Saturday, March 28, 2015

Religious Freedom Restoration Acts Are Not About Religious Liberty

Negative reactions to Indiana's disingenuously named Religious Freedom Restoration Act continue, yet similar acts are making their way through legislatures in Georgia and Arkansas - Arkansas' governor has said he will sign the foul act if it gets to his desk - all in the supposed name of "protecting religious freedom."  Such claims are a lie and are nothing less than an attack on the religious freedom of non-Christofascists and a special license to allow the "godly folk" to discriminate and mistreat others.  A piece in Patheos looks at the hypocrisy and lies behind these acts.  Here are highlights:
There has been a firestorm in the media over the past 24 hours as Indiana’s House of Representatives passed a bill that exempts individuals and businesses from having to comply with the discrimination rulings based on their religious convocations. At the same time in Georgia, another RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) has been approved by the House judiciary subcommittee and is rapidly moving towards becoming law. Advocates are promoting both bills as necessary legislation to bolster religious freedom and protect business owners and private citizens from being forced to provide services to anyone that they disagree with on the basis of their faith.
But embedded in this logic are a number of untruths that, when exposed, unravel the entire argument. First, almost every state in the country already has comprehensive and sufficient religious freedom protections. In no state is it viable to suggest that a Christian pastor could face legal action if they refuse to perform a gay wedding. Our first amendment rights alone offer substantial coverage from such actions. However, it is true that in many states, if a business owner refuses to extend their business to a customer on the basis of religious beliefs, they could face legal action for discrimination, as they should.
Since the founding of our country, we have strived to be a nation that upholds the fundamental dignity of every individual. Yet, when a lesbian couple walks in to a bakery to order a cake for their wedding and is turned away because of their sexual orientation, this act of discrimination clearly undermines their equality and dignity as American citizens and human beings. If a business owner believes that Islam is a “false religion”, he could refuse to provide services to any Muslim patron who walks through the door of his business. This too dehumanizes individuals and reinstitutes principles of discrimination and segregation. It is clear that these bills open Pandora’s box, allowing for discrimination to flourish and setting back our country decades in our progression towards equality.

Despite the fearful picture that is being painted by many legislators and religious leaders about the future of our country once marriage equality is passed, this reality remains true: The religious beliefs and convictions of all Americans are fully protected by both national and state law in all 50 states. No individual will ever be forced to promote or renounce a religious belief and no churches will ever be made to offer sacraments to those they deem unfit. 
It is true, however, that public businesses and corporations that serve the general public will be required to offer fair and equal treatment and service to all people- regardless of their race, creed, political party, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or gender identity. And it is this that new RFRA bills are subversively trying to dismantle.
Can you imagine walking up to a store window and seeing a sign that says, “No LGBTQ People Allowed”. Would you want to support that retailer? What if it said, “No Jews Allowed”? This is essentially what RFRA’s will allow businesses across their state to do, recreating the climate that existed in our country prior to the Civil Rights Movement.
[E]ven though legislators in Indiana and Georgia are claiming to be “bolstering the protection of religious liberty”, they’re really just trying to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ and any other individuals that they disagree with.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Republican Governed Red States Are Economic Parasites

We constantly hear Republicans and the Christofascists and Tea Party crowd (most of whom are Christofascists hiding behind a different label) maligning the poor and attacking the "takers" versus the "creators" as in Mitt Romney's infamous 47% statement.  Yet the biggest parasites of all are red states governed by Republicans.  These states receive far more at the government money trough than their liberal blue state rivals.  Among these ironies is that while the Republicans want to slash food stamps and other benefits, the highest per capita usage of these programs is in red states where moronic voters are duped into voting Republican due to the GOP cynically playing on racism, homophobia and anti-immigrant bigotry.  Politicususa has details on  the findings of a new report.  Here are excerpts:

[Y]et another report reveals that those same red state Republican voters who want the federal government cut to shreds are leeching substantially more assets from the federal government they want destroyed at the expense of blue states that are supporting them. 

 This time the report is not from a liberal-leaning think tank, or any government agency; it is from a commercial organization with no political or economic stake in the study’s results. If this were the first report of its kind showing red state economies would wither and die, and the people would starve, without leaching federal funding from blue states, one may be inclined to dismiss it as an aberration.

However, study after study has consistently  exposed anti-federal government Republican states as being incredibly dependent on the federal government they hate with religious passion and just voted for Republicans to fulfill their wishes and decimate it. Never, never ever, underestimate the power of stupid Republican voters in red states who are a Presidential veto away from seeing their evil dream reach fruition.

The categories were; the return in federal dollars on taxpayer investment, or how many federal dollars a state receives as opposed to what the residents pay in.  The percentage of state revenue from federal funding that keeps the state from declaring bankruptcy and its residents from starving or dying from lack of medical care. The number of non-defense (civilian) federal employees in a state, as opposed to states supported by large military installations. And last, the per capita federal employee rate in the state such as federal marshals, park rangers, federal highway workers, and federal regulators keeping air, water, and food safe.

Republican states have benefitted greatly from federal healthcare such as Medicaid, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act, and it is relatively common knowledge that the largest percentage of SNAP (food stamp) recipients are poor white Republicans in red states; likely because red state legislators enacted Draconian ‘right to work’ laws keeping wages at or below poverty levels. What informs the epic stupidity of red state Republican voters is that they are the morons who consistently send Republicans to Washington to rein in the federal budget and cut the federal government down to size.

Congress  . . . just passed a seriously Draconian budget that does precisely what red state voters yearned for; ended “federal interference” in their lives. If the Republican budget stands, red state voters will get their wish and can finally stop bemoaning the horrid ‘federal interference’ in their lives; the interference that kept food on their tables, their families in relatively decent health, and their state economies from going bankrupt. It is likely that the same morons and racists are too stupid to comprehend that the damage their state legislatures have been wreaking on them is about to be magnified a hundred fold due to less federal interference (funding) in their poverty-stricken lives. In fact, it may seem inhumane, but one almost wishes President Obama was not inclined to veto the Republican budget proposals just to let the real Americans, those patriotic “rugged individuals” comprehend just how much worse their pathetic existence would be without the federal government, blue states’ largesse, and humanitarian Democrats unwilling to allow their fellow citizens, no matter how stupid, suffer so the rich get richer.

Some of the poorest states, all red states, are dependent on federal funding for 30 to 45% of their total revenue and the GOP’s budget will slash that revenue and make dire revenue shortfalls already decimating red states seem like an economic bonanza.

There is no accounting for stupid people who, as equally stupid Sarah Palin claims, are the real Americans sitting on their porches holding their guns, their god, and their Constitution while supporting Republicans who promised to ravage the federal government they are convinced is stealing their liberty. 

What is noteworthy is that the blue states that receive 20, 30, or 40 cents in return for every dollar they invest in the federal government are not revolting and threatening to secede. But that is the difference between blue state residents and hateful red state Republicans; they accept that Americans assist their fellow citizens no matter how stupid they are for voting against their own best interests . . . 

Yes, the author is brutal in the manner red state voters are described, but sadly, the assessment is 100% on point. These morons are being cynically played for suckers yet are too stupid to realize it.    As the author notes, it might almost be fun to see the GOP budget pass and then watch the red states' economies crash and burn. 

Hillary's Campaign Launch Plan

While Republican extremists continue to engage in spittle flecked rants about Benghazi and now claims that Hillary Clinton "wiped her server" of e-mails in order to stoke the hysteria among the Tea Party crowd (who are the real parasites in America as a coming post will layout), Clinton is said to be putting in place her campaign launch to "reintroduce her to Real America."  Obviously, no matter what Clinton does, Kool-Aid drinkers will not be won over.  But for the less extreme demographic, the plan is to show Hillary as more "down to earth" and the opposite of what her detractors would have her seem.  An article in Politico looks at the coming campaign launch.  Here are excerpts:
The time and location of Hillary Clinton’s long-anticipated campaign kickoff are closely guarded secrets among her scattered staff — but what she’ll do immediately after her announcement is coming into clearer focus.

Clinton, according to several people familiar with the still-in-flux planning process, will embark on a short tour that will almost certainly include Iowa — and perhaps other states — to interact with voters in a series of events, most of them in low-key settings.

“They know that they need to reintroduce Hillary to America,” said one Democratic insider familiar with the Clinton team’s thinking. “They know it makes no sense to think of this as, ‘Let’s start where she left off on the national stage.’ This is not a continuation of the Hillary we knew as secretary of state. That’s the focus of their energy.”

Clinton aides want to reintroduce her with “humility,” the source added. “They are making sure she understands there are no guarantees, and I think we’re going to see that in her posture and her words. I don’t think people are expecting that.”

Clinton staffers say the kickoff announcement is likely to be made during the first few weeks in April but stressed that no firm date has been chosen yet. Most expect that Clinton’s initial announcement will come via social media or by mass email, followed by events. The location of her first in-person event has yet to be chosen, they say.

The consensus among most Democrats POLITICO spoke to is that Clinton’s two most likely kickoff locations are New Hampshire, site of her stunning come-from-behind victory in 2008, or Iowa, a state Obama won handily, setting the stage for his nomination and presidency. New Hampshire would be a more comfortable choice for the Clintons, who view the state as a friendly bulwark for their brand of establishment Democratic politics. But Clinton’s team wants to convince voters in Iowa — — the nation’s first to vote in 2016 — that she values the battleground state, despite trashing its quirky caucus system eight years ago.

Another source of disagreement among Clinton supporters is what role Bill Clinton should play on announcement day.

“On the biggest day of your campaign, you have your family there and they’re there to support you like any spouse would,” said former Obama adviser Tommy Vietor, dismissing the idea that the former president should be treated any differently.

But other longtime Clinton supporters said Bill Clinton’s presence would confuse Hillary’s message.
“It should just be her. It should be her moment and Bill could overshadow her announcement and remind people of unnecessary baggage.”

Beyond the optics and the strategy for how to reintroduce Clinton, she still has to answer the most basic question of all: why run?

“We still don’t know why she wants to run,” said the operative. “That’s what she has to explain to the American people in her announcement. It’s not that it will establish whether Hillary Clinton is running for president, but why she is running for president.”

The key to Clinton’s success, strategists said, is charging out of the gate with the right populist economic message.

“She needs to explain why she is going to be the one to fight for the middle class and against income inequality, the one who can keep the healing of our economy going, which the other guys are going to unwind,” said Vietor, who also worked on Clinton’s book rollout last summer.

She needs to set up as her foil the Republicans “who want to get rid of Obamacare and go back to a time when they gave big tax cuts to rich people,” Vietor added. “Soon after, it’s going to turn into a slugfest and the announcement is often your best shot.”

Another challenge for Clinton: balancing how she talks about the historic nature of her campaign to be the first woman president with a strong economic message.  

Catholic Church Is Losing Millennails Over Gays and Contraception

There are a number of factors fueling the exodus of Millenials from organized religion not the least of which is the fact that modern science and knowledge are making it harder and harder to believe the myths upon which the Bible and Christianity are based.  Then their is the rank hypocrisy and ugliness of so many of the "godly folk" who make the Pharisees of the Bible look like down right nice and wonderful people in comparison.  And in the case of the Roman Catholic Church, there are also the issues of the Church's positions on gay rights and contraception.  A piece in Crux looks at new findings on Millennials rejection of the Church's teachings.  Here are some highlights which ought to make the bitter old men in dresses at the Vatican shudder:
Catholics between the ages of 18 and 34 – the so-called Millennial generation – are split on their support for abortion rights, but reject Church teaching when it comes to contraception and LGBT issues. Those are the findings from a report issued Friday by the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington.

About 18 percent of Millennials identify as Catholic, a sharp decrease from the roughly one-quarter of those 65 and older who are Catholic. The most common religious identifier among Millennials: unaffiliated, at 33 percent.

The findings:


[L]arge majorities of Catholics, white and Hispanic, report having taken a sex education class in school, and believe promoting contraception in those classes is a better method for preventing unintended pregnancies over abstinence-only sex education. 
About 70 percent of Catholic Millennials believe “it is morally acceptable to use contraception.”

Most Millennial Catholics also tend to believe that private companies should be required to cover contraception in employee health plans. Sixty percent of white Catholics agree with this, and 68 percent of Hispanic Catholics.

LGBT issues.

Gay rights garners an even higher percentage of support among Millennials. More than eight in 10 white and Hispanic Catholics favor laws that would protect gays and lesbians against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing,” a bit higher than the overall rate of 73 percent.

The report said that 7 percent of Millennials identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Among religiously unaffiliated Millennials, 12 percent identify as LGBT, but the number drops for Catholics: Just 6 percent of Hispanic Catholics and 2 percent of White Catholics identify as LGBT.
Meanwhile, demoted Cardinal Raymond Burke is saying that gays, remarried Catholics and murderers are all the same.  Talk about trying to drive younger Catholics away!  Because of mindsets like Burke's, I suspect that the percentage of Catholic Millennials is so low because most simply leave the Church and no longer consider themselves Catholic.  My children, while straight, have walked away from the Church and have not looked back.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

What the GOP "Religious Freedon" Orgy Means to the GOP Primary

I've said much about the horrible bigotry now enacted into law in Indiana - and more such laws are pending in other states (the effort in Virginia failed in part because of a veto threat by Terry McAuliffe, but expect it to return and be a topic in campaigns this fall).  Granting special rights to Christians has become an obsession with some in the GOP - even more than pushing reverse Robin Hood policies - and may well play a significant role in the unfolding three ring circus of the GOP presidential primaries.  A piece in Salon looks at how the Christofascists demands for special rights could roil the GOP primary process.  Here are some article highlights:

The rapid realignment of public and judicial opinion over the last decade toward gay rights has embroiled the Christian right in an existential crisis. That’s the way they see it, at least, which is why they’re framing the advance of gay rights in America as an assault on “religious freedom” generally, and Christianity specifically. It’s a bogus argument – the religious freedoms of Christian conservatives are not and never have been dependent upon the denial of rights to gay people – but the cause is being championed by conservatives in state governments who have moved to pass laws protecting discrimination against gays as an expression of “religious freedom.”

One of those conservatives is Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law yesterday. The law will allow business owners who refuse to provide services to gay people to cite their religious beliefs in their own defense if they end up getting sued.. . . . this law and others like it are written very broadly and could allow for all manner of discriminatory behavior.

Paul Waldman, writing at the Washington Post, notes that the controversy over the law could very easily spill over into the 2016 Republican presidential nominating contest:
The more news this Indiana law gets, the more likely it is that it will become an issue in the presidential primaries. And it fits neatly within the key divide among Republicans: on one side you could have business groups that are nervous about negative economic impacts and strategists who don’t want the GOP to be known as the party of discrimination, while on the other side you have candidates eager for the votes of religious right primary voters.
It’s not hard to pick out the 2016 aspirants who would be most likely to support Pence on this one. Basically, if they’ve ever said anything in defense of the homophobic asshole from that stupid duck show – looking at you, Bobby Jindal – then there’s a pretty strong chance they’ll get down with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This fight also fall squarely within Rick Santorum’s and Mike Huckabee’s cultural-resentment wheelhouses.

If there’s anyone this issue is tailor-made for, though, it’s Ted Cruz. When Cruz formally announced his presidential campaign earlier this week, he explicitly stated that he hoped to ride to victory on the backs of Christian conservatives.  . . . . while Cruz doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of “experience” to boast about, he does have something to bring to the table when it comes to fighting on behalf of Christians against government “overreach.
What will be interesting to see is if and how candidates like Jeb Bush react to the Indiana “religious freedom” controversy. Bush is a Christian and plenty conservative, but he also has an eye on appealing to primary voters outside the Christian right, and appealing to a broader American electorate that is far more supportive of gay rights. For my money, though, the man to watch will be Rand Paul.  Remember, there was a time not long ago when Rand Paul said that even though it was bad business to “exclude anyone” from your establishment, . . . He has, of course, since disavowed ever having believed anything of the sort, but who knows – maybe the Indiana “religious freedom” law and the need to win over some primary voters will rekindle some of that old-school libertarianism.
Despite the downside for those in states enacting such laws, for the Democrats on a longer term basis, these laws may do two things: (i) drive the GOP presidential primary contestants into crazy land and (ii) repulse decent people from supporting the GOP.  As I said, here in Virginia, the entire House of Delegates is up for reelection in November, and I am sure that The Family Foundation will be making support for such laws a litmus test for Republican candidates.

Morning in Blue America - Will the GOP Kill the Recovery?

Both the House of Representatives and Senate have passed budgets that will savage the social safety net, slash spending except for defense which will increase, and transfer wealth from the poor and working classes to the wealthy.  The budgets must still be reconciled, but the only thing that will protect the American public is a veto by the White House.   Throughout the Obama presidency, the Republicans have sought to sabotage the economy rather than allow Obama have a successfully presidency.  These budgets are the latest incarnation of this effort.  Ironically, despite all these efforts of sabotage  and obstruction, the economy has improved, albeit more slowly than might otherwsie have been the case.  A column in the New York Times looks at the derangement of the GOP agenda and the danger these madmen and women pose.  Here are excerpts:
Two impossible things happened to the U.S. economy over the course of the past year — or at least they were supposed to be impossible, according to the ideology that dominates half our political spectrum. First, remember how Obamacare was supposed to be a gigantic job killer? Well, in the first year of the Affordable Care Act’s full implementation, the U.S. economy as a whole added 3.3 million jobs — the biggest gain since the 1990s. Second, half a million of those jobs were added in California, which has taken the lead in job creation away from Texas.

What we’ve been seeing at both the national and the state level is mainly a natural process of recovery as the economy finally starts to heal from the housing and debt bubbles of the Bush years.
But recent job growth, nonetheless, has big political implications — implications so disturbing to many on the right that they are in frantic denial, claiming that the recovery is somehow bogus. Why can’t they handle the good news? The answer actually comes on three levels: Obama Derangement Syndrome, or O.D.S.; Reaganolatry; and the confidence con.

Not much need be said about O.D.S. It is, by now, a fixed idea on the right that this president is both evil and incompetent, that everything touched by the atheist Islamic Marxist Kenyan Democrat — mostly that last item — must go terribly wrong. When good news arrives about the budget, or the economy, or Obamacare — which is, by the way, rapidly reducing the number of uninsured while costing much less than expected — it must be denied.

At a deeper level, modern conservative ideology utterly depends on the proposition that conservatives, and only they, possess the secret key to prosperity. As a result, you often have politicians on the right making claims like this one, from Senator Rand Paul: “When is the last time in our country we created millions of jobs? It was under Ronald Reagan.”

Actually, if creating “millions of jobs” means adding two million or more jobs in a given year, we’ve done that 13 times since Reagan left office: eight times under Bill Clinton, . . . .  and three times, so far, under Barack Obama. But who’s counting? . . . . The economy added 23 million jobs under Clinton, compared with 16 million under Reagan, but there’s nothing on the left comparable to the cult of the Blessed Ronald. 

Conservatives, on the other hand, want to block such things and, instead, to cut taxes on the rich and slash aid to the less fortunate. So they must claim both that liberal policies are job killers and that being nice to the rich is a magic elixir.

One enduring puzzle of political economy is why business interests so often oppose policies to fight unemployment. After all, boosting the economy with expansionary monetary and fiscal policy is good for profits as well as wages, yet many wealthy individuals and business leaders demand tight money and austerity instead.

As a number of observers have pointed out, however, for big businesses to admit that government policies can create jobs would be to devalue one of their favorite political arguments — the claim that to achieve prosperity politicians must preserve business confidence, among other things, by refraining from any criticism of what businesspeople do.

[T]he fact that we’re now seeing mornings in blue America — solid job growth both at the national level and in states that have defied the right’s tax-cutting, deregulatory orthodoxy — is a big problem for conservatives. Although they would never admit it, events have proved their most cherished beliefs wrong.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

The Christian Right Plan to Sink Jeb Bush

As the initial phases of the GOP presidential nomination dance begin, two battle lines are shaping up: the Christofascists/Tea Party element versus the so-called establishment faction.  It goes without saying that anyone remotely sane and in touch with objective reality will not be acceptable to the Christofascists/Tea Party no matter how unelectable the "real conservative" might be in the general election.  The fear currently ripping through the Christofascists/Tea Party crowd is that Jeb Bush might become the GOP nominee.  Faced with this perceived threat, the Christofascists/Tea Party want to conspire and align behind a candidate that is sufficiently extreme on culture war issues and obsequious to the Christofascists/Tea Party king makers.  The New York Times looks at the effort which (i) proves the Christofascists' detachment from reality and (ii) could prove damaging to the GOP.  Here are excerpts (note the roles being played by notorious hate group leaders):
Fearing that Republicans will ultimately nominate an establishment presidential candidate like Jeb Bush, leaders of the nation’s Christian right have mounted an ambitious effort to coalesce their support behind a single social-conservative contender months before the first primary votes are cast.

In secret straw polls and exclusive meetings from Iowa to California, the leaders are weighing the relative appeal and liabilities of potential standard-bearers like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.

“There’s a shared desire to come behind a candidate,” said Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, a national [hate] lobbying group that opposes abortion and equal rights for gays.

The leaders of evangelical and other socially conservative groups say they do not believe that Mr. Bush, the former governor of Florida — whom they already view as the preferred candidate of the Republican Party’s establishment — would fight for the issues they care most about: opposing same-sex marriage, holding the line on an immigration overhaul and rolling back abortion rights.

The efforts to coalesce behind an alternative candidate — in frequent calls, teleconferences and meetings involving a range of organizations, many of them with overlapping memberships — are premised on two articles of conservative faith: Republicans did not win the White House in the past two elections because their nominees were too moderate and failed to excite the party’s base. And a conservative alternative failed to win the nomination each time because voters did not unite behind a single champion in the primary fight.

This time, social conservatives vow, will be different. They plan to unify behind an anti-establishment candidate by summer or early fall . . . . candidates seen as having potential to energize the party’s right wing would be invited to make their case before national groups of social conservatives in the coming weeks and months.

Of course, the basic premise driving the conservatives’ effort — that Republicans have a better shot at the White House by nominating a hard-right candidate who excites the grass roots — is rejected by the party’s establishment, which views a hard-line nominee as a recipe for a crushing defeat in 2016.

Some on the Christian right remain skeptical of the effort to settle on a single socially conservative candidate. Similar attempts in 2008 and 2012 collapsed because no consensus was reached . . .

The yearning for a single conservative contender to unite behind was perhaps most in evidence last month when a dozen leaders of evangelical and other groups gathered for a half-day conference to discuss possible candidates in Dana Point, Calif.

The retreat, at the five-star St. Regis Monarch Beach resort, was the latest in a series organized by Mr. Perkins, of the Family Research Center, according to people briefed about the proceedings.
The session culminated in a vote for “the most viable candidate.” The result, projected on a screen at the front of a conference room, showed Mr. Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, as the winner.

“No question that conservative leaders around the country would love to coalesce around a candidate,” said Bob Vander Plaats, a social conservative leader in Iowa. “But it’s easier said than done.”
For the sake of the country, let's hope that they succeed and that their anointed candidate goes down to crushing defeat.  Just maybe if that happens, the Christfascists will be exiled to the political wilderness where they belong.