Saturday, April 16, 2016
Tensions between the Republican Party and its own front-runner erupted into a full-blown public battle as top party officials rebuked Donald Trump on Friday for alleging that the GOP primary system was “rigged” against him.The dispute, which has been simmering for days, centers on Trump’s failure to win any delegates last weekend in Colorado, which selected its 34 delegates at a party convention rather than a primary attended by voters. All went to Trump’s chief rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
The outcome prompted a daily stream of complaints and allegations this week from Trump, who wrote in an op-ed published in Friday’s Wall Street Journal that the “system is being rigged by party operatives with ‘double-agent’ delegates who reject the decisions of voters.”
A senior Republican National Committee official fired back with a thinly veiled response, writing in a Friday memo to reporters that “each process is easy to understand for those willing to learn it.”
The fight again pits Trump against a Republican establishment that is still broadly opposed to his candidacy and struggling to reconcile with the possibility that he could be the GOP presidential nominee in November. Veterans of past presidential campaigns warned that the feuding could have an adverse effect on down-ballot races and on the ability to defeat Hillary Clinton, seen as the likely Democratic nominee, in the fall.
“Traditionally, this is the time that the party and front-runner come together and make the plans necessary to defeat the Democratic candidate in the fall,” said Michael Steel, who was an aide for Jeb Bush’s campaign and previously worked on the Mitt Romney campaign in 2012 and as spokesman for John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) when he was House speaker. “That’s clearly not happening, and it’s going to make it tougher to beat Secretary Clinton.”
Ron Bonjean, a former top adviser to Republican congressional leaders, called the Trump-RNC showdown “unprecedented” and warned that “taking a flamethrower to the Republican Party machine” could backfire on Trump.
“This is like a general severely criticizing his own special forces before ordering them to go into battle,” he said in an email. “Trump runs the risk of demoralizing grass-roots party organizers when he is going to need every asset to help him beat the Democratic nominee.”
One of the keys to Trump’s success until now has been his willingness to harshly criticize the party establishment, but he will need the support of the RNC in fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts if he wins the nomination.
The fresh tension comes just as the party heads into another busy period of delegate allocation and selection. This weekend, seven states will hold meetings to select at least some of their delegates.
Republicans will gather in Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia for meetings in congressional districts to award their delegates. And in Wyoming, Republicans are hosting a convention similar to the one held in Colorado, and Trump’s team concedes that they are again poised to lose to Cruz.
|Scott Taylor - Randy Forbes|
I look forward to running with Donald Trump in November's general election. I encourage Second District Republicans to rally around Trump to help win Virginia for the GOP. The thought of a Hillary Clinton presidency should shock and scare every thoughtful American who knows our country is headed in the wrong direction. I will work with Donald Trump to put America first and get our economy growing again.
I retract my previous post:
Disclaimer: Randy Forbes was a law school classmate of mine. Over the years, he has become less and less mainstream and hardly resembles the person I once knew. His main agenda in Congress has been far right wing and some of his pro-Christian extremist positions have subjected the Hampton Roads area to ridicule.
Even with the heavy spending, Forbes still had $875,406 cash on hand April 1 because he entered the race with a large campaign fund in place before he decided to leave the 4th. By comparison, Scott had $53,087 on hand April 1 and Cardwell, $9,519.The winner of the GOP primary will compete in November against Democrat Shaun Brown of Hampton who entered the race near the end of the FEC reporting period. No financial information was available Friday.
Friday, April 15, 2016
The questions are shocking, but not rare for Protestant churches and religious organizations across the United States. These groups want to know the personal histories of prospective employees in an attempt to protect themselves against liability for potential sex abuse scandals based on the false belief that victims of sex abuse as children are destined to become abusers as adults.Hundreds of churches, including The National Community Church (PDF) in Washington, D.C., the Shalom Mennonite Fellowship in Arizona, Nazarene Churches (PDF) in Ohio, and Church on the Rock (PDF) in Missouri all ask applicants some variation on: “Were you a victim of abuse or molestation while a minor?”
Even potential janitors at Trinity Preschool in Texas are asked this question (PDF).
Some ministries don’t stop at past sexual abuse. The Ark-La-Tx Crisis Pregnancy Center, an anti-abortion clinic in Bossier, Louisiana, also evaluates applicants on their “submission to authority,” and asks them, “When do you feel sexual intercourse is morally permissible?” (PDF)
Houston megachurch Lakewood asks volunteers: “Have you ever been involved in a cult or the occult (witchcraft, satanism, psychics, horoscopes, etc)?”
The National Black Home Educators organization recommends local chapters vet officers by asking them, “Have you indulged in any form of pornography in the past 2 years? If so, please explain.”
The Trail Life troop, a Christian leadership program for young men at Grace Covenant Church in North Carolina, asks employees: “Have you ever been convicted of, accused of or practiced homosexuality?” (PDF)
While the Catholic Church is known for its scandals (with 3,400 reported to the Vatican between 2004 and 2014), Protestant churches have been struggling with their own sins. The decentralized nature of Protestant churches helps keep individual scandals from going national, unless they involve outsized figures like Josh Duggar (the ex-reality TV star who admitted to molesting his siblings and neighbors) and evangelical minister Bill Gothard who resigned from his ministry amid accusations he harassed or molested dozens of his followers.
Despite the lack of public attention paid to Protestant sex abuse, church insurance companies took notice.
“It is very significant to observe that a number of church insurance companies are reducing significantly the insurance coverage they provide for child abuse or molestation, and in some cases are excluding it entirely,” Richard Hammar, the Senior Editor of Christianity Today’s Church Law and Tax Review wrote in Ministry Magazine, in January 1991.
[S]ince most offenders are men and most victims are women, the hypothesis that a major contributing factor to sex offending is a history of sexual abuse does not make sense.”
The sex abuse questions are likely legal because churches are not totally bound by non-discrimination laws.
“Under the ministerial exemption, religious institutions are allowed to violate employment-discrimination law when hiring and firing their ministers,” said Greg Lipper, a lawyer for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “Not everyone who works for a church is a minister, but the exception applies to employees with significant religious responsibilities, including clergy and religious-school teachers.” So asking the janitor about their past abuse might be prohibited, but asking the Sunday School teacher is fair game.
Legal or not, it’s wrong to force abuse victims to relive the trauma in job interviews.
Again, the sex abuse questions are liability, not science. Anna Bryant, a public affairs officer with State Farm Insurance, told The Daily Beast she could find nothing in their policies that would recommend churches to ask about past sexual abuse. (Bryant also said church insurance is “not a big line of business for us.”)
David Clohessy, the president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called the question “offensive,” lacking scientific evidence, and a violation of privacy. “Survivors should be able to decide when, if, and to whom they will share this information,” he said.
The questions aren’t just wrong, they’re simply dumb. “If a predator is looking for a way to get to kids, he would very likely lie and say never abused,” Clohessy said. “So all it would really do is screen out people, who through no fault of their own, are victims of horrific crimes.”
Again, in my view, the root of the problem is church teaching on human sexuality which is more focused on control of people's lives - especially females - and continuing to cling to antiquated beliefs first formulated by those we would now consider mentally ill. Until these teachings change, we can expect that there will continue to be many disturbed individuals damaged by the teachings of the "godly folk."
WinnersHillary Clinton: Clinton didn't knock Sanders out. But she definitely won on points. She was ready when Sanders came at her on her judgment for voting for the war in Iraq, noting that the voters of New York as well as President Obama trusted her judgment. She noted, powerfully, that women's rights had not come up nearly enough in these debates and that Sanders had sought to minimize them as an issue when Donald Trump made his comments about abortion. (Sidenote: That was Clinton's best moment of the night, reminding people watching that her campaign to be the first female presidential nominee for a major party was both historic and unique.)
Most importantly, Clinton drove home -- again and again -- the idea that Sanders talked a good game but couldn't back it up. "It's easy to diagnose the problem," she said at one point. "It's harder to do something about the problem." That's her broader argument in this race -- what Sanders says sounds nice but can't be done -- and she did yeoman's work in making sure anyone watching understood that.
No, she wasn't perfect in the Brooklyn debate. Clinton continues to be evasive and unconvincing when it comes to her refusal to release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. The idea that the Republicans running for president need to release any paid speeches they gave before Clinton will do the same is a cop out. Period.
But, Clinton came into the debate ahead in New York and the race more broadly. Nothing that happened on Thursday night will change that.
LosersBernie Sanders: Let's start with what Sanders did well in the Brooklyn debate: He effectively portrayed himself as the candidate of big ideas and Clinton as a seeker of half-measures, full of caution. And, if you came into this debate liking Sanders, you left it loving him.
Now, to what he did wrong: The sarcasm. He was dismissive to the point of danger, politically speaking, on a number of occasions.
Regardless of the reason, Sanders isn't going to win over many converts with that sort of approach to Clinton. And, make no mistake, that is what he needs to do going forward. If the race continues on as it has to date, Clinton will be the nominee. It might not be as smooth a path as she and her team imagined but she will win unless Sanders can start changing hearts and minds. Sarcasm isn't the way to do that.
Thursday, April 14, 2016
Arendt’s central obsessions — war, totalitarianism, genocide, mass migration and displacement, and the ambiguous nature of human rights — are at least as relevant as ever. In the dismal and farcical age of Donald Trump, we badly need something like the scathing, cleansing force of Arendt’s intellect. There are moments in an urgent and often startling documentary from Israeli director Ada Ushpiz, where I could feel her trying to reach across the decades and talk to us.
Arendt didn’t have a high opinion of human nature or human group behavior, and given her life experience that’s understandable. She was a woman of extraordinary intellectual gifts at a time when there was essentially no such thing as a female philosopher, or even a female academic. As Ushpiz’s film lays out in detail, Arendt was a child of privilege in pre-war Germany and then a Jewish war refugee and then an increasingly controversial celebrity who became widely viewed as a traitor to her own people.
In a passage quoted by Ushpiz, which I believe is from the 1951 Arendt proposes that regimes like Nazism or Stalinism thrive by creating narratives that confer imaginary order upon the chaos and randomness of history. Human beings long for coherent stories that explain why bad things happen, Arendt says, even when those stories are delusional and dangerous. When fueled by enduring political or psychological currents like nationalism and racism, such fictional narratives become the justification for war and genocide and other historical crimes. To cite the obvious example from Arendt’s lifetime, if the social chaos and struggling economy of Germany in the 1930s was caused by a predatory Jewish conspiracy that had drained the German people of their life force, then everything made sense and the nation could be united toward a common goal and against a common enemy.
I doubt I need to belabor the point: There is one 2016 presidential candidate who has prospered beyond anyone’s wildest dreams by constructing just that kind of narrative, albeit an especially shapeless and nonsensical one.
Trump’s famous promise to build that wall along the southern border — and somehow make Mexico pay for it — at a time when the population of undocumented immigrants is steadily declining, is more like an infantile fantasy than a policy proposal. His vow to bar Muslims from entering the country, in the face of irrational panic and an exaggerated terrorist threat, is pandering of the worst kind. . . . those are like plot points in the amorphous Trumpian movie-narrative that whatever went wrong in America is somebody else’s fault, indeed almost anybody else’s. It’s more like a field of generalized suspicion and loathing than a coherent story: America’s innate greatness has been chewed away by the Muslims, the Mexicans, the blacks, the gays, the feminists, the transgender bathroom users, the liberal elite, the intellectual elite, the bipartisan political establishment and damn near everybody else who isn’t Trump or his downscale white audience.
Ushpiz makes a number of bold choices in “Vita Activa” that might not have been possible in an Israeli documentary even 10 years ago. She begins with newsreel footage of the Nazi death camps and the immediate postwar period, much of it from U.S. Army color films I’ve never seen before. . . . In this film we hear Hitler talk, with subtitles — and he sounds a lot more like Donald Trump than I expected.
If you believe the Führer’s legendary oratory was all fervent, strident screeching about the evils of the Jews and the perfidy of the Allied nations, well, it wasn’t. Hate speech is a key ingredient of the fascist dictator’s rhetorical mix, as Arendt might put it, but far from the only one. In a speech Ushpiz shows us, Hitler’s approach is strikingly Trumpian: a few nonspecific references to the enemies who are besieging and undermining the Reich, blended into a glowing portrait of a paradisiacal future of full employment and universal prosperity, dominated by a rising generation of healthy, strong and “peace-loving” young Germans. It was relentlessly upbeat, and strongly resonant of Trump’s vow to “make America great again” without defining what that means or what it might involve, or his promises that his leadership will bring a new era of “winning” after decades of “losing,” if irritating impediments like the constitutional separation of powers can be overcome.
[Trump] reflects the all-too-human currents of vapidity and weakness that made Hitler possible, and that drove Hannah Arendt nuts.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
In one chapter of his campaign book, A Time for Truth, Sen. Ted Cruz proudly chronicles his days as a Texas solicitor general, a post he held from 2003 to 2008. Bolstering his conservative cred, the Republican presidential candidate notes that during his stint as the state's chief lawyer, in front of the Supreme Court and federal and state appellate courts . . . . Yet one case he does not mention is the time he helped defend a law criminalizing the sale of dildos.
The case was actually an important battle concerning privacy and free-speech rights. In 2004, companies that owned Austin stores selling sex toys and a retail distributor of such products challenged a Texas law outlawing the sale and promotion of supposedly obscene devices. Under the law, a person who violated the statute could go to jail for up to two years. At the time, only three states—Mississippi, Alabama, and Virginia—had similar laws.
The plaintiffs in the sex device case contended the state law violated the right to privacy under the 14th Amendment. They argued that many people in Texas used sexual devices as an aspect of their sexual experiences. They claimed that in some instances one partner in a couple might be physically unable to engage in intercourse or have a contagious disease (such as HIV), and that in these cases such devices could allow a couple to engage in safe sex.
In 2007, Cruz's legal team, working on behalf of then-Attorney General Greg Abbott (who now is the governor), filed a 76-page brief calling on the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to uphold the lower court's decision and permit the law to stand. The filing noted, "The Texas Penal Code prohibits the advertisement and sale of dildos, artificial vaginas, and other obscene devices" but does not "forbid the private use of such devices." The plaintiffs had argued that this case was similar to Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark 2003 Supreme Court decision that struck down Texas' law against sodomy. But Cruz's office countered that Lawrence "focused on interpersonal relationships and the privacy of the home" and that the law being challenged did not block the "private use of obscene devices." . . . . In other words, Texans were free to use sex toys at home, but they did not have the right to buy them.
The brief insisted that Texas, in order to protect "public morals," had "police-power interests" in "discouraging prurient interests in sexual gratification, combating the commercial sale of sex, and protecting minors." There was a "government" interest, it maintained, in "discouraging…autonomous sex." The brief compared the use of sex toys to "hiring a willing prostitute or engaging in consensual bigamy," and it equated advertising these products with the commercial promotion of prostitution. In perhaps the most noticeable line of the brief, Cruz's office declared, "There is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one's genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship." That is, the pursuit of such happiness had no constitutional standing.
In a 2-1 decision issued in February 2008, the court of appeals told Cruz's office to take a hike. The court, citing Lawrence, pointed to the "right to be free from governmental intrusion regarding 'the most private human contact, sexual behavior.'" The panel added, "An individual who wants to legally use a safe sexual device during private intimate moments alone or with another is unable to legally purchase a device in Texas, which heavily burdens a constitutional right." It rejected the argument from Cruz's team that the government had a legitimate role to play in "discouraging prurient interests in autonomous sex and the pursuit of sexual gratification unrelated to procreation."
Summing up, the judges declared, "The case is not about public sex. It is not about controlling commerce in sex. It is about controlling what people do in the privacy of their own homes because the State is morally opposed to a certain type of consensual private intimate conduct. This is an insufficient justification for the statute after Lawrence...Whatever one might think or believe about the use of these devices, government interference with their personal and private use violates the Constitution."
The appeals court had rejected the arguments from Cruz's office and said no to Big Government policing the morals of citizens. But Abbott and Cruz wouldn't give up. Of course, they might have initially felt obligated to mount a defense of this state law. But after it had been shot down, they pressed ahead, relying on the same puritanical and excessive arguments to justify government intrusion. Abbott and Cruz quickly filed a brief asking the full court of appeals to hear the case, claiming the three-judge panel had extended the scope of Lawrence too far. This brief suggested that if the decision stood, some people would argue that "engaging in consensual adult incest or bigamy" ought to be legal because it could "enhance their sexual experiences." And Cruz's office filed another brief noting it was considering taking this case to the Supreme Court.
Cruz and Abbott lost the motion for a hearing from the full court of appeals. And the state soon dropped the case, opting not to appeal to the Supreme Court. This meant that the government could no longer outlaw the sale of dildos, vibrators, and other sex-related devices in the Lone Star State—and in Mississippi and Louisiana, the two other states within this appeals court's jurisdiction.
Imagine how his political career might have been affected had Cruz become the public face for the anti-dildos movement.
A new poll out from SurveyUSA for Raleigh’s WRAL shows that the anti-LGBT law Governor Pat McCrory signed may be affecting his poll numbers:
HB2 may be…taking a toll on incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory, who signed HB2 into law 3 weeks ago, and who now finds himself trailing Democratic challenger Roy Cooper, the state’s attorney general, 43% to 47% among likely 11/08/16 voters. McCrory has a Minus 4 Net Job Approval Rating today: 43% of voters approve of the job he is doing as Governor, 47% disapprove. Cooper has a Plus 28 Net Job Approval Rating today: 53% of voters approve of the job Cooper is doing as Attorney General, 25% disapprove. Compared to a 03/08/16 SurveyUSA WRAL-TV poll, McCrory’s job approval is largely unchanged, but Cooper has gone from Plus 18 five weeks ago to Plus 28 today.
The last Survey USA poll conducted on this race showed McCrory with a 2 percentage point lead.
The canceled business expansions and events are listed below.Ringo Starr announced today the cancellation of his show scheduled for June 18 in protest of HB 2. In a press release, Starr says that he "stands with those fighting against the bigotry of HB 2." He apologized to his fans, saying, "I'm sorry to dissapoint my fans in the area, but we need to take a stand against this hatred. Spread peace and love."
On Tuesday, Deutsche Bank announced it was canceling a planned expansion of its operations in Cary, which is near Raleigh, the state capital. The expansion would have added 250 jobs; 900 people are already employed at the Cary facility.
Thirteen planned conventions and events in Charlotte have been canceled in response to the state's anti-LGBT bill. And 29 more groups are on a “hesitant/concerned list,” reports The Charlotte Observer.
The Tony-award winning Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz and his collaborators halted all productions of Wicked in the state in protest.
No, it wasn’t African-American young men of the ‘90s — supposedly feral, “fatherless” and “godless” urban youth hell-bent on murder and mayhem — who were “super-predators,” a myth since exposed and which was created by the Princeton political science professor John DiIulio (who later became George W. Bush’s first director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives) based on junk science.
The same twisted ideas that led to the “super-predator” myth, which we’ve seen raised and debunked again during the current Democratic primary race amid discussion of the 1994 crime bill, have been used by anti-LGBT religious conservatives to argue against marriage equality. They promoted the notion that gays would destroy “traditional marriage,” which supposedly would contribute to a breakdown in the family, causing deviant and dangerous consequences.
Some of those arguments against marriage equality were informed by a similarly debunked myth that gay men are likely to be sexual predators, the lie perpetuated by anti-LGBT hate mongers for decades, using junk science to exploit and further rampant homophobia in society in same the way the “super-predator” myth used it to exploit and further racism.
Meanwhile, the true example of a “super-predator” appears to have been former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a man who prosecutors now say molested at least 4 boys, including a 14-year-old and one who years later took his own life.
Worse yet, through the years, as he covered up the sexual assaults he committed as a wrestling coach back in Yorkville, Illinois, Hastert pushed policies and positions as a House member and as the Speaker of a far-right GOP majority from 1999 to 2007 that demonized gays in part by portraying gay men as sexual predators.
[As] a Politico report last year . . . revealed that Hastert had a file in his office labeled “Homosexuals,” which included the sexual predator smear against gay men:
The records show that Hastert’s office kept a legislative file titled “Homosexuals,” filled with policy statements from social conservative groups like the Traditional Values Coalition and the Family Research Council that criticized same-sex marriage and Clinton administration efforts to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians. The file also includes a 1996 Weekly Standard article, “Pedophilia Chic” that warned that “revisionist suggestions about pedophilia” were being embraced by the left.
The scurrilous Weekly Standard piece raged on about teens supposedly being lured into sex by adult gay men. The Family Research Council, whose statements filled Hastert’s “Homosexuals” file, has perpetuated the lie that gays are more likely to engage in sexual assault against boys — among the defamatory claims that earned it the label of “hate group“ by the Southern Poverty law Center — and its leader, Tony Perkins, has called pedophilia “a homosexual problem.”
The Hastert story is revolting on so many levels. He sexually assaulted boys who trusted him as their wrestling coach, scarring them for life. And while he covered it up over a period of decades, he also assaulted an entire minority group that was under a barrage of attacks from religious conservatives, continually denying them civil rights and demonizing them and pummeling gay people over and over again, with bill after bill, informed by lie after lie. If there’s a true definition of a super-predator, Dennis Hastert is it.
Conservatives have long squawked that the studies showing positive outcomes for the children of same-sex couples are lacking methodologically, instead offering their own flawed studies to claim negative consequences. A , however, uses their preferred methods — minus the flaws — and proves what the medical community has already long known: same-sex couples make great parents.[T]he Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank at the UCLA School of Law, decided to call Regnerus’ bluff. Using data from the National Survey of Children’s Health, researchers were able to identify same-sex couples who were raising children and compare them to demographically similar different-sex parents. Because few male same-sex parent households were included in the study, they focused on female couples, identifying 95 that they then matched against similar different-sex households.
The study found only one difference between the families: same-sex couples had more stress than their different-sex peers. But even with that distinction, there was no difference in the outcomes for their children, including their general health, emotional difficulties, coping behavior, or learning behavior.
This juxtaposition actually lends more credence to same-sex parenting. The higher stress rate should have correlated with less favorable outcomes for the children, but it didn’t. This suggests, the researchers reason, that the lesbian mothers might be using additional support systems like parenting groups or counseling services, and likewise, their kids may also develop greater resilience skills having to defend against the stigma of having same-sex parents.
There is an obvious explanation as to why the new study found affirming results while conservatives found negative outcomes in their population-based studies. The new study controls for committed couples; it compares same-sex families who have raised their children from birth with different-sex families who had done the same. None of the same-sex parents who had broken up or divorced were analyzed in the study.
Regnerus — — didn’t account for family structure. . . . Regnerus’ data only included two children who had been raised from birth by committed same-sex couples, and their outcomes were just fine. . . . . Similar population-based surveys from and used the same trick of comparing unstable same-sex families to stable different-sex families.
Despite the study findings, it is a safe bet that the "godly folk" will continue to tell the same tired lies about gay parenting. The truth simply does not matter to them.In some ways, the new study isn’t groundbreaking. There has already been in support of same-sex families for decades. With the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision last year and the of the challenge to Mississippi adoption ban, same-sex adoption is now legal in all 50 states.