Saturday, June 06, 2015
As a one time Republican and GOP activist, I never cease to be shocked by how low the Party has fallen. Nowadays, one needs to either be a KKK card carrying member, a religious fanatic in need of a mental health intervention, or a vulture capitalists like the Koch brothers. Decent, moral people truly are no longer wanted or welcome in the GOP. And watching the GOP clown car of would be presidential candidates there seem to be no limits whatsoever as to how far they will go to prostitute themselves the the ugliest elements of the GOP base. Truly, the tawdriest whore has more integrity and honesty than any of the GOP's would be presidential candidates. A piece in Salon looks at the "dog whistles" being used to pander to the racist, homophobic, extremist party base. Here are highlights:
A couple of weeks ago, Jeb Bush, a GOP 2016 front-runner, gave America a brief tutorial on why he should never be president, spouting off a series of outmoded, fact-free responses. But it was actually a model tutorial on why no GOP contender should be president, as follow-up events underscored.
It began with Bush telling Fox’s Megyn Kelly that he’d still invade Iraq, even “knowing what we do now,” to which Laura Ingraham replied, “There has to be something wrong with you.” Bush then fumbled Sean Hannity’s attempt to help clean up the mess, saying “I interpreted the question wrong, I guess,” then admitting, “I don’t know what that decision would have been.” Then in a Nevada town hall meeting he tried to turn the tables, saying that folks like Kelly even daring to ask the question “does a disservice” to the troops who “sacrificed a lot,” adding that “What we ought to be focusing on is what are the lessons learned.” Which, of course, was the reason behind Kelly’s question in the first place. Finally, in Arizona the next day, Bush broke down and confessed, “Knowing what we know now, I would have not engaged.”
But in that, he’s [Bush] no different than anyone else in GOP race—whether announced or not. We saw that quite clearly the following week, when Chris Christie’s vulgar anti-press rant was leaked (“we don’t give a s–t about this or any of you”), and the gay-bashing Mike Huckabee rushed to the defense of child molester Josh Duggar on Facebook (“Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable’”).
The pattern should be clear: It’s a crowded GOP field in which everyone’s fatal flaws are exposed for all to see, and the media works overtime to minimize them, or outright pretend they don’t even exist. And the first tier of candidates comes off as poorly as the third and fourth.
Indeed, there’s no real quality difference between the top tier and the third or fourth. For example, Rick Santorum—a fourth-tier candidate at 1.3 percent in a recent Real Clear Politics polling average (current version here)—acted eerily like second-tier Mike Huckabee defending a child molester back in 2012, when he blasted the Freeh report on the Penn State coverup of Jerry Sandusky’s decades of molestation. Find any sort of outrageous act one with one candidate, and you will find echoes among others in this field.
The whole party is caught in the grip of this ludicrous contradiction (and all the governors—Walker, Christie, even Kasich—would rather not talk too much about their economic records). The contradiction is obvious: Christians who refuse to compromise with secular Western culture are heroes, whereas Muslims who refuse to compromise are demons. That’s not necessarily a contradiction, though: it could be just plain old-fashioned bigotry. In which case, the “arguments” aren’t really arguments, they’re camouflage. As Beinart himself later concludes, “The only principle he’s really defending is anti-Muslim bigotry.” Jindal just makes this contradiction a bit clearer than most—at the same time that he’s trying to distract from the financial disaster he’s created as Louisiana governor.
[T]here were a couple of first-tier candidates tied at 13.2 percent with similarly disastrous budget situations (Scott Walker), as well as ones who strike similar appeals to Christian victimhood (Marco Rubio).
Walker’s first-tier rival, Marco Rubio, hews much closer to Jindal’s rhetoric on the social issues side. While the media played up the idea that Rubio might attend a friend’s gay wedding, they left out the matter of timing: a quarter after hell freezes over. In reality Rubio’s hostility to gay rights is profound. He recently used gay rights as part of a slippery-slope argument that ended with “a real and present danger”
Prior to the Civil War, the Bible was the No. 1 source of Confederate arguments supporting slavery, yet Christianity somehow managed to survive Lincoln’s hateful Emancipation Proclamation. So Rubio’s hysterics would be laughable, were they not so widely shared. He’s a top-tier candidate, and similar views have been expressed by Huckabee (“We are moving rapidly towards the criminalization of Christianity”), Cruz (“the greatest threats we’ve ever seen” to religious liberty, also “a real risk” that pastors will be jailed for preaching “traditional marriage”), Carson (gay marriage is a Marxist plot to impose a “New World Order”), Santorum (“you can be persecuted and maybe even prosecuted”) and Jindal (“The left no longer wants to debate. They simply want to silence us.”)—all offering slightly different variations on the same paranoid theme.
A month prior to his “real and present danger” comments, in late April, Rubio called it “ridiculous and absurd” to believe gays have a constitutional right to marry, in an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network . . .
Attacking the Supreme Court is another common theme among GOP hopefuls as well. Huckabee, ensconced in the second tier, tied with Cruz at 8.6 percent, registered a slightly different, but related take, when he appeared on Fox with Chris Wallace recently: the Supreme Court isn’t really supreme, because #God, inveighing against “judicial supremacy” and whining about people being forced “to bow down and fall on their faces and worship that law.”
There's much more and none of it flattering to the GOP clown car. The current clown car occupants truly make me embarrassed to admit that I was ever a Republican. The party base now consist of freaks and losers and its candidates are no better.
|Confessed child molester Josh Duggar|
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar broke their silence about son Josh’s sexual molestation scandal on Wednesday night, but their interview was filled with misinformation and the reality TV couple also withheld crucial facts, according to public documents, obtained by In Touch magazine through the Freedom of Information Act.1) One of the most glaring omissions by the family concerns their statements about the 2006 Springdale Police Department investigation. The Duggars gave the viewing audience the impression that they fully cooperated, saying, “We trusted them, we trusted the police department.” But the Springdale police report, obtained by In Touch through FOIA, reveals that Jim Bob refused to produce Josh for a police-requested interview and stopped cooperating with the probe.
2) When discussing the legal situation surrounding Josh’s confession of molestation, Jim Bob told Fox News that he and Michelle were “not mandatory reporters, the law allows parents to do what they think is best for their child.” Not so. While they are not mandatory reporters, the law does not allow them to do what they think is best for their child in this situation, multiple legal experts tell In Touch.
By not reporting the at-least SEVEN instances of abuse on at least THREE occasions during a period of more than a year, they could have faced felony charges for child endangerment, with a six-year prison term. . . . . The maximum penalty for permitting this type of abuse under Arkansas Code 5-4-401 is six years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.” The new issue of In Touch magazine has complete details on the Duggars’ cover-up and how it could have landed them in prison.
3) Jim Bob suggested the records of Josh’s crimes were released because the Springdale police chief, Kathy O’Kelley, may have taken a bribe. . . . . .In Touch has a paper trail that proves city attorneys reviewed the FOI request and approved the records' release. Further, Jim Bob’s “bribe or personal agenda” explanation for the records' release loses all credibility in light of the fact that a SECOND police report detailing Josh’s crimes was obtained by In Touch magazine through FOIA.
4) Jim Bob and sympathetic host Megyn Kelly repeatedly referred to the records as being “illegally released.” Not so, say legal experts. That claim is “disputed by the law enforcement agencies involved, the Arkansas Press Association and attorneys with expertise in public-document cases involving the state's Freedom of Information Act,” according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
5) The Duggars did not address the fact that they were investigated by the Department of Human Services after the 2006 police probe was terminated due to the statute of limitations. They have not said what the results of the DHS investigation were.
6) Megyn Kelly said that the Duggars “hadn’t gotten a heads-up” about the release of Josh’s police report and the Duggars did not dispute that. But In Touch has obtained documents that show the city of Springdale alerted them before releasing the records. The law does not require the city to alert someone before their records are released pursuant to a FOIA request.
7) Jim Bob made it clear that he took Josh to talk to the police and randomly happened to end up with Trooper Jim Hutchens. (Hutchens is now serving a 56-year-prison term on child pornography charges, as reported exclusively by In Touch magazine.) . . . .But Hutchens was interviewed from prison by a representative from a local law firm hired by In Touch and contradicts Jim Bob’s story. He said he knew Jim Bob well from his job and had even taught a couple of classes to car dealerships with him. In addition, Hutchens – who was not promised anything in return for his interview and told only that it was part of an investigation – said that Jim Bob specifically sought him out to talk to Josh.
The take away? Jim Bob and Michelle Duggars are liars and they lie intentinally. Sadly, they are the face of what Christianity has become in America: lying, hate filled bigots who are the antithesis of Christ's gospel message. Yes, there are "good Christians" if you will, but like the "good Germans" of the 1930's, they sit on their hands and remain silent and allow horrible things to be said and done. The are as a result part of the problem. It' no coincidence that the growing exodus of the Millennials from organized religion tracks the rise of the Christofascists in the GOP. If the "good Christians" will not speak up and challenge the Christofascists, then Christianity deserves to die.
Driving home the other night I was listening to POTUS on satellite radio and one discussion was on the land mine field that Caitlyn Jenner has created for the Republican Party and the occupants of the 2016 GOP presidential clown car. Already Mike Huckabee is dodging his "joke" to "Christian" broadcasters about he wished he'd claim to be transgender in high school so that he could have showered with the girls. Kathleen Parker picks up on the discussion in a Washington Post column that focuses on the danger Jenner poses for the GOP as it tries to avoid being the party of yesterday and of ignorance and bigotry (talk about major tasks!). It will be a spectacle to behold. Here are column highlights:
Barring a terror strike or an Ebola outbreak to distract us, the 2016 presidential election seems headed for a gender identity showdown.Within days of the release of Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover photo, Republican presidential candidates were being asked to comment, while conservative pundits were warning of a political apocalypse.
Leading the charge was Rush Limbaugh, who has advised the GOP to reject Caitlyn Jenner, even if she is a Republican. Big Tent Sign: Transgender People Not Welcome Here.
While some GOP candidates have avoided inquiry thus far, others have trod carefully around the murky issues surrounding gender identity.
Rick Santorum initially gave the correct answer to a reporter, saying, “If [Jenner] says he’s a woman, then he’s a woman.” But he was forced by outraged conservatives to backpedal and subsequently clarified that he meant to “express empathy not a change in public policy.”
If you think “legitimate rape” was a problem, stick around for “Can Jenner be a woman if he still has male organs?” Apparently, Jenner hasn’t yet taken the final physical step to becoming a woman, according to Vanity Fair.
As I have been recently tutored, sex organs are irrelevant to gender identity. Simply put, sexual orientation concerns with whom you have sex. Gender identity, which forms early in life based on multiple factors both pre- and post-birth, concerns who you are, male or female, regardless of the equipment you were born with.
Limbaugh isn’t wrong in predicting the coming stigmatization of conservatives as crazy or hateful because they’re not queuing up as popular convention requires. The danger for the GOP is that the loudest and kookiest voices will be harnessed by the media and trotted out as typical of the Republican base.
As always, volunteer crazies will present themselves, as did one fellow who wrote to me recently as “God’s Emissary.” “You are an agent of the antichrist and a wicked reincarnation of Jezebel! . . . YOU MAKE JESUS CHRIST WANT TO VOMIT!”
Accepting that transgender people are human beings, too, should not be that difficult. Granting equal protections to all regardless of race, creed, sex or gender should be fairly easy to process. Ultimately, the courts will sort it all out.
In the meantime, Limbaugh and others who insist that Republicans take a stand on Jenner’s transition are big fish lured by small bait. The media’s group embrace of Jenner’s transition should be seen for what it is — not a revolutionary step toward minority rights but a money grab for ads, ratings, sales and buzz in a culture of provocation and greed without ethics or conscience.
|Hastert and victim|
The gay sex scandal swirling around former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert continues to grow as the family of one now deceased victim of abuse has come forward. The actual individual - who many assume to be yet another Hastert victim - remains unidentified. In grasping the full hypocrisy of Hastert it is important to remember that Hastert consistently voted against gay rights measures just like former Virginia 2nd District congressman Ed Schrock whom I helped to "out." In Schrock's defense, at least he wasn't insidiously preying on minors like Hastert. Schrock was a total hypocrite, but he wasn't a sexual predator. Again, it is noteworthy that it is almost always the "conservative," "family values" Republicans who are the ones that become embroiled in gay sex scandals. ABC News has details on this development. Here are highlights:
In Steve Reinboldt’s 1970 high school yearbook, wrestling coach Dennis Hastert wrote that Steve was his “great, right hand man” as the student equipment manager of the Yorkville, Illinois wrestling team.But Steve was also a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of Hastert, Steve’s sister said Friday in an interview with ABC News. It is the first time an alleged Hastert victim has been identified by name since his indictment for lying to the FBI and violating federal banking laws to cover-up past misconduct. Hastert, due in court next week, has not responded to the allegations.In an emotional interview, Steve Reinboldt’s sister Jolene said she first learned of her late brother’s purported years-long sexual abuse at the hands of the future Speaker of the House back in 1979 when her brother revealed to her that he was gay and had been out of high school for eight years.Jolene said she asked her brother why he never told anyone. “And he just turned around and kind of looked at me and said, ‘Who is ever going to believe me?’”Jolene said that Steve told her the abuse lasted throughout Steve’s four years of high school as he served as team student manager. “Mr. Hastert had plenty of opportunities to be alone with Steve, because he was there before the meets,” she said. “He was there after everything because he did the laundry, the uniforms. So he was there by himself with him,” she added.Her brother also spent time with Hastert as a member of an Explorers troop, which Hastert ran. Photos taken by her brother show Hastert with a group of boys on a diving trip to the Bahamas.Reinboldt’s sister says she has no doubts about the veracity of what her brother told her 36 years ago.Jolene said she believes the abuse ended when Steve moved away after his high school graduation in 1971. Reinboldt died of AIDS in 1995. She believes Hastert’s alleged actions irrevocably changed Steve's life for the worse.“He took his belief in himself and his kind of right to be a normal person,” Jolene said. “Here was the mentor, the man who was, you know, basically his friend and stepped into that parental role, who was the one who was abusing him… He damaged Steve I think more than any of us will ever know.”Her anger boiled over when she said Hastert was so “brash” as to show up at Steve’s funeral viewing.“I was just there just trying to bite my tongue thinking that blood was coming out because I was just… So after he had gone through the line I followed him out into the parking lot of the funeral home,” Jolene said. “I said, ‘I want to know why you did what you did to my brother.’ And he just stood there and stared at me. He didn’t say, ‘What are you talking about?’ you know, [or], ‘What? I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ He just stood there and stared at me.“Then I just continued to say, ‘I want you to know your secret didn’t die in there with my brother. And I want you to remember that I’m out here and that I know.’ And again, he just stood there and he did not say a word.” Hastert got in his car and drove away. Jolene said Hastert’s non-response “said everything.”
[F]or years, Jolene watched helplessly as Hastert basked in fame and power, seated to the left of the president for years in the early 2000s for the nationally-televised State of the Union address.
“I would just watch for a while and then I would just have to get up and leave the room and just, you know, either cry or scream,” Jolene said. “I can’t believe the audacity of that man and how he thinks he will get away with it.”
|PHOTO: Dennis Hastert, right, plays cards with members of the Explorer's Club in the Bahamas.|
|Hastert at State of the Union|
It's a sad and disturbing story much like that of priest who abused minors for years - often with the aiding and abetting of the Church hierarchy. The ultimate irony is that the far right accuses gays of preying on or "recruiting" children and youths. Gays who are out and open in their lives do not need to prey on youth and those we can intimidate like the Hasterts and predator priests of this world. It is they, not gays, who are a threat to children and youths. And, if the "godly Christians" would cease their war on gays, people like Hastert would hopefully not feel compelled to live hypocritcal double lives and there would be far fewer Steve Reinboldts. Meanwhile, I wonder how many other victims Hastert preyed upon.
From my years of writing this blog one thing I have learned is that it is ALWAYS the godly Christian crowd that write the foulest comments - hence why I moderate comments and delete those that do not deserve to be given a platform - and make death threats. Most are just nasty hot air, although once my former law office was singled out for vandalization most likely by one of these "godly Christian" types. These ignorance embracing individuals are simply outraged by anything that might challenge the myths and fairy tales that they, in their mentally imbalanced state, cling to so desperately. Thus, it is no surprise to me that Empire creator Lee Daniels and Jussie Smollett (pictured above), who plays a gay character on the show, have been receiving death threats. Bet.com looks at the situation. Here are excerpts:
Empire has millions of fans, but there are a few that show creator Lee Daniels can live without.
The filmmaker recently revealed that he and Jussie Smollett, who plays Terrence Howard's gay son Jamal Lyon, have received hate mail and even death threats from some who take issue with the show's gay plot lines.
“Homophobia is real. It exists… Jussie and I both get death threats. But we will continue to do our thing,” Daniels said. He added that, while a tiny minority insist on spewing hate towards the show, which has seen the kind of success few network primetime shows experience these days, he is proud of the film's diverse cast and willingness to take on real issues.
“I have to relate to these people honestly,” he said. “That trash can scene? It happened,” Daniels added, referring to a flashback scene in which a young Jamal is put into a trash can by his father — something which Daniels has said actually happened to him when his father discovered he was gay.
Empire returns to continue it pushing envelopes on September 23.
I have no use for religious fundamentalist be they Christian or Muslim. Hate and the deliberate embrace of ignorance have no place in the modern world. These people need to become utter social and political outcasts with whom decent people do not give any deference or respect.
Mere weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is to rule on the constitutionality of state bans on same sex marriage, Mexico Supreme Court for the first time has issued an opinion that states that laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying are unconstitutional in every state. The opinion has yet to be released publicly, but the Clerk of the Mexico Supreme Court has written about the ruling in a blog post and indicates the broad application of the opinion. Do Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia want to be more backward than Mexico (no slight intended to Mexico)? A piece in BuzzFeed looks at this development south of the border which appears to be yet another major defeat for the Roman Catholic Church and its efforts to inflict 13th century knowledge and beliefs on all. Here are highlights:
The Supreme Court and several lower courts have already ruled in almost every state that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the Mexican constitution. But because of the Mexican court system’s often confusing technicalities, none of those decisions have been binding in future cases. Theoretically, any court could rule against a couple who has sued for the right to marry even though there have been many cases decided in favor of others couples.With South and Central America steadily moving towards marriage equality, the Catholic Church may find that its brand of ignorance and bigotry only has a market in Africa.
That is no longer true. On Wednesday, Mexico’s Supreme Court issued the first blanket statement that laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying are unconstitutional in every state — what is known as “generic jurisprudence.” The opinion is not yet public, but Supreme Court clerk Geraldina Gonzalez de la Vega — who worked on one of the early marriage equality suits before joining the court — wrote about the unpublished opinion in a blog post. (Decisions like these are ordinarily published within a week of when they are decided by the court.)
“The law of whatever federal entity that, on the one hand, considers the goal of marriage is procreation and/or defines marriage as celebrating the union of a man and a woman is unconstitutional,” held a Supreme Court panel in response to a suit out of the state of Colima, according to Gonzalez.
It will still take a lot more cases before same-sex couples can marry as easily as straight couples can in Mexico; federal judges must rule five times in each state to create precedent that would lead to full nullification of a local marriage code. And it’s not entirely clear how this process ends, Gonzalez told BuzzFeed News, because this marriage cases still making their way through the legal system are doing so under reforms enacted in 2011 that have never been fully tested.
“We’re playing in a new court,” Gonzalez said.
Friday, June 05, 2015
I've never watched the Duggar freak show known as "19 Kids and Counting." The good news is that it looks increasingly that no one else will be able to watch it again. While TLC has yet to flat out cancel the freak show, the Duggar attempt via a softball Fox News interview to do damage control seems to have failed. Reactions have been negative and rather confess and apologize, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar down played their son's deviancy, made excuses, attacked society and acted as if they were the victims and then slammed transgender individuals as pedophiles for extra measure. These people are repulsive and I suspect their children need an intervention and de-programing from the batshitery they have been forced to endure. A piece at MSN News looks at the overall reaction to the lies and excuse making. Here are excerpts:
Based on the early response to Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar's interview with Fox News, the future of their TLC reality series "19 Kids and Counting" looks bleak.
The Duggars sat down Wednesday with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly to discuss the recent revelations that their oldest son Josh had inappropriately touched five underage girls when he was a teenager. Four of them were his sisters, including one when she was 5 years old.
On NBC's "Today," coanchor Matt Lauer noted that people typically agree to sit for a TV interview in order to put controversial issues to rest. But in this case, he said, the interview only raised more questions, such as why the Duggars waited for more than a year to report Josh's actions to authorities despite his having confessed to his actions three times.
In David Wright's report on ABC's "Good Morning America," he said, "As a father of three little girls this was a brutal hour to watch."
CNN's Anderson Cooper said: "If you have 19 kids, you can't be a good parent."
But what really may doom the Duggars' TV future is the response on social media - something that advertisers pay a lot of attention to these days, according to Brad Adgate, senior vice president for research at the ad-buying firm Horizon Media.
The Duggars took a pounding on Twitter during and after the interview, especially for suggesting that they were victims of media bias and tabloid journalism. . . . the public reaction to the Duggars will make it "an impossible task" to get advertisers to support the program if it ever returned. A number of major companies have already said they will not run their spots in "19 Kids and Counting," which was pulled from the TLC schedule on May 22.
The Duggars ARE the true face of today's far right Christofascists. The reality is that far right Christians like the Duggars are NOT nice and decent people. It's a reality that the larger public needs to grasp sooner rather than later. Rather than having a television show, the Duggars need to be reviled for the nasty freaks, hypocrites and bigots that they are in fact. Think Progress looks at Michelle Duggars efforts to again equate being transgendered as the equivalent of being a pedophile as if the attacks would somehow change the subject. Here are excerpts:
During Wednesday night’s interview with Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar about their son Josh’s history of molesting his younger sisters, Fox News’ Megyn Kelley pressed the conservative couple to justify their advocacy against LGBT equality. Specifically, she asked Michelle about her robocalls against Fayetteville’s LGBT ordinance, in which she smeared transgender people as a threat to the safety of women and children. “How could you unfairly… compare transgender people to child molesters, suggest they are child molesters, knowing what you know about Josh?”In my view, Jim Bob and Michelle are human refuse. One has to wonder why their minor children have not been removed by child protective services. Oh, I forgot! They live in Arkansas.
Michelle doubled down on her comments, erasing the very experience of transgender people’s identities by saying, “I think that protecting young girls and not allowing young men and men in general to go into a girls’ locker room is just common sense.”
Kelley insisted, “But this is different because you injected child molestation into it.” Jim Bob interrupted to clarify that Michelle said “pedophile,” which requires the perpetrator to be of a certain age, but Josh was younger — “a child preying on a child,” not a pedophile — so it’s not a fair comparison. Michelle then claimed that they were the ones being victimized by these charges of hypocrisy, explaining, “This is more about — there’s an agenda, and there’s people that are purposing to try to bring things out and twisting them to hurt and slander.”
What Michelle actually said last summer was that Fayetteville’s nondiscrimination order was that men — “yes, I said men!” — would be allowed into “women’s and girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas, and other areas that are designated for females only.” She referred to “males with past child predator convictions” — not “pedophiles” — who might “claim they are female” to enter women’s spaces.
Kelley missed an opportunity to call out another example of hypocrisy from the Duggars’ past public statements. In 2002, when Jim Bob was running for U.S. Senate, he actually argued that rape and incest “represent heinous crimes and as such should be treated as capital crimes.”
With Rick Perry announcing that he is insanely joining the GOP presidential nomination contest, the GOP clown car has gained another occupant. Perry's move makes it timely to look at what GOP voodoo economics have done to Texas and why it is an argument why Perry - actually, any Republican - should be elected to the White House. It also focuses one on the hypocrisy of the GOP that claims to worship Christian values even as the poor and less fortunate are kicked to the gutter. A column in the New York Times looks at the reality of what the GOP has wrought in Texas and how idiot white voters continue to be convinced to vote against their own interest by GOP appeals to racism and homophobia. Here are excerpts:
Remember the Texas economic miracle? In 2012, it was one of the three main arguments from then-Gov. Rick Perry about why he should be president, along with his strong support from the religious right and something else I can’t remember (sorry, couldn’t help myself). More broadly, conservatives have long held Texas up as a supposed demonstration that low taxes on the rich and harsh treatment of the poor are the keys to prosperity.So it’s interesting to note that Texas is looking a lot less miraculous lately than it used to. . . . . events in Texas and other states — notably Kansas and California — are providing yet another object demonstration that the tax-cut obsession that dominates the modern Republican Party is all wrong. The facts: For many years, economic growth in Texas has consistently outpaced growth in the rest of America. But that long run ended in 2015 . . . .
In most states, this slowdown would be no big deal; occasional underperformance is just a fact of life. But everything is bigger in Texas, including inflated expectations, so the slowdown has come as something of a shock.Now, there’s no mystery about what is happening: It’s all about the hydrocarbons. . . . this extractive-sector windfall accounted for about a third of the difference between growth in Texas and growth in the rest of the country.
Now one of the three big drivers of Texas growth has gone into reverse, as low world oil prices are bringing the fracking boom to a screeching halt. Hey, things like that happen to every state now and then.But Texas wasn’t supposed to be like other states. It was supposed to be the shining exemplar of the economic payoff to reverse Robin-Hood economics. So its recent disappointments hit the right-wing cause hard — especially coming on the heels of the Kansas debacle.
[M]eanwhile, there’s California, long mocked by the right as an economy doomed by its liberal politics. Not so much, it turns out: The budget is back in surplus in part because the emergence of a Democratic supermajority finally made it possible to enact tax increases, and the state is experiencing a solid recovery.
The states, Louis Brandeis famously declared, are the laboratories of democracy. In fact, Mr. Brownback himself described his plan as an “experiment” that would demonstrate the truth of his economic doctrine. What it actually did, however, was demonstrate the opposite. . . .
Will anyone on the right take heed? Probably not. Unlike real experimenters, Mr. Brownback wasn’t willing to take no for an answer, whatever happened, and the same is true for just about everyone on his side of the political divide. Or to put it another way, belief that tax cuts are a universal elixir that cures all economic ills is the ultimate zombie idea . . .
Still, the spectacle of the Texas economy coming back to earth, and Kansas sliding over the edge should at the very least make right-wing bombast ring hollow, in the general election if not in the primary. And someday, maybe, even conservatives will once again become willing to look at the facts.
Thursday, June 04, 2015
Here in Virginia like many states where the GOP largely controls the state legislature, the principal why in which the Virginia GOP has faced demographic change and a movement from rural to urban voters has been to seek to disenfranchise as many likely Democrat voters as possible rather face the reality that fewer and fewer voters want what the GOP is peddling. The excuse, of course for ID requirements and other measures to disenfranchise voters is the canard of "voter fraud" even though there is no evidence whatsoever to back up GOP claims that it is a serious problem. Easier I guess to hide behind the smoke screen of fighting voter fraud that admit that the GOP is increasing one large KKK gathering. On her campaign swing through Texas, Hillary Clinton made a point of calling out the GOP and four would be GOP presidential nominees on their anti-democratic policies and, if truth be told, racism. Here are highlights from Politico:
HOUSTON, TX — For the first time since hitting the campaign trail two months ago, Hillary Clinton took on her Republican rivals by name, calling out four presidential contenders as she spoke authoritatively about restoring voting rights and asked rhetorically, “What part of Democracy are they afraid of?”Dressed in a red jacket on her first swing through the red state of Texas, Clinton called for a universal system that automatically registers voters when they turn 18, which would replace the current opt-in system.The former secretary of state also called for a new national standard of at least 20 days of early in-person voting in every state, a move she argued would reduce long lines at the polls and expand participation.“What is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people and young people from one end of our country to another,” Clinton said in a fiery 30-minute speech at Texas Southern University, a historically black college.But it was the portion of her speech where she uncharacteristically went on a personal attack against former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that was the apex of her speech. About two-thirds of the way into her remarks, she blasted the group for “fear-mongering” on a “phantom epidemic of election fraud.”“Former Governor Rick Perry signed a law that a federal court said was actually written with the purpose of discriminating against minority voters,” she said. “He applauded when the Voting Rights Act was gutted.” She slammed Texas for having laws where student IDs are not accepted as valid identification at the polls but a concealed weapons permit is.“In Wisconsin, Scott Walker cut back early voting and signed legislation that would make it harder for college students to vote,” she said, and called out Christie for vetoing legislation to extend early voting.“In Florida, when Jeb Bush was governor, state authorities conducted a deeply flawed purge of voters before the 2000 presidential election,” she said. “Today Republicans are systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of American citizens from voting.”Clinton said the fight to protect voting rights was “for the student who has to wait hours for his or her right to vote, for the grandmother who’s turned away from the polls because her driver’s license expired, for the father whose done his time and paid his debt to society but still hasn’t gotten his rights back.”
Democrats, and particularly minority groups, are energized and angered by what they see as blatant Republican attempts to disenfranchise them. Obama has claimed that the very right to vote is threatened. Democrats have hit the issue hard, not only on the merits but also because it galvanizes the party’s base and helps raise money.On the GOP side, leaders argue restrictive voting laws they support are necessary to maintain ballot box integrity. But many of those laws disproportionately impact minority communities.Outside groups supporting Clinton see the overall contrast with the Republican party as a strong play for the former secretary of state.
“Nearly the entire Republican Party has worked to restrict voting, from Republicans like Scott Walker and Marco Rubio who supported limiting opportunities for early and weekend voting, to Rick Perry who signed legislation that disenfranchised up to 600,000.
Kudos to Hillary for calling these assholes out.
After having suffered a major defeat - an out right rejection might be a better description - in Ireland on May 22, 2015, the Roman Catholic Church has seemingly suffered another defeat in respect to legal recognition of same sex couples. This time the defeat occurred in Costa Rica where a regional court upheld a same sex civil union despite the strenuous opposition by the Church. Ignorance is the principal ally of the Church as it continues to foist its 13th century "natural law" bullshit on the ignorant and gullible. Unfortunately, even Central America is increasingly educated and people have access to non-censored information. Note how a Catholic bishop supports second class citizenship for gays. The Guardian looks at this defeat for the Church. Here are excerpts:
A regional Costa Rican court has recognised Central America’s first same-sex civil union, despite opposition from the Catholic Church and conservative politicians, local media reported on Wednesday.
The decision follows a same-sex couple’s two-year legal battle seeking the right to a state welfare credit, but it does not extend to other gay couples, whose cases will be decided individually, a lawyer said, as newspaper La Nacion reported.
Conservative lawmakers told La Nacion they were evaluating whether the decision contravenes family law, potentially leaving it open to appeal to a higher court.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen now since it was such a long process. It took us by surprise and it’s a great victory ... not just for us but for the whole country,” one of the couple, Cristian Zamora, was quoted as saying by the CRhoy news website.
The court’s decision angered Jose Francisco Ulloa, the bishop of the city of Cartago.
“I agree that people with this special inclination have rights like any citizen, but these are never equal to a normal, natural marriage, like we have in Costa Rica between a man and a woman,” he said.
Leftist president Luis Guillermo Solis’ attempts to legalise civil unions for all gay couples have been held up for months in the country’s legislative assembly by conservative political opponents.
Solis is an enthusiastic gay rights supporter and raised a gay pride flag at the presidential palace to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia a month after his election in 2014.
The promotion of ignorance, bigotry and discrimination have been the hallmark of the Catholic Church for centuries. It is encouraging to see the Church's toxic influence dying even in Central America, a region to which I have family historic ties since my mother was born in and a citizen of Honduras.
One of the most prevalent traits of today's conservative Christians is their patent dishonesty. Anything that promotes their theocratic agenda is seemingly acceptable, including spreading deliberate lies and derogatory talking points and trashing anyone who does not conform to their hate and fear based religious beliefs. Nowhere do we see this more than in the never ending attacks on gays and transgender individuals who by their very existence seem to threaten the house of cards belief system of the "godly folks." I don't want to beat to death the ongoing trial in New Jersey where an "ex-gay" ministry is being sued for consumer fraud, but the trial is truly significant because of the scrutiny it is bringing on the totally discredited "ex-gay conversion" industry.
These fraudulent ministries inflict so much harm and harm so many lives that they truly need to be shut down on a nationwide basis. Yes, this is very personal to me. Although I never was directly subjected to "ex-gay" conversion therapy, I tried every way I could find to make myself straight and to "pray away the gay." The experience was harmful and destructive and caused so much self-hate and so many thoughts of suicide. At least in my case, no one was pocketing a lot of money while subjecting me to a form of torture. The Atlantic looks at the bogus nature of such "ministries." Here are highlights:
For 17-year-old Chaim Levin, despair came in the form of a persistent attraction to men—largely because his Orthodox Jewish community rejected homosexuality. After Levin confided to a friend that he was not interested in women, he says he was thrown out of his religious school.
Levin and his family hoped an organization called JONAH, or Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, could help him become straight. JONAH referred him to an unlicensed life coach named Alan Downing, who began treating him in weekly group and individual therapy sessions beginning in 2007 in Jersey City, New Jersey.
For one session that reportedly cost $100, Downing asked Levin to stand in front of a full-length mirror. According to court documents, Downing told Levin to say a negative thing about himself and remove an article of clothing with each criticism. When he was fully naked, Levin alleges that Downing told him to touch his penis and his buttocks. Eventually, Downing said “good,” and the session ended. Downing allegedly tried similar nudity-based methods on other JONAH clients.
Now Levin and two other young men who also underwent JONAH-affiliated treatment are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the organization. The case is being brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alabama-based civil-rights group, which is arguing that JONAH-style treatment—and other “gay conversion therapies” like it—amount to consumer fraud. Quite simply, the SPLC argues, conversion therapy doesn’t work. People can’t become ex-gay, and making promises to the contrary is a false bill of goods.
“These were very young men,” SPLC senior staff attorney Sam Wolfe told me. “They were from communities where they didn't know gay people, and they didn't know that much about it.”
New Jersey’s “Consumer Fraud Act protects people from lies or misleading statements,” Wolfe added. “It doesn't matter if our clients voluntarily signed up ... it was like candy to them, so of course they wanted to sign up for it. They believed and trusted the words and promises of the defendants, which turned out to be false. The defendants sold them modern-day snake oil.”
Three states, Oregon, California, and New Jersey, as well as Washington D.C., have already banned the practice for minors. Ultimately, the SPLC hopes a court victory will herald the end of ex-gay therapies nationwide. Last month, Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, introduced a bill to ban reparative therapy at the federal level. A map created by SPLC currently lists some 70 organizations across 20 states that practice conversion therapy in some form.
What mainstream experts agree on, though, is that homosexuality is perfectly normal. (Indeed, a New Jersey Superior Court judge has already granted the SPLC one victory, ruling that it is fraudulent to say that homosexuality is a disorder.)
“People's sexual orientation is something that they feel is a very central part of their being,” said Gregory Herek, a psychology professor at the University of California in Davis. “When you have the idea of people trying to change it in therapy, it's attempting to change something that's a very core part of the person.”
“Enduring change to an individual’s sexual orientation is uncommon,” the American Psychological Association wrote in a 2009 report on the topic after reviewing studies on the effectiveness of conversion therapies. “The participants in this body of research continued to experience same-sex attractions following [sexual-orientation change efforts]. Compelling evidence of decreased same-sex sexual behavior ... was rare.”
The SPLC complaint, meanwhile, alleges that the JONAH co-founder Arthur Goldberg told one of the plaintiffs, Benjamin Unger, that “change is absolutely possible,” and that Unger could essentially stop being gay within two to four years.
People who seek out conversion therapy often do it because of extreme stigma in their communities, and not because of some intrinsic desire to be straight. The problem is the discrimination, not the sexuality.
One of the safe guards for democracy is a press/media that reports all of the facts and makes an effort to expose crackpots and extremists. That applies as much to politicians as it does to the agenda of the Christofascists as it does to the rising white supremacy favored by the Republican Party base. Yet, today, the media has for the most part grown lazy and prefers to merely parrot the batshitery of Republicans or gives deference to religious extremists and hate group leaders like Tony Perkins of Family Research Council. Yes, there are crackpots on the left, but nothing like what has become the norm among today's "conservatives" and Republicans. A piece in Salon looks at the dangers posed by the media's failure to expose the far rights extremism. Here are highlights:
It seems to be an article of faith among many in the chattering class that while it’s no longer debatable that the right has drifted a bit more rightward in recent years, the left — already far out on the fringe — has moved equally leftward, thus making the “center” the place where all the Very Serious People of the political establishment reside. This way, when the Republican party shows itself to be completely irresponsible, they needn’t feel uncomfortable. They can, in their minds always find some corollary of crazy on the left.
It is true that the recognition of the right being a little bit out to lunch — maybe even a touch out of step with the mainstream of the country — is very recent. In fact, up until just a couple of years ago, the political establishment maintained the fiction that “America is a conservative nation” which furthermore was extremely hostile to liberalism. This belief was pretty much based upon one election held three decades ago in which it was excitedly observed that certain white Democrats decided to vote for Ronald Reagan because they just couldn’t stand those hippies anymore.
They had long been attached to the idea that the Real America was rural and suburban, white and conservative. (I wrote about the genesis of that belief among members of the modern political media here at Salon a while back.) Everyone else, liberals, people of color, city dwellers were members of a fringe.
This goes back all the way to the beginning of the country (maybe human civilization itself) in which the tension between the country and the city always finds a way to play itself out in how the people are organized. But let’s just say that in this case, the idea that the United States of the last 35 years was monolithically conservative was always an overstatement. The right was just very good at being the loudest and most aggressive political players in the game. And they were very well financed.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the revolution. They lost control of the troops, who have become more and more extreme and are now little better than an ungovernable mob. . . .
Some of us thought this was obvious more than 20 years ago when powerful congressmen started shooting watermelons in their backyards as part of their “investigations” and prosecutors were putting pornography on the internet allegedly in the name of public decency.
But better late than never. A few years ago, well-known mainstream political scientists Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann wrote a story called “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem” in the Washington Post, which made the obvious observation that the GOP had gone over the cliff and bore responsibility for the gridlock and dysfunction that defines Washington.
Basically they just said the GOP emperor was stark raving nude: It had become “ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
[P]erhaps their real crime was in writing that the political media (which has very sensitive feelings) had persisted in presenting the two sides as equally culpable in this disintegration of our political system, and was, therefore, partially responsible for it.
Ingraham goes on to point out that the data shows that nearly 90 percent of House Republicans are not politically moderate while nearly 90 percent of House Democrats are politically moderate. It doesn’t get any more stark than that. Not only is the United States not a “conservative” country, the party that identifies as conservative has gone so far to the right that it no longer has any claim on moderates or centrists.
You would think that data like this would make the press take a very close look at the upcoming elections with a completely different viewpoint than they’ve had in the past. It’s a huge story!
But I would not count on it. To use their own tired formulation, they are so far blindly following a “narrative” that’s being fed to them morsel by morsel by this same extreme Republican Party in which the “real story” of the campaign is about arcane, unintelligible scandals that are based upon a lot of innuendo about “appearances” and almost nothing of substance.
They may not win the presidential election. But it doesn’t look as if the press is going to tell the American people what’s really happening in their politics either. The consequences of that aren’t likely to be positive if what you care about is a functioning democracy.
Anyone who has seriously looked into "conversion therapy" and "ex-gay ministries" knows that they are fraudulent, but for years they have dogged accountability and liability by hiding behind religious belief and typically not using licensed therapists who might be held accountable by state licensing authorities. The main purpose of the "ministries" has been to rake in money - some charge $10,000 or more per year - and to maintain the myth for political purposes that gays can "change." The sad reality is that one is as likely to be cured of metastasized cancer by an African witch doctor as they are to be made "straight" by one of these "ministries." Hence why the case pending in New Jersey is unique because it is based on consumer fraud. The Guardian has details on the opening statements. Here are excerpts:
[I]in his opening statement for the plaintiffs, David Dinielli, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center that has spearheaded the lawsuit, said that all three men named in the action had been deceived. “The young men are all gay. They were defrauded – they paid money to the defendants to change them from gay to straight but all they got was junk science and discredited so-called ‘cures’.”
He added: “Jonah lied – they made it worse.”
In addition to Unger, the plaintiffs include Chaim Levin who was 18 when he sought the help of Jonah and Michael Ferguson who was 25.
Dinielli outlined in court the multiple lies he said Jonah’s founders and contractors had told the plaintiffs about their services. They included the claim that homosexuality was a disease or disorder. “This is false. There is a long-standing scientific consensus that homosexuality is not a disease or disorder but a normal variation of human sexuality,” Dinielli said.
The judge presiding over the case, Peter Bariso, has already ruled in pre-trial hearings that should it be proven that Jonah described homosexuality as a medical or mental – as opposed to religious – disease or disorder, that would be a violation of the state’s consumer fraud act.
Dinielli went on to say that Jonah had claimed falsely:
Dinielli described aspects of Jonah’s activities that he implied to the jury were peculiar or irregular. One such activity – or “process” as Jonah calls it – was “healthy touch” where younger clients and older counselors held each other for long periods of time.
- that its therapy was based on science;
- that it had successfully cured a third of the men who had been through its program – a figure that it boasted despite having kept no records of past cases;
- and that the conversion could be effected within three or four years.
“They turn the lights down low, play soft music and cuddle. The theory is that gay men missed out on father physical affection when they were young and that’s one of the reasons they are gay. The theory is that old men possess ‘golden father energy’ that they can transmit to the younger participants,” Dinielli said.
The trial is expected to last three weeks.
Hopefully the plaintiffs win and the case set set the template for suing other of these quack ministries run by Charlatans like Michele Bachmann's closeted husband "Marcia" Bachmann. These scam artists need to be shut down nationwide.