Saturday, January 19, 2013

Texas Public School Classes Teach Races Come from Noah’s Sons, Biblical Literalism, 6000-year-old Earth

As America faces increasing global competition and the need for quality fact and science based education becomes more urgent if the nation is to prosper, a number of schools in Texas -what a surprise - have taken a 2007 law encouraging the state’s public schools to teach about the influence of the Bible in history and literature and turned it into a route to teaching utter batshitery as part of their curriculum.  While the Christian Taliban no doubt rejoice at such idiocy, taxpayers ought to be outraged.   The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund has released a report, authored by a religious studies professor at Southern Methodist University, that examines what students are learning in the 57 school districts that teach Bible related courses under the guise of the 2007 law.  Here is some of the crap actually being taught to students:

  • Instructional material in two school districts teach that racial diversity today can be traced back to Noah’s sons, a long-discredited claim that has been a foundational component of some forms of racism.
  • Religious bias is common, with most courses taught from a Protestant — often a conservative Protestant — perspective. One course, for example, assumes Christians will at some point be “raptured.” Materials include a Venn diagram showing the pros and cons of theories that posit the rapture before the returning Jesus’ 1,000-year reign and those that place it afterward. In many courses, the perspectives of Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Jews are often left out.
  • Anti-Jewish bias — intentional or not — is not uncommon. Some courses even portray Judaism as a flawed and incomplete religion that has been replaced by Christianity.
  • Many courses suggest or openly claim that the Bible is literally true. “The Bible is the written word of God,” students are told in one PowerPoint presentation. Some courses go so far as to suggest that the Bible can be used to verify events in history. One district, for example, teaches students that the Bible’s historical claims are largely beyond question by listing biblical events side by side with historical developments from around the globe.
  • Course materials in numerous classes are designed to evangelize rather than provide an objective study of the Bible’s influence. A book in one district makes its purpose clear in the preface: “May this study be of value to you. May you fully come to believe that ‘Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.’ And may you have ‘life in His name.’”
  • A number of courses teach students that the Bible proves Earth is just 6,000 years old.
  • Students are taught that the United States is a Christian nation founded on the Christian biblical principles taught in their classrooms.
  • Academic rigor is so poor that many courses rely mostly on memorization of Bible verses and factoids from Bible stories rather than teaching students how to analyze what they are studying. One district relies heavily on Bible cartoons from Hanna-Barbera for its high school class. Students in another district spend two days watching what lesson plans describe a “the historic documentary Ancient Aliens,” which presents “a new interpretation of angelic beings described as extraterrestrials.”
The report blames part of the problem on Texas' failure to properly develop course guidelines for Bible related classes.  I suspect that the larger cause is that the State Board of Education which has been under the control of religious conservatives has refused to adopt serious curriculum standards to help guide school districts as they planned their courses.

The irony, of course, is that members of the far right are those most likely to whine about America's decline in the world, yet their joyful embrace of ignorance and idiocy is one of the factors holding America back.  Not to mention their racism, bigotry and misogamy in general.

Gay Boy Scout Camp Leader, Comes Out, Leaves Job

The Boy Scouts of America's anti-gay jihad has claimed another victim as a Boy Scout camp leader, Derek Nance, comes out - and leaves his job - in the hopes that others will follow his example and demonstrate the good works and strong leadership gays in scouting have been providing to the organization.  Having been closeted at work myself for a time before coming out (I was later fired for being gay when my firm merged with a larger firm), I know the corrosive effects of living in fear of discovery on virtually a daily basis.  It is a shame that religious bigotry based on the mythical writings of ignorant herders (the true source of the Old Testament) continues to force honorable individuals out of scouting.  Huffington Post Gay Voices has details.  Here are highlights:

After closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, Boy Scout camp leader Derek Nance softly said to himself, "Here we go," introduced himself and said the three hardest words any gay person can say to anyone: "I am gay."

Nance has been a part of the San Diego-based Mataguay Scout Ranch for ten years where he's worked from being an outdoor skills instructor to the camp's program director. Although he's been openly gay with his family and friends "in real life," Nance describes his love for his job and his close relationships with his co-workers, yet can't share his sexuality with them due to the Boy Scouts of America's anti-gay policy. Nance cited Tim Griffin, a former Eagle Scout who was fired from his job last August because he's gay, as one of the reasons he had to come out. 

In the video (set out above), which was released yesterday, Nance says:
"The only way we will change the Boy Scouts' discriminatory policies is if those of us who are on the front lines representing them to thousands of scouts every single summer start engaging in some open dialogue on this issue. Lawsuits by the ACLU or confidential reviews by the Boy Scouts are not going to change policies. The first step to coming to an agreement on this issue is to drop the old pretenses and stereotypes and to start actually talking."

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The Betrayl of Our Troops Continues - Another Death in America's Longest and Needless War

While politicians in Washington fight over spending, the squandering of money and American lives continues unabated in Afghanistan.  One recent squandered life was that of 25 year old David J.Chambers of Hampton, Virginia (pictured at right).  Chambers was killed by an IED similar to that which severely injured my son-in-law two months ago also in Afghanistan.  Here's what the Virginia Pilot reported:

A soldier from Hampton has been killed while serving in Afghanistan.  Sgt. David J. Chambers, 25, died Wednesday in the Panjwai District of Kandahar Province, the Department of Defense said. He sustained injuries in a mortar attack while on dismounted patrol.

Chambers was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. That is under control of the 7th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the state of Washington.

Like my son-in-law, Chambers was based out of Fort Lewis and was a member of the Stryker Brigade.   And like so many others who have been sacrificed for nothing meaningful in Afghanistan, Chambers was ultimately sacrificed on the altar of American military and political hubris. Rather than call the Afghanistan War for what it is, namely a fool's errand from the start, the military brass continues to lie and pretend that we are "making progress" and asks for more time, soldiers and, of course money.  A piece in American Prospect looks at the disaster known as the Afghanistan War.  Here are highlights:

In October 2001, George W. Bush told the country he was sending the American military to Afghanistan in order to "bring justice to our enemies." It's safe to say support for the war would not have been as nearly unanimous as it was had he said, "Oh, and by the way, our troops are going to be fighting there for the next 13 years."

Last spring, Afghanistan passed Vietnam (measured by the time between the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964 and the departure of the last Americans from Saigon in 1975) to become America's longest war.

To date, we've spent over half a trillion dollars in Afghanistan, a figure that includes only the direct yearly costs for both military expenditures and civilian aid. It doesn't include the cost of replacing materiel and weapons used in Afghanistan, nor the long-term costs of caring for the thousands of servicemembers who were wounded there. Those factors will add hundreds of billions of dollars to the tally in the years to come. And today, keeping a single servicemember in Afghanistan costs upward of a million dollars per year.

Last August, the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan passed 2,000.

If politicians really believed in "supporting the troops" we would have left Afghanistan years ago.  They give lip service to the concept for political sound bite purposes, yet in fact they betray our troops every single day.

House Republicans Blink Short Term

While it is no long term solution, apparently the House GOP members came to one useful short term agreement while conferencing in the Burwell Plantation Room at Kingsmill near Williamsburg:  they are set to vote on a three (3) month extension of the nation's debt ceiling to allow more time to hopefully reach a sane agreement that can clear both houses of Congress and the White House.  Whether the move will translate into a long term solution will remain to be seen.  Perhaps these members of the GOP are waking up to the reality that they have more to fear from moderates and independents than they do from the lunatics and saboteurs of the GOP base come 2014.  The Washington Post looks at the short term agreement.  These are article highlights:

WILLIAMSBURG - House Republicans backed away from their resolute position on the federal debt ceiling, announcing Friday that they will move next week to boost the government’s borrowing authority for three months.  The move is a retreat from the earlier insistence among some Republicans that any such debt increase would have to be matched by spending cuts of equal or greater size.

A vote on the proposal is expected Wednesday. If successful, the measure would postpone what was expected to be a major clash with the White House over government spending. The new strategy, crafted at a three-day retreat here that ended Friday, is one sign that Republicans, battered at the polls last November and saddled with low public approval, are looking for new ways to litigate their differences with President Obama and congressional Democrats over spending and deficits.

Under the bill, Republicans will seek to raise the debt limit to allow government borrowing through mid-April — long enough, they say, to give both chambers time to pass a budget for the next fiscal year. If either chamber failed to adopt a budget by April 15, that chamber’s members would then have their congressional pay withheld.

The GOP’s new path is an attempt to acknowledge the reality that the party controls only the House while preserving a tactical advantage that could force long-term reductions in spending, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told reporters Thursday.

An administration official said the White House viewed the move as a major concession by House Republicans.  Though Obama has in the past insisted on increases of sufficient length to calm financial markets and remove any doubt about the ability of the U.S. government to pay its bills, the official said the president would accept a “clean” short-term extension that did not include cuts.

Besides removing the immediate threat, a short-term debt ceiling increase would shift the debate to areas where Republicans believe they have more leverage.  Those include automatic spending cuts set to hit the military and domestic programs in early March, as well as the expiration of a funding mechanism keeping the government running at the end of that month.

Politically, it could also transfer attention from the troubles of the House GOP — which polls show Americans blame for Washington’s fiscal gridlock — to the Democratic Senate, which has not approved a budget resolution since Obama’s first year in office.

Republican aides said they were confident the three-month extension would pass the House, despite pledges from some fiscal hawks to use the debt ceiling fight to win concessions from Democrats on entitlement spending. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, which represents a bloc of the House’s most conservative members, issued a joint statement with three former chairmen of the group endorsing the idea. “The American people expect Washington to pass a budget and live by it,” they said.
 One area where huge savings could be achieved would be in moving the nation forward towards a private option or better yet a single payer health care system combined with the federal government negotiating costs with pharmaceutical manufacturers.  The USA spends the most per capita on health care of any advanced country and yet we have the least efficient delivery of services.  Only the truly wealthy have first class medical care.   Will the GOP consider this kind of rational approach to cost containment?  Of course not.  When they talk about reducing spending, they are talking out of both sides of their mouths.

GOP Obstructionism is an Economic Time Bomb For Hampton Roads

As the Congressional Republicans, especially those in the House of Representatives, continue to play games with the nation's economic future and refuse any meaningful budget compromises, many in Hampton Roads who work in the defense industry or who work as civilian employees for the region's many military bases face an uncertain future.  If sequestration cuts kick in, defense contracts may dry up and up to 39,000 civilian employees could face furloughs.  All be cause the Congressional Republicans place kissing the asses of extremists and lunatics in the party base ahead of the nation's well being.  It is a sad state of affairs when the biggest threat to the nation is now from the equivalent of domestic terrorists who wear the the GOP mantle.  A piece in the Virginian Pilot looks at possible local impacts thanks to folks like Scott Rigell, Randy Forbes and Rob Wittman.  Here are excerpts:

Tom Epley's schedule for maintaining and repairing Navy ships on Norfolk's waterfront was supposed to be steady through all of 2013.  But as of this week, he doesn't have any Navy work beyond April.  The budget stalemate in Washington is forcing the Navy to delay approving new work for businesses like Epley's company, MHI Ship Repair & Services, which employs 450 people and uses 750 subcontracted workers.

If the budget issues are left unresolved, spending cuts will reverberate throughout the local economy, which gets almost half its income from defense-related work.

With little time left to prepare, the Department of Defense is imposing a civilian hiring freeze, getting rid of temporary workers and holding off on contracts for future ship maintenance - like the work done by Epley's firm. It's also delaying ship decommissionings, cutting back base remodeling and maintenance, and canceling demolition projects.

Pay and benefits for military personnel wouldn't be affected, but the military's civilian workforce - including many of the Defense Department's 39,000 civilian employees in Hampton Roads - could be ordered to stay home for up to a month. The furloughs wouldn't apply to jobs critical to national security that can't be done by military personnel.

The automatic cuts, known as sequestration, were set in motion by legislators in 2011 as a doomsday threat to provoke them to find a more acceptable way to reduce deficit spending. The government borrows about $1 trillion every year. If no deal is struck, the cuts are to begin on March 1.

Separately, lawmakers have been unable to agree on a budget for federal fiscal year 2013, which runs from Oct. 1, 2012, to Sept. 30. Instead, they approved a continuing resolution that pays for government operations until March 27 - but at the same level as 2012. The military had been anticipating billions of dollars more in 2013 to cover planned projects and operations.

If Congress doesn't approve a new budget - or another continuing resolution - by March 27, the government will run out of money and be forced to shut down all but essential operations. If lawmakers approve a short-term resolution that keeps funding the government at last year's level, cuts will be necessary, defense officials say.

As the article notes, not all are complete doomsayers:

But while Navy leaders are sounding alarms, some observers say that after a decade of continuous rise in defense spending, the cuts are long overdue.  Putting the war budget aside and accounting for inflation, defense spending is at its highest rate since World War II said Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. He said Pentagon officials have gotten used to an open spigot.

The automatic, across-the-board cuts, he said, would be disastrous for the armed forces. But intelligent budget cuts make sense, said Korb, who served as director of national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and was an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, managing much of the Pentagon's budget.  "They don't have a money problem, they have a management problem," Korb said. "And any of these claims about a hollow force and all that are completely exaggerated across the board."

Obviously, one quick interim fix is to have America get the hell out of Afghanistan NOW.  But nonetheless, regardless of what happens in Congress, Hampton Roads will likely feel financial pain because for far too long it has relied on military spending to support the economy.  And the blame extends across the leadership of almost all of the region's cities which have failed to adopt more progressive policies and make demands that the GOP controlled General Assembly cease pushing a religious extremist social agenda that makes Virginia as a whole toxic to progressive and innovative businesses that don't want to move to a state where social policies and employment non-discrimination laws are set by the Christian Taliban. Aggravating the situation locally is the fact that Hampton Roads has a brain drain of young college educated individuals who leave the area for more progressive parts of the country.  Meanwhile, the Virginia GOP and its puppet masters at The Family Foundation seem hell bent on making matters even worse.

Lawmakers Call on Cuccinelli to Resign Attorney General

First for some personal background: when he successfully ran for attorney general, Mark Earley and I were members of the same law firm and I saw first hand how running a statewide campaign meant that he was nearly never in the office or in court handling client matters.  It was campaign mode 24/7 and the rest of the firm carried his case load and we basically helped underwrite his campaign.  Ditto when he unsuccessfully ran for governor after resigning from the office of attorney general. Fast forward to 2013.  Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli to date has refused to resign his position as attorney general claiming he can do his job and campaign at the same time.  Excuse me, but that is simply something that is impossible and Kookinelli is a liar if he claims otherwise.  I have seen the reality first hand.

Let's be blunt: Kookinelli is simply trying to make Virginia taxpayers underwrite his campaign in an amount equal to his salary.  If Kookinelli is too insane and toxic to have any major law firm put him on its payroll as former gubernatorial candidates have had done, that should be his problem and not force many of us to underwrite his campaign by paying his salary while he campaigns full time.  In recognition of this reality that is obvious to anyone sentient, a dozen members of the Virginia General Assembly have sent Kookinelli a letter demanding that he resign his position.  One can only hope that the media gets all over this conflict of interest and inappropriate conduct on Cuccinelli's part (perhaps a petition need to be launched?).  Here are highlights from a Richmond Times-Dispatch column:

A dozen Democratic lawmakers on Friday sent a letter to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli asking him to resign his office because he is running for governor. The letter signed by four state senators and eighth members of the House of Delegates, argues that Virginia deserves a full-time attorney general and notes that the previous six attorneys general resigned before their terms expired in recognition that running for governor creates too many demands on fulfilling the duties of the office.
The letter even quotes current governor and former attorney general Bob McDonnell’s remarks in 2009 at the time of his resignation: ”The office is a very difficult job. It demands a full-time attorney general to do the hard work that’s required.”

Of course, in most cases, attorneys general typically slide into a comfortable jobs at politically connected major law firms — where they are given time to pursue their political ambitions while making salaries that far exceed their public service wages.

In a brief interview Friday, the Republican gubernatorial nominee he said he intended to keep his word and downplayed the difficulty in public service and political multi-tasking. . . . . “It’s not a tradition that I think ever should have developed in Virginia,” he added, referring to the practice of resigning. “I made a promise when I ran four years ago… and I’m going to do it.” 

As for his "promise" four years ago, Kookinelli assured voters he wasn't going to do what he is now doing.  His sole focus supposedly was going to be serving as attorney general.  As is always the case, Kookinelli believes he is above the laws and traditions that govern everyone else.  In that regard, he's a typical Christofascists.  This man needs to be defeated.  He is a clear and present danger to Virginia's future and the rights of many Virginians.  Should Bill Bolling mount an independent campaign, I might even make a contribution just to keep Kookinelli out of the Governor's Mansion.  The man is insane.

Friday, January 18, 2013

"Gun Appreciation Day" Is Sponsored By White Supremacist Hate Group

I take a lot of grief at times from those who say that I am far too harsh in my condemnation of today's GOP - one former GOP compatriot always accuses me of "being angry" when I point out very real flaws with the current ideology of the GOP and far too many of today's so-called conservatives who might more aptly be described as racists, bigots and homophobes.  They say that you are known by the company you keep and the GOP is totally in bed with the NRA and its allies.  Some of who are pretty nasty.  Take for example American Third Position ("A3P") a white nationalist group listed by SPLC as a hate group that is one of the recognized sponsors of "Gun Appreciation Day" set for tomorrow with an aim of whipping up opposition to any meaningful control reform.  Media Matters gives the low down on A3P which ought to be enough to cause anyone sane and reputable running away screaming.  Here are some highlights:

Gun Appreciation Day, a prominent effort backed by conservative media outlets and activists to oppose new gun laws, has accepted the sponsorship of a white nationalist organization to promote and mobilize supporters for its January 19 event.

Gun Appreciation Day (GAD) is partnering with the American Third Position (A3P), a political group that describes itself as representing "the unique political interests of white Americans." According to a party official, the organization is composed of "white nationalists."  GAD's organizers ask supporters to visit "gun stores, gun counters, gun shows, and gun ranges to protest the Obama administration's post Sandy Hook assault on gun rights." The event has received significant media coverage and promotion in recent days.

GAD lists A3P on its "sponsors" page along with its logo, motto ("Liberty. Sovereignty. Identity") and a link to Other sponsors include prominent conservative media outlets like RedState, the right-wing blog edited by CNN contributor Erick Erickson. The event's main page asks visitors to "Please Support Our Sponsors."

The pro-gun event is teaming with A3P despite ample and easily found evidence of the group's fringe views. The first Google result for the group after its official website is the user-edited Wikipedia page for A3P, which currently states in its opening sentence that the group "promotes white supremacy."

According to its mission statement, "The American Third Position Party believes that government policy in the United States discriminates against white Americans, the majority population, and that white Americans need their own political party to fight this discrimination." The group also states that it "exists to represent the unique political interests of white Americans. It exists to maintain the identity, culture, and way of life of the American people, whose forefathers, from a vast wilderness, carved out an awe-inspiring extension of Western civilization, in order that their progeny--us--might live in relative peace and prosperity."

Civil rights groups have harshly criticized A3P. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) categorizes A3P as a white nationalist hate group, and states that it is a "political party initially established by racist Southern California skinheads that aims to deport immigrants and return the United States to white rule. The group is now led by a coterie of prominent white nationalists." The Anti-Defamation League calls A3P a "white supremacist political party."

Sadly, A3P is all too representative of what it means to be a so-called conservative nowadays.  Similarly, it represents the mindset of far too many in the GOP base.  To my former GOP compatriot I would ask,  doesn't this frighten you?  It really scares me that a once respectable political party has been taken over by the lunatic fringe. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

NOM’s Full-Page Ad Of Anti-Gay Hate And Lies

The National Organization for Marriage ("NOM") is continuing to make it very clear that it is in fact an anti-gay hate group and not an organization focused on "protecting marriage."  Not only has NOM advocated for "ex-gay" therapy which has been debunked by every legitimate medical and mental health association in America, but it is increasingly using out right lies - a standard mode of operation for the "godly Christian" crowd - and scare tactics to whip the Bible beaters into a frenzy.  Worse yet, until it was exposed by my blogger friend Jeremy Hooper, NOM was circulating a video that said gays were "worthy of death."  The animus could not be made much more clear.  The real question is when will NOM be afforded the registered hate group status that it so richly deserves.  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at NOM's campaign of lies and hate in Rhode Island where marriage equality legislation is under consideration.  Here are excerpts:

NOM, the National Organization For Marriage has published a full page ad in a Rhode Island newspaper, and has been widely distributing through the U.S. Postal Service mailings, both of which include lies, anti-gay hate, and mistruths — which were quickly debunked by the non-partisan journalism group, Politifact and Rhode Islanders For United For Marriage:

“This ad is just another example of NOM’s hurtful misinformation campaign here in Rhode Island and across the country,” Ray Sullivan, Campaign Director for Rhode Islanders For United For Marriage said in a press release. “Rather than engage in a civil dialogue about the legislation at hand, which would extend marriage rights to all loving, committed couples in the Ocean State, NOM is employing the well-worn tactics of those opposed to equality: fear mongering,”

Politifact, a fact-checking arm associated with the Providence Journal and the Politifact national organization, addressed NOM’s claim that “Massachusetts public schools teach kids as young as kindergartners about gay marriage,” and, in an extensive investigation, concluded, “We find [NOM's] statement False.”

The obvious question is, will this latest action by the National Organization For Marriage qualify them to be listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s anti-gay hate groups page? The main criteria for inclusion is the repeated dissemination of anti-gay lies.

The story was first reported by Jeremy Hooper at Good As You, who has been closely following developments in Rhode Island, and earlier this week exposed NOM for promoting videos filled with lies and anti-gay extremist hate, which NOM pulled after Hooper’s reporting.
Apparently, NOM knows that campaigning solely on religious based discrimination is a losing proposition, if not illegal under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  Hence, lies, scare tactics and efforts to fan the flames of anti-gay animus instead.   The sooner NOM is given hate group status and its financial backers exposed, the better for America.

House Republicans Meet at a Former Slave Plantation to Practice Talking to Black People

UPDATED: NBC News has also picked up on the irony of where the House Republicans are meeting to discuss how to better attract minority voters.  One GOP spokesman described the party's problems as follows:

the GOP had a “good message” for minorities but had suffered from a recent "bad communications."

When are these people going to stop drinking Kool-Aid and face reality?

This article in Gawker was just too good to pass up because it underscores how clueless the Republican party is when it comes to facing the reality of why minorities are voting for Democrats by huge margins.  The conventional wisdom in the GOP - if one can credit any form of wisdom to today's GOP - is that the party has a messaging problem.  Never mind that it is the GOP's POLICIES and open racism and bigotry that are the real problem, not poor "messaging."  Efforts to disenfranchise non-whites, slash programs that disproportionately aid minorities and the admission of those who can only be described as white supremacists into positions within the GOP have nothing to do with the Party's problem of attracting minority votes in the minds of these greed and religious extremism drive party apparatchiks.  So as the House Republicans gather to discuss their so-called messaging problem, where better to meet than at a posh resort located on a former slave plantation near Williamsburg, Virginia.  For those not familiar with this area, the Kingsmill Resort and its affiliated gated community, are very nice - and very, very white with most minorities to be seen only working as servants or waitstaff (some things never really change in Virginia) - and it is located on lands once part of a slave owning James River plantation. Here's how Gawker describes the GOP soul searching gathering:

The House Republicans are holding their annual winter retreat in quaint tourist village Williamsburg, Virginia, this weekend in order to recuperate and prepare for upcoming legislative battles. Besides partaking in discussions about the debt ceiling and gun restrictions, GOP congressmen and women will also be getting schooled in the fine art of how to have "successful communication with minorities and women."

One might presume that people elected to high office in America have at least a general understanding of how to talk to and about minorities and women without saying unimaginably offensive things, but one would be wrong. Far too many Republicans have a remarkable way of saying the absolutely worst thing time and again about everything from rape to Kwanzaa. Sadly, a lesson about why it's wrong to equivocate about a woman being raped or why it's not a great idea to make all your House committee chairs white men is exactly what the GOP needs.

And what better place to talk about making inroads with oppressed groups than in a room named after a famous Williamsburg plantation [i.e., Burwell Plantation], located in the tony Kingsmill Resort, which itself is on the site of another plantation? The GOP has heard your complaints, blacks and Latinos and women, and they're going to try to suss it out while sitting atop dead slave bones.

The link in the article takes you to a page from the Colonial Williamsburg website that looks at the slave owning Burwell family.  One part of the right up is telling: "The seven lists of slaves recorded by four members of the Burwell family between 1746 and 1839 fill ten pages in the Ann Powell Burwell Commonplace Book." Another telling passage:

[T]he widow Burwell noted the births of five children born to four of her enslaved women in Williamsburg between March 1754 and May 1756. She made these entries on the same page that Armistead Burwell used to list “my house Negro’s” in July 1746. There is no evidence that either Armistead or Christian Burwell purchased slaves for their Williamsburg household. The number of urban slaves grew through natural increase. Christian Burwell added a comment below her husband’s 1746 list of “Negro’s sent to Roanoke.” She noted, “The Negroe’s in Lunnenburg 1764 are 18 men and 17 Women.” There were also an unknown number of enslaved children on the family’s Southside property. 

In short the Burwell Plantation Room couldn't be a more appropriate place for the House Republicans to meet since many likely yearn for the "good old days" when the Burwell family was at the height of its wealth and power.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

More Thursday Male Beauty

The Government's Tortured Case Against Bradley Manning

It is always a bad sign for one's case when it is necessary to rely on cases from more than one hundred fifty years ago as declarative binding precedent.  Yet that is exactly what the prosecutors in the case against gay army service member Bradley Manning are resorting to.  I have long believed that the government's real vendetta against Manning is fueled by the fact that he allegedly exposed atrocities if not out right war crimes that the military leadership wanted to remain secret and unknown.  Much more concern has been shown by the military brass - and sadly the Obama administration as well - over the fact that the murder of unarmed civilians and reporters was made public rather than has ever been shown over prosecuting those who committed the atrocities/war crimes purportedly exposed by Manning and Wilileaks.  A piece in The New Yorker looks at this questionable prosecution.  Here are highlights:

But as a linchpin in Manning’s prosecution—he is accused of giving classified cables and other materials to WikiLeaks—it is a troubling theme. According to the AP, prosecutors singled out an 1863 case in which a soldier named Henry Vanderwater was convicted of giving a command roster to a Virginia newspaper, which printed the information. “Publishing information in a newspaper [can] indirectly convey information to the enemy,” a prosecutor quoted by Politico argued. Can anyone aid the enemy by giving information to a reporter? Are reporters aiding the enemy if they publish it—and who, by the way, is “the enemy”?

There are other charges against Manning—twenty-two in all—and he has indicated that he would be willing to plead guilty to seven of them. (His trial, which was supposed to start in March, has now been delayed until June.) But aiding the enemy is a charge of a different degree than simply exposing classified information. It involves intent and carries heavier penalties. It is also the sort of charge that, in wartime, or anytime, almost invites overreach. Would it aid the enemy, for example, to expose war crimes committed by American forces or lies told by the American government? In that case, who is aiding the enemy—the whistle-blower or the perpetrators themselves?

In addition to the political and legal issues, the hearings have dealt with what is both a moral and a math problem. The judge, Colonel Denise Lind, agreed that the conditions of Manning’s detention had, at times, become illegal—“excessive in relation to legitimate government interests” —but not illegal enough to have any charge against him dismissed . Instead, as Charlie Savage reports, she did some calculations: whatever sentence Manning might get would be reduced by seven days for times he shouldn’t have been on suicide watch; ten for days when his exercise was restricted; twenty for days when he had his clothes taken away; and seventy-five days for a stretch when, despite the advice of psychiatrists, he was put on restrictive “prevention of injury” status. That is a hundred and twelve days in all—or about the same as the three-month sentence that Henry Vanderwater got, back in 1863, along with a dishonorable discharge.

Every day that the Obama administration fails to intervene and put an end to this travesty of a trial, the less I think of Obama himself.  Manning, if he released the information, exposed horrors that should have been quickly investigated and those who committed these atrocities should have been vigorously prosecuted and punished.  Instead it has been the individual who exposed the war crimes who has been aggressively prosecuted.  Something is very, very rotten in this whole saga.

The GOP Descent Into Insanity: 64% of Republicans Are Birthers

How does one begin to describe the mass insanity that has taken over the Republican Party?  My Republican ancestors would be spinning in their graves if they could see the batshitery that now qualifies as mainstream GOP thought.  Ditto for William F. Buckley, Jr., who worked to bring intellect and reason to conservationism.  Now, to be a Republican one literally must have had a lobotomy or be clinically insane.  How else to explain the findings of a new Fairleigh Dickinson University survey of register voters that found that 64% of Republicans are so-called "birthers" who continue to believe that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States.  Apparently, Hawaii doesn't qualify as a part of the nation in the minds of those who inhabit the fetid swamp that is today's GOP.  A piece in Salon looks at the off the charts delusion of Republicans.  Here are highlights:

A whopping 64 percent of Republicans think it’s “probably true” that President Obama is hiding important information about his background and early life, including his possible birthplace, according to a new nationwide survey of registered voters from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind project examining Americans’ belief in political conspiracy theories.

The report goes on to state that purported levels of knowledge generally reduces susceptibility to belief in birtherism and conspiracy theories and birtherism in general - except among Republicans where claimed knowledge of current events has an opposite effect:

In general, higher levels of actual knowledge about politics tends to reduce belief inconspiracy theories. In the poll, respondents were asked a series of four questions about current events, and respondents who were able to answer more questions correctly were less likely to endorse the conspiracy theories. Fifteen percent of people who got none of the questions right thought that three or four of the conspiracies were likely, compared to three percent of those who answered three or four correctly. Education also tended to reduce belief in the conspiracy theories.

However, the relationship between current events knowledge and belief in conspiracy theories is conditional on partisanship. Among Democrats, each question answered correctly reduces the likelihood of endorsing at least one of the conspiracy theories by seven points.Among independents, each additional question reduces it by two points. For Republicans,though, each additional question answered correctly tends to increase belief in at least one of the theories by two points.
Given that evangelical Christians - the mainstay of today's GOP - have lower levels of education and higher levels of belief that the Bible is literally true in every respect, perhaps the staggering levels of birtherism correlate simply correlate to the increasing ignorance of the GOP base.  Whatever the cause, it is sad that a political part that once valued intelligence, education, logic and reason has been reduced to a group of ignorance embracing Neanderthals. 

Virginian Pilot: Gay Marriage in Virginia - It's Only a Matter of Time

As previously noted on this blog, a bill that would have begun the process of repealing the heinous anti-gay Marshall Newman Amendment to the Virginia Constitution was quickly killed in a Republican controlled committee of the House of Delegates.  No doubt each of the Republican members of the committee were following the orders they received from The Family Foundation.  But long term, as the aging bigots and Christofascists die off and are replaced by younger voters, both the Virginia GOP and The Family Foundation are fighting a losing battle.  A reality noted by the Virginian Pilot in an editorial that calls it like it is: gay marriage will come to Virginia, it is merely a matter of time.  The only question is how long it will take for Virginia to ceasing being in the desperate rear guard that has enshrined discrimination in its constitution.  Here are editorial highlights:

SOONER or later, Virginians will reverse a 2006 referendum that enshrined discrimination against same-sex couples in the state constitution. But it’s apparently going to take time to persuade the General Assembly to let the public speak again.     

This week, a House subcommittee quietly killed a bill submitted by Del. Scott Surovell, a Fairfax Democrat, that would have started the repeal process.    The measure won the support of only one subcommittee member, Democrat Algie Howell of Norfolk. He and Del.   Daun Hester, a fellow Democrat from Norfolk, were the only lawmakers from the region to sign on as patrons .     

Virginia’s constitutional amendment defines marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman.” To strike the amendment from the Bill of Rights, the legislature would have to vote twice to schedule a statewide referendum. Repeal would not automatically allow same-sex marriage.     

In the seven years since the   amendment’s passage, the tide has begun to turn.    Last fall, voters in Mary-land, Maine and Washington approved measures to allow same-sex marriage. In Minnesota, voters rejected a constitutional ban on gay marriage — becoming the first state since 1998 to vote down such an amendment. 

[A]s Maine’s vote demonstrates, voters are already having second thoughts about the fairness of such prohibitions. Last fall’s referendum reversed a ban approved by voters just three years ago.    Today, nine states, plus the District of Columbia, allow people of the same sex to marry. That’s 15 percent of the U.S. population. And six other states, including New Jersey and Delaware, are considering measures that would allow same-sex marriage.    

Numerous polls indicate that Americans — particularly young people — have grown more accepting of the realities of sexual orientation and see no reason to block gay people from marrying.    In time, Virginia will catch up and correct its mistake. 
 I can only imagine the shrieks and spittle eruption that hit the offices of The Family Foundation  when this editorial was viewed.  As noted in an early post, The Family Foundation and its knuckle dragging followers are the biggest obstacle to progress in Virginia.  The congratulate themselves on their supposed piety yet continue to ignore the true Gospel message.  They are among the strongest arguments in Virginia as to why one would not want to be considered a Christian.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Obama Takes on Gun Extremists

It will be interesting to see if Barack Obama holds his resolve to push through meaningful control measured that should have the support of all but the most extreme gun fanatics and the political prostitutes of the NRA in Congress.  It will likewise be interesting to see whether moderates will get off their asses and make it clear to members of Congress that they need to enact gun control legislation or else facing the wrath of the NRA will be the least of the politicos' worries.  This needs to be a real come to Jesus moment for Republicans who are only too happy to regulation the womb and police the bedroom, but who prostitute themselves all too readily to the NRA and the gun manufacturers who finance it.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the coming political fight.  Here are excerpts:

President Obama went big in offering a remarkably comprehensive plan to curb gun violence, and good for him. But his announcement Wednesday is only the beginning of a protracted struggle for national sanity on firearms. Extremists have controlled the debate on guns for many years. They will do all they can to preserve a bloody status quo. The irrationality of their approach must be exposed and their power broken.

Far from acting as if his work was now done, the president made clear that he is fully invested in seeing his agenda realized — and fully prepared to lead a national movement to loosen the grip of resignation and cynicism in the face of brutality and carnage. Gun violence is not some “boutique” issue, as it is occasionally called. We are in danger of having mass shootings define us as a nation. As a people, we must rise up against this obscenity.

This fight is especially challenging for many who view themselves as “moderates” or “centrists.” Moderation is a thoroughly honorable disposition, and Obama’s proposals are moderation incarnate. By international standards, they are very cautious. The president did not call for registering all guns or confiscating assault weapons. He strongly endorsed the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. He is operating within a broad consensus about what is possible and what can work. 

An assault-weapons ban received 38 Republican votes in the House in 1994 and is backed by 58 percent of Americans, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll. Were those Republicans outside the mainstream? And what about that 58 percent of Americans? The poll also found that 65 percent favored a ban on high-capacity magazines, another part of the Obama plan, and 86 percent favored closing the gun-show loophole, part of the effort to make sure there are background checks for all gun purchases.

But the lobbies that purport to speak for gun owners (while actually representing the interests of gun manufacturers) don’t care what the public thinks.

Too often, moderation has become a synonym for cowardice. Too often, moderates lack the guts to define the sensible middle of the road themselves — as Obama has done on the gun issue — and then to defend it. Instead, they yield to the temptation to calibrate where everyone else stands before deciding what they believe. This allows extremists who lack any shame to drag our discourse off the road entirely, into a ditch of unreason, fear and invective.

[T]he NRA’s vile new advertisement that uses Secret Service protection for the president’s daughters to make a small-minded political point .  .  .  .  .  tells us all we need to know, that the gun lobby is deeply afraid of the facts and the evidence. This is why one of the most important actions the president took was to end the ban on research into gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

He [Obama] acknowledged that the battle ahead would be difficult. He predicted he would have to fight the lie that his plan constituted “a tyrannical assault on liberty.” And he sought to mobilize a new effort to counteract the entrenched power of those who have dictated submissiveness in the face of bloodshed. “Enough,” Obama declared, insisting that change would come only “if the American people demand it.” Will we?

I hope readers will contact their members of Congress and make it clear that they need to support the President's proposals or face the consequences in 2014.

The Insidious Tentacles of The Family Foundation

One of the biggest obstacles to progress and modernity in Virginia and certainly the largest obstacle to equality under the civil laws for LGBT Virginians is The Family Foundation ("TFF") based in Richmond, Virginia.  With ties to both Focus on the Family and Family Research Council, few organizations in Virginia are as virulently anti-gay and a few other organizations have their finger prints on virtually every anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-minority initiative in Virginia like TFF.  The leadership at TFF talk all the time about protecting religious freedom, but in TFF's view that translates to the freedom to inflict their extreme hate and fear based religious beliefs on all Virginians.  Be it pushing for regulations to allow adoption agencies to discriminate against gay parents or those of differing religious faiths, laws requiring invasive ultrasounds for those seeking abortions, to restrictive voter ID laws, The Family Foundation can always be found in the forefront of regressive and anti-liberty measures that impose TFF's Christofascist views on all Virginians. The image above is, in my opinion a good representation of the TFF agenda and the mindset of its followers.

How is one organization able to wield such toxic power and intimidate every Republican legislator across the state?  Because TFF has an organizational hierarchy that would make the Nazis of the 1930's envious.  First, it has regional chapters across the state which it itself describes in part  as follows:
Chesterfield Family Forum

Fairfax Family Forum Covers Fairfax County but encourages people from NOVA to take part in all activities.

Family Forum of the New River Valley  Covering Southwest Virginia from Washington County to Montgomery County. 

Lynchburg Family Forum  Covers the city of Lynchburg and Bedford County. The Lynchburg Family Forum was recently established and worked very hard during the marriage amendment. 

Prince William-Manassas Family Alliance  Covering Prince William and Manassas. 

Rappahannock Family Forum  Covers Spotsylvania, Stafford, Fauquier, Culpepper, Madison and Caroline Counties and Fredericksburg City. They were extremely involved in the marriage amendment.

Valley Family Forum Covers Harrisonburg, Rockingham County and the surrounding area. 
Yes, every one of these chapters disingenuously has the word "family" in its name even though the only families they are concerned with are white Christianist families.  But this is only the beginning of the insidious tentacles of the organization.  Through its "Pastors for Family Values" effort, TFF reaches into right wing churches across Virginia and orchestrates turn out the vote efforts and fans the flames of bigotry and anti-gay animus in particular.  The TFF website describes this effort as follows:

The Pastors For Family Values (PFFV) is a grassroots arm of The Family Foundation through which pastors connect to both The Family Foundation and other like-minded pastors. PFFV is denominationally, regionally and ethnically diverse, attempting to illustrate a unity in the body of Christ on pro-family issues. The PFFV is also sub-divided into regions so that local TFF chapters may interact with them as needed.

Disturbingly, many black pastors continue to line up as willing "Uncle Toms" to do the bidding of TFF even though TFF's fingerprints can be found on many anti-minority initiatives, including restrictive voter ID efforts and opposition to the restoration of voting rights for former non-violent felons.  Frankly, in my view, it is tantamount to these pastors working to further the efforts of the KKK.

And then there is the "E-Alert" network  and related efforts that allow the TFF leadership to message its Neanderthal followers across the state and rally them to threaten legislators who might otherwise realize that religious freedom extends beyond special rights for the Christofascists.

During the current session of the Virginia General Assembly and in the coming 2013 Virginia elections, The Family Foundation will be fully mobilized to work to keep Virginia in the 1950's if not 1850's.  TFF is an insidious organization and LGBT rights organizations and anyone who yearns to see a progressive Virginia needs to understand the depths of TFF's extremism and its power to rally bigots and racists and those who want to see women kept as chattel under a white male dominated system.  It is important to know one's enemies and to work to counter their toxic efforts to keep Virginia racist, anti-gay, anti-abortion under every circumstance, and a state where white privilege is enshrined.  Today's Virginia GOP is willingly doing TFF's bidding.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Senators Adam Ebbin Donald McEachin Introduce LGBT Employment Non-Discrimination Bill in Virginia Senate

As this blog has noted numerous times in the past, LGBT Virginians currently have no employment non-discrimination protections - even if they are state employees. That's right, zero protections.  And this sad state of affairs can be attributed directly to the Virginia GOP which has slavishly followed the demands of The Family Foundation ("TFF") that LGBT Virginians be kept as less than full citizens in all ways at all times.  As explained in a press release from Equality Virginia, two Virginia senators are trying to change this shameful state of affairs.  At least for state employees.  The rest of us will remain subject to being fired at will by anti-gay bigots unless and until ENDA is enacted by Congress, something unlikely to happen thanks to the GOP controlled House of Representatives.  But back to today's events.  Here are pertinent portions of EV's press release:

When: Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 9:30 a.m.
Where: House Briefing Room, General Assembly Building, 1000 Bank St., Richmond, VA 23219
Who: Join Senator Adam Ebbin (D-30) and Senator Donald McEachin (D-9) with co-patrons from both chambers of the General Assembly to announce support for Senate Bill 701. Equality Virginia and community leaders in support of protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state employees will also be available for comment.
More information:
Currently there are no workplace protections at the state or federal level for sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Consistent polling shows that 90% of Virginians believe that LGBT people should have the right to work for the government without discrimination.
In Virginia, most top private employers already extend these protections leaving state government at a competitive disadvantage. Eighty percent of Virginia’s top 25 largest private employers have policies including at least sexual orientation which helps in recruiting and retaining top talent.
Bill Description:
“Nondiscrimination in state employment. Prohibits discrimination in state employment based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, or status as a special disabled veteran or other veteran covered by the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended. The bill defines “sexual orientation” as a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression.”
Of course, the big question is whether or not The Family Foundation will sufficiently threaten and intimidate the political whores in the Virginia GOP to have the bill killed.  

Anti-Gay Pastor Equates Gays to Child Molesters, Cannibals,and Rapists

There are times that the hideousness and undisguised animus of the self-styled "godly Christian" set is simply numbing and shocks the conscience.  Or at least the consciences of decent moral people.  And it is clear that this animus goes far beyond a mere statement of religious belief.  Indeed, the desire to encourage attacks on and crimes against LGBT citizens is almost palpable.   And like it or not, because of the refusal of what I refer to as the "good Christians" who cower in silence rather than upset the sensibilities of bigots within their denominations, the hate merchants have become the public face of Christianity.  It is no wonder that the younger generations are walking away from institutional Christianity when despicable levels of hate and bigotry seem to be the only visible attributes of the faith.  An anti-gay pastor in Colorado (pictured above left) has once again highlighted what is fast becoming the predominant public face of Christianity in America. has coverage of the virulent hate being preached from pulpits in El Paso County, Colorado.  Here are highlights:

A local pastor is causing a national stir equating homosexuals to cannibals, child molesters, rapists, and murderers. Pastor David Beuhner of Christ the King Church in northern El Paso County is calling for discrimination against the gay community as state lawmakers revisit marriage equality this session.

"If we embrace homosexuality, we'll destroy society, we'll destroy families, we'll destroy everything. It's not just that God hates homosexuals, there's a reason why he hates it." That's the line causing national outrage from the LGBT community; Pastor David Beuhner took to the airwaves early this month on his radio show 'Generations' in what he says is a last-ditch effort to save our society from falling off the moral cliff.

"If you break natural laws-- you say you don't believe in gravity, you jump off a building, you're gonna die. Homosexuality has consequences and God designed those consequences," Beuhner told News 5's Jacqui Heinrich in an exclusive interview explaining his on-air remarks.

As the Colorado legislature reopens the issue of marriage equality this session, Beuhner is speaking out not just against civil unions, but calling for discrimination against gays, equating them to cannibals, rapists, and child molesters. "The word of god is quite clear. He's destroyed every culture that has embraced homosexuality. The sin is similar to that of cannibalism and child molestation in the sense that it's a sin against society," Beuhner said. "I'm calling for discrimination against adulterers, rapists, murderers, homosexuals. Yes, we must discriminate as a society."

"God's law to the civil magistrate in terms of homosexuality says you should remove the abomination from the land, so that's God's instruction to the people who work up in the capitol who make our laws. That's what they're going to be held accountable for," he said.

Can't you just feel the "love"?  And Beuhner not only proves that he's an asshole and a bigot, but he also shows himself to be an ignorant ass as well when he repeats the Christofascist canard that God has "destroyed every culture that embraced homosexuality."   As this blog has noted before, one of the factors that destroyed the western Roman Empire - most likely the culture Beuhner was referring to -  was Christianity and the Church, not the gays.  And ridiculousness of his claims become even more clear when one considers that the Classical Greek/Roman period lasted five (5) times longer than the period that the United States has existed or the fact that the Persian Empire (before the rise of Islam) lasted over 1,200 years.  And that's just the beginning of the empires that accepted homosexuality.   If one looks at China, which may soon eclipse America, the various dynasties of imperial China lasted over 3,900 years (see the image below) versus America's paltry 237 years of existence.  Not surprisingly, Beuhner's church views the Bible as follows:

We acknowledge the Bible, which includes all sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, to be the infallible and inerrant Word of God, sufficient for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Beuhner is an ignorant, bigoted ass and one wonders how his knuckles are a bloody mess dragging on the ground as they must.  Yet his kind of thinking passes for intelligent discourse in today's GOP.  If Christianity is not going to be fated to ultimately die, the "good Christians" need to directly challenge the Beuhners of the world and stop their hijacking of the faith.

Young men sipping tea and having sex. Individual panel from a hand scroll on homosexual themes, paint on silk; China, Qing Dynasty (eighteenth to nineteenth centuries); Kinsey Institute, Bloomington, Indiana, United States

Chuck Hagel Promises To Extend Benefits To Gay And Lesbian Military Families

In an apparent attempt to blunt LGBT opposition to his nomination as Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel is making a lot of noises endeavoring to show that he has had an epiphany on LGBT issues, including the repeal of DADT which he once opposed and even going so far as stating that he will support extending spousal and dependent benefits to LGBT military members' families.  Admittedly, this position on benefits is a matter of simple fairness it will enrage the Bible thumping Neanderthals, many of them are already opposed to Hagel because he hasn't drunk enough of their Kool-Aid and isn't sufficiently extreme in his positions.  Huffington Post looks at the situation.  Here are highlights:

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel attempted to put to rest any doubt about his commitment to gay rights on Tuesday, saying he supported the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and would work to extend equal benefits to gay and lesbian military families.

"I fully support the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and value the service of all those who fight for our country," the former Republican senator from Nebraska wrote in a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). "I know firsthand the profound sacrifice our service members and their families make, and if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, I will do everything possible to the extent permissible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members."
Hagel's remarks come after groups like the Log Cabin Republicans questioned his record on LGBT issues.

In 1998, Hagel called James Hormel, then-President Bill Clinton's choice for U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, “openly, aggressively gay." He characterized Hormel's sexual orientation as an "inhibiting factor" that would prevent him from doing "an effective job."

Hagel recently apologized, saying his 1998 remarks were "insensitive." The Log Cabin Republicans, however, questioned the sincerity of Hagel's retraction and took out full-page ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post criticizing him.

Hagel's response on benefits for gay and lesbian families did not satisfy the group.  "For years the Pentagon has been dragging its feet with regard to extending benefits to the families of gay service members," said Gregory T. Angelo, interim executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said in a statement to The Huffington Post. "To ensure that action is taken on this front, we need to be sure that there is a champion for our cause at the helm of the defense department.   There is nothing in Hagel's record to suggest he will be that champion.

In his letter to [Senator Barbara] Boxer, Hagel also clarified his views on other hot topics. He said he "strongly" supports the Obama administration's policies regarding Iran sanctions. He again apologized for using the term "Jewish lobby" years ago to refer to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and said he believes the U.S. relationship with Israel is "one that is fundamentally built on our nations [sic] shared values, common interests, and democratic ideals."