Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The Founders' Blue Print for Fighting Wealth Disparities

As America slides back into a Gilded Age society and with Republicans and the conservatives on the Supreme Court waging a constant war on the working and middle classes, it is noteworthy that the Founding Fathers recognized that wealth concentrations in the few was not a good thing for the future or the nation's economy.  Perhaps it was their living experience with the wealth inequalities in Great Britain and the deference given to aristocrats, but whatever the motivation, Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton and others sought to strengthen the average American financial, not strip them of benefits and property to aid the few.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at some of the actions of the Founders that are diametrically opposed to the policies of the GOP.  Here are some highlights:

Current approaches to addressing rising inequality—raising the minimum wage, expanding higher education, increasing the power of unions, widening the national focus on high technology, aiming for a national renaissance in manufacturing—have not shown any evidence of reversing the concentration of income and wealth. There is one potential solution that could appeal to both pro-labor liberals and free-market conservatives, which has its roots in the philosophies of the Founding Fathers, and is already being practiced in parts of the economy today: employee shares in companies. The idea is to make every citizen a capitalist through citizen shares of corporations.  A story from President George Washington points the way.

On February 16, 1792, Washington signed into law a bill from the U.S. Congress that cut taxes for ship owners and sailors in the American cod fishery, in an effort to revive the failing industry. However, the tax cut was conditioned on a broad-based profit sharing arrangement between shipowners and the crews—a centuries-long custom of sharing the profits made from every catch. The legislation was supported by two politicians who typically agreed on very little: Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, who was responsible for negotiating America’s interests in the fisheries.

Hamilton’s Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Tench Coxe. Coxe supplied Jefferson with evidence from the leading Philadelphia shipper, Joseph Anthony, that the cod ships with profit sharing were more productive than those with fixed wages.  In the end, Washington’s law not only required a written contract between captain and crew to practice broad-based profit sharing as a condition to receive the tax cuts, and it also said that the tax credits would be paid five-eighths to the crew and three-eighths to the shipowners. The credits relieved the sailors and owners of tariffs, essentially tax payments they had to make on supplies for the fishery.  This is the first documented case in American history where the government made citizen shares—a form of inclusive capitalism—a condition for receiving a tax break.

The cod fishery law reflected the beliefs of many of the Founders that a representative republic required broad-based property ownership—typically land, or, in the case of the cod fishery, shares of profits—and a thriving middle class if the nation was to have a future based on real political liberty.

John Adams repeatedly sounded the alarm on inequality—specifically that he believed the concentration of wealth in property ownership would lead to the concentration of political power, which would undo a republic.

Washington asked Jefferson to draft a liberal approach to the sale of public lands to citizens which commenced, albeit with some complications. They moved against the institution of primogeniture, a key plank of European feudalism, and with the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, they all agreed to abolish servitude in what would become Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota, so that citizens could easily acquire land in that part of the young country (though slavery would remain a terrible evil for many decades to come in other parts of the nation).

For more than a half-century, up to the Civil War, federal leaders’ approach to land sales generally allowed low prices, installments, and credits in order to facilitate the wide sale of public land shares to citizens. Homesteads were the most popular economic policy of the 19th century across the political spectrum after being pushed by senior Democrats. Politicians who argued for selling land to the highest bidder and using the funds for the federal budget were drowned out. Finally, in 1862, after definitively accepting the position that land capital was for the people, Republican President Abraham Lincoln said he was for “the greatest good for the greatest number” and he signed The Homestead Act into law.

[I]t is time for our leaders to develop a hopeful and positive agenda to address the future of the American middle class. What better way than to go back to the American egalitarian tradition of broad-based property ownership of capital in a private market economy? Middle class families have faced relatively flat household incomes for decades and have little access to capital ownership, capital income, and capital gains to expand their wealth.

It is time for new thinking on how to democratize access to capital in ways that remain consistent with our principles. Both progressives and conservatives can turn to their respective icons among America’s leaders to light their way forward.

Madison did not favor redistribution of wealth. His proposed plan, as spelled out in a 1792 article in the National Gazette, was to “withhold unnecessary opportunities from the few to increase the inequality of property” in order to avoid an “unmerited accumulation of riches.” He wanted laws that, “without violating the rights of property,” would “reduce extreme wealth towards a state of mediocrity”—meaning a robust middle class. 

Using Washington’s cod fishery legislation as a model and Madison’s ideas as a guide, we can explore a restructuring of the tax code to condition any business tax incentive on having some type of share plan for all employees—whether it’s broad-based profit sharing or an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. No business would be required to implement shares, but every business would at least have a serious incentive to consider the idea and decide if it made sense for their organization. Another proposal could involve a tax credit for any corporation that provides broad-based stock options or grants of stock to all of its workers. Silicon Valley would jump at such a proposal.

Would that today's GOP would remember the concepts of the Founders rather than supporting a return to the Gilded Age.

McMansions: An American Embarrassment and Ecological Problem

During my closeted married years I lived in the Great Neck area of Virginia Beach where the main focus on life for many was "how big is your house, how expensive is your car, and what private school do your children attend."  Superficiality seemed to be the norm with far too many of the residents and, when I came out, I discovered how few real friends I truly had.  Many acquaintances, but few real friends.  What I experienced sadly is a reflection of the America's obsession with ever larger homes- McMansions, if you will  -  which produce suburban sprawl and higher than necessary energy consumption.  Much of the development taking place in parts of Tidewater Virginia continues this trend.  A piece in Salon looks at America's wasteful use of land and energy as the McMansion craze continues.  Here are some highlights:
Since the Truman administration, the average American house has inflated with the runaway pace of a hot air balloon, floating from city to suburb to exurb in search of a lot that can hold it.

By 2007, our average crib had grown to 2,521 square feet — 50 percent larger than in 1973, and more than three times the size of the “little boxes” of Levittown, New York, the 1947 Long Island development that marked the dawn of the suburban era.

This surfeit of space is a potent symbol of the American way of life; it speaks to our priorities, our prosperity and our tendency to take more than we need. But the superlative size of our houses isn’t just a foam finger America can hold up to the world. It’s correlated with land use patterns and population density, which in turn determine the environmental impact and personal health of communities, and whether they can support a diverse range of businesses, facilities and transportation choices. It’s no coincidence that a modern American suburb like Weston, Florida, has just one-third the population density of Levittown.

[L]ast year, the average size of new American houses reached an all-time high of 2,679 square feet. The increase in space per person has been even more dramatic. Between 1973 and 2013, the average American household shrank from 3.01 to 2.54 persons; new homes give Americans more than 1,000 square feet per family member, on average. That’s roughly twice as much space as we had in 1973.

American homes dwarf those in nearly every other country on Earth. Our new houses are twice the size of those in Germany, and you could fit three new U.K. houses inside one of ours. (For what it’s worth, the houses in the U.K. are rather cramped.) Even in spacious Canada, our neighbors are building homes three-quarters the size of their U.S. equivalents. Only Australia, which has the lowest population density in the world after Mongolia and Namibia, can rival the U.S.A. for big houses.

During most of the early-aughts housing boom, too, more than four of five new units were single-family homes. But that huge discrepancy has been vanquished by a surge in apartment construction. These days, the rate of new starts in multi-family buildings has been hovering, nationwide, near 40 percent — a level not seen in decades.

That raises a number of questions. Are these new residents trading the space of suburbia for the vibrancy of a city? Are they downsizing their living quarters to spend money on other things? Or can they simply not afford to rent a bigger apartment or purchase a house?

Not surprisingly, as communities sprawl, auto use soars and mass transit becomes untenable. 

The Nightmare Scenario for Republicans on Gay Marriage

Most Republican senators slavishly prostitute themselves to the Christofascists and oppose same sex marriage notwithstanding the fact that a majority of Americans now support it.  One exception to this rule of shameless self-prostitution is Senator Bob Portman (pictured above with son Will) who reversed his stance after his son came out to him as gay.  Like many other decent parents, Portman put the love for his child ahead of party politics expediency and bigotry based on the writings of ignorant herders from 2500+ years ago.  Now, there is speculation that Portman might throw his hat in the ring for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.  Whether or not Portman could survive the nomination process given the GOP base's embrace of ignorance and hate and bigotry is open to question.  His candidacy, however, could be a nightmare for the GOP as pointed out in a column in the Washington Post.  Here are column excerpts:

So Ohio Senator Rob Portman is considering a run for president, and he claims his support for gay marriage would be a plus in a general election, allowing Republicans to make an economic case to key demographics that are culturally resistant to the GOP. “You can’t become a national party unless you do a better job reaching those between 18 and 30,” Portman says.

This raises the possibility of a scenario that Republicans who agree with Portman — and believe the party must evolve on gay marriage to stay in step with the country’s cultural and demographic shifts — might want to start worrying about right about now.

It’s not hard to imagine that Senator Ted Cruz might offer precisely the opposite case from Portman, making the argument that the party must reaffirm its support for “traditional marriage” key to his GOP presidential primary run. This could come after the Supreme Court has declared a Constitutional right to gay marriage — which Cruz would then be vociferously calling on Republicans to help roll back.

Gay advocates believe lower court rulings overturning state gay marriage bans on Constitutional equal protection grounds could portend an eventual SCOTUS ruling that enshrines a national right to gay marriage. That could happen in time for the 2016 primary.

That would amount to a powerful declaration that this debate is, or should be, culturally and legally settled. But at that point, unrepentant foes of gay marriage could seize on the ruling to redouble their call for a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Such a measure was introduced by House Republicans as recently as last year. And Senator Cruz supports the idea.

If you don’t think Cruz would love to demagogue such a SCOTUS ruling — and will demagogue the issue whether or not there is any such SCOTUS ruling — then you haven’t been paying close attention to the good Senator from Texas. In a recent speech reported by Jeffrey Toobin, he strongly suggested he would make this cause central to any presidential run, and threw in criticism of SCOTUS on it.

Whether or not there is any SCOTUS ruling, there are already signs gay marriage could divide Republicans in 2016. The RNC autopsy into what went wrong in 2012 explicitly called for evolution on the issue, in part to keep in step with the cultural sensitivities of young Republicans and conservatives. Meanwhile, GOP-aligned gay advocates are actively planning to encourage pro-marriage equality voices within the GOP to speak out.

An intra-GOP primary dispute over it [gay marriage] could help reinforce a dynamic Ron Brownstein has already identified, one in which cultural issues such as gay rights have “reaffirmed the GOP’s identity as the champion of the forces most resistant to the profound demographic and cultural dynamics reshaping American life — and Democrats as the voice of those who most welcome these changes.” One can even imagine a viral moment  in which all the GOP candidates are asked to raise their hands if they believe marriage is only between a man and a woman. If Rob Portman doesn’t run, all the GOP candidates’ hands may promptly shoot heavenward.

What the GOP needs to do is kick the Christofascists to the curb.  They are declining in numbers as older bigots literally die off and if the GOP were to throw social issues off of its agenda, it is possible that sane voters might consider returning to the GOP fold.  That isn't going to happen as long as Tony Perkins and similar hate group leaders are writing the GOP platform.

Billionaires to GOP: Break the Immigration Impassee

Today's GOP has no real policy agenda other than blocking whatever the White House and Democrats.  Worse yet, today's Congressional Republicans care nothing about the lives of average Americans that they harm through their stance as the "Party of No" be it sabotaging economic stimulus, refusing to repair the nation's crumbling infrastructure, destroying the social safety net, or blocking any meaningful immigration reform because the nasty GOP base sees anyone who is not white and evangelical Christian as some form of subhuman life form.  An in some ways unlikely trio of billionaires let loose on Congress, but most of the finger pointing belongs with the GOP.  Here are highlights from a New York Times op-ed they wrote:

AMERICAN citizens are paying 535 people to take care of the legislative needs of the country. We are getting shortchanged. Here’s an example: On June 10, an incumbent congressman in Virginia lost a primary election in which his opponent garnered only 36,105 votes. Immediately, many Washington legislators threw up their hands and declared that this one event would produce paralysis in the United States Congress for at least five months. In particular, they are telling us that immigration reform — long overdue — is now hopeless. 

Americans deserve better than this.

The three of us vary in our politics and would differ also in our preferences about the details of an immigration reform bill. But we could without doubt come together to draft a bill acceptable to each of us. We hope that fact holds a lesson: You don’t have to agree on everything in order to cooperate on matters about which you are reasonably close to agreement. It’s time that this brand of thinking finds its way to Washington.

Most Americans believe that our country has a clear and present interest in enacting immigration legislation that is both humane to immigrants living here and a contribution to the well-being of our citizens. Reaching these goals is possible. Our present policy, however, fails badly on both counts.

We believe it borders on insanity to train intelligent and motivated people in our universities — often subsidizing their education — and then to deport them when they graduate. Many of these people, of course, want to return to their home country — and that’s fine. But for those who wish to stay and work in computer science or technology, fields badly in need of their services, let’s roll out the welcome mat.

A “talented graduate” reform was included in a bill that the Senate approved last year by a 68-to-32 vote. It would remove the worldwide cap on the number of visas that could be awarded to legal immigrants who had earned a graduate degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from an accredited institution of higher education in the United States, provided they had an offer of employment. The bill also included a sensible plan that would have allowed illegal residents to obtain citizenship, though only after they had earned the right to do so. 

Whatever the precise provisions of a law, it’s time for the House to draft and pass a bill that reflects both our country’s humanity and its self-interest. Differences with the Senate should be hammered out by members of a conference committee, committed to a deal.

A Congress that does nothing about these problems is extending an irrational policy by default; that is, if lawmakers don’t act to change it, it stays the way it is, irrational. The current stalemate — in which greater pride is attached to thwarting the opposition than to advancing the nation’s interests — is depressing to most Americans and virtually all of its business managers. The impasse certainly depresses the three of us.

Signs of a more productive attitude in Washington — which passage of a well-designed immigration bill would provide — might well lift spirits and thereby stimulate the economy. It’s time for 535 of America’s citizens to remember what they owe to the 318 million who employ them.

Will Congressional Republicans get the message?  Probably not.  They care more about pandering to the ignorance and bigotry of the racists and religious extremists of the party base than they care about the welfare of the country.  It is nothing short of sickening.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Morning Male Beauty

The Christian Roots of the Holocaust

Today's Christofascists are know best for who they hate and their contempt for others who do not subscribe to their toxic religious beliefs.  Sadly, this is not a new phenomenon among the "godly folk" and too many Christian denominations ignore the evils that they have perpetrated over time and perhaps deliberately ignore the misdeeds of their early leaders.  As Bob Felton notes at Civil Commotion, soon Hitler's Mein Kampf will again be available in bookstores.  Some ponder way the views of a man synonymous with evil should be publicly available.  In part I share that view.  On the other hand, if we are going to censor the publication of Hitler's anti-Semitic views, then there should be consistency in that policy.  Felton rightly points out that much of Hitlers views on the Jews traces directly back to what was long Christian policy: contempt for and mistreatment of Jews.   Don't believe this?  Felton offers some examples of the foul anti-Semitics views of Martin Luther.  Here are some highlights:
Hitler remains a sort of perverse ‘gold standard’ for evil. The sort of people who find reason in that sort of thing, who find an explanation for their unhappy, resentment-filled lives, will find a way to read it. Suppressing it will accomplish nothing but stimulating interest in it; better to drag it out to the light of day, where it can be laughed at.

Here is what I have always found interesting about the suppression of Nazism-related ideas: Martin Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies uses anti-semitic language that is vastly more brutal than Hitler’s language in Main Kampf, and it is never mentioned in connection with Germany’s anti-semitism.

What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blasphemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames. We dare not avenge ourselves. Vengeance a thousand times worse than we could wish them already has them by the throat. I shall give you my sincere advice:

First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly ­ and I myself was unaware of it ­ will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.

Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. (remainder omitted)

Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. For they have justly forfeited the right to such an office by holding the poor Jews captive with the saying of Moses (Deuteronomy 17 [:10 ff.]) in which he commands them to obey their teachers on penalty of death, although Moses clearly adds: “what they teach you in accord with the law of the Lord.” Those villains ignore that. They wantonly employ the poor people’s obedience contrary to the law of the Lord and infuse them with this poison, cursing, and blasphemy. In the same way the pope also held us captive with the declaration in Matthew 16 {:18], “You are Peter,” etc, inducing us to believe all the lies and deceptions that issued from his devilish mind. He did not teach in accord with the word of God, and therefore he forfeited the right to teach.

Fifth, I advise that safe­conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let they stay at home. (…remainder omitted).

Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us all they possess. Such money should now be used in no other way than the following: Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintenance of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God’s blessing in a good and worthy cause.

Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen 3[:19]}. For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.
Hitler merely plowed ground prepared by Martin Luther, so why is Luther so little discussed and so readily available?
Bob is all too right.  And the Catholic Church was no better than Luther.  Yet we continue to see special deference given to conservative Christians in America and elsewhere in the world despite the evils that their world view has caused.  Reading the quoted passages above, one could argue that all Hitler did was implement Luther's recommendations.  Religion continues to be one of the great evils in the world today - just as it has been throughout history.

The Tea Party Risks Scaring Away Voters

While the Tea Party may be making a resurgence in some areas of the country and may still be able to play Republican elected officials like puppets, for a larger portion of the public, the image of the ignorance embracing, venom filled Tea Party crowd is nothing less than scary, and rightfully so.   When Sarah Palin is viewed as a "leader" it is time to write off the GOP as brain dead.  In a column in the Washington Post, Michael Gerson - a conservative - bemoans the negative impact that the Tea Party is having with many voters who haven't had lobotomies and/or who don't suffered from severe psychological problems.  Here are some column highlights:
 A few recent developments have revealed the tea party temperament in its most distilled, potent form.

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin called for the impeachment of President Obama on the theory that his border policies are “the last straw that makes the battered wife say, ‘no más.’ ” Excavating the layers of mixed metaphor — the straw that broke the camel’s back is somehow causing an abused woman to surrender in Spanish — Palin demands the ousting of an American president on the constitutional theory that “enough is enough.”

At the same time, failed tea party Senate candidate Chris McDaniel claims that his primary opponent, Thad Cochran, “stole” the election — a serious charge made without serious evidence — and equates overturning his 7,700-vote loss with preserving “the torch of liberty.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has embraced McDaniel’s legal challenge, blaming the “D.C. machine” for shifting the election results.

The movement has developed a characteristic tone and approach. It is often apocalyptic. The torch of liberty sputters. The country is on the verge of tyranny. Yet, without apparent cognitive dissonance, the movement’s goals are often utopian. The nation’s problems can be solved by passing 10 amendments to the Constitution or by impeaching the president. And those who don’t share a preference for maximal (sometimes delusional) solutions — those who talk of incrementalism or compromise — are granted particular scorn.

These habits of mind — desperation, utopianism, purifying zeal and ideological simplicity — have had their uses throughout history. But they can’t be called conservative. This is one theme of a careful, instructive essay by Philip Wallach and Justus Myers in National Affairs that ought to be required beach reading for conservatives. The authors describe the attributes of the conservative temperament — humility, an appreciation for what is worthy in our society, a preference for incremental reform, a distrust of abstraction — and contrast them with the “misguided radicals of the left and right.”

Americans will give the GOP another look. They will be either impressed or frightened by what they see. A party that is genuinely excited about conservative anti-poverty proposals, the child tax credit and other reforms — rather than impeachment and the abolition of modern government — might even be judged worthy of the presidency again.

The most urgent requirement for conservative success is the recovery of a conservative temperament.

There is nothing "conservative" about the Tea Party.  It is extreme, it is fueled by hate and ignorance and is the antithesis to what true conservatives would and should be advocating.   I continue to believe that much of the Tea Party insanity comes from the high proportion of Christofascists within the Tea Party. 

Virginia Police/Prosecutor Back Off Request for Nude Photos of Teen Boy

Try as Virginia might to project an image of a modern, at least slightly enlightened and progressive state, some Virginians are working in overdrive to make the state a laughing stock in the national and international media.  The latest example comes from the Manassas City police department which had been seeking to serve a search warrant on a 17-year-old boy charged with “sexting” an explicit video to his 15-year-old girlfriend.  The plan was to medically induce an erection and photograph it apparently to prove the 17 year old was the individual in the texted material.  Now, having made Virginia look utterly stupid and backward, the cretins in Manassas are backing down on their lurid demands.  Obviously, some folks need to be promptly fired and the Commonwealth Attorney needs to resign immediately.  It is perhaps telling that Manassas is in Prince William County, home of Del. Bob Marshall who seeks to police the sex lives of all Virginians.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post on the Manassas batshitery:

Manassas City police said Thursday they would not serve a search warrant seeking to take photos of a 17-year-old boy charged with “sexting” an explicit video to his 15-year-old girlfriend earlier this year.

The teen is facing felony counts of manufacturing and distributing child pornography. As the case was headed to trial last week, Manassas City police and Prince William County prosecutors said in juvenile court that they had obtained a warrant to photograph the teen’s erect penis, in order to compare with the video he allegedly sent in January, according to the teen’s lawyers. When defense lawyer Jessica Harbeson Foster asked how they would obtain a photo of her client while aroused, she said police told her they would take him to a hospital and inject him with a drug to force an erection.

On Thursday, Prince William authorities decided to drop that plan. Lt. Brian Larkin of the Manassas City police said, “We are not going to pursue it.” He said the police planned to allow the search warrant, obtained last week, to expire. He would not say why the decision had been made to abandon the warrant or discuss the reasons for the search.

Larkin referred further questions to Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert. Ebert did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Carlos Flores Laboy, appointed the teen’s guardian ad litem in the case, said he thought it was just as illegal for the Manassas City police to create their own child pornography as to investigate the teen for it.

“They’re using a statute that was designed to protect children from being exploited in a sexual manner to take a picture of this young man in a sexually explicit manner,” Flores Laboy said. “The irony is incredible.”

All I can say is "Only in Virginia" - especially conservative areas of Virginia.  I hope  Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert is happy that he's made the entire state look ridiculous and backward.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Will the Supreme Court Take Utah's Gay Marriage Ban Appea?

With the 4th Circuit poised to release its ruling in the Virginia gay marriage ruling at any moment, with Wisconsin announcing that it will appeal the ruling striking down that state's ban to the 7th Circuit, the growing question is what will the U. S. Supreme Court do with the soon to be filed appeal by the state of Utah's appeal from the 10th Circuit ruling upholding the U.S. District Court ruling that declared Utah's gay marriage ban to be unconstitutional.  Based on Utah's pitiful argument before the 10th Circuit, any appeal to the Supreme Court will likely involve a regurgitation of the arguments - e.g., marriage is for procreation, it's a state rights issue, etc. - that to date have failed to impress any of the numerous U.S. District Courts and state courts that have found state marriage bans to violate the equal protection and due process guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.  Andrew Sullivan provides a good synopsis of the different "reading of the tea leaves" of what the court may do.  Here are highlights:
The court doesn’t have to take the case, of course, but Denniston explains why they might choose to:
With the case going to the Justices via such a petition, the Court will have complete discretion whether to review the Tenth Circuit ruling, or pass it up. Utah officials are almost certain to argue that the Court should take up the issue promptly based on the argument that there is now a conflict among federal appeals courts on the constitutionality of such bans.
The Eighth Circuit upheld such a ban, but that was in 2006, seven years before the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision — a ruling that many judges have said changed the legal landscape for review of those state laws. In the Windsor decision, which involved only a federal law, the Court indicated that it was not taking a position at that time on the validity of state laws forbidding same-sex marriages.
But there is no such conflict between courts regarding this particular case, so the justices might prefer to hold off:
While most observers expect the high court to take up the issue of marriage equality within the next few years, the Associated Press notes that the court has a history of declining to consider cases without divergent rulings from lower courts. In the Kitchen case, a federal trial judge and the 10th Circuit both ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. If the Supreme Court declines Utah’s request to hear the case, those lower rulings will stand, definitively declaring Utah’s marriage law unconstitutional and striking down the voter-approved law.
Some legal experts, however, doubt the court will turn it down:
“I think the Court will take the case. Since [U.S. v.] Windsor, all of the lower courts that have ruled have struck down laws prohibiting same sex marriages,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, the Dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law. “Perhaps without a split in the lower courts, the Supreme Court will wait. My prediction, though, is that the Court knows the issue needs to be resolved and will take it.” And if the Court does hear the case, all eyes will be on Justice Anthony Kennedy, not simply because he’s the traditional swing vote, but because he has written all three decisions in Supreme Court history that advanced gay rights. “I also predict that the five justices in the majority in Windsor will be the majority to declare unconstitutional laws that deny marriage equality to gays and lesbians,” Chemerinsky said.
Also yesterday, Alito denied without comment a county clerk’s plea to stop same-sex marriages in Pennsylvania. “That appears to remove the last potential legal barrier to Pennsylvania becoming the nineteenth state in which same-sex marriages are permitted,” Denniston adds in an update. And, in other good news, a judge struck down Colorado’s marriage equality ban yesterday, though the decision is stayed pending appeal. The speed of all this is simply staggering.
Perhaps I am biased, but I believe that the Supreme Court will taker the Utah appeal and that ultimately, state gay marriage bans will all be ruled unconstitutional for reasons similar to those expressed by the majority in United States v. Windsor.   Yes, the shrieking and lamenting of the Christofascists will be off the charts.  But at the same time, the justices can see where the mood of the country is going and, if the Court is to maintain relevance and respect - especially after the ridiculous ruling in Hobby Lobby, there really is only one way for the Court to rule: gay marriage is a constitutional right.

Mark Regnerus Attacks New Study on Children of Gays - Is He Out for Career Suicide?

With the Christofascists and their paid whores - both in the realm of politics and faux experts - who make sex workers look forthright and virtuous in comparison, objective facts simply do not matter.   It is all about trying to maintain an increasingly discredited ideology without which the Christofascists seemingly would go into psychological melt down.  Just as some of the most untethered from reality far right evangelicals are in denial that they are losing the war against same sex marriage, so too some of the faux experts favored by the Christofascists are so obsessed with supporting the anti-gay evangelical agenda that they seem to be willing to destroy what's left of their already careers.  A case in point?  Mark Regnerus who, after a lambasting in the Michigan gay marriage ban lawsuit, seems heel bent to become little more than a quack relegated to securing a position at some small extreme Christian college.  As noted before, one has to wonder how long it will be before the Universality of Texas finds an excuse to remove Regnerus from the faculty.  A piece in Slate looks at Regnerus' latest insanity.  Here are highlights:
You might think that a researcher who was repudiated by his own department, caught lying about the role of funding in his research, and generally made the laughing stock of serious scholars in his field would lay low for a while. If this researcher had any desire to rehabilitate his career, you might assume, he would avoid repeating the same line of ungrounded, politicized, and harmful claims about LGBTQ families that badly marred his career in the first place.

But if you were speaking of Mark Regnerus, you’d be wrong. A young, conservative Catholic professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Regnerus gained renown in recent years for getting through peer review a fundamentally flawed study that claimed children of same-sex parents fared poorly, when the study didn’t even examine, well, children of same-sex parents. Numerous investigators from within and outside academia showed definitively that the study—from conception to design to funding to execution and roll-out—was a conservative PR campaign meant to influence court cases to block same-sex marriage by denigrating LGBTQ families with false claims about child outcomes. And all of this with no regard for the stigmatizing impact on those families, particularly children, in whose names conservatives have famously waged their anti-modernist campaigns.

In the wake of yet another study showing the kids are all right, Regnerus has again taken up his pen, this time trying to skewer the latest data by hurling at them the same criticisms that discredited his own study. Yet the facts are simple, and they’re not remotely on his side. 

[O]f the 15,000 people Regnerus screened, only 248 even had one parent who had had a same-sex relationship, and of those, only two were actually raised for any significant period of time by a stable same-sex couple.  

Regnerus’ sample size was two. Two children with same-sex parents. Which gives new meaning to the phrase, “unusual sample size.”

By contrast, the Crouch study that Regnerus condemns looked at 500 children with a gay parent, more than twice as many as Regnerus found. And even though they were not all in stable, two-parent homes, the children fared better on several measures.

It’s no surprise that a federal judge in Michigan earlier this year dismissed Regnerus’ testimony against same-sex marriage as a farce, saying: “The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration.” Hopefully the rest of the world will follow suit.

Again I ask the question: when is the University of Texas going to send Regnerus packing?  His very presence combined with more batshitery is only harming the university's reputation. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Todd Akin Isn't Sorry - Takes Back Apology to Women

Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin
As if there isn't already enough proof that the GOP has become the party of knuckle dragging Neanderthals and spittle flecked religious fanatics, now Todd Akin is bursting back on the scene and in a new book withdrawing his apology for his insane, ugly comment about rape and women.   In withdrawing the apology, Akin says he “was validating the willful misinterpretation of what I had said.”  For anyone who heard his statement, there was no misinterpreting what he said.  It was all too clear.   Politico looks at this craziness from Akin who no doubt is a darling of the Christofascists at The Family Foundation here in Virginia.  Here are highlights:

Two years after the Missouri Republican’s comments on rape, pregnancy and abortion doomed his campaign and fueled a “war on women” message that carried Democrats to victory in the Senate, one of the few regrets he mentions in a new book is the decision to air a campaign ad apologizing for his remarks.

“By asking the public at large for forgiveness,” Akin writes, “I was validating the willful misinterpretation of what I had said.”

And when it comes to his infamous line about rape and pregnancy, that “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he writes defiantly: “My comment about a woman’s body shutting the pregnancy down was directed to the impact of stress of fertilization.

“Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom” hits bookshelves July 15. An advance copy was provided to POLITICO by a source involved with the book.

Akin argues that he could have defeated Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri, despite his comments, if it weren’t for the piling on from both liberals and conservatives. He compares his situation sympathetically to that of George Allen, who lost a Senate race in Virginia after calling a liberal tracker a racial slur. And he accuses liberals of hypocrisy for asking Bill Clinton to headline the Democratic National Convention.

The forward is written by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, but few other conservatives are likely to cheer Akin’s return to the national stage in the final months of a campaign season Republicans vowed would not be shaped by the mistakes of 2012, when comments about rape and women’s issues derailed their hopes of retaking the Senate.

Akin isn’t concerned. Here are some key takeaways from his book:

Defends comments on rape
Akin offers no apologies for his “legitimate rape” comment and blames liberal news media for how it was received. The liberal opposition research super PAC American Bridge dug up the video and sent it to Talking Points Memo, described as one of the “well-funded, left-leaning blogs.” Talking Points Memo posted the footage and started a firestorm.

Akin systematically defends every phrase in his response to whether abortion in the case of rape should be legal. “Taking my comments in order: When a woman claims to have been raped, the police determine if the evidence supports the legal definition of ‘rape.’ Is it a legitimate claim of rape or an excuse to avoid an unwanted pregnancy?”

Contempt for GOP Establishment
The former lawmaker spends a fair amount of time cataloging who wronged him. Karl Rove gets plenty of ink for his comments at the Republican National Convention, where he joked to donors that “If [Akin’s] found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!” Akin also dings former National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Jesmer in the book for allegedly pressuring a supporter to try and “persuade as many pastors as possible to sign a letter asking me to step down.”

Akin singles out Rove, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip John Cornyn, GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Roy Blunt of Missouri, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and House Speaker John Boehner as the group of Beltway RINOs whose decisions are closely tied to which candidates are supported by Republican super PACs. Akin later calls McCain’s 2008 presidential bid a “futile effort” and describes the senator as “old, brittle, and internally angry.”

There's more, but what is truly frightening is that much of the GOP base will likely embrace Akin.  As I said in the last post, the cancer that afflicts the GOP cannot be cured.  The patient must die to be cured.

The GOP: A party That Cannot Be Saved

Faces of insanity - Rueters
As a former Republican I have reached a point where I no longer believe the GOP can be saved and brought back into the sane world.  The metastasizing cancer that afflicts the GOP - i.e., control by Christofascists, Tea Party lunatics, and those who glory in embracing ignorance - cannot be cured and/or driven from the Party.  Death or permanent fringe party minority status of the GOP seemingly are the only cures for the nation's political landscape.  A piece in Salon looks at the struggle for the GOP's soul that does not promise any positive revival or reform.  Here are excerpts:

The last couple of weeks have been a coming out party of sorts for the “Reformicons,” the group of conservative intellectuals who have taken it upon themselves to reform the Republican Party into something less dogmatic and more electable. They were the subject of a New York Times Magazine profile and countless think pieces. 

It all came down to variations of the same question: “Can ‘reformicons’ save the Republican Party?

As if to answer that question and underline the challenges facing the conservative reform movement, the cranks and the dead-enders rose up as one this past week to put on a muscular demonstration of political stupidity.

Let’s start with Ted Cruz, since there’s no better avatar of the modern Republican Party’s aversion to responsible governance than the junior senator from Texas.

Ever since McDaniel narrowly lost the primary runoff to Cochran, the whole situation has spiraled into chaos. McDaniel has been angrily disputing the election results and making allegations of voter fraud. His supporters are claiming Cochran bought the votes of black Democrats. It’s desperate and obscene and a rolling calamity for the GOP – and Ted Cruz just made it worse.

On Mark Levin’s radio program yesterday, Cruz called for an investigation into the allegations of voter fraud in Mississippi, giving a boost to McDaniel and challenging the legitimacy of the candidate backed by the campaign committee he serves on.
On the policy front, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee took the first step toward what could be yet another partial government shutdown. When the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled its new rule limiting the amount of carbon that can be emitted from existing coal-fired power plants, Republicans (and a few Democrats from coal country) vowed to oppose it.

And that’s exactly what they’ve done. The Appropriations Committee unveiled a bill yesterday that would prevent any money from being spent on developing or enforcing the EPA’s power plant rule. Senate Republicans are also spoiling for an appropriations fight, and Democrats are lining up behind the EPA and the president.

Whether we actually arrive at the point of shutting down the government (funding runs out on Sept. 30) depends largely on how far the Republicans would be willing to take this game of chicken. Shutdown politics tend not to favor the GOP and common sense would suggest that they won’t precipitate yet another government crisis a month before Election Day, but common sense is, we’ve learned, a poor predictor of Republican performance.

And then there’s Sarah Palin, whose latest bid to reclaim her faded relevance was to toss up a word salad for calling for President Obama’s impeachment. The piece itself is largely incomprehensible, but it’s nonetheless an interesting political artifact. Six years ago, Palin was the duly elected governor of a state and on her way to becoming the Republican vice-presidential nominee. Now she’s writing barely coherent, mixed metaphor-laden columns for the website responsible for “Friends of Hamas.”

But as fast and far as she’s sunk, there are still lots of people out there who think Sarah Palin is the very soul of conservatism.
[Y]ou get a clear picture of what the conservative reform movement is facing. How can they convince candidates and elected officials to embrace non-dogmatic policy ideas when the party is tearing itself to pieces in a futile quest for ideological purity? How can they get the difficult work of policymaking done when Republicans are constantly looking to force crisis situations and score political victories? How can Republicans quit antiquated modes of thinking when they can’t even quit Sarah Palin?

In other words: How can the reformicons “save” the GOP when the party clearly doesn’t want to be saved?
The GOP base has become one big insane asylum.  And many of its so-called leaders are just as insane as the base.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Utah AG to Appeal 10th Circuit Ruling Striking Down Utah Same Sex Marriage Ban

As expected, the Utah Attorney General’s Office has indicated that it will appeal the recent 10th Circuit Ruling against Utah's gay marriage ban directly to the United States Supreme Court, by passing a request for a rehearing en banc by the full 10th Circuit.  Here in Virginia, of course, the big question is when will the 4th Circuit issue its ruling in the appeal of Bostic v.Rainey.  The 4th Circuit ruling will have special meaning for me and the husband who were legally married in Washington, DC, but our marriage is a nullity for state law purposes in Virginia.   SCOTUS.bog looks at the developments out of Utah.  Here are highlights:

Utah state officials will go to the Supreme Court in the “coming weeks” in a bid to revive the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, they announced Wednesday.  In a statement by Missy W. Larsen, the Utah attorney general’s chief communications officer, the state said it had opted to pass up a request for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to reconsider en banc a three-judge panel’s ruling in June nullifying the ban.

This will be the first case reaching the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of such state bans since the Justices in United States v. Windsor a year ago struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act — a ruling that set off a series of decisions by federal and state trial courts, all of which so far have nullified state bans on same-sex marriages.  The Tenth Circuit was the first federal appeals court to issue such a decision (see this post).

Here is the full statement issued in the Utah case: “To obtain clarity and resolution from the highest court, the Utah Attorney General’s Office will not seek en banc review of the Kitchen v. Herbert Tenth Circuit decision, but will file a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court in the coming weeks.  Attorney General [Sean] Reyes has a sworn duty to defend the laws of our state.  Utah’s Constitutional Amendment 3 is presumed to be constitutional unless the highest court deems otherwise.”

Between the time that a federal judge struck down the Utah ban and the day the Supreme Court put that ruling on hold, some 1,300 same-sex couples were married in Utah.  The validity of those marriages is now under review by the Tenth Circuit in a separate case.

Another federal appeals court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, is expected to rule shortly on the constitutionality of Virginia’s ban.  That case has been handled in the Fourth Circuit by the legal team of David Boies and Theodore Olson, two high-profile lawyers who had led the court battle against California’s “Proposition 8.”

The Tenth Circuit may also rule shortly on another same-sex marriage case, involving Oklahoma’s prohibition on such marriages.  That case was heard by the same three-judge panel as the Utah case.

Part of me hopes that whatever case the U.S Supreme Court hears (it could also consolidate several appeals), that the parallel wit Loving v. Virginia comes through in the final ruling.  In my view, it is crucial that the opponents of same sex marriage be placed in the same category as those who opposed interracial marriage.  Bigotry is bigotry, and Virginia's anti-gay bigots need to be forever labeled for what they are.

Why Are Republicans Going to War Against Birth Control?

The answer to the question poised in the captioned post is actually pretty easy; Christofascists now control the Republican Party and the Christofascists simply cannot stand anyone other than drearily married heterosexuals engaging in sex or worse, enjoying it.  Dan Savage summed it up well:
W]hy are conservatives fighting so hard to make contraception harder for women to obtain? Because they don’t think people—young people, poor people, unmarried people, gay people—should be able to enjoy “consequence-free sex.” Because it’s sex that they hate—it’s sex for pleasure that they hate—and they hate that kind of sex more than they hate abortion, teen moms, and welfare spending combined. Knowing that some people are having sex for pleasure without having their futures disrupted by an unplanned pregnancy or having their health compromised by a sexually transmitted infection or having to run a traumatizing gauntlet of shrieking “sidewalk counselors” to get to an abortion clinic keeps them up at night.
 But this obsession with pandering and prostituting themselves to the Christofascists is short sighted - in my view at least - when one recognizes how this war on contraception can quickly becomes perceived as a war on women.    And this war on women could well play into the hands of Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections.  A piece in Hot Air looks at how Republicans may be shooting themselves.  Here are excerpts:
Some core Democratic voters who were thus far chronically unresponsive to stimuli designed to get them enthused about the upcoming midterm elections, have been energized by the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby. The left continues to wring their hands over last Monday’s Supreme Court decision; their reactions ranging from dismay over the establishment of an American theocracy to the decrying the outlawing of contraception altogether. 

Democrats want to lure Republicans into a fight over birth control with legislation to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision that ObamaCare may not require certain businesses to include contraception in their employee health coverage,” The Hill’s Elise Viebeck reported.
Democrats are expected to introduce the measures prior to Congress’s August recess as part of an effort to recalibrate the party’s election-year messaging. Their hope is to turn out female voters by casting the court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby as a strike against reproductive rights.
And that’s a fight conservatives may welcome. No matter how justified, no matter how righteous, no matter how wrong-headed their opposition may be; Republicans will be stepping into a trap of Democratic design if they allow themselves to be cast as the party opposed to all forms of family planning. 

[I]f Republicans get into a rhetorical war with Democrats over access to or the morality of various forms of birth control — from common contraceptives to emergency pharmaceuticals — it will play directly into Democratic hands by motivating their formerly dispirited female constituency. 

So far, Republicans have done a good job of failing to provide Democrats with a sound bite or course of action which plays into the War on Women narrative, but the party in power is going to push Republicans to their breaking point. Congressional Republicans would be better served by offering women a positive rather than a negative agenda on birth control which is a medical necessity for many women

While not addressed, the war on women also translates directly into the continued GOP war on gays who, like the "promiscuous sluts" fantasized about by Rush Limbaugh, are anathema to Christofascist who want sex to be miserable and aimed solely for procreation.   Personally, I hope the Republicans fall into the Democrat trap.