DALLAS — Dealey Plaza is a depression. It’s a shallow basin on the western edge of downtown, framed by concrete structures called pergolas and peristyles that were built by the Works Progress Administration. Designed as a gateway to the city, the plaza is more of an ode to the automobile, because the broad lawn is sliced by three streets: Elm, Main and Commerce. They slope from east to west and converge beneath a rail line in what is known as the triple underpass.
That’s where President and Mrs. Kennedy were headed, on Elm, when the ghastly thing happened.
On the north side of the plaza is the famous grassy knoll, where the second shooter supposedly lurked. There’s actually a second grassy knoll on the south side of the plaza. And the grassy knolls aren’t actually knolls (as in, a hillock, a mound), but rather are just slopes on the rim of the plaza.
The place hasn’t changed much since Nov. 22, 1963. Some signage is different. Skyscrapers loom in the distance. The live oaks are bigger. Otherwise, it’s remarkably preserved, including the building on the northeast corner of the plaza, which in 1963 was a warehouse known as the Texas School Book Depository. Up there, behind a pile of boxes in the southeast corner of the sixth floor, Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger.
“It’s smaller than I thought it would be,” Kimberly Feare, 52, of Redwood City, Calif., said of Dealey Plaza on a recent Saturday afternoon. “But maybe it’s dwarfed by the incident itself. It’s such a huge thing.”
There, off the cuff, from a tourist, is the central tension of the Kennedy assassination. This was, as she noted, a huge thing, a moment routinely and almost numbingly cited as an end to our innocence, as the termination of postwar conformism and the beginning of the chaos and madness and rage of the 1960s. It killed the first television president, his death captured on film. The assassination has been, ever since, the subject of obsessive investigation. There is always more to learn, always another factoid to gnaw.
The conspiracy theorists have one advantage: They don’t have to have all the answers, merely enough questions and doubts to shatter the mainstream consensus. The Lone Nut orthodoxy is essentially a closed narrative — it all but says “Keep moving folks, nothing to see here” — while the conspiracy theories are self-sustainingly open-ended, branching infinitely, a perpetual-motion mystery that will be with us forever.
And they do one more thing: They bequeath the assassination a deeper layer of meaning. This is an institutional murder. The bad guys are powerful people in the shadows of our civilization. This is not some small event — it’s an epic struggle between enlightenment and evil.
For many of us, what we see at Dealey Plaza says a lot about who we are. It reflects a worldview. It reveals how we process information. It even becomes part of our identity, like party affiliation or religious belief. And thus, as we study the facts, and scrutinize the images, and examine all the angles and trajectories, we are vulnerable to confirmation bias. Believing is seeing.
Thoughts on Life, Love, Politics, Hypocrisy and Coming Out in Mid-Life
Saturday, November 23, 2013
University Defies Court Order to Keep Controversial Regnerus Documents Secret
I have long subscribed to the premise that you truly have nothing to hide, then you don't act like you are hiding something. It is only when you do have something to hide that one defies things like a court order directing that documents be released. The premise apparently unknown to the University of Central Florida or the University indeed does have something to hide. And what is being hidden? Some 50,000 documents related to the flawed same-sex parenting study by Mark Regnerus thatwas funded by far right, anti-gay organizations. Regnerus' "study" never really studied what it claimed to report on, yet has been used by anti-gay organizations in both court litigation and in efforts to influence legislation. Thus, it is important to see the to date hidden documents which, of course, might help document that the "study" was rigged from the beginning. HRC has an update on the struggle to keep the documents and the truth hidden. Here are excerpts (Disclosure: John Becker, who is cited in the article, and I know each other):
The University of Central Florida (UCF) has ramped up its legal efforts to block the release of over 50,000 documents related to the flawed same-sex parenting study by Mark Regnerus that appeared last year in the publication Social Science Research, housed at UCF. A judge ruled the university had to release the documents, deemed public records under Florida law. Late last week, UCF retained legal counsel and ignored the court order.
The Law Office of Andrea Flynn Mogensen, P.A., and Barrett, Chapman & Ruta, P.A – which represents John Becker, the reporter who initially sought the documents under Florida public records law - immediately filed an emergency motion for civil contempt.
"What is UCF hiding?" asked Becker. "And why are they fighting tooth and nail - spending taxpayer dollars in the process - to keep these public records under seal?"
Judge Donald Grincewicz ruled on November 13 that emails and documents possessed by UCF related to the Regnerus study’s peer-review process must be turned over to Becker. UCF houses the journal Social Science Research, and the editor of the journal, UCF Professor James Wright, led the peer-review process for the research. Grincewicz has since inexplicably recused himself. And yesterday, an appellate court in Orlando granted a stay in the case until such time as a new judge can be appointed.
Regenerus’ New Family Structures Study is a clear outlier among 30 years’ worth of social science that suggest that children thrive equally well in two parent households, regardless of the genders of their parents. Two-hundred scholars and the American Sociological Association were quick to point out conflicts of interest among individuals and organizations that were both funding and working on the study, as well as a questionable peer review process. The study’s so-called “straight” households featured heterosexual parents in committed, long-term relationships, whereas the so-called “gay” households failed to feature same-sex couples in comparable relationships.
"These latest stalling tactics are typical of the way UCF has conducted itself throughout this entire months-long ordeal," said Becker. "Instead of respecting the rule of law in Florida and turning over these public records, the university has stonewalled and obstructed at every turn. Nevertheless, I'm confident that we will prevail in the end and uncover all the public records, including even more of the anti-LGBT animus behind Regnerus' research.”
The sad truth is that no one lies more or is more dishonest than the "godly Christian" folks. Odds are that if their lips are moving, they are probably lying.
Costco Labeled The Bible As “Fiction”
The Christofascists are always busy looking for perceived offense and reasons to claim they are being persecuted. Whether it was done "accidentally" as now claimed or not, Costco set off a fire storm when Bibles were placed in the "fiction" section of the retailer's book section. Candidly, the Bible IS a work of fiction and modern scientific knowledge increasingly makes it clear that only a fool or psychologically damaged individual would take the Bible is inerrant and a truthful historical chronology. E.g., the human genome project has made it clear that Adam and Eve never existed as historical individuals. This reality demolishes the whole Bible narrative of mankind's fall due to the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Not surprisingly, Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, has played to the outrage of the Bible thumpers. BuzzFeed looks ate the spittle flecked hysteria over what was in fact an accurate classification of the Bible. Here are highlights:
Californian pastor Caleb Kaltenbach was looking for a gift for his wife when he spotted this Bible labeled as “fiction,” in a Costco.
It immediately sparked furious reactions from his followers and members of his congregation.
Some questioned why The Koran wasn’t also in the “Fiction” section.Costco released a statement saying a distributor had mislabeled a “small percentage” of Bibles before sending them to the store.“We take responsibility and should have caught the mistake. We are correcting this with them for future distribution,” Costco said. All mislabeled Bibles were also immediately relabeled. “We greatly apologize for the error,” the store said.For the record: this labeling mishap was at one Costco, and has not been reported at other stores nationwide.
Candidly, BOTH the Bible and the Koran should be placed in the fiction section of book stores everywhere.
WhenWill NOM Admit Defeat?
As more and more states legalize gay marriage and the changes in federal programs continue to roll out in the wake of the ruling in United States v. Windsor, one has to wonder when the National Organization for Marriage will admit defeat and close up shop. A column in the Washington Post looks at NOM's growing list of defeats and asks this question. My own view is that NOM will struggle on as long as possible so that Brian Brown and others who have been enriching themselves with lush salaries and benefits can continue to milk the ignorant and gullible so that they can continue to enjoy the good life while peddling hatred and lies. NOM and similar groups are little better than parasites cynically living off of others. The column also recognizes that there are far better uses to which NOM could have directed its money. Here are column excerpts:
Like a candidate losing every primary, you wonder how long the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) can hold on. Buzzfeed reports: “One of the nation’s leading organizations opposed to same-sex couples’ marriage rights found itself in the red at the end of a year in which it found itself on the losing end of four major state marriage fights, federal records show.” It’s now in the red to the tune of more than a million dollars.
What exactly does NOM do as voters in state after state decide to expand marriage to gay couples? There aren’t enough states for a constitutional amendment. It’s no longer a matter of judicial activism, but a sea change in public opinion that is propelling the legal shift. How many contests does NOM lose before it — or its donors — figures out the argument is not going to carry the day?
The irony is that there is something very important NOM could be doing, without even changing its name. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) had this to say recently at the Heritage Foundation:
[W]e simply must begin to address what we might call America’s “other marriage debate.” It is uncomfortable to talk about, and almost impossible to legislate. But the fact is, the problem of poverty in America is directly linked to family breakdown and the erosion of marriage among low-income families and communities. Implicit marriage penalties in our tax code and welfare programs surely need legislative remedies. But what we’re really talking about is a question of culture, not policy incentives.Campaign for marriage, not against gay marriage. Root out marriage penalties in the tax code. Enlist religious and secular groups to tout marriage and inform people about its physical, psychological and economic benefits. Promote private marriage counseling. If MADD can change attitudes on drunk driving, the environmental movement can make recycling delinquents into social pariahs and a conservative talk show host and Democratic senator can set out to raise awareness of adoption, NOM can certainly lead a cultural movement to promote marriage.
In Conflict of Interest, Cuccinelli Leads Fundraising For Obenshain Recount
Hopefully history will regard Ken Cuccinelli as one of the sleaziest and most corrupt attorney generals in Virginia history. The man continues to believe that he's above the law and not constrained by conflict of interest concerns that govern the rest of us. His arrogance truly knows no limits. As many news outlets and blogs have noted, there is an inherent conflict of interest for a sitting attorney general overseeing election results when he was himself a candidate in the election contest. The Daily Press looks at Cuccinelli's efforts for losing GOP candidate Mark Obenshain and Cuccinelli's likely effort to steal the election from Democrat Mark Herring. Note the lie in Cuccinelli's e-mail claiming that he supports equality for "ALL Virginians" - unless, of course, one is LGBT, black, Hispanic, or non-Christian. Here article are highlights:
Ken Cuccinelli, whose office would represent the State Board of Elections in any challenges to its vote count, has asked people to help pay for state Sen. Mark Obenshain's legal costs for any recount in his race to be the state's next attorney general.
Democrats say that's a conflict and casts a huge shadow over the state's efforts to ensure that every vote is counted. Cuccinelli and Obenshain's fellow Republicans say the Democrats are making a mountain out of a molehill.
But with the Democratic attorney general candidate, state Sen. Mark Herring, holding a lead of just 165 votes over Obenshain, both sides are gearing up for a fight.
In the email, Cuccinelli said he was asking for the donations because, "It's important the work I started at the AG's office continue. Mark will do just that – fighting for liberty, fighting against federal overreaches and fighting for justice for ALL Virginians."
Herring's campaign declined to comment, but other Democrats were more vocal. A fundraising appeal from former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello says, "No wonder Obenshain thinks he has a chance — he's got a guy on the inside."
State Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, said Cuccinelli's fundraising was disturbing because "he is someone who has a critical role to play to help ensure that Virginians have confidence in the outcome and know that our elections are professional, fair and non-partisan. Attorney General Cuccinelli needs to take his responsibilities seriously in this process and refrain from his overt and extreme partisanship."
The sooner Cuccinelli is forced from the Virginia political scene, the better off Virginia will be.
Filibuster Reform - A Return to Democracy in the Senate?
Some have decried the Democrat's use of the so-called "nuclear option" which removed the 60 vote requirement to move legislation forward in the United States Senate. Rush Limbaugh, always the demagogue equated it with rape. But the reality is that since Barack Obama's election in 2008, Republicans have shamelessly used a 60 vote filibuster rule to block nominations and judicial appointments that otherwise had the votes for passage. It has been and endless scene of obstructionism. Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives the so-called "Hastert Rule" - which requires majority support of the majority party - has been used for similar effect to kill legislation that has majority vote support. These rules make a mockery of the vision for government crafted by the Founding Fathers. The New York Times opines on the end of a significant portion of the 60 vote filibuster rule. Here are excerpts:
For five years, Senate Republicans have refused to allow confirmation votes on dozens of perfectly qualified candidates nominated by President Obama for government positions. They tried to nullify entire federal agencies by denying them leaders. They abused Senate rules past the point of tolerance or responsibility. And so they were left enraged and threatening revenge on Thursday when a majority did the only logical thing and stripped away their power to block the president’s nominees.
In a 52-to-48 vote that substantially altered the balance of power in Washington, the Senate changed its most infuriating rule and effectively ended the filibuster on executive and judicial appointments. From now on, if any senator tries to filibuster a presidential nominee, that filibuster can be stopped with a simple majority, not the 60-vote requirement of the past. That means a return to the democratic process of giving nominees an up-or-down vote, allowing them to be either confirmed or rejected by a simple majority.
This vote was long overdue. “I have waited 18 years for this moment,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa.It would have been unthinkable just a few months ago, when the majority leader, Harry Reid, was still holding out hope for a long-lasting deal with Republicans and insisting that federal judges, because of their lifetime appointments, should still be subject to supermajority thresholds. But Mr. Reid, along with all but three Senate Democrats, was pushed to act by the Republicans’ refusal to allow any appointments to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, just because they wanted to keep a conservative majority on that important court.Republicans warned that the rule change could haunt the Democrats if they lost the White House and the Senate. But the Constitution gives presidents the right to nominate top officials in their administration and name judges, and it says nothing about the ability of a Senate minority to stop them. (The practice barely existed before the 1970s.) From now on, voters will have to understand that presidents are likely to get their way on nominations if their party controls the Senate.Given the extreme degree of Republican obstruction during the Obama administration, the Democrats had little choice but to change the filibuster rule. As Mr. Reid noted on the floor, half of all filibusters waged against nominations in Senate history have occurred since Mr. Obama was elected. Twenty of his district court nominees were filibustered; only three such filibusters took place before he took office.
[T]he vote may lead to broader filibuster changes. A proposal by several younger Democratic senators to require “talking filibusters” — forcing objecting lawmakers to stand up at length and make their cases — may well gain steam now, and it could finally spell an end to logjams that have prevented important legislation from reaching votes.
Today’s vote was an appropriate use of that power, and it was necessary to turn the Senate back into a functioning legislative body.
Friday, November 22, 2013
The South’s New Lost Cause - Killing Medicaid Expansion
It seems that in many ways, the South always looks backwards and seeks to resist modernity. The region also consistently acts in ways utterly divergent from its supposed allegiance to Christian values be it seeking to uphold slavery in the 1800's to seeking to kill the Affordable Health Care Act which would bring needed medical care within reach of millions of Americans that currently lack insurance coverage. One sees the feign religiosity and there's the reality of the true anti-Christian values agenda that has greed and bigotry at its base. There are growing exceptions to this phenomenon, especially in the urban areas of the South, but once one ventures into the hinterland - e.g., Southwest Virginia - racism, bigotry and false religious belief are the norm. A column in the New York Times looks at this continuing backward looking aspect of the South. Here are excerpts:
Before he was immortalized for saving the union, freeing the slaves and giving the best political speech in American history, Abraham Lincoln was just an unpopular new president handed a colossal crisis. Elected with 39.7 percent of the vote, Lincoln told a big lie in his inaugural address of 1861.
“I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists,” he said, reaching out to the breakaway South.
The comparisons of President Obama to Lincoln fade with every day of the shrinking modern presidency. As for the broken-promise scale: Lincoln said an entire section of the country could continue to enslave more than one in three of its people. Obama wrongly assured about five million people that they could keep their bare-bones health plans if they liked them (later amended when it turned not to be true).As inapt as those comparisons are, what is distressingly similar today is how the South is once again committed to taking a backward path. By refusing to expand health care for the working poor through Medicaid, which is paid for by the federal government under Obamacare, most of the old Confederacy is committed to keeping millions of its own fellow citizens in poverty and poor health. They are dooming themselves, further, as the Left-Behind States.
And they are doing it out of spite. Elsewhere, the expansion of Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, has been one of the few success stories of Obamacare. It may be too complicated for the one-dimensional Beltway press. Either that, or it doesn’t fit the narrative of failure.But in the states that have embraced a program that reaches out to low-wage workers, almost 500,000 people have signed up for health care in less than two months time. This is good for business, good for state taxpayers (because the federal government is subsidizing the expansion) and can do much to lessen the collateral damages of poverty, from crime to poor diets. In Kentucky, which has bravely tried to buck the retrograde tide, Medicaid expansion is projected to create 17,000 jobs. In Washington, the state predicts 10,000 new jobs and savings of $300 million in the first 18 months of expansion.
And those states aren’t going to turn back the clock and revert to the bad old days, no matter how Republicans try to kill health care reform in the wake of the federal rollout. Many are refusing to accept Obama’s “fix” of allowing people to keep sketchy health care policies. If they follow the pattern of Massachusetts -- where a mere 123 people enrolled in the first month of Romneycare, after which it gradually took off -- the progressive states could end up with more than 95 percent of their residents insured.What we could see, 10 years from now, is a Mason-Dixon line of health care. One side (with exceptions for conservative Midwest and mountain states) would be the insured North, a place where health care coverage was affordable and available to most people. On the other side would be the uninsured South, where health care for the poor would amount to treating charity cases in hospital emergency rooms.
The South, already the poorest region in the country, with all the attendant problems, would acquire another distinction -- a place where, if you were sick and earned just enough money that you didn’t qualify for traditional Medicare, you might face the current system’s version of a death panel.
[M]ost of the South is defiant -- their own Lost Cause for the 21st century.
The JFK Assassination - 50 Years Later
I was a few months past 11 years old on November 22, 1963, when I and classmates returned to school after a short recess and witnessed the stunned shock and disbelief of the teachers and school staff to the news that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. The shock extended to everyone we knew and over the following days people remained glued to their televisions watching the unfolding drama of a nation in mourning and the president's funeral. A doubt few who lived through those days will forget the experience. Now, it's 50 years later and I still vividly recall that November day and the events that followed. A piece in the Washington Post revisits the scene of the crime, if you will, and the Texas School Book Depository - now a museum that a dear friend and historian here in Hampton, Virginia helped create. Here are highlights:
Catholic Diocese of Providence Ignored 800 Allegations of Sexual Abuse
News reports out of Providence, Rhode Island consist of what has now become the norm: Roman Catholic Church officials closing their eyes to sexual abuse and allowing sexual predators to continue to prey on children and youths. And sadly, no one has been punished or removed from office. As noted before in past posts, until Pope Francis acts to clean up the cesspool within the Church hierarchy, any hopes that change may be in the wind will be largely imaginary and solely in the minds of those who refuse to recognize the truth about the institutional Church. The Providence Journal has coverage. As the coverage notes, boys and males were not the only victims. Here are excerpts:
Victims of sexual abuse gathered for a news conference on Wednesday to condemn the Catholic Diocese of Providence for allegedly failing to properly investigate more than 800 allegations of sexual abuse over the past 20 years.
Among those presenting in a downtown hotel conference room stories of abuse by local parish priests were Ann Hagan-Webb, a representative from Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, SNAP; and Jeffrey Thomas, of Massachusetts, and Helen McGonigle, a lawyer from Connecticut.
Thomas and McGonigle said they were raped as children by the Rev. Brendan Smyth, an Irish priest who was at Our Lady of Mercy Church in East Greenwich from 1965 to 1968. Smyth returned to Ireland and pleaded guilty to 141 counts of sexual abuse there. He died in prison in Ireland in 1997. Thomas and McGonigle had made similar allegations about Smyth at a news conference in December 2009.
The victims said Wednesday they want the office of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha to launch an in-depth investigation into what they said were 831 complaints of pedophilia and sexual abuse filed with the diocese. They also said many of the abusive priests continue to serve in parishes in Rhode Island and elsewhere.
“This has to change if we are going to protect the children of Rhode Island,” Hagan-Webb said.
McGonigle, who said she was raped beginning at age 6 and continuing through age 9, referred to Smyth as “an international serial pedophile.” She said that, in June 2006, she met for about an hour with diocesan officials about Smyth and has since filed a lawsuit against the church. She also told them that her late sister, Kathleen, had been a victim of Smyth. She died of an a drug overdose in 2005, McGonigle said.
While alleging that the diocese had not investigated hundreds of abuse claims, the victims, along with Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of bishopaccountability.org, of Waltham, Mass., provided reporters Wednesday with an inch-thick set of files they said that McCarthy had turned over to the state police. They all contained redacted information about priests allegedly molesting boys and men, girls and women from August 2003 through last February.
Barrett Doyle estimated that at least 500 of the more than 800 allegations of abuse involved victims under the age of 18. She also said that the abusers were priests and some lay employees of the church. Some of the abuse, she pointed out, was inflicted on adults.
Yes, you read it correctly - instances of abuse that occurred through last February. Nothing has really changed and it will not change unless and until bishops and cardinals are sacked for their malfeasance. The Church has proven it deserves no deference whatsoever. Yet politicians prostitute themselves to the Church's whining about gays and contraception. They ought to be hanging up their phones and not even meeting with Church officials.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Young Conservatives of Texas: "Catch an Illegal Immigrant"
If some in the Republican Party remain baffled as to why the GOP cannot capture the Hispanic vote even though Hispanics are described - at least in GOP circles - as conservative on social issues, they might want to focus on the batshitery that came down at the University of Texas where the Young Conservatives of Texas ("YCT") created a Facebook event detailing a game titled “Catch an Illegal Immigrant.” One has to wonder if some future "games" will involve (i) disenfranchising black voters and (ii) advanced gay bashing. Thankfully, the unvarnished racism embodied in the "game" wasn't missed by Hispanics and their allies and protests were unleashed even as YCT decided to cancel the "game." The Daily Beast looks at this PR disaster for YCT and their Republican allies. Here are article excerpts:
The game was canceled, but the protest went on anyway. By early afternoon on Wednesday, some 500 students had gathered on the steps of the main building of The University of Texas at Austin—chanting, holding signs, and wearing t-shirts with a single word stamped across them: undocumented. As Ugly Betty actress America Ferrera took the stage at 12:30, even the Frisbee-playing students on a nearby lawn joined in. “I am the daughter of immigrants,” Ferrera shouted into a megaphone, and the crowd, some holding fluorescent signs reading “Aliens Live in Space,” erupted into applause.
The rally—the culmination of days of heated campus-wide debate—came in response to a controversial event planned by the college chapter of The Young Conservatives of Texas, or YCT, which describes itself as a non-partisan, conservative youth organization.
On Monday, YCT created a Facebook event detailing a game titled “Catch an Illegal Immigrant.” The premise of the game—set to take place Wednesday—was that some members of the organization would walk around campus labeled as illegal immigrants. “Any UT student who catches one of these ‘illegal immigrants’ and brings them back to our table will receive a $25 gift card,” the event listing read. “The purpose of this event is to spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration and how it affects our everyday lives.”
The proposed game followed an earlier incident in September where the same group held a bake sale by charging students different prices for baked goods as an exemplification of affirmative action. Latino students were charged $1 for brownies while white students were charged $2.
Administration officials were to quick to join the outcry. First was Gregory J. Vincent, the Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement, who said YCT was “contributing to an environment of exclusion and disrespect among our students, faculty and staff by sending a message that certain students do not belong on our campus.” Bill Powers, president of the college, released a statement saying, “The proposed Young Conservatives of Texas event is completely out of line with the values we espouse at The University of Texas at Austin.”
[T]he proposed event had already grabbed national headlines, even drawing a response from the state’s gubernatorial candidates. So the ULI forged ahead with its counter-protest, and students from across the state of Texas came to join them from Rice University, Texas A&M, and Southern Methodist University.
As I said in a prior post, far too many of today's conservatives and Republicans are not nice or decent people.
How George W. Bush Let Iran Go Nuclear
I for one oppose another Middle East war even as the theocons are all too ready to launch a war against Iran having apparently learned little from the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, a column in the New York Times which is far too militant for my tastes does throw blame for allowing Iran's advances toward a nuclear bomb where it truly belongs: on George W. Bush and not Barack Obama. The Iran mess is yet another disaster that Obama inherited from the feckless Chimperator and Darth Vader/Emperor Palpatine Cheney. Here are the compelling portions of the column:
But don’t blame President Obama. Indeed, this American defeat was set in motion long before he took office.What three American presidents, four Israeli prime ministers and a dozen European leaders vowed would never happen is actually happening. What was not to be is almost a reality. The Iranian bomb is nearly here.Why wasn’t the West able to mobilize its political, economic and military resources in time to force Tehran to give up its nuclear ambition? The answer may be described as a spelling error.After 9/11, the United States was determined to strike back, destroy terrorist sanctuaries and display its imperial might. President George W. Bush chose to do all of this in Afghanistan and Iraq.Afghanistan may have been a mistake, but it was an understandable one: Al Qaeda enjoyed the Taliban’s support and had found refuge in Taliban-controlled territory. But invading Iraq was an incomprehensible mistake, as there were no links between Saddam Hussein and the 19 terrorists who attacked New York and Washington in September 2001.If Mr. Bush had decided to display American leadership and exercise American power by launching a diplomatic campaign against Iran rather than a military one against Iraq 10 years ago, the United States’ international standing would be far greater today.The Bush administration’s decision to go after Iraq rather than Iran was a fatal one, and the long-term consequences are only now becoming clear, namely a devastating American failure in the battle to prevent a nuclear Iran, reflected in Washington’s willingness to sign a deeply flawed agreement.Mr. Bush’s responsibility for the disaster now unfolding is twofold: He failed to target Iran a decade ago, and created a climate that made it very difficult to target Iran today. The Bush administration didn’t initiate a political-economic siege on Iran when it was weak, and Mr. Bush weakened America by exhausting its economic power and military might in a futile war. By the time American resolve was needed to fend off a genuine global threat, the necessary determination was no longer there. It had been wasted on the wrong cause.Republican leaders squandered the opportunity. Worse still, the United States got bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and that sucked all the oxygen out of America’s lungs. Mr. Bush passed on to Mr. Obama a nation that had lost much of the resolve it had possessed. When faced with a real threat to world peace, America’s will was spent. It had evaporated in the violent streets of Basra and Baghdad.Sure, Mr. Obama has made mistakes, too. . . . . But Mr. Obama was operating within the smoky ruins of the strategic disaster he had inherited. After Iraq, America is a traumatized nation, with a limited attention span for problems in the Middle East. The empire is weary.Because America missed the opportunity for assertive diplomacy, all the options now left on the table are dire ones. Rather than pursuing a dangerous interim agreement, the West must insist that all the centrifuges in Iran stop spinning while a final agreement is negotiated. President Obama was right to demand a settlement freeze in the West Bank in 2009. Now he must demand a total centrifuge freeze in Iran.
Of course, the revisionist history crowd in the GOP prefers to ignore this truth and endeavors to place all blame on Obama. As usual, their story line is a lie. I continue to believe history will regard the Chimperator as one of the worse presidents in U.S. history.
Opposition to Medicaid Expansion: The Next GOP Litmus Test?
Here in Virginia the Republican Party of Virginia - the self-avowed party of "family values" and "Christian values" - is dead set against Medicaid expansion even though it would bring billions of federal dollars to Virginia, create tens of thousands of medical field jobs, and bring health coverage to 400,000 Virginians. Why the opposition? The truth - something the GOP likes to avoid - is that the Christofascists/Tea Party base believes those gaining coverage are "those people." Meaning, blacks and minorities. Adding to the opposition, but not the major cause is contraception and limited abortion coverage that might be included in medical care for the poor. As for the 400,000 Virginians in need, the GOP answer is please just go somewhere and quietly die. Yep, truly godly people. A column in the Washington Post suggests that such opposition is a growing litmus test in the GOP. Here are excerpts:
The other day, Republican businessman Vance McAllister defeated a fellow GOPer in a Louisiana House special election, even though he supports the Medicaid expansion, which is of course a feature of the hated Obamacare. While there’s some argument as to how much the expansion meant to the outcome, McAllister’s willingness to embrace the idea of accommodating a part of the health law to bring in federal money suggests something of a schism between pragmatic and ideological Republicans over the issue.Sadly, the image at the top of this post really does accurately describe today's Republican Party. The metastasizing cancer in the party - the hate-filled Christofascists - is now nearly complete.
Now the Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis reports that opposition to the Medicaid expansion is set to become a major litmus test issue in GOP primaries:
The issue is now making its way into Idaho’s Second Congressional District — in what is shaping up to be a brutal primary between Rep. Mike Simpson and a conservative challenger named Bryan Smith.
In a press release earlier today, The Club for Growth, a powerful fiscally conservative group, pointed out that a Super Pac backing Simpson has also endorsed expansion. (It’s not clear where Simpson stands on the issue, and that’s sort of the point.)If Idaho is a harbinger of things to come, expect Medicaid expansion to be a huge issue in Republican primaries — a sort of litmus test for true conservatives.
Meanwhile, House conservatives are beginning to hatch a new strategy for the coming budget talks that would involve pushing for a defunding of the law’s Medicaid expansion, and using the money to offset the sequester’s defense cuts. Though this idea seems to have very little support, it’s not impossible it could gain some momentum.
And in Tennessee, the Republican governor is coming under increasing pressure from local business interests who want him to embrace the Medicaid expansion. He is caught between GOP lawmakers who oppose the expansion, and hospital groups and the local chamber of commerce, who want it.
Democrats increasingly believe that, at a time when the law known as “Obamacare” is suffering serious rollout travails and is sinking in polls, the Medicaid expansion is a good issue for them — one that neatly shows that some of the individual provisions of the law remain politically viable, and as an added bonus could even divide Republicans. Obamacare’s expansion of coverage is most pronounced in the Medicaid expansion area, which could make it politically more difficult over time for Republicans to oppose it — even as conservatives appear poised to continue making opposition to it a defining issue. Whether this emerges as a real wedge among Republicans will be something to keep watching.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
A Repsonse to Parents Abusing Children Through "Ex-Gay" Therapy
|Click image to enlarge|
I've gone on the record before stating that in my view parents who subject their children to fraudulent "ex-gay" therapy are guilty of a form of child abuse and, in an ideal world, should be prosecuted for felony child abuse. It's the parents, not the gay child, who need an intervention. Unfortunately, too often people are reluctant to call out the parent and tell them that they are the one with the "problem." Not so advice columnist "Ask Amy," who had a wonderful response (which can be viewed here) to one such bigoted parent. The image above is a copy of the response. I love that the response suggests that the parent get in touch with the local PFLAG chapter! Huffington Post noted Amy's spot on advice. Here are excerpts:
Advice columnist "Ask Amy," otherwise known as Amy Dickinson, had some choice words for a parent who just doesn't know what to do with their gay son, as he just "won’t listen to reason, and he will not stop being gay."
The parent, penned as "feeling betrayed," is extremely concerned about what their church group will think if they find out about their gay son. "I feel as if he is doing this just to get back at me for forgetting his birthday for the past three years -- I have a busy work schedule," the parent explains in their letter.
Dickinson's incredible response to this delusional parent opens with a suggestion to "teach your son an important lesson by changing your own sexuality to show him how easy it is. Try it for the next year or so: Stop being a heterosexual to demonstrate to your son that a person’s sexuality is a matter of choice -- to be dictated by one’s parents, the parents’ church and social pressure."
Dickinson's advice comes on the heels of a growing awareness about the dangers of gay conversion therapy, and moves to make the practice illegal in a number of states after it was outlawed in California and New Jersey.
Frankly, if this supposedly concerned parent forgot their child's birthday for three years, it speaks volumes about what a poor parent this individual is. It seems that this parent is more concerned about them self and "what people will think" than they are about their child.
Families of Gays - My Granddaughter
The Christofascists and other opponents of LGBT equality like to pretend that gays don't have family members and that we don't have children - and grandchildren. In reality, of course, we do have families and our families in many instances have come to know the dishonesty of the "godly Christian" crowd. Hence the so-called Nones, the nearly 1/3 of the under 30 generations who have walked away for institutional religion. And with each new generation, more will come to know the truth. A case in point: my granddaughter who is turning 1 year old and who is growing up knowing that gays are normal, loving people. I love this picture taken by a photographer friend of the family:
And yes, she does get treated like a little princess!! She comes to work with my daughter every day.
The GOP is Out to Destroy America
Yes, the caption of this post invites a reaction. But, even as America faces pressing issues and problems, rather than pass new legislation to move the nation forward the Republican party is focused solely on obstruction, repealing needed legislation and sending the nation back into a reprise of the Gilded Age before unions had helped raise the condition of workers and regulatory reforms improved safety and health. An op-ed in the Washington Post looks at the slash and burn efforts of the GOP and its crazed, unwashed base of Christofacists, white supremacists and those motivated first and foremost by greed notwithstanding the lip service given to "Christian values." Here are column excerpts:
[W]hen you look at the actions of the Republican Party, particularly its members in Congress, my headline seems appropriate.Three different pieces highlighted how the GOP is grinding just about every sector of the federal government to a halt. And it is doing it through a cynical combination of obstruction, saying no and failing to have viable alternative proposals worthy of national debate. Whatever political gains Republicans achieve in the short-term come at the long-term expense of the country. That’s simply unacceptable.the GOP is “The Party of Zilch,” as Ron Fournier so accurately described.Rather than be the party of solutions in a gridlocked capital, appealing to a leadership-starved public, the GOP is the party of obstruction, ensuring that its putrid approval ratings nose dive apace with Obama’s.The country needs sensible immigration reform that brings 11 million or so undocumented residents out of the shadows. No, says the GOP.
The country needs to tame a massive debt that will be 100 percent of the gross domestic product by 2038 unless Congress raises revenue and trims entitlements. No, says the GOP.The country needs fair debate and compromise around existential issues such as climate change, income inequality, and a deteriorating 20th century infrastructure. No, says the GOP.“Other than hard partisans on the left and right, the majority of the public—moderate, fix-it Americans who simply want a sensible government—now have nowhere to turn, because the GOP is the party of nothing,” Fournier correctly concludes.That congressional Republicans have no “governing vision or even a legislative agenda” was proven in a Politico story on Sunday. The headline said it all: “House GOP 2014 agenda starts with blank slate.”
Last Thursday, a group of House Republicans filed into Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Capitol office suite and received a blank piece of paper labeled “Agenda 2014.”The judicial branch is crippled as qualified nominees go unconfirmed due to “unfair hurdles in the Senate.” As a result, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the nation’s second-highest court, has three vacancies on the 11-seat court that handles cases involving federal regulations and national security. Half of the legislative branch is in thrall to a band of right-wing zealots unmoved by facts as much as they are motivated by hatred of the president. As a result, the threat of government shutdowns and default is constant. Inaction on pressing issues is now routine. And the executive branch finds its agenda held hostage by an opposition that schemed against it since before its inauguration in 2009, even though said agenda was approved by the American people — twice.Ours is a government that requires two functioning parties that produce good public policy through the necessary friction of governing. Neither party is perfect nor has all the ideas or the answers. But no good comes from a party that gives up completely on governing.
Bills Introduced in Virginia General Assembly to Repeal Gay Marriage Ban
|State Senator Adam Ebbin|
With two federal lawsuits underway in Virginia to strike down the vile Marshall-Newman Amendment to the Bill of Rights Section of the Virginia Constitution - that's right, anti-gay discrimination was written into the Bill of Rights - Virginia's ban on same sex marriage is likely facing a well deserved death. But at least two Virginia legislators also seek to begin the legislative death knell for religious based anti-gay bigotry. They have thus introduced a bill to be taken up in the 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly. The prospect of the legislation passing the House of Delegates which is little more than an arm of the foul theocrats at The Family Foundation is likely slim to none. The Washington Blade looks at this development. Here are article highlights:
Two Virginia lawmakers on Monday introduced bills that seek to repeal a state constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.
Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and state Del. Joseph Morrissey (D-Henrico) introduced identical bills in their respective legislative chambers.
A referendum on whether to repeal the amendment would take place in November 2016 only if members of the General Assembly approve Ebbin and Morrissey’s bills during the 2014 and 2016 legislative sessions. A Virginia House of Delegate subcommittee in January killed a proposal that state Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) introduced seeking to repeal the commonwealth’s gay nuptials ban. Surovell is expected to co-sponsor Morrissey’s measure.
“Change is coming across the country and eventually we’ll have marriage equality in Virginia,” Ebbin told the Washington Blade on Tuesday. “The road to marriage equality in Virginia might not be a short one, but we’ve got to make sure we’re on our way.”
Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban a few weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and issued a ruling striking down California’s Proposition 8. Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Richmond joined the case in September as attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, who successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court, took up the case.
The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia in August filed a class action federal lawsuit on behalf of two lesbian couples who are seeking marriage rights in the commonwealth.
A poll that Greenberg Quinlan Research and Target Point Consulting conducted on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign in late June found 55 percent of Virginians back marriage rights for same-sex couples.
The Christofascists and their political whores in the GOP are fighting a losing rear guard action against modernity and the expansion of equality. Whether it is via court rulings or legislative action, gay equality is inevitable.
|Yours truly with Plaintiffs Carol Schall and Mary Townley|
Voter Suppression the New GOP Strategy
When a political party has staked its future on a dwindling base that is literally dying off and adopting policies that alienate younger voters and growing minority populations, what do you do? You try to limit who can vote to give greater impact to your base of racists, homophobes, religious zealots and angry white men who are outraged over their perceived loss of white privilege. It's a strategy that the GOP tried in Virginia with less than success in the 2013 elections, but the GOP shows no signs of discarding and agenda of disenfranchising as many voters as possible, especially if the voters are black. Jim Crow rules once again. A column in the Washington Post looks at this disgusting strategy. Here are excerpts:
Yet people continue to ask me why I left the GOP. Simply put, I'm not sufficiently morally bankrupt, not enough of a racist and not trying to over throw the separation of church and state. Hence, I don't fit the mold of today's GOP.
Better bring some identification — and not just any identification, official though it may be — if you plan to vote in Republican-controlled states. However, if you contribute tens of millions of dollars to sway an election on Republicans’ behalf, the party will fight to keep your identity a secret.Consider, for instance, what happened to some attempting to participate in this month’s elections in Texas. The New York Times reported that “Judge Sandra Watts was stopped while trying to vote because the name on her photo ID, the same one she had used for voter registration and identification of 52 years, did not exactly match her name in the official voter rolls.” Both Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis and Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott — the front-runners in next year’s gubernatorial contest — encountered the same obstacle. As did Jim Wright, the 90-year-old former speaker of the U.S. House. Wright, who represented his Fort Worth district in Congress for 34 years, told the local paper that he had voted in every election since 1944 and that he had realized shortly before Election Day that his identification — a driver’s license that expired in 2010 and a university faculty ID — would not suffice under the state’s 2011 voter ID law. Indeed, officials required Wright to produce a certified copy of his birth certificate to procure a personal identification card that would allow him to vote.The purpose of these and other vote-deterring measures, adopted in Texas and a slew of other GOP-controlled states, is to make sure turnout is not too much higher by reducing voter participation, particularly among the young (student IDs often don’t suffice), the poor (no driver’s license? Sorry.) and racial minorities. That is, groups that tend to vote Democratic. Voter suppression has become the linchpin of Republican strategy.Republicans have justified this crackdown as a way to keep non- citizens from infiltrating the electorate, not that there’s evidence such a thing is happening. But if a non-citizen wants to contribute millions of dollars to one of those “social welfare organizations” that spends gobs of money on an election campaign, Republicans fight to shield his or her identity.Some states require donors to such campaign groups in state and local elections to be identified. But other states don’t, which allows for the kind of interstate shell games that wealthy right-wing donors played during the 2012 election.A pre-election tally by the Sunlight Foundation of “dark money” contributions to federal races as of Nov. 1, 2012, showed nearly $175 million going to GOP candidates and roughly $35 million to Democrats. A bill backed by Senate Democrats that would have required such groups to report the identity of donors who give more than $10,000 for electoral campaigns was killed last year by GOP opposition to a cloture motion, even though it was backed by a majority of senators.So: If you want to vote in the Republicans’ America, remember to bring your birth certificate. But if you want to buy an election and stay under wraps, your secret is safe with them.
Oklahoma Drops National Guard Benefits For All Couples Rather Than Recognize Gay Couples
|Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R)|
This blog has noted before the refusal of some states to provided benefits to all legally married couples - particularly gay couples - where a spouse is a member of the National Guard. Sadly, the Defense Department has failed to date to hit these renegades states where it hurts: stop all federal funding and take back federally provided equipment and aircraft. The result is that now Oklahoma is going to deny benefits to all married guard members rather than provide benefits to gay couples legally married in other states and recognized as being married by the federal government. It's the ultimate in batshitery, but such passes as principled stands in today's GOP and, of course in Christofascist circles. Here are excerpts from a piece in Think Progress:
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) announced earlier this month that state-owned National Guard facilities will no longer allow any married couples to apply for spousal benefits, regardless of whether they are same-sex or opposite-sex. The Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act means that servicemembers with same-sex spouses are now eligible for federal benefits. Fallin’s unusual tactic is designed to avoid having to recognize those couples, which she asserts would violate Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman:
FALLIN: Oklahoma law is clear. The state of Oklahoma does not recognize same-sex marriages, nor does it confer marriage benefits to same-sex couples. The decision reached today allows the National Guard to obey Oklahoma law without violating federal rules or policies. It protects the integrity of our state constitution and sends a message to the federal government that they cannot simply ignore our laws or the will of the people.This decision directly contradicts an order from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordering states to provide same-sex couples with the federal benefits they deserve under the law. All married couples will now have to travel to one of the five federal facilities in Oklahoma to apply for benefits.
Incidentally, the state’s facilities were built almost entirely with federal funds and 90 percent of the Oklahoma Military Department — which includes the National Guard — is funded by the federal government.
Fallin’s tactic mirrors other attempts to punish an entire group to avoid serving the gay community. When marriage equality came to the District of Columbia, Catholic Charities decided to stop offering partner benefits to all employees to avoid having to provide them to any employee’s same-sex spouse. In various states, Catholic Charities has also abandoned all adoption services to avoid having to provide them to same-sex couples.
Oklahoma is not alone in defying Hagel’s orders. The Texas Military Force acknowledged this week that it will not allow same-sex couples to apply for a housing allowance at state-run National Guard facilities, having already turned away at least one couple. Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia have also refused to comply, but some states that previously had balked have begun complying, like West Virginia. A total of 29 states have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, but most are complying with the federal recognition for purposes of the National Guard.
Meanwhile, Virginia is among the states that have ordered same-sex couples to file their taxes separately.
As stated above, Hagel needs to stop all federal monies going to Oklahoma's national guard. Let Fallin go to the public in her state and explain why she needs to increase taxes to replace the lost funding. The irony of it all, of course, is that the sole reason for Fallin's behavior is the Christofascists' desire to stigmatize gays and give them a basis to fell superior over others. It's beyond sick. The Christofascists and their political whores in the GOP are not nice and decent people and the rest of America needs to understand this and treat them like the pariahs they are to constitutional government.
Why Creigh Deeds’ Son Wasn’t In A Psych Ward
More media outlets are jumping on the issue I raised concerning the tragedy surround Creigh Deeds and his family, especially his apparently emotionally/mental troubled son: Virginia's mental health care system is horrific and a failing system has been made even worse by GOP backed spending cuts. While Virginia is in the low end of the spectrum of mental health services, the problem in Virginia is not unique. Ultimately, it is symptomatic of a mentality by the Christofascists/Tea Party that is more than happy to leave the poor, the uninsured and the mentally ill (especially if they are blacks and minorities) to just literally fend for themselves and/or die. The short sightedness of the mindset ignores that ultimately, we pay one way or another, including through mass shootings and avoidable suicides and violence. Think Progress looks at the problem. Here are highlights:
On Tuesday, Gus Deeds, son of former Virginia gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D), allegedly stabbed his father multiple times before turning a gun on himself and committing suicide. The younger Deeds had a psychiatric exam performed under an emergency custody order the previous day, but was ultimately released because there were no psychiatric beds available for his use in western Virginia.
In fact, an ongoing trend of state governments slashing funds for mental health programs has greatly diminished the number of beds available to Americans with serious mental illnesses, including those who need emergency inpatient care.
“Many states appear to be effectively terminating a public psychiatric treatment system that has existed for nearly two centuries,” wrote researchers in a 2012 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), a nonprofit group that examines mental health issues. “The system was originally created to protect both the patients and the public, and its termination is taking place with little regard for the consequences to either group.”
According to the report, Virginia eliminated 15 percent of its public psychiatric beds between 2005 and 2010. The state has just 17.6 such beds per 10,000 people — less than 40 percent of the recommended minimum 50 beds per 10,000 people. That didn’t stop Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) from proposing even more cuts to mental health programs in 2012.
But McDonnell isn’t the only one to embrace such cuts. In fact, state governments across the nation slashed psychiatric funding to the point that, overall, the nation’s hospitals had just 28 percent of the recommended minimum number of hospital beds by 2010.
Mental health advocates often argue that community-based care is more effective than institutionalizing a mental health patient in state facilities. But state governments haven’t been nearly as amenable to funding community-based mental health programs as they have been to closing state wards and cutting funding. As a result, Americans with serious mental illnesses often wind up in jails rather than hospitals.
In a sad bit of irony, Sen. Deeds himself has long been a strong proponent of enhanced funding for community-based mental health programs. He is currently listed as being in “fair” condition at the University of Virginia Medical Center.
The crisis in mental health care is but one aspect of America's broken healthcare system. A system that the GOP wants to keep in place as is.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
HRBOR Networking Event - 11/21/3 at the Virginia Beach Wyndham Hotel
I hope local readers will make every effort to join us this Thursday, November 21, 2013, for HRBOR's November Business Networking from 6-8 PM at the Wyndham Hotel, Virginia at Beach Oceanfront, which includes the Award Winning Surf Club with gorgeous views of the ocean and great food.
RSVP in advance and win a chance for an overnight say at the Wyndham. To RSVP go HERE. The restaurant will be open afterwards for those who want to stay and dine. This event will feature forty minute Speed Networking following our evening program so brush up your best elevator speech and bring plenty of business cards.
HRBOR is the only Virginia affiliate of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Join us and market your business and/or make new friends and contacts.
WHERE: Wyndham Hotel, Oceanfront - 5700 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach VA 23451
WHEN: November 21, 2013, fr
Deeds Family Tragedy - Virginia's Broken Mental Health Care System
|Creigh Deeds and son Gus in happier times|
The horror unfolded at a secluded farmhouse at the end of a long gravel driveway in rural Bath County.Repeatedly stabbed by his son in the head and torso, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, 55, made his way to a road, where his cousin picked him up, police said. His son Austin Creigh “Gus” Deeds, 24, killed himself with a gunshot, police said.
The senator was transported to the University of Virginia Medical Center, where he was listed in fair condition Tuesday night.Thirteen hours before the 911 call came in at 7:25 a.m. reporting an altercation at Deeds’ home tucked deep in the woods of Millboro Springs, Gus Deeds was released from Bath Community Hospital following a mental health evaluation. An effort to find a hospital where he could undergo further evaluation failed, said Dennis A. Cropper, executive director of Rockbridge Area Community Services. State police are investigating the case as an attempted murder-suicide.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch learned that an emergency custody order had been issued for Deeds' son, Austin Creigh “Gus” Deeds, 24, on Monday, which allowed mental health officials to hold him for up to four hours to determine if he should be held under a temporary detention order. That order would have allowed him to be held for up to 72 hours.
Yes, this sad story is a horrible personal tragedy for the Deeds family and their friends. But sadly, it is symptomatic of a larger tragedy: Virginia's utterly pathetic mental health system. Had the Virginia General Assembly - controlled by the Virginia GOP - deemed mental health care even a minor priority, Gus Deeds might have been able to have been placed in a mental health unit of observation/treatment and the entire night mare avoided. Unfortunately, the Virginia GOP (and its puppet masters among the Christofascists/Tea Party) deems the poor and the sick and the mentally troubled to be little better than disposable garbage to be thrown aside. Funding for mental heath care has been slashed. It's the same mindset that motivates the Virginia GOP's drive to block Medicaid expansion in Virginia. A piece from two months ago in the Virginian Pilot looked at just how poor the mental health care system is in Virginia. Here are excerpts:
Our country is once again in mourning over a devastating mass shooting, this time at the Navy Yard in Washington. As the founder and president of The Chas Foundation, a new nonprofit dedicated to help the mentally ill find appropriate treatment and immediate resources, I plead with my fellow citizens to consider the mental state of the young man who committed this atrocity.
His symptoms prior to the shooting - hearing threatening voices - clearly indicate he was disturbed. According to E. Fuller Torrey, one of our nation's top psychiatrists and founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, he was most likely a paranoid schizophrenic. Yet, even though this young man sought help for his mental condition, he received none, . . .
Virginia's mental health system is tragically broken, shattered into hundreds of unmanageable pieces. This poor system results in many mentally ill persons needlessly losing their lives, or ending up in jails, or homeless, or in the care of families who do not know where to turn for resources.
Sadly, in a 2006 report, Virginia was given a "D" ranking for its mental health system by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
NAMI Virginia, the state chapter, reports that after the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech, when $42 million in new funding was allocated to the mental health system, the General Assembly took away $37.7 million of that funding within a two-year period.
Statewide, in the last decade, the number of inpatient hospital beds for the mentally ill has declined while the population has increased by 13 percent. According to NAMI Virginia, there are currently 1,136,000 Virginians with severe mental illness and 330,000 each year need urgent treatment.
Chas, my middle son, spent 10 years seeking treatment and diagnosis from various mental health professionals. He was prescribed lithium but, despite taking his medications, he became more paranoid and psychotic. In the fall of 2011, at age 34, he suffered a nervous breakdown.
His wife and I went with him to the emergency room at Senatara Norfolk General Hospital for voluntary commitment. We spent 32 hours before a psychiatric bed was found on the 8th floor.
Chas, who had private insurance, stayed at the hospital for three weeks and was released before his medication proved effective - while he was still psychotic. He attempted suicide. This time, we went to the emergency room at DePaul Hospital. After 12 hours, the staff at DePaul sent him to Virginia Beach Psychiatric Hospital.
He stayed at Virginia Beach Psych for two weeks. The staff worked very hard to find a long-term bed for him at Eastern State. There were no beds, so he was released.
He had gone through the revolving door of mental health services for the last time. On Nov. 14, 2011, he hanged himself in the home he shared with his young wife. His father found him.
[I]f mentally ill people are not on medication, they can be an extreme risk to themselves, like Chas, or to others, like Seung-Hui Cho, who committed the horrific crimes at Virginia Tech.
Unless there are more state and federal funds for hospital beds, long-term treatment and community programs and resources, I fear that Virginia's ranking as 39th in the country for mental health services will worsen.
Not to make light of the personal tragedies of the members of the Deeds family, but Gus Deeds' apparent mental health problems and inability to secure proper treatment/hospitalization are not unique in Virginia. If the Virginia GOP put any sort of premium on mental health care - or health care in general - instead of looking for ways to cut taxes and slash the social safety net, Gus Deeds and many others might be alive as I write this post. As I have noted many times, I find it most damning that the political party that feigns fealty to Christian values is the party that makes the Biblical Pharisees look like upstanding and compassionate people. My thoughts are with the Deeds family and other families who have experienced horrors and loss because of the misplaced priorities of our legislators, especially the members of the Republican Party.
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