Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Straight People Get Drunk and Pregnant! Gays Don't, so They Don't Need Marriage!

One of the driving forces behind the efforts to maintain bans on gay marriage - beside outright anti-gay animus - is the Christofascists' obsession with all things sexual and their burning desire to regulate the sex lives of everyone.  As federal court after federal court invalidates such state level bans, the arguments of the Christofascists and elected officials only too ready to prostitute themselves to such extremists have become more and more insane and bizarre.  Earlier this week at the oral arguments before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, perhaps the most bizarre argument of all was once again made, namely that because straight people get drunk and pregnant, while gay people do not, gays don't need marriage.   This argument seemingly got trashed by all three of the judges hearing the cases.  Here are highlights from a piece in Salon:

One of the most fascinating things about the same-sex marriage battle has been the evolution of the arguments against gay unions. Not long ago, gays and lesbians were not only considered unsuitable parents; they were an active danger to children, child molesters and abusers. Kids raised by same-sex couples were said to fare worse than those raised by heterosexual couples.

No such arguments were made in Chicago on Tuesday, where lawyers for Wisconsin and Indiana did their best to defend their states’ bans on same-sex marriage before a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Their line of attack against gay marriage was quite the opposite: Gay parents are too responsible to need marriage.

That’s right — lawyers for Indiana and Wisconsin claimed that because a “fleeting moment of passion” can produce offspring, straight people need marriage as an incentive to stay together and raise their “unintended children.” Gay people, on the other hand, have to think and plan a lot harder if they want to be parents, so marriage doesn’t concern them. In other words, because an ill-considered, alcohol-fueled romp between two straight people can lead to a baby, gays shouldn’t be able to marry.

Judge Richard Posner, a Reagan appointee, could only respond with sarcasm. “Would you criminalize fornication?” he said. “It sounds like a way of dealing with this unintended child problem.”

The absurdity of Indiana and Wisconsin’s justifications for banning gay unions — which are really something if you listen to the audio — highlights the central problem for opponents of same-sex marriage: As traditional justifications for anti-gay discrimination have lost legal ground, defending gay-marriage bans increasingly requires logical acrobatics.

The case against same-sex marriage made a lot more sense when lawyers could rely on prejudiced assumptions about gay people. Quite simply, banning gay marriage would be perfectly reasonable if having gay parents were indeed harmful to children, if homosexuality were a psychological disorder, and if the law considered gay sex to be an immoral act worthy of sanction by the state.
[I]t has only been recently that courts have stopped considering gays to be psychologically damaged. But now that it has, opponents of same-sex marriage have been left with very little material to work with.

These arguments are cute, but anyone with half a brain can see that they’re nothing more than logical gimmicks. By definition, restricting marriage to “one man, one woman” is restricting it to straight couples, and everyone knows the intention behind these laws is to stop gay marriage.

Far from presenting gay people as a threat to kids, the questions from the bench Tuesday focused on the harm done to the children of gay couples who are not allowed to marry.

For us gay folk, it’s still quite something that the judge here is talking about anti-gay discrimination and not gay people themselves.

Is It Hysterical to Prepare for War with Russia?

I have repeatedly voiced my sense of deja vu as I watch events in Ukraine and listen to the lies and hollow denials of Vladimir Putin.  The world has heard these story lines before, particularly in 1938 and 1939 when no one wanted to seriously the ravings of Adolph Hitler.  Like Hitler, Putin is a megalomaniac and seemingly suffers from delusions of grandeur, seeing himself as Russia's new tsar.  Just as frighteningly, he seems to be tacitly accepting some insane and terrifying statements by those who would unleash atomic war warfare in Eastern Europe.  A piece in Slate ask the question of whether it is naive to believe that Putin will not do something crazy that threatens world stability (such as it is).  Here are highlights:
WARSAW, Poland—Over and over again—throughout the entirety of my adult life, or so it feels—I have been shown Polish photographs from the beautiful summer of 1939: The children playing in the sunshine, the fashionable women on Krakow streets. I have even seen a picture of a family wedding that took place in June 1939, in the garden of a Polish country house I now own. All of these pictures convey a sense of doom, for we know what happened next. September 1939 brought invasion from both east and west, occupation, chaos, destruction, genocide. Most of the people who attended that June wedding were soon dead or in exile. None of them ever returned to the house. 

In retrospect, all of them now look naive. Instead of celebrating weddings, they should have dropped everything, mobilized, prepared for total war while it was still possible. And now I have to ask: Should Ukrainians, in the summer of 2014, do the same? Should central Europeans join them?

I realize that this question sounds hysterical, and foolishly apocalyptic, to American or Western European readers. But hear me out, if only because this is a conversation many people in the eastern half of Europe are having right now. In the past few days, Russian troops bearing the flag of a previously unknown country, Novorossiya, have marched across the border of southeastern Ukraine.

The Russian Academy of Sciences recently announced it will publish a history of Novorossiya this autumn, presumably tracing its origins back to Catherine the Great. Various maps of Novorossiya are said to be circulating in Moscow. Some include Kharkov and Dnipropetrovsk, cities that are still hundreds of miles away from the fighting. Some place Novorossiya along the coast, so that it connects Russia to Crimea and eventually to Transnistria, the Russian-occupied province of Moldova. Even if it starts out as an unrecognized rump state—Abkhazia and South Ossetia, “states” that Russia carved out of Georgia, are the models here—Novorossiya can grow larger over time.

Russian soldiers will have to create this state—how many of them depends upon how hard Ukraine fights, and who helps them—but eventually Russia will need more than soldiers to hold this territory. Novorossiya will not be stable as long as it is inhabited by Ukrainians who want it to stay Ukrainian. 

There is a familiar solution to this, too. A few days ago, Alexander Dugin, an extreme nationalist whose views have helped shape those of the Russian president, issued an extraordinary statement. “Ukraine must be cleansed of idiots,” he wrote—and then called for the “genocide” of the “race of bastards.”

Not long ago, Vladimir Zhirinovsky—the Russian member of parliament and court jester, who sometimes says things that those in power cannot—argued on television that Russia should use nuclear weapons to bomb Poland and the Baltic countries—“dwarf states,” he called them—and show the West who really holds power in Europe: “Nothing threatens America, it’s far away. But Eastern European countries will place themselves under the threat of total annihilation,” he declared. Vladimir Putin indulges these comments: Zhirinovsky’s statements are not official policy, the Russian president says, but he always “gets the party going.”

A far more serious person, the dissident Russian analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, has recently published an article arguing, along lines that echo Zhirinovsky’s threats, that Putin really is weighing the possibility of limited nuclear strikes—perhaps against one of the Baltic capitals, perhaps a Polish city—to prove that NATO is a hollow, meaningless entity that won’t dare strike back for fear of a greater catastrophe. Indeed, in military exercises in 2009 and 2013, the Russian army openly “practiced” a nuclear attack on Warsaw.

Is all of this nothing more than the raving of lunatics? Maybe. And maybe Putin is too weak to do any of this, and maybe it’s just scare tactics, and maybe his oligarchs will stop him. But Mein Kampf also seemed hysterical to Western and German audiences in 1933. Stalin’s orders to “liquidate” whole classes and social groups within the Soviet Union would have seemed equally insane to us at the time, if we had been able to hear them.
But Stalin kept to his word and carried out the threats, not because he was crazy but because he followed his own logic to its ultimate conclusions with such intense dedication—and because nobody stopped him. Right now, nobody is able to stop Putin, either. So is it hysterical to prepare for total war? Or is it naive not to do so?
It is dangerous to cling to the hope that dictators are sane and rational individuals.  Hitler and Stalin made that very clear.

Anti-Gay Prince William Clerk Petitions SCOTUS in Bostic Case

Gay hater, Michele McQuigg
Nasty, homophobic, cow Christofascist Michele McQuigg, Circuit Court Clerk for Prince William County, Virginia, through her extremist counsel from the miss named Alliance Defending Freedom (a group that in reality wants a Christian theocracy) has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her appeal of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling which affirmed the unconstitutionality of Virginia anti-gay animus motivated Marshall-Newman Amendment and related statutes.   If I hold special animosity towards McQuigg, it is because she intervened in this case for the sole purpose of defending hate inspired discrimination against same sex couples.  Whatever I may think of Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer, he was sued in Bostic v. Rainey and did not voluntarily seek out litigation.  Not McQuigg, she sought to be involved and one can only hope that history views her akin to white robed KKK members seeking to deprive blacks of their legal rights.  Here are details from the Daily Press on McQuigg's mission of hate (the filing can be found here):
Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle B. McQuigg — being represented by an Arizona-based conservative Christian legal organization — filed a formal petition on Friday asking the high court to reverse two recent federal court rulings throwing out Virginia's gay marriage ban.

Lawyers with that organization, the Alliance Defending Freedom, said the court decisions are telling Virginia and its citizens they must "redefine marriage from a gendered (man-woman) institution to a genderless (any two persons) institution."

"Whether the Constitution itself requires such a fundamental redefinition of marriage is an exceedingly important question that should be settled by this Court," the petition says. "The time for answering that question — the time for deciding whether the People throughout the various States are free to affirm their chosen marriage policy — is now."

Though McQuigg was not initially sued in the case, she "intervened" as a defendant in January after signals that newly-elected Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring "would renounce … defense of the challenged marriage laws," the Alliance said.

Since then, McQuigg, who issues marriage licenses as part of her job, has become the Virginia ban's most outspoken defender in the case.

"Throughout this litigation, McQuigg alone has raised and defended all of Virginia's compelling interests in regulating marriage as the union of a man and a woman," Friday's appeal says. Because of that, the Alliance asserts, the Supreme Court would "benefit" by granting a hearing "through this petition."

Indeed, some of the language in McQuigg's petition casts the issue in broad historical terms.
"For millennia, marriage has served the vital social purposes of steering naturally procreative relationships into committed unions and connecting children to both their mother and their father," the filing says. "Man-woman couples, unlike any other relationships, uniquely implicate these important societal interests."

As passed in a 1975 law and 2006 state constitutional amendment, the ban also outlaws civil unions, bars adoption by same-sex couples, “voids” the recognition of gay marriages from other states and doesn't grant property, medical and contract rights to same-sex couples.

Friday's filing was the third "petition for a writ of certiorari" asking the high court to take up the case.

The first came Aug. 8 by the Virginia Attorney General's Office, asking the high court to affirm the lower court decisions. The second was Aug. 22 by Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George E. Schaefer III, who contends states should be free to define marriage.

If the Supreme Court agrees to take up the issue, a hearing could be set as early as next spring. Ultimately, the court could uphold 31 existing state bans on same-sex marriage, or could outlaw all the bans at once.
And in a separate kind of filing on Wednesday, the case's plaintiffs — despite winning in the lower courts — also exhorted the court to hear the matter.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Republicans and Women Voters: A Huge Problem

With the demographic of aging, angry whites shrinking and Republican policies repelling minorities and young voters, the leadership of the GOP decided that the party needed to do more to attract women voters.  In order to determine how to proceed, a report entitled "Republicans and Women Voters: Huge Challenges, Real Opportunities"was prepared.  The findings, however, seem to show few real opportunities.  Indeed, the study showed that the GOP's war on women has made the alienation of women voters - at least outside of Kool-Aid drinking Christofascist circles - even worse.  Here are highlights from a summary of the findings:
A detailed report commissioned by two major Republican groups — including one backed by Karl Rove — paints a dismal picture for Republicans, concluding female voters view the party as "intolerant," "lacking in compassion" and "stuck in the past."

Women are "barely receptive" to Republicans' policies, and the party does "especially poorly" with women in the Northeast and Midwest, according to an internal Crossroads GPS and American Action Network report obtained by POLITICO. It was presented to a small number of senior aides this month on Capitol Hill, according to multiple sources involved.

...When female voters are asked who "wants to make health care more affordable," Democrats have a 39 percent advantage, and a 40 percent advantage on who "looks out for the interests of women." Democrats have a 39 percent advantage when it comes to who "is tolerant of other people's lifestyles."

Female voters who care about the top four issues — the economy, health care, education and jobs — vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Most striking, Democrats hold a 35-point advantage with female voters who care about jobs and a 26 percent advantage when asked which party is willing to compromise. House Republicans say jobs and the economy are their top priorities.

...The report is blunt about the party's problems. [It found] that Republicans "fail to speak to women in the different circumstances in which they live" — as breadwinners, for example. "This lack of understanding and acknowledgment closes many minds to Republican policy solutions," the report says. The groups urge Republicans to embrace policies that "are not easily framed as driven by a desire to aid employers or 'the rich.'"
The solutions offered include neutralizing Democratic attacks that the GOP doesn't support "fairness" for women; "deal honestly with any disagreement on abortion, then move to other issues"; and "pursue policy innovations that inspire women voters to give the GOP a 'fresh look.'"
Insert all the mirthless laughter in the universe here. Just "neutralize attacks" that the GOP doesn't support fairness for women, instead of supporting fairness for women. Change the subject when abortion comes up! And try to scrape the bottom of the barrel for some new conservative idea that can be mendaciously framed to appeal to modern women. Distract 'em from the misogyny with something shiny! Terrific.

Republicans' primary problem with women is, and will always be, this: They think that we're stupid. They think that there's some way they can trick us into not caring or not noticing that their policies are crap.

Putin Makes His Czechoslovakia Move

At the risk of beating a dead horse, previous predictions that Vladimir Putin was following the game plan Adolph Hitler used to justify Nazi Germany's move into Czechoslovakia in 1938 now have been substantiated.  NATO officials are reporting that Russian military forces are operating inside Ukraine's borders.  While Barack Obama has refrained from calling the move an invasion, it is hard to know what else to call it.  Russian military are inside the country without permission and taking armed action against Ukraine's forces.  The whole situation is a frightening case of repeating itself and one wonders if the west and NATO will respond with appeasement as happened 76 years ago.  The New York Times comments on Putin's lies and dangerous aggression.  Here are excerpts:

The evidence has been mounting for some time, but there is no longer any doubt: Russian troops are in Ukraine, not as volunteers, as the rebel commander in Donetsk would have the world believe, but in units equipped with mobile artillery and heavy military equipment.

A senior NATO officer reported on Thursday that the alliance had monitored a “significant escalation” in Russia’s military “interference” in Ukraine, and that well over 1,000 Russian soldiers are operating inside the southeast of the country. The officer, Brig. Gen. Nico Tak, called it “interference,” presumably because “invasion” would mean an all-out military assault. But, by any name, it is a large and unacceptable escalation of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

[A]mbassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, was more blunt in her address Thursday to the Security Council, where she described Russia’s actions as “a deliberate effort to support, and now fight alongside, illegal separatists in another sovereign country.” That should be the reality guiding Mr. Obama when he meets with NATO allies in Wales next week.

NATO suspects the Russian goal is to prevent a military defeat of the rebels and freeze the conflict in an open-ended cease-fire, with Russia left in effective control of Ukraine’s industrial heartland, following the template of Russia’s frozen conflicts with Moldova and Georgia. But Russia’s motive is not the issue here. It is Russia’s violation of a cardinal principle of the international order since World War II — states do not seize territory by force.

Mr. Putin has played his dangerous game in Ukraine with cunning and deceit since the ouster in February of the corrupt Viktor Yanukovych lost him a Ukrainian president he could manipulate. First he annexed Crimea outright. Shocking and outrageous as that was, at least no blood was shed; Mr. Putin claimed that history and a Russian population as justification for that seizure. The Western reaction was limited to modest sanctions.

After the rebels shot down a Malaysian jetliner with a Russian missile, and after Kiev made gains against the rebels, Russia’s involvement became more overt, with reports of artillery fire across the border, armored columns crossing into Ukraine and Russian soldiers caught or killed inside Ukraine. The United States and the European Union ratcheted up the sanctions, but Mr. Putin continued to deny any involvement. He will no doubt deny the latest evidence as well, and will cynically claim some Ukrainian or Western plot.

Comments from European leaders on Thursday showed they recognize the danger of this moment. European Union leaders meeting on Saturday must join the United States in expanding the economic sanctions. France should seriously reconsider delivering the Mistral assault ships it has sold Russia. And when NATO leaders gather next week, they should give strong reassurances to NATO members along Russia’s borders that they will be protected should Moscow turn its attentions on them.

Appeasing bullies only makes them increase their bad behavior.  The disaster of the 1930's ought to remind all involved of this reality. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

‘Sons of Guns’ Reality Show Star Arrested for Rape of 11-Year-Old

The right wing types really know how to pick "stars."  The more dysfunctional you are, the more celebrity you will have.  Sarah Palin is a perfect example of the phenomenon.  Now, a "star" of a gun nut reality show (he's pictured above) has been arrested for raping his 14-year-old daughter in a series of assaults that began with him taking her virginity at the age of 11.  Frankly, it's par for the course.  The more folks claim to laud "American values" and represent "real Americans" the more suspect they ought to be.  The Raw Story looks at this disturbing story.  Here are highlights:
The star of the Discovery Channel’s reality show Sons of Guns was arrested Tuesday on charges of aggravated rape of his daughter.

According to, the East Baton Rouge, Louisiana Sheriff’s Department confirmed that Hayden is accused of raping his 14-year-old daughter in a series of assaults that began with him taking her virginity at the age of 11.

TMZ reported that Hayden’s daughter is backing up the allegations, claiming that her father forced her to participate in oral and vaginal sex “almost daily” for the past three years.

When asked why she didn’t report the sexual assaults earlier, the girl said that she was afraid her father would hurt her.  “Don’t tell them nothing,” he reportedly told her, “because I’m all you’ve got.”

Sons of Guns is a five-season reality program that centers around Hayden’s business, Red Jacket Firearms, which sells, builds, designs and repairs guns. Red Jacket specializes in weapons fabrication and modification.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune said, “On Aug. 9, Hayden was arrested and booked on molestation charges of a juvenile and crimes against nature. Hayden reportedly told TMZ that charge was sparked from an ex-girlfriend’s allegations. Red Jacket Firearms released a statement denying those allegations.”

At 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Red Jacket posted a notice on its Facebook page that said, in part, “Today, Red Jacket Firearms has received complete legal separation as an entity, from Will Hayden. We will continue to operate, although with heavy hearts and promise to do everything in our power to fill customer orders, back orders and provide support to those affected by these new developments.”

Will Obama Deliver a "September Surprise" on Immigration?

With immigration reform seemingly dead in Congress and Republicans busy courting white supremacists and racists in the GOP base many are wonder if Barack Obama will attempt to go it alone and try to implement some degree of immigration reform via executive branch action.  Should he do so, the action could roil the 2014 mid term elections and some suspect cause consternation by both Democrats and Republicans.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the possibility and some of the possible consequences.  Here are excerpts:
Both political parties are in a state of high anxiety about the possibility that President Obama will allow millions of illegal immigrants to remain in the country, fearing that White House action on the issue could change the course of November’s midterm elections.

In the past few days, Democratic candidates in nearly every closely fought Senate race have criticized the idea of aggressive action by Obama. Some strategists say privately that it would signal that he has written off the Democrats’ prospects for retaining control of the chamber, deciding to focus on securing his legacy instead.

Senior Republicans, meanwhile, have their own worries about a “September surprise” on immigration. They know their volatile party’s tendency to erupt at such moments — including government shutdowns and impeachment threats — and that the GOP brand is even more tattered than the Democratic one.

A conservative uprising against the administration would pose little risk for safely entrenched Republicans in the GOP-controlled House. But any move toward impeachment hearings against Obama or another government shutdown would cause serious problems for Republicans in key Senate races. They must appeal to independents who already are suspicious about the party’s ability to govern.

The possibilities include not only deferring deportation for millions of illegal immigrants but also providing new green cards for high-tech workers and for the relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, officials say. A decision is expected in coming weeks.

The White House also is feeling pressure from Hispanic groups and other advocates of immigration liberalization, who are weary of being told that they must be patient. On Wednesday, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) met with more than two dozen like-minded activists in the office of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was Obama’s first White House chief of staff.

“We’re preparing and want to make sure it happens,” Gutierrez said. “I’m more optimistic than ever that the president will be broad and generous with his decision.”

Some see the potential for an almost Machiavellian turn of events.  “A cynic would say this is a trap carefully laid by the White House,” said Vin Weber, a well-connected Republican former congressman from Minnesota.

David Winston, a longtime pollster for House Republicans, said: “By doing something like this, the president would incite some Republican members, hoping to change the story line. But whether it changes the story depends on the discipline of the Republican side to make sure that disagreements that exist within the conference do not overwhelm what the conference is trying to achieve overall.”
The two impulses that Republican leaders are eager to tamp down are calls for Obama’s impeachment or another government shutdown.

Reining in King and his bloc is likely to be difficult. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) will enter the fall session with an unseasoned leadership team and a long history of strife with the GOP’s tea party caucus.
 It seems that things could get most interesting!

9th Circuit Rejects NOM's Attempt to Stay Oregon Marriages

NOM's hate merchant in chief, Brian Brown
Having seen opponents of gay marriage lose every court case except a lowly state court case, the National Organization for Marriage ("NOM") is desperate to stay relevant - and most importantly, keep the money flowing in so that Brian Brown, et al, can live well.  One such attempt to stay in the news and keep the ignorant and bigoted sending in checks - most of NOM's financial support comes from a handful of secret donors - and give the false appearance that NOM has broad support was NOM's effort to convince the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to stay the District Court ruling that struck down Oregon's bans on same sex marriage.  Yesterday, that effort went down in flames (the Court's opinion is here).  Here are highlights from the Oregonian:

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a request by a group opposing same-sex marriage in Oregon to intervene in the case.

The decision, handed down Wednesday afternoon, means the National Organization for Marriage has no route left short of appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Unless NOM does appeal, any threat it posed to gay marriage in Oregon is over.   The action comes in the wake of the May 19 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane in Eugene to strike down Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage.

Supporters of same-sex marriage applauded Wednesday's decision.  "We're thrilled by the news but not surprised at all," said Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon. "There was never any merit to their proposal and they've been denied now at every turn."

Frazzini read the court's decision and called it "decisive."  "From their own filings, the National Organization for Marriage has about 100 members in Oregon," she said. "If anything, I'd characterize this entire episode as a nuisance effort on their part."

NOM, based in Washington D.C., had claimed in court filings that it deserved intervenor status on behalf of "several of its members, identified as Oregon members who provide weddings services, Oregon members who voted for Measure 36, and at least one member who is an elected Oregon county clerk," according to the five-page decision.

"We find that NOM's Oregon wedding service providers members' objections to facilitating same-gender marriage ceremonies is not sufficient" to achieve that standing, the court said.

"They could ask either that the full 9th Circuit review this or appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court," he said. "But I don't think NOM ever presented a threat. Their appeals, after all, weren't based on the substantive merits of the case. It was merely a question of whether an out-of-state lobbying organization was improperly left out of the party."

The decision leaves Oregon as one of 19 states and the District of Columbia where same-gender couples can legally marry in the U.S.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Why Conservative Christian Homeschoolers Are Fighting Standards That Don’t Apply To Them

Extremist Mike Farris
I continue to believe that the derangement of today's GOP tracks directly to the rise of the Christofascists within the GOP base.  Given the 90% overlap between the Tea Party and self-styled "conservative Christians," that hijacking of the GOP includes the rise of the Tea Party.  The goal of this crowd?  To impose their sick, fear and hate based religious beliefs on all and to oppose anything that might suggest that their fantasy world view is wrong.  Nothing terrifies these folks more than having to think or face the possibility that they have built their lives on an untrue myth.  A piece in Think Progress tracks how this ties into the effort by the home school crowd to oppose education reforms even when they do not apply to them.  Note how Virginia extremist and failed statewide candidate Mike Farris is in the thick of the opposition - and making a nice $400,000 a year in the process.  Here are highlights:
Opposition to the educational standards known as Common Core has come from an array of Tea Party groups, conservative think-tanks, Glenn Beck, and the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity — and a few voices on the left as well. But one of the most active sources of opposition has been an unlikely group: a Christian conservative organization that works to defend the rights of homeschooling parents.

Homeschoolers are not actually covered by the educational standards. Still, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has spent tens of thousands of dollars in opposition to the Core State Standards Initiative, including federal lobbying, a microsite, and even a fully produced 39-minute documentary.

While HSLDA has tried to present these public school standards as an “immediate threat” to homeschooling families, critics from inside and outside of the homeschool movement wonder if it is part of a pattern of fear-mongering by an organization eager to maintain its membership base.

An attorney and ordained Baptist minister, Farris joined with J. Michael Smith in 1983 to establish an organization to provide advocacy and legal representation for parents who chose to educate their children at home. Farris was a already veteran of the Christian Right movement, having worked against the Equal Rights Amendment under anti-feminist legend Phyllis Schlafly in the 1970s, as head of the legal department at Concerned Women for America, and as a state director for Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the early 1980s. Today, HSLDA estimates its current membership as about 82,000 families. The organization, based in Purcellville, VA, reported in 2013 that its annual budget is more than $10 million. 

Some homeschooling advocates were not thrilled that the movement’s most visible organization was and remains a religious one. Mark Hegener, publisher of Home Education Magazine, told ThinkProgress that Farris’ “approach is a narrow religious agenda, and homeschooling is just his shtick.”

Farris argued that “Christian beliefs have been thoroughly eradicated from public schools,” and those schools are a “multi-billion-dollar inculcation machine” to push “secular humanism and new age religions.” It also quoted Farris as describing public schools as “godless” promoters of “evolution, hedonism and one-world government.” 

Farris won the 1993 Republican nomination to be Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. . . . even the state’s Republican U.S. Senator John Warner refused to back him and Farris lost by nearly 9 points (as the Republican nominee for governor won by a more than 17-point landslide).

Though opponents have tried to convince parents that the Common Core is a massive federal plot to usurp state and local control of education with a national curriculum — some even labeling it “Obamacore” — it is not actually even a federal program, nor a curriculum. 

This claim of a federal takeover is one of a series of objections Michael Farris and his Home School Legal Defense Association have cited in their massive anti-Common Core campaign.

One common attack on HSLDA has been that its work often extends to topics that are not directly connected to the rights of homeschoolers. So far this year, its federal lobbyists have worked to stop ratification of treaties, including U.N. Conventions on the Rights of the Child, the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as passage of a bill to prevent corporations from denying birth control coverage in their healthcare benefits.  

In the 2006, the group even lobbied for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. A statement on the group’s website explained that because “Same-sex marriage attacks the traditions of the family in western civilization,” it thus constitutes an “attack on parental rights.”

Kunzman concurred, telling ThinkProgress that he has frequently heard people in homeschool community criticize HSLDA as a group that “only survives financially by continuing to manufacture crises. That’s how they fundraise. Threats to homeschool freedom get the base riled up, so people contributing believe they need legal protection and political advocacy.” This victimization narrative has proven beneficial to the organization in good times and bad, he suggested: “If they win something, it’s great promotion of their services. If they lose, it’s ‘the threat is real and you’d better support us.’” 

[M]ajor concern is that if states have common standards for the public schools, standardized tests like SAT, ACT, and GED will be aligned to the Common Core and homeschooling parents who opt not to use Common Core curricula will see their kids do poorly and not get into college. Warning that kids taking these examinations might “soon encounter progressive ideologies including social engineering and alternative lifestyles,” HSLDA claims on its website, homeschool students who “are not adherents to the Common Core” could “find themselves at a significant disadvantage come test time.” 
Read the full piece.  Ultimately, opposition boils down to opportunistic extremists like Farris seeking to make a very comfortable living while  force the larger public to embrace ignorance so that small minded parents don't have their house of cards belief system threatened.  Greed and selfishness are at the core.

Kool-Aid Drinking Republicans Go Nuts Over McDonnell Gay Priest Story

I guess it was bound to happen given the lunacy that now is the norm within the Republican Party as a whole and the Republican Party of Virginia in particular.  What am I talking about?  The reactions from the reality free folks at Bearing Drift, a conservative Virginia GOP blog , and the all too typical anonymous commentators who attack me yet lack the guts to reveal their own identities.  Insanity and cowardice seem to be the norm for these folks.  

At Bearing Drift there is a tirade under the headline "Virginia Democrat Bloggers Spew Homophobic Hatred" that accusing Democrats and "liberal bloggers" - which seemingly includes me - of being anti-gay because notice has been taken of Bob McDonnell's hypocrisy when it comes to (i) the "sanctity of marriage" and (ii) the acceptability of gay sex.  In 2003, McDonnell led a lynch mob of Virginia Republicans against then circuit court judge Verbena Askew over unsubstantiated claims that she had sexually harassed another woman.  McDonnell's crusade cause Askew her seat on the bench and first earned McDonnell the nickname "Taliban Bob."  It was during that lynch mob circus that McDonnell was asked if he had ever violated Virginia's sodomy statute to which he responded "not that I recall."    Here some of the drivel:
It’s sad when Democrats who pretend to care about their supporters show their true colors. That’s what Lowly at Blue Virginia did today, launching a hate-filled post targeting a priest who visited a “bawdy place” in the 1990s with a 41-year old man because he had the gall to allow Bob McDonnell to stay in his rectory during Obama’s political trial against him.

But it does show you an insight into the liberal extremist mind. Democrat bloggers, especially Lowly, must not really like gay people. They need their votes, and the fact that they don’t like religion makes gay people social “brothers in arms” with hatemongers like Lowly, but in reality they only use gay people to shore up their own power. 
Note how McDonnell's criminal indictment is described as "Obama's political trial against him."  These folks are insane.   

A cowardly comment on this blog - which will not be given the honor of being published attacks me in part as follows:
Dredging up an incident from a dozen years ago and making the priest the bad guy just seems so petty. He was not even convicted; the charges were dismissed.
Moreover, the writer turns the situation into one of merely being in a park after hours.  The cretin misses the point that the issue is not the priest (although he did plead guilty in a plea deal which is not what one does if there isn't a good chance of conviction) but rather McDonnell's hypocrisy.  Taliban Bob only wants to know gays when they can help him throw his wife under the bus.  He certainly had other option as to where he could stay if he found the marital home to chilly. . 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

More Tuesday Male Beauty

The Tea Party Governor Backlash of 2014

While Republican continue to believe that 2014 will be a banner year for them - in the House because of horrifically gerrymandered districts that ensure GOP control - and the less than fortunate mix of Senate seats for Democrats up for re-election.  But, all may not be going as glowingly well as Fox News and right wing pundits like to imagine.  As in all elections, turnout will be critical and it remains possible that GOP excesses will galvanize the Democratic base to vote in stronger numbers than some expect.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at some potentially embattled Republicans who may be held accountable for Tea Party obstructionism and efforts to destroy the social safety net while disenfranchising minorities.  Here are excerpts:
[D]on’t believe the hype about 2014 being a Republican wave election. Something more complex is going on. Democrats are doing much better than they have a right to expect in the South, especially with family brand names like Landrieu and Pryor. Mitch McConnell even has an improbably tight race on his hands in Kentucky against Alison Lundergan Grimes.

More to the point, Democrat Kay Hagan looks strong in North Carolina, where the Tea Party wave of 2010 brought otherwise unified Republican control to this increasingly purple swing state. The state legislative excesses have been bad enough that GOP Governor Pat McCrory, the former mayor of Charlotte, found himself described as a “moderate among Wingnuts” by The Economist, which detailed his travails this way: “Unlike the pragmatic conservatives who have long dominated state politics, the Republicans now in charge are culture warriors…The governor found himself passing laws to ban sharia (Islamic law), restrict abortion and introduce strict voter-identification rules, which are being challenged by the federal government.”

Here’s where a slumbering national theme for 2014 starts to come into sharper relief. This year represents the first time local voters have been able to weigh in on the statewide elected officials who rode the Tea Party wave to victory in 2010. So while the Senate sucks up all the oxygen, the governors’ races might really reflect the mood of the electorate more accurately.

Seen through this lens, a pattern starts to emerge. Wisconsin’s Scott Waker is frequently talked up by RNC types as a leading 2016 contender, but he’s fighting for his political life at home, beset by a tsunami of scandals and running neck and neck with Mary Burke. Walker’s most-favored Midwestern governor status in D.C. is in trouble despite a misguided arrogance born of his surviving a recall attempt. His efforts to rein in the public sector unions have been successful, but his style and tone—and did I mention scandals—could make him an unexpected loser on Election Night.

In Kansas, Sam Brownback should be cruising to an easy reelection in one of the reddest states in the nation. But the theocon is trailing Democrat Paul Davis because of Brownback’s RINO-hunting purges, social conservative crusades, and what is becoming something of a Waterloo for the idea that all tax cuts pay for themselves.

Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott was a Tea Party-wave fluke to begin with. An unlikely messenger for less-government libertarianism, Scott made his fortune by founding the hospital conglomerate Columbia/HCA, which is now best known for the running up the largest Medicaid fraud in the nation’s history . . . . Scott has struggled to connect with voters in the Sunshine State despite pumping his own dollars into the effort. He’s facing former governor Charlie Crist, a slippery former Republican now apparently liberated by running as a Democrat and quick to call out GOP orthodoxy on climate change and other issues that matter in a diverse state flanked by the sea on three sides.

Pennsylvania is purple personified, and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is collapsing in the Keystone State. . . . . Stick a fork in Corbett, he’s done.

Maine’s odd governor, Paul LePage, was also an accident of the Tea Party wave . . . . has met repeatedly with members of a sovereign citizens militia group the FBI considers a domestic terrorist organization. He ain’t exactly a Maine-style centrist Republican. And the only reason he has anything resembling a prayer in hell of winning reelection is that Cutler and Democrat Mike Michaud are splitting a clear majority of voters who are anti-LePage and want to kick his butt out of office.

Rounding out the geographically diverse list is former congressman and current Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who sidestepped a congressional ethics inquiry by bailing out of the capital dome and still faces a far-closer-than-should-be-expected race from Jimmy Carter’s grandson, Jason.

So while the biggest story of the 2014 primaries was, by and large, the center-right Senate establishment beating back Tea Party radicals who would have gone down to defeat, à la Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell, on the statewide level there are comeuppances coming that undercut overheated pundit claims that 2014 will be a Republican wave election.

Beneath the tough Senate hand dealt to Democrats, there is a lot of swing voter discontent with Tea Party governors who failed to steer toward the center once in office. This dynamic will have an impact on other races and should serve as a reminder to both parties that extremism is a vice in American politics.

Here in Virginia, the defeat of Ken Cuccinelli and his fellow extremists in a complete Democrat sweep supports the author's premise. 

7th Circuit Pounds Defenders of Indian and Wisconsin Marriage Bans

Judge Richard Posner

As an attorney I understand the concept that in court both sides to a controversy deserve representation.  However, in practice, I do not understand how attorneys can in good conscience argue positions that support discrimination and the mistreatment of other citizens or which in effect seek to subvert the United States Constitution.  To do so, in my view, makes one little better than a paid prostitute and a tawdry one at that.  Seemingly, the judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit may have subconsciously shared my view on this issue.  Whatever their views, they laid into the attorneys for the states of Indiana and Wisconsin today during oral argument who sought to defend the anti-gay animus motivated gay marriage bans of those states.   My fellow Bilerico Project contributor, John Becker was in the courtroom and filed this story (the following are highlights):
Same-sex marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin took a beating today at the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, where a three-judge panel greeted anti-equality arguments from Wisconsin and Indiana with a combination of skepticism and derision. The court appears poised to hand marriage equality advocates another federal court win -- and possibly their first unanimous one.

As a packed courtroom looked on, the judges -- Richard Posner, a Reagan appointee; Ann Claire Williams, appointed by Bill Clinton; and Obama appointee David F. Hamilton -- repeatedly tore into Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fischer and Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson. Posner, by far and away the fiercest interrogator, slammed Indiana's claim that their governmental concern behind regulating marriage is accidental births and "unintended children":
"So now you have a huge number of potentially abandoned children, they're put up for adoption. Don't you think it would help these children, the products of these accidental births, if their parents -- whether same-sex or different-sex -- were married?"
Fischer tried to equivocate, but Posner wasn't having it. "Answer my question," he ordered.
That interaction, which occurred just seconds into Fischer's opening statements, set the tone for the shellacking that was to follow. "Yeah, I'm going to interrupt you," Posner told an obviously frustrated Fischer. "You're just going to have to be patient."
"Would you criminalize fornication?" Posner asked sarcastically. "It sounds like a way of dealing with this unintended child problem."
Judge Williams piled on, expressing disbelief at Fischer's contention that even though same-sex couples can successfully raise children, Indiana's marriage ban should remain because "with opposite-sex couples, there is very little thought given during the sexual act sometimes to whether babies may be a consequence."
"So," Williams said, "because gay and homosexual couples actually choose to be parents, choose to take on that obligation, that difference of choice is set up differently than accidental? Here are people who actually want to have children -- know that they want to have children. It is not accidental; they make that commitment to raise children. I just don't get that."
Judge Hamilton pointed out that marriage bans are based on sex: "Bob can marry Chris if Chris is a female; Bob cannot marry Chris if Chris is a male. So that would seem to point us in the direction of heightened scrutiny."

He also noted the parallels between Indiana's anti-equality arguments and those made in the last century to justify bans on interracial marriage:
"The right to equal protection of the laws is an individual right... [and] the argument you're making is exactly the same argument that was made with respect to race in Loving v. Virginia, and it was flatly rejected by the Supreme Court.
After slamming Indiana's arguments as "ridiculous" and "absurd," Posner (left) returned to the subject of marriage discrimination and how it harms the children of same-sex couples. He asked Fischer whether he'd read a brief filed in the Wisconsin case by the Family Equality Council.
"It has a great deal of rather harrowing information about the problems created for children and their parents in the case of same-sex couples not being allowed to marry who have adopted children -- how they feel when they grow up, how what happens when one of their parents dies."
And then the clincher:  "What's on the other side of this scale outweighing these costs? Is there any empirical basis for anything you've said?"

The state of Wisconsin didn't fare any better. In fact, there were several points where Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson couldn't muster any kind of an answer to the judges' withering questions.
Posner nearly laughed Samuelson's appeals to tradition out of court: "How can tradition be a reason for anything?" he said. "I don't get that. Once again, the Loving case: the tradition of forbidding interracial marriage went back to colonial times. It was 200 years old by the time Loving came along."

Samuelson responded that Loving was a deviation from, rather than a codification of, common law, eliciting incredulity from the court. Posner set him straight:
"Interracial marriage had been forbidden in the colonies and in many, many states... for more than 100 years... so in other words, tradition per se is not a grounds for continuing. 'We've been doing this stupid thing for 100 years, 1,000 years; we'll keep doing it because it's tradition.' You wouldn't make that argument. Don't you have to have some empirical or some practical or common-sense basis for barring these marriages? I didn't get anything out of your brief that sounded like a reason for doing this."
Later, Posner called the tradition argument "feeble" and asked whether the state had anything better. He also took issue with Samuelson's contention that the tradition of marriage discrimination is based on "experience."
"It's based on hate, isn't it?" Posner asked. When Samuelson responded in the negative, Posner replied, "You don't think there's a history of rather savage discrimination against homosexuals in the United States and the rest of the world?"

Judge Posner had similarly little use for Samuelson's appeal to democracy. "That argument doesn't get you very far. Are you really saying there shouldn't be any constitutional invalidation, ever, of a state or federal statute because that's 'anti-democratic'?"
And then, if it weren't already abundantly clear which way he'd be voting, Judge Posner tipped his hand:
"What is the rational basis for a legislative choice denying same-sex marriage? We know that these people want to get married; we think, at least I think, it's good for the kids -- what's the offsetting harm? ...These people and their adopted children are harmed by your law. Now the question is, what is the offsetting benefit of your law? Who's being helped by it?"
Samuelson repeatedly attempted to dodge the question . . . .
There's more, so read the entire post.  Overall, it was a bloodbath against the defenders of discrimination.  Should the court rule unanimously to strike down the two state bans, I suspect that the opinion will make most interesting reading.  It is also noteworthy that the most aggressive judge in challenging the smoke screen justifications of both state was a Reagan appointee.

Bob McDonnell Is Now Living With Catholic Priest Busted For Public Gay Sex

The night time soap opera aspects of the Bob and Maureen McDonnell criminal corruption trial just continue to go off the charts.  That McDonnell was ever seen as a rising star in the Republican Party shows just how bankrupt that party has become.  Now, on top of everything else, we find out that Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell has moved out of the family home and is living with a Catholic priest who was busted in Norfolk for public gay sex.  Seriously, it would be hard to make up stuff this good!  As Joe Jervis notes, one of McDonnell's first actions as Governor was to strip LGBT people of protection under a statewide anti-discrimination executive order, declaring that there is no evidence of such discrimination.  The Contributor has more details on this soap opera:
The following story most definitely falls into the "you can't make this shit up" category. Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, now on trial for corruption as governor (and busy throwing his wife under the bus while rolling back and forth over her a few times, proving he's a complete cad as well as a sleazeball), has moved out of his home with Maureen and moved in with a priest: Rev. Wayne Ball of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Richmond. Well, how about we meet the good Reverend (note: thanks to Ben "Not Larry Sabato" Tribbett for the tip on this one).

Yeah, it's this same guy.
The Rev. Wayne L. Ball, a Norfolk priest who pleaded guilty late last year to a misdemeanor sex offense, has been reassigned to St. John's Catholic Church in Highland Springs, according to The Catholic Virginian, a biweekly diocesan newspaper. The move is effective June 2.

Ball, 42, has served as pastor of Norfolk's Holy Trinity Catholic Church since 2000. The current pastor at St. John's, the Rev. David V. McGuire, will replace Ball at Holy Trinity.

In December, Ball pleaded guilty in Norfolk General District Court to the misdemeanor charge of frequenting a bawdy place. Norfolk police arrested Ball and a 41-year-old Richmond man on the night before Thanksgiving in a parked car in a Norfolk park. The judge continued Ball's case until July 8 and will dismiss the charge if the priest has no further criminal problems and completes 80 hours of community service by June 3. The man in the car with Ball received a similar deal.
Anyway, this is the priest - Wayne Ball - who "Homophobe Bob" McDonnell is now living with in a rectory in Richmond. Just when you thought this trial couldn't get any more soap opera-ish or bizarre...

P.S. Again, let me just emphasize that I don't have any problem whatsoever with Rev. Ball being gay. I do have a problem with Bob McDonnell spending his career telling everybody what's right and wrong sexually as well as who they can and can't marry; voting for anti-gay legislation; and generally being a homophobic jerk; and then moving in with a gay priest after moving out with his wife Maureen.