So you're already leading.  And, Cadets, as you go forward, I challenge you to keep imagining and building the new future we need -- and make your class motto your life’s work:  “To go where few dare.”  This is a place where we need you.  
Across our military, our bases and ports are using more solar and wind, which helps save money that we can use to improve readiness.  The Army is pursuing new, lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles.  The Air Force F-22 broke the sound barrier using biofuels.  And the Navy runs an entire carrier strike group -- the Green Fleet -- with biofuels.  Our Marines have deployed to Afghanistan with portable solar panels, lightening their load and reducing dangerous resupply missions.  So fighting climate change and using energy wisely also makes our forces more nimble and more ready.  And that’s something that should unite us as Americans.  This cannot be subject to the usual politics and the usual rhetoric.  When storms gather, we get ready.
And I want to leave you with a story that captures the persistence and the patriotism that this work requires, because this is a nation made up of folks who know how to do hard things. Down in the front row is Dr. Olivia Hooker.  In 1921, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when she was just six years old, her African American community was attacked by white mobs -- it was a horrific racial incident.  And hundreds of innocent African Americans were killed.  The mobs destroyed her father’s clothing store.  They looted her house.  They even burned the little clothes for her doll.   
And Olivia could have given in to bitterness.  She could have been pessimistic about her country.  Instead, she made it better.  So in World War II, she enlisted as a SPAR, becoming the first African American woman in the Coast Guard.  (Applause.)  As a yeoman in Boston, she served with distinction.  By the time the war was won, she was discharged, she was a petty officer second class.
With the GI Bill, Olivia earned her master’s, then her doctorate.  She has been a professor and mentor to her students, a passionate advocate for Americans with disabilities, a psychologist counseling young children, a caregiver at the height of the AIDS epidemic, a tireless voice for justice and equality. A few months ago, Olivia turned 100 years old.  (Applause.)   
So, Olivia, you’re going to have to tell us you’re secret.  She’s still as sharp as they come, and as fearless.  (Applause.)
In Yonkers, New York, she even still volunteers as a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and was determined to be here with us today. 
So, Dr. Hooker, thank you.  You’re an inspiration.  (Applause.)  One hundred years old.
So Dr. Hooker has led a remarkable life.  But this is what she says -- “It’s not about you, or me.  It’s about what we can give to this world.” 
Cadets, you're at the start of your careers.  And we cannot know, each of us, how many days we will walk this Earth.  We can't guarantee we're all going to live to 100.  But what we can do is live each day to its fullest.  What we can do is look squarely at what will make the biggest difference for future generations and be willing to tackle those challenges.
And as you embark on your life of service, as you man your stations, and head to the seas, and take to the skies, should the sea begin to surge and the waves swell and the wind blows hard against your face, I want you to think back to this moment -- to feel what you feel in your hearts today.  And if you remember all that you’ve learned here on the Thames -- how you came here and came together, out of many one, to achieve as a team what you could never do alone -- if you resolve to stay worthy of traditions that endure -- honor, respect, devotion to duty -- if you heed the wisdom and humility of a petty officer second class from Oklahoma, to think not of yourself, but what you can give to this world -- then I’m confident that you will truly go where few dare.  And you will rise to meet the challenges that not only face our country, but face our planet.  And your legacy will be a nation that is stronger and safer for generations to come. 
So, Class of 2015 -- thank you for your service. Congratulations.  God bless you.  God bless all our Coast Guardsmen.  God bless our United States of America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)
12:14 P.M. EDT 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gov. Hutchinson appoints three to select panel to rule on state gay-marriage ban

'Gay agenda' foe selected to hear nuptials spinoff

2 others also named to pick justices to decide main case

Posted: April 15, 2015 at 3:48 a.m.
Updated: April 15, 2015 at 3:48 a.m.
Current 14th Judicial Circuit Judge Shawn Womack of Mountain Home
Current 14th Judicial Circuit Judge Shawn Womack of Mountain Home
Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday appointed a former Republican legislator and self-proclaimed opponent of the "gay agenda" as one of the three special justices set to participate in deciding which Arkansas Supreme Court justices will rule on a challenge to the state's gay-marriage ban.
Attorney Cheryl Maples, left, and her colleague attorney Jack Wagoner leave federal court in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, Nov...(By: DANNY JOHNSTON)(Credit: AP)
Supreme Court Chief Justice Betty Dickey of Heber Springs(By: Staton Breidenthal) (Credit: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
Searcy attorney Brett Watson(Credit: Special to the Democrat-Gazette)
Hutchinson appointed a former state senator, current 14th Judicial Circuit Judge Shawn Womack of Mountain Home, to take the place of Justice Paul Danielson in ruling on CV-15-227, a spinoff case created to resolve a dispute over whether last year's court or this year's lineup should rule on the gay-marriage ban challenge.
That challenge, known as CV-14-427, has languished without a ruling for nearly five months while the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on the question later this month.
To fill the three vacancies on the case, two of which were created by the recusals of Chief Justice Jim Hannah and Danielson, who accused other justices of creating CV-15-227 to delay a ruling on the gay-marriage challenge, Hutchinson also appointed two others.
Hutchinson tapped Searcy attorney Brett Watson to fill in for Hannah and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Betty Dickey of Heber Springs to replace first-year Justice Rhonda Wood.
Womack has been a judge in Mountain Home since his 2008 election, but in 2007, the then-state senator sponsored legislation meant to ban homosexuals from being able to adopt or foster children.
Senate Bill 959 by Womack said the legislation would counter the "gay agenda" and protect children. During debate on the Senate floor, a Democratic colleague asked Womack whether he was gay. Womack described himself as "proudly heterosexual."
On Tuesday, Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said that the governor was not worried about Womack's political past clouding his ability to be an impartial judge.
"The governor based his decision on Judge Womack's judicial experience and not his legislative history," Davis said.
An official at Womack's office said Womack was not available for an interview.
The employee did send out a statement on Womack's behalf:
"I want to express my appreciation to Governor Hutchinson for selecting me to participate in this important process," Womack wrote. "I am very humbled and grateful for the trust he is placing in me to decide this case."
Cheryl Maples, the attorney who, in 2013, first challenged the state's 2004 constitutional amendment and preceding statute that both barred same-sex marriage, said she thought Hutchinson erred by appointing a judge with a well-documented aversion to gay rights.
"The rules of governing judicial conduct require that there not be any perception of a conflict of interest [for a judge]," she said. "[Womack's] history of taking a place adverse to any one party in this action would definitely be a perceived conflict of interest if not an absolute conflict of interest."
Maples said she thought that Womack should decline the appointment or recuse himself.
Maples and fellow attorney Jack Wagoner were successful in their challenge in May when Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down the state's gay-marriage ban as unconstitutional.
The ruling was stayed after several hundred same-sex couples were wed in the state and the case proceeded to oral arguments at the Arkansas Supreme Court on Nov. 20.
The attorneys and other legal experts including former Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel expected the case to be decided before the end of last year.
It wasn't.
In late January, the state's new attorney general, Republican Leslie Rutledge, requested a new round of oral arguments for the benefit of the court's two new members, justices Wood and Robin Wynne.
Plaintiffs' attorneys argued that the case should be decided by the justices who heard the case the first time, including now retired Justice Donald Corbin and Special Justice Robert McCorkindale.
McCorkindale was appointed to hear the case by former Gov. Mike Beebe after former Justice Cliff Hoofman recused himself in September.
But state attorneys argued that it was Wood and Wynne who should ultimately rule on CV-14-427.
At the start of this month, the high court created CV-15-227 to handle the question, only to see the two most veteran justices recuse themselves from a case that they said was manufactured to address a legal controversy that did not exist.
In their recusal letters, both justices accused other members of the court of delaying justice in allowing a ruling on CV-14-427, and Hannah argued that to displace McCorkindale would be to "usurp" the former governor's decision and would amount to judicial overreach.
After the letters were released, a gay-rights activist filed a complaint with the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to investigate whether justices intentionally delayed the legal proceedings and to see if those delays were politically motivated.
Plaintiffs have withdrawn any objections to the current court hearing the case because they want to expedite a ruling.
Asked why she thought Womack's appointment presented a problem, since he wasn't ruling directly on the gay-marriage question, Maples said that his ruling on who decides could effectively decide the case on its own.
"There's an apparent push by some judges to seat judges with a particular political persuasion, at least, that's the way this is appearing," Maples said. "By seating this particular judge, it would seem that [Hutchinson] is stacking the court against us. I don't think that is constitutionally permissible and it flies in the face of the rules of judicial conduct."
Rutledge, in a statement, said she was glad to hear of the appointments.
"Governor Hutchinson indicated that he would move quickly to appoint three special justices in this case, and I am pleased that he has done so. Any individual appointed as a special judge or justice must give deliberation to ensure justice is served in every case," she said.
While Womack unsuccessfully pushed for a ban on gay adoptions in 2007, another of Hutchinson's appointees, Dickey, ruled against a similar state policy a year before.
Dickey was the first woman chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court after Gov. Mike Huckabee appointed her to the position in 2003. In 2006, she joined a unanimous opinion that struck down a similar ban by a state agency.
In 1997, the Child Welfare Agency Review Board, a group of governor appointees that sets policies for child-welfare agencies, enacted a rule that barred gays from adopting in the state.
The state Department of Human Services followed that policy. But in 2006, the Arkansas Supreme Court found the rule violated the separation of powers doctrine, finding there was no connection between a foster child's well-being and the sexual orientation of a parent figure.
Womack's legislation was filed in direct response to that ruling, and, though it failed, the idea succeeded as an initiated act passed by popular vote in 2008.
That act was then invalidated by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2011.
Before sitting on the state's highest court, Dickey, a Republican, was a prosecutor in Pine Bluff and lost to former U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor in the 1998 race for the attorney general's office.
Attempts to reach her by phone were unsuccessful Tuesday.
The third appointee, Watson, has run his own firm since 2011.
Although there was no answer at his firm Tuesday afternoon, Watson's website says that he is a graduate of the Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock and that he began private practice in 2003.
He has a wide range of litigation experience and is admitted to practice in both of Arkansas' federal courts as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.
While Arkansans wait for the state's highest court to move forward, a challenge to the state ban is on appeal at the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
A week after hearing oral arguments late last November, U.S. Eastern District of Arkansas District Judge Kristine Baker ruled that the state's laws on same-sex marriages were unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court, meanwhile, is set to take oral arguments on the constitutionality of similar same-sex marriage bans.
The court is expected to render a verdict by the end of its spring session sometime in late June.
Metro on 04/15/2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

How corporations brought 'In God we trust' to public use

How 'One Nation' Didn't Become 'Under God' Until The '50s Religious Revival

The words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and the phrase "In God we trust" on the back of a dollar bill haven't been there as long as most Americans might think. Those references were inserted in the 1950s during the Eisenhower administration, the same decade that the National Prayer Breakfast was launched, according to writer Kevin Kruse. His new book is One Nation Under God.
In the original Pledge of Allegiance, Francis Bellamy made no mention of God, Kruse says. Bellamy was Christian socialist, a Baptist who believed in the separation of church and state.
"As this new religious revival is sweeping the country and taking on new political tones, the phrase 'one nation under God' seizes the national imagination," Kruse tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "It starts with a proposal by the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic lay organization, to add the phrase 'under God' to the Pledge of Allegiance. Their initial campaign doesn't go anywhere but once Eisenhower's own pastor endorses it ... it catches fire."
Kruse's book investigates how the idea of America as a Christian nation was promoted in the 1930s and '40s when industrialists and business lobbies, chafing against the government regulations of the New Deal, recruited and funded conservative clergy to preach faith, freedom and free enterprise. He says this conflation of Christianity and capitalism moved to center stage in the '50s under Eisenhower's watch.
"According to the conventional narrative, the Soviet Union discovered the bomb and the United States rediscovered God," Kruse says. "In order to push back against the atheistic communism of the Soviet Union, Americans re-embraced a religious identity. That plays a small role here, but ... there's actually a longer arc. That Cold War consensus actually helps to paper over a couple decades of internal political struggles in the United States. If you look at the architects of this language ... the state power that they're worried most about is not the Soviet regime in Moscow, but rather the New Deal and Fair Deal administrations in Washington, D.C."

Kevin Kruse is a professor of history at Princeton University and is the author of a previous book called White Flight.i
Kevin Kruse is a professor of history at Princeton University and is the author of a previous book called White Flight.
Etta Recke/Courtesy of Basic Books

Interview Highlights

On how corporations hired ministers to spread "free enterprise"
The New Deal had passed a large number of measures that were regulating business in some ways for the first time, and it [had] empowered labor unions and given them a voice in the affairs of business. Corporate leaders resented both of these moves and so they launched a massive campaign of public relations designed to sell the values of free enterprise. The problem was that their naked appeals to the merits of capitalism were largely dismissed by the public.
The most famous of these organizations was called The American Liberty League and it was heavily financed by leaders at DuPont, General Motors and other corporations. The problem was that it seemed like very obvious corporate propaganda. As Jim Farley, the head of the Democratic Party at the time, said: "They ought to call it The American Cellophane League, because No. 1: It's a DuPont product, and No. 2: You can see right through it."
So when they realized that making this direct case for free enterprise was ineffective, they decided to find another way to do it. They decided to outsource the job. As they noted in their private correspondence, ministers were the most trusted men in America at the time, so who better to make the case to the American people than ministers?
On the message the ministers conveyed
They use these ministers to make the case that Christianity and capitalism were soul mates. This case had been made before, but in the context of the New Deal it takes on a sharp new political meaning. Essentially they argue that Christianity and capitalism are both systems in which individuals rise and fall according to their own merits. So in Christianity, if you're good you go to heaven, if you're bad you go to hell. In capitalism if you're good you make a profit and you succeed, if you're bad you fail.
The New Deal, they argue, violates this natural order. In fact, they argue that the New Deal and the regulatory state violate the Ten Commandments. It makes a false idol of the federal government and encourages Americans to worship it rather than the Almighty. It encourages Americans to covet what the wealthy have; it encourages them to steal from the wealthy in the forms of taxation; and, most importantly, it bears false witness against the wealthy by telling lies about them. So they argue that the New Deal is not a manifestation of God's will, but rather, a form of pagan stateism and is inherently sinful.
On the Rev. James Fifield
He takes over the pastorate at the First Congregational Church in Los Angeles, an elite church, literally ministering to millionaires in his pews. It's got some of the town's most wealthy citizens — the mayor attends service there, [Hollywood filmmaker] Cecil B. DeMille. He tells these millionaires what they want to hear, which is that their worldly success is a sign of heavenly blessing. He has a very loose approach to the Bible. He says that reading the Bible should be like eating fish: We take out the bones to enjoy the meat; all parts are not of equal value. Accordingly, he disregarded Christ's many injunctions about the dangers of wealth, and instead preached a philosophy that wedded capitalism to Christianity.
On Fifield's "spiritual mobilization"
"Spiritual mobilization" is his effort to recruit other ministers to the cause. So he is serving, in many ways, as a frontman for a number of corporate leaders. His main sponsors are Sun Oil President J. Howard Pew, Alfred Sloan of General Motors, the heads of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, they all heavily fund this organization. But what Fifield sets out to do is recruit other ministers to his cause. Within the span of just a decade's time, he has about 17,000 so-called minister representatives who belong to the organization who are literally preaching sermons on its Christian libertarian message to their congregations, who are competing in sermon contest[s] for cash prizes and they're doing all they can in their local communities to spread this message that the New Deal is essentially evil, it's a manifestation of creeping socialism that is rotting away the country from within. Instead they need to rally around business leaders and make common cause with them to defend what they call "the American way of life."
On Fifield's contribution to the alliance between business and Christian leaders
He helps refine the message considerably. He comes up with the phrase that reduces this Christian libertarian ideology down to a catchy slogan and that slogan is "Freedom Under God," as opposed to the slavery of the state. He popularizes this using the generous funding of his corporate backers ... through a weekly radio program that soon appears on over 800 stations nationwide, through monthly magazines that popularizes the writings of libertarian and conservative authors and most importantly, I think, through a massive Fourth of July ceremony in 1951, a ceremony organized by Cecil B. DeMille, featuring James Stewart as the master of ceremonies, and carried live coast-to-coast over national radio. In that ceremony, as in the magazine and the weekly radio show, he promotes this message that freedom under God is an essential value; that Americans need to cast off the slavery of the state and instead embrace a rugged individualism.
On "In God we trust" appearing on coins and stamps
So the phrase "In God we trust" comes from an often forgotten stanza of The Star-Spangled Banner. It goes: "Then conquer we must when our cause it is just, and this be our motto — 'In God is our trust.' " That stanza was largely forgotten until the Civil War when that phrase "In God we trust" is plucked out of that line and placed on coins. And it is done so at the urging of religious leaders who believe the Civil War has come as a result of America's original sin, of not officially being founded as a Christian nation. And they ask the secretary of Treasury to correct that and he does so by placing it on coins.
The phrase appears on coins intermittently over the next 50 or 60 years. Theodore Roosevelt tries to have it removed — he believes it's close to sacrilege — but the public outcry prevents him from doing so. During this moment of the Eisenhower years, the phrase flourishes and it does so first when it's placed on a stamp in 1954. Then [in] 1955, Congress decides to add it to not just coins but to paper money. And in 1956, they move to make it the country's first official national motto.
On the use of "God bless America" in presidential speeches
President Reagan is the innovator when it comes to the use of "God bless America." A study by communication scholars David Domke and Kevin Coe shows previously only one president had used that phrase to close a speech out and it's an inauspicious occasion — it's President Nixon in 1973 trying to talk his way out of the Watergate scandal. But Reagan quickly makes it a fixture of all of his speeches, so much so that we can't imagine a president ending a speech without some variation of "God bless America."