Saturday, January 12, 2013

Italian Supreme Court Holds Gay Parents Equal to Straight Ones

In yet another blow to the Catholic Church's anti-gay agenda, the Italian Supreme Court ruled literally in the Vatican's own back yard that same sex parents are as good as heterosexual parents.  One can just imagine the gnashing of teeth amongst the bitter old men in dresses at the Vatican which issued a statement condemning the Court's ruling.   Italy's highest court handed down the ruling in a custody dispute where a heterosexual father had brought a case against his former partner who was now living with a woman.  Of note was the Court's recognition of the reality that there is zero scientific evidence that heterosexual parenting of children is superior to that provided in same sex couple households.  Gay Star News has details.  These are highlights:

The Supreme Court of Italy has ruled that same sex couples can be as good parents as opposite sex couples.

According to APF the court made the ruling on Friday, stating ‘There is no scientific certainty or concrete evidence but only prejudice [to say that] living in a homosexual family is damaging for the growth of a child.’

The ruling was on a custody dispute where a heterosexual father had brought a case against his former partner who was now living with a woman.

The ruling was welcomed by Italian LGBT rights group Arcigay.  ‘Once again an Italian court [has found in favor of a] family made up of people of the same sex,’ said Arcigay president Flavio Romans.  ‘The Supreme Court reiterates … that a child grows up in a family of a mum and mum or dad and dad in exactly the same way as a child growing up in a family men and women does.’
As noted, the Vatican is REALLY pissed off with the Court and issued a disingenuous, spittle flecked statement reported by the Miami Herald:

The Vatican is pressing its opposition to gay marriage, insisting Saturday that children should grow up with a father and a mother after Italy's high court upheld a lower court ruling and granted custody of a child to his gay mother.

In its decision Friday, the Court of Cassation said there was no "scientific certainty or experience-based data" to support the father's claims that the child's development was being damaged by living with his mother and her female partner. Such an argument was "mere prejudice," the court said.

On Saturday, bioethicist Adriano Pessina sought to downplay the significance of the ruling, writing in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that children often grow up in less-than-ideal circumstances and turn out fine.

Read more here:

He echoed the pope's recent insistence that no one has a "right" to a child and that children should be raised by a mother and father.  "Monogamous families constitute the ideal place to learn the significance of human relations and represent the social and anthropological environment in which the best type of growth is possible," he wrote.

Of course, if the Vatican really gave a rat's ass about children, there would be a thorough house cleaning of the priesthood and the Church hierarchy of every predator priest and every bishop and cardinal who aided, abetted or covered up for child rapists (yes, I know - that means Benedict XVI would need to be thrown off the throne of St. Peter for his own cover up activities).  Until such a house cleaning happens, the Vatican's shrieks and moans are simply hypocrisy of the highest order.  
Indeed, the only argument against gay parenting - like the arguments against same sex marriage - boil down to one thing: religious based bigotry, hate and prejudice.

The Far Rights Growing Disconnect From Reality

As I have often noted on this blog, I was once an active Republican and held a City Committee seat for 8 years in Virginia Beach and was precinct caption for one of the most solidly Republican precincts in that city.  Moreover, I am from a family with long ties to the Republican Party.  Back in those days, the GOP stood for fiscal moderation, efficient government, and moderation on social issues.  That whole political world is gone with the wind just as completely as the world of the Old South of Margaret Mitchell's acclaimed book, Gone with the Wind.  And what has come to replace it is something truly frightening and ugly.  Today's GOP is now identified with far right religious extremism, fairly open racism, fiscal terrorism and so-called patriot groups who are arming themselves as angry white Christianists see themselves losing both privileges long taken for granted and the power to inflict their rule on all other citizens.  A column in the New York Times looks at this very disturbing phenomenon and it becomes very clear that this groups are all too often armed and militant white supremacy groups.  Here are some column highlights:

That sound you hear is the sound of a cultural paranoia by people who have lost their grip on the reins of power, and on reality, and who fear the worst is coming. 

And they are preparing for it, whatever it may be — a war, a revolution, an apocalypse. 

These extremists make sensible, reasonable gun control hard to discuss, let alone achieve in this country, because they skew the conversations away from common-sense solutions on which both rational gun owners and non-gun owners can agree.

These people, a vocal minority, have extreme fears — gun confiscation, widespread civil instability, a tyrannical government — from which they are preparing to defend themselves with arsenals of weapons and stockpiles of ammunition. 

If you pay attention to the right-wing’s rhetoric, you can hear a string of code words that feed the fears of these people and paralyze progress.

Pay particular attention to the suggestion that guns are an essential guard against slavery’s resurgence in this country. And who would be the slaves and who the enslavers? 

As the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a Spring 2012 report, the number of so-called patriot groups surged after Barack Obama was first elected president. 

“The swelling of the Patriot movement since that time has been astounding,” the report said. “From 149 groups in 2008, the number of Patriot organizations skyrocketed to 512 in 2009, shot up again in 2010 to 824, and then, last year, jumped to 1,274.” 

(According to the center, “Generally, Patriot groups define themselves as opposed to the ‘New World Order,’ engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing, or advocate or adhere to extreme antigovernment doctrines.”)
The militia movement engages in paramilitary training aimed at protecting citizens from this feared impending government crackdown.” 

That’s why it is both shocking and predictable that James Yeager, the C.E.O. of a Tennessee company that trains civilians in weapons and tactical skills, posted a video online Wednesday (since removed but still viewable at saying he was going to start killing people if gun control efforts moved forward. He said, and I quote: 

“I’m telling you that if that happens, it’s going to spark a civil war, and I’ll be glad to fire the first shot. I’m not putting up with it. You shouldn’t put up with it. And I need all you patriots to start thinking about what you’re going to do, load your damn mags, make sure your rifle’s clean, pack a backpack with some food in it and get ready to fight.”
LGBT Americans need to understand that most of these groups are not only racist and anti-government, but also embrace the Christofascists' jihad against gays.    Fanning the flames of this paranoia are Christofascists like Tony Perkins of the hate group Family Research Council who spewed this batshitery via press release:

"As we learned yesterday, liberals are no longer satisfied by the church's silence on homosexuality. They will accept nothing less than the active embrace and celebration of what the Bible calls sin--or use totalitarian tactics to get it. What was once outrage over Christian activism has been replaced by outrage over Christian association. The White House has declared that anyone who holds to the belief--spoken or unspoken--that sexual immorality is wrong has no place at democracy's table.

"This should be a wake-up call to every evangelical who thinks they can pacify the Left by making the symptoms of immorality their sole focus and being silent on the cause: sin.  .  .  .  .  but it will not mollify faith's detractors. Nothing less than one hundred percent capitulation will."

And all too frequently, people like James Yeager and Tony Perkins are competely welcome within the ranks of today's GOP.  Sane Americans need to fear what these literally insane "patriots" and "godly Christians" and their GOP enablers and apologists may yet do as their delusions spin out of control.  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

More Fury Over Latest GOP Rape Remarks

Some in the GOP - i.e., the non-Christofascists - are livid that another Republican member of Congress (pictured above) has reignited controversy by saying that Todd Akin "was partially right" in his remarks about rape and abortion that likely guaranteed Akin's defeat on November 2012 in the Senatorial contest in Missouri.    Indeed, the increasingly rare sane members of the GOP are desperately looking for ways to stop the insane rape comments.  The problem the face is that their political party has been taken over by the knuckle dragging, Bible toting Christofascists who just cannot comprehend that a majority of Americans find their beliefs and statements reprehensible.  Politico looks at this latest firestorm over Christianist batshitery.  Here are excerpts:

Rep. Phil Gingrey’s attempts to explain Todd Akin’s rape remarks are leaving many Republicans beyond frustrated that a few in their party can’t help but insert rape into the already contentious abortion debate.

“This is actually pretty simple. If you’re about to talk about rape as anything other than a brutal and horrible crime, stop,” said Republican strategist Kevin Madden, who was a senior adviser in Mitt Romney’s campaign.

On Thursday, the Georgia Republican didn’t heed that advice, telling a local Chamber of Commerce breakfast that Akin was “partially right” when he said last year that a woman can stop herself from getting pregnant.

“We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, ‘Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don’t be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate,’” Gingrey said.

He also said that Akin’s definition of a “non-legitimate rape” could be “a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents.”

But Gingrey’s lengthy explanation of what Akin meant was quickly circulated by Democrats, repudiated by medical groups, and had some Republicans smacking their heads in frustration.

And it may have added new urgency to a training program that’s already being launched by an anti-abortion group — the Susan B. Anthony list — to keep candidates and lawmakers from continually making the same kinds of comments that may have helped ruin Republicans’ chances of winning the Senate.

Former Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) questioned why Gingrey was talking about the months-old comment in the first place.  “There’s no way to defend what Todd Akin said,” Bono Mack said. “You just can’t do it and you shouldn’t try to put it into a scientific context. It was a bad statement. And to try to defend it or explain someone else’s poor choice of words, it would be a fool’s errand.”

Training is not the solution to the GOP's problem.  The only real solution is to expel the religious extremists from the party and to cease pandering to them in any way.  Will the GOP do this?  I doubt it.

Kathleen Parker: Gun Control Proposals Not Draconian

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker is apparently back on the wagon and not drinking the GOP Kool-Aid - at least that's what her new Washington Post column on gun control suggests.  We can readily expect Parker to be slammed and decried by the Christofascist/Tea Party/NRA base of the GOP as a traitor and effete liberal.   In the column Parker looks at the history of gun control and reminds us that once militant black activists supported a no limits approach to gun control - something that would horrify the angry white males who comprise the loudest opponents of rational gun control laws.  As is usually the case, objective facts and an understanding of history cut the far right's arguments off at the knee caps.  Here are highlights from Parker's column:

Unlike many who recently have joined the debate about gun rights, I have a long history with guns, which I proffer only in the interest of preempting the “elitist, liberal, swine, prostitute, blahblahblah” charge.

I grew up in a home with guns, lots of them, and was taught early how to shoot, care for firearms and treat them respectfully. My father’s rules were simple: Never point a gun at someone unless you intend to shoot them; if you intend to shoot, aim to kill.

By today’s standards my father would be considered a gun nut, but his sentiments were understandable in the context of his time. Like others of his generation, he had witnessed Germany’s disarming of its citizenry and the consequences thereafter. Thus, the slippery slope of which gun-rights advocates speak is not without precedent or reason.

But the history of gun-control laws is not without contradictions and ironies that belie the current insistence that guns-without-controls is the ipso facto of originalist America. In fact, the federal government of our Founders made gun ownership mandatory for white males, while denying others — slaves and later freedmen — the privilege.

Today, the most vociferous defenders of gun rights tend to be white, rural males who oppose any regulation. But theirs was once the ardently held position of radical African Americans. Notably, in the 1960s, Black Panthers Bobby Seale and Huey Newton toted guns wherever they went to make a point: Blacks needed guns to protect themselves in a country that wasn’t quite ready to enforce civil rights.

In one remarkable incident in May 1967, as recounted in The Atlantic by UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, 24 men and six women, all armed, ascended the California capitol steps, read a proclamation about gun rights and proceeded inside — with their guns, which was legal at the time.  Needless to say, conservatives, including then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, were suddenly very, very interested in gun control. That afternoon, Reagan told reporters there was “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.”

The degree of one’s allegiance to principle apparently depends mainly on who is holding the gun.
[T]he call meanwhile to ban assault weapons or limit magazines in the wake of the horrific mass murder of children and others at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut is hardly draconian. It won’t solve the problem of mentally disturbed people exacting weird justice from innocents, but it might limit the toll.

One also imagines that the old Reagan would say there’s no reason a citizen needs an assault weapon or a magazine that can destroy dozens of people in minutes. He would certainly be correct and, in a sane world, possibly even electable.
The bottom line is that we need reasonable gun control laws and automatic weapons and large ammunition clips need to be banned now.  And that's only the beginning of what needs to be done.

Survey: Big Drop In Those Who See Gays As Sinners

There's more bad news for the anti-gay professional Christians and hate group leaders like Tony Perkins and Pope Benedict XVI: a new LifeWay Research survey shows that the number of individuals who see being gay as a sin is plummeting.  Yes, the efforts of the hate merchants is failing.  Expect the volume of the Christofascist shrieking and sheets of flying spittle to increase as these extremists realize that they have lost the so-called culture wars.  And the situation for the hate merchants will only get worse as more and more of elderly bigots virtually die off.  USA Today has details on the survey findings.  Here are excerpts:

Americans who believe being gay is a sin are now a minority — a shift that a Southern Baptist-affiliated research group links to President Barack Obama's changed opinion of gay marriage.

A November survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research found 37 percent of Americans polled said "yes" when asked if homosexual behavior is a sin. Forty-five percent said it was not. Seventeen percent didn't know.  That's a major change from LifeWay's September 2011 survey, when 44 percent said homosexuality was a sin, 43 percent said it wasn't and 13 percent didn't know.

The survey results, released late Thursday, didn't surprise the Rev. Cindy Andrews-Looper of Holy Trinity Community Church in Nashville, a congregation with a large number of gay members. When her church opened in the mid-1990s, most gay and lesbian members were in the closet, she said.  Today, they've found more acceptance in the religious community and in the community at large.

Andrews-Looper said that being gay isn't any more sinful that being left-handed.  "Jesus didn't come into the world to condemn anyone," she said. "To use the gospel to condemn anyone is missing the point."

The shift in attitudes about gay people likely cost an Evangelical minister from Atlanta the chance to pray at President Barack Obama's second inauguration.  . . . .   LifeWay's Ed Stetzer predicted more future conflicts such as that one.   "The culture is clearly shifting on homosexuality, and this creates a whole new issue: How will America deal with a minority view, strongly held by Evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, and so many others?" he said in a statement.

Anthea Butler, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said that politics, culture and demographics have played a role in the growing acceptance of homosexuality.  . . . . Butler also sees two religious factors: Younger evangelicals are less likely to be judgmental toward gays, and many who don't claim any faith are friendly toward them.

I'm sorry, but there is no reason to accommodate anti-gay bigots by the larger society.  The claims of "deeply held religious belief"  should not be seen as a pass for hate and bigotry.  The Bible was once used as a justification for slavery.  That excuse has been thrown on the trash heap of history and using the Bible to justify anti-gay hate and bigotry needs to meet a similar fate.  As for the anti-gay bigots themselves, they need to be viewed the same way that racists are viewed by the media and general public: they need to be shunned and not given platforms by the media.

Louie Giglio Now Tied to Church Leading "Kill the Gays" Effort in Uganda

Someone in Barack Obama's organization truly needs to be taken to the woodshed for a thorough thrashing as it turns out that Louie Giglio (pictured above) - who for a short time was to present the Inaugural benediction - not only has a history of anti-gay preaching but also is tied to a church in Uganda leading the push to enact draconian anti-gay legislation in the form of the "Kill the Gays" bill.  One has to wonder how the Obama camp could be so utterly in competent in selecting Giglio - especially after the LGBT vote helped ensure Obama's reelection.  It's all unbelievable.  Talk to Action has a lengthy piece that provides much more on Giglio's ties to this murderous anti-gay efforts.  Here are highlights:

[T]here's more and worse than what has yet come out on Giglio, who until yesterday had been scheduled to give a benediction at President Barack Obama's second inauguration.

Like Warren, Giglio has ties to the epicenter of anti-LGBTI activism in Uganda. For Warren, it was his partnership with Martin Ssempa and involvement with The Fellowship. For Giglio, it is an association with a key church that supports an eliminationist bill, looming before Uganda's parliament since 2009, that would virtually legislate Uganda's gay community out of existence. 
 How could it have happened that such a pastor could have been picked to sanctify the inauguration of a president who has taken a bold, if belated stance in support of gay rights? A few voices familiar with the intersection of religious right and politics have some thoughts on the Giglio fiasco [1, 2.] But back to Giglio:

On January 9th, 2012, a Thinkprogress report on conservative evangelical megachurch pastor Louie Giglio prompted a firestorm in activist human rights media and by the next day Giglio had been removed from the inaugural program. As Thinkprogress described, in a 1990s sermon pastor Giglio had,
"advocated for dangerous "ex-gay" therapy for gay and lesbian people, referenced a biblical passage often interpreted to require gay people be executed, and impelled Christians to "firmly respond to the aggressive agenda" and prevent the "homosexual lifestyle" from becoming accepted in society."
[H]is ministry has also, since 2008 (when the Watoto choir sang at Giglio's Passion conference in Kampala) or earlier, had an institutional relationship with a church in the vanguard of Uganda's mounting crusade against LGBTI rights, the Watoto Christian Church -- whose church elder Stephen Langa has played a central role in agitating for the so-called "Kill the Gays" bill that has loomed before Uganda's parliament since 2009. 

In March 2009, Langa's Family Life Network organization held a now-notorious Kampala, Uganda conference on homosexuality during which American evangelical speakers alleged a vast Western conspiracy against traditional Ugandan family structure, a conspiracy in which wealthy Western homosexuals were said to be bribing Ugandan children to become gay.

One speaker, Scott Lively, also claimed that a subset of "butch" homosexuals was responsible for the Holocaust and was inclined towards committing acts of mass violence and even genocide. Lively claimed Hitler was in the alleged subset.

While it would be hard to make a case that pastor Giglio bears any direct responsibility for the Uganda Anti Homosexuality Bill, his association with (and promotion of) the Watoto Christian Church raises serious questions.

Indeed, Giglio seems to have so utterly ignored the issue that even as the Watoto Church was emerging as a hotbed of anti-gay rights activism, the public relations apparatus of Giglio's rapidly growing "Passion" conference, whose 501(c)(3) nonprofit parent ministry was in 2010 was funded with over $12 million dollars, was presenting the Watoto church as an exemplar of philanthropic activism, for the church's efforts to help orphaned Ugandan children.

The development of these parallel tracks, with Giglio's Passion conferences ramping up in tandem with growing anti-LGBTI activism from the Watoto church, and rising persecution of gay Ugandans, is jarring.

While the Watoto Church has not been among the noisiest of boosters of the Museveni regime among Uganda's born-again churches, that have provided a key block of political support for Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni over the past decade, nonetheless the church helps reinforce a predominant narrative, marketed aggressively to American evangelicals, that by omission exonerates the Museveni regime which, by many accounts, is among the most egregious violators of human rights on the African continent.

Given Giglio's foul ties, one has to wonder why the Obama staffers did  try for a triple play and invite a former Nazi from WWII and a former militant segregationist as speakers as well.   Giglio and those like him who traffic in hate and bigotry need to be pushed to the periphery of society and have no place at a presidential inaugural event.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hand Cuffed Illinois Priest Was Engaged in Bondage

We all knew that there was more to the story of the Illinois Catholic priest who had to call 911 to secure release from hand cuffs and a some sort of gag in his mouth.  Like many, I suspected the situation arose from some sort of kinky sex or other bizarre goings on.  Turns out my suspicions were on point.  The good Father Tom Donovan, pastor of St. Aloysius Church on Springfield’s north end was wearing not just handcuffs, but a “leather bondage-type mask with a bar in his mouth.  Not surprisingly, Bishop Thomas Paprocki  - who granted Donovan a leave of absence - chose not to face the press.

The irony is that we have Catholic bishops like Paprocki trying to inflict their religious beliefs on all citizens and deny same sex couples CIVIL law rights, and yet their own house is a cesspool. I ponder again as to why anyone even bothers to listen to the Catholic bishops anymore.  Between the sex abuse scandal cover ups and crap like this weird instance it is clear that they have no moral standing themselves whatsoever.

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Friday Morning Male Beauty

German Bishops Cancel Study Into Sexual Abuse by Priests

Motivated by apparent fears as to the horrific picture that would be painted of the Church - especially the obstruction of justice and cover ups orchestrated by the bishops and, of course, the Vatican, Germany’s Roman Catholic bishops on Wednesday canceled a study into the sexual abuse of minors by priests.  God forbid that more of the public and the sheeple still in the pews in Germany come to understand the full scope of the moral cesspool that is the Church hierarchy.  The reality is that the only way that the scope of the Church's crimes will ever be known is for government criminal investigations to go forward.  Whether or not politicians have the courage to take on the Church, however, remains a troubling question.  Here are highlights from the New York Times on events in Germany:

Germany’s Roman Catholic bishops on Wednesday canceled a study into the sexual abuse of minors by priests, prompting the investigator to accuse them of trying to censor what was to be a major report on the scandals. 

The independent study, examining church files that sometimes date to 1945, was meant to shed light on undiscovered cases after about 600 people filed claims against priests in 2010 following a wave of revelations of sexual abuse.

Bishop Stephan Ackermann, a spokesman on abuse issues for the German Bishops’ Conference, said that the hierarchy had lost confidence in the researcher, Christian Pfeiffer, a criminologist, and that it would look for another specialist for the study.

Mr. Pfeiffer told German Radio that the bishops wanted to change previously agreed-upon guidelines for the project to include a final veto over publishing its results, which he could not accept. 

Officials made “an attempt to turn the whole contract towards censorship and stronger control by the church,” said Mr. Pfeiffer, head of the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony. 

One lay Catholic organization, known as the International Movement We Are Church, called the decision “a devastating signal for the credibility of the church leadership” that showed the bishops could not accept an independent inquiry into the scandals. The German justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, said that the church’s effort to clear up the scandals should not end in “a halfhearted inventory.” 
“It’s high time that the Catholic Church opened up and let outside experts look at its archives,” she told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
A commission set up by the Belgian church received 475 reports of abuse before its premises were raided in 2010 by the police seeking evidence for possible criminal cases against predator priests. It reported 13 victims had been driven to suicide.  

Speaking to German Radio, Bishop Ackermann said the bishops feared that Mr. Pfeiffer would publish results without their permission. 

The criminals in the Church hierarchy need to be exposed and rather than kissing the pompous asses of the bishops - both in Germany and in America - elected officials should be pushing for government controlled criminal investigations into the Church and the rampant sexual abuse of minors that was not only allowed to occur, but in some cases aid and abetted, and most certainly covered up by the Church leadership.  These bishops have no standing to be making any pronouncements on moral issue and a good number likely deserve to be behind bars.

Virginia Will Get Hammered as Pentagon Moves to Freeze Hires and Slash Spending

The irony here in Virginia is that no state is more dependent on federal spending and will suffer more than Virginia if the Congressional Republicans continue to refuse to strike a rational budget deal to avoid sequestration.  Yet it is Republican members of Congress like Scott Rigell, Randy Forbes and Bob Wittman who are among those apparently only too happy to push the nation into sequestration.  One has to wonder how happy their delusional supporters are wen they find themselves placed on furloughs or suddenly unemployed as military spending is slashed in Hampton Roads and across the country.   Northern Virginia will be hard hit as well.   Frankly, there is some sweet irony that some of these GOP voters may soon be about to reap what they have sown.  Unfortunately, many others will be impacted by the extremism of those sent to Congress from this region and other parts of Virginia thanks to GOP gerrymandering.  The Washington Post looks at the Pentagon's plans to slash spending.  Here are highlights:

The Pentagon will impose a freeze on hiring civilians, slash operating costs on military bases and take other immediate steps to trim spending in preparation for the possibility that Congress will fail to reach a deal to avert billions of dollars in additional cuts, defense officials said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said he ordered the cutbacks as a precautionary measure because he has grown pessimistic that Congress and the White House will reach agreement. If they do not, the Pentagon would be subject to $52 billion in cuts this fiscal year — about 10 percent of its non-war-fighting budget.

He said the armed forces would exempt combat operations in Afghanistan — which are largely funded by a separate war budget — as well as pay and benefits for the troops. To compensate, however, cuts would have to bite deeper for other programs, such as ship maintenance, military training programs and the purchase of new weapons.

The Pentagon had largely resisted making plans for the “fiscal cliff.” Defense officials had simply stated that such an outcome would be financially disastrous for the military and wanted to avoid the impression that it could be absorbed in stride.

Panetta said he previously assumed that the potential cutbacks were “so nuts that it wouldn’t happen,” but that now he frets they could become a reality. “Frankly, my fear in talking to members of Congress is that this issue may now be in a very difficult place.”

A memo released Thursday by the Pentagon instructs the armed forces and defense agencies to curtail spending on training, travel, office expenses and conferences. It also gives officials the authority to fire temporary workers.

The hiring freeze alone could have a significant impact on the economy in the Washington region. The Defense Department employs about 800,000 civilians worldwide, but many are concentrated locally.
The Pentagon has proposed keeping up to 10,000 U.S. troops to help train Afghan forces and conduct counterterrorism operations. But White House officials have pressed for fewer. On Tuesday, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, told reporters that one option would be to pull out all U.S. troops after next year — a suggestion that induced heartburn among many senior military leaders.

Of course, by some estimates, simply pulling out of the fool's errand in Afghanistan would save enough money more than cover the  the sequestration cuts otherwise facing the Pentagon in the coming year.  And it would stop the needless waste of young American lives in a war that will never be won.

As for Hampton Roads, the region has for too long embraced backwardness and relied on military spending to support the region.  Now, it will find itself hard put to attract modern, progressive business as the Virginia GOP continues to hold the state under anti-equality and Medieval social policies.

Illinois GOP Chair Refuses to Resign Over His Pro-Gay Marriage Stand

If one wants to see what happens when someone tries to move the Republican Party toward modernity and a departure from obsession with God, guns, racism and gay bashing, one need look no farther than Illinois where state GOP Chairman Pat Brady is facing growing calls for his resignation because he has urged Illinois Republicans to vote for marriage equality.   Like Newt Gingrich - who I personally loathe - Brady sees the future and understands that longer term, the GOP's incessant anti-gay animus is going to harm the GOP's viability.  Outside of knuckle dragging Christofascist circles, more and more Americans now support same sex marriage, particularly younger voters who are replacing the elderly bigots who continue to embrace hate and bigotry not only against gays but minorities in general.  WBEZ has coverage on the raging fire storm.  Here are highlights:

The head of Illinois’ beleaguered Republican Party is staring down a revolt from some state party bosses after he bucked the official GOP line last week and urged state lawmakers to approve same-sex marriage.

State GOP Chairman Pat Brady faces growing calls for his resignation, at a time when some Illinois Republicans are rethinking the party’s image and stance on social issues, following a dismal showing in November’s elections.

Conservative groups and activists pounced on Brady shortly after he released a statement last week offering his “full support” of a bill before the General Assembly that would legalize same-sex marriage.

But now the public demands for his ouster are coming from party leaders themselves.
“Pat Brady is a total disgrace,” said Bobbie Peterson, a Republican state central committeewoman from Beecher, Ill.

“He’s a pretty face for TV. He can speak well. Period,” Peterson said. “But what’s coming out of his mouth is not what the Illinois Republican party is about.”

Brady acknowledges he didn’t reach out to committeemen before speaking out in favor of gay marriage. But he told WBEZ his views are his own, and he spoke up while lawmakers were debating the issue in Springfield. Brady calls the same-sex marriage ban Illinois' “last condoned discrimination."

“If people want to throw me out because I took a stand on an issue of discrimination [as] the chairman of the Republican Party, the party founded by Abraham Lincoln, then that’s – that’s up to them and they’re free to do it,” Brady said. “But I’m not backing down.”

Whatever the outcome, Brady’s timing could not have been worse, according to several party bosses. Brady chimed in just as lawmakers were trying to focus on fiscal issues, such as pension reform, instead of same-sex marriage, said State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, who sits on the Republican State Central Committee.

“His role as chairman should be to concentrate on uniting the party, and not dividing the party,” Syverson said, though he doesn't go so far as to ask Brady to step down.

The flap over Brady’s comments comes as many state Republicans are still digesting their rout in the Nov. 6 elections, when the GOP lost its majority in the Illinois congressional delegation, and Democrats won supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.

That has some politicians considering a move to the center on some social issues such as same-sex marriage, said Republican pollster Gregg Durham.

“What some voters perceive as extremism on some of the social issues certainly cost votes in November and will cost votes in the future,” Durham said, referring to young voters and suburban women, two key voting blocs. “And there’s a lot of candidates right now doing soul-searching, looking at some of these issues to say, ‘Where are we really on this stuff?’”

The irony is that some of my former GOP compatriots from the past accuse me of being "angry" - obviously, it is they who are angry - angry that white male and Christianist  privilege is dying - and I can only surmise that they are looking in the mirror when they make these attacks on me.  They can whine and attack me all they want, but I will go on calling out their lies and hypocrisy.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

More Thursday Male Beauty

Ken Cuccinelli To Contraception Opponents: "Go to Jail'' Rather than Obey Law

In blog posts and VEER Magazine columns I have endeavored to educate people about the utter lunatic level extremism of Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli, the all but crowned GOP for Governor of Virginia.  Many still refuse to open their eyes to the fact that Kookinelli belongs in an insane asylum rather than the Governor's Mansion.  Now, Kookinelli has made statements that ought to underscore this reality - and the fact that Kookinelli needs to be removed from the office of Attorney General:  he is advising opponents of the contraception mandate provision of federal laws and regulations rather than obey the law.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Virginia's top law enforcement officer is encouraging citizens to defy the law and go to jail rather than comply with the law.  Politico looks at this latest batshitery from Cuccinelli.  Here are excerpts:

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the presumptive GOP gubernatorial nominee and a rising national figure on the right, told an Iowa-based radio show Wednesday night that opponents of a federal mandate for contraception coverage should be willing to “go to jail” to fight the law.

Cuccinelli, who also addressed the Iowa Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner last spring, told conservative radio host Steve Deace that he strongly supports the lawsuit by Hobby Lobby Stores against the Affordable Care Act’s requirements for contraception coverage.

Cuccinelli recounted an exchange with his own bishop in which he counseled the cleric to embrace civil disobedience: “My local bishop said, ‘Well, you know I told a group I’m ready to go to jail.’ And I said, ‘Bishop, don’t take this personally: You need to go to jail.’”

Though Deace’s show is based in Iowa, it is syndicated nationally and has affiliates in Virginia. Deace endorsed Newt Gingrich in the 2012 primaries.

The Cuccinelli campaign said that the interview was totally unrelated to the attorney general’s unexpected absence at Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Wednesday night State of the Commonwealth address. 

What makes the situation even more outrageous is that while he is gallivanting around the country and around Virginia, Cuccinelli is drawing his full salary as Attorney General.  Cuccinelli needs to either resign or be removed from office.

Anti-Gay Preacher Bails From Inaugural Line Up

Anti-Gay pastor Louie Giglio who had - in another display of Obama staff incompetence - been slated to give the inaugural benediction has withdrawn from the inaugural event line up ostensible to avoid becoming a distraction from the ceremony.  In the process, Giglio also attempted to down play the viciousness of his past anti-gay statements.    The situation is noteworthy for two reasons.  First, how incompetent are the Obama folks that they did not do a simple Google search on Giglio?  Second, Giglio claims that he's not anti-gay, but the man is a liar based on his past statements - statements that he has never disavowed.  Andrew Sullivan sums up the incompetence of the Obama staffers and Giglio's disingenuousness very well:

So the second Inaugural benediction for Obama turns out to be another clusterfuck. First, they had the fatuous Rick Warren, whose campaign against marriage equality was deemed irrelevant to the cause of uniting the country. Now we have Louie Giglio,  .  .  .  .  who, like most evangelicals, still believes that gay relationships, let alone marriages, are anathema.

[I]t is quite clear that Giglio has never Tumblr_loa0r1qwjF1qisa2ko1_500stopped believing that what he calls "the gay lifestyle" is a terrible crime against God. He also calls it one of the most important issues of the time. He proposes the horrifying abuse of "ex-gay therapy." He cites Leviticus, which mandates the death penalty for gays, and says it is the lynchpin of the teaching against homosexuality. In fact, he doesn't just cite Leviticus; he goes on for ever about it. He describes gay people as living a "lie," a term my born-again uncle accused me of doing when he found out I was gay. He calls us engaged in "depraved, lustful behavior" and being haters of God. He calls for his congregation to "firmly respond to the aggressive agenda" of gay equality.

His defense is that "clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years." But in that sermon, he described it as possibly the most important moral battle of the time. And get a load of this: "Those who practice such things are worthy of death." And this:
Homosexuality is not an alternate lifestyle. Homosexuality is not just a sexual preference. Homosexuality is not gay. But homosexuality is sin.
[W]hat clueless administration official did not do due diligence on this figure? After the Rick Warren mess, could no one in the White House do the same research as Think Progress

There's only way forward on this and that is to choose as his replacement a minister who endorses gay unions and full gay inclusion in the Christian community. Why would Obama object to that? He has "evolved" now, hasn't he?
Why is it every time that Obama builds good feelings within the LGBT community he seems to without thinking do something stupid and cause a great deal of bad feeling? 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

U.S. Life Expectancy Lags Other Advanced Nations

A new report by two of the nation's leading health research institutions not surprising has found that life expectancy for Americans lags that of other economically advanced nations.  Why is the finding no surprise?  Simply put, because(i)  the U.S. has off the charts gun violence and deaths compared to other advanced nations, and (2) no other advanced nation treats so many of its citizens as disposable garbage when it comes to access to health care, especially preventive care.  For once America is exceptional, but in a very negative and unseemly way.  And of course those most responsible for both causes are precisely those who hold themselves out as "godly Christians" and conservatives.  A piece in the Virginian Pilot looks at the report findings.  Here are highlights:

The United States suffers far more violent deaths than any other wealthy nation, due in part to the widespread possession of firearms and the practice of storing them at home in a place that is often unlocked, according to a report released Wednesday by two of the nation's leading health research institutions.

For many years, Americans have been dying at younger ages that people in almost all other wealthy countries. In addition to the impact of gun violence, Americans consume the most calories among peer countries and get involved in more accidents that involve alcohol. The U.S. also suffers higher rates of drug-related deaths, infant mortality and AIDS.

The result is that the life expectancy for men in the United States ranked the lowest among the 17 countries reviewed, at 75.6 years, while the life expectancy for U.S. women ranked second lowest at 80.7 years. The countries reviewed included Canada, Japan, Australia and much of Western Europe.

The report found that U.S. health disadvantages aren't limited to the poor and uninsured. Even white, college-educated, and wealthier Americans tend to be in worse health than their peers in other developed countries.

The nation's health disadvantages have economic consequences. They lead to higher costs for consumers and taxpayers as well as a workforce that remains less healthy than that of other high-income countries.

Researchers noted that the U.S. has a large uninsured population compared to other countries with comparable economies, and more limited access to primary care. And although the income of Americans is higher on average than that of other wealthy countries, the United States also has a higher level of poverty, especially among children.

The National Rifle Association did not immediately return calls seeking comment about the report, but in the past gun-rights advocates have fought any suggestion that firearms ownership has public health implications, and they have won cuts in the government's budget for such research.

They estimated that homicide and suicide together account for about a quarter of the years of life lost for U.S. men compared to those in those peer countries. Homicide, they noted, is the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults aged 15-24. The large majority of those homicides involve firearms. The researchers said there is little evidence that violent acts occur more frequently in the United States than elsewhere. It's the lethality of those attacks that stands out.

"The size of the health disadvantage was pretty stunning. The fact that our risk of death from homicide is seven times higher and from shootings 20 times higher is pretty dramatic, but I would add that was probably just as important to us was the extent of the health disadvantage in young Americans that had nothing to do with violent injuries."  Woolf cited the statistics regarding premature babies and the high prevalence of illness among teenagers as equally disturbing as the statistics on guns and violence.

These sad figures highlight the toxicity of the fruits of conservative and Christianist policies promoted by today's Republican Party.  It is a shameful disgrace.

Boy Scouts of America Continues Anti-Gay Jihad

It's amazing that the most homophobic of organizations - e.g., the Boy Scouts of America ("BSA") and the Roman Catholic Church - both go out of their way to stigmatize and ostracize gays while going to great lengths and extreme levels of secrecy to protect and cover up for sexual predators.  The moral bankruptcy of such hypocrisy is breath taking.  And by again killing the grant of an Eagle Scout award to Ryan Andresen, BSA has again demonstrated that it puts persecuting gays ahead of its own purported principles of morality, not to mention the views of many donors who are ceasing donations.  GLAAD has details on this latest display of bigotry.  Here are some highlights:

Yesterday, 18 year-old Ryan Andresen and his family celebrated that he was one step closer to getting his Eagle award after an official Eagle Board of Review unanimously approved Ryan's Eagle application.

But Ryan's victory was short-lived, as Fenoglio, a paid employee of the BSA, reversed course and rejected the board's unanimously approved application -- an unprecedented action. Local Scout volunteers speculate that Fenoglio's decision was heavily influenced by BSA national.

"It's an unprecedented move," says Wahls. "It's clear that Fenoglio's reversal was forced by BSA national. He's a paid employee, and unfortunately, National exerts a lot of influence over their staff. His reversal, however, is most disappointing."

The Andresen family is devastated, but what hurts them more is that BSA national would rather soil the official Eagle application process and pit local paid staff against volunteer leaders, than allow a gay Boy Scout to be awarded an honor he's earned.

This marks the second time Ryan has been rejected by Scouting leaders he looks up to -- just because he's gay. To make matters worse, BSA Executives – the unelected, paid brass helming an organization that touts the principles of honesty and integrity -- continue to malign Ryan in the national media.

BSA national spokesperson, Deron Smith, falsely asserts Ryan disagrees with Scouting’s principle of ‘Duty to God,’ issuing the following statement to outlets including USA Today:
“The Eagle application was forwarded, by a volunteer, to the local council but it was not approved because this young man proactively stated that he does not agree to Scouting’s principle of ‘Duty to God’ and does not meet Scouting’s membership requirements. Therefore, he is not eligible to receive the rank of Eagle.”
Bonnie Hazarabedian, the District Advancement Chair who headed Ryan’s Eagle Board of Review, refutes that claim, however:

“Ryan did everything right in this process, with honor and honesty. He completed all of his requirements, he turned in his application along with the appropriate request for an appeal before an Eagle Board of Review, and he satisfied every member of the Board that he has earned the right to be recognized as an Eagle Scout. The Board reviewed all of Ryan’s scouting history, his advancement records, his Eagle project and his spiritual beliefs, and we are convinced that Ryan has more than demonstrated that he deserves the award.” (Emphasis added.)
In October 2012, Ryan’s mom launched a petition calling on local Boy Scout leaders to reject the BSA’s discriminatory anti-gay policy and to give Ryan the Eagle award he has earned. To date, the petition has more than 460,000 signatories.

Once again we see a display of the nastiness of the modern day Pharisees of the right.  They may congratulate themselves on the supposed piety and godliness, but in truth they are very foul individuals who place hate, fear and bigotry ahead of the Gospel message they only pretend to believe in.  

The Dictatorship of House Republicans

Right now the biggest threat to America isn't Al Qaeda and would be Islamic terrorists.  Rather, it is the Republican extremists in the House of Representatives who continue to hold the nation hostage and display a continued willingness to harm the lives and finances of a majority of Americans in order to pander to the ugliest elements of the increasingly, racist, religious extremist, and mentally unhinged GOP base.  Sadly, because of the successful gerrymandering of congressional districts in GOP controlled state legislatures like Virginia's it will be difficult to unseat many of these domestic saboteurs for years to come.  An editorial in the New York Times looks at this disturbing threat to democracy and the future of the country.  Here are excerpts:

The only reason that income taxes on 99 percent of Americans did not go up this month was that Speaker John Boehner briefly broke with an iron rule of Republican control over the House. He allowed the fiscal-cliff deal to be put to a full vote of the House even though a strong majority of Republicans opposed it.

[U]nder the majority-of-the-majority rule in the House, Democrats are completely cut out of the governing process, not even given a chance to vote unless Republicans have decided to pass something. Since 2010, there have been enough extremist Republicans in the caucus to block consideration of most of the bills requested by the White House or sent over from the Senate. If President Obama is for something, it’s a safe bet that most House Republicans are against it, and thus won’t bring it up. 

That’s why the House never took a vote on the Senate’s latest five-year farm bill. Or the Violence Against Women Act. Or a full six-year transportation bill. Republican opposition prevented consideration in the last term of the Senate’s $60 billion in providing relief from Hurricane Sandy; so far, the House has been willing to approve only a measly $9.7 billion. . . .

This anti-democratic tactic, now known as the “Hastert rule,” helped turn the chamber into a one-party institution that utterly silenced the minority. A post-9/11 intelligence reform bill, urgently sought by President George W. Bush, was bottled up by Mr. Hastert and his allies, who knew it would pass if Democrats were allowed to vote. 

This was not a rule used by Democrats. Speaker Tom Foley allowed the North American Free Trade Agreement to pass in 1993 on mostly Republican votes, and when Nancy Pelosi took the job in 2007, she repudiated the Hastert rule, allowing both parties to vote together on legislation. 

[I]f the country is to move forward on issues with widespread support — getting past the debt limit, immigration reform, gun control, and investments in education and infrastructure — he [John Boehner] will have to let the two parties vote together on a solution. 

Candidly, I am not going to hold my breath.  Today's GOP puts partisan games and ass kissing extremist ahead of the country's best interests and certainly the best interests of the majority of American families.  It's yet another reason I can not support any Republican.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Obama Steps in It Again in Inaugural Benediction Presenter Choice

One has to think that someone on the Obama staff needs to be seriously fired for not vetoing the selection of Rev. Louie Giglio  - a documented anti-gay bigot - to deliver the benediction prayer at the January 21, 2013 inaugural ceremony.  Especially since by some calculation it was the LGBT vote that clinched Obama's re-election.  Are these folks simply incompetent or have they only pretended to be pro-gay in order to garner votes and, of course money.   Either way, they have flipped the middle finger to LGBT Americans.   Let's be clear: Obama needs to tell Giglio to take a hike and select someone else to deliver the benediction.  BuzzFeed looks at the hornets nest that Obama's incompetent staff has stirred up:

The White House on Wednesday was refusing to address comments critical of gay and lesbian people made by Rev. Louie Giglio, who was tapped by President Barack Obama to deliver the benediction prayer at the Jan. 21 inaugural ceremony. 

Think Progress reported that Giglio, an Atlanta pastor, made comments in a mid-1990s sermon criticizing "the aggressive agenda of not all, but of many in the homosexual community."

The inaugural invitation is not Giglio's first interaction with Obama. He also was one of the president's guests at the White House's 2012 Easter prayer breakfast, according to the White House pool report from the April 4, 2012 event.

This past November, Giglio served as the convocation speaker at the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University. Although he did not address homosexuality in the speech, he did strongly urge visiting high-school students to attend the college known for its strict policies against homosexual behavior and spoke about the positive influence Falwell has had on his life.

The questions about Giglio come as the administration is still fending off criticism about comments former Sen. Chuck Hagel — now Obama's nominee for defense secretary — made that Clinton administration nominee James Hormel was too "aggressively gay" to serve as ambassador to Luxembourg. 

Both the White House and committee organized to run Obama's inauguration ceremonies later this month refused to comment Wednesday on the remarks reported by Think Progress, in which Giglio said: "That movement is not a benevolent movement, it is a movement to seize by any means necessary the feeling and the mood of the day, to the point where the homosexual lifestyle becomes accepted as a norm in our society and is given full standing as any other lifestyle, as it relates to family."

This is not the first time questions have been raised about those giving public prayers at Obama's big events. Before Obama even took office, his choice of Rick Warren to give his inaugural invocation created what Huffington Post's Sam Stein called Obama's "first real rift with progressives" at the time.

As I said, Obama needs to get his head out of his ass and tell Giglio that he is dis-invited and find someone non-offensive to give the inaugural benediction.  Better yet, he could scrap the  benediction all together.

The 2013 Virginia General Assembly: GOP Extremism?

In my January column in VEER Magazine (it will be on news stands January 15th) I look at what to expect from the Republican Party of Virginia during the 2013 session of the Virginia General Assembly which convened today.   My prediction was not positive in terms of the Virginia GOP which is tantamount to an arm of The Family Foundation.   An article in the Virginian Pilot likewise predicts a reprise of last year's far right batshitery which made Virginia the laughing stock of the country, if not the world.  Here are excerpts:

Here we go again, Virginia.

The General Assembly opening today served notice that 2013 may offer a repeat of last year’s high-profile fights on abortion rights that are still fresh in the memories of legislature observers.

This year, several Republicans have filed bills to curb abortions in some circumstances by ending state support for abortion procedures of poor women who are going to have a deformed baby, making it criminal for doctors to perform abortions based on gender, and limiting contraception coverage.

Democrats, meanwhile, are vowing to fight those measures and offering their own bills to reverse recently enacted policies that require women to undergo a pre-abortion ultrasound and make abortion clinics meet hospital-like building standards.

Norfolk Sen. Ralph Northam, a physician [and Democrat], is offering bills to repeal the ultrasound law and protect doctors from being forced to do medically unnecessary procedures in an effort to return such decisions to women and their doctors.Among the anti-abortion bills Democrats hope to defeat this year is legislation from Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William County, to criminalize sex-selective abortions and to free businesses from providing contraceptive coverage.

Another measure they aim to spike is Louisa County Sen. Tom Garrett’s SB 862, which would eliminate state support for poor women to have an abortion when a doctor concludes the fetus would be born with an incapacitating disability.

Marine Corps to Spouse Clubs: Admit Same-Sex Spouses

In somewhat of a surprising move, the U. S. Marine Corps has directed spouses clubs operating on its installations must either admit same-sex spouses or move off Marine Corps bases.  So far, none of the other branches of the U.S. military have taken such a direct and uncompromising position.  The Marine Corps ultimatum comes in the wake of the ongoing controversy within the Army's Fort Bragg Base in North Carolina where the officers' spouses club  denied admission to a same-sex spouse.  As readers may recall, before the repeal of DADT, the Marines were among the most vocal supporters of DADT.  Here are highlights from Federal News Radio:

The Marine Corps has advised its legal staff that spouses clubs operating on its installations must admit same-sex spouses if they wish to remain on the bases.  It's a step that the other service branches have not yet announced as they grapple with how to accommodate same-sex couples following repeal of the don't ask, don't tell policy that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly.

Underscoring the challenges, the Marines' legal advisory - obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press - refers to an ongoing controversy at the Army's Fort Bragg in North Carolina where the officers' spouses club has denied admission to a same-sex spouse.

The Marine Corps commandant's Staff Judge Advocate, in an e-mail to legal offices throughout the corps, said the Fort Bragg events had "caused quite a stir" and cautioned, "We do not want a story like this developing in our backyard."

The memo noted that spouses clubs and various other private institutions are allowed to operate on bases only if they adhere to a non-discrimination policy encompassing race, religion, gender, age, disability and national origin.  "We would interpret a spouses club's decision to exclude a same-sex spouse as sexual discrimination because the exclusion was based upon the spouse's sex," the memo said.

A Marine Corps spokesman, Capt. Eric Flanagan, said the Marines cannot directly control the actions of independent organizations such as spouses' clubs, but added, "We expect that all who are interested in supporting Marine Corps Family Readiness would be welcome to participate and will be treated with dignity and respect."

The Defense Department has not issued similar guidance covering all service branches, and for now is taking the stance that the Fort Bragg spouses club is conforming with the existing rules because the non-discrimination clause does not extend to sexual orientation.

I can just hear the shrieks and imagine the flying spittle among the professional Christian and Christofacscist organizations.  Nothing gives them more joy or buoys their self-congratulatory piety more than bashing gays and the less fortunate.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Is Chris Christie the GOP's Savior?

While I disagree with a number of Chris Christie's actions and positions - e.g., his veto of same sex marriage legislation passed by the New Jersey legislature - compared to most current day Republican's he is a breath of fresh air and seems committed to doing what needs to be done rather than kissing the bigoted and mean spirited asses of the Christofascist/Tea Party base of the GOP.  Given his failure to tow the line, the question becomes whether he can become the savior of the increasingly insane GOP or whether instead, the GOP will ultimately exile him.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this issue.  Here are highlights:

A pair of polls out this week shows the dire state the Republican Party finds itself in — and a way out of the wilderness, should Republicans choose to take it.

Poll No. 1: Rasmussen Reports found that views of the tea party — the wing of Republicanism that dominates party primaries and therefore the congressional Republican caucuses — at a new low. Only 8 percent of likely voters considered themselves tea-party members, down from 24 percent in 2010. According to Rasmussen (which tends to have a pro-Republican bias), unfavorable views of the movement topped favorable views, 49 percent to 30 percent.

Poll No. 2: Fairleigh Dickinson University found that 73 percent of New Jersey voters approved of the job their Republican governor, Chris Christie, is doing — near his all-time high. Even 62 percent of Democrats approve of Christie, as well as 69 percent of racial minorities and 70 percent of women. The top would-be challenger to Christie in November’s gubernatorial election is trailing him by 33 percentage points.

[T]he tea party’s record lows and Christie’s record highs tell a larger story: Americans are crying out for an end to ideological warfare.

That has developed into Christie’s signature in New Jersey. He began his term promising tax cuts and fighting with the teachers union over tenure, pay and education reforms, but he now preaches reconciliation — a recurring theme in his State of the State address Tuesday afternoon.

More than three-quarters of Americans believe that politics in Washington is causing “serious harm to the United States,” according to a new Gallup poll — and they are correct to think so.  Christie lent his powerful voice to that sentiment last week when he condemned as “disgusting” the House Republicans’ decision not to take up a $60 billion Hurricane Sandy recovery bill because tea-party lawmakers considered it wasteful.

He unnerved fiscal conservatives by saying that the hurricane recovery would probably require higher taxes, because “there’s no magic money tree.” He came out against the National Rifle Association’s plan to have gun-wielding guards in schools, saying, “You don’t want to make this an armed camp for kids.”

Earlier, after conservatives criticized his appointment of a Muslim judge, he took on these “bigots” for their “gaze of intolerance.” And on immigration, he called for an “orderly process” to legalize immigrants and he criticized those who “demagogue.”

Certainly, Christie is no liberal, but his State of the State speech was full of policy prescriptions that conservatives might label big government

“You see,” he told the legislators, “some things are above politics.”  It’s a lesson that could help the national Republican Party loosen the tea party’s death grip.

The Pentagon Says LGBT Sites Are Blocked For "Operational Security Reasons"

As readers may recall, it recently was shown that the Pentagon has been blocking LGBT sites on government and military computers even thought far right wing political sites are freely accessible as are other less than main stream sites.  Now, the Pentagon is trying to claim that LGBT sites and blogs have been banned for "operational security reasons."  Apparently, Tea Party and quasi-Nazi and near white supremacist sites are fine.  Obviously, the storyline doesn't add up.  Think Progress looks at the Pentagon's ludicrous explanation.  Here are excerpts:

AMERICAblog has been raising awareness over the past week about a problematic Internet filtering problem at the Pentagon, and rightfully so. Apparently, a preponderance of LGBT news sites have been blocked by the DOD, including AMERICAblog, Towleroad, Good As You, The Bilerico Project, Pam’s House Blend, The Advocate, and the Human Rights Campaign’s blog.

 Though the filtering itself is a problem, the Pentagon’s response has been that much more troubling.
On Friday, the DOD released a statement on its Facebook page completely obfuscating the situation:
We’ve received some questions/comment recently about DOD’s web access policies, and wanted to provide this statement:

The Department of Defense does not block LGBT websites. The pages referenced in several recent articles were denied access based on web filters blocking the “Blog/Personal Pages” category, not the specific sites themselves. While individuals on a DoD system may visit portions of the main websites (i.e.,,, certain additional links/pages – to include personal blogs – are blocked. Personal pages and blogs are blocked in accordance with DoD policy allowing military commanders the option to restrict access to personal pages for operational security reasons.
As AMERICAblog’s John Aravosis points out, this statement does not withstand scrutiny on multiple counts. First of all, the filtration software specifically identifies the sites as “LGBT” as a reason for being blocked. Secondly, this doesn’t explain why plenty of anti-gay conservative blogs and personal pages are not blocked, including RedState, Breitbart, the Family Research Council’s blog, the National Organization for Marriage’s blog, and Ann Coulter’s and Glenn Beck’s personal sites. There is also no explanation how LGBT content could threaten national security, .  .  .  .

It also seems that there is little consistency throughout the system, with different divisions being controlled differently. Aravosis has identified that the DOD uses a filtration software known as Blue Coat, the same software used by a number of oppressive regimes and LGBT-unfriendly countries, including Syria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar. Blue Coat has also problematically blocked LGBT sites in many school districts, including anti-bullying and anti-suicide resources like The Trevor Project.

It remains unclear then why the software includes a filter for LGBT content at all, except for use by those who are anti-LGBT.

Over the weekend, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little issued another statement that improves a bit over the first, promising to investigate the claims of censorship:

Recent reports have suggested that the Pentagon is blocking access to LGBT related websites. The Department of Defense does not block websites based on LGBT content. [...]   No filter is perfect and some sites may have unnecessarily been blocked. The Department Chief Information Officer will work with relevant components to address these situations.
Still, neither statement addresses the way progressive LGBT content is uniquely blocked when conservative anti-gay content is not, nor explains the validity — past or present — for such filtering. If the only answers ever offered are suggestions that LGBT content threatens national security, then the only conclusion left will be that the Pentagon is itself anti-LGBT. 
Lets be candid.  Many in the senior ranks of the Pentagon ARE anti-gay.  There is no other legitimate reason for the targeting of LGBT blogs and sites is occurring.  Especially given the fact that incendiary far right blogs and sites are not filtered.

Will the GOP Blink First on Sequestration Cuts?

Washington politics nowadays is best summed up as a constant game of blackmail where the GOP controlled House - the GOP still has control only because of gerrymandered districts - threatens to wreak harm on the rest of the nation unless its demands are met.  And the game is less reminiscent of the blackmail stunts of a petulant child than those of a dull witted bully.  When one criticizes this bad behavior, too many Republicans stick their heads in the sand and lash out at their critics rather than open their eyes to what the GOP has become.  One former GOP compatriot of mine regular calls me "angry" rather than open her eyes.  My response to her is that she needs to stop drinking the Christofascist/Tea Party Kool-Aid.  An article in New York Magazine looks at whether or not Obama will call the GOP's bluff on the so-called sequestration cuts (the fiscal cliff deal merely pushed back the start date for these across the board cuts) and allow them to kick in and gore many GOP sacred cows, including military spending.  Here are some article excerpts:

As the next round of the fiscal showdown takes shape, John Boehner has made what is either a very big move or a very big bluff. In an interview with Wall Street Journal editorial writer Stephen Moore, the House Speaker asserted that his side is perfectly willing to let the automatic budget cuts set up in the summer of 2011 to take effect

When Boehner and Obama stalemated over the budget in 2011, they agreed to institute a trigger, starting in 2013, to create automatic deficit reduction. Since Republicans would never allow the trigger to include higher revenue, Obama insisted that the cuts exempt most anti-poverty programs and fall heavily on defense.
Obama assumed that the prospect of huge cuts to the military would frighten at least some Republicans. The design of the automatic cuts, or “sequestration,” was to pit elements of the Republican coalition against each other — specifically, to force pro-military Republicans to break from anti-tax absolutists. And indeed, the party’s defense hawks have loudly decried the cuts and called for replacing them with a “balanced solution” — which means a mix of higher tax revenue and lower spending on retirement programs, which is also Obama’s position.
Boehner doesn’t want that. He wants to replace the automatic cuts with cuts to retirement programs and zero new revenue. Now, Obama almost surely would never accept that. So the leverage game here centers on which party finds the automatic cuts more painful.
Boehner is asserting that Republicans don’t actually care that much about cutting defense — that replacing the sequester is something Democrats want. Just because Boehner says this doesn’t make it true. He may be holding his defense hawks in line publicly, but the question is whether he can keep them in line as the negotiations proceed and the prospect of implementing the cuts grows more real.

Since Virginia receives the most federal spending of any state, it will be especially hard hit if sequestration becomes a reality.   Virginia congressional Republicans will be under extreme pressure to avoid this consequence.  Sequestration would also kick in during a year that the Virginia House of Delegates is up for re-election and could cause strong anti-GOP feeling in a gubernatorial election year as well.