Saturday, June 15, 2013

Organization for American States Backs Anti-Discrimination Resolution

The United States finds itself increasingly out of step on gay rights compared to other nations in the western hemisphere.  While the State Department speaks nice words against anti-gay discrimination in Africa and elsewhere overseas, the fact that gays face open, stat endorsed discrimination in states like Virginia is conveniently overlooked.  Now, the Organization for American States has adopted an anti-discrimination resolution that ostensibly the USA doesn't comply with.  The Washington Blade looks at the development and how the Obama administration continues to talk out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to gay rights.  Pretty words are not what is needed.  We want and need to see real action.  Here are highlights from the Blade article:

The Organization of American States on June 5 adopted an anti-discrimination resolution that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

“Every human being is equal under the law and has the right to equal protection against all forms of discrimination and intolerance in whatever aspect of public or private life,” it reads.

The resolution the OAS adopted during its annual meeting that took place in Antigua, Guatemala, also said member countries have an obligation to prevent “all acts and demonstrations of discrimination and intolerance.” These include hate and bias-motivated violence and using the Internet and other media to incite “hate, discrimination and intolerance” against marginalized groups.

Anti-LGBT discrimination and especially violence remain serious problems in the hemisphere in spite of recent advances on same-sex marriage and other issues in countries that include Brazil and Uruguay.

The U.S. State Department has spoken out against anti-LGBT violence in Jamaica and other countries that include Honduras and Perú.

Wilson Castañeda Castro, director of Caribe Afirmativo, a Colombian LGBT advocacy group that works in cities along the country’s Caribbean coast, attended the OAS meeting in Guatemala.  He told the Washington Blade earlier this week his group welcomes the anti-discrimination resolutions.
“This has been a triumph for the region’s LGBT and Afro-descendent movement,” Castañeda said.
Note the language of the resolution :  "member countries have an obligation to prevent “all acts and demonstrations of discrimination and intolerance."   Here in Virginia, one can be fired for being gay - even by state agencies and departments - and we can be refused housing and accommodations.  And, of course, our relationships receive no legal recognition and we are deprived of over 1000 legal rights.  Let's be real.  America's behavior- and laws like DOMA - makes a mockery of the new resolution.

More Saturday Male Beauty

Evangelicals to GOP: Don't Betray Us Or Else

The so-called GOP establishment continues to struggle to control the Frankenstein monster that it created in the pursuit of short sighted expediency when it allowed the evangelical Christians - the Christofascists, if you will - to begin their infiltrating of the local city and county committees 15 to 20 years ago or more.  Now, the anti-modernity, open embrace of ignorance and religious based hate and bigotry of the Christofascists is making the GOP non-competitive at at least the national level.  Yet, the Christofascist continue to demand that the GOP surrender to them and push their extremist agenda.  Nowhere do we see this more than on the issues of abortion and gay rights.  In the context of abortion, it is the Christofascists who are ultimately responsible for the GOP's war on women.  The same holds true for opposition to any rights for gay Americans even though more than 50% of young Republicans - or at least those who haven't yet fled the GOP - support gay marriage.  As Politico notes, on abortion, the swamp fever ridden Christofascist (perhaps rabid dogs is a better analogy) are threatening the GOP if it doesn't continue to do their bidding.  Here are story highlights:

After Todd Akin last year and Trent Franks this week, abortion is about the last topic many national Republicans want the political conversation to focus on.

Yet social conservatives in town this week for the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference say the GOP would be making a grave mistake to ignore the hot-button culture war issue. To the contrary, they believe it’s key to the party’s fortunes in the 2014 midterms and beyond.

The Republican National Committee’s 100-page “autopsy” report in March, packed with recommendations for how the party can recover after its 2012 losses, did not make reference to abortion. “When it comes to social issues,” it stated, “the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming. If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women, who agree with us on some but not all issues.”

Still, some GOP politicians are responding to the call of social conservatives to take a more aggressive stand on abortion — even as Democrats sound the alarm about a Republican “a war on women” and after Mitt Romney lost by double digits among female voters.

Next week the House will debate a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks, even though the measure could never clear the Senate or receive the support of President Barack Obama.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a likely presidential candidate, is poised to sign a law requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before being allowed to go through with abortions. Ohio’s Republican legislature passed a budget last week aimed at making abortions more difficult.
[E]vangelicals in town for the three-day faith conference warned that the party must give them reasons to mobilize in 2014.   “If they want to just run on economic issues, you’re not going to get the church people,” said Bob West of Tallahassee, Fla., wearing a yellow tie with the words “Choose Life” on it. “That’s the bottom line.”
The rank-and-file believe the steadfastness of the party’s opposition to abortion is a reflection of its character.  “If they back away from that, they’ll never win another election,” said Regina Brown, the national prayer coordinator for the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “Our numbers are in the church.”
The pervasive belief among speakers and attendees at the conference is that not talking about social issues hurts more than the occasional gaffes that get such intense media attention.

Having been actively involved in the GOP when the Christofascist takeover began, I have no sympathy for those in the GOP who are now reaping what they sowed.  The evangelical base is down right insane, worships ignorance and bigotry, is theocratic and anti-democratic, and is a clear and present danger to constitutional government.   They are not nice people and they deserve no deference, especially from anyone who has taken an oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution.

Moderate Cleric Hassan Rouhani Wins Iran’s Election

In a result that many did not expect, a moderate reformist has won Iran's presidential election and has started pundits speculating as to why the reigning mullahs did not try to fix the election and have it go to one of their hand picked cronies.  Some speculate that they believe they can control Rouhani (pictured at left) and the country regardless of who holds the presidency.  Others wonder if the mullahs feared a reprise of the 2009 violence if they moved to stifle.  The larger lesson is that the Iranian people should not be seen as holding identical views and beliefs as their murderous dictators who have ruled since the over throw of the Shah back in 1979.   The larger lesson is that most people be they Christian, Muslim, Hindu, gay or straight all want largely the same thing: security and good health for their families, a better future for their children, the freedom to lead their lives as the wish and to be simply left alone.  Its the religious fundamentalists time and time again who bear the responsibility for depriving the rest of us these simple wants and desires.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post on the surprise in Iran:

TEHRAN — Hassan Rouhani, a moderate Shiite cleric known as one of Iran’s leading foreign policy experts, has won the election to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the Islamic Republic’s next president, Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar announced Saturday evening.

With results from all the precincts in, Rouhani had won 50.7 percent of the votes, avoiding a runoff, Mohammad-Najjar said.

The mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, came a distant second, with 16.6 percent of the vote. Saeed Jalili, Iran’s hard-line nuclear negotiator, came third with 11.4 percent. A handful of other conservative candidates fared poorly.

After a surge of support in the final week of campaigning from Iranians who did not plan to vote, Rouhani won a surprising decisive majority in a field of six candidates considered loyal to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Rouhani took a majority of the votes, which is already being viewed as a repudiation of not only the Ahmadinejad years but also the hold conservatives have held over Iranian politics since 2005.   Rouhani has pledged to bridge the divides between conservatives and reformists, and if his past record is any indication, he is well positioned to do so.

With the backing of former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Rouhani will have a powerful mandate to improve Iran’s international relations and attempt to negotiate a settlement of Iran’s nuclear activities.

Rouhani has since been a harsh critic of Ahmadinejad’s economic and foreign policy.   In Washington, the White House responded to the election of Rouhani by congratulating the Iranian people “for their participation in the political process, and their courage in making their voices heard,” and offering to hold talks with the new Iranian government over its nuclear program.

Ray Takeyh, a former State Department adviser and Middle East expert, said the results probably “even surprised Rouhani,” who appears to have been an unexpected beneficiary of pent-up resentments among Iranians after years of political repression and the recent economic hardships brought on by Western sanctions.

“This was supposed to be a well-regulated, well-crafted election, and then the wheels came off,” Takeyh said. “It appears that the leadership miscalculated on Rouhani’s appeal, and also miscalculated on the ineptness of its preferred candidates and the impact of the divisions among the conservative coalition.”

Rouhani will likely bring with him a cadre of more moderate diplomats, technocrats and nuclear negotiators who favor a more pragmatic foreign policy, said Trita Parsi, author of “A Single Roll of the Dice,” a book on the Obama administration’s dealings with Iran.  

Alécio and Luiz Felipe - A Gay Wedding Ceremony in Brazil

As noted before on this blog, it is amazing that Brazil and Argentina and Uruguay all have full gay marriage nationwide while America, which claims to be the land of liberty and home of religious freedom does not.  Why, because far right religious beliefs are still afforded undeserved - one might even say unconstitutional - deference under America's civil laws.  

A reader in the Netherlands - Amsterdam to be exact - sent me a link to a video clip of a gay marriage ceremony in Brazil.  Watching the video, I can only ask, what is so frightening about recognizing the relationship between a loving couple who seek to share their lives together?  Is the faith of far right Christians - and Muslims for that matter so weak and shallow that it cannot be confronted with anything that goes against the ignorance and mindlessness of such individuals?  Or do couples like the ones in the video terrify them because they - and all of us other out and normal gays - are all too normal.  We don't fit the bogeyman image the far right Christofascists seek to bestow on us?  Ignorance which is often self-selected and fear are at the root of homophobia and bigotry of all kinds.  Here's the video.  What do you think?

Love, commitment and the pledging one's self to another through good times and bad ought to be applauded and supported by our society and by our civil laws. It isn't gay marriage that's scary. Rather it is those who oppose it due to their own psychosis, paranoia and/or fear of thinking who are the scary ones. While the following isn't an actual wedding, it's a video that like the other one sends the message that love is love and commitment is commitment be it between gay couples or straight couples. Hopefully, one day every state in America will grasp this reality.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

He can rescue me anytime he wants!!

Being LGBT in Hopefully Changing Times

Click image to enlarge

While being gay in America is far better than it used to be - and is far better than being gay in some other countries, especially Islamic ruled countries and ignorant countries in Africa buying into the the anti-gay hate propaganda of the Christofascists - life remains more challenging for many of us than it is for or straight counterparts.  Thankfully the trend for improvement in America seems to still be upward.  But employment discrimination is a real threat in 29 states and here in Virginia, Virginia law recognizes my ownership of my Chihuahua far more than it does my relationship with my life partner.  Indeed, under Virginia law were are virtual strangers.  A new Pew Research Center survey of LGBT citizens has some interesting findings that range from when we first thought we were gay to  the experiences we have had in terms of being mistreated.   Here are excerpts on the findings:

An overwhelming share of America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults (92%) say society has become more accepting of them in the past decade and an equal number expect it to grow even more accepting in the decade ahead. They attribute the changes to a variety of factors, from people knowing and interacting with someone who is LGBT, to advocacy on their behalf by high-profile public figures, to LGBT adults raising families.

About four-in-ten (39%) say that at some point in their lives they were rejected by a family member or close friend because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; 30% say they have been physically attacked or threatened; 29% say they have been made to feel unwelcome in a place of worship; and 21% say they have been treated unfairly by an employer. About six-in-ten (58%) say they’ve been the target of slurs or jokes.

The survey finds that 12 is the median age at which lesbian, gay and bisexual adults first felt they might be something other than heterosexual or straight. For those who say they now know for sure that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, that realization came at a median age of 17.   Among those who have shared this information with a family member or close friend, 20 is the median age at which they first did so.

The survey finds that the LGBT population is distinctive in many ways beyond sexual orientation. Compared with the general public, Pew Research LGBT survey respondents are more liberal, more Democratic, less religious, less happy with their lives, and more satisfied with the general direction of the country. On average, they are younger than the general public. Their family incomes are lower, which may be related to their relative youth and the smaller size of their households. They are also more likely to perceive discrimination not just against themselves but also against other groups with a legacy of discrimination.
The last finding is ironic because the homophobia of many black pastors who allow themselves to be used as tools of the white Christofascists helps alienate otherwise would be allies.  Of course, from NOM's internal documents that this is one of the express goals of the Christofascists.

Marco Rubio: Firing People for Being Gay Should be Legal

Marco Rubio - Anti-Gay Asshole
The more I see of Marco Rubio, the more I despise the man.   Now Rubio says he doesn't support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because he thinks it should be perfectly legal to fire employees if they are gay.   Apparently Rubio is (i) so bigoted, (ii) so stupid, or (iii) so eager to whore himself out to the white supremacist base of the GOP that he hasn't figured out that his approach to gays is identical to that of white racists who think it should be fine to fire Hispanics.  If Rubio is the future of the GOP, that future is somewhat frightening.  Think Progress interviewed Rubio where he enunciated his contempt for LGBT citizens.  Here are highlights:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is touted as a top GOP presidential prospect in 2016, thinks it should be legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation.

ThinkProgress spoke with the Florida Senator at the opening luncheon of the annual Faith and Freedom Forum on Thursday and asked him about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill to make discrimination against LGBT individuals illegal across the country.

Though Rubio bristles at the notion of being called a “bigot,” he showed no willingness to help protect LGBT workers from discrimination. “I’m not for any special protections based on orientation,” Rubio told ThinkProgress.
KEYES: The Senate this summer is going to be taking up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which makes it illegal to fire someone for being gay. Do you know if you’ll be supporting that?

RUBIO: I haven’t read the legislation. By and large I think all Americans should be protected but I’m not for any special protections based on orientation.

KEYES: What about on race or gender?

RUBIO: Well that’s established law.

KEYES: But not for sexual orientation?
Workplace discrimination is an all-too-frequent reality for LGBT individuals. Two out of every five openly lesbian, gay, or bisexual employees have reported discrimination at their jobs. Among transgender workers, that figure rises to nine out of ten.

Though other Republicans have applauded Rubio’s so-called “middle ground” on LGBT issues, his record of late tells a far different story. In addition to opposing ENDA and marriage equality, Rubio also said today that he would walk away from his own immigration bill if it includes protections for gay couples.

LGBT workers aren’t asking for “special protections,” as Rubio would have people believe. They’re asking to be treated like everyone else and be allowed to do their job without fear of being harassed or fired for who they are.
The reasons to not be a Republican just seem to keep on growing.  Having been fired for being gay myself, few things enrage me more that this kind of bigotry.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Caterpillar Drops Boy Scouts Support Over Gay Leader Ban

While the Southern Baptist Convention is busy condemning the Boy Scouts of America for allowing gay boys and youth to be members, another big money donor has cut off the money spigot since the BSA still discriminates against gays over age 18 and bars them from any sort of leadership position.  It goes without saying that anti-hate groups are continuing a propaganda war depicting gays as child molesters and pedophiles even though heterosexual males and closet cases (usually those psychologically damaged by religious indoctrination) are the main group that molest children of both genders.  ABC News looks at Caterpillar's decision to cease funding the BSA.  Here are highlights:

Caterpillar Inc. is no longer giving money to the Boy Scouts because the organization discriminates against homosexuals, a spokeswoman for the Illinois-based heavy equipment manufacturer confirmed Thursday.

The company's move wasn't directly tied to the recent Boy Scouts decision to continue to bar homosexual adults from roles within the organization while allowing openly gay children to be scouts. Instead, spokeswoman Rachel Potts said, the company decided to cut off funding while reviewing a request for $25,000 that came in last year from a local group in Illinois.

That decision was never announced publicly or communicated to the Boy Scouts of America, only to the local group, she said. But she added that the Boy Scouts' policy that continues to bar homosexual adults from working in the organization is "discriminatory."

Caterpillar has made donations in the past to the Boy Scouts of America, and the company's charitable arm, the Caterpillar Foundation, has donated money to local scouting groups in areas where it has factories and other facilities, Potts said. She declined to provide a dollar figure.

"We have inclusive policies here at Caterpillar Inc., and the foundation abides by those," she said. "We just don't feel that our two organizations align."

The decision by Caterpillar was first reported Wednesday by The Journal Star in Peoria, the central Illinois city where the company is based.  The local organization that was turned down, Potts said, is the Peoria-based W.D. Boyce Council. It includes scout groups across a large part of central Illinois.

The leader of a group of former Eagle Scouts that has pushed for a change in those policies said the pressure that the donation withdrawal could have on Boy Scouts was important. But Zach Wahls, executive director of Iowa City, Iowa-based Scouts for Equality, believes Caterpillar's decision reflects a broader shift in attitudes beyond scouting.

"This isn't a crazy, progressive company that's super liberal," said Wahls, who grew up in Iowa and Wisconsin, and whose parents are lesbians. "(Caterpillar is) very much a middle-American company and I think this indicates where middle America is moving on this issue."

Score another victory for the good guys.  The Christofascists will no doubt be fuming and foaming at the mouth.   They are slowly but steadily losing the culture wars.

Changing Religious Denominational Attitudes on Gay Marriage

Click image to enlarge
A new Pew Research Center survey confirms what most of us already knew: White evangelical denominations and black churches - often lead by black pastors in my opinion duped into doing the bidding of white racist in "family values" organizations like The Family Foundation here in Virginia - continue to be the main founts of anti-gay bigotry and opposition to same sex marriage.  In these two groups, the embrace of ignorance and modern day Pharisee like selective application of Biblical inerrancy remain the norm.  Among the non-affiliated, support for gay marriage is at 74%.  The Catholic laity and mainline denominations are at well over 50% in support as shown in the chart above.  Here are highlights from Pew:
Among people who are religiously unaffiliated, a solid majority have supported same-sex marriage since 2001... and among Catholics and white mainline Protestants, roughly half now express support for same-sex marriage.  Support among white evangelical and black Protestants remains lower than among other groups.

Bob McDonnell Probe Taints Cuccinelli's Virginia Governor Bid

Have you noticed that time and time again it is the supposed "godly Christian" folk - especially those in elected office - who seem to always be the ones ultimately caught up in scandals that involve conduct and actions that are the antithesis to what "Judeo-Christian " values seemingly ought to mean if put into practice?  The displays involve everything from the gay sex scandals of former Congressman Ed Schrock and former Senator Larry Craig to corruption charges surrounding GOP Virginia Governor Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell and Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli.  I'm not saying that the Democrats are innocent of missteps, but the level of rank hypocrisy is nowhere near the same.  Especially if one believes the propaganda put out by "family values" groups that Democrats are "godless" and anti-Christian.  Bloomberg looks at the ongoing train wreck surrounding Bob McDonnell which is seemingly spilling over onto Kookinelli, especially given the recent revelations that an attorney in Kookinelli's AG's office has been inappropriately aiding a major Cuccinelli campaign donor in civil litigation.  Here are article excerpts:

A federal investigation into a Virginia businessman’s political ties is threatening to harm the reputations of Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, an often mentioned prospective presidential candidate, and the man running to replace him. 

Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general and Republican gubernatorial nominee, is squaring off against former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe in a race testing the staying power of the diverse voting bloc that backed President Barack Obama 2008 and 2012 and turned Virginia into a swing state.

For Cuccinelli, who like McDonnell has links to the targeted businessman, the timing of the investigation’s progression couldn’t be worse: a related trial, which will focus on felony embezzlement charges against the governor’s former chef, is scheduled to be held in mid-October.

“That’s when the last of the voters start paying attention to the election” held on Nov. 5, said Quentin Kidd, the director of the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia.   “I think a lot of people on both the Democratic and Republican side are looking at that trial, at the schedule, and saying that it could throw a wrench into the last couple weeks” of the campaign, Kidd said.

The outcome of the governor’s race is likely to influence whether Virginia remains in the competitive presidential state column or is nudged toward the Democrats. It also may establish momentum for the 2014 midterms when control of the U.S. Senate will be in play and Virginia Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat, is up for re-election.

The federal probe centers on Jonnie Williams, chief executive officer of Star Scientific Inc. (STSI), a former cigarette maker that has shifted into marketing a nutritional supplement and skin cream. The FBI is examining whether McDonnell and his family took gifts from Williams in exchange for favors that helped promote Star and its dietary products. 

Williams, whose firm donated $108,500 worth of in-kind air travel to help elect McDonnell in 2009 and cover travel expenses during his tenure, paid $15,000 in catering expenses at the June 2011 wedding of the governor’s daughter. Two months later, the company promoted a dietary supplement, Anatabloc, to doctors attending a luncheon at the governor’s mansion, according to court records.

Cuccinelli’s ties to Williams were underscored in April, when he amended his financial disclosure forms to include previously unreported gifts he received from the businessman, including the use of a vacation home. Cuccinelli has said his omission was inadvertent.

“Depending on how big this gets with respect to McDonnell, there’s no doubt about it, some of the controversy will hurt the Cuccinelli campaign as well,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  

Personally, I hope the feds turn up more dirt - especially dirt that clings to Kookinelli.  The man is dangerous and the arrogance he has already displayed in believing that he is above the rules ought to trouble all Virginians.

Even if DOMA Falls, Many Gay Couples Will Remain Second Class Citizens

With more and more people waiting for the Supreme Court's rulings in Hollingsworth v. Perry (the Prop 8 case) and United States v. Windsor (the DOMA case), increasing analysis indicates that absent a nationwide ruling for gay marriage, a striking down of DOMA alone will leave many same sex couples screwed.  We will remain second class citizens unless we emigrate from our home states to states that recognize full gay marriage.  That, of course, is precisely the goal of hate groups like Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage which seek to keep discrimination and mistreatment of LGBT citizens alive and well as long as possible.  They don't give a damn about "protecting marriage."  No, it's all about keeping gays inferior under the law.  A piece in the New York Times reviews the limited impact that the striking down of DOMA will have for most of us at least unless and until federal regulations and in some cases legislation is rewritten.  Here are highlights:

A Supreme Court ruling this month that could overturn the ban on federal benefits for same-sex couples is presenting the Obama administration with a series of complicated and politically sensitive decisions: how aggressively to overhaul references to marriage throughout the many volumes that lay out the laws of the United States.

The decisions could affect Social Security checks, immigration laws and military benefits for same-sex couples, among other issues, with the outcomes based on whether the couples live in a state that allows them to marry. 

Gay rights advocates, aware that a Supreme Court ruling that overturns the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act would be the beginning of their push to have the federal government recognize same-sex marriage, are urging White House officials to plan to modify hundreds of mentions of marriage throughout federal statutes and regulations.

If the justices do strike it down, they will sweep aside a law that has for years prohibited gay couples from receiving a vast array of federal benefits that married couples take for granted. But whether gay couples actually get those benefits would depend on where they live — and how vigorously President Obama seeks to change the legal language that determines whether a couple is married in the eyes of the federal government. 

For Mr. Obama, who appears eager to have his legacy defined in part by the advancement of civil rights for gay Americans, his administration’s actions after the ruling may be as important as the ruling itself.

Activists, however, are warning gay couples not to expect that federal benefits would arrive immediately, because government agencies vary widely in how they determine whether a couple is legally married. 

Some federal agencies, like the I.R.S. and the Social Security Administration, make that determination by looking to the state where a couple lives. Even with the 1996 law overturned, those agencies would deny benefits to gay couples who live in one of the 38 states that do not allow same-sex marriage.

Other agencies, like the Defense Department, already base their decision on the location of a couple’s wedding, regardless of where the couple lives now. The same-sex spouse of a service member would get health care benefits no matter where the couple lives, as long as the two married in one of the 12 states where same-sex marriage is legal. 

“Without sweeping decisions from the court, we’ll continue to have a patchwork across the country that denies all families equal protection,” Mr. Sainz said. “We are going to fight for full equality in all 50 states, including marriage.” 

It's not encouraging.  Those of us in Virginia - one of the most anti-gay states in America - will still be largely screwed and not equal citizens.  And should the GOP statewide ticket of gay haters be elected in November, an already bad situation will become far worse.  As I've said before, if family circumstances were different, I'd leave Virginia in a hear beat.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

More Thursday Male Beauty

Will Syria Be Obama's Fools Errand?

The cretinous George W. Bush, egged on by Emperor Palpatine Cheney, took America to war in Afghanistan and Iraq and the result was thousands of squandered American lives and trillions of dollars waste just as if they had been formed in a huge pile and lighted afire.  Worse yet, all that wasted money was borrowed form China.  Now, Barack Obama may be about to start down the road in his own fool's errand although hopefully he is not justifying his actions with out right deliberate lies like Bush/Cheney.  Politico looks at Obama's decision to take a first step down the road in Syria.  Here are excerpts:

President Barack Obama has crossed a red line of his own on Syria — spurred by the fast flood of bad news on the ground and a spirited internal debate about national prestige under his own roof.

The Obama administration’s decision Thursday to provide military and political aid to anti-Assad fighters wasn’t merely a result of confirmation the Syrian regime used sarin gas on rebels — but a decision prompted by the realization that Syrian President Bashar Assad was on the cusp of gaining a permanent advantage over rebel groups and the fear of imminent sectarian bloodshed further spilling into neighboring Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.

“The decision was ultimately driven by the discovery Assad used [chemical weapons] but there were a number of other factors in place that were also important,” conceded an administration official with direct knowledge of the deliberations.

For weeks, Obama — chastened by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — deferred passing judgment on the regime’s use of the deadly nerve gas, even as U.N. and European officials publicly reported the use of chemical weapons against hundreds of rebels and civilians.

But the chorus of calls for action had been rising in recent days, from European capitals, administration officials and Hill hawks in both parties who called for a halt to a recent Assad counter-offensive aided by a surge in attacks by Iran-backed Hezbollah units.

The highest-profile spur for action came on Tuesday: Former President Bill Clinton, speaking in New York, cast Syria in road-not-taken terms, implying that Obama faced a moral crossroads comparable to the one he faced when he decided to not to intervene during the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s.

The one thing all of Obama’s aides were concerned about, sources said, was the perception that world’s sole superpower was standing by while European allies shouldered the burden of trying to stop a dictator from murdering thousands of his own people.
The president himself, people close to the situation said, has been agonizing over the decision, torn between his desire to do the right thing — and his bone-deep aversion to the kind of quick-trigger military intervention in Iraq that sidetracked his predecessor George W. Bush and resulted in the thousands of U.S. casualties.

I understand the desire to intervene.  But at the same time, I cannot forget the nightmares in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Obama Under Pressure on Gay Rights

As noted before on this blog, I feel that 2013 is a reprise of 2009 when Obama and the national Democrats gave the Democrat base little reason to be motivated and enthusiastic.  The result here in Virginia was a clean GOP sweep of Virginia's statewide offices.  This year, things in Virginia are even more frightening with the GOP slate comprised of some of the most extreme - and out right insane - slate in Virginia history.  One of the issues where Obama and the national Democrats dropped the ball in 2009 was on gay rights issues.  Fast forward to 2013 and it's the same landscape all over again.  And, if the U.S. Supreme Court, fails to strike down DOMA or rules narrowly on same sex marriage, Obama will be facing an open revolt combined with a motivation by gays to stay home on election day.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at why Obama's lip service for gay equality just isn't cutting it with many.  Pretty words are nice, but actions far more significant and motivating for elements of the Democrat base.  Here are highlights:

With the Supreme Court only days away from major rulings on same-sex marriage, President Obama faces the prospect of having to make his own difficult decisions about the definition of wedlock.
Gay rights advocates are already pressing Obama to immediately broaden the federal government’s recognition of legally married same-sex couples if the court strikes down a ban on providing federal benefits to them.

The question for Obama turns on whether the federal government should extend full benefits to gay couples living in states that don’t recognize their marriages. 

Obama would face rare, concrete decisions on the politically combustible question of same-sex marriage — an area he has largely left to the purview of courts and state legislatures.
Advocates have pressed the issue of benefits with White House aides in recent months, according to people familiar with the discussions. The advocates have pushed for a uniform standard that would make the most benefits available to legally married couples across the board. Officials have not signaled what Obama would do. 

Obama’s potential dilemma stems from the fact that eligibility for some federal benefits — including Social Security payments to spouses and marital tax deductions — is determined based on the marriage laws of the states where the couples live and not where they were wed.

If the Supreme Court overturns the Defense of Marriage Act, full benefits would be available to same-sex couples who marry and live in the dozen states that legally recognize their relationships. But legally married gay couples that live in states that don’t recognize their marriages would be ineligible for a range of federal benefits.

Advocates say Obama could eliminate the discrepancy with an executive order or new regulations setting a couple’s “place of celebration” as the deciding factor in whether the U.S. government recognizes a marriage for the purposes of providing benefits.

“Equal protection means that every family should have access to the same protections they need regardless of state borders,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign . . . . 

As president, Obama has largely sidestepped the marriage issue. He endorsed same-sex marriage rights in the midst of his reelection campaign, spurring a flood of campaign cash from gay donors, and his administration joined in the effort to overturn the benefits provision of the Defense of Marriage Act. But Obama has said the question of legalized marriage should be left to the states.

“There will be tremendous pressure on the White House and on the president personally to move very quickly to implement the judgement and to implement it broadly,” said Richard Socarides, a longtime gay rights activist who was an adviser in the Bill Clinton White House. 

“Thirty days is what he’s got,” Socarides added. “These are real people suffering real injury. If anybody tries to argue that they need six months or a year, there are going to be riots in the streets.”
The issues raised are real.  The boyfriend and I have considered getting married in New York or Washington, D.C.  Our marriage should not evaporate the moment we travel to the south side of the Potomac River.  Obama - and the national Democrats - need to act quickly.

11-Year-OldHispanic BoySings National Anthem, And GOP Racists Go Berserk

I am frequently attacked by former GOP colleagues from my years as a GOP City Committee member and accused of being a "single issue" voter - i. e., gay issues - so that my former friends who are drinking Kool-Aid by the gallon can ignore the utter racist and religious extremist nastiness that has become the norm for the Republican Party base.   The blatant racism and homophobia that go hand in glove with today's GOP is to me sickening and are displays of neither patriotism nor the Christian values that the GOP claims to worship.  The recent NBA playoff in San Antonio, Texas - a city that was part of Mexico long before American immigrants rebelled against Mexico - where an 11 year old Hispanic boy gave an amazing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner sent the GOP base into convulsions and spittle eruptions.  The video of the boy's performance is above.  The  GOP and "godly Christian" tweets are set out below via Liberals Unite are set out below.

Click image to enlarge
Yes, the comments are ugly.  But that's the reality of today's Republican Party.  The party of our parents  or even of just 20 years ago is gone and its current incarnation is horrific. 

Over Hyped Storm Threat Leaves Some Many Power

View from Norfolk towards Portsmouth
One thing that one can always count on is that the local news media always over hypes weather threats and disasters.  Last week's non-event in the form of the years first tropical storm was a case in point as has been today's much hyped severe thunderstorm threat.  Less than one tenth of local residents have lost power and the severe winds, flooding, etc. simply have not occurred for the most part.  Our home did lose power, but with our installation of a whole house generator last summer, we have suffered little or no inconvenience (It's actually the first time the generator has run during a power outage - during Hurricane Sandy, we never lost power).  It's a strange experience to have one's home fully lighted up while most of the neighborhood is in the dark save for the other homes with automatic whole house generators.  Here are highlights from the Virginian Pilot on today's so far less than spectacular weather event:
A massive storm system that moved through Virginia caused thousands of power outages, knocked down tree limbs and is responsible for one death in Richmond.

The National Weather Service issued several severe thunderstorm warnings for the region that expired before 7 p.m. A severe thunderstorm watch remains in effect until 10 p.m., meaning the potential exists for the development of thunderstorms that could produce large hail or damaging winds.

Dominion Virginia Power reported more than 104,000 customers in southeastern Virginia were without power about 8 p.m. Most of the outages were concentrated in Virginia Beach, Williamsburg and on the Peninsula, according to a news release from spokeswoman Bonita Harris. The most significant problem was reportedly in Williamsburg where a large tree landed on a substation, knocking out power to about 10,000 customers.

Dominion crews were still assessing damage at 8 p.m. and no estimated repair times were available.
More than 307,000 homes and businesses were without power in the whole state.

Prior to the storm, the region was seeing sweltering temperatures. Highs today were in the mid- to upper 90s, with high humidity making it feel like 100 to 105 degrees.
Yes, people need to be warned of dangers.  But in this storm prone area, constantly crying wolf leads to people ignoring warnings in actual severe weather threats.  The result, of course, is that people do not take proper precautions and lives are needlessly lost.
Our 20 K generator

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Tea Party Revels in Exposure of NSA Domestic Spying

As noted in previous posts, who would have believed a month ago that the cretins of Tea Party and liberal civil libertarians would be agreeing on anything.   Yet as the reactions and blow back from the revelations of the extent of U.S. government spying on American citizens continues to unfold, no one seems more elated than the Tea Party crowd.  To them, what has been learned underscores their hatred of government, although they still can't comprehend that highways, education, and major infrastructure projects do require a governmental role.  They don't just materialize by themselves or for free.  The Tea Party crowd likewise doesn't get it that it was George W. Bush and the GOP controlled Congress who set the current police state style of surveillance of Americans in place.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the Tea Party euphoria at the NSA leak revelations.  Here are excerpts:

As if Tea Partiers needed any more evidence that Big Government is out to get them, along come Edward Snowden and operation PRISM.

It was bad enough that the tax man had been yanking their chain: Everyone knows the IRS is a bunch of jerks. But the NSA combing through people’s phone calls and emails? That’s a whole different level of sinister.
“I read threads all day long by Tea Party people nationwide. I talk to dozens and dozens of people on a daily basis,” says Ken Crow, the Iowa-based editor of the Tea Party Tribune and cofounder of the activist hub “They’re all afraid.”

The mood among Tea Party Patriots is equally tense, reports the group’s cofounder Jenny Beth Martin. “A lot of people are saying, ‘Wait a minute, we seem to trending much more toward a police state than we ever imagined.’”

For a political movement largely driven by the specter of government run amok, the NSA snooping news is, to borrow a Bidenism, a big fucking deal, a smoking gun akin to Donald Trump unearthing Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate.

Indeed, Tea Partiers’ reaction to the news of late may be best summed up in four words: We told you so! “They say that those of us in the Tea Party wear tin foil hats and we’re out there and all that,” says Crow. “But take a look around!”

But almost as outrageous to many Tea Partiers as the NSA snooping itself has been the lack of outrage by Republican leaders. Even as a sprinkling of folks like Rand Paul and Glenn Beck decry the government’s assault on the Constitution and declare Snowden a “hero,” most party players have been more in tune with Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who have been quick to remind people of the hard realities of fighting terrorism, and Speaker John Boehner, who called Snowden “a traitor.” 

“We’ve given up on McCain and Graham,” says Crow. “It’s obvious to us that they are not going to carry the banner of freedom and liberty.” As for the speaker? “A marshmallow,” says Crow. “With a lot of these scandals, there is overwhelming evidence of perjury by senior officials in the administration—overwhelming evidence that criminal activity transpired. Nothing is being done, and we want to know why!”
Not that Tea Partiers expected much more from a GOP elite that many members have long held in disdain. “The political establishment voted to allow these things to happen and for government to get this large and out of control,” says Martin, adding sadly, “At this point, very little surprises me.”

This does not mean, however, that the Tea Party intends to take this insult lying down. Far from it. Various groups are rallying members to express their displeasure through calls and email petitions to Congress  .  .  .  .  The NSA mess is simply “the straw that broke the camel’s back. 
 Obviously, things will be interesting for the GOP Congressional leadership crowd - they are going to be bludgeoned from both the left and the right, with the Tea Partiers determined to make their lives difficult.  It should make for fun watching.

Southern Baptist Convention Condemn Boy Scouts Policy on Gays

Proving yet again that it is rushing backward in time and embracing more and more simple minded ignorance, the Southern Baptist Convention formally denounced the Boy Scouts of America for changing its policy prohibiting gays scouts.  One can only wonder when the SBC will reaffirm support for slavery  - the issue that brought it into existence in the first place.  The batshitery, ignorance and outright bigotry is stunning and as a Chicago Tribune piece indicates, some of the spittle flecked, knuckle dragging Neanderthals of the SBS are right here in nearby Newport News, Virginia.  Such folks prefer to cling to supposed Bible inerrancy rather than think for themselves or admit that much of their lives have been based on untrue myths and witch doctor like hocus pocus.    Here are highlights from the Tribune story:

The Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday voted to voice opposition to the Boy Scouts of America decision to admit gay members, saying that homosexual conduct is contrary to a scout's oath to do his duty to God.

The Southern Baptists, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, approved a non-binding resolution opposing the policy at its annual convention in Houston. The resolution requires no action by member churches but leaves them to decide individually whether to stop sponsoring scout troops.

"I am very sad to say that it seems as though (Boy Scouts) are moving away from the principles they were founded upon," Wes Taylor, pastor at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Newport News, Virginia, said during the debate at the annual convention. "It is an environment just fertile for young boys to be exposed to something that is ungodly and unacceptable."

Leaders at the convention said the resolution was not aimed at the boys, but at the organization they said was opening the door for homosexual scout leaders and creating an unhealthy environment.

"This (BSA) decision politicizes the membership, and it also brings a sexual dimension that wasn't there before," said Steve Lemke, provost of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and chairman of Southern Baptist Convention Resolutions Committee.

Some at the Southern Baptist conference said the church should embrace gay members of scouting and guide them toward a more Christian life.   One pastor argued that a young boy who claims to be gay is most likely the victim of abuse or otherwise needs guidance, and that the church or scouts should not abandon him.

Some religious organizations have accepted the Boy Scouts' new policy. The Mormon Church, the largest sponsor of scouting troops nationwide with about 430,000 youth members, expressed its support. The United Methodist Church, the second-largest sponsor, also plans to continue its role in scouting.

Two things to note.  One, gay boys are still alleged to be victims of sexual abuse rather than admit some of us are born gay and made by God that way.  These cretins will go to any lengths to avoid admitting the Bible is flat out wrong.  Second, for those who want to bring gays toward a "more Christian life," in the SBC that equates to embracing hate, bigotry and a rejection of modern knowledge.  Why not simply propose giving boys lobotomies?

Virginia GOP's E. W. Jackson - A Growing Train Wreck

The entertainment factor and ongoing exposure of just how insane the Virginia GOP base has become just goes on and on in the form of GOP Lt. Governor candidate E. W. Jackson.   The man is a train wreck.  And what must remembered is that despite the efforts of Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain to distance themselves from Jackson, all three hold virtually the same anti-gay, anti-women and anti-modernity positions.  They are the face of The Family Foundation and the religious extremists who hijacked the Republican Party of Virginia.  In a press conference yesterday, Jackson admitted drug use in his past - and not just marijuana - filing bankruptcy and claimed to have taken course at Harvard that Harvard has no record of.  Jackson is exhibit A as to why the GOP ticket needs to be thoroughly defeated in November.  Here are highlights from a Virginian Pilot piece:

The Republican nominee for Virginia lieutenant governor acknowledged Wednesday that he used marijuana and experimented with other controlled substances in his youth, and that he was forced to file for bankruptcy.

Jackson sought to get out front on his past on Wednesday. He said during his speech that he used marijuana as a youth, and when questioned after the speech, acknowledged that he experimented with other controlled substances, but did not go into detail. 

He spent a lot of time discussing his 1993 bankruptcy filing, which he said came after nine years of work to make a go of an AM gospel radio station in Boston. He said many of the difficulties came from extended battles with the Federal Communications Commission  .  .  .  .

He also talked about his transition over time from lawyer to minister. He said that while he graduated from Harvard Law School, he took several classes at the divinity school, even though Harvard apparently has no record of it.  "They were not teaching what I believed to be orthodox Christian biblical theology but rather a liberal version of that. I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture; they did not," Jackson said of the Harvard divinity classes.

He acknowledged that he was asked to leave his first ministerial position in 1982, after two years at a Baptist church in Cambridge.

Jackson said many of his statements have been taken out of context to try to make it sound as though he believes that birth defects are caused by parents' sins or that yoga leads to Satanism.

"I do not believe that birth defects are caused by parents' sin unless, of course, there's a direct scientific connection between the parents' behavior and the disabilities of the child," he said, giving the example of birth defects that might result from a child born to a mother addicted to heroin.

He added, "I do not believe that yoga leads to Satanism. One of my ministers is a yoga instructor. What I said was that Christian meditation does not involve emptying oneself but filling oneself ... with the spirit of God. That is classic Biblical Christianity."

The uproar over yoga came last week when the National Review posted an excerpt of a book that Jackson had written in which he wrote, "When one hears the word meditation, it conjures an image of Maharishi Yoga talking about finding a mantra and striving for nirvana. ... The purpose of such meditation is to empty oneself. (Satan) is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it."

The man is a nutcase and any party that could nominate Jackson for Lt. Governor is simply unfit to govern.  Between now and November Virginia voters need to realize that Cuccinelli, Jackson and Obenshain are all cut out of the same cloth.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

More Wednesday Male Beauty

GOP War on Women Continues: GOP Congressman Says "Incidence of Rape Resulting in Pregnancy areVery Low"

One has to wonder whether or not the GOP is sending its elected members of Congress to some sort of "Stepford Wives" treatment center or simply giving them a lobotomy followed by mind control programing.  Or do they simply need to fail an IQ test before being vetted as a candidate?  How else to explain yet another GOP congressman shooting off his mouth with no supporting data or justification and claiming that rape rarely results in pregnancy.  One can only assume that Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) - who is pictured above - was speaking from some talking points provided by some right wing anti-abortion (and likely anti-gay) "family values" organization.  But then again, look at the Virginia GOP's statewide ticket.  They are all crazy extremists.  Politico looks at the latest case of verbal diarrhea to overt the GOP.  Here are excerpts:

A House Republican pushing for a 20-week nationwide ban on abortions said Wednesday that the incidence of pregnancies resulting from rape is “very low” — then scrambled to clarify his comment after it went viral with comparisons to former GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin.

“The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) as the House Judiciary Committee debated his bill to ban abortions nationwide after 20 weeks including in cases of rape and incest.

Franks’s comments immediately stirred comparisons to the controversies during the 2012 elections, when Akin and other GOP candidates made a series of statements about abortion and rape, or questioned whether abortion was ever needed to save a woman’s life. In several states — notably Missouri and Indiana — the remarks and their aftermath played into the larger Democratic theme of the “war on women” and helped Democrats win those seats and keep control of the Senate.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) challenged Franks when he made his comment in committee, saying his assertion was “astonishing.”

“The idea that the Republican men on this committee think they can tell the women of America that they have to carry to term the product of a rape is outrageous,” Lofgren said.

It wasn’t only Democrats who objected. Gabriel Gomez, the Massachusetts Republican Senate candidate, told ABC News: “I think that he’s a moron and he proves that stupid has no specific political affiliation.”
The House Judiciary Committee ultimately passed Franks’s bill, which would ban abortions nationwide after 20 weeks based on the controversial assertion that a fetus can feel pain at that point. It is scheduled to get a vote in the full House next week, a spokesman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor said.

In addition to voting down a Democratic amendment along party lines that would provide an exception in cases of rape or incest, the committee voted down amendments to provide a full exception to preserve the life or health of the woman and a more detailed amendment that would provide an exception if the pregnancy could result in lung disease, heart disease or diabetes.

Note how even an exception in the bill to save the life of the mother was voted down by the GOP.   With two daughters of my own, I certainly do not want decisions that could threaten their lives being made by political whore to Bible beaters who glorify ignorance and reject modern medical knowledge. Today's GOP has become something very, very ugly.  It is also noteworthy that whenever to GOP supports bad legislation, the fingers of the "godly Christian" crowd are often all over it.

Science Versus Religion: Which Has Contributed More to Mankind?

Click image to enlarge
In follow up to the last post which looked at the evils done by "godly Christian" folk, a piece at Why Evolution is True does a comparative analysis of the benefits to mankind provided by science versus religion.  Here are some highlights:

As a direct result of the inbuilt progress limitations inherent in religion, what religious progress we have seen over the last 50 years broadly falls into 2 camps.
Firstly there is the recognition that mainstream religion needs to catch up with modern views on items such as the equality of women and homosexuals. Despite lagging behind the rest of society, many progressive people within mainstream religious organizations recognize the need for equality beyond that originally foreseen by their religions’ founders and the need to upgrade their religion accordingly.
Alas, the second type of religious progress highlighted by the diagram [above shows an ugly form of religious progress that is becoming more and more familiar. When modern society is seen at odds with religious teachings many look to progress their faith towards a more literal interpretation of their scripture. Many faiths have regrettably progressed over recent years by branching out at the fringes to a more fundamentalist stance. Hence the chart below is littered with progress in the form of new creation museums, opposition to life saving medical procedures and numerous landmark cases of bigotry and discrimination. Not the sort of progress to be proud of.
What will it be, ladies and gentlemen: the eradication of smallpox or The Creation Museum?
 Readers really need to click and enlarge the image above to compare and contrast the contributions of science versus religion.  It's safe to say that the may "contributions" of religion are hate, the embrace of ignorance, violence against non-believers, and bigotry. 

Parental Rejection - The Bible As a Message of Hate - America's Got Talent

As regular readers know, I hold "godly Christians" who disown their own children for being gay in utter contempt.  Such individuals are utterly despicable and underscore the reality that those who profess piety and cling to a few selective Bible passages (passages that originated with ignorant, uneducated authors) are NOT nice people and clearly people worthy of one shred of deference or respect.  They are horrible people.  The video clip below is of a 20 year who was disowned by his parents who "did not like his lifestyle" who wowed the folks at America's Got Talent.  Kudos to Jonathan Allen and shame on his parents who I hope will find themselves met with well deserved ridicule and contempt.  When I hear being gay referred to as a lifestyle choice I know that either the party making the statement is (i) an ignorant ass, or (ii) an raging bigot.  Being gay is about as much of a lifestyle choice as breathing.  Personally, if I was Jonathan, I'd write his folks off, go on to do great things and treat his parents as they treated him.  Here's the video:

David Mixner states the matter well on his blog:

In the most moving moment for the LGBT community in the history of America's Got Talent, a young gay youth who appeared last night absolutely had America fall in love with him. The young sweet man was kicked out of his home in Tennessee for being gay. His parents kicked him out of his house on his 18th birthday. Be prepared to be inspired, proud and moved with this Susan Boyle moment! 
The boyfriend and I were both verklempt watching the clip  As a parent of three children myself, I cannot comprehend how one can consciously decide to embrace ignorance and bigotry and disown one's own child.  Perhaps Allen and his parents will reconcile.  In my view, they deserve to burn in Hell.  By the way, has anyone told them that Adam and Eve never existed?   They have disowned their own son why?  In sum, religion is a foul, toxic force that produce more ill fruits than positive benefits.

P.S. "Time to Say Goodbye" is one of my favorites and was one of the musical selections at my late mother's memorial service.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Virginia State Senator Wants Cuccinelli's Office Investigated - Or, Follow the Money

Governor Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell has gotten himself into a good deal of political trouble by accepting large sums of money from political supporters.  Now, it appears that Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli, the GOP's 2013 gubernatorial candidate may suffer from similar tendencies.  How else to explain an attorney in Cuccinelli's office assisting corporate litigants who - surprise, surprise - gave $100,000 to Kookinelli's campaign.  State Senator Phillip Puckett is from a Southwestern Virginia district where a lawyer from Cuccinelli's office was assisting two companies being sued by landowners for gas royalties.  He wants answers.  So should every Virginia voter and citizen.  Here are excerpts from a Virginian Pilot piece that looks at Puckett's call for an investigation:

A state senator said Monday he is seeking an investigation into the role of the Attorney General's Office in a natural gas lawsuit after a federal judge wrote she was shocked a lawyer from that office was assisting two companies being sued by landowners for gas royalties.

Sen. Phillip Puckett is a Democrat whose southwestern district encompasses landowners who are suing the companies. He said he is asking the Inspector General's Office to investigate whether the Attorney General's Office had violated any laws or ethics rules.

Puckett noted that one of the companies, CNX Gas Co., is owned by Consul Energy Inc., which had donated $100,000 to the Republican gubernatorial campaign of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

"The attorney general of Virginia or any elected officer of the state, including me, should be doing the right thing for the people that we serve and not be on the side of someone else just because of campaign contributions or any other reasons," Puckett said in a conference call.

In an opinion issued last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargent cited emails between an assistant attorney general and EQT Production Co. and CNX, Pittsburgh-area energy companies. The attorney, Sharon Pigeon, advises the Virginia Gas and Oil Board.

Sargent wrote: "Shockingly, these emails show that the board, or at least Pigeon, has been actively involved in assisting EQT and CNX with the defense of these cases, including offering advice on and providing information for use on the motions before the court."

EQT has declined to comment on Sargent's written comments, while CNX has not responded to telephone messages and emails.

When first out of law school I worked with a large law firm and worked on oil and gas lease litigation matters.  I also frequently appeared before the state oil and gas board.  Let's be clear: these lawsuits are private civil litigation matters and the AG's office and the State Oil and Gas Board should have no role in them other than to provide copies of public records to parties if requested to do so.  "Offering advice on and providing information on the motions before the court" far exceed these duties.   Cuccinelli has time and time again shown that he sees himself as above the law, above the Supreme Court and above Congress.  Taking a $100,000 payment in exchange for help for the AG's office to the donor(s) would be only too much in keeping with his level of arrogance.

NSA Leaker - Hero Or Traitor?

The rage in some quarters over the revelation that the National Security Agency, CIA and other U.S. government organizations have been spying on American citizens continues unabated.  What's interesting is that some both on the far right and far left are in an uproar.  Meanwhile, the "America, love it or leave it" crowd is accusing NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, is a traitor.  It's the same mindset that kept America in the disaster in Vietnam for far too long and the one that has kept the fool's errand in Afghanistan going for over a decade.  The New York Times takes the position in a main page editorial that Snowden is not a traitor.  Here are some column highlights:

For several top lawmakers in Washington, Edward Snowden committed the ultimate political crime when he revealed to the world just how broadly and easily the government is collecting phone and Internet records. “He’s a traitor,” said John Boehner, the House speaker. “It’s an act of treason,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee.

Among prosecutors and defense lawyers, there’s a name for that kind of hyperbole: overcharging. Whatever his crimes — and he clearly committed some — Mr. Snowden did not commit treason, though the people who have long kept the secrets he revealed are now fulminating with rage. 

If Mr. Snowden had really wanted to harm his country, he could have sold the classified documents he stole to a foreign power, say Russia or China or Iran or North Korea. But even that would not constitute treason, which only applies in cases of aiding an enemy with whom the United States is at war.

In the landmark 1945 case Cramer v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that one had to provide aid and comfort and also “adhere” to an enemy to be guilty of treason. 

“A citizen may take actions which do aid and comfort the enemy,” the court said, “making a speech critical of the government or opposing its measures, profiteering, striking in defense plants or essential work, and the hundred other things which impair our cohesion and diminish our strength — but if there is no adherence to the enemy in this, if there is no intent to betray, there is no treason.” 

Clearly, Mr. Snowden did not join a terror cell, or express any hostility toward the United States, when he turned over documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post. (He was also not nearly as reckless as Bradley Manning, . . . .

Mr. Snowden’s goal was to expose and thus stop the intelligence community from what he considered unwarranted intrusions into the lives of ordinary Americans. “My sole motive,” he told The Guardian, “is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” While that principle is the right one, he should brace himself for the charges and possible punishment that may come in its wake. Most likely, he will be charged with disclosure of classified information under the Espionage Act, which carries a possible 10-year jail term for each count. 

Of course, prosecuting Snowden requires that he be taken into custody and may also involve some challenges as noted in The American Conservative under a headline of "Obama Shouldn’t Prosecute Snowden, He Should Hire Him":
I think the Obama administration will have a very difficult time prosecuting Edward Snowden. They can go after Bradley Manning because they have him, in uniform and in prison, and thus shut off from normal communication. Americans are unable to perceive how normal, probably likeable, and how similar to most of us he probably is. But Snowden comes across like everyone’s ideal of a really smart, techie, individualist kid. No high school degree, yet speaks as eloquently as an assistant Harvard professor. Smart enough to rise rapidly in the world without credentials, reminding us vividly computers really are a new frontier, the one field outside of sports and music where classic American Horatio Alger tropes have any continued relevance. If Obama wanted to do something smart, he should thank Snowden and offer him a job as a White House technology advisor.
The situation has indeed made some strange bedfellows when both Boehner and Feinstein are condemning him  and the ACLU and others on the far right are praising him.  It will be an interesting spectacle to watch play out.