Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Will a Civil War Break Out in the Virginia GOP?

The RPV' Base's 2013 "dream team" of extremists

Some conjecture that the Tea Party take down of Eric Cantor may be only the opening salvo of a civil war that may flare within the Republican Party of Virginia ("RPV").  Even as the Commonwealth's population trends toward more diversity and the voting power of the urban areas increase, the Christofascists and their fellows hiding under the Tea Party label are veering more and more into complete crazy land.  Some in the RVP - admitted far too few - seem to be slowly realizing that the insanity of the party base may spell the long term death knell of the party.  The spittle flecked Christofascists and Tea Party lunatics, who naturally remain detached from objective reality, in contrast claim that more "ideological purity" within the party is what will save it.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the brewing intra-party warfare.  Here are highlights:
Virginia Republicans watched and waited to see if the state party’s treasurer would resign after he publicly questioned Muslims’ contributions to society.  Some urged his ouster; others kept quiet. Finally, he agreed to step down.

The episode added to the turmoil within the state party that is making a growing number of Republicans uneasy about the GOP’s ability to elect statewide candidates or deliver Virginia for a Republican presidential candidate in 2016.

In June, a group of tea party activists, Ron Paul enthusiasts and staunch conservatives calling themselves the “conservative coalition” shocked the nation when they helped a little-known economics professor defeat former House majority leader Eric Cantor.

The fighting could come to a head Saturday when Republicans from both camps — insurgents and establishment — gather in Richmond for a meeting of the party’s governing body, the State Central Committee. The meeting comes as Democrats hold all five statewide offices and the GOP is struggling to define itself.

Officially, the committee will decide some internal issues. But unofficially, some are predicting a day-long slugfest between warring factions that haven’t faced each other since Cantor’s loss.
While a meeting full of arcane parliamentary rules might seem irrelevant to the long-term success of the party, many Republicans say the decisions of a few dozen powerful insiders will have a direct impact on the GOP’s likelihood of nominating candidates with enough mainstream appeal to win statewide elections in a changing Virginia.

Ron Butler, president of a ­direct-mail firm with ties to Cantor, was pessimistic that momentum would swing back to the establishment. “They’re acting more like the Muslim Brotherhood than the Republican Party in this country,” he said of the conservative wing of the GOP. “They scream about Eric Holder and President Obama upholding the Constitution. They’re attempting to throw their own constitution out.”

The conservative wing tried to blacklist Butler’s firm, an unprecedented move in Virginia politics that some say runs counter to the party’s free-market ideals.

With big policy issues facing the state, including Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s effort to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and a worsening state budget shortfall, some Republicans see their internal troubles as an unhelpful distraction.

The flap about the former party treasurer began July 29, when Bob FitzSimmonds posted an inflammatory comment about Muslims on Facebook. . . . Democrats seized on the FitzSimmonds controversy to cast ­Republicans as incendiary and noninclusive. The state party specifically called on Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie to denounce the comments, which the Democrats called “bigoted.”

At the core of the rift is a ideological clash about how candidates are nominated for elected office. The conservative coalition prefers party-run conventions that attract the most committed, conservative activists to day-long gatherings. Moderate Republicans prefer primaries, which are open to all voters in Virginia.

Last year, conservatives in crucial party leadership positions successfully pushed for a convention — and went on to nominate candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general whom Democrats, on their way to a historic sweep of all three offices, painted as too conservative.
"Too conservative" is an understatement.  Far right extremists - and in the case of Cuccinelli and Jackson, freaking insane - would be more apt.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry Is Indicted for Abuse of Power

Even as the Bob and Maureen McDonnell corruption trial (some would describe it as a tawdry circus) grinds on yet another Republican governor has been indicted by a grand jury.  This time, it's Texas' Rick Perry - the first Texas governor in nearly 100 years to be indicted on criminal charges.  As I've asked before, why does it seem that the majority of such indictments involve Republicans, especially those espousing "family values" and "Christian principles"?  Is it a form of arrogance seen among Christofascists that makes these folks see themselves above the law?  The New York Times has details on Perry's indictment.  Here are excerpts:
A grand jury indicted Gov. Rick Perry on two felony counts on Friday, charging that he abused his power last year when he tried to pressure the district attorney here, a Democrat, to step down by threatening to cut off state financing to her office. 

The indictment left Mr. Perry, a Republican, the first Texas governor in nearly 100 years to face criminal charges and presented a major roadblock to his presidential ambitions at the very time that he had been showing signs of making a comeback. 

Grand jurors in Travis County charged Mr. Perry with abusing his official capacity and coercing a public servant, according to Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor assigned to the case.
The long-simmering case has centered on Mr. Perry’s veto power as governor. His critics asserted that he used that power as leverage to try to get an elected official — Rosemary Lehmberg, the district attorney in Travis County — to step down after her arrest on a drunken-driving charge last year. Ms. Lehmberg is Austin’s top prosecutor and oversees a powerful public corruption unit that investigates state, local and federal officials; its work led to the 2005 indictment of a former Republican congressman, Tom DeLay, on charges of violating campaign finance laws.

Mr. Perry’s detractors said that his moves crossed the line from hardball politics to criminal acts that violated state laws. His aides denied that he did anything wrong and said that he acted in accordance with the veto power granted to every governor under the Texas Constitution. Ms. Lehmberg did not resign and remains in office.

The criminal indictment of the state’s chief executive shocked the Texas political world. Mr. Perry will be arraigned at a later date at the county criminal courthouse a few blocks from the governor’s mansion. 

Mr. McCrum said it was a matter of procedure that anyone charged with a felony “will have to be booked in,” including the governor. Asked if Mr. Perry would have to have a mug shot taken and be fingerprinted, he added, “I imagine that’s included in that.”

The charge of abuse of official capacity carries a prison sentence of five to 99 years, and the charge of coercion of a public servant a two- to 10-year prison sentence.

The indictment could mar the legacy of Mr. Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, as his tenure nears an end.

According to the state comptroller’s website, the governor’s office has paid his lawyer, Mr. Botsford, nearly $80,000 since June. Legal experts said that other state officials who have been accused of crimes relating to their duties have had to pay for their own defense, and this was one of the first times Texas taxpayers were paying the bill.

The last Texas governor to face criminal charges was James E. “Pa” Ferguson, who was indicted in 1917 by a Travis County grand jury on embezzlement and eight other charges. His case also involved a veto that stirred anger: Mr. Ferguson vetoed the entire appropriation to the University of Texas because it had refused to fire certain faculty members. The state Senate voted to impeach him, but he resigned first. 
 Personally, I hope Perry is convicted - along with Bob and Maureen McDonnell.  In both cases, it would be a strike against the GOP's sick version of "family values."

Sea Change: Americans Have Shifted Views on Gays

Even as Mat Staver is ranting against gays and the GOP, a new poll suggest why Republicans are remaining more and more silent on the issues of gay rights in general and gay marriage in particular: the majority of Americans now support gay marriage and a plurality say they would not be upset to learn their child is gay.  In short, preaching an anti-gay message is increasingly political poison unless one is address a gathering of Christofascists behind closed doors (as GOP Senate candidate Ed Gillespie is want to do). Like it or not, the Christofascists and politicians still willing to prostitute themselves to them are steadily losing the war against gays and one can only hope that soon they will be treat akin to segregationists and KKK members in decent circles.  A piece from McClatchy Washington Bureau looks at the rapid sea change in views:
Americans are changing their minds about gays at a startling pace, driven by young people coming of age in a new era and by people of all ages increasingly familiar with gays and lesbians in their families and their lives, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll.

A solid majority support same-sex marriage, confirming the fast-turning tide that’s started appearing over the last three years. A majority say they wouldn’t be upset or very upset if a child were gay, up dramatically from a generation ago. And an overwhelming majority say it would make no difference to them if a candidate for Congress were gay, up sharply.

The sea change in attitudes is being propelled by two major forces, the poll found. First, people aged 18-29 overwhelmingly favor same-sex marriage. Second, the ranks of Americans who say they know someone who’s gay has skyrocketed over the last decade and a half. And those who know someone who’s gay are almost twice as likely to support same-sex marriage, the survey found.

There are still opponents. Republicans oppose same-sex marriage by better than 2-1. Tea party supporters oppose it by nearly 3-1. Those 60 and older are on the cusp, with 50 percent opposed.

While gays and lesbians have pushed for decades for equal rights, public opinion has changed only in the last few years and now is changing rapidly.

Adults now support same-sex marriage by 54-38 percent. For more than a decade, only about a third of Americans supported the idea, ranging from 27 percent in 1996, as measured by the Pew Research Center, to 35 percent in 2009. Support has increased steadily since then, however. In 2011, a plurality supported same-sex marriage for the first time. And in 2013, a majority of adults said for the first time that they favored it.

The most glaring sign of changing attitudes is generational:

– Those aged 18-29 favor same-sex marriage by 75-18 percent.
– Those aged 30-44 favor it 55-38 percent.
– Those aged 45-59 favor it 49-40.
– Those aged 60 and older oppose it 50-39.

Read more here:

Read more here:
By 71-27 percent, American adults say they know someone who’s gay. That’s a dramatic change from a generation ago, when a 1999 Pew poll found that Americans said by 60-39 percent that they didn’t know anyone who was gay.

Read more here:

Nearly half – 48 percent – said they wouldn’t be upset if one of their children told them they were gay, and 14 percent said they wouldn’t be very upset. Thirty-five percent said they’d be somewhat upset or very upset. It was the opposite three decades ago.

Eighty-three percent of adults said that whether someone was gay wouldn’t make a difference in whether they voted for that candidate. In December 1985, just 49 percent said it would make no difference, while 47 percent said they’d be less likely to vote for a candidate who was gay, according to the Los Angeles Times survey. 
As Chief Justice Roberts considers staying the 4th Circuit's ruling striking down Virginia's gay marriage bans, one can only hope that he's read this data and realizes that actions against gay marriage will only further stigmatize Republicans and further discredit justices who support religious based bigotry.  Antonin Scalia may not care how history views, but perhaps Roberts does.

Read more here:

When Will the ABA Yank Liberty Law School's Accreditation?

Virginia is curse by having the distinction of two "universities" that are run by crackpot nutcases and hate merchants: Regent University in Virginia Beach and Liberty University in Lynchburg.  While the increasingly insane Pat Robertson continues to embarrass the region with his batshit crazy/hate filled comments, he seemingly leaves the operation of Regent's law school alone.  The same cannot be said for Liberty's law school where Mat Staver continues to make remarks and push policies that ought to make the American Bar Association revisit the law school's accreditation - the loss of which would make it impossible for Liberty graduates to tax the bar exam in most states (something that would great benefit the legal profession).  Staver's latest dose of hate marketing is noted by the Washington Post.  Staver is ranting that the GOP's failure to loudly oppose gay marriage is akin to silence in Germany in the 1930's as the Nazi regime rose to power.  If the statement isn't insane enough by itself, the real irony is that Staver wants a Christian theocracy where those who do not subscribe to his hate and fear based religion would suffer like those who opposed the Nazis. Here are highlights from the Post piece:
Mathew Staver, the dean of the ABA-accredited Liberty University School of Law in Virginia, is upset that Republicans aren’t saying and doing more to stop same-sex marriage. In an interview on a Christian radio program, he offered this observation:
I think from the political right, the Republicans and so forth, those that are Republican elected officials state and federal, those who remain silent will ultimately be held accountable just as much as Democrats who advocate to the contrary. This is not an issue in which you can remain silent any more than you can remain silent during Nazi Germany. That was a moral issue, it was not defined by geography, there was a moral imperative there of the dignity of the human being, you can’t remain silent there and expect no consequences. Nor can you remain silent or advocate to the contrary with regards to the undermining of marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
The Supreme Court is currently considering whether to stay the Fourth Circuit’s decision to strike down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Richmond Area Minister Gets 3 Years for Sexual Relationships with Teen Girls

Once again we see a minister from a far right fundamentalist denomination going to jail for sex offenses against minors.  I'm not saying that "liberal" denominations don't have some bad apples, but it seems that a disproportionate number of the sexual predators in ministry come from conservative denominations that are utterly obsessed with policing people's sex lives.  A case in point: Troy A. Mitten, a youth minister at Trinity Assembly of God in Chesterfield County, Virginia.  The Richmond Times Dispatch has the tawdry and all too common details (note how he preyed on the most vulnerable - just like many a Catholic priest - and Southern Baptist pastor):
As a talented and engaging youth minister for Trinity Assembly of God in Chesterfield County, Troy A. Mitten had a gift when it came to nurturing the spiritual and emotional needs of the church’s young set.

“The congregation loved and respected him,” said the Rev. Quarles Lowell, the former lead pastor of the defunct church that met at 233 N. Courthouse Road.
But unbeknownst to many, Mitten had a salacious side that a prosecutor described as “not overtly sexual.” He used his exceptional skills as a youth leader and mentor to subtly prey on at least three of the church’s young teenage girls in the 1990s.

Nearly two decades later, Mitten, 53, on Thursday was sentenced to 10 years in prison with seven suspended for taking indecent liberties with two teenage parishioners beginning when they were 14.
In sentencing Mitten, Judge Frederick G. Rockwell III said the pastor used the power of his position to sexually exploit the girls. And he could not escape punishment despite all his positive ministerial work.

Both victims, now 32 and 35, testified about their yearslong ordeal and how the man they once loved as a father figure and spiritual counselor had betrayed them. The sexual contact began after Mitten gained their trust and affection.
One of the women bluntly described Mitten as a “patient predator.” 

“He patiently waited for me to trust him” before initiating sexual contact, she said. The other victim, who was similarly groomed for a sexual relationship, said, “I wanted a dad, I wanted to be loved, and I wanted a family.”
The attention, however, eventually progressed to rubbing and touching, which the girls initially discounted. Mitten began talking to them about sex and sexuality as they grew older, and that developed into inappropriate touching and various sex acts in a Wendy’s parking lot and on bike rides into the woods.

The GOP’s War on Voters Continues in Virginia

With demographic changes in Virginia continuing to trend strongly against the Virginia GOP's long term status as a major political party outside of rural backwaters and select white neighborhoods, rather than shift its extremist agenda to remain competitive, the Virginia GOP continues its war to disenfranchise as many voters it deems hostile to its extreme policies.   The main targets are minority voters, of course since nowadays most good Virginia Republicans might just as well be card carrying members of the KKK, and young voters and the elderly.  All of these efforts are being taken under the guise of preventing voter fraud even though there is zero evidence that voter fraud exists.  The truth is that it is all about keeping those who don't subscribe to the GOP's steal from the poor to give to the rich and religiously extreme agenda from voting if at all possible.  A main editorial in the Washington Post looks at the continuing GOP effort to disenfranchise voters.  Here are highlights:
IN 2012, Republican lawmakers in Virginia changed a decade-old state law that allowed registered voters without identification to cast ballots if they signed a sworn statement attesting to their identity. Mindful that there was no compelling reason for the change — there was zero evidence of in-person voting fraud — they cushioned its impact by allowing voters to present any one of an array of IDs, including bank statements and utility bills. They also authorized a $2.2 million public relations campaign to make sure voters got the word. 

Then GOP lawmakers went for broke. In what amounts to an unadvertised blitzkrieg aimed at young and minority voters, they enacted another law, effective this year, requiring voters to present photo IDs at the polls — and not just any photo IDs. Even if they have registered without a hitch, Virginians may now be blocked from casting regular ballots if their photo ID expired more than a year ago, if they moved to the state recently and have only an out-of-state driver’s license, if all they have is a photo ID from a private high school, if they attend college out of state and present a photo ID from that institution, or . . . .
The point is clear. At least 200,000 active voters in Virginia lack driver’s licenses, and many of them may also lack other photo IDs that the state now may consider valid for the purpose of voting. If the Republicans’ goal was to disenfranchise those voters, they have done a fine job.

Putting aside their partisan agenda — to impede voting by certain groups that lean Democrat — the illogic of their project is breathtaking. Bank and utility statements, paychecks and other non-photo forms of ID remain sufficient to register to vote and to receive voter registration cards in Virginia. But those same forms of identification no longer will suffice at polling stations; nor will voter registration cards (which have no photo).

Republican lawmakers note that registrars’ offices will issue voters a free photo ID. But many voters who work full-time would have trouble finding the time or means to get to these offices, which are closed weekends and evenings.

The campaign to tighten voter ID rules has accelerated for several years under GOP auspices, mainly in Southern states. It calls attention to the party’s increasing identification with and reliance on older and whiter portions of the nation’s electorate, which are shrinking. By trying to negate the electoral effects of demographic change, Republicans are digging themselves deeper into a hole of their own making.

Calls Grow for Demilitarization of Police

The images coming out of Ferguson, Missouri are certainly providing fodder for America's enemies that engage in human rights abuses.  Not only was a unarmed 18 man killed inexplicably by police, but the actions of the police to protesters look like something out of a police state.  Those who chant about American exceptionalism need to take a good hard  look at what is happening here in their own back yards.  Of course most of those who engage in that form of xenophobia tend to be conservatives/Republicans who nowadays are thinly veiled white supremacists, so seemingly the murder of unarmed young men isn't an issue so long as the victims are black. Tellingly, among those roughed up by police are news reporters, some of who had their camera equipment seized - a sign to me that even the police know that their conduct is improper and that they fear images being disseminated by the media.  A piece in the New York Times and another in the New Yorker look at the frightening militarization of the police in America.  First excerpts from the Times:

For four nights in a row, they streamed onto West Florissant Avenue wearing camouflage, black helmets and vests with “POLICE” stamped on the back. They carried objects that doubled as warnings: assault rifles and ammunition, slender black nightsticks and gas masks.

They were not just one police force but many, hailing from communities throughout north St. Louis County and loosely coordinated by the county police. 

Their adversaries were a ragtag group of mostly unarmed neighborhood residents, hundreds of African-Americans whose pent-up fury at the police had sent them pouring onto streets and sidewalks in Ferguson, demanding justice for Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a police officer on Saturday.

When the protesters refused to retreat from the streets, threw firebombs or walked too close to a police officer, the response was swift and unrelenting: tear gas and rubber bullets.

To the rest of the world, the images of explosions, billowing tear gas and armored vehicles made this city look as if it belonged in a chaos-stricken corner of Eastern Europe, not the heart of the American Midwest. As a result, a broad call came from across the political spectrum for America’s police forces to be demilitarized, and Gov. Jay Nixon installed a new overall commander in Ferguson.
“At a time when we must seek to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the local community,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said, “I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message.”

Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, and Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, voiced similar sentiments.

But such opposition amounts to a sharp change in tone in Washington, where the federal government has spent more than a decade paying for body armor, mine-resistant trucks and other military gear, all while putting few restrictions on its use.
The increase in military-style equipment has coincided with a significant rise in the number of police SWAT teams, which are increasingly being used for routine duties such as conducting liquor inspections and serving warrants.

For years, much of the equipment has gone unnoticed. But as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have drawn down, police departments have been receiving 30-ton, mine-resistant trucks from the military. That has caught the attention of the public and caused controversy in several towns.

Nowhere has the deployment of military-style equipment been on starker display than this week in Ferguson. 

Yes, it is a frightening development.  The New Yorker piece provides some eye witness accounts:

Nothing that happened in Ferguson, Missouri, on the fourth night since Michael Brown died at the hands of a police officer there, dispelled the notion that this is a place where law enforcement is capable of gross overreaction. Just after sundown on Wednesday, local and state officers filled West Florissant Avenue, the main thoroughfare, with massive clouds of tear gas. They lobbed flash grenades at protesters who were gathered there to demand answers, and, at times, just propelled them down the street. That they ordered the crowd to disperse was not noteworthy. That the order was followed by successive waves of gas, hours after the protests ended, became an object lesson in the issues that brought people into the streets in the first place. 

Two journalists, Wesley Lowery, of the Washington Post, and Ryan Reilly, of the Huffington Post, and a St. Louis Alderman, Antonio French, were arrested. (The journalists were let go without charges; the alderman, as his wife told reporters, was released after being charged with unlawful assembly.) What transpired in the streets appeared to be a kind of municipal version of shock and awe; the first wave of flash grenades and tear gas had played as a prelude to the appearance of an unusually large armored vehicle, carrying a military-style rifle mounted on a tripod. The message of all of this was something beyond the mere maintenance of law and order: it’s difficult to imagine how armored officers with what looked like a mobile military sniper’s nest could quell the anxieties of a community outraged by allegations regarding the excessive use of force. It revealed itself as a raw matter of public intimidation.

Inside of a week, two black teen-agers have been shot by police and, in both instances, the bureaucratic default setting has favored law enforcement, fuelling a perception that the department is either inept or beholden to a certain nonchalance about the possibility of police brutality. I watched the events that led up to the eruption of tear gas with Etefia Umana, an activist who is chairman of the board of an organization called Better Family Life, and who lives about fifteen hundred feet from the spot where Brown was shot. Umana explained to me that the durable anger in Ferguson is fueled by the enigma of the officer’s identity and the perceived possibility that, should the department fail to bring charges against him, his name may never be known.

The day began with questions about why a young man was killed just days before he was due to begin college. It ended as a referendum on the militarization of American police forces.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Hate Group Files Stay Request with SCOTUS in Virginia Marriage Case

While not yet officially designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ludicrously named Alliance Defending Freedom - which claims it fights fro religious freedom but in reality works to force Christofascist beliefs on all Americans - has filed an Application for a Stay of Mandate with the U.S. Supreme Court in Bostic v. Rainey, et al., after the United States Court of Appeal for the fourth Circuit refused to stay its ruling that Virginia's bans on same sex marriage are unconstitutional under the U. S. Constitution.  ADF is representing nasty bigot Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk, Michele McQuigg who wants to keep LGBT Virginians inferior under the law because we do not subscribe to her hate and fear based religious beliefs.  The good news is that ADF has a profound track record of losing cases.  The bad news is that many speculate that the Supreme Court will grant a stay pending an appeal from the 4th Circuit.   The full application can be seen here.  Here are further details from the Washington Blade:
The court clerk defending Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage filed a petition on Thursday with the U.S. Supreme Court calling on justices to block a lower court decision allowing gay couples to wed in the Old Dominion starting next week.

“Unless this Court issues the stay requested here and makes clear that the courts of appeals should stay their mandates in these cases, it is likely that other circuits will mistakenly follow the Fourth Circuit’s lead,” the brief states. “Yet that would invite needless chaos and uncertainty rather than facilitate the orderly and dignified resolution of a constitutional question of enormous national importance.”

The brief, signed by Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Byron Babione, argues the Supreme Court should grant a stay because justices are likely to consider take up a same-sex marriage case on appeal with a fair prospect of reversing lower court decisions overturning bans on gay nuptials.

Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, same-sex couples could start obtaining marriage licenses from clerks’ offices in Virginia after the Fourth Circuit issues the mandate on its decision, which is set to occur 8 am on August 21.

The petition from Alliance Defending Freedom was delivered to Chief Justice John Roberts, who’s responsible for stay requests for the Fourth Circuit. Roberts can decide the matter on his own, or refer the request to the entire court.

It remains to be seen what action the Supreme Court will take, but justices have previously granted stays on similar decisions in favor of marriage equality.

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, nonetheless said he sees room for the Supreme Court to deny a stay this time around in the Virginia case.

“A lot has changed since the Court issued a stay in Kitchen, which was the first district court decision in the entire country striking down a state marriage ban after Windsor,” Minter said. “There are now many other such decisions, in every corner of the nation. The Court could decide that a stay is no longer warranted.”

In the event the Supreme Court declines to issue a stay, the Virginia decision would become binding precedent in the Fourth Circuit. Minter said whether clerks in other Fourth Circuit states — West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina — would then have the authority to distribute marriage licenses to same-sex couples “would depend on the specifics of state law.”

“But whether immediately or with some short delay to get implementing orders, I expect that marriages would commence in those states very quickly,” Minter said.

Michelle McQuigg - the face of anti-gay hate

Religion Takes a Big Decline

Despite the claims of the Christofascists that America is a "Christian nation" and that they represent a majority of Americans, the reality is that religiosity has declined sharply and currently is at the lowest level ever measured. For those of us who long for the day when Christofascists are political and social outcast, the obvious hope is that religion's decline continue and/or accelerate.  Here are some highlights from Religion News Service:

Religiosity in the United States is in the midst of what might be called ‘The Great Decline.’ Previous declines in religion pale in comparison. Over the past fifteen years, the drop in religiosity has been twice as great as the decline of the 1960s and 1970s.

Last year brought a continuation of this decline. 2013 was a new low for the level of religiosity in the country.

How do we track this massive change in American religion? We start with information from rigorous, scientific surveys on worship service attendance, membership in congregations, prayer, and feelings toward religion. We then use a computer algorithm to track over 400 survey results over the past 60 years. The result is one measure that charts changes to religiosity through the years.

The graph of this index tells the story of the rise and fall of religious activity. During the post-war, baby-booming 1950s, there was a revival of religion. Indeed, some at the time considered it a third great awakening. Then came the societal changes of the 1960s, which included a questioning of religious institutions. The resulting decline in religion stopped by the end of the 1970s, when religiosity remained steady. Over the past fifteen years, however, religion has once again declined. 

But this decline is much sharper than the decline of 1960s and 1970s. Church attendance and prayer is less frequent. The number of people with no religion is growing. Fewer people say that religion is an important part of their lives.

In 2013, we saw continued declines in religiosity. The importance of religion in people’s lives? Down. Church attendance? Down. People who say they are “no religion”? Up. The result: 2013 had the lowest level of religiosity of any year we can measure.

Bob Felton at Civil Commotion suggest some of the causes for religion's decline which seem on target:

There are doubtless many things at work here; certainly, education has played a role. No less important though, I am sure, is the relentlessly vile behavior of His publicists [i.e., the "godly Christian crowd]. Stressed, marginalized, ridiculed — the Pious are showing their true colors, and it ain’t pretty.

Vladimir Putin - Delusional Liar or Victim of His Own Propaganda?

Throughout the days of the Third Reich,  Adolph Hitler and his henchmen disseminated propaganda that was totally unrelated to reality.  In the early days, the propaganda involved claims of protecting ethnic Germans outside of Germany - even though the real intention was one of conquest - and in the waning days the propaganda claimed that there were German victories even as the allied forces closed in on Berlin from all sides.  Amazingly, Hitler after a while seemed to believe his own propaganda even though it consisted of obvious lies to sane individuals both inside and outside of Germany.  Today, we see amazing parallels as Vladimir Putin claims that Russia is sending "humanitarian aid" to eastern Ukraine even though this alleged humanitarian aid includes helicopters, surface-to-air missile systems, and possible anti-aircraft weapons systems.    So the question is: is Putin a bald face liar or is he so insane that he believes his own lies and thinks everyone else is equally insane.   Here are highlights from Business Insider:

According to The Interpreter, this weapon [see image above] is possibly a 9K22 Tunguska battery, which had been mounted onto a Kamaz truck. Tunguskas are anti-aircraft weapons that can fire both missiles and 30mm guns. They are capable of shooting down low-altitude aircraft, although the gun can also be used against ground troops. 

The Tunguska probably isn't the only anti-aircraft weapon traveling with the convoy . . . . Russian military helicopters have been flying alongside the convoy as well.
The Russian convoy has raised a number of red flags, even aside from this heavy contingent of guns and armor. The convoy has failed to abide by conditions put in place by both Ukraine and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) — the convoy is traveling under the ICRC flag, yet the organization has not been able to verify the contents of the trucks.

"At the moment it is not an International Red Cross convoy, inasmuch as we haven't had sight of the material, we haven't had certain information regarding the content, and the volume of aid that it contains," ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The convoy has also veered away from an agreed-upon border crossing under the control of the Ukrainian government, and is instead traveling toward rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

According to The Interpreter, the convoy is close to the same border crossing that the Russians are believed to have used to transport the Buk missile system that was used to shoot down MH17 in July.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned on Monday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine was a "high probability" and that it would take place under the "guise of a humanitarian operation."
Russia, which sees Russian-speakers in the east under threat from a government it considers chauvinistic, said any suggestion of a link between the convoy and an invasion plan was absurd.

Beyond the military supplies tailing the convoy, Russia still has an estimated 20,000 troops along its border with eastern Ukraine. In total, Russia may have upward of 45,000 soldiers encircling Ukraine, if Russian soldiers in Crimea and Belarus are taken into account.