Saturday, January 11, 2014

More Saturday Male Beauty

Brantinham Lake - A Life Saver for a Gay Youth

In some of the earliest posts on this blog I spoke of my summers at our family summer home on Brantingham Lake in the western Adirondack Mountains.  Thankfully, the "camp" as they are called in the Adirondacks remains in the family and this summer I plan to take the boyfriend - who will be my husband by that point - for his first visit.  For those who watch the video, our place is the white boathouse to the left of the long point (named Long Point) that extends well out into the lake from the top of the frame.  Not excelling in team sports and suffering from jeers of "fag" at times at school during the school year, summers - where I excelled in swimming, water skiing and sailing - and my wonderful summer friends were literally a life saver.  No matter how long I live, a part of my heart will always be at Brantingham.

Terry McAuliffe Bans Discrimination Against LGBT State Employees

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Saturday signed an executive order banning discrimination against LGBT state employees. (Photo by Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Remaining true to his word Terry McAuliffe made signing an Executive Oder banning discriminating against gays by state agencies and departments his first act after being sworn in as Governor of Virginia today.  While the action may be more symbolic than anything else in light of the Virginia Supreme Court's conduct in the case of Moore v. Virginia Museum of Natural History, McAuliffe's approach to gay rights and gay equality is 180 degrees opposite of that to now former Governor Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell.  The Washington Blade looks at McAuliffe making good on one of his port elections promises (I'm sure that gnashing of teeth and flying spittle were the order of the day at The Family Foundation, a Richmond based hate group affiliated with Family Research Council and Focus on the Anus Family):

RICHMOND, Va.—Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Saturday signed an executive order that bans discrimination against LGBT state employees.

“An open and welcoming state is critical to the 21st century economy, but it’s also imperative for justice and fairness,” said McAuliffe during his inaugural address he gave after officially taking office.

McAuliffe repeatedly promised during his campaign against then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that the first executive order he would sign as governor is a ban on anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees. Former Gov. Bob McDonnell did not issue such a mandate, but U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner as governor banned discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation.

Julian Walker of the Virginian-Pilot reported gender identity and expression for the first time was included in the anti-discrimination order.

McAuliffe also publicly supports marriage rights for same-sex couples.

His inauguration took place against the backdrop of two federal lawsuits challenging Virginia’s constitutional amendment that bans gay nuptials.

It remains unclear whether the former Democratic National Committee chair and Attorney General Mark Herring will defend the ban that Virginia voters approved in 2006 by a 57-43 percent margin.

McAuliffe will face fierce opposition from the GOP controlled House of Delegates but it will be a refreshing change to have a governor who sees all Virginians, gay or straight, worthy of equality under the civil laws.

Russian Orthodox Church Urges Putin to Criminalize Homosexuality

If one wants to see where Vladimir Putin got the motivation to launch an anti-gay jihad in Russia one need look no farther than the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church which, other than perhaps bringing reading and writing with it when it first arose in Kiev before the year 1000 AD after the importation of Byzantine practices from Constantinople, has for most of its history supported autocrats, resisted science and new knowledge and been a consistent force of reaction and anti-modernity.  Somethings haven't changed whatsoever in over a thousand years.  As if gays in Russia do not face enough hatred and threats of violence, the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church want Putin to hold a referendum to approve a total ban of gay sex - and by definition, gays in Russia.  Yahoo News looks at this foul batshitery:

Russia's powerful Orthodox Church proposed Friday a referendum on banning gay relations in the face of Western pressure over human rights ahead of next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The Church's abrupt intervention came amid a growing debate over whether the Kremlin should mount a firmer defence of traditional values that many in the overwhelmingly conservative country view as coming under attack from Europe and the United States.

Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin pointed to polls showing more than half of Russians viewing homosexuality as either an illness or a crime as a sign that the country was ready to revert to a Soviet-era homosexual ban.

"There is no question that society should discuss this issue since we live in a democracy," Chaplin told the online edition of the pro-government Izvestia daily.

"For this reason, it is precisely the majority of our people and not some outside powers that should decide what should be a criminal offence and what should not," he said.

High-profile global celebrities and sports stars have already urged athletes attending the February 7-23 Olympic Games on the Black Sea coast to show their support for Russia's lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) community by flashing protest signs.

Chaplin -- an outspoken but also influential Church figure who airs weekly shows on state TV -- claimed that most countries viewed homosexuality as a crime.

"I am convinced that such sexual contacts should be completely excluded from the life of our society," said the Church spokesman.

"If we manage to do this through moral pressure, all the better. But if we need to revert to assistance from the law, then let us ask the people if they are ready for this."

A study conducted by the independent Levada centre a month after the "homosexual propoganda" ban's adoption showed only one in five Russians believe that people were actually born gay.

More than a third said homosexuality should be treated medically and 13 percent backed the idea of making it a crime -- results suggesting that Chaplin's proposal would pass easily if ever put to a vote.
The Kremlin did not immediately respond to the Chaplin's suggestion. But a prominent member of Putin's ruling party who oversees parliament's legislative committee said international treaties adopted by Russia made passage of such a ban unlikely.

Once again, religion proves to be the principal fount of hate and bigotry.  A world devoid of religion - or at least fundamentalist religion - would be a better place.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Racism, Sexism, And The 50-Year Campaign To Undermine The War On Poverty

While there have been some successes in the "War on Poverty" launched in 1964 by Lyndon Johnson, many goals have not been realized in large part because of conservatives' efforts to defeat the effort.  That effort continues today as we witness the Republican Party seeking to cut food stamps, killing unemployment benefits and resisting Medicaid expansion.  A piece at Think Progress looks at the war against the poor that has helped to keep America with an embarrassingly high poverty rate.  Here are excerpts:

It has been 50 years since Lyndon Johnson first declared that the nation could, “for the first time in our history,” conquer and win a war on poverty, pledging a “total commitment by this President, and this Congress, and this nation, to pursue victory over the most ancient of mankind’s enemies.” In the years that followed, lawmakers weaved a social safety net that still endures to this day, providing educational opportunities for low income Americans, retirement and health care security to the low income and elderly, and food assistance to the hungry.

But following World War II and the rise of the Civil Rights movement, welfare programs opened to African Americans, triggering a counterattack from conservatives in both political parties who sought to portray these programs as wasteful, unnecessary, and encouraging government dependence.

Beginning in 1964 and stretching through today, conservative leaders systematically undermined the programs that shaped Johnson’s War on Poverty, frequently deploying racist and sexist arguments to take away public assistance from the poorest Americans. Their rhetoric didn’t directly undo these social programs, but it chipped away at their foundation and altered Americans’ perceptions about the proper role of government. ThinkProgress spoke to six American historians of the Johnson era about the evolution of racist and sexist attacks against social welfare programs, some of which can still be heard in the debates in Washington today.

Reagan: “She wanted a divorce to get an 80 dollar raise.”
In 1964, Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act, establishing the Office of Economic Opportunity, to run Johnson’s “community action program.” The initiative established a “community action agency” in each city and county to coordinate all federal and state programs designed to help the poor. Most Republicans voted against the effort, arguing that “it would be wasted money, it would be used as pork,” Michael Katz, a University of Pennsylvania professor and the author of The Undeserving Poor: America’s Enduring Confrontation with Poverty, explained. With the Republicans united against it, Johnson pushed through the program by appealing to southern Democrats who were very fearful of any federal program, “but who had very poor white constituents and saw that as a benefit,” Julian Zelizer, a professor of history at Princeton University said. “In the end, the initial War on Poverty was passed not with Republicans, but around them.” 

Reagan tapped into the anxieties about the role of women during that day, suggesting that they would divorce their husbands to receive more government assistance:
Now—so now we declare “war on poverty”… But seriously, what are we doing to those we seek to help? Not too long ago, a judge called me here in Los Angeles. He told me of a young woman who’d come before him for a divorce. She had six children, was pregnant with her seventh. Under his questioning, she revealed her husband was a laborer earning 250 dollars a month. She wanted a divorce to get an 80 dollar raise. She’s eligible for 330 dollars a month in the Aid to Dependent Children Program. She got the idea from two women in her neighborhood who’d already done that very thing.
“The image is not just of poverty, the image is of moral depravity,” Jeremi Suri of The University of Texas at Austin noted. “The presumption in Reagan’s rhetoric, and it’s not too below the surface, is that these mothers are single mothers because they’ve done something wrong, so they’re an easy target. It’s easy to make the argument that this woman who [had apparently been] immoral in the way she behaves…and we as a government should not encourage that kind of immoral behavior.”

Nixon claims the War on Poverty programs led to race riots, “violence and failure across the land.”
By the late 1960s, as racial riots erupted in the nation’s biggest cities, Republicans and even conservative and liberal Democrats began to characterize Johnson’s programs as wasteful and saw it as the source of racial turmoil. “After 1966, Republicans are accusing the War on Poverty for being the reason for all of the rioting taking place in places like Detroit, arguing that it’s actually causing more problems than it’s solving and part of a law-and-order problem that becomes very big in the 1960s,” Katz says.

Reagan seizes on “the continued backlash against civil rights” to oppose welfare programs.
By the time he makes a second bid for the White House in 1980, “Reagan really ingeniously pairs [the conservative argument about welfare government dysfunction] with the continued backlash against civil rights,” Orleck said. The candidate kicked off the general campaign at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi, not far from where the bodies of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney were found. As Bob Herbert explained, “The case was still a festering sore at that time” as some of the conspirators “were still being protected by the local community. And white supremacy was still the order of the day.” Reagan was the first presidential candidate ever to appear at the fair, and he knew exactly what he was doing when he told that crowd, “I believe in states’ rights.”

Indeed, the characterization built off previous claims that some women, particularly black women, were acting like welfare queens, cheating the system by collecting multiple Social Security and welfare checks, earning an annual income of “over $150,000.”

“In this discussion, every time you hear ‘woman,’ what you’re really hearing is single black woman,” James Galbraith, of the University of Texas, explained. “This was not an effort that was aimed at single white women… The stigmatization was very much targeted at poor women, and on poor black women specifically.”

There's more and the piece deserves a full read.  It's not a pretty picture but it seems to ring true. We continue to see the GOP engaging in the same tactics even today.

Will GOP Dominated States Rethink Rejecting Medicaid Expansion?

As Terry McAuliffe is sworn in as Governor of Virginia today the stage is being set for a battle with the GOP controlled House of Delegates to embrace Medicaid Expansion.  As noted before, this would bring health care to 400,000 Virginians, create an estimated 30,000 new jobs, and bring billions of dollars in federal money to Virginia.  Among rational, sentient people (which excludes most Republicans), expansion is a no brainer.  But among the Christofascist/Tea Party crowd, expansion is tantamount to heresy.  Why?  The real reason, in my view boils down to racism: the opponents of expansion think most beneficiaries will be poor minority group members.  You know, the folks these pious folks view as disposable garbage.  But despite this opposition from the GOP base, some states and governors may be reconsidering - perhaps because of the pressure brought by powerful hospital associations that would benefit from expansion.  Politico looks at the possible changing situation:
Republicans counting on a year of nonstop Obamacare-bashing may be in for an unwelcome surprise: more red-state governors ditching the political script to take a second look at the law’s huge expansion of Medicaid.

The party plans to make Obamacare and its early stumbles a central campaign issue in 2014; the House plans two anti-Obamacare votes Friday. But in the states, the Medicaid expansion — a giant, dangling carrot worth billions of federal dollars to states that sign up — has proved attractive to nearly a dozen GOP governors, and a handful more are on the fence.
Governors like Rick Perry of Texas and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana remain firmly in the “no way” camp. But Pennsylvania and Tennessee are actively working with the Obama administration to expand Medicaid, although their efforts to squeeze policy concessions on the GOP wish list — like requiring enrollees to pay more — could be a dead end.

Indiana and Oklahoma are eyeing alternative versions of expansion and were granted a one-year reprieve by the Obama administration to extend existing state health care programs while they think about it.
Governors in small, Republican-dominated states like Wyoming, Kansas and Utah say they’re keeping an open mind in 2014, despite their hatred for the overall health law. And in every undecided state, an unusual alliance of powerful hospital, business and religious interests has been leaning on Republican leaders to reverse course.

In short, the 26 states that have already approved Medicaid expansion are likely to be joined by at least a few more in 2014 — and the “hell no” states could find themselves an increasingly isolated bunch, concentrated in the South.
Already, seven states have approved expansion with the blessing of Republican governors — including Arizona’s Jan Brewer, Ohio’s John Kasich and New Jersey’s Chris Christie. Medicaid is growing quickly under Obamacare, with an estimated 3.9 million people determined eligible for the program in the first three months. Supporters say that if all 50 states expanded Medicaid, another 5 million people would become eligible.

In general, Republican-dominated states outside of the South aren’t taking as hard a line against expansion as conservatives would prefer.
Kansas’s top hospital trade group signaled that it’s readying a new Medicaid offensive in the coming legislative session. Just before the holidays, the Kansas Hospital Association hired former HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, who’s advising GOP states on Obamacare implementation, to craft a Medicaid expansion plan that its members could pitch to reluctant state lawmakers.

Hopefully, common sense and decency - rare traits in today's GOP - will prevail.

Who Is To Blame For America's High Teen Pregnancy Rate?

One of claims the Christofascists put out constantly in their opposition to gay marriage rather than admit that the true motivation is motivated purely by religious based bigotry is to same that children need a mother and a father.  In the straight world, however, America is doing a pretty poor job of seeing that children are born to two parent families where parents are emotionally and financially ready for the responsibilities of parenthood.  As a column in the New York Times points out:
. . . “about half (51 percent) of the 6.6 million pregnancies in the United States each year (3.4 million) are unintended” and “the U.S. unintended pregnancy rate is significantly higher than the rate in many other developed countries.” Among teenagers in high-income countries, those in the United States have the highest rates of pregnancy . .
Who is to blame for this unfortunate and embarrassing reality?  I lay the blame squarely at the feet of the Christofascists and their puppets in the Republican Party who (i) oppose reality based sex education in our schools in favor of a fantasy based abstinence only approach, and (ii) seek to close down organizations like Planned Parenthood which provide contraception services and se education counseling, abortion services being only a tiny percentage of their activities.  Most other advanced nations have comprehensive sex education and grasp the reality that teens are going to have sex no matter what the godly folk want to believe in their alternate universe.  One need only look at data that shows that teen pregnancies are the highest in the Bible Belt (and that evangelical Christians have the highest divorce rates).  The Christofascusts' approach to sex education is as nonsensical as the advice the nuns gave my former wife in Catholic school in New York City: "if you have to sit in a boy's lap in a crowded car, put a copy of the New York phone book between you."  The column goes on to offer other solutions to this problem caused by puritanical views and America's sick definition of what it means to be a man:

This, even though young Americans are not necessarily the most sexually active youth of developed countries, according to a previous Guttmacher report. That report pointed out two important issues. First, “less contraceptive use and less use of hormonal methods are the primary reasons U.S. teenagers have the highest rates of pregnancy, childbearing and abortion.” Second, “more sexual partners, a higher prevalence of infection and, probably, less condom use contribute to higher teenage sexually transmitted disease rates in the United States.”

Most want fewer unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. And, most want fewer women to have to face the often wrenching decisions about what to do about such pregnancies.

There are some rather simple ways to move in this direction if we can agree to be less puritanical and more practical. We could, for example, begin teaching young people to value themselves in a way that contextualizes the initiation of sexual activity as a thing fully within their control and not so easily manipulated by peer and societal pressures. 

Furthermore, we must provide thorough and unimpeded sex education — in the home and at school — about how to engage in sex safely and responsibly. And, we must provide a full range of reproductive services — prophylactic and contraceptive as well as post-pregnancy. Here we are moving in the wrong direction. A Guttmacher report released last week found that more abortion restrictions were enacted in the last three years than in the previous decade.

Furthermore, much of the discussion about single-parent families and births outside of marriage is focused too heavily on young women and is simply a form of sex shaming that blames them for not being proper guardians of chastity. The shaming itself is a shame, and often inflames the pathology of patriarchy in our culture. 

We teach boys, overtly and implicitly, that sexual potency is a marker of masculinity and that empathy and emotional depth are purviews of a lesser sex. The ways we force boys to adhere to a perilously narrow reading of masculinity become a form of “oppression all dressed up as awesomeness,” as Lisa Wade, an Occidental College sociology professor, put it last month in Salon.

Boys are not taught to value themselves as fully human, but only as conquerors of everything — women, the workplace, the world. And men who are incapable of valuing their own humanity are incapable of fully valuing the humanity of a love interest.

We can address our societal problems, but to do so we must first address our societal issues. 
Will any of these common sense solutions be implemented?  Not if the Christofascists and their political whores in the GOP have anything to say about it.   Instead we will see more denial of objective reality and modern knowledge as these people cling to a Bronze Age world perpetuated by unthinking acceptance of the Bible.  Another informative article notes this: 
It's no coincidence that the states with the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections are also the same places where young people are taught to simply not have sex.

Friday, January 10, 2014

More Friday Male beauty

Modernity is Sweeping Away Conservative Christianity

Via Civil Commotion I came across a post by far right Southern Baptist Convention leader Albert Mohler that works a larger commentary on the story line of Masterpiece Theater's Downton Abbey.  While Mohler grasps that the larger story line is the transformation modernity worked on Great Britain and how the old world was swept away, the irony is that he refuses to recognize that the public acceptance of his religious fantasy world is similarly being swept away.  His science rejecting, creationist religious belief system is as much an anachronism today as the great houses of the British countryside became in the wake of World War I.  And like the British landed gentry, Mohler tries to deny this reality.  Mohler doesn't "get it" or see that he and religious extremists/reactionaries like him are actually hastening the demise of conservative Christianity as they drive the younger generations (and many of older generations) away.  Here are highlights from Mohler's post that he ought to be applying to himself and the Southern Baptist Convention:
[M]ost viewers are likely unaware of what they are actually seeing. They are not merely watching an historical drama, they are witnessing the passing of a world. And that larger story, inadequately portrayed within Downton Abbey, is a story that should not be missed. That story is part of our own story as well. It is the story of the modern age arriving with revolutionary force, and with effects that continue to shape our own world.

Though by season four King George V is on the throne, the era is still classically Edwardian. And the era associated with King Edward VII is the era of the great turn in British society. The early decades of the twentieth century witnessed a great transformation in England and within the British Empire. The stable hierarchies of Downton Abbey grew increasingly unstable. Britain, which had been overwhelmingly a rural nation until the last decade of the nineteenth century, became increasingly urban. A transformation in morals changed the very character of the nation, and underlying it all was a great surge of secularization that set the stage for the emergence of the radically secular nation that Britain has become.

The signs of the Empire’s disappearance were there for all to see, even if most among the elites did their best to deny the evidence. The great landed estates were draining their lordly title holders of precious capital, and the economic arrangements that allowed the nobility to live off of their estates would never return. That is why so many English lords looked for rich American women to marry.

That larger story records a great shift in worldview, not merely a social transformation. The consequences of that larger story far exceed the story of a great English house and its inhabitants. In that sense, Downton Abbey is a parable of sorts—a parable that can teach us a great deal.

Those who subscribe to Mohler's world view are literally dying off.  Within a few more generations, if America is lucky, Mohler's world view will be largely extinct.  Mohler and the Christofascist can strive to deny reality and modernity, but ultimately reality will prevail.  

Federal Government to Recognize Utah Gay Marriages

While the state of Utah - or more specifically, the Governor and Attorney General - is saying that it will not recognize same sex marriages officiated before the U. S. Supreme Court stayed the District Court's ruling, the Obama administration has announced that the federal government and its agencies WILL recognize such marriages. This decision underscores what I believe will be a growing pressure on anti-gay states to ultimately recognize at a minimum gay marriages performed outside of their borders.  The failure to do so will become increasingly burdensome and result in more and more lawsuits that must be defended.  The New York Times looks at this surprising - and welcomed - decision:

The Obama administration on Friday said that it would recognize as lawful the marriages of 1,300 same-sex couples in Utah, even though the state government is refusing to do so.

Wading into the fast-moving legal battle over same-sex marriage rights in one of America’s most socially conservative states, the administration posted a video on the Justice Department’s website making the announcement. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that the federal government would grant federal marriage benefits to the same-sex couples who rushed to obtain marriage licenses after a federal judge last month unexpectedly struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The Justice Department’s intervention added a further sense of whiplash to the highly charged dispute, which began on Dec. 20 when a Federal District Court judge, Robert J. Shelby, ruled that Utah’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman violated the federal Constitution.

As same-sex couples flooded county clerk’s offices in Utah, the state government asked a higher court to block the order while it appealed the ruling, but a federal appeals court declined to do so, and the marriages continued. On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a stay, bringing a halt to further same-sex marriages while the litigation continues. That decision effectively left those same-sex couples in legal limbo.

Then, on Wednesday, the office of the governor of Utah, Gary R. Herbert, said that the state would not recognize as lawful the same-sex marriages already licensed while it pressed forward with its appeal of the ruling.

But Mr. Holder said the federal government would not do likewise. He invoked as a historic call for equality a June ruling by the Supreme Court that struck down a ban on federal recognition of same-sex marriages that are legal under state law, saying the Justice Department was “working tirelessly to implement it in both letter and spirit.”

“In the days ahead, we will continue to coordinate across the federal government to ensure the timely provision of every federal benefit to which Utah couples and couples throughout the country are entitled — regardless of whether they are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages,” Mr. Holder said. “And we will continue to provide additional information as soon as it becomes available.

A variety of federal benefits are accorded to legally married couples, including being able to file jointly for federal income taxes; exemption from estate taxes and eligibility for some Social Security claims if one spouse dies; eligibility for health and life insurance for spouses of federal employees; the ability to sponsor a spouse who is not a United States citizen for a family-based immigration visa; and eligibility for survivor benefits for spouses of soldiers and diplomats.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

The Political War Over Poverty

Even as the Republican Party continues to wage war on the poor (through food stamp cuts and ending unemployment benefits among other things), a political war is being waged over who is responsible for the failure of the "War on Poverty."  Most in the GOP continue to blame the poor themselves, claiming that the poor are lazy and shiftless, etc.   They never admit that America's system of capitalism treats too many citizens as disposable trash.  A column in the New York Times looks at this political war over responsibility.  Here are excerpts:

Fifty years have passed since Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. And a funny thing happened on the way to this anniversary. Suddenly, or so it seems, progressives have stopped apologizing for their efforts on behalf of the poor, and have started trumpeting them instead. And conservatives find themselves on the defensive.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. For a long time, everyone knew — or, more accurately, “knew” — that the war on poverty had been an abject failure. And they knew why: It was the fault of the poor themselves. But what everyone knew wasn’t true, and the public seems to have caught on.
The narrative went like this: Antipoverty programs hadn’t actually reduced poverty, because poverty in America was basically a social problem — a problem of broken families, crime and a culture of dependence that was only reinforced by government aid. And because this narrative was so widely accepted, bashing the poor was good politics, enthusiastically embraced by Republicans

[T]he war on poverty has, in fact, achieved quite a lot. It’s true that the standard measure of poverty hasn’t fallen much. But this measure doesn’t include the value of crucial public programs like food stamps and the earned-income tax credit. Once these programs are taken into account, the data show a significant decline in poverty, and a much larger decline in extreme poverty. Other evidence also points to a big improvement in the lives of America’s poor: lower-income Americans are much healthier and better-nourished than they were in the 1960s.

And if progress against poverty has nonetheless been disappointingly slow — which it has — blame rests not with the poor but with a changing labor market, one that no longer offers good wages to ordinary workers. Wages used to rise along with worker productivity, but that linkage ended around 1980. The bottom third of the American work force has seen little or no rise in inflation-adjusted wages since the early 1970s; the bottom third of male workers has experienced a sharp wage decline. This wage stagnation, not social decay, is the reason poverty has proved so hard to eradicate.

[T]he problem of poverty has become part of the broader problem of rising income inequality, of an economy in which all the fruits of growth seem to go to a small elite, leaving everyone else behind.

So how should we respond to this reality?  The conservative position, essentially, is that we shouldn’t respond. Conservatives are committed to the view that government is always the problem, never the solution; they treat every beneficiary of a safety-net program as if he or she were “a Cadillac-driving welfare queen.” And why not? After all, for decades their position was a political winner, because middle-class Americans saw “welfare” as something that Those People got but they didn’t.

But that was then. At this point, the rise of the 1 percent at the expense of everyone else is so obvious that it’s no longer possible to shut down any discussion of rising inequality with cries of “class warfare.” Meanwhile, hard times have forced many more Americans to turn to safety-net programs. And as conservatives have responded by defining an ever-growing fraction of the population as morally unworthy “takers” — a quarter, a third, 47 percent, whatever — they have made themselves look callous and meanspirited.

Republicans are still opposed to extended benefits, despite high long-term unemployment. But they have, revealingly, changed their arguments. Suddenly, it’s not about forcing those lazy bums to find jobs; it’s about fiscal responsibility. And nobody believes a word of it.

Meanwhile, progressives are on offense. They have decided that inequality is a winning political issue. They see war-on-poverty programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and the earned-income tax credit as success stories, initiatives that have helped Americans in need — especially during the slump since 2007 — and should be expanded.

On its 50th birthday, the war on poverty no longer looks like a failure. It looks, instead, like a template for a rising, increasingly confident progressive movement. 

News bulletin: the conservatives ARE callous and mean spirited even as they pat themselves on the back for their piety and alleged support for Christian principles.  They are hypocrites and modern day Pharisees.  That's one of the reasons I want nothing to do with today's GOP.


The Bush/Cheney Betrayal - Falluja’s Fall Stuns Marines Who Fought There

I have a son-in-law who did two deployments to Iraq and one deployment to Afghanistan (where he was severely wounded) and in this area of military installations I know many members of the military who served in Iraq.  Many are stunned to see what they and friends fought for (and that many died for) so quickly unraveling and being for naught.  I suspect that many feel betrayed.  And they were.  By George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and by every member of Congress who voted to invade Iraq.  It was a fool's errand from the start premised on deliberate lies by Bush/Cheney and their sycophants.  Anyone familiar with the history of the region and the religious disputes between the two branches of Islam could have predicted disaster.  As I have said before, "supporting the troops" entails more that voting for defense spending and being rah, rah for the military.  It means not sending the into harms way on a fools errand.  The New York Times looks at the reactions of some who served in Iraq:

Adam Banotai was a 21-year-old sergeant and squad leader in the Marine Corps during the 2004 invasion of Falluja, a restive insurgent-held city in Iraq. His unit — which had seven of 17 men wounded by shrapnel or bullets in the first days of the invasion — seized control of the government center early in the campaign.

So when Sunni insurgents, some with allegiances to Al Qaeda, retook the city this month and raised their black insurgent flag over buildings where he and his men fought, he was transfixed, disbelieving and appalled.

“I texted a couple of friends,” said Mr. Banotai, now a firefighter and registered nurse in Pennsylvania. “Everyone was in disbelief.”

“I don’t think anyone had the grand illusion that Falluja or Ramadi was going to turn into Disneyland, but none of us thought it was going to fall back to a jihadist insurgency,” he said. “It made me sick to my stomach to have that thrown in our face, everything we fought for so blatantly taken away.”

The bloody mission to wrest Falluja from insurgents in November 2004 meant more to the Marines than almost any other battle in the 12 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many consider it the corps’ biggest and most iconic fight since Vietnam, with nearly 100 Marines and soldiers killed in action and hundreds more wounded.

Some now blame President Obama for not pushing harder to keep some troops in Iraq to maintain the stability. Others express anger at George W. Bush for getting them into a war that they now view as dubious in purpose and even more doubtful in its accomplishments. But either way, the fall of the city to insurgents has set off within the tight-knit community of active and former Marines a wrenching reassessment of a battle that in many ways defined their role in the war.

“This has been a gut punch to the morale of the Marine Corps and painful for a lot of families who are saying, ‘I thought my son died for a reason.’ ”

Ryan Sparks was a platoon commander during a seven-month Falluja deployment in which three men were killed and 57 wounded in his 90-man unit. Now about to take a job in Manhattan after recently leaving the Marines, Mr. Sparks, 39, said many of the younger Falluja veterans are angry “because we lost so many Marines, and it feels like they were sacrificed for nothing.”

He said that the fall of Falluja might finally bring home to the public what he says he and many comrades had long believed about the war. “Lives were wasted, and now everyone back home sees that,” he said. “It was irresponsible to send us over there with no plan, and now to just give it all away.”
Thousands died because of George Bush's hubris and Dick Cheney's megalomania.  Bush and Cheney need to be tried for war crimes and punished severely.  Unless this happens, this kind of fiasco will happen again.  My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones or who were maimed basically for nothing.  When members of the military hear Republicans giving lip service to "supporting the troops," they need to remember this huge betrayal.

Hearing Set for Norfolk Gay Marriage Case

It's strange that the Richmond Times Dispatch is covering this story before the Virginian Pilot, but in any event, on January 30, 2014, the  United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division.  The case, Bostic et al v. McDonnell et al, involves a Norfolk gay couple and a Chesterfield County lesbian couple who seek a declaration that Virginia's Marshall-Newman Amendment (which was championed in 2006 by The Family Foundation) is unconstitutional under rationale of the ruling in United States v. Windsor, which struck down DOMA.  The hearing is on cross Motions for Summary Judgment which ask (i) for the plaintiffs side that the Court rule that the marriage ban is unconstitutional as a matter of law, and (ii) for the defendants side, that there is no case and that the suit be dismissed.  The following are highlights from the plaintiffs' brief in support of their motion that frame the issue:

This case is about “the freedom to marry,” which “has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967). The Supreme Court has reaffirmed fourteen times that marriage is “the most important relation in life,” and that the right to marry is of “fundamental importance for all individuals.” Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374, 384 (1978); see also Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 639 (1974). As a result, “[c]hoices about marriage” are “sheltered by the Fourteenth Amendment against the State’s unwarranted usurpation, disregard, or disrespect.” M.L.B. v. S.L.J., 519 U.S. 102, 116 (1996)

This case is also about equality—the most essential ingredient of the American dream— and the “dignity and integrity” that come with it. United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675, 2694 (2013). It is beyond dispute that “the Constitution ‘neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.’” Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620, 623 (1996) (quoting Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 559 (1896) (Harlan, J., dissenting)). Moreover, the Supreme Court repeatedly has held that the Constitution prohibits laws that “impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon” gay men and lesbians. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2693–94; see also Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 574 (2003); Romer, 517 U.S. at 635. The tragic time has long passed when our government could target its gay and lesbian citizens for discriminatory, disfavored treatment— even imprisonment—because those in power deemed gay relationships deviant, immoral, or distasteful.  See Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 575–76.

Despite these bedrock constitutional principles, Virginia has decided to single out gay men and lesbians and enshrine in Virginia’s Constitution and statutory code that they are different, that their loving and committed relationships are ineligible for the designation “marriage,” and that they and the children they raise are unworthy of that “most important relation in life.”

No less than the provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year, Virginia’s Marriage Prohibition “demeans” same sex couples, “places [them] in an unstable position,” “humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples,” and “instructs all [State] officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their [relationship] is less worthy than the [relationships] of others.” Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2694–96. The Fourteenth Amendment does not permit such discriminatory treatment.

Virginia’s ban on interracial marriages violated the constitutional commands of due process and equal protection, and Virginia’s sweeping ban on marriage for gay men and lesbians violates those constitutional commands no less. The Court should grant summary judgment to Plaintiffs and declare Virginia’s Marriage Prohibition facially unconstitutional.

A review of the history of the enactment of the Marshall-Newman Amendment, particularly the falsehoods disseminated by The Family Foundation makes it clear that the purpose of the Amendment and the aim of its sponsors and their mentors at The Family Foundation was to demean and denigrate gay and lesbian couples.  Why the animus?  Because gay and lesbian couples fail to adhere to the religious beliefs of the theocrats.  Here are highlights from the Times Dispatch story:

The setting of a hearing “is an important sign that this critical case is moving,” said Carl Tobias, professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.  “The case law so far is unclear,” Tobias said.

Bostic and London charge that the Virginia amendment violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution by singling out gays and lesbians for a disfavored legal status. Bostic and London believe that their case may result in a court decision that would rule all same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional.

The couple is represented by a legal team that includes the attorneys who successfully argued California’s Proposition 8 case at the U.S. Supreme Court last summer.

There are some 40 cases around the nation challenging various restrictions on same-sex couples, Tobias said.

“However Judge Wright rules, I expect an appeal to the 4th Circuit, and on to the Supreme Court,” Tobias said. “It is interesting how quickly this issue seems to be moving in a number of courts and in some state legislatures.”

The suit may pose a first major challenge for Attorney General-elect Mark R. Herring, who opposes the same-sex marriage ban, but who in his role as the state’s legal counsel would have to defend it in court.

But Herring may back off from defending the law if his legal advisers find it to be unconstitutional after extensive review.

“What I would do is poll the attorneys in the attorney general’s office who have the expertise in the particular subject matter that is at issue,” Herring said in an interview during the campaign. “I would review their legal analysis, the arguments, and make a thoughtful or deliberate decision whether or not I thought the law was constitutional or not.”

Alternatively, Herring could simply recuse himself from representing the state, based on conflicts-of-interest concerns, Tobias said.  “If he stays on the case and Virginia loses, critics will accuse him of not mounting a sufficiently vigorous defense,” he said.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Will the Feds Investigate Chris Christie?

As the day has gone by the circus surrounding Chris Christie and "bridgegate" as some have coined it  seems to keep growing.  One of Christie's aids has taken the 5th Amendment and now their is talk of a federal investigation.  If Christie is shown to have been involved, along with Virginia's Bob McDonnell's "giftgate" demise, it may become a case study on how to destroy one's political future.  Here are highlights from the New York Times:

In a remarkable day of swirling political drama, Gov. Chris Christie tried on Thursday to control the damage from revelations that his administration ordered the revenge-closings of traffic lanes at the George Washington Bridge by firing a top aide, cutting ties with a longtime political adviser and repeatedly apologizing in a nearly two-hour news conference. 

Sounding somber and appearing contrite, the normally garrulous Mr. Christie said he had had no advance knowledge of the lane closings and had been “humiliated” by the entire episode.

Mr. Christie’s emotional news conference unfolded as the United States attorney began an investigation and as — just down the hall — a former associate who was involved in the lane closings refused to answer questions posed by Democrats investigating the matter, saying that he would tell his story only under immunity from prosecution. 

The Democrats promised to release more documents on Friday morning and issue more subpoenas of Christie aides. And the national news media that has so far bathed Mr. Christie in a distant, generally positive light descended on his doorstep here with a phalanx of television cameras and harsh speculation about whether the scandal would hurt his aspirations to be the Republican nominee for president in 2016.

Mr. Christie fired Bridget Anne Kelly, the deputy chief of staff who sent an email approving the lane closings, whom he called “stupid” and “deceitful.” Her deception, he said, led him to mislead the public, but he did so unwittingly. 

He also asked his two-time campaign manager, Bill Stepien, to step down as a consultant to the Republican Governors Association and to withdraw his name from consideration to lead the state Republican Party.

Democrats argued that the increasing number of resignations and dismissals — two other aides resigned in December — and the names of the governor’s staff members on the emails made it hard to believe that the pettiness was, as the governor argued, “the exception and not the rule” of his administration.

“I find it hard to believe that Bridget Kelly on her own came up with the idea to divert traffic lanes in Fort Lee,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat who has been leading the investigation.

“You have an administration that is very hands-on,” he said. “It strains credibility to say that somebody in as high a position as a deputy chief of staff, somebody in as high a position as the governor’s principal spokesperson, somebody in as high a position as his campaign manager, all of whose names are in these emails, didn’t ever communicate this to the governor.”

The United States attorney for New Jersey, Paul J. Fishman, opened an inquiry after the matter was referred to his office by the inspector general for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Some legal experts, however, said it was difficult to imagine how the scandal could yield criminal charges.

The fallout from the release of the emails, which are as brazen as they are blunt, reverberated nationally, threatening to undermine Mr. Christie’s carefully cultivated image.

The controversy is unlikely to abate anytime soon, with New Jersey Democrats vowing to subpoena everyone mentioned in the emails. The State Assembly on Friday will release an additional 900 pages of documents turned over by David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who worked at the Port Authority, which could continue to produce more embarrassing revelations.