Saturday, May 21, 2011

Is the GOP Trying to Rein In the Frankenstein Monster it Created?

Sometimes looking only at short term gain and expediency sets the stage for disaster in the longer view. A case in point? The Republican Party which first sold its soul to the Christofascists of the religious right - turning the GOP into a quasi-sectarian party in the longer run - and then, not have learned from its prior round of putting short term gain ahead of the party's long term future, brokered a deal with the Tea Party which now has shown itself to be an uncontrollable Frankenstein monster. One would thing that anyone with a shred of intelligence would have realized that embracing ignorance and a element of society absolutely untethered from reality might not be such a great idea. But not so with the GOP which now faced with the problem of finding a 2012 presidential nominee who might have a real chance at victory. The problem is that the party base has become so extreme that anyone with a chance of winning in the general election is unlikely to get the support of the Kool-Aid drinkers of the Christian Taliban and the Tea Party (the two are often much the same in terms of their insanity and religious extremism). Huffington Post has a piece that looks at the GOP's self created problem. Here are highlights:
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DES MOINES, Iowa — Some leading Republicans are trying to entice a more established candidate to jump into the presidential race, a courtship that's aggravating tensions between tea partyers and the GOP's traditional business wing, a deep-pocketed source of financial support in the campaign.
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The behind-the-scenes efforts have been taken as a snub by some tea party organizers who favor the anti-establishment messages of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who are in the race or are considering it. New contenders could undermine their chances for donors and for success.
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"It's extremely upsetting to hear that the establishment is courting their own candidate when Michele Bachmann, the gold standard, has been in the fight, bucking the establishment that got us in this mess," said Katrina Pierson, a Dallas tea party leader and emerging national figure for the movement.
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The 2012 Republican field is wide open. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is considered the closest to a front-runner, but his support for his state's health care plan has alienated some conservatives. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is not widely known.
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Bachmann has generated enthusiastic responses from tea party activists in Iowa, where the GOP nominating caucuses are set to begin the 2012 run to the nomination. She said the search for a more traditional candidate could turn off some newly engaged conservative voters, whom the GOP needs to defeat Obama.
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A group of Iowa Republican donors plans to meet with Christie in New Jersey later in May to try to persuade him to enter the race. The first-term governor, who has attracted national attention as an aggressive budget-cutter, has ruled out running. Daniels, formerly a former business executive and White House budget director, plans to announce his plans in the next few weeks. [Jeb] Bush has said he isn't considering a campaign.

Saturday Male Beauty

The Right Wing's Anti-Transgender Jihad

As a number of blogs have noted, including a piece by fellow contributor Austen Crowder on The Bilerico Project, the hate merchants of the far right are ratcheting up their anti-transgender noise machine in reaction the Chaz Bono's visibility and media coverage. In addition to the typical red herring that transgender equality legislation will allow sexual predators to dress as women and stalk women and young girls in restrooms, the more untethered are calling for sex reassignment surgery to be made illegal. The common threads in all of the rants are (1) that Christianist religious views must be imposed on all and (2) that non-heterosexuals - transgender individuals in particular - be utterly dehumanized into some subhuman category. As I've stated before, the folks continue to use the blueprint laid down by the Nazis of 70+ years ago to dehumanize Jews. Here 's a sampling from Austen's post:
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The bad news? Back at the ranch of sexual repression, the collecitve social conservative blogosphere is waking up to discover that transgender people exist - and having a coronary in the process. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the "make it illegal" offense:
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After decades of liberals peddling the idea that gender doesn't matter and is just a "social construct" suddenly we are told by these same liberals like Mr. Bono that gender does matter to the point that the gender we are born in may not be satisfactory. Yet, if gender is just a social construct, as has been maintained for decades by feminists, why not change the "paradigm," stay in the body one is born with and be happy?[...]

And we must say no. As a society, it is time to draw a line in the sand. The human body must be protected from those who seek to do it harm. . . . Transgender surgeries and transformations ought to be illegal altogether -- much as suicide is illegal in some states. If we do not render transgender operations illegal, how will we address those who insist they are uncomfortable with two arms or two legs and want amputation?
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Then there's AFA's douche bag in chief, Bryan Fischer, who is alleging that it is gay activists - not Christofascists like himself and those spurred to violence by screeds from pulpits - who are the "number one perpetrators of hate crimes in America." Right Wing Watch has a report of Fischer's latest hate filled batshitery. Here are highlights:
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So far this week, Bryan Fischer has called gay activists Nazis, likened them to Spanish Inquisition and Torquemada, and said they will forcibly brainwash anyone who does not "support sexual deviancy."
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So how could he possibly top that? By seizing on the fact that Peter Vidmar stepped down from his position with the 2012 U.S. Olympic team over his support for Proposition 8 to announce that it is now his goal in life to prove that "the number one class of people who are committing hate crimes today are homosexual activists":
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Pride Cookout - A Busy Pre-Pride Weekend

This weekend has a number of events running up to Pride week (several already took place last night), including the first Ocean View Pier Party of 2011 which kicks off at 5:00 PM this afternoon (a $5 donation is being collected at the door). The Ocean View Pier is located at 4th View and I-64 on the beach. A full schedule of weekend events can be found here.
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As noted a couple of days ago, the boyfriend and I are hosting (with help from friends) a fundraising event at our home at 1615 Chesapeake Avenue in Hampton tomorrow to help underwrite the costs of putting on both Hampton Road Pride's "Out in the Park" in Norfolk's Town Point Park on Sunday, June 5, 2011 and the City of Hampton's "Diversity and Pride" in Hampton's Millpoint Park which will take place on Saturday, June 11, 2011.
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The event tomorrow is from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM. The menu will include BBQ numerous side dishes, desserts, beer, wine and other beverages - compliments of the boyfriend, myself and friends who will be recognized at the event. The cost is $15 pre-paid or $25 at the door.
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Local readers who would like to attend and show their support for "Out in the Park" and Hampton's "Diversity and Pride" events need to come out! To purchase tickets, use this link here now.

"Grossing Up" to End Employment Benefit Inequities

Often I encounter those from out side the LGBT community who ask why same sex couples cannot settle for something less than "marriage" and thereby avoid at least of the culture war assaults from the far right. The question has a few ready answers. First, assuming one is willing to throw away a desires for legal equality, the far right will not readily allow same sex couples to have any recognition whatsoever of their relationships. For example, Virginia's vile Marshall-Newman Amendment bars recognition of anything legal status that tries to approximate the rights of marriage. And Virginia's constitutional amendment is not unique in this regard. Of equal importance is the fact that the word "marriage" triggers so many rights and legal advantages that "civil union" or "domestic partnership" fail to provide. One huge area is in terms of employment benefits and health care insurance coverage in particular - a same sex spouse gets taxed on such coverage whereas a "spouse" does not. Fortunately, a growing number of large companies are taking steps to reduce the inequity by "grossing up" - in simple terms, paying - the tax impact. An article in the New York Times looks at this trend. Here are highlights:
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[A] growing number of companies have taken it upon themselves to make life a little more equal for their gay employees. These companies are reaching into their own pockets to pay for an extra tax that their gay employees owe on their partners’ health insurance — something that their married heterosexual co-workers don’t have to worry about because the federal government recognizes them as an economic unit.
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To gay employees, gaining equal benefits is about more than the money. The gesture itself validates their relationship with their partners at a time when the government has not. Most heterosexuals take for granted that they can add a spouse or children to their employer’s health plan. But gay employees with partners have that option only if they work for an organization that offers domestic partner coverage. And even when the coverage is available, it costs gay couples more because they are taxed on the value of those benefits.
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“It very quickly became a litmus test among employees for how welcoming their firm was,” said Daryl Herrschaft, director of the workplace project at the Human Rights Campaign. “A lot of folks were very proud of their companies and wanted to tell a lot of people, and in doing so, it sparked some competition.”
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The competition has become most apparent in a handful of industries, notably law firms, big consulting companies and in Silicon Valley. More Wall Street firms, meanwhile, are said to be considering the policy.
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[T]t wasn’t until Google started compensating its employees last June that the movement really began to take off. Apple, Facebook, Barclays, McKinsey and Bain & Company are some of the prominent names that followed suit. Even more companies have said they publicly support same-sex marriage or equal financial treatment for gay couples, but they haven’t gone as far as adopting the policy. About 58 percent of Fortune 500 companies extend domestic partner coverage to employees with same-sex partners,

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One of the biggest obstacles to adopting the gross up policy has been concern about the cost and legal implications. Will people rush to sign up? Many firms, for instance, decided to make only same-sex employees with domestic partners eligible since opposite-sex couples have the option to marry.
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Generally, it would cost an employer about $2,000 to $2,500 to gross up an employee who incurred extra taxes of $1,200 to $1,500, according to Joseph S. Adams, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery who specializes in employee benefits. The numbers will vary depending on several factors, including the employee’s tax bracket and state of residence.
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With more companies adopting the more generous policy, others are now looking at whether they’re offering the basics for gay employees. As Cynthia Yeung, a San Francisco resident who is on the steering committee of her employer’s L.G.B.T. group, put it, “When you raise the bar, everyone has to jump a little higher to be average.”

Friday, May 20, 2011

More Friday Male Beauty

GOP's Popularity Plummets in Key States


After regaining control of the House of Representatives in 1994, the GOP overplayed its hand and foolishly believed it had a mandate to inflict both bad economic policy and the Christianist equivalent to Sharia law on the country. The voters had a quick and violent reaction and the GOP's plans ended up crashing and burning. It seems we may be about to see a reprise of that phenomenon as GOP governors in key states who rode the Tea Party's insanity to victory now potentially pull down the entire GOP effort in 2012. The American public - at least outside of the Tea Party and the Kool-Aid drinkers of the Christian Taliban - do not like extremism and they don't like ideologues. A column in the Daily Beast looks at the free fall in popularity overtaking strident GOP governors in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin who are dragging the GOP brand down with them. Here are some highlights:
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Less than a year after a cadre of Republican firebrands swept into statehouses from Ohio to Florida to Wisconsin, voters are turning on them. The cycle of over-reach and backlash is in over-drive these days—with significant implications for the 2012 presidential election. In pivotal swing-states where voters narrowly elected Republican governors in 2010—like Florida and Ohio (with 47 electoral votes between them)—evidence of buyer's remorse is piling up fast.
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The latest sign: on Tuesday, Alvin Brown became the first Democrat elected mayor of Jacksonville—Florida's largest city—in 20 years. Just seven months ago, Republicans swept the Sunshine State with Tea Party-backed candidate Rick Scott winning the governor's office with a 1.2 percent margin of victory.
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[I]nstead of consolidating support by reaching out and winning over the reasonable edge of the opposition, as popular past Republican governors like Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist have done, Scott continued with his campaign posture of refusing to talk to the press. He canceled a $2 billion federal high-speed rail project and is seeking to delay (and functionally deny) implementation of an anti-gerrymandering reform ballot referendum overwhelmingly passed in 2010. Now Rick Scott finds himself the least popular newly elected governor in Florida history.
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Reflecting on the upset in the Jacksonville mayor's race, St. Petersburg Political Editor Adam Smith said, "Jacksonville is a Republican stronghold, but even with that relatively conservative electorate polls show Barack Obama more popular than Rick Scott.
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In Ohio, Governor John Kasich is struggling as well, after narrowly defeating Democrat incumbent Ted Strickland last fall. A new Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday found Kasich's approval numbers decidedly upside down, . . .
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It's not an isolated dynamic—the accelerated buyer's remorse is evident in other states as well. In Maine, Tea Party-backed Republican Paul LePage beat Independent candidate Eliot Cutler by less than 7,500 votes last fall. . . . . A recent poll found that only three out of 10 Maine residents approved of LePage's job in office.
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In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker's new effort to have same-sex couples' hospital visitation rights rescinded is unlikely to improve his approval ratings, especially among the 27 percent of independent voters in the state.
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Swing voters supported Republicans in 2010 because they wanted a check and balance against unified Democratic control of Washington. They wanted to rein in unsustainable spending in the name of generational responsibility. They took Republicans at their word that social conservative evangelizing would be 'de-emphasized' in favor of more urgent economic concerns. But the conservative activist crowd couldn't help themselves.
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Extremes are always ultimately their own sides worst enemy—in this case, making it more difficult for Republicans to win swing votes in these pivotal swing states come 2012.

FedEx’s Multi-Pronged Attack on the LGBT Community

This morning I wrote about the efforts of a number of corporations in Tennessee to throw LGBT citizens under the bus. The story line gets worse as some of the anti-gay culprits try to cover their tracks - including some that obviously need to have their "gay- friendly" rankings severely revised by HRC. Among the worse is FedEx which as AmericaBlog Gay reports has much more anti-gay dirt on its hands - e.g., Jon Cannon (pictured at right) , senior vice president of global operations for FedEx Office and Print Services, Inc., was a major donor to the Prop 8 campaign. I did call FedEx today and let loose with my thoughts. Next week I will be dumping my not insignificant position in FedEx stock and pursuing a different courier service for the law firm since I refuse to do business with corporations that support demonizing and bigotry against the LGBT community. FedEx and other supporters of anti-LGBT bigotry need to pay a price in the form of declining revenues and plunging stock values. Here are highlights from AmericaBlog Gay's update post: for their
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We learned yesterday that FedEx, as a member of the board of directors of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, was one of the companies responsible for passage of a religious-right sponsored bill that would repeal Nashville's gay/trans civil rights ordinance AND ban any municipal civil rights laws in that state, forever.
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Today one of our intrepid readers discovered that a senior exec at FedEx was also a major donor to the Prop 8 campaign that stole marriage rights away from gay couples in California: Jonathan Cannon - Senior VP of US Operations $9,999 Who is Jonathan Cannon? He's the Senior VP for US and Global Operations of Fedex.
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FedEx's senior VP helps repeal gay rights in California. FedEx itself helps repeal gay/trans rights in Tennessee. It's difficult not to see a pattern.
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Please join the nearly 4,000 people who, in a little over 12 hours, have signed our open letter to FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer, Alcoa, and United HealthCare, telling that bigotry is bad for business, and that they'd better fix this, fast.

Friday Male Beauty

Did Obama Help Launch the Nacent Manufacturing Turn Around?

Image from Creative Commons

In many ways the far right and the GOP seem Hell bent to destroy the USA - all, of course, in the name of saving it. Along the way, millions of Americans are being thrown under the economic bus. All done by those who give lip service to religious values, yet then utterly disregard the main Gospel message and instead cling to selective Bible passages to justify their widespread hatred of others. Paul Krugman has a column that looks at the efforts of the GOP and its lunatic base in contrast to what seems to be the small beginnings of a positive trend: new manufacturing jobs. And some of the positives trace to Obama and the efforts to stabilize the economy after the 8 years of the Chimperator's misrule. Here are highlights from Krugman's column in the New York Times:
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Manufacturing is one of the bright spots of a generally disappointing recovery, and there are signs — preliminary, but hopeful, nonetheless — that a sustained comeback may be under way. And there’s something else you should know: If right-wing critics of efforts to rescue the economy had gotten their way, this comeback wouldn’t be happening.
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Crucially, the manufacturing trade deficit seems to be coming down. At this point, it’s only about half as large as a share of G.D.P. as it was at the peak of the housing bubble, and further improvements are in the pipeline. The Boston Consulting Group, which is now predicting a U.S. “manufacturing renaissance,” points to major U.S. firms like Caterpillar that once shifted production abroad but are now moving it back. At the same time, companies from other countries, especially European firms, are moving production to America.
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And one potential disaster has been avoided: the U.S. auto industry, which many people were writing off just two years ago, has weathered the storm. In particular, General Motors has now had five consecutive profitable quarters. America’s industrial heartland is now leading the economic recovery.
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First, what’s driving the turnaround in our manufacturing trade? The main answer is that the U.S. dollar has fallen against other currencies, helping give U.S.-based manufacturing a cost advantage. A weaker dollar, it turns out, was just what U.S. industry needed.
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Yet the Federal Reserve finds itself under intense pressure from the right to make the dollar stronger, not weaker. A few months ago, Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, berated Ben Bernanke for failing to tighten monetary policy, declaring: “There is nothing more insidious that a country can do to its citizens than debase its currency.” If Mr. Bernanke had given in to that kind of pressure, manufacturing would have continued its relentless decline.
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And then there’s the matter of the auto industry, which probably would have imploded if President Obama hadn’t stepped in to rescue General Motors and Chrysler. For those companies would almost surely have gone into liquidation, closing all their factories. And this liquidation would have undermined the rest of America’s auto industry, as essential suppliers went under, too. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were at stake.
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Yet Mr. Obama was fiercely denounced for taking action. One Republican congressman declared the auto rescue part of the administration’s “war on capitalism.” Another insisted that when government gets involved in a company, “the disaster that follows is predictable.” Not so much, it turns out.
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So while we still have a deeply troubled economy, one piece of good news is that Americans are, once again, starting to actually make things. And we’re doing that thanks, in large part, to the fact that the Fed and the Obama administration ignored very bad advice from right-wingers — ideologues who still, in the face of all the evidence, claim to know something about creating prosperity.

Big Business In Tennessee Side With Cristofascists


As AmericaBlog Gay is reporting, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce - chaired by Nissan, and whose other board members include such companies as FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer, Alcoa, and United HealthCare all actively lobbied for a religious right bill in the Tennessee the purpose of which is to rescind Nashville's civil rights protections for gay and transgender citizens. But the bill goes even further: it bans every city in Tennessee from passing any civil rights laws, for anyone. It looks like I'll be canceling my Federal Express account today and selling some of the stocks I inherited from my late mother - FedEx being one of them. I also wish I'd know about Nissan's role - my daughter would be driving a different brand of vehicle. These corporations apparently feel free to show contempt for LGBT citizens. Well, that needs to be a two way street and the LGBT community needs to treat these companies with the same contempt that they demonstrate towards us. Please sign the petition to let these companies know that they will be paying a price. Here are some highlights on this corporate bigotry:
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Nissan . . . FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer, Alcoa, and United HealthCare - actively lobbied for a religious right bill. The bill passed yesterday. It's on its way to the state's Republican governor for his signature, unless he vetoes it.
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And these companies led the way in making it happen. And let me reiterate, these companies aren't just members of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce. These compares are all on the board of directors of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce. They run the TN Chamber.
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Make no mistake, this was legislative gay-bashing at its worst. The legislation was crafted by the religious right in order to repeal Nashville's new ordinance protecting gay and trans residents from discrimination. Apparently not discriminating against their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees was just too much to ask from FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG. Whirlpool, Embraer, Alcoa, and United HealthCare. According to the TN chamber of commerce, of which they all sit on the board, abiding by such protections would be too much of an "additional burden." Really? It's now a burden to simply not discriminate against your own employees? I'm a lawyer, it's really not that complicated of legal advice. Simply don't discriminate against your employees. How complicated is that? So why would these companies, as board members of the TN chamber, permit their own organization to kill this gay and trans civil rights law?
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And don't for a minute buy the chamber's excuse that this is about business, not prejudice. Every other minority is protected in the state under federal law. Gays and trans are not. The law was the idea of the religious right. The lead lobbyist on the law was the religious right. The only victim of the law was the LGBT community.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thursday Male Beauty

The Disingenuousness of the Deficit Debate

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne has a column in the Post that looks at the disingenuousness of the GOP leadership in the on-going budget deficit debate. Yes, there are insane ideologues in the ranks of House Republicans who would destroy the country and make the lives of many citizens truly horrific in order to pander to the nastiest elements of the GOP base who constantly rewrite history and seem utterly untethered from any kind of objective reality. But as Dionne notes, there still are some adults left in the GOP leadership ranks - although I would not count Virginia's Eric Cantor among them - so a great deal of the GOP posturing is simply disingenuous and the question becomes one of when will the adults rein in the crazies. Assuming, of course, they can still control the Frankenstein monsters of the Christian Taliban and the Tea Party that they opportunistically helped create. Here are highlights from Dionne's column:
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Symbolism doesn’t pay off debts or cover the costs of Social Security and Medicare. This has not stopped politicians in the nation’s capital from engaging in an extended and entirely symbolic fight over how to raise the debt ceiling. It’s time to stop the charade.
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The outlines of an eventual deal are already clear. Both parties will agree to some spending cuts and to a deficit-reduction trigger that won’t take effect until well after the 2012 elections. The triggering language will be vague enough so Republicans can say it would force large spending reductions and Democrats can say it would allow for a mix of cuts and tax increases.
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Republicans holding the debt ceiling increase hostage to their efforts to eviscerate programs know perfectly well that Congress will not risk a financial crisis. They even acknowledge this.
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Yet Boehner needs to push things to the brink because the Tea Party members of his caucus believe that last year’s election gave the GOP a “mandate” to make their wildest small-government dreams a reality. Boehner is trying to appease the right with extended rounds of shadow-boxing and big slabs of anti-spending rhetoric.
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Of course, there was no Tea Party mandate. Democrats still have a majority in the Senate in part because the Tea Party doomed Republican chances of taking it over last year by helping to nominate unelectable candidates, notably Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada. And the evidence is unmistakable that Republicans realize the budget they adopted last month, confected by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), is a political albatross.
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In the campaign for next week’s special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District, Republican Jane Corwin is in unexpected jeopardy because Democrat Kathy Hochul has turned the election into a referendum on Ryan’s budget and its Medicare cuts. Astonishingly (and falsely), Corwin is now accusing the Democrat of favoring Medicare cuts. . . . Republicans will toss the Ryan budget overboard if that’s what it takes to save House seats.
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And Newt Gingrich is being punished by his party for the great sin of telling the truth about the Ryan budget: Voters simply won’t buy “right-wing social engineering.” . . . All the goodwill in the world can’t get around the fact that the bulk of the deficit problem over the next decade or so arises from the ongoing impact of the Bush-era tax cuts.
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Having lost on Medicare, Republicans are likely to drop back and seek huge Medicaid cuts — and Ryan’s reductions here are, if anything, worse than his Medicare reductions. As even the cautious Congressional Budget Office concluded, his Medicaid plan “would probably require states to . . . curtail eligibility for Medicaid, provide less extensive coverage to beneficiaries, or pay more themselves.” The cuts would especially harm those with disabilities, who account for 42 percent of Medicaid expenditures.
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The president could also usefully interrupt our deficit obsession for a moment to remind Congress that 13.7 million Americans are still unemployed. If setting up a mechanism for cutting the deficit in the long term makes sense, slashing it now would be foolish.
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That’s why a quick and narrow deal to raise the debt ceiling is the only sensible way out of this time-wasting confrontation. It is truly irrational to risk the nation’s credit standing for the purpose of offering empty symbols to the Tea Party.

Christianity and the Globalization of Homophobia

I vent frequently about the unvarnished hatred that seems to be the principal face of Christianity today as it becomes increasingly it seems a religion defined by those the self-anointed, "Godly Christian" set hate. And as noted many times, the list of those who are hated is lengthy. On the other end of the spectrum among self-identified Christians are the liberal denominations who while increasingly accepting of LGBT people - e.g., the Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran, and now Presbyterian Churches - continue to sit on their hands and refuse to condemn the rank hate and bigotry of other supposed Christians. I equate such Christians with the "Good Germans" who closed their eyes and in most cases did absolutely nothing to counter the rise of Hitler and The Final Solution. A column in Ekklesia looks at the phenomenon principally in terms of the United Kingdom, but the analysis applies on a much wider scope. The column also looks at the way in which the original teachings of Christ - to the extent we even know them - have been perverted and ignored by those who seek power and privilege. Special rights if you will. Here are some highlights:
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Many people identify Christianity with homophobia, misogyny, social control and sexual abuse. I can hardly blame them for doing so. All manner of evil has been justified in the name of Christianity. Much of the Church is, to one extent or another, homophobic. This homophobia is perpetuated by bigots who define their faith by their hatred of gay people and by liberals who fail to speak up for inclusion out of a misplaced desire for unity. The hypocrisy which often accompanies such prejudice has been exposed in its most sickening form in recent revelations about church-based child abuse.
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But there are also many inclusive Christians. Quakers, Unitarians and the Metropolitan Community Church are ready to carry out same-sex marriages. Within larger denominations, such as the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, there are individuals and groups who back inclusion.
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[W]e are now seeing the signs of a systematic backlash against LGBT rights. Certain groups - such as Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre - put much if not most of their energy into campaigning against the acceptance of homosexuality and bisexuality. . . . At the same time, there has been a rise in the promotion of so-called therapy to "heal" gay and bisexual people.
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[G]roups such as Christian Concern play a vital role in giving a fa├žade of moral respectability to homophobia. That's why they are so frequently quoted in the Daily Mail.
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If we are to defeat homophobia, we must try to understand why some are so keen to promote it. This means understanding the role that disputes over sexuality have come to play within Christianity. And so here, please allow me to take you on a whistlestop tour through significant moments in the history of Christianity.
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We begin with Jesus, who practised radical inclusivity, challenged the powerful and taught forgiveness, nonviolence and love for all people, including enemies. He proclaimed freedom - freedom from social, political, religious and emotional oppression. They killed Jesus because he was too free. Jesus repeatedly broke the sexual conventions of his day. This point is constantly overlooked. He allowed women to make physical contact with him in a society that found it shocking. He redefined family, saying, "Whoever does the will of God is my brother, my mother, my sister". He condemned divorce in a society in which only a man could initiate a divorce, reducing his wife to social disgrace and often poverty. He socialised with prostitutes. . . . No wonder that Jesus has been such a profound embarrassment to Christianity.
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Today, those who talk loudest about "Christian values" are often those who pay least attention to Jesus' lifestyle and teachings. . . . As the Church became part of the establishment, it became much easier to attack the sexual sins of individuals than the structural sins of exploitation and war. Theologians such as Augustine developed the notion of "original sin", arguing that sex was the means by which original sin was passed on. At the same time, they abandoned early Christian pacifism in favour of "just war" theory. The combined effect was that the focus of sin was moved away from violence and on to sex.
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This was the beginning of Christendom . . . . The term "Christendom" describes a situation in which the Church gives moral sanction to the state and in return is privileged and protected by the state's laws and armies.
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Over the last few decades, Christendom has been fading in Britain as our country has become more diverse and multifaith. Far fewer people are familiar with Christianity. Some Christian groups, such as Ekklesia, see Post-Christendom as an exciting opportunity to move on from Christianity's compromise with wealth and power and look again at the subversive teachings of Jesus.
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Other Christians find Post-Christendom unsettling. People who are used to privilege find it hard to give up. Indeed, they are - almost by definition - generally unaware that they are privileged, seeing the request of others for equality as an unreasonable demand.
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Perhaps because social and legal attitudes towards same-sex relationships have changed relatively quickly, homosexuality has become a key issue for socially conservative groups such as Christian Concern and Anglican Mainstream. Indeed, it has gone beyond being a key issue. They almost define their religion by it.
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This is as theologically absurd as it is morally repugnant. Even if we were to interpret the Bible as condemning same-sex relationships, that would hardly make it the key issue for Christians to campaign on. The Bible says a great deal more about the use of money than it does about sex. Yet I've never seen Christian Concern and Anglican Mainstream campaign against the prevailing political ideology which sacrifices compassion and humanity on the altars of the free market.
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To challenge the homophobia that these groups promote, we must recognise that it comes from a place of fear about loss of status. . . . I'd like to suggest four ways in which I think it can be tackled.
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Firstly, it is vital that inclusive Christians stand up and speak out firmly against the exclusion and marginalisation of sexual minorities. As long as the anti-equality lobby can claim that they represent Christianity, they are able to give the impression of having a great many supporters while they misuse the language of rights and liberty to promote their agenda.
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Secondly, pro-equality Christians need to be prepared to work with people of other religions and of none to challenge homophobia, even when this means campaigning alongside non-Christians against other Christians.
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Thirdly, we must stand firm against homophobia without ever descending to the level of personal hatred for homophobes.
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Fourthly, we must recognise that homophobia is one of many injustices in our society, that LGBT people are one of several groups who continue to experience marginalisation. Homophobia has historically been a means of social control, that keeps people in structures that serve the interests of those with wealth and power. And the powerful are always ready to co-opt previously radical movements for their own ends. In recent years, many companies and corporations have seen so-called gay culture as a moneymaking opportunity.
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To follow Jesus is to stand against the dominant values of our society and to face the prejudices of those who try to make us conform. Following Jesus means standing up to the powerful and, sometimes, standing up to the Church.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More Wednesday Male Beauty

GOP CIvil War Over the Ryan Budget

I swear, nothing is more fun these days than watching the loons of the GOP tear each other apart as they try to destroy the nation's safety net for the elderly and unfortunate and jockey for supposed political advantage. The big question is whether Democrats will use the GOP free for all to their advantage or seize defeat from the jaws of victory yet again. The GOP civil war, if you will, was ignited by thrice married, serial adulterer and presidential wanna be Newt Gingrich who as CNN and other outlets are reporting:
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[O]n Sunday TV, fresh from his presidential announcement, he [Gingrich] declared the House GOP plan for Medicare "right-wing social engineering." Then he went on to explain how he still supports individual mandates in health care -- despite the fact that the mandates are the key to the Republican attacks on the president's health care law.
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The CNN article goes on to state:
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Rep. Paul Ryan, the author of the GOP budget roadmap, likes to call his budget realistic and honest as it takes on Medicare spending. But it's more about theology than realism because of what it omits: tax hikes. So don't tell people you are going to change Medicare unless you're taking on everything. That's the lesson, only it's one the GOP refuses to utter. Even Gingrich, who threw Ryan overboard, would never say that.
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Gingrich in short order tried to back track from his GOP heresy but seems to have only made matters worse for himself. Even as Gingrich tries to disingenuously duck and weave, he is being pummeled from all sides. David Frum - one of the vanishing breed of rational, thinking conservatives - on his blog calls it like it is: Gingrich spoke the truth. A truth that the GOP needs to hear if it ever will pull its head out of the bubble of the Tea Party and the crazy extremists of the Christian Taliban. That truth? That the Ryan budget and its goal of killing of Medicare is going to turn radioactive with voters as they figure out more of its real world implications. Here's what Frum has to say:
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[T]he trigger for today’s [Wall Street] Journal attack was not Gingrich’s divisive or racially provocative statements. The trigger was actually a wise statement: a caution against committing the GOP to a huge rework of Medicare into a means-tested program that left more and more American seniors to pay more and more of their health insurance costs out of their own pockets. * The Ryan plan has become party orthodoxy, true. On Fox News, Charles Krauthammer proclaimed it a political capital offense to express public doubts about the plan. * But as Gingrich learned the hard way: the American public will not accept this kind of reform and will smash any politician who tries to force it upon them. There are ways to reduce the fiscal burden of Medicare, but telling seniors to buy their own damn healthcare is not going to be one of them. I wish it were somebody other than the Kenyan-anticolonialism-sharia law candidate making that argument, but it’s an important argument from any source.
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I have more than a few reservations about giving Obama a second term, but when one sees the utter insanity and lack of any sense of being tethered to reality that now is a prerequisite for popularity with the BOP base and the Tea Party crowd, one can only think that the GOP is out for self-immolation in 2012 unless an adult can take charge of the asylum.

HR Pride Cookout

The boyfriend and I are hosting (with help from friends) a fundraising event at our home on on Chesapeake Avenue in Hampton to help underwrite the costs of putting on both Hampton Road Pride's "Out in the Park" in Norfolk's Town Point Park on Sunday, June 5, 2011 and the City of Hampton's "Diversity and Pride" in Hampton's Millpoint Park which will take place on Saturday, June 11, 2011.
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The event is on Sunday, May 22, 2001 from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM. The menu will include BBQ numerous side dishes, desserts and adult refreshments - compliments of the boyfriend, myself and friends who will be recognized at the event. The cost is $15 pre-paid or $25 at the door. The event is limited to 75 guests in case we have inclement weather.
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I hope local readers will show their Pride for both groups and come on out! To purchase tickets, use this link here now.

Wednesday Male Beauty

Catholic Bishops Blame Everyone But Themselves for Abuse Scandal

A new self-serving report commissioned by the U. S. Council of Catholic Bishops again tries to shift blame for the world wide sex abuse scandal on society and factors other than (a) their own malfeasance, (b) the equivalent of a droit du seigneur that the priesthood continues to maintain in terms of doing whatever it pleases with children and youths, and (c) the Church's bizarre approach to all things sexual. The only good news is that the report finds that homosexuality was NOT a cause of the abuse. The other positive is that the report finds the problems stemmed largely from priests ordained in the 1940's and 1950's thus undercutting the claims of the far right that the liberalizing influence of Vatican II on seminaries was a cause. The New York Times has coverage on this attempt to yet again shift responsibility from the hierarchy which turned a blind eye to abuse for many decades, including on the watch of the less than saintly John Paul II. The cover ups and attempts to deflect responsibility clearly continue to go on. My advice to moral Catholic? Vote with your feet and try out the ELCA or the Episcopal Church. Here are some article highlights:
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A five-year study commissioned by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops to provide a definitive answer to what caused the church’s sexual abuse crisis has concluded that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were to blame.
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Instead, the report says, the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s. Known occurrences of sexual abuse of minors by priests rose sharply during those decades, the report found, and the problem grew worse when the church’s hierarchy responded by showing more care for the perpetrators than the victims.
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The “blame Woodstock” explanation has been floated by bishops since the church was engulfed by scandal in the United States in 2002 and by Pope Benedict XVI after it erupted in Europe in 2010.
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The report notes that homosexual men began entering the seminaries “in noticeable numbers” from the late 1970s through the 1980s. By the time this cohort entered the priesthood, in the mid-1980s, the reports of sexual abuse of minors by priests began to drop and then to level off. If anything, the report says, the abuse decreased as more gay priests began serving the church.
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Many more boys than girls were victimized, the report says, not because the perpetrators were gay, but simply because the priests had more access to boys than to girls, in parishes, schools and extracurricular activities.
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The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies a prepubescent child as generally age 13 or younger. If the John Jay researchers had used that cutoff, a vast majority of the abusers’ victims would have been considered prepubescent.
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Even before seeing it, victims advocates attacked the report as suspect because it relies on data provided by the church’s dioceses and religious orders. Anne Barrett Doyle, the co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a Web site that compiles reports on abuse cases, said, “There aren’t many dioceses where prosecutors have gotten involved, but in every single instance there’s a vast gap — a multiplier of two, three or four times — between the numbers of perpetrators that the prosecutors find and what the bishops released.
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An essay in the Catholic magazine Commonweal last week by Ana Maria Catanzaro, who heads the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s sexual-abuse review board, which is supposed to advise the archdiocese on how to handle abuse cases, said that the board was shocked to learn about the dozens of cases uncovered by the grand jury. Her essay raised questions about whether bishops provide accurate data even to their own, in-house review boards.

Is A Court Challenge Coing for Virginia's Discriminatory Adoption Rules

Despite a recent poll that shows a solid majority of Virginians support gay couple adoption the Virginia Board of Social Services at the last minute stripped proposed revised rules of anti-discrimination rules that would have barred anti-gay discrimination by private adoption agencies acting on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Worse yet, other non-discrimination protections were likewise stripped from the rules so that religious affiliated adoption agencies - which receive public money - would be free to discriminate against whoever they chose largely unfettered. A move is afoot to reopen the comment period on the travesty worked by the Board which clearly knuckled under to the demands of Victoria Cobb (pictured at right so readers can see the face of hate in Virginia) and her fellow Christofascists at The Family Foundation and the certifiably insane Virginia Attorney General Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli and Governor Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell. Should the Board refuse to reopen the matter, a lawsuit has been threatened. To me it's a simple matter: if an agency takes public funds, it loses any and all right to discriminate. Period end of discussion. You do NOT get to have your cake and eat it too. Here are highlights from the Virginian Pilot:
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Advocacy groups are asking the Virginia Board of Social Services to delay the implementation of new regulations they say would allow state-licensed adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective adoptive and foster parents because of their sexual orientation.
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Equality Virginia, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups said at a news conference Tuesday they're seeking a suspension of the rules to allow further public comment. Under the state's Administrative Process Act, the board must reopen comment if at least 25 people make such a request.
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"The state Board of Social Services' last-minute decision to strip protections against discrimination based on gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, family status and sexual orientation from the rules governing state-licensed agencies was done without any chance for the public to comment on this substantial change" before its decision last month, Equality Virginia executive director James Parrish said.
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In the event that the board determines the changes in the regulations don't carry substantial impact, and thus refuses to reopen public comment, the groups are prepared to challenge that decision in court.
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"A decision by a state agency that has the effect of sanctioning and authorizing discrimination of any kind cannot be said to be an `inconsequential' decision," Parrish wrote in a letter to the board chairman, Dr. Aradhana Sood, and Department of Social Services Commissioner Martin Brown. "This is particularly true where, as here, the discrimination being authorized ultimately will be sanctioned and facilitated not only by the Board but by the courts of the Commonwealth that must approve all adoptions."
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Some church-affiliated organizations opposed the discrimination ban, saying that placing children with gay or lesbian couples would go against their religious beliefs.
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But Virginia ACLU legal director Rebecca Glenberg said Tuesday that while the government should be sensitive to religious freedom, all state-licensed adoption groups are "engaged in fundamentally a governmental function" and should not discriminate.
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Beth Panilaitis, executive director of youth-advocacy group ROSMY, said that many of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths that her central Virginia group assists are homeless or have been in the child-welfare system. Those who are in foster care or group homes have also reported feeling unsafe because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
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Virginia will be truly a far better place for all when vicious organizations like The Family Foundation close their doors once and for all and religious extremists like Cuccinelli and McDonnell are out of public office. The religious based hate that they espouse doesn't belong in Virginia or the USA for that matter.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Will Subsidies for the Oil Industry Be the GOP's Next Achilles Heel?

I'm not one to demonize the oil industry in a knee jerk reaction. I was in-house counsel for an oil companies some years back so I do understand the high stakes nature of the industry. Add to that and and I currently own stock in Exxon I recently inherited from my late mother who never sold it (my parents originally owned Mobil stock, which had gay friendly policies which Exxon ended - something I voted to restore on my proxy) because they wanted to allow their heirs to decide what to do with the stock. Nonetheless, obscene greed at some point becomes simply unconscionable. Moreover, not paying one's fair share in taxes is in my view, un-American. Apparently, other voters feel the same way and at town hall meetings the GOP members of Congress are finding themselves under attack for their support of subsidies to the oil industry. That is when they aren't under attack for the GOP plan to kill Medicare for all practical purposes. Think Progress looks at one GOP Congresswoman who has broken ranks and will oppose continued oil industry subsidies. Here are highlights:
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As ThinkProgress has been documenting, conservative lawmakers have been facing the ire of Main Street America at town halls all over the country. These Americans are demanding fair sacrifice rather than budget cuts that unfairly saddle the poor and middle class with the burden of deficit reduction.
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Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) came face to face with this growing movement at a town hall in Vancouver, Washington last night. Dozens of protesters encamped outside the meeting, waving signs like “Save Medicare: Tax the Rich.” When she tried to defend her vote on the GOP budget that would effectively privatize Medicare, “a chorus of boos and catcalls and shouts of ‘liar’ erupted in the auditorium.”
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Yet at one point — perhaps understanding that her constituents were already upset with her enough — she did endorse a position that put her on the opposite side of most of her House GOP colleagues. She told the audience that she favored ending subsidies to oil companies like Exxon and BP:
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Herrera Beutler did not directly address why she has supported making the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. But she said she does favor taking a hard look at military spending and supports ending subsidies for big corporations like Exxon and BP.
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Of course, Beutler voted, along with the rest of the House GOP caucus, to protect billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil more than once in the past few months.
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Her flip-flop may be evidence that American anger at Big Oil is forcing hesitant conservatives to switch sides. A number of GOP congressmen have told constituents in recent days that they now oppose the subsidies. These include Reps. Joe Walsh (IL), Tom McClintock (CA), and Dan Webster (FL)

The GOP Jihad Against LGBT Citizens

Some days the viciousness of the GOP is truly stomach wrenching. A case in point, Wisconsin's GOP governor, Scott Walker, who apparently believes that same sex life partners are not entitled to something as simple as the right of hospital visitation. Naturally, Walker is being cheered on by the hate filled Christofascists at Wisconsin Family Action who strive daily to make LGBT citizens less than human under the law. It's part and parcel with the opposition these falsely pious and self-congratulatory monsters mount whenever and wherever efforts are made to enact anti-bullying laws that could save lives and end the deliberate torment of other human beings. Both the GOP and Christianity have become something foul and ugly at the hands of people like Walker. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has coverage on Walker's move to cease defending Wisconsin's domestic partnership registry law. Here are some highlights:
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Madison - Gov. Scott Walker believes a new law that gives gay couples hospital visitation rights violates the state constitution and has asked a judge to allow the state to stop defending it.
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Democrats who controlled the Legislature in 2009 changed the law so that same-sex couples could sign up for domestic partnership registries with county clerks to secure some - but not all - of the rights afforded married couples.
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Wisconsin Family Action sued last year in Dane County circuit court, arguing that the registries violated a 2006 amendment to the state constitution that bans gay marriage and any arrangement that is substantially similar.
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Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen refused to defend the lawsuit, saying he agreed the new law violated the state constitution. Then-Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, hired Madison attorney Lester Pines to defend the state. Walker, a Republican, replaced Doyle in January and fired Pines in March. On Friday, Walker filed a motion to stop defending the case.
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In 2006, 60% of state voters signed off on changing the constitution to ban gay marriage and a "legal status identical or substantially similar to marriage" for same-sex couples.
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Wisconsin Family Action advocated for the amendment. The group first sued the state over the same-sex registries shortly after they were created in 2009, taking its case directly to the state Supreme Court in hopes of getting a quick verdict. The high court declined to hear the case, and the group then filed a lawsuit last year in Dane County circuit court.
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Once again, I cannot help but believe that the world would be a far better place if Christianity - or at least the Christofascist version - were a dead religion. If there is a God, I suspect many of the reserved seats in Hell will be for the Christianists and not the gays.

Tuesday Male Beauty

Democrats Take Aim at G.O.P. Freshmen on Medicare

I am not one to stick my head in the sand in respect to the need to fix the USA's deficit problem. And I am not against bring so-called entitlement spending under control. But the GOP proposals to date are draconian in how they would impact the less fortunate while continuing the lowest tax rates an many decades for the fabulously wealthy. The GOP approach is clearly not in keeping with the reverence the party claims to hold for Christianity and the Gospel message. The GOP assault on Medicare - something that would savage seniors - and their families who would have to intervene - is something that the Democrats seem to be waking up to, albeit not as quickly as ought to be the case. It's a message that needs to be clearly communicated to both seniors and their children so as to show the ingenuousness of the GOP deficit proposal. Here are highlights from the New York Times on the timely targeting of GOP members of Congress:
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Members of the House are back home in their districts this week, and in the case of some Republicans, protesters are along for the ride. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has 20 Republican-held Congressional districts in its sights this week, hitting voters with automated phone calls denouncing the House Republican plan to revamp the nation’s Medicare program, and arming those who want them with signs to protest at town hall meetings across the country.
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By focusing on town hall meetings and the automated phone calls, Democrats are particularly hopeful that they will be able to spook members in districts with lots of older voters, like Florida and even Arizona, where Republicans are in firm control through much of the state.
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The big question for the week: Are Americans just waking up to the Medicare debate, and therefore more prone to engage on both sides of the issue at town halls than during the spring recess, or has enough time passed since the passage of the House bill to alter Medicare and Medicaid that interest is now waning?
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Perhaps presaging the week’s events, dozens of protesters carrying signs and chanting “Tax the rich” marched outside the Chicago hotel where Representative Paul Ryan, chairman of the House budget committee and architect of the Medicare proposal, gave a speech Monday on the federal budget and the nation’s debt situation, according to an account by The Associated Press.
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[O]n Bloomberg TV’s “Bottom Line” program, Ms. Pelosi clarified her remarks. “Let me be very clear because we are open to many, we are listening to every suggestion,” she said, “but one suggestion we are not open to is the abolishment of Medicare, and that is what the Republicans have put forth in their budget and we do not support that.”
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Will seniors wake up? They need to do so or else their "golden years" may become a nightmare.