Saturday, April 18, 2015

More Saturday Male Beauty

The Down Side for the GOP if Obamacare if SCOTUS Wipes out Obamacare Tax Credits

The Congressional Republicans have been obsessed with repealing Obamacare, but of course, they have had no meaningful replacement for it beyond throwing millions of Americans off of health coverage and returning to them to the rapacious private insurance market that most cannot afford.  Now, with the U.S. Supreme Court soon to decide the legality of the tax credits for the federal exchange that many in GOP controlled states have been forced to rely upon, these Obama haters might get their wish - or at least part of it.  Some Republicans, however, realize that getting what they have wished for might have a very negative down side that could carry over into next years presidential and federal elections.  Talking Points Memo looks at what could happen.  Here are highlights:
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) articulated the GOP's biggest fear if the Supreme Court wipes out Obamacare tax credits for millions of Americans who buy insurance from the federal exchange.

The fear: President Barack Obama and Democrats will be ready with a one-page bill to restore the subsidies, as well as a slew of attack ads telling horror stories about "individuals that have benefited from Obamacare on the backs of the American taxpayer" and lost their coverage, the Republican said.

Here's the transcript from the April 14 interview radio interview, in which Johnson is asked a question by host Jay Weber about King v. Burwell.
JOHNSON: Unfortunately, President Obama's response to an adverse decision — in other words one that actually follows the law — would be really simple. Just a one-sentence bill allowing people’s subsidies to flow to federal exchanges and/or offer the governors, 'Hey, we know you got those federal exchanges. Just sign the bottom line. We’ll make those established by the state.' And of course, he'll have the ads all racked up with the individuals that have benefited from Obamacare on the backs of the American taxpayer. He'll have all those examples as well so...
WEBER: And the sad sack stories about who's dying from what and why they can’t get their coverage.
Johnson's point was that Republicans must be ready with an effective response if the Court sides with their interpretation of the law and restricts the subsidies to state-run exchanges. So far, GOP leaders have sketched out ideas to mitigate the damage in such a scenario but appear short of a legislative solution that could unite the party.

"What will happen next is predictable: A deluge of attacks on Republicans for supposedly having caused this, . . . . "Daily White House emergency briefings. Liberal interest-group ads of wheelchairs going over cliffs. President Obama’s cheerleaders in the media screaming that ideologues are killing patients."
As I said, sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for.  Frankly, if things play out this way, it would be perhaps divine justice.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Bloomberg Poll: Almost Half of Americans Are Stupid

The Republican Party has indeed become the party of stupid.  Hence, it is little surprise that almost half of Americans are stupid.  Yes, you guessed it, the GOP base in particular.  How else to explain a refusal to accept modern science, the desperate clinging to the writings and myths of unknown Bronze Age goat herders, and denial of climate change even as the polar ice masses melt.  Politicususa looks at the poll findings.  Here are excerpts:

As comedian George Carlin once said, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups” and he was certainly referring to Americans loyal to the Republican movement. It is possible that in many Americans’ cases, stupid is the wrong term and denial a more apt descriptor; although a combination of the two terms is likely apropos when referring to half of America. In fact, it is safe to say that the two terms accurately describe Republican voters as a whole because it takes a particularly stupid person to deny what they know have experienced and seen with their own eyes; something results of a Bloomberg poll released yesterday revealed in grand fashion.

[T]he poll revealed that overall the President’s approval rating is positive in no small part due to a recovering economy that even Republicans cannot deny or take any credit for after spending six long years doing nothing. Those numbers are bad news for Republicans who continue claiming errantly that the economy is lagging regardless corporate profits are raging, unemployment is falling, GDP is up, the debt is falling, and the stock market continues setting new records. Even for stupid Americans, it is obvious that the economy under President Obama has been steadily improving and shows no signs of slowing any time soon according to economic experts forecasting continued growth with one caveat; the majority of the population is not seeing their personal finances keep pace with the rich and corporations in a growing economy. It was the one part of the poll results that a substantial majority of Americans were in complete agreement about.

What was curious about the poll results, though, was that although 69 percent of Americans say a growing problem is the widening income gap between the very rich and the rest of the population, there was a relatively even split on how best to address the economic discrepancy favoring the one percent; that is where the stupid factor is manifest. Americans who agreed that it is “better for the government to implement policies to shrink the income gap” made up 46 percent of respondents, and 47 percent said it is better “for the government to stand aside and let the market operate freely; even if the income gap gets wider.” Now, it is belligerently stupid for respondents, 69 percent of them, to acknowledge that, on the one hand, there is a growing income gap between the richest one percent and the rest of the population that has to be confronted and solved, and yet 47 percent believe the best way to address the problem is for government to ‘stand aside‘ and let the market take care of the problem; “even if it makes the gap wider.” Maybe the 47 percent agreeing with that statement failed to read the last phrase.

Obviously the stupid 47 percent who want to solve the income gap issue by, as Republicans preach, “getting government out of the way” have spent an inordinate amount of time getting their economic policy solutions from Republicans and Fox News. They also apparently have a serious issue with reality because study after report after study after life experience has revealed that nationally and particularly in states where Republicans have “got government out of the way,” economic growth is non-existent, job creation is lagging, people are getting poorer while the rich get richer, and deficits are exploding.

For example, Republicans attempted to get government out of the way by eliminating overtime pay, blocked Democrats attempt to pass an equal pay for equal work law, obstructed every attempt by President Obama to create jobs, and slashed federal spending that killed jobs. Republicans have also spent the last few months getting government out of the way of the rich getting richer by attempting to pass legislation giving the rich greater tax breaks as part of their failed trickle down scam . . .

Either 47 percent of the respondents are too stupid to understand that the Republican anti-government approach to the economy has failed every economic test over the past thirty years, or they know it increases the income gap and foolishly think that if the richest one percent gets richer, their own financial situation will improve. If left on its own, the market will always favor the rich. . .

The only reason there is a destructive income gap in America is because for the past thirty years Republicans have been on a crusade to get government out of the way and it has created an environment that is conducive to corporate profits and increased wealth for the richest one percent at the expense of the rest of the population. One has to hand it to Republicans for convincing nearly half of the Bloomberg poll’s respondents that going forward with an economic agenda that enriches the already wealthy at the expense of the rest of the population by eliminating government is the solution to the widening income gap. Republicans understand that at least half of America is stupid and will continue falling for the same failed approach to the economy regardless the disastrous economic consequences, and there is little doubt they will work tirelessly to convince the rest of the population that eliminating government will make them filthy rich.

Huckabee to Announce Yes or No on Presidential Bid on May 5th

If the GOP presidential candidate clown car did not already have enough nutcase occupants, Mike Huckabee - who some years back stated on Morning Joe that he wanted to replace the U.S. Constitution with the Bible - has said that he will announce his intentions on a 2016 presidential bid on May 5th.  Huckabee embodies much of the agenda noted in the prior post where corporate America sought to use religion to justify greed and mistreatment of workers.  Huckabee symbolizes what's wrong with today's Republican Party.  Reuters looks at Fuck*bee's Huckabee's coming announcement.  Here are highlights:

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a Republican, said on Friday that he will make an announcement on May 5 about whether or not he will run for president in 2016.

Huckabee said in an interview on Fox News that he will announce his plans in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas.  Huckabee, who left office in 2007, first ran for president in 2008. He hosted a Fox News television show but quit early this year to weigh another run at the Republican nomination.

Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor, is known as an unabashed culture warrior on issues such as abortion rights and gay marriage. But he could struggle to win support beyond his social conservative base this year.

He would join a crowded field if he does decide to run. U.S. Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have all announced their candidacies, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also are expected to jump in.

How Corporate America Invented "Christian America"

I often blame the so-called GOP establishment for empowering the Christofascists who have become a metastasizing cancer in the GOP and society as a whole, but a piece in Politico places some of the blame for this toxic influence on corporate America.  The piece traces the begins of this sickness in American society back to the 1940's and corporate America's desire to role back and/or restrain New Deal policies and regulations, something we see Republicans and vulture capitalists like the Koch brothers still doing today.  When looked st from this perspective, by allowing the Christofascists - who place greed and a desire for special rights over the Gospel message - the corporate America found an ally in the worship of self-interest over the common good.  Here are article excerpts:

In December 1940, as America was emerging from the Great Depression, more than 5,000 industrialists from across the nation made their yearly pilgrimage to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, convening for the annual meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers. The program promised an impressive slate of speakers . . . Tucked away near the end of the program was a name few knew initially, but one everyone would be talking about by the convention’s end: Reverend James W. Fifield Jr.

Handsome, tall, and somewhat gangly, the 41-year-old Congregationalist minister bore more than a passing resemblance to Jimmy Stewart. Addressing the crowd of business leaders, Fifield delivered a passionate defense of the American system of free enterprise and a withering assault on its perceived enemies in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. Decrying the New Deal’s “encroachment upon our American freedoms,” the minister listed a litany of sins committed by the Democratic government

It all sounds familiar enough today, but Fifield’s audience of executives was stunned. Over the preceding decade, as America first descended into and then crawled its way out of the Great Depression, the these titans of industry had been told, time and time again, that they were to blame for the nation’s downfall. Fifield, in contrast, insisted that they were the source of its salvation.  They just needed to do one thing: Get religion.

Fifield told the industrialists that clergymen would be crucial in regaining the upper hand in their war with Roosevelt. As men of God, ministers could voice the same conservative complaints as business leaders, but without any suspicion that they were motivated solely by self-interest. 

It was a watershed moment—the beginning of a movement that would advance over the 1940s and early 1950s a new blend of conservative religion, economics and politics that one observer aptly anointed “Christian libertarianism.” Fifield and like-minded ministers saw Christianity and capitalism as inextricably intertwined, and argued that spreading the gospel of one required spreading the gospel of the other. The two systems had been linked before, of course, but always in terms of their shared social characteristics. Fifield’s innovation was his insistence that Christianity and capitalism were political soul mates, first and foremost.

Before the New Deal, the government had never loomed quite so large over business and, as a result, it had never loomed large in Americans’ thinking about the relationship between Christianity and capitalism.

[Fifield] and his colleagues devoted themselves to fighting the government forces they believed were threatening capitalism and, by extension, Christianity. And their activities helped build a foundation for a new vision of America in which businessmen would no longer suffer under the rule of Roosevelt but instead thrive—in a phrase they popularized—in a nation “under God.” In many ways, the marriage of corporate and Christian interests that has recently dominated the news—from the Hobby Lobby case to controversies over state-level versions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—is not that new at all.

For much of the 1930s, organizations such as the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) had been searching in vain for ways to rehabilitate a public image that had been destroyed in the Great Depression and defamed by the New Deal. In 1934, a new generation of conservative industrialists took over NAM with a promise to “serve the purposes of business salvation.”

Ultimately, though, industry’s self-promotion was seen as precisely that.  . . . . Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt took his shots. “It has been said that there are two great Commandments—one is to love God, and the other to love your neighbor,” he noted soon after the Liberty League’s creation. “The two particular tenets of this new organization say you shall love God and then forget your neighbor.”

When Roosevelt launched the New Deal, politically liberal clergymen echoed his arguments, championing his proposal for a vast welfare state as simply the Christian thing to do. The head of the Federal Council of Churches, for instance, claimed the New Deal embodied basic Christian principles such as the “significance of daily bread, shelter, and security.” When businessmen realized their economic arguments were no match for Roosevelt’s religious ones, they decided to beat him at his own game.

It all fits the picture we see today and perhaps the hijacking of the GOP wasn't based on short term cynicism after all, but rather was a piece of a longer term plan that commenced decades ago.  Now, however, the GOP seems to have lost control of the Frankenstein monster it created.

Friday, April 17, 2015

More Friday Male Beauty

Who/What Is Working To Enact Misnammed "Religious Freedom" Laws

If one follows anti-gay organizations and far right Christofascist groups, one name that will quickly become obvious is the misnamed Alliance Defending Freedom ("ADF"), formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund, which consistently seeks to gain special rights for far right Christians over the rights of average Americans and to inflict far right Christian beliefs on all Americans.  By special rights I mean the right for Christofascists to ignore non-discrimination laws and other laws of general application to all citizens.  And the dogma that ADF seeks to impose on all Americans is the hate and fear based beliefs of the Christofascist on matters of sexuality, the right of women to control their own bodies, and the desire to establish reactionary far Christian beliefs as the de facto established religion of America.  A piece at Media Matters looks at the role ADF is playing in pushing misnamed "religious freedom" laws in state legislatures.  Sadly, far too many Republicans are only too willing to prostitute themselves to ADF and its insidious followers.  Here are highlights:

The current push for expanded state "religious freedom" laws is thanks in large part to the work of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an extreme right-wing legal group that's worked to criminalize gay sex across the globe. 

A $39 million non-profit Christian legal group, ADF bills itself as an organization that works for the "right of people to freely live out their faith." The group has laid the groundwork for "religious freedom" laws across the country, using their legal work to peddle the myth that Christians are under attack by the "homosexual agenda." But behind this religious freedom rhetoric, the group promotes an extreme anti-LGBT agenda, namely working internationally to criminalize gay sex.

ADF has become the country's best-funded and most powerful right-wing Christian group working against what the organization calls the "myth of the so-called 'separation of church and state.'" 

As the "800-pound gorilla of the Christian right," the group has become a fixture on Fox News in stories about "Christian persecution," where the group is perhaps best known for defending anti-gay business owners who refuse to serve gay customers. But ADF's agenda is far more extreme than defending discriminatory florists and bakers in court.

While the group prefers to talk about its "religious liberty" work when in the media spotlight, ADF also actively works internationally to promote and defend laws that criminalize gay sex. ADF's formal support for anti-sodomy legislation dates to at least 2003, before the Supreme Court made its landmark decision in Lawrence v. Texas. ADF, which was at the time still known as the Alliance Defense Fund, filed an amicus brief in the case, defending state laws criminalizing gay sex. In its brief, ADF spent nearly 30 pages arguing that gay sex is unhealthy, harmful, and a public health risk.

Since the Lawrence decision declared anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional, ADF has taken its extremist agenda abroad, working in Jamaica, Belize, and India to support laws that imprison gay people for having sex.
The group also has rich history of extremist anti-LGBT positions, including opposing anti-bullying efforts in public schools and labeling the hate crime that led to the murder of Matthew Shepard -- a gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten and tortured to death -- a hoax to advance the "homosexual agenda." The organization's media kit explicitly supports this radical position, and instructs media to call violent attacks against LGBT people "so-called 'hate' crimes," to refer to the LGBT rights movement as the "homosexual agenda," and to call trans people "cross-dressing" and "sexually confused."

ADF partners with more than 300 like-minded institutions, including the rabidly anti-LGBT Pacific Justice Institute, the Thomas More Law Center,  the Family Research Council (a hate group),  the Heritage Foundation, and the now-defunct "ex-gay" organization Exodus International.
ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears has his own personal history of extreme homophobia. In 2003, Sears co-authored the book The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today, which compares the gay "propaganda" movement to what "Hitler did so masterfully in Nazi Germany, to get the American public on their side." In another chapter, Sears claims that homosexuality and pedophilia are "intrinsically linked."

Sears' book echoes ADF's larger strategy of painting Christians as victims in a supposed war against Christianity, a position which depicts LGBT rights and religious freedom as mutually exclusive, . . . .

This narrative is part of the broader misinformation campaign orchestrated by a network of conservative evangelical and Roman Catholic organizations to frame Christians as "victims" of discrimination. As Dr. Jay Michaelson, a religious liberty fellow at Political Research Associates, noted in a recent report, these organizations are (emphasis added):
Waging a vigorous challenge to LGBTQ and reproductive rights by charging that both threaten their right-wing definition of "religious liberty."
To further their myth of Christian persecution, ADF frequently provides legal representation to Christian business owners who refuse to serve LGBT customers and are then sued for violating local non-discrimination ordinances. ADF frequently seizes these cases -- which it almost always loses -- to rally conservatives around these highly publicized examples of "persecuted" Christians. 

While ADF has worked publicly to make the national case for expanded RFRAs, the group is quieter about their coordinated legal and lobbying efforts to pass "religious freedom" laws. ADF first emerged as the driving force behind RFRAs in 2014, when the organization helped write Arizona's SB 1062. The bill, which sparked national controversy and was ultimately vetoed, would have expanded legal protections for businesses refusing service to gay customers. At the time, CNN's Anderson Cooper noted that ADF was behind the "genetic code" of SB 1062 and similar religious freedom laws across the country.

Most recently, ADF helped "advise" Indiana lawmakers during the debate over the state's controversial RFRA. ADF's litigation counsel, Kellie Fiedorek, even stood behind Indiana Gov. Mike Pence during the private ceremony signing the bill into law.

As constitutional law scholar Marci Hamilton explained in her book God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty, the anti-gay groups behind state RFRAs reveal the laws' "true colors." Media stories about RFRA are not complete until they acknowledge the extreme anti-LGBT group that has worked to lay the groundwork, both legally and in the media, for expanded "religious freedom" legislation.

The irony is that if any organization and agenda is a threat  to religious freedom as envisioned by the Founding Fathers, it is ADF and the Christofacists.  Their pleas of Christian persecution are as bogus as Hitler's claims that Jews were persecuting and harming good Germans and Christians.  ADF is downright evil - and very, very dangerous.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Jeb Bush - A Reprise of His Brother's Failed Policies

Despite his claims that "he's his own man," the prospect of a third Bush presidency suggests that we'd see a return of the disastrous policies of the Chimperator, George W. Bush, both domestic and in foreign policy.  Sadly, Jebbie has surrounded himself with his brothers past advisers who crafted the debacles most Americans would like to forget.  Worse yet, these advisers still refuse to admit that they were nearly 100% wrong about just about everything.  Do we really want a return to policies that caused so much economic havoc, bankrupted the country, and caused so many deaths?  A piece in the Washington Post looks at what Bush III might bring.  Here are excerpts:

If Jeb Bush is elected president, the United States won’t be on speaking terms with Cuba and will partner more closely with Israel. He’ll tighten sanctions on Iran and urge NATO to deploy more troops in Eastern Europe to counter Vladimir Putin. And he’ll order the U.S. military to root out “barbarians” and “evildoers” around the globe.

Far from running from or playing down the views once expressed by his brother George W. Bush, Jeb Bush is embracing them — and emphasizing them.

It is clear when he calls for closer engagement with Arab leaders to combat the growing threat of the Islamic State. Or when he criticizes President Obama for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. It is most apparent when he refers to “evildoers” — a formulation used widely by his brother — and argues that the United States needs to engage but doesn’t have to be “the world’s policeman,” a view voiced by his brother that was also embraced by their father, George H.W. Bush.

Bush’s views put him squarely in the middle of GOP consensus on foreign affairs — a consensus that formed as his brother reshaped U.S. engagement with the world. But by endorsing some of his brother’s views, he puts himself at odds with most Americans, who remain wary of the two wars launched during the last Bush presidency.

In recent years, nearly 6 in 10 Americans have believed that the Iraq war was not worth fighting, though Republicans have been slightly more supportive, according to polling by The Washington Post and other organizations. In more recent years, public opinion has similarly turned against the war in Afghanistan.

Early in the exploratory phase of his likely campaign, Jeb Bush unveiled a foreign policy advisory team that reflects the disparate views of GOP thinking on the world. The group includes two former secretaries of state, George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III; two former CIA directors, Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden; former attorney general Michael Mukasey; and Paul Wolf­owitz, a former deputy defense secretary and a lead architect of the Iraq war.  

When it comes to Iraq, Bush is mostly supportive of his brother’s legacy there.  “There were mistakes in Iraq for sure,” he said during a speech in Chicago in February. “Using the intelligence capability that everybody embraced about weapons of mass destruction, it turns out to not be accurate.”

Undeterred by public opinion polls that suggest his views are not shared by a majority of voters, Bush believes that global events might prompt Americans to eventually embrace his thinking. During an appearance in San Francisco in January, he accused Obama of exploiting America’s war fatigue to justify withdrawing U.S. military forces abroad.

Claiming that "intelligence was not accurate" is Jebbie's euphemism for dodging the fact that his idiot brother deliberately lied to the American people.

The GOP's "War on Coal" Myth

In coal producing states, including Southwest Virginia, one hears the myth that Obama is destroying the coal industry in his quest to deal with climate change, something the GOP largely refuses to admit is happening in order to pander to its ignorant base and, of course, polluters like the Koch brothers.  The real truth is very different - not that the truth figures very high in the GOP agenda and standard demagoguery.  The coal industry has been in decline for decades and in areas like Southwest Virginia, it has ravaged the country side and kept the population and local economy depressed.  And now, with more plentiful supplies of natural gas in particular, the demand for coal has plummeted.  The GOP wants open, unfettered markets and coal's demise is an out growth of what the GOP otherwise lauds.  A piece in Salon looks at the economic as opposed to political and regulatory forces that are killing the coal industry.  Here are highlights:
[Republicans claim] the EPA has written a death sentence for King Coal, which, without the federal government’s intervention, would be thriving right now. Again, that’s a pretty premature argument, as the rules have yet to take effect. And it’s one that singles out a scapegoat — big ol’ coal-hating Obama — over the much more mundane reality. Yes, U.S. coal is dying: a recent Duke University study found that between 2008 and 2012, the industry lost nearly 50,000 jobs. But the downturn isn’t new. Coal country’s been on the decline for decades, and for reasons that go far beyond politics.

“What’s killing the coal industry is not federal regulation — it’s market forces,” energy analyst and journalist Richard Martin, whose book “Coal Wars“ provides an in-depth look at this decline, told Salon. “The shale gas revolution has erased coal’s traditional position as the low-cost fuel for power generation, and given a choice, utilities today will choose the cleaner option.”

Even Murray Energy acknowledged that the natural gas boom is partially responsible for displacing coal. Technology, too, has played a role in the decline of coal jobs, as new innovations allow companies to achieve the same output with fewer workers. The best coal in Southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky has already been mined out; the region faces increased competition from Western states.
[A]nalysts with the U.S. Energy Information Administration project that the industry is set in its downward path — a conclusion they reached without even taking the anticipated impact of the Clean Power Plan into account.

All of these factors, Martin added, have been accompanied by a broader shift toward renewable energy. A new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, for example, found that as of 2013, the world is adding more energy capacity from renewables than natural gas, oil and coal — combined. According to Martin, “There’s no turning back from that shift.”

It is a shift, unfortunately, from which coal country has yet to benefit. The aforementioned Duke study found that over the same time period in which coal jobs plummeted, nearly four times as many jobs were created by the combined natural gas, solar and wind industries — but that few were added in the regions hit hardest by the loss.

“We are in the midst of a pretty dramatic energy transition in this country that is producing a lot of very good things, from cleaner air to healthier communities to new jobs and new industries,” Jason Walsh, a senior policy adviser at the White House, told the Charleston Gazette. “While policymakers can disagree about the reasons why the coal industry is struggling, all Americans should be able to agree that these workers and communities, who are in some of the most economically distressed parts of the country, deserve help from the federal government.”

“When people like Mitch McConnell stand up in the U.S. Senate and decry the Obama administration’s war on coal,” he said, “they’re not really helping their constituents. Every hour or dollar spent on fighting the war on coal is a resource that doesn’t go to really helping these people in places where the coal industry is not coming back.”

McConnell, of course, has built his entire political platform on this [war on coal] premise. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he remains “absolutely convinced” that coal has a future in the U.S., and has vowed to do “everything I can to try to stop” the EPA from interfering with this imaginary renaissance.

[C]oal’s best days are undeniably behind it. We can fight it, at the expense of clean air and mitigating climate change. Or we can gently, but firmly, help see it out.

One reason the new clean energy jobs tend to NOT locate in coal producing areas is the cultural and social backwardness of the areas.  Embracing racism, homophobia, and extremist religion do NOT make an area attractive to new and progressive businesses.  The GOP's God, guns and gays agenda is helping to kill coal producing areas as much as market forces.  Embracing ignorance and bigotry carries an economic price.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

Who's Who of Christofascist Groups Files Amicus Brief with SCOTUS

Not surprisingly, a veritable who's who of lunatic Christofascists organizations with ties to Focus on the Family and Family Research Council  - e.g., Citizen Link,  . . . .  Virginia's own hate group, The Family Foundation, and a host od similar state affiliate hate groups  - have filed an amicus brief with the U. S. Supreme Court in the marriage case, OBERGEFELL v. HODGES, which will be argued before the Court later this month.  As has been the case in Lawrence v. Texas, and other gay rights cases, the brief may actually help the cause of those fighting for marriage equality because the arguments put forth (i) are batshit crazy, and (ii) underscore that same sex marriage bans stem principally fro extreme religious belief and anti-gay animus.  As Joe Jervis notes, the brief argues that gay marriage will result in same-sex marriage must not be approved because otherwise the nation will be overrun with slutty girls and violent boys.  Here's a taste of the lunacy, none of which relates to the issue of equal protection and due process rights under the United States Constitution:
A mother plays a vital role in the development of a male child’s identity and ability to relate to members of the opposite sex. In particular, research shows that mothers enable their sons to “play the role of a loving boy [and] man[.]”. . . male children have an innate need to understand what it means to be a boy and a man, and the presence and care of a loving mother is critical in fulfilling that need.

Fathers also discipline less frequently than mothers, but are more consistent in applying predetermined consequences for particular actions. Indeed, the mere presence of a father in the home significantly reduces the likelihood that boys will engage in delinquent behavior. For boys, fathers also serve as role models by engendering a healthy respect for femininity, and that respect discourages compensatory masculinity and associated aggressive and violent behavior. For girls, an involved father reduces the likelihood of early sexual activity and teenage pregnancy, promotes self-esteem and a positive body image, and decreases the risk of eating disorders. . . . Studies have also “shown that dads have a more powerful influence than moms when it comes to convincing kids to steer clear of cigarettes and sex. 

. . . . only the mother-father parenting structure fosters child development in a comprehensive, holistic manner, from birth to adulthood.

Parents in all kinds of family structures should be recognized for the contributions they make in their children’s lives. This, however, does not diminish the legitimate interest of the State to exclusively recognize man-woman marriage due to the unique benefits of dual gender parenting.

Redefining marriage, moreover, would seriously erode the existing marital norm that encourages gender-diverse parenting. By itself, the fact that marriage is defined as the union of a man and a woman makes clear to society that marriage is really about procreation and children, and that it is expected to carry with it both a masculine and a feminine aspect.

If anything, the brief is an argument for banning heterosexual divorce, not same sex marriage, even though it ignores abuse heterosexual parents and seemingly argues that straight parents, no how horrible the marital/family situation should be forced to remain together.  That , of course, defies logic and reason, tow things scorned by the "godly folk."   Among the brief's "authorities" is discredited researcher Mark Regnerus who is facing calls for discipline and possible firing at his home university. Let's hope the non-responsive brief convinces at least 5 justices that these groups represent bigoted idiots whose arguments should be ignored..

The GOP: Warriors of the Aristocracy

With Hillary Clinton having announced that bringing relief to the the plight of the working and middle classes will be a theme of her presidential campaign, we can expect lip service from GOP candidates that will show feigned concern for average Americans.  Talk, of course, is cheap and talk is all the GOP will actually bring to the table.  Since 1977 - the year I graduated from law school - inflation has been in the neighborhood of 287.3%.  Rest assured, that wages for average Americans has not kept pace.  Even in the legal realm, fees for things such as a real estate settlement have nowhere near kept up with the rate of inflation.  A piece in Salon looks at the true GOP agenda as being warriors for the "aristocracy."  Here are excepts that look at GOP policies rather than GOP lip service:
It’s been quite interesting to see Republicans embrace the notion that wealth inequality (or any inequality) is something to worry their pretty little heads about. Over the winter we heard numerous reports of various GOP luminaries expressing serious concern that average Americans were getting the short end of the stick while the wealthy few reaped all the rewards. Ted Cruz might as well have put on a blond wig and called himself “Elizabeth” when he railed against it after the State of the Union:
“We’re facing right now a divided America when it comes to the economy. It is true that the top 1 percent are doing great under Barack Obama. Today, the top 1 percent earn a higher share of our national income than any year since 1928,”
And here we thought that was supposed to be a good thing. Aren’t they the “job producers”? That’s how weird the GOP’s messaging has gotten lately. Mitt “47 Percent” Romney clutched his very expensive opera-length pearls, wailing that “under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before.” Rand Paul channeled his heretofore unknown inner Bernie Sanders, proclaiming that “income inequality has worsened under this administration. 

This certainly wasn’t something they lost any sleep over before now. . . . this sort of thing is called “issue-trespassing,” where one party attempts to co-opt an advantage of the other by pretending to care about something nobody thinks they care about. In this case, the GOP seemed to be admitting that their reputation as the party of the 1 percent wasn’t helpful to their cause, so they decided to try to shift the blame to President Obama.

[I]t’s hard to see how anyone can possibly believe that the Republican Party, which fetishizes low taxes for the rich above all other priorities, truly cares about wealth inequality; but perhaps this is one of those times when the mere pretense of caring signals that they understand how badly their reputation of callous disregard for everyday Americans’ economic security has hurt them.

[T]his shallow attempt at appearing to give a damn was short-lived. This week the GOP is voting, as they always do, to ensure that the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune won’t be faced with the terrible responsibility of having to pay taxes on their inheritances. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post pointed out just how successful these protectors of the progeny of the one percenters have been in recent years:
It had long been a conservative ideal, and the essence of the American Dream, to believe that everybody should have an equal shot at success. But in their current bid to end the estate tax, Republicans could create a permanent elite of trust-fund babies. The estate tax was a meaningful check on a permanent aristocracy as recently as 2001 . . . The current exemption of $5.4 million (the current estate tax has an effective rate averaging under 17 percent, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center) does little to prevent a permanent aristocracy from growing — and abolishing it entirely turns democracy into kleptocracy.
This is nothing new, of course. The conservative project has always been fundamentally about aristocracy. Sure, they love to wax on about freedom and liberty but the freedom and liberty they care about is the freedom to attain property and pass it on to their heirs. Everything else is secondary. What’s more interesting is the way they are able to make ordinary people who will never benefit from this scheme — in fact, they will suffer  – agitate for it as if it meant the bread on their own table and the roof over their own heads.

Paul Waldman tackled this phenomenon in a piece for the American Prospect a while back. He concluded that voters didn’t understand that the tax only kicks in for very high amounts, and that most people instinctively think it should be okay to bequeath your fortune to your kids — regardless that the consequences of vastly wealthy people doing this are fundamentally un-American.
Waldman mentioned this silly notion as well:
Americans tend to think that no matter what their current situation, eventually, they’re going to be rich. Most of us are wrong about that, but that’s what we think. It’s practically our patriotic duty to believe it. So most everyone thinks that this tax will apply to their estate upon their death, no matter how modest that estate might be at the moment.
This is one of the main keys to the perpetuation of the aristocratic project: Convincing average people to support “their betters” with the promise that they will themselves benefit. In the old aristocracy, this used to be a simple pledge of fealty to ones noble house, but American conservatives have “democratized” it to make the serfs and peasants believe that they too will be nobles one day if only they agree to allow the rich to keep every last penny of their wealth. It’s a very sweet scam.

Unfortunately for the conservatives, inequality is becoming impossible to ignore and the people are starting to wake up to what is happening. The confusion on the right about how to handle it is a sign that it’s verging out of their control.
[S]imply paying lip service to a democratic, egalitarian concern is probably not going to be enough to give them cover when the Republican stereotype of being servants of the rich is so deeply embedded in our political culture. (Thanks Mitt!) Voting for the Paris Hilton tax exemption bill certainly won’t help.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Vatican Announces Major Summit On Climate Change

While I continue to doubt that Pope Francis is going to do anything to bring the Roman Catholic Church out of the 13th century when it comes to the issue of gays, the rights of women, and sexual repression, on the climate change front, Francis may cause the climate change deniers in the Republican Party continued headaches.   The Vatican has announced a major climate change summit later this month that may undermine GOP efforts to convince conservative Catholics to drink the GOP Kool-Aid.  Vatican support for the belief that climate change exists could prove a sticking point for religious extremist, Marco Rubio, who is trying to wear Catholicism on his sleeve even as he attends a batship crazy non-Catholic church. Don't expect Francis to make the Koch brothers' favorite persons list!  Think Progress looks at the coming summit.  Here are highlights:
Catholic officials announced on Tuesday plans for a landmark climate change-themed conference to be hosted at Vatican later this month, the latest in Pope Francis’ faith-rooted campaign to raise awareness about global warming.

The summit, which is scheduled for April 28 and entitled “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity. The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development,” will draw together a combination of scientists, global faith leaders, and influential conservation advocates such as Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is slotted to offer the opening address, and organizers say the goal of the conference is to “build a consensus that the values of sustainable development cohere with values of the leading religious traditions, with a special focus on the most vulnerable.”

[A]ttendees hope to offer a joint statement highlighting the “intrinsic connection” between caring for the earth and caring for fellow human beings, “especially the poor, the excluded, victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, children, and future generations.” The gathering will undoubtedly build momentum for the pope’s forthcoming encyclical on the environment, an influential papal document expected to be released in June or July. The Catholic Church has a long history of championing conservation and green initiatives. . . 

The upcoming conference and the release of the encyclical could also have political implications here in the United States. The pope is scheduled to stop by Washington, D.C. during his trip to America in September, where he plans to address a joint session of Congress. Some conservatives have been critical or dismissive of the pontiff’s support for green policies, but if Francis, who is wildly popular among both Catholic and non-Catholic Americans, brings up climate change during his remarks, it could be an uncomfortable moment for many lawmakers.

The poor and the vulnerable are nowhere on the GOP priority list  unless it is to transfer more of their meager assets to the already wealthy. 

Vladimir Putin Continues Hitler Like Agression

As noted before, Vladimir Putin must be keeping a biography of Adolph Hitler and a history of the Third Reich on his night stand.  Hitler's moves in the 1930's that lead up to World War II continue to be the model for Putin's demands and bellicose claims.   Claims that have ranged from invading the Crimea to threatening neighboring countries to now, threats of renewed nuclear weapons threats.  The man is a maniac who will ultimately harm Russia and perhaps other parts of the world if he remains in office.  Sadly, by playing on Russian nationalism and depicting Russia as a victim - just as Hitler did - Putin has duped far too many Russians into failing to see that he is their biggest enemy of all.  A piece in the New York Times looks at Putin's dangerous moves,  Here are highlights:
President Vladimir Putin of Russia has added new, chilling nuclear threats to his aggression in Ukraine, where 6,000 people have been killed in a war with Russian-backed separatists. Mr. Putin wants to expand his country’s influence and standing, but his alarming behavior has estranged Russia from most other major powers, damaged its economy and narrowed its future options.

Even for Mr. Putin, the recent nuclear threats have set a new benchmark for hostility in the conflict he has ignited with the West. Two weeks ago, The Times of London reported on a meeting between Russian generals and American officials in which the Russians threatened a “spectrum of responses from nuclear to non-military” if NATO moved more military forces into the Baltic States.

Last month, the Russian ambassador to Denmark, Mikhail Vanin, warned that Danish warships “will be targets for Russia’s nuclear weapons” if Denmark follows through on its expressed interest in joining NATO’s missile defense system.

Some Russian officials have also hinted at the possibility of reintroducing nuclear weapons to Crimea, which has been free of them for two decades.

American officials say they have seen no evidence that Russia has actually begun to reposition or make ready a nuclear arsenal that still contains thousands of weapons. But even if the Russian threats are loose talk to intimidate adversaries or curry favor with nationalists at home, they reflect a cynical disregard for Russia’s post-Cold War role as a partner with America in arms control treaties designed to discourage the spread of nuclear weapons. These threats inevitably raise tensions and could increase the chances of deadly miscalculations.

The Russian leader’s decision to proceed with the long-delayed sale of an S-300 missile defense system to Iran was another bad choice. Experts say the system does not threaten Israel, which has nuclear weapons and the best military arsenal in the Middle East, but the move could make it harder for the Obama administration to get congressional support for a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Mr. Putin’s aggression is rooted in intense nationalism, which plays very well to his people and fuels the war against Ukraine. Despite a cease-fire agreement signed in Minsk in February, Russia has continued to arm, train and direct separatist rebels. Fighting has surged and there are grave concerns that Mr. Putin is planning an offensive to seize more territory in eastern Ukraine.

The Europeans and the United States have to stay united in maintaining sanctions on Russia and in continuing air patrols and training exercises, as it becomes increasingly difficult to predict Mr. Putin’s next move.
Germans cheered as Hitler annexed Austria and Czechoslovakia just as many Russians cheered Putin's moves into Crimea and Ukraine.  Perhaps Russians need to look at photos of bombed out cities in Germany - especially Berlin - in the spring and summer of 1945 to grasp where Putin could be ultimate leading them..In his megalomania, Putin ultimately cares nothing about the Russian people.
Berlin 1945