Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Did Bush/Cheney Authorize Nazi-Like Experimentation on Humans?

Various aspects of what the Senate torture report revealed in therms of the torture and war crimes authorized the the evil duo of Chimperator George Bush and Emperor Palpatine Cheney.  Less discussed is a related aspect of what the CIA did under the authorization from the White House: experimentation on humans to find ways to break them.  It's something right out of the annals of what the Nazi regime and Gestapo did in Germany in the 1930's and early 1940's.  Any decent American ought to be horrified by this revelation.  Frighteningly, many are not and it speaks volumes about America's further moral descent under those who claim to be the champions of "Christian values."  The Nation looks at some of these less reported horrors:
Human experimentation, in contrast, has not been politically refashioned into a legitimate or justifiable enterprise. Therefore, it would behoove us to appreciate the fact that the architects and implementers of black-site torments were authorized at the highest levels of the White House and CIA to experiment on human beings. Reading the report through this lens casts a different light on questions of accountability and impunity.

The “war on terror” is not the CIA’s first venture into human experimentation. At the dawn of the Cold War, German scientists and doctors with Nazi records of human experimentation were given new identities and brought to the United States under Operation Paperclip. During the Korean War, alarmed by the shocking rapidity of American POWs’ breakdowns and indoctrination by their communist captors, the CIA began investing in mind-control research. In 1953, the CIA established the MK-ULTRA program, whose earliest phase involved hypnosis, electroshock and hallucinogenic drugs. The program evolved into experiments in psychological torture that adapted elements of Soviet and Chinese models, including longtime standing, protracted isolation, sleep deprivation and humiliation. Those lessons soon became an applied “science” in the Cold War.

During the Vietnam War, the CIA developed the Phoenix program, which combined psychological torture with brutal interrogations, human experimentation and extrajudicial executions. In 1963, the CIA produced a manual titled “Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation” to guide agents in the art of extracting information from “resistant” sources by combining techniques to produce “debility, disorientation and dread.” Like the communists, the CIA largely eschewed tactics that violently target the body in favor of those that target the mind by systematically attacking all human senses in order to produce the desired state of compliance. The Phoenix program model was incorporated into the curriculum of the School of the Americas, and an updated version of the Kubark guide, produced in 1983 and titled “Human Resource Exploitation Manual,” was disseminated to the intelligence services of right-wing regimes in Latin America and Southeast Asia during the global “war on communism.”

In the mid-1980s, CIA practices became the subject of congressional investigations into US-supported atrocities in Central America. Both manuals became public in 1997 as a result of Freedom of Information Act litigation by The Baltimore Sun. That would have seemed like a “never again” moment.

But here we are again. This brings us back to Mitchell and Jessen. Because of their experience as trainers in the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program, after 9/11 they were contacted by high-ranking Pentagon officials and, later, by lawyers who wanted to know whether some of those SERE techniques could be reverse-engineered to get terrorism suspects to talk.

[U]ntil the program was dry-docked in 2008, at least thirty-eight people were subjected to psychological and physical torments, and the results were methodically documented and analyzed. That is the textbook definition of human experimentation.

My point is not to minimize the illegality of torture or the legal imperatives to pursue accountability for perpetrators. Rather, because the concept of torture has been so muddled and disputed, I suggest that accountability would be more publicly palatable if we reframed the CIA’s program as one of human experimentation. If we did so, it would be more difficult to laud or excuse perpetrators as “patriots” who “acted in good faith.” Although torture has become a Rorschach test among political elites playing to public opinion on the Sunday morning talk shows, human experimentation has no such community of advocates and apologists.
Not all at the CIA and within the military bought into torture and experiments on human beings.  A piece here looks at these unsung heroes who supported decency. 

Virginia's 20 Craziest Politicians

Lowell has a great list of Virginia's craziest politicians at Blue Virginia and not surprisingly, 85% of them are Republicans.  Included in the pack of asylum escapees are the GOP's 2013 "dream team" of Cuccinelli, Jackson and Obenshain.  And one can never leave out spittle flecked homophobe Del. Bob Marshall.  When one looks at the insanity of these Republican's I can only shake my head and think "WTF happened to the party I once supported."   Here are excerpts on some of these GOP loons:
The following list is inspired by GQ's just-published "America's 20 Craziest Politicians" (Steve King, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Joe Barton, etc.). For my list, I'm sticking to Virginia elected officials, people who have been Virginia elected officials, or current/past candidates for elective office in Virginia.  . . . . note that the vast majority are Republicans - shocker, huh? - and it's not for lack of trying to come up with Democrats to make it more "even" - the fact is that today's GOP attracts "teh crazy" like....well, crazy!).  Anyway, enjoy!

1. E.W. Jackson (R): Has anyone ever heard anything come out of his mouth that wasn't at least a bit "out there?" OK, need specific examples of this guy's insanity?  For starters, he's obsessed with Barack Obama (e.g., how Obama's supposedly not a Christian, how he's supposedly an anti-Semite, blah blah blah); how "Planned Parenthood has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was;" how gays are "frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally," who are attempting to "poison our children, divide them from their parents and the teaching of the church and basically turn them into pawns for that movement so that they can sexualize them at the earliest possible age." What's truly shocking about this guy isn't so much that he's an extremist and an all-around lunatic, but that the Virginia GOP nominated him for Lt. Governor of our state in 2013! What does that say about them? Anyway, E.W. Jackson has the "honor" of being #1 on this list.

2. Ken Cuccinelli (R): Again, where do you even start with this guy?  I mean, this is someone who - in addition to the de-rigeur-among-wingnuts climate science denial - also tried to make it easier for people to discriminate against gay people, claimed that Virginia can disobey federal laws it disagrees with, believes the government is tracking his kids via Social Security numbers, and talks to a toy elephant named "Ron", is a "birther," rants about a "vast left-wing conspiracy" and the "Humanist Manifesto," claims that liberals "cannot tolerate god" and that Barack Obama has "helped destroy this country," compared immigrants to rat families, etc, etc. Most appallingly, "the Cooch" actually was elected to be Virginia's Attorney General, where he spent four years on a bunch of crazy, mostly failed, crusades. He also was, appallingly yet again, the Virginia Republican Party's 2013 nominee for governor of our state. It says a great deal about said party that they'd nominate such a lunatic, not to mention extremist, as Ken Cuccinelli. Come to think of it, maybe Cooch should have been #1, and E.W. Jackson #2, on this list?

4. Del. Bob Marshall (R):  We nicknamed him "Sideshow Bob" for good reason. Seriously, the list of his lunacy is endless. Check out, for example: "Sideshow Bob" Marshall Completely Unhinged Over Demise of His Anti-Gay Hate Amendment, Video: "Sideshow Bob" Elaborates On His Vicious Homophobia (That's right, according to "Sideshow Bob," it's all about "blood transfusions," "sodomy," and being "worried about this guy whose got eyes on me." Can we say "he's got issues?" Uh huh.); Does Bob Marshall Agree w/ Rev. Ellison that Haitian Earthquake Was God's Punishment for Voodoo?; Virginia lawmaker: Children with disabilities are God's punishment to women who previously had abortions.; Chief Sponsor of Virginia 'Personhood' Bill Calls The Affordable Care Act 'Rape'; Robert Marshall, Virginia Delegate, Pushes Bill To Study Whether State Should Have Alternative Currency; etc. Seriously, with Bob Marshall, the "Sideshow" truly never ends!

5. Senator Dick Black (R): A few items include Dick Black on Spousal Rape, "Nighties," etc.; Republican Loudoun-sanity Continues: Dick Black Rails Against Gays in the Military; VA Sen. Dick Black (R) Praises "Extraordinary Gallantry" of Syrian Armed Forces; Sen. Dick Black (R-Homophobia): Polygamy "just more natural" than homosexuality . Yeah, this one's certifiable. 

8. Sen. Mark Obenshain (R): I had heard stories about this guy's nuttiness for years, but I didn't really focus on him until last year's AG race. Then, it came to light that Obenshain had tried "to force women to report miscarriages to police," introducing legislation to require that "when a fetal death occurs without medical attendance upon the mother at or after the delivery or abortion, the mother or someone acting on her behalf, within 24 hours, report the fetal death, location of the remains, and identity of the mother to the local or state police or sheriff's department of the city or county where the fetal death occurred...and that a violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor." There's lots more craziness with this guy, but I'd say that's enough right there to put him on the Top 20 craziest Virginia politicians list. We'll see if Republicans nominate him again for statewide office in 2017, after he narrowly lost (phew -- close call!) to Mark Herring in a recount last time around.

14. Michael Farris (R): He ran for Lt. Governor in 1993 against Don Beyer (D) and lost, 54%-46%. Thank goodness, too, because aside from being a right-wing extremist, he's also just plain crazy. For instance, "Farris was featured on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360° on December 7, 2012 as a leading opponent of U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act." Why? In part, according to Farris, because "[t]he definition of disability is not defined in the treaty, and so my kid wears glasses; now they're disabled; now the UN gets control over them." Cuckoo! Cuckoo! 
Yes, there are Democrats on the list, but they comprise only 15%.  What is truly frightening is that the GOP crazies are "mainstream" for today's Republican Party of Virginia.

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Stay Marriage Equality in Florida

In a move that ought to be hand writing on the wall as to how the appeal from the ruling from the Sixth Circuit upholding state marriage bans is going to fare, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to extend a stay in Florida delaying the effect of lower court rulings that struck down that that state's gay marriage ban.  The immediate result: same sex marriages will begin in Florida on January 6, 2015.  The larger result?  It seems inconceivable that the Supreme Court would allow marriages to occur in more and more states if it planned to uphold the Sixth Circuit's reactionary ruling that took a position that had been argued by a white supremacist group that had filed an amicus brief.  Indeed, such an action would be akin to an expost facto law - something barred by the U.S. Constitution. Here are highlights from The Advocate:
In a ruling late Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court said it will allow same-sex couples to begin marrying in Florida on January 6. But that doesn't mean that clerks will actually issue licenses.

A federal judge ruled in August that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, and stayed his decision until early January. The state had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to extend that stay, but the justices have now declined. Ordinarily, emergency requests from Florida are heard by Justice Clarence Thomas, but he referred Florida's petition to the full court. According to Friday's decision, only Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia were in favor of granting the state's request, and so it was denied.

Unfortunately, couples who attempt to obtain licenses January 6 may still be turned away. The Florida Association of Clerks and Comptrollers has warned its members that because the state's marriage ban remains on the books and because litigation is still ongoing, issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples remains a criminal act in Florida. Clerks who issue licenses could face up to a year in jail, the group said.

It's hard to imagine that law enforcement officials would actually prosecute a clerk who decided to test that law. But will there be a clerk brave enough to stick his or her neck out? That remains unknown.

If a clerk did decide to issue a license, and if a prosecutor decided to then charge them with breaking the law, that clerk would likely be in a good legal position to defend their actions. But such a defense would probably be costly, so they would also need to be in a good financial position to defend themselves. That would require the support of national civil rights groups, like potentially Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, or the Human Rights Campaign.

"Every day these couples and their families are denied the protections and benefits that come with legal marriage, they risk real and serious consequences," said HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow in a Friday statement. "We look forward to the day that all couples are able to have their relationships recognized as valid under the law."
The Court's move is a rebuke to Pam Bondi who has enthusiastically prostituted herself to the Christofascists.  It is telling that both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Alito did not support extending the stay.  Is it possible that even a reactionary like Alito now supports same sex marriage?  Perhaps he and Roberts see the future and they have decided that they do not want to be on the wrong side of history and looked back upon with derision.  Meanwhile, expect NOM and other hate groups to work hard to shake down the ignorant for money. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Did Historical Jesus Ever Really Exist?

The folks at the Washington Post best brace themselves for spittle flecked rants from the "godly folk" who will no doubt take great offense at a story that raises the relevant question of whether the Jesus of the New Testament ever existed.  If not, Christianity's already damaged story line (e.g., the human genome project says Adam and Eve never existed) virtually collapses.  Here are excerpts from the piece:
The first problem we encounter when trying to discover more about the Historical Jesus is the lack of early sources. The earliest sources only reference the clearly fictional Christ of Faith. These early sources, compiled decades after the alleged events, all stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity – which gives us reason to question them. The authors of the Gospels fail to name themselves, describe their qualifications, or show any criticism with their foundational sources – which they also fail to identify. Filled with mythical and non-historical information, and heavily edited over time, the Gospels certainly should not convince critics to trust even the more mundane claims made therein.

The methods traditionally used to tease out rare nuggets of truth from the Gospels are dubious. The criterion of embarrassment says that if a section would be embarrassing for the author, it is more likely authentic. Unfortunately, given the diverse nature of Christianity and Judaism back then (things have not changed all that much), and the anonymity of the authors, it is impossible to determine what truly would be embarrassing or counter-intuitive, let alone if that might not serve some evangelistic purpose.

The criterion of Aramaic context is similarly unhelpful. Jesus and his closest followers were surely not the only Aramaic-speakers in first-century Judea. The criterion of multiple independent attestation can also hardly be used properly here, given that the sources clearly are not independent.

Paul’s Epistles, written earlier than the Gospels, give us no reason to dogmatically declare Jesus must have existed. Avoiding Jesus’ earthly events and teachings, even when the latter could have bolstered his own claims, Paul only describes his “Heavenly Jesus.” Even when discussing what appear to be the resurrection and the last supper, his only stated sources are his direct revelations from the Lord, and his indirect revelations from the Old Testament. In fact, Paul actually rules out human sources (see Galatians 1:11-12).

Also important are the sources we don’t have. There are no existing eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus. All we have are later descriptions of Jesus’ life events by non-eyewitnesses, most of whom are obviously biased. Little can be gleaned from the few non-Biblical and non-Christian sources, with only Roman scholar Josephus and historian Tacitus having any reasonable claim to be writing about Jesus within 100 years of his life. And even those sparse accounts are shrouded in controversy, with disagreements over what parts have obviously been changed by Christian scribes (the manuscripts were preserved by Christians), the fact that both these authors were born after Jesus died (they would thus have probably received this information from Christians), and the oddity that centuries go by before Christian apologists start referencing them.

So what do the mainstream (and non-Christian) scholars say about all this? Surprisingly very little – of substance anyway. Only Bart Ehrman and Maurice Casey have thoroughly attempted to prove Jesus’ historical existence in recent times. Their most decisive point? The Gospels can generally be trusted – after we ignore the many, many bits that are untrustworthy – because of the hypothetical (i.e. non-existent) sources behind them. Who produced these hypothetical sources? When? What did they say? Were they reliable? Were they intended to be accurate historical portrayals, enlightening allegories, or entertaining fictions?

Ehrman and Casey can’t tell you – and neither can any New Testament scholar. Given the poor state of the existing sources, and the atrocious methods used by mainstream Biblical historians, the matter will likely never be resolved. In sum, there are clearly good reasons to doubt Jesus’ historical existence – if not to think it outright improbable.
In terms of historical fact, the Jesus story has no more documented support that the stories of the Olympian gods, the Egyptian goddess Isis or the middle eastern god Mithras.  Wanting a story to be true, in short, does not somehow magically make it true.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Did Senior Thatcher Era Politicans Rape and Murder Boys?

Photo Illustration by Emil Lendof/The Daily Beast
With stories that sound like something out of the Vatican and Catholic priest circles, a victim and others are claiming that a pedophile abuse ring ran rampant during the Thatcher years and that powerful British politicians worked to keep the abuse and possible some murders covered up.  As most readers know, the Thatcher regime was anything but friendly to gays, yet if the stories are true, gay sex and the abuse of boys was a fixture with some in Thatcher's government.  Why is it that the loudest homophobes are always the ones desiring or engaging in abusive gay sex?  The Daily Beast looks at the sensational allegations.   Here are highlights:
Scotland Yard detectives believe that an organized pedophile ring at the heart of the British establishment was responsible for the murder of three young boys and the violent sexual abuse of dozens more.

A survivor, known as Nick, described regular “abuse parties” that were held at a luxury apartment block near Westminster during the premiership of Margaret Thatcher. He said he watched a Conservative Member of Parliament strangle one boy to death, and witnessed another young boy brutally murdered in front of a Cabinet minister.

Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald, who is leading an investigation of the alleged “VIP” abuse network said today: “I believe what Nick is saying to be credible and true.”

Nick says children between the ages of seven and 16 were taken to the events, including regular Christmas parties, which were often held at Dolphin Square, an exclusive building on the River Thames that was popular with MPs who needed second homes in London close to the Houses of Parliament. He has described the partygoers as a cross-section of some of the most powerful men in Britain including Sir Peter Hayman, a long-time MI6 chief.

A Scotland Yard inquiry has been established to investigate whether the Metropolitan Police was guilty of overlooking the crimes of powerful figures, or whether some kind of cover-up operation was in place.

Over the years, several MPs have alleged cover-ups or suggested that investigations were shut down by senior security officials. In 1981, Sir Peter Hayman, a former diplomat and intelligence operative, was outed by Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens, who used Parliamentary privilege to name him as a pedophile in the House of Commons. Dickens continued to investigate the pedophile ring, which he claimed included “big, big names,” and he passed a 40-page dossier of evidence to the Home Secretary in 1983.

Dickens claimed his name subsequently appeared on a hit-list and his house was broken into by burglars who scoured his office but never stole any possessions. “The noose around my neck grew tighter after I named a former high-flying British diplomat on the Floor of the House. Honorable Members will understand that where big money is involved and as important names came into my possession so the threats began,” he told the House of Commons in 1985.
Current Labour MP John Mann has suffered no personal threats but says his investigation into allegations of a VIP pedophile network were also shut down by the authorities. As a local politician in Lambeth, South London, he said he became aware of allegations that young boys in care homes were being recruited as rent boys and taken to Dolphin Square.  “We were told this by several sources. It was very specific: there were sex parties there, and they involved Tory MPs,” he told the Daily Mail last month.

He passed the information to the police who came back to him after three months to apologize and say they had been instructed to stop looking into the abuse parties. “They'd been forced to drop it,” Mann said. “Pressure had come from on high in the police service.”

A former senior detective at the Metropolitan Police, Clive Driscoll, said earlier this year that he had been hastily removed from an investigation that had begun in Lambeth into child abuse when his superiors saw a list of suspects, which included several MPs, that he wanted to investigate.

The investigation into an alleged cover-up is just one of 18 strands of inquiry currently ongoing as part of Operation Fairbank, which was first set up in 2012 into allegations of a VIP pedophile ring. 

In total, officers said 600 emails or tip-offs had been received by more than 40 officers working on Operation Fairbank. Thus far, just five people have been arrested.

Sea Level Rise Putting America's Largest Navy Base at-Risk

If you listen to Republicans - e.g., Senator Inhofe - climate change and global warming aren't happening.  It's all a conspiracy in the minds of these lunatics.  The real conspiracy is between the Koch brothers and the oil and coal industries which seek to perpetuate the myth that climate change is not occurring and that humankind have no role in the visible changes occurring. As local TV-13 reports, the signs are clear at the Norfolk Naval Base - which boasts that it is the largest in the world - and Senator Tim Kaine says that it is time to address reality.  He and those like him who are in touch with objective reality will have an uphill battle given the GOP control of the Senate starting next month.  Here are article highlights:
Touring a flood-prone neighborhood blocks from the world's largest Naval base, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine said Thursday, the time to act is now. Kaine is calling for a combination of needed infrastructure investments, and a reduction of U.S. dependence of carbon-based energy sources.

Probably the most sobering thing to me dealing with this sea level rise issue is the affect on the main Naval base," Kaine said. "Being on Armed Services, this is the center of Naval power in the world and such an important center for America. And when you contemplate the main road into the base eventually being underwater three hours a day in 2040, not because of storms but because of normal tidal action, by 2040, being underwater three hours a day, that was the one thing that made me snap back and say, I've got to take this seriously."

Kaine's comments follow an October Department of Defense report which concluded that Naval Station Norfolk would be at-risk, if, as many scientists have predicted, sea level rises 14 to 18 inches in the next 20 to 50 years.
"We have the time to make the investments to improve the infrastructure," he said. "We just really have to find these resiliency investments to protect this important key to America's national security."
The GOP likes to depict itself as the party of national security yet lunatics like Inhofe are acting as military leaders did on the evening of December 6, 1941.   Not wanting to admit/believe something doesn't make it not true.  At least not outside of the insane asylum known as the Republican Party.

flooded Navy pier parking lot

Why Putin's Bubble Has Burst

I have noted before that throughout the centuries, Russia has been plagued by bad rulers.  Those who bear the worse consequences of such misrule are typically the Russian people.  With Russia's economy imploding and its currency in a free fall, all of Vladimir Putin's misrule is catching up with him and the picture is not a pretty one.  Putin, of course blames the west for Russia's woes rather than look in the mirror for the ultimate cause of that nation's misfortune.  Like Adolph Hitler, who Putin seems to be trying to emulate in many ways, the fault is never his or that of his corrupt cronies.  A column in the New York Times looks at how Putin and company have brought Russia to this point.  Here are excerpts:
If you’re the type who finds macho posturing impressive, Vladimir Putin is your kind of guy. Sure enough, many American conservatives seem to have an embarrassing crush on the swaggering strongman. “That is what you call a leader,” enthused Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, after Mr. Putin invaded Ukraine without debate or deliberation.

But Mr. Putin never had the resources to back his swagger. Russia has an economy roughly the same size as Brazil’s. And, as we’re now seeing, it’s highly vulnerable to financial crisis — a vulnerability that has a lot to do with the nature of the Putin regime.

The proximate cause of Russia’s difficulties is, of course, the global plunge in oil prices, which, in turn, reflects factors — growing production from shale, weakening demand from China and other economies — that have nothing to do with Mr. Putin. And this was bound to inflict serious damage on an economy that, as I said, doesn’t have much besides oil that the rest of the world wants; the sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine conflict have added to the damage.

But Russia’s difficulties are disproportionate to the size of the shock: While oil has indeed plunged, the ruble has plunged even more, and the damage to the Russian economy reaches far beyond the oil sector. Why?

Actually, it’s not a puzzle — and this is, in fact, a movie currency-crisis aficionados like yours truly have seen many times before: Argentina 2002, Indonesia 1998, Mexico 1995, Chile 1982, the list goes on. The kind of crisis Russia now faces is what you get when bad things happen to an economy made vulnerable by large-scale borrowing from abroad — specifically, large-scale borrowing by the private sector, with the debts denominated in foreign currency, not the currency of the debtor country.

When the nation’s currency falls, the balance sheets of local businesses — which have assets in rubles (or pesos or rupiah) but debts in dollars or euros — implode. This, in turn, inflicts severe damage on the domestic economy, undermining confidence and depressing the currency even more. And Russia fits the standard playbook.

Russia’s elite has been accumulating assets outside the country — luxury real estate is only the most visible example — and the flip side of that accumulation has been rising debt at home.
Where does the elite get that kind of money? The answer, of course, is that Putin’s Russia is an extreme version of crony capitalism, indeed, a kleptocracy in which loyalists get to skim off vast sums for their personal use. It all looked sustainable as long as oil prices stayed high. But now the bubble has burst, and the very corruption that sustained the Putin regime has left Russia in dire straits.

It’s quite a comedown for Mr. Putin. And his swaggering strongman act helped set the stage for the disaster. A more open, accountable regime — one that wouldn’t have impressed Mr. Giuliani so much — would have been less corrupt, would probably have run up less debt, and would have been better placed to ride out falling oil prices. Macho posturing, it turns out, makes for bad economies.
I feel bad for average Russians suffering because of Putin's misrule.  The ultimate solution?  Rise up and drive Putin from power and take back the wealth stolen by Putin and his cronies.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Judge Vacates Conviction in 1944 Execution of 14 Year Old Black Youth

If one wonders why blacks in America do not trust the American criminal justice system - and why police induced "confessions" should always be suspect - look no farther than the case of 14-year-old George J. Stinney Jr., who was executed in South Carolina.  Stinney is the youngest American ever executed and when one looks at the "trial" he received, it quickly takes on the appearance of a legalized lynching.  No doubt, "godly" white folks pushed for his conviction and applauded his execution.  After all, since he was black, in their minds, it's not as if he were human, right?  Sadly, that mindset is alive and well in the South and seemingly many police departments in America.  The New York Times looks at the vacating of Stinney's kangaroo court conviction.  Here are excerpts:
Calling it a “great and fundamental injustice,” a South Carolina judge on Wednesday vacated the 1944 murder conviction of 14-year-old George J. Stinney Jr., the youngest person executed in the United States in the last century.

Judge Carmen T. Mullen of Circuit Court did not rule that the conviction of Mr. Stinney for the murder of two white girls in the town of Alcolu was wrong on the merits. She did find, however, that the prosecution had failed in numerous ways to safeguard the constitutional rights of Mr. Stinney, who was black, from the time he was taken into custody until his death by electrocution.

The all-white jury could not be considered a jury of the teenager’s peers, Judge Mullen ruled, and his court-appointed attorney did “little to nothing” to defend him. His confession was most likely coerced and unreliable, she added, “due to the power differential between his position as a 14-year-old black male apprehended and questioned by white, uniformed law enforcement in a small, segregated mill town in South Carolina.”

The order was a rare application of coram nobis, a legal remedy that can be used only when a conviction was based on an error of fact or unfairly obtained in a fundamental way and when all other remedies have been exhausted.

Two white men who had helped search for the girls also testified, and a cellmate of Mr. Stinney’s recounted conversations in which Mr. Stinney said he was innocent and had been made to confess. Less than three months passed between the murder and the execution; the trial and sentencing took less than a day.

Some of the problems of due process highlighted in the ruling were not rare in the Jim Crow South.
Yet another less than proud legacy of the South.

GOP Lawmaker: Women Need Man’s Permission for Abortion Absent "Legitimate Rape"

GOP State Representative Rick Brattin
Despite constant Republican Party claims that there is no GOP war on women, actions speak much louder than words and demonstrate that there is indeed a GOP war on women.  How else to explain Missouri Republican Rick Brattin's new bill which states that “[n]o abortion shall be performed or induced unless and until the father of the unborn child provides written, notarized consent to the abortion.” It's legislation right out of the wet dreams of Victoria Cobb and her fellow Christofascists at The Family Foundation (will Del. Bob Marshall introduce a similar bill here in Virginia?).  The GOP has seemly learned nothing from the Todd Akin debacle.  The Raw Story looks at this mindset that views women as chattel property of men.  Here are highlights:
Republican lawmaker in Missouri is introducing a bill that will require women to receive consent from the man who impregnated them before getting an abortion, Mother Jones‘s Molly Redden reports.

State Representative Rick Brattin filed the bill, which states that “[n]o abortion shall be performed or induced unless and until the father of the unborn child provides written, notarized consent to the abortion.”

The two exceptions to the requirement are “in cases where the woman upon whom the abortion is to be performed or induced was the victim of rape or incest,” or if the woman has “a notarized affidavit attesting to the fact” that the man who impregnated her is deceased.

Brattin told Mother Jones that while the bill allows for an exception in the case of rape, the woman seeking an abortion will have to prove that she has been raped.

Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it,” he said. “So you couldn’t just go and say, ‘Oh yeah, I was raped,’ and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape.”

He insisted that he was using the phrase “legitimate rape” differently from former Missouri representative Todd Akin, who claimed that women cannot become pregnant from a “legitimate rape” because her body will “shut the whole thing down.”

“I’m just saying if there was a legitimate rape, you’re going to make a police report, just as if you were robbed,” he said by way of clarification. “That’s just common sense.”
 Common sense anywhere except in the sane, non-Christofascist world.

The GOP and the Rise of the Paranoid South

Today's Republican Party is best defined by who its members hate - typically anyone who isn't a white, heterosexual conservative Christian.   When one looks at The South and it's long history of being defined by who it hates - e.g., blacks followed by Yankees - it's no surprise that The South has become a bastion for the GOP.  Stated another way, a reactionary party now holds sway in a reactionary region.  A piece in Salon looks at The South's paranoia against those deemed "other" by the white establishment and how it is playing into the nation's political climate. Here are some highlights:
The Civil War ended in 1865. Before the war, it was common parlance in America to speak of two regions: the “North” and the “South,” which were divided, above all else, over the issue of slavery. After the war, however, the idea of the “North” gradually disappeared from American culture, but “The South” as a regional, cultural and ideological construction has lived on. The South still maintains a persistent hold on American culture, and while the Old Confederacy is unlikely to ever “rise again” in another militant bid for national independence, the South has continued to rise again as a political force to be reckoned with, most recently in the 2014 midterm elections . . .

Thus, we come to the vexing question of Southern history: Is the South “exceptional” when compared to the rest of the country?  Southern exceptionalism is a concept that historians discuss ad infinitum – yet it resists a straightforward definition. In the broadest sense, however, Southern exceptionalism is the idea that the South is a nation-within-a-nation: a distinct cultural region where the past maintains a persistent influence on both the present and the emerging future.

Southern exceptionalism, then, positions the South as a cultural and geographical “other” within the greater United States where, as Mississippi-born author William Faulkner famously wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” This “othering” of the South has solidified in the region a cultural conservatism that manifests in a preference for laissez-faire economics, the existence of widespread inequality, a proclivity toward religious fundamentalism and racial strife, and suspicion of the federal government. When combined, these characteristics have constructed a cultural levee against a wave of outside forces that allegedly threaten to destroy Southern society.

Southern exceptionalism continues to rear its nebulous head. For example, consider the 2014 midterm elections. As the AP pointed out, the so-called “Solid South” — a regional political bloc that, in the not-too-distant past, gave its whole-hearted support to the Democratic Party — is now a solid political lock for the Republican Party. 

So the question remains: is the South exceptional? I’d argue that, in one crucial way, it is. While no one can reasonably claim that the South’s ills and strengths are unique to that region alone, the South’s tendency toward one-party rule, fueled by a deep suspicion of the supposed threats posed by outsiders, continues to make Dixie exceptional.

[T]he supposed threats posed by outsiders has been a common thread running through this history of one-party dominance. As historian Glenn Feldman writes in “The Irony of the Solid South,” the locus of the modern Republican Party’s united power in the South can be traced back to the end of the Civil War, an era that planted the seeds of a “Reconstruction Syndrome,” characterized by “very strong anti-black, anti-federal government, anti-liberal, anti-Yankee, anti-outsider/foreigner, and pro-militarily patriotic beliefs.”

Since the end of Reconstruction, the South has been fertile ground for reactionary politics, and it’s no coincidence that the hallmarks of “Reconstruction Syndrome” echo the tenets of modern conservatism. And while these hallmarks are not unique to the South, they’re nonetheless most concentrated there.

[A] general fear of outsiders continues to fuel the reactionary conservatism that drives white Southerners to the GOP. The Republican South is, for all intents and purposes, the white South, and race is an issue that always simmers below its political surface. GOP dominance speaks to the white South’s need to protect itself from a host of nefarious outsiders. In this past, those outsiders consisted of blacks, abolitionists, Yankees and Republicans. These days, those groups have been replaced by liberals, gays, atheists, minorities and Barack Obama, who symbolizes a changing America that threatens the white South’s cultural clout.

Even as shifting demographics in Southern states like North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia threaten to erode the power of the white conservative vote, the 2014 midterm results demonstrate the enduring strength of a reactionary force powered by the long arc of Southern history. That history encompasses a potent mixture of change and stagnation, but until the unique power of the white South is curtailed, the echo of Southern exceptionalism will continue to reverberate like the Rebel yell across the American political landscape.
 Having lived in the South now for the majority of my life, at times it is like living in one huge insane asylum.  Indeed, if one looks at Mississippi and Alabama, parts of the South have become even crazier than they were 30 years ago.  It's no wonder the GOP is flourishing in much of the region.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Ireland to Hold Referendum on Gay Marriage

Next May, Ireland will hold a referendum on gay marriage.  Not surprisingly, the criminal conspirators in the Irish Catholic Church hierarchy that aided and abetted predator priests has come out in opposition to marriage equality for same sex couples.  The good news is that at this point in time the Catholic Church is so discredited and reviled by so many in Ireland (a one time bastion of Catholicism) that its opposition may boost the vote of those in favor of same sex marriage.  Here are excerpts from coverage in The Guardian:
A referendum on legalising gay marriage in Ireland will be held in May, the Republic’s deputy prime minister announced on Tuesday evening.

Tánaiste and Irish Labour leader Joan Burton confirmed that the cabinet in Dublin had agreed to hold the vote then.

“The fact that this referendum is now to take place is a mark of the progress that has taken place in this country in recent years and decades, and indicates the extent to which attitudes to lesbian and gay people have changed,” Burton said in Government Buildings.

A gay Christian group was among the first to welcome the announcement. Dr Richard O’Leary, chair of the Church of Ireland group Changing Attitude Ireland, said: “In the forthcoming referendum on marriage Christians will be campaigning on both sides.”

He added: “Although Catholic bishops have expressed opposition, Christians can still use their freedom of conscience to vote yes to civil marriage equality, like they did 20 years ago in favour of the availability of civil divorce.”

The latest opinion poll in the Irish Times found that 71% of the Republic’s electorate would vote yes and allow for legal gay marriages in the state.

A yes vote would mark another defeat for the temporal power of the Catholic church in a country it once dominated.

Jerry Buttimer, who presents Cork South Central in the Irish parliament said: “As a gay man and member of Fine Gael, I am immensely proud that this referendum has been brought forward by this Fine Gael/ Labour Government. However the hard work is only starting now.

“We must be fully committed to this campaign and leave no stone unturned in explaining the importance of a yes vote. I truly believe the referendum will be passed and that Ireland will be lauded across the world as a leader in social justice and equality.”
I for one hope the yes vote passes by a huge margin and that it sends a strong message to the bitter old men in dresses in the Vatican and bishoprics that they days of power and control of people's lives is waning. 

George W. Bush Cancels Appearance at Swiss Charity Gala Over F of Arrested

While Barack Obama and the U.S. Justice Department appear prepared to ignore their obligations under international law to prosecute George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, et al, for war crimes and torture crimes, even dimwitted Chimperator Bush realizes that by leaving American territory, he risks arrest by nations who do not ignore their obligations international law.   Hence Bush's cancellation of his scheduled appearance at a Swiss charity event in Geneva in February.  The Daily Mail has details.  Here are highlights:
Former U.S. President George W. Bush has cancelled a visit to Switzerland over fears he could have been arrested on torture charges.

Mr Bush was due to be the keynote speaker at a Jewish charity gala in Geneva on February 12.
But pressure has been building on the Swiss government to arrest him and open a criminal investigation if he enters the country.

Criminal complaints against Mr Bush alleging torture have been lodged in Geneva, court officials said.  Human rights groups said they had intended to submit a 2,500-page case against him in the Swiss city tomorrow for alleged mistreatment of suspected militants at Guantanamo Bay.

Reed Brody, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, said: 'He's [Bush] avoiding the handcuffs.'

The action in Switzerland showed Mr Bush had reason to fear legal complaints against him if he travelled to countries that have ratified an international treaty banning torture, he said.

Mr Brody is a U.S.-trained lawyer who specialises in pursuing war crimes, including Chile's late dictator Augusto Pinochet and Chad's ousted president Hissene Habre.
He said: 'President Bush has admitted ordering waterboarding which everyone considers to be a form of torture under international law.  'Under the Convention on Torture, authorities would have been obliged to open an investigation and either prosecute or extradite George Bush.'

Switzerland and the U.S. are among 147 countries that have ratified the 1987 treaty.
Of course, the one I truly want to see in handcuffs and standing trial is the entreatingly foul Dick Cheney.  Better yet, I would love the opportunity to see Cheney convicted as a war criminal and punished accordingly.  I will leave it to readers to surmise the punishment that would please me the most.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Putin to Blame for Ruble’s Collapse

Like many failed Russian leaders before him, Vladimir "Adolph Want to Be" Putin is destroying Russia's economy as he pursues his own megalomaniac agenda.  Right now, Russia's currency, the ruble, is in free fall because of Putin's failed policies and a big drop in oil and gas prices, the country's main source of hard currency.  Much of the suffering will impact the Russian people as has been their plight throughout history.  Meanwhile, Putin may become even more dangerous.  An editorial in the Washington Post lays fault directly at Putin's feet.  Here are highlights:
THE DRAMA playing out in Russia on Tuesday was not pretty. The ruble’s exchange rate has collapsed by some 50 percent against the dollar since mid-June, with an accelerating fall in recent days. A panicked attempt by the central bank at 1 a.m. Tuesday to stop the slide was a failure. Russia now faces a full-blown currency crisis.

For President Vladimir Putin, the crisis is his own doing, a direct outgrowth of a meddlesome adventure into Ukraine, in which he seized Crimea and subverted the Donbas region with pro-Moscow separatists. Mr. Putin’s incursion led to Western sanctions on Russian industry that are blocking badly needed refinancing on global financial markets; huge debts are coming due. The oil giant Rosneft is particularly hard-hit and has implored Mr. Putin to deliver a bailout. Russia has billions of dollars in foreign currency reserves but can’t easily bail out everyone who needs to repay loans. These squeezed companies are in many cases led by Mr. Putin’s cronies, and they have little room to maneuver. 

The currency slide is also a consequence of the fall in global oil prices. There are a number of reasons for that decline, but the inescapable fact for Russia is that it remains heavily dependent on oil exports and Mr. Putin did little in recent years to diversify the economy. Lower oil prices will crimp Russia’s budget revenues, and the higher interest rates ordered by the central bank will cut into economic growth. Prosperity and stability in recent years have been essential elements in Mr. Putin’s formula of repressing critics while remaining popular. 

It’s important to keep Mr. Putin and his capricious behavior the target of Western policy — and remember that he is the chief cause of Russia’s troubles. The ruble’s plunge may portend a dangerous moment. Until now, Mr. Putin has steadfastly refused to back down in Ukraine and has escalated violence when his allies were cornered. He may respond to the latest uncertainty by striking out again in Ukraine or elsewhere, and he will most certainly ramp up the anti-American rhetoric.

Jeb Bush Signals He May Be Running in 2016

I for one suffer from extreme Bush fatigue and the thought of another Bush running for the presidency makes me nauseous.  How anyone of a right mind could want another Bush as president after the Chimperatior's failed regime, which included war crimes, is hard to grasp. The only positive aspect is that if Jeb Bush does throw his hat in the ring for the GOP presidential nomination, it will likely trigger another civil war within the GOP as Bush has to face insane would be candidates like Rick "Tortured Closeted Gay" Santorum.  The New York Times looks at Jeb Bush's tentative steps to launch his campaign.  Note, when the piece refers to "conservatives" it really means Christofascists, and, as usual, it fails to call out hate groups for what they are.  Here are article excerpts:
Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida said Tuesday that he would “actively explore” a presidential run, immediately sending reverberations through the potential Republican field, tying up donors whom other candidates are courting and forcing contenders to accelerate their own considerations for 2016.

Mr. Bush became the first Republican to take an overt step toward a White House bid. He announced on Facebook that he would create a political action committee next month, allowing him to raise money and travel the country ahead of an eventual decision, He also spent part of the day calling donors.

Mr. Bush, 61, quickly reshaped a Republican race that had scarcely begun forming.  Mr. Bush’s early move amounted to a pre-emptive strike on his most likely rivals for the blessing of establishment-oriented contributors and party officials. 

The most immediate effect of his announcement was with his party’s financial bundlers, those who raise the most money for candidates.  Many of those donors have long ties to the family that has dominated Republican politics for the last quarter-century and were waiting for a signal that the younger brother of former President George W. Bush was serious about a campaign.

Mr. Bush’s move also may make fund-raising more difficult for Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, whose base of New York-area donors will face pressure from Bush loyalists to hold out for a familiar political brand. 

Further, the possibility of a third campaign by Mitt Romney, the Republicans’ 2012 standard-bearer, now seems less likely.  Some party elites were eying a Romney revival in large part because they were seeking a candidate formidable enough to take on former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The question that looms over yet another Bush candidacy, though, is whether he can appeal to rank-and-file Republican primary voters as much as he does the party’s elites.   In that sense, Mr. Bush’s early lean toward a run is not entirely bad news. If it turns out that he cannot appeal to the party base or backs away from a run entirely, there would be time for others to make a move.

Conservative leaders said Mr. Bush needed to move swiftly to address questions about such issues as his support for Common Core — a set of standards for students from kindergarten through high school.

For Democrats, though, Mr. Bush’s step toward a campaign was cause for concern, as many said the Spanish-speaking former governor of Florida, perhaps the most electorally pivotal state in the country, would be the toughest Republican to defeat.

“I keep reminding people Michael Corleone was the younger brother of Fredo,” said the Democratic strategist Paul Begala, comparing characters from “The Godfather” to Bush family dynamics.

The Plight of Being a Gay Teacher

In a few weeks the Virginia General Assembly will go into session and, as in past years, attempts will be made to win passage of bill(s) that would provide employment protections for LGBT Virginians.  Under existing Virginia law, even state departments and institutions are free to fire employees based on their sexual orientation.  Opposing such legislation will be The Family Foundation ("TFF"), a hate group in all but formal designation by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Falling all over themselves to prostitute themselves to TFF will be members of the Republican Party of Virginia.  As set out on its website, TFF believes that (i) students should be able to proselytize in school and make anti-gay statements (i.e., bully LGBT students), (ii) Christians deserve special rights under the guise of "religious freedom," and (iii) that employers should be able to fire gays at will.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at the plight of teachers in Virginia and other anti-gay states where they can now marry but still be fired at will.  Here are excerpts:

Very early in his career teaching in New York, Glenn Bunger witnessed a student getting called "faggot" in between classes, but he hesitated to respond. As a gay teacher who hadn’t come out to his students or staff, he felt hamstrung. 

"I worried: If I get involved, what will others think? Will they associate this with me? Is my reaction right now really about me? Or about the student? I was always processing these questions and insecurities that prevented me from speaking out."

Bunger remained silent that day but later brought up the issue to his supervisor. It was clear from the conversation that the supervisor felt students like this didn’t need any sympathy but, rather, just some "toughening up," Bunger said.

Bunger never came out to the school's leadership or any of his students during his first two years teaching. Many other LGBT teachers in the United States have long struggled with this same decision of whether to make their sexual orientations public—and the "extra layer" of worries that comes with it. The country's long history of discrimination towards LGBT teachers could help explain why so many of these educators are afraid to come out.

Currently, federal law protects people from workplace discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, religion, sex, age, and disability. But the law fails to specifically address sexual orientation. A recent executive order by President Barack Obama protects any federal employee or contractor—around 28 million workers, or one-fifth of the American workforce—from discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, it doesn't cover teachers, who are subject to state and local laws.

In five states—Indiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Virginia—gay people can get legally married but also legally fired by an employer for being gay . . . 

Even teachers in states with legal protection worry that homophobic school leaders can still find a way to fire them regardless. "There is always the fear that if you were to share this, it could color how staff and administration view your performance, skew their evaluations of you, or otherwise influence whether you stay hired or not," said Jasmin Torres, who directs leadership development efforts for Teach for America in the Chicago area and oversees the office's LGBT initiatives.

Although the American Psychological Association and numerous other research organizations have concluded that homosexuality does not make someone more likely to sexually abuse children, Conservative organizations such the Family Research Council [TFF is affiliated with FRC] and the American College of Pediatricians—a group that requires its members to "hold true to the group's core beliefs of the traditional family unit" before joining—argue that homosexuality is a threat to children.

[B]eing in the closet comes with an extra layer of work—and stress. "During my first few years teaching, I was lonely," she said. "You are constantly thinking about what you’re saying, what you’re not saying, whether you’re giving anything away. You become hyper-aware of how people perceive you, and you worry that you’re not allowed to be your genuine self at work." 
There's more in the piece that deserves a read.  It is time for religious freedom for all and not just special rights for Christofascists and other religious extremists who cling to hate and bigotry to support their sick and toxic religious beliefs.  There are few more selfish and self-centered than the "godly folk."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Could Elizabeth Warren Beat Hillary for the Nomination?

There are some who would like to see Senator Elizabeth Warren run for the 2016 Democrat presidential nomination.   For now, she is saying that she will not run.  Yet some, including David Brooks, a New York Times columnist who has spoken to "family values" hate groups, are saying that Warren could win over Hillary Clinton.  Whether Brooks is merely being duplicitous (i.e., secretly wanting a weaker candidate to face whoever the GOP selects from its clown car of would be nominees) is hard to say.   Here are excerpts from his column that looks at Warren and her message that could appeal to many:
Her biggest adult fight has been against the banks, against what she saw as their rapacious exploitation of the poor and vulnerable. The crucial distinction Warren makes is this one: It’s not just social conditions like globalization and technological change that threaten the middle class. It’s an active conspiracy by the rich and powerful. The game is rigged. The proper response is not just policy-making; it’s indignation and combat.

The political class has been wondering if Warren, a United States senator from Massachusetts, will take on Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. This speculation is usually based on the premise that Warren couldn’t actually win, but that she could move the party in her direction. But, today, even for those of us who disagree with Warren fundamentally, it seems clear that she does have a significant and growing chance of being nominated.

Her chances are rising because of that word “fight.” The emotional register of the Democratic Party is growing more combative. There’s an underlying and sometimes vituperative sense of frustration toward President Obama, and especially his supposed inability to go to the mat.

Events like the Brown case in Ferguson and the Garner case in New York have raised indignation levels across the progressive spectrum. Judging by recent polls, the midterm defeat has not scared Democrats into supporting the safe option; it’s made them angrier about the whole system. As the party slips more into opposition status, with the next Congress, this aggressive outsider spirit will only grow.

In this era of bad feelings, parties are organized more around what they oppose rather than what they are for. Republicans are against government. Democrats are coalescing around opposition to Wall Street and corporate power. In 2001, 51 percent of Democrats were dissatisfied with the rise of corporate power, according to Gallup surveys. By 2011, 79 percent of Democrats were. According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last month, 58 percent of Democrats said they believed that the economic and political systems were stacked against them.

Clinton is obviously tough, but she just can’t speak with a clear voice against Wall Street and Washington insiders. Warren’s wing shows increasing passion and strength, both in opposing certain Obama nominees and in last week’s budget fight.

The history of populist candidates is that they never actually get the nomination. The establishment wins. That’s still likely. But there is something in the air. The fundamental truth is that every structural and historical advantage favors Clinton, but every day more Democrats embrace the emotion and view defined by Warren.

Climate Deniers Get Even Crazier and More Dishonest

Just when you thought the Koch brothers and their sycophants and paid liars could not possible get any more insane in their opposition to accepting the reality of climate change, they roll out a new lie: carbon dioxide is good and that we need even more of it in the atmosphere.  What's equally disgusting is the fact that there are some who for a buck will tell any lie regardless of the long term harm that will be done.  A column in the Washington Post looks at this newest insanity.  Here are excerpts:
For years, the fossil-fuel industries have been telling us that global warming is a hoax based on junk science.

But now these industries are floating an intriguing new argument: They’re admitting that human use of coal, oil and gas is causing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to rise — but they’re saying this is a good thing. We need more CO2 in our lives, not less. 

“CO2 is basically plant food, and the more CO2 in the environment the better plants do,” proclaimed Roger Bezdek, a consultant to energy companies, at an event hosted Monday by the United States Energy Association, an industry trade group. 

This was some creative thinking, and it took a page from the gun lobby, which argues that the way to curb firearm violence is for more people to be armed. 

Another questioner at the event asked Bezdek if he had considered ocean acidification, the release of methane gases, pollution and other side effects of rising CO2. This did not trouble him. “As you develop and you become wealthier,” he explained, “you have the wealth to clean up the mess.” He went on to point out that “35,000 people every year in the United States die in automobile accidents, but the solution is not to ban automobiles. You try to make them safer.”

The U.S. Energy Association membership comes from various sectors but includes big petroleum companies and utilities. Bezdek seemed to have a special place in his heart for coal, “the major world energy source of the past, present and future . . . lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”

The presentation began as a standard recitation of the climate-change denial position, that “there’s been no global warming for almost two decades” and that forecasts are “based on flawed science.”
Expect these folks to be major donors to Republican candidates.  Note that the threat rising sea levels pose to many American cities was not even mentioned.

Taliban Storm a School in Pakistan, 126 Dead

Fundamentalist religion continues to prove that it is among the foulest forces in the world.   Taliban forces have stormed a school in Pakistan and reports are that 126 have died in the ensuing carnage.  Like ISIS, the Taliban claims allegiance to a ultra far right and brutal version of Islam that justifies, if not revels in brutality against others who fail to subscribe to such toxic beliefs.  And where are the "good Muslims" in all of this?  Like the "good Christians" who allow evil to be done by Christofascists, they sit on their hands.  The Washington Post looks at the horrors done in Pakistan.  Here are highlights:
Taliban militants stormed an elite army high school in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 126 students and teachers, and holding others hostage, in one of the worst school shootings in modern times, according to Pakistani security and hospital officials.

More than three hours after the siege began at mid-day at an army-run high school on a Pakistan military installation in Peshawar, explosions and gunfire continued to be heard coming coming from the school.

A spokesman for the provincial government said 126 dead bodies had been recovered so far and 120 students and teachers have been wounded. Most of the dead were teenagers, he said. 

[E]ight to ten terrorists wearing military uniforms carried out the mid-day attack. He said they started “indiscriminate firing” after entering the school through a back door.

 “They started firing at students participating in a function at the auditorium,” Ghani told local journalists gathered at the scene. “The terrorists wanted to kill as many people as they could and they seemed to be not interested in hostage taking.”

In a statement, the Pakistani Taliban took credit for the attack, saying it was to avenge the Pakistan military operation in North Waziristan. The Taliban said six militants, including three suicide bombers, carried out the assault. 
Why a school as a target?  One reason is that modern knowledge and education are among the biggest enemies of fundamentalist religions.  It's no coincidence that while the the Taliban attacked a school. here at home the Christofascists want to dumb down public education and erode curriculum that show the lie of their 12th century beliefs.

Monday, December 15, 2014

More Monday Male Beauty

Ted Cruz's Idiocy Aids Democrats

By some reports, Texas Senator Ted Cruz isn't ignorant.  But that's not to say he isn't (i) batshit crazy, and (ii) more interested in grand standing to the ugliest elements in the Republican Party than in actually getting things done even if a small amount of compromise is the price of accomplishing much of one's agenda.  Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin - I find it scary when she and I are in agreement - lets lose on Cruz and the manner in which he lets his grandstanding and attempts to prostitute himself to Christofascists/Tea Party loons deny the GOP the ability to acheive rational goals.  Here are excerpts from her piece in the Washington Post:
Most of the talk about Republican gadfly Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) in the last few days concerned his role in forcing a delay on passage of the $1.1 trillion spending bill. He was slapped down on his “point of order” by a 74-22 vote, including 20 no votes from Republicans.

In a scathing op-ed the conservative Washington Examiner editorial board wrote:
Cruz’s and [Sen. Mike] Lee’s parliamentary freelancing gave Reid all he needed to advance the schedule by two full days and guarantee the confirmation of these nominations. In exchange for making Reid’s job easy on ramming the nominations through, all Cruz and Lee got was a symbolic floor vote against Obama’s executive action on immigration. It drew the support of only 22 senators. . . . . . The weekend’s events demonstrate that some Republicans are not playing on the same team. This was not a simple, common occurrence of senatorial independence, but rather open defiance of caucus strategy — a decision by junior officers that their own tactical decisions take precedence over those of generals who were chosen for the job.
Criticism of Cruz usually centers on this type of grandstanding at the expense of colleagues. But he also has a propensity to vote no on every piece of major legislation that involves any compromise for the hard right. Some refer to this as making the perfect the enemy of the good, such as when House Republicans under his spell voted against the “Plan B” to minimize the elimination of part of the Bush tax cuts; the end result was worse for Republicans.

Is his concern for federal lands so great that it trumps national security? That is screwy, to be blunt, and suggests he subordinates the government’s highest priority (national security), including some key items on the war against the Islamic State, to his fetish for fiscal purity. This is why, I suspect, he will never vote on any vehicle to lift the defense sequestration cuts. Gasp — that might require a compromise!

[I]t is the philosophy of anti-governance, because getting everything one wants and taking no lumps make legislating impossible. Consistently rejecting useful and conservative legislation because of small infirmities is not the behavior of a leader dedicated to accomplishing important things, and it suggests Cruz is grossly unsuited for the Senate, let alone higher office. Imagine if he ran a state — or the country — without super-majorities of Republicans. Things would be worse than they are now. Rigidity of mind and contempt for opponents in a president have resulted in paralysis and nastiness for six years, so why repeat the experience?

The Senate is a personal platform for him, not a position to perform well in delivering the best possible results for Texans or Americans at large. Thank goodness voters found out early on that his fixation is with fame and not with tending to the real needs of the country.

Ouch!  The man is a douche bag!!