Saturday, February 08, 2014

Quote of the Day: Smell the Sickness

There was a time when conservative Christians in America condemned the "godless Communists" in Russia and hared of all things Russian was almost a requirement.  Indeed, as a child being raised in the Catholic Church I remember prays after mass that were dedicated to "the conversion f Russia."  How things change. Now Southern Baptists are lauding Russian and its dictator, Vladimir Putin, particularly because of his anti-gay agenda.   It demonstrates just how intensely sick conservative Christianity in America has become.  Bob Felton sums it up well:

Though Vladimir Putin’s Russia remains one of the most repressive, hungry, and backward nations on earth, Baptist Press unembarrassedly speculates that the Invisible Boss may be using that benighted nation to lead the West back to right-mindedness.

God once used a donkey to alert a wayward prophet that he was on the wrong track. Could it be the Lord is using a bear, a Russian Bear, to do the same with the nations of the West, in particular the United States?

“Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values,” Russian President Valdimir Putin said in his state of the nation address in mid-December, The Washington Times reported.

Putin continued, “Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan.”
I am not wrong about this: The organizing principle behind these clowns’ affections is the power to control and degrade other people to the level of their own loser-childishness.
 Conservative Christianity is truly an evil.

Christofascists Claim Americans' Moving Out of Marriage Equality States In Protest

Face of a bigot
I do wonder at times what kind of mind altering drug or what kind of severe head trauma some on the far right - especially amongst the "godly Christian" crowd - have suffered to result in their abject insanity and the completely out of touch fantasy world that they live in.  A case in point?   Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum.  In addition to all the other hate and intolerance the organization disseminates (when not as a worship service dedicated to Schlafly - who has a gay child, by the way), now claims are being made that Americans are moving from marriage equality states in protest over civil equality for gays.  She, of course, has no proof to back up the claim, but then she usually has no data to back up any of her insane claims.  The woman belongs in a mental ward in my view.   Right Wing Watch looks at Schlafly's latest batshitery:
In her latest radio commentary, Schlafly claims that “many Americans are dissenting with their feet, by moving away from same-sex marriage states and into the many states that continue to recognize the value of marriage as being between only one man and one woman.”

The liberal media must be covering up this mass exodus from marriage equality states, because we haven’t heard a single story of someone doing this. - See more at:
The Court held that because the U.S. Supreme Court had recently ordered that federal benefits be granted to same-sex couples who are married under state law, the civil union law in New Jersey was inadequate to ensure that homosexual couples in New Jersey are able to receive the same benefits as married couples.

There was no dissent from the New Jersey Court’s ruling, not even by Christie’s own judicial appointments. But many Americans are dissenting with their feet, by moving away from same-sex marriage states and into the many states that continue to recognize the value of marriage as being between only one man and one woman.
 Anything to whip up hysteria, play the Christians are being persecuted card and, most importantly, get cretins and the ignorant to send money to Eagle Form so that Schlafly can continue to live the good life.
Phyllis Schlafly

GOP Base Goes Berserk Over Possible Immigration Bill

I do truly wonder at times when it will become fashionable for members of local city and county committees to attend monthly committee meetings dressed in KKK regalia.  Increasingly, the GOP base acts as if they were already card carrying members of the Klan.  Just look at the reaction that has been triggered by the GOP House leadership floating some still rather nebulous principles for immigration reform.  In some circles the spittle flecked hysteria is so bad one would think that Pope Francis had raped an altar boy on the main altar of St. Peter's Basilica.  If one wants two see how Hitler rose to power, look no farther than today's GOP base and its inability to see humanity in others.  The New York Times looks at the blow back John Boehner and others are receiving from the knuckle dragging racists in the party base (most of whom probably go to church on Sundays and congratulate themselves on their piety) .  Here are excerpts:

As House Republicans embarked late last month in luxury buses for their retreat on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, their ears were already ringing with angry phone calls. Heritage Action, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, was imploring its members to flood the Capitol with warnings to accept “no amnesty.”

The day before, the Tea Party Patriots group set in motion 900,000 automatic phone calls in 90 Republican House districts, connecting tens of thousands of voters to their members of Congress. The hashtag #NoAmnesty blazed across Twitter. About the same time, FreedomWorks, another anti-tax, limited-government group, was pulling in signatures on its “fire the speaker” petition against the House speaker, John A. Boehner

 When House Republicans gathered on Jan. 30 to actually read and discuss Mr. Boehner’s principles on immigration reform, his was already a losing battle.

A week later, Mr. Boehner shelved the issue, declaring Thursday that he could not move forward with a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws until President Obama won the trust of the Republican conference.

“I would’ve been surprised if Boehner didn’t do that,” said Representative John Fleming, Republican of Louisiana and a leader in the opposition to immigration legislation. “Few things in politics are as obvious as this one. That’s why there was a collective shrug in conservative leadership” when the speaker all but declared the measure dead.

Since October’s government shutdown, Mr. Boehner has been in open warfare with outside conservative groups, dealing them one loss after another . . . .  But on immigration, the groups flexed their collective muscles.

[A]rdent opponents grew bolder in the week after the Republican retreat. Representative Raúl Labrador, Republican of Idaho and a negotiator on immigration, suggested a push now would cost Mr. Boehner his speakership. Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama, echoed the threat.
In the end, Mr. Fleming, the representative from Louisiana, said that the speaker understood it was not worth picking a fight that would almost certainly end with nothing accomplished.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The GOP’s Immoral Conservatism

This blog frequently condemns the hypocrisy of today's GOP elected officials who wrap themselves in religiosity, claim to support Christian values and then vote for policies and laws that are the antithesis of the Gospel message that they claim to support.  Indeed, they make the Pharisees of the New testament look like virtuous charity workers in comparison.  In short, these are horrible human beings who either cannot see humanity in the less fortunate or simply do not care.  They literally sicken me.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the immorality of today's GOP and the party's contempt for the poor, the sick, and the unemployed.  Here are highlights:

“It is immoral.”  That was the judgment of Rep. Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican and committee chairman, on the House floor this week. But the subject of his sermon wasn’t the Assad regime in Syria or human trafficking. What Sessions found immoral was the repugnant notion that the government would help Americans who lost their jobs and are looking for work.

Sessions, on the floor to usher through the House “sportsmen’s heritage and recreational enhancement” legislation, explained why he wouldn’t bring up jobless benefits: “I believe it is immoral for this country to have as a policy extending long-term unemployment to people rather than us working on creation of jobs.”

In fact, the economy has added about 8.5 million private-sector jobs in the last 47 months, and overall unemployment, at 6.6 percent in January, would be substantially lower if Sessions and his colleagues hadn’t been so successful in their “work” of cutting government spending when the recovery was fragile.

Republican opponents of the benefits extension said they would consider extending that help if it were “paid for” by saving money elsewhere. So Senate Democrats drafted a three-month extension that was paid for using an accounting method Republicans have supported in the past. Republicans responded with another filibuster — and on Thursday they again succeeded in blocking an extension of benefits.

And, as is often the case, these [Republican] complaints, in turn, echo Rush Limbaugh. After President Obama on Jan. 31 signed a memorandum directing the federal government not to discriminate against the long-term unemployed, the radio host responded: “So he says, ‘I’m directing every federal agency to make sure we are evaluating candidates on the level, without regard to their employment history.’ What if they’re fired because they’re drunk? What if they’re fired because they were having affairs with the boss’s secretary? Doesn’t matter. Can’t look at that.”

Limbaugh and his congressional apostles are justifying indifference to the unemployed much the way one denies a panhandler under the rationale that he would use the money only to buy more booze. But these are not panhandlers; these are, by definition, people who had been working and are trying to work again.

The Sessions/Inhofe/Limbaugh definition of morality is based in the ideal world of universal productivity they’d like to see, but it offers little help for human misery in the real world. This morality can be seen, too, in the attempt, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and embraced by many conservative lawmakers, to repeal the “risk corridors” that protect health insurers from unanticipated losses under Obamacare. That would likely bring down the entire health-care law, as its foes desire. But a collapse would also cause 30 million to 40 million additional people to lose their health insurance suddenly, with no obvious solution or easy way back to the old system. “It would precipitate a crisis,” says Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

This morality is also at work in the decisions by 25 states under Republican control to reject the expansion of Medicaid offered under Obamacare. The states generally object because they are philosophically opposed to entitlement programs. But a new study from researchers at Harvard Medical School and City University of New York calculates that 7,115 to 17,104 more people will die annually than would have if their states had accepted the Medicaid expansion. The researchers, who favor a single-payer health system, examined demographic data and past insurance expansions.

Conservatives dispute the study’s findings, and I hope the critics are right. Allowing people to die to advance your political philosophy isn’t just bad policy. It’s immoral.

As noted before, I am truly ashamed that I was ever a Republican.  My long time Republican ancestors must be rolling over in their graves at what a horrible and immoral institution the GOP has become.   And who is to blame for this horrific transformation of the GOP?  The Christofascists and their Tea Party first cousins who have taken over the GOP grass roots. 

Scores Arrested in Russia Before Olympic Opening Ceremony

Moscow - 2014
Just as Adolph Hitler and his thugs orchestrated opening ceremony pageantry for the 1936 Summer Olympic Games, so too is Vladimir Putin and his goons.  And just as Hitler's thugs arrested those who stood against his regimes agenda of hate and bigotry before the 1936 Summer Games, so too is Vladimir Putin.  As the New York Times, at least 60 individuals have been arrested in the lead up to today's opening ceremony.  Their crime?  Protesting against Russia's anti-gay laws and the green light Putin has given to anti-gay vigilante violence and other Russian atrocities against minorities.  I sincerely hope that worldwide viewers do not allow themselves to be duped by Putin's PR campaign.  I have no animous toward the Russian people - only their foul dictator and his corrupt and vile accomplices who are continuing a near century long tradition of brutalizing far too many of Russia's citizens.  Here are highlights from the Times article:

From St. Petersburg to the Caucasus, the authorities detained at least 61 people on Friday for holding unauthorized protests ahead of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The detentions underscored the government’s efforts to stifle protests even far away from the Games.

The police swept up 37 people who gathered in Nalchik, the capital of the southern Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, to draw attention to the historic grievances of the Circassians, whose homeland around Sochi was occupied by Russian imperial forces 150 years ago. In St. Petersburg, four gay-rights activists were arrested as they unfurled a banner quoting the Olympic Charter’s principle of nondiscrimination.
In Moscow, at least 19 people were arrested near Red Square during a smattering of protests calling for gay rights. Those detained included several foreign activists who gathered at a clock counting down the last minutes to the opening of the Games.

Yet another prominent opposition leader, Dmitri Berdnikov, the leader of a group that organizes protests against arbitrary prosecutions and court rulings, was detained at the airport in Kazan, in central Russia, as he prepared to board a flight.

“Human rights are generally violated in Russia,” said Polina Andrianova, a gay-rights activist in St. Petersburg, where the four demonstrators were arrested shortly after posing for a photograph near the State Hermitage Museum with a banner that read, “Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement. Principle 6. Olympic Charter.”

Among the four was Anastasia Smirnova, a spokeswoman for a coalition of gay-rights organizations in the city, who recently met with the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, to draw attention to Russia’s policies toward homosexuality, including a law adopted last year prohibiting gay “propaganda” aimed at children. At least some of the protesters were later released, though they could face fines or other administrative punishment, according to All Out, an organization that held rallies in cities around the world this week.

In Sochi, Mr. Putin appeared to express frustration that protests over Russia’s policies threatened to overshadow the spectacle of the Games. The issue of gay rights came up again during a meeting with Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands.

It is also important that we recognize that Putin and Russia do not have a monopoly on homophobia or animus toward minorities.  That same mindset is alive and well here in Virginia as evidenced by the GOP controlled House of Delegates action to kill every single pro-gay bill introduced this year.  

Hitler 1936
Putin 2014

The Price of Racism and Homophobia: Nearly 50% of Viewers Dump Duck Dynasty

While homophobia may be popular in Russia, it apparently is increasingly associated with a real financial cost in America.  Just ask the folks at Duck Dynasty where viewership has dropped nearly 50% after Phil Robertson's diarrhea of the mouth which included the bashing of gays and a Jim Crow version of race relations.  A&E proved spineless in the face of Christofascists outrage over Robertson's suspension from the show.  But thankfully viewers are demonstrating their disapproval by simply changing channels.  Policticususa has details.  Here are excerpts:

After family patriarch Phil Robertson’s racist and homophobic remarks during a GQ interview, Duck Dynasty’s viewership has dropped by nearly 50%.

When Duck Dynasty returned for their fourth season last year, their premiere episode was watched 11.77 million people. After Phil Robertson’s racist and homophobic remarks season five debuted to 8.5 million viewers. The second episode of the season dropped to 6.65 million viewers. The third episode stayed nearly even with episode two at 6.7 million viewers. By the fourth episode the show rebounded to 7.49 million viewers, but last night’s fifth episode dropped to new low of 6.51 million viewers.

Phil Robertson’s racist and homophobic comments to GQ definitely pushed viewers away from the show. Beneath beards and duck calls, millions of Americans found an ugly intolerance for others that they refuse to support.

When Republicans and right wingers like Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Fox News support a show, that’s a good sign that a program has fallen out of the mainstream, and their ratings are about to take a tumble. There aren’t enough right wingers out there to support the kind of extremism and hate that Phil Robertson was preaching.

More viewers are leaving Duck Dynasty by the week, because the United States is not a conservative country. The Obama years have demonstrated that the nation is moving left, not right. Duck Dynasty is slowly fading away.
[T]here aren’t enough right wing Republicans in this country to take the place of the millions who stopped watching the show after Robertson’s remarks.

Nearly 6 million television consumers have decided that they don’t want to spend their evenings with the Robertsons. Hate and intolerance have not been rewarded. Almost half of Duck Dynasty’s audience is gone, and more are deciding not to tune in each week.

Friday, February 07, 2014

More Friday Male Beauty

Dedicated to Vladimir Putin

Why Athletes in Sochi Must Speak Out About Russia's Intolerance.

Speaking out sometimes carries negative consequences.  But the alternative is, in my view, selling  your soul to the forces of darkness.  Former Minnesota Viking can look at himself in the mirror with pride and know that his was never quiet and complicit in evil.  (On a far lesser scale I refused to remain closeted at work and lost my job when my law firm was acquired by a larger law firm.)  Now, Kluwe has an op-ed in The Guardian urging Olympic athletes in Sochi to refuse to remain silent.  Here are op-ed excerpts:

The Olympic Games in Sochi begin Friday. Controversy and doubt swirl around these games, this abysmal excuse of "Olympic Spirit" we seem determined to celebrate this year, despite all the hate and stupidity and human rights violations they represent. Vladimir Putin, dictator of Russia in all but name, appears content to ignore the lessons of history – namely, that you cannot oppress a group of your own citizenry forever without them eventually rising up against you. Unfortunately, the corporate sponsors of the games appear content to ignore it along with him.

"Today's refreshing anti-gay beating brought to you by Coca-Cola!"

"Visa goes everywhere you want to be, and takes you places you don't want to be, like a gulag in Siberia if you support LBGTQ rights!"

"GE, we don't just make your washers and dryers, we also wash our hands of the truth about bigotry and ignorance!"

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), chief benefactor of these big money sponsors, has determined that any athlete speaking out in "accredited areas" against the human rights violations occurring in Russia right now will be found in violation of the Olympic Charter, banned from the games, and stripped of any medals. Corporate sponsorships, the pot of gold at the end of the Olympic rainbow, will disappear. . . . politicized in no small part by the IOC refusing to uphold their own charter when it applies to themselves.
How can the IOC get away with this blatant disregard of their own rules? Easy. The IOC has what Olympic athletes want. Money. Power. Fame.

I've been famous. As a professional athlete, even as a lowly punter, it comes with the territory. . . . I've had money. Playing eight years in the NFL means I've made close to what a good doctor will make in his or her lifetime, and I've tried to be smart with it.
I had power, a platform. Rightly or wrongly, our society regards athletes as role models, people to look up to, to emulate. For most of my career, I didn't use my platform for much. I was content to stay silent and collect my paychecks. 

I talked about important issues with my friends and family, but I never really took it public.Then, one day, I decided to use my platform. I decided to speak up for those whose rights were being trampled, to actually use the position society gifted me to say something meaningful, something other than sports cliches.

I decided to stand up for those who needed help, because they asked me to, and because it was the right thing to do. I knew it could cost me my job, my career, and I didn't care (OK, I cared a little bit, but I did it anyway), because if I didn't speak up for someone when they asked me to, how could I expect the same in return?

The result? I lost my job, one of the most highly sought after jobs in the world, professional athlete in the NFL, for speaking out on LBGTQ rights.  . . . . but knowing how it would turn out, knowing the cost, I wouldn't do it any other way, not for all the gold in the world.
What is the true price of fame? The price of fame is what you risk when you have the platform. As an athlete, a role model for society, people listen to you. As an athlete, when you make a statement, that statement is heard, no matter what that statement is.

Speak up for LBGTQ rights, for human rights, for empathy? The world will pay attention, and take notice. Stay silent, keep your head down, count the money and endorsements? The world will pay attention, and take notice. Either way, you're the one who has to live with what you did or didn't do.

I hope that athletes speak out at Sochi on LBGTQ issues, even knowing the possible risks that await them.

I know that it's one of the hardest steps a person can take, and that there is no guarantee of a reward at the end, other than knowing you did the right thing at the right time with nothing to show for it but angry tweets and emails tempered by the messages of support and affection from those in whose lives you made a difference, those currently being abused by the oppressive and ignorant.

I will tell you this – I've been there, I've walked that path, and though it's a rocky, and frankly, terrifying one, know that there's no amount of money in the world that can buy a step there. There's no medal to hang around your neck that signals you did the right thing, no corporate endorsement to pay your bills and keep you secure in the future. If you walk that path, there are always consequences. But when you walk it, you do not walk alone. You may never know the people whose lives you change, but the change will happen nonetheless..

What is the true price of fame?   The price of fame is being a role model, whether you like it or not, and people are always watching.  The world is watching. The platform is yours.

Wave of New Bogus State "Religious Freedom" Bills Seek to License Discrimination

As LGBT Americans have gained additional civil rights - often as a result of state and federal court decisions - the Christofascists have begun shrieking that their rights of "religious freedom" are under attack.  Indeed, hate groups like Mission America have been disseminating screeds that claim that gay rights are incompatible with Christians' religious freedom.  Now through a network of hate groups "family values" organizations is pressuring state legislators (read Republicans) to pass bills that would exempt Christofascists from non-discrimination laws applicable to other citizens.  It is yet another example of far right Christians demanding special rights and believing that they are above the civil laws.  One can only hope that these laws are not enacted or, if they are, they are struck down by the courts.   Aljazeera America has details.  Here are highlights:

If a bill approved by the Kansas House Committee on Federal and State Affairs Thursday becomes law, businesses and government employees could legally refuse service to citizens because of their sexual orientation or marital status, claiming it violates their religious beliefs.

HB 2453, if passed, would permit “any individual or religious entity” to claim an exemption, based on religious views, from providing nearly any kind of services, and to be relieved from “treat(ing) any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union, or similar arrangement as valid.” Although the bill would require government agencies to make another employee available to provide the service if one employee objects, opponents of the bill say that arrangement could prove unworkable in small locales.

The Kansas measure is an extreme permutation of a wave of new bills in state legislatures that purport to bolster religious freedom, but that opponents say constitute a troubling new trend to craft a license to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital or family status. The state efforts are apparently connected to a network with the Christian advocacy group Focus on the Family at its core.

“We are really seeing this dovetailing with LGBT people across the country gaining greater rights,” said Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes these bills. “We are now seeing this reaction where people are claiming based on religious belief that there should be special authorization to break laws or have new rights.”

[C]onservative legislators are also reacting to the possibility of same-sex marriage bans being struck down, as federal cases decided in Utah and Oklahoma move through the courts — and Witt said the Kansas bill would give government employees the right to refuse service even if same-sex marriage were legal in the state.

The Kansas Family Policy Council, a Christian conservative group in favor of the bill, said in an alert to its members that the bill “would extend important legal protections to individuals, business owners and religious institutions when it comes to their rights to stand on their religious views when declining to participate in and celebrate homosexual ‘weddings.’”

In addition, a bill moving through the Arizona Senate specifically identifies corporations as parties with religious freedom to be protected — one of the issues the Supreme Court has been asked to take up in cases brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood in their challenges to the contraception coverage.

Cornerstone in Idaho, the Kansas Family Policy Council, and the Center for Arizona Policy, which supports the bill there, are all part of a network of 38 state “family policy councils” pressing for these laws under the umbrella of Citizen Link, the advocacy arm of the conservative Christian powerhouse Focus on the Family.
These bills evidence a frightening trend and demonstrate that the Christofascists need to be forced to obey the same laws as all other citizens.  One definitely has to wonder when Focus on the Family will get the hate group designation that it so richly deserves.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

A Spotlight on Mr. Putin’s Russia

With the 2014 Winter Games officially beginning today, it is timely to take a serious look at Vladimir Putin's Russia which behind the attempted glitz in Sochi is a country that is perhaps more repressive today than it was under the Tsars and where those supposedly governing for the benefit of the Russian people have taken corruption to levels not even dreamed of under Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra.  It is not a pretty picture and it is downright saddening that the Russian People have been once again betrayed by their rulers.  An editorial in the New York Times looks at Putin's Russia and it is not pretty.  Here are excerpts:

The Olympic Games that open in Sochi, Russia, on Friday are intended to be the fulfillment of President Vladimir Putin’s quest for prestige and power on the world stage. But the reality of Mr. Putin and the Russia he leads conflicts starkly with Olympic ideals and fundamental human rights. There is no way to ignore the dark side — the soul-crushing repression, the cruel new antigay and blasphemy laws and the corrupt legal system in which political dissidents are sentenced to lengthy terms on false charges.

Maria Alyokhina, 25, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, of Pussy Riot, the Russian punk band, are determined that the glossy celebration of the Olympics will not whitewash the reality of Mr. Putin’s Russia, which they know from experience. Charged with “hooliganism,” they were incarcerated for 21 months for performing an anti-Putin song on the altar of a Moscow cathedral that cast the Russian Orthodox Church as a tool of the state. 

Such political protest is not tolerated in a nation that is a long way from a democracy. In December, the women were freed under a new amnesty law that was an attempt by Mr. Putin to soften his authoritarian image before the Olympics. 

But if he thought releasing the two women from prison would silence them, he miscalculated badly. On Wednesday, they told The Times’s editorial board that their imprisonment, and the international support it rallied to their cause, had emboldened them. They plan to keep criticizing Mr. Putin — they were hilarious on Stephen Colbert’s show the night before — and working for prison and judicial reform. Their resolve and strength of character are inspiring. There is a lot of work to do . . . 
Ms. Alyokhina and Ms. Tolokonnikova have called for a boycott of the Olympics, or other protests, to pressure the government into freeing the defendants. The most important thing is that the world speak out now, while Mr. Putin is at the center of attention and presumably cares what it thinks.

More broadly, the Russian penal system is in desperate need of reform. The activists described conditions in which prisoners are cowed into “obedient slaves,” forced to work up to 20 hours a day, with food that is little better than refuse. Those who are considered troublemakers can be forced to stand outdoors for hours, regardless of the weather; prohibited from using the bathroom; or beaten.

The Olympics cannot but put a spotlight on the host country, and despite all efforts to create a more pleasant image of his state, Mr. Putin is facing a growing protest. On Wednesday, more than 200 prominent international authors, including Günter Grass, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Franzen, published a letter denouncing the “chokehold” they said the new antigay and blasphemy laws place on freedom of expression.

Mr. Putin has unconstrained power to put anyone associated with Pussy Riot and thousands of other political activists in prison. But these women and those who share their commitment to freedom and justice are unlikely to be silenced, and they offer Russia a much better future.

The irony is that but for the Bolshevik revolution, Russia might be a far better place for its people today.  Before the revolution, Russia was industrializing and modernizing faster than any other country and, indeed, did not regain its 1913 industrial out put until the eve of World War II.  And let's not forget that perhaps as many as 14 million Russian died during the revolution and brutal civil was that followed.  The Russian people deserve far better than Vladimir Putin.


Repeal of Virginia Fornication Law Fails

If one wants to know just how beholden the Republican Party is to the Christofascists in the party base, look no farther than the failed attempt to repeal a criminal statute on the books which makes having sex outside of marriage a crime. This antiquated statute is an embarrassment to Virginia, yet its repeal was killed by, you guessed it, the Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly.  The Virginia GOP has become a de facto sectarian party which takes its directions from The Family Foundation and other organizations that, if they had their way, would turn Virginia back into a modern day version of Puritan controlled Massachusetts in the 1600's.   It's the same mindset that keeps Virginia one of the most anti-gay states in America.  Here are highlights from a Virginian Pilot piece on the failed repeal effort:
Fornication is a term more often used in church than in court these days, but it still occupies space in Virginia’s criminal code and allows the state to fine anyone who has sex outside of marriage $250.

An effort to strike that part of the law failed in a House subcommittee Wednesday over concerns it would create loopholes for related statutes dealing with incest and other sex crimes.

HB914 was one of the last of a handful of bills this session seeking to eliminate antiquated tenets of Virginia law. Lawmakers also have rejected others looking to decriminalize suicide and adultery.
While prosecutions for the latter offenses are rare, they still occur. There were eight convictions for fornication last year, said Del. David Albo, R-Fairfax County, who chairs the House Constitutional Law Subcommittee, which struck down HB914.
The laws “represent a past that not everyone’s let go of,” a past that can take a long time to change, said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.

Suicide is a common-law crime with no set penalty. Adultery is a misdemeanor, punishable, like fornication, by a $250 fine.

Prosecutors sometimes use the charges in plea agreements when the original offenses were more severe, according to the subcommittee’s legal counsel. The U.S. Supreme Court has invalidated state laws penalizing sexual behavior between two consenting adults, Gastañaga said. Adultery instead is most often used as a weapon in divorce and custody proceedings, she added.

“This is just cleaning up the code,” Gastañaga said Wednesday in support of HB914. “You put your hand on the Bible and took an oath to uphold the constitution. … You didn’t agree to uphold the Bible.”

One morality bill that is making progress is SB14, which would decriminalize sodomy between consenting adults. The Senate Courts of Justice and Finance committees already have approved the measure, which may get a floor vote as soon as Friday.  If passed by that chamber, SB14 still will have to survive the conservative House Courts of Justice Committee.

Don't hold your breath on SB14 making it through the GOP controlled House of Delegates.  Without a doubt Victoria Cobb at The Family Foundation has issued an order for the bill to be killed.  Never mind that the current sodomy statute has been ruled unconstitutional twice.  Virginia will not truly move into the 21st century until the power of The Family Foundation is broken.

Coke Ad Underscored Racism of the GOP Base

I've looked at the growing and often open racism that is becoming one of the pillars of the Republican Party's agenda.  Frequently, GOP elected official try to use dog whistle lines that will resonate with the party base while not openly offending the larger public.  But sometimes that the hatred and swamp fever sickness of the party base simply explodes into open view.  A case in point is the reaction of so  called conservatives - I'd call them white supremacists - to the ad aired by Coca-Cola during the Super Bowl last Sunday.  There is simply no way to put lipstick on this element of the GOP base and try to claim that they are decent people who can see the common humanity of others.  Michael Gerson looks at (and tries to down play) the spittle flecked reaction that exploded across the Internet and what it says about the Republican Party.  Here are column highlights:

Just after House Speaker John Boehner affirmed the eventual need for Republicans to embrace immigration reform, a commercial for a carbonated beverage, of all things, demonstrated how difficult that process is likely to be.

Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl ad featured a series of multicultural images set to “America the Beautiful,” sung in seven languages. It turned out to be a national Rorschach test. The immediate reaction of some — myself included — was a lump in the throat. There is something moving about hearing American ideals of brotherhood, reverence and sacrifice praised in other tongues. It is the universality of these longings that makes them powerful.  . . . Some hopes belong to everyone.

The immediate reaction of others — measured by Twitter and talk radio — was that the ad represented an aggressive and divisive multiculturalism and that American national songs should be sung in English (though conservative blogger Erick Erickson smartly noted that “E Pluribus Unum isn’t in English either”). Fox News radio host Todd Sarnes called Coca-Cola “the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border.” Former congressman Allen West (R-Fla.) declared America “on the road to perdition.”

Some looked at those images and saw an affirmation of the universality of American ideals; others saw a violation of the particularities of American culture, such as the use of English. Some saw exceptionalism and strength; others adulteration and threat.

As a policy issue, immigration reform is complex, with serious arguments about the economic effects of migrants on the native-born working class and serious questions about more adversarial forms of multiculturalism. But it is this immediate reaction, this habit of mind, that has large political implications.

After decades of participation and reflection, here is my proposal for the most basic truth of politics: Human beings know if they are welcome at a party or not. . . . For this reason, effective ethnic politics (and not just ethnic politics) is actually a form of hospitality: Please make yourself at home. 

“People don’t care how much you know,” said my old boss, the late Jack Kemp, “until they know how much you care.” Sometimes politics really is this simple. After all the arguments about economics and assimilation, people understand if they are viewed as a threat to the predominant culture. They know if their voice is not welcome in the national chorus. And this does have implications for political philosophy.

I saw Kemp’s frustration with the direction of his party. “We sound like we don’t want immigration,” he said. “We sound like we don’t want black people to vote for us. What are we going to do — meet in a country club in the suburbs one day?”

The shift to a more welcoming GOP message toward immigrants won’t happen in a single rush. It is not reasonable to expect Boehner to buck much of his conference without broader reinforcement. This will take donors and business groups willing to support pro-reform House and Senate candidates against tea party challenges  . . . . And it will require a presidential candidate in 2016 who offers something more than walls topped in barbed wire and self-deportation. 

But the most important change that is needed is the hardest to achieve: A genuine welcome to the party. And an honest prayer: Dios derramó su gracia sobre ti.

Frankly, Gerson is engaged in a fantasy if he expects this change to happen.  Given the way the GOP surrendered the party grass roots to Christofascist - most of whom are racists - and white supremacists changing the course of the GOP will be like trying to keep the Titanic afloat after if hit the ice berg.  Combined with this is the reality that no one in the GOP leadership has the guts  or common decency to call out the nasty elements of the party base.  

Thursday, February 06, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Del. Bob Marshall - The Face of Anti-Gay Animus in Virginia

Some politicians focus their legislative efforts on improving public education, improving infrastructure, attracting new job creating businesses, and so forth.  Not Del. Bob Marshall.  His reason for being is to persecute LGBT Virginians and put his personal religious based animus towards gays in action.  Other than Victoria Cobb of the Family Foundation, Matt Staver at Liberty University and the increasingly insane Pat Robertson, there is no one more viciously anti-gay than Bob Marshall.  Yet, ironically, it may be statements made by Marshall and former attorney general Ken Cuccinelli who help make the case that anti-gay animus was the main motivation behind Virginia's same sex marriage ban.  In the plaintiff's pleadings in Bostic v. Rainey examples of their anti-gay animus are laid out (Marshall was a backer of House Bill No. 751).  Here's a sampling:
11. House Bill Number 751 included in its “legislative findings” the fact that “in 1996, the United States Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (Pub. L. No. 104-199, 110 Stat. 2419 (1996)), which recognized the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman for all aspects of federal law.” Id.

12. House Bill Number 751 also included in its “legislative findings” that there are “life shortening and health compromising consequences of homosexual behavior” that inure “to the detriment of all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation or inclination.” Id.

14. In 2004, Robert Marshall, one of the co-sponsors of House Bill Number 751, authored an article in The Washington Post in which he referred to marriage between gay and lesbian individuals as “counterfeit marriage” and stated that the Affirmation of Marriage Act was “needed to resist the agenda of activist homosexuals” because the “danger” they posed was “real.” Lustig Decl. Ex. B (The Washington Post, No “New Jim Crow” in Virginia, July 3, 2004).

21. Then-Virginia Senator (now-Attorney General) Kenneth Cuccinelli urged his colleagues to adopt the Marshall/Newman Amendment by claiming “[t]he homosexual left has been on the attack against marriage and family for 40 years,” and that the amendment was necessary for “regaining lost ground.” Lustig Decl. Ex. E (The Washington Post, Va. Senate Backs Ban on Gay Marriage, Feb. 8, 2005).

22. More recently, Attorney General Cuccinelli publicly stated that homosexuality “brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul.” Lustig Decl. Ex. F (The Washington Post, Cuccinelli Basks in Richmond’s Warmer Climate, Feb. 5, 2008).

23. Similarly, Attorney General Cuccinelli has stated that homosexual acts are “intrinsically wrong” and “don’t comport with natural law”; and that homosexual behavior “is not healthy to an individual and in aggregate is not healthy to society.” Lustig Decl. Ex. G (The Virginia Pilot, Steve Shannon for Attorney General, Oct. 26, 2009); Ex. H (Huffington Post, Ken Cuccinelli Loses Petition to Uphold Anti-Sodomy Law, Apr. 10, 2013).
Remember, the supposed purpose of the Marshall-Newman Amended as represented in pleadings in Bostic was to protect traditional marriage and two parent parenting.  Yet we see statements that gays are unhealthy, a danger, that being gay is  life shortening, and other batshitery.  But Marshall's anti-gay animus extends far beyond alleged desires to protect "traditional marriage."  Joe Jervis has a partial list of Marshall's always sething animus towards gays:
Last week Marshall filed an amendment that would grant Virginia state legislators the right to claiming standing in marriage lawsuits. In September 2013, Marshall petitioned the US Supreme Court to overturn Virginia's legalization of sodomy. In May 2012, Marshall attempted to block the appointment of an openly gay state judge because the nominee has "an illegal husband." In 2011 Del. Bob Marshall claimed it is a felony for a state office to fly the rainbow flag. Marshall has also called on Virginia to issue its own currency, and has claimed that God punishes women who have abortions by giving them deformed children. After the DADT repeal bill passed, Marshall tried to have gays banned from the Virginia National Guard.
Equality Loudoun has a further compilation of Marshall's anti-gay animus here.  If a court wants evidence that anti-gay animus prompted the passage of the Marshall-Newman Amendment, it need look no further than Bob Marshall.

P.S. I hope Judge Wright Allen is familiar with Marshall's support for disenfranchising black voters. 

Judge in Norfolk Gay Marriage Case Hard to Pidgeonhole

As seems to be frequently the case, when a judge has a high profile case land in their court, suddenly attention becomes focused on the judge.  Most federal judges keep pretty low profiles - two of my former law partners are federal judges -  and try to avoid the spot light.  Presiding over the case Bostic v. Rainey pending in the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has certainly thrown Judge Arenda Wright Allen fully into the spotlight.  Ironically, a financial adviser I met with yesterday happens to go to church with her.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Judge Wright Allen's somewhat unique career path.  She is the first black woman to serve as a federal judge in Virginia.   Here are some article highlights:

The judge deciding what could become a landmark gay marriage case in Virginia defies easy characterization: She was a prosecutor, but also a public defender. She was appointed by President Barack Obama, and she also served in the military as a Navy lawyer.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, who has been on the bench for less than three years, is overseeing the highest-profile case of her short judicial career. If she throws out Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, the state would be the first in the South to allow gay marriage, though attorneys on both sides say her ruling will be appealed.

Liberals who want the state’s ban overturned may be encouraged by her service as a public defender and the fact that she is an Obama appointee, while conservatives may be heartened by her experience as a no-nonsense federal prosecutor.

“It’s very hard to have a sense of her on this kind of issue,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who closely watches federal courts in Virginia.

He said it’s difficult to read anything into Wright Allen’s judicial philosophy based on her record because she has not had any cases that come close to matching this one, and she rarely deals with cases so purely focused on constitutional interpretation.

At Tuesday’s same-sex marriage hearing, Wright Allen listened intently as opponents of the ban argued it was just like segregation and the Jim Crow-era prohibition against interracial marriage. Supporters maintained there was no fundamental right to gay marriage and the ban exists as part of the state’s interest in responsible procreation. Wright Allen didn’t ask the attorneys any questions, promising only to rule soon.

Two weeks before the hearing, Virginia’s new Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring announced that his office would not defend the state against lawsuits challenging the ban. Wright Allen said in court documents she considered not even hearing verbal arguments because of the “compelling” filing by the attorney general’s office.

Wright Allen, 53, took the bench in October 2011 following a unanimous Senate confirmation, becoming the first black woman to serve on the federal bench in Virginia. She graduated from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania in 1982 and received her law degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law in 1985. She then went on to serve as a judge advocate officer in the Navy before becoming an assistant U.S. attorney in Norfolk in 1990.

She served there for 15 years, but then became a federal public defender in Norfolk in 2005.  Her service as both a prosecutor and public defender is the most unusual part of her resume.

FBI chief of staff Chuck Rosenberg, who served alongside Wright Allen as a prosecutor in Norfolk in the 1990s, called Wright Allen “about the nicest person you could meet” and said she was thoughtful and open-minded.  “She brings a lot of experience from a lot of different places to a very important job,” Rosenberg said.

Note, she was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate.  Want to bet the Republicans demonize her as a "liberal activist judge" if she strikes down the Marshall-Newman Amendment?

The Usual Far Right Suspects Stir Up Anti-Immigrant Hysteria

If there is any doubt that today's GOP base is anti-immigrant and basically racist, on needs to only look to the efforts of the always vile Phyllis Schlafly and Ann Coulter to cause the angry white base of the GOP grow even more hysterical.  The claim is that the Congressional GOP is about to sell out the party base and the nation as a whole if it approves any form of immigration reform.  Indeed, these two evil women want current immigration levels sharply cut back so as to stop what they perceive to be the "brown skin menace."  Here are excepts from Coulter's screed which will not doubt be picked up and parroted by many other hate merchants of the right:
As House Republicans prepare to sell out the country on immigration this week, Phyllis Schlafly has produced a stunning report on how immigration is changing the country. The report is still embargoed, but someone slipped me a copy, and it's too important to wait.

Leave aside the harm cheap labor being dumped on the country does to the millions of unemployed Americans. What does it mean for the Republican Party?

Citing surveys from the Pew Research Center, the Pew Hispanic Center, Gallup, NBC News, Harris polling, the Annenberg Policy Center, Latino Decisions, the Center for Immigration Studies and the Hudson Institute, Schlafly's report overwhelmingly demonstrates that merely continuing our current immigration policies spells doom for the Republican Party.

Immigrants -- all immigrants -- have always been the bulwark of the Democratic Party. 

At the current accelerated rate of immigration -- 1.1 million new immigrants every year -- Republicans will be a fringe party in about a decade.

Thanks to endless polling, we have a pretty good idea of what most immigrants believe.

According to a Harris poll, 81 percent of native-born citizens think the schools should teach students to be proud of being American. Only 50 percent of naturalized U.S. citizens do.

While 67 percent of native-born Americans believe our Constitution is a higher legal authority than international law, only 37 percent of naturalized citizens agree. 

The two largest immigrant groups, Hispanics and Asians, have little in common economically, culturally or historically. But they both overwhelmingly support big government, Obamacare, affirmative action and gun control. 

Also surprising, a Pew Research Center poll of all Hispanics, immigrant and citizen alike, found that Hispanics take a dimmer view of capitalism than even people who describe themselves as "liberal Democrats." While 47 percent of self-described "liberal Democrats" hold a negative view of capitalism, 55 percent of Hispanics do.

It would be one thing if the people with these views already lived here. Republicans would have no right to say, "You can't vote." But why on Earth are they bringing in people sworn to their political destruction?

Republicans have no obligation to assist the Democrats as they change the country in a way that favors them electorally, particularly when it does great harm to the people already here.

Sorry, Americans. You lose. 

Budweiser Pulls Out Of Sochi Olympics

Post image for Budweiser Pulls Out Of Sochi Olympics

In what hopefully will become a trend Budweiser has decided at the last minute to pull all of its personnel out of Sochi citing fears for their safety.   Other media reports indicate that few foreign visitors have appeared in Sochi, so one can only hope that Vladimir Putin's ego drive Winter Games are a bust in terms of PR and allowing  Putin to preen in the limelight.  Huffington Post has details:
At the last minute, Budweiser has decided to pull out its employees from the Sochi Winter Olympics. The “King of Beers” will not host its usual Olympics beer blast, a huge party designed to promote its brand image worldwide.

According to a report at TMZ, “it’s all because the company is not comfortable with the situation in Russia.”

“A rep for Anheuser-Busch confirms to TMZ Sports … there will be no Club Bud in Sochi.”  TMZ adds, “we’ve seen an email from a Budweiser rep which says the company does not want its U.S.-based representatives in Sochi … and the message is clear — the terrorist threat is simply looming too large.”

A new CNN poll finds 57 percent of Americans think a terror attack at the Sochi Olympics, which begin tonight, is “likely.”