Saturday, October 18, 2014

More Saturday Male Beauty

85% Of Young American Catholics Support Gays

While the Vatican appears poised to knuckle under to the bitter old men in dresses assembled in Rome for the special synod on the family despite the apparent demotion of anti-gay bigot Cardinal Raymond Burke, a huge problem remains looming for the Church in America: 85% of young Catholics support gay rights and 75% support marriage equality.  That's the finding of a new survey by the Pew Research Center. The main support for the Church's institutional homophobia and mistreatment of gays (and divorced and remarried Catholics) is in the over 65 age bracket, the bracket that is dying off.  Literally.  Thus, the irony is that the far right "purists" in the America Catholic Church need to face the reality that, if the Church doesn't change, they will ultimately become a small minority branch of a black church centered in Africa.  Given the white supremacists views of older far right Americans, its hard to not find this trend as a delicious irony.  Karma can be a bitch.  Here are highlights from Pew:
Fully 85% of self-identified Catholics ages 18-29 said in a 2014 Pew Research Center survey that homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared with just 13% who said it should be discouraged. Older age groups are less likely to favor acceptance. But even among Catholics ages 65 and older, 57% say that homosexuality should be accepted.

 Some of these differences may correlate with the frequency of church attendance. Our research has found that older Catholics attend Mass more frequently than do their younger counterparts, and that Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly are more likely to say that homosexuality should be discouraged than those who do not. But even among churchgoing Catholics of all ages – that is, those who attend Mass at least weekly – roughly twice as many say homosexuality should be accepted (60%) as say it should be discouraged (31%).

Similarly, despite the church’s continued opposition to same-sex marriage, most U.S. Catholics (57%) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally wed, according to aggregated 2014 Pew Research surveys. And again, younger Catholics are particularly likely to express this view. Three-quarters of Catholic adults under 30 support legal same-sex marriage, compared with 53% of Catholics ages 30 and older (including just 38% of those 65 and older).
 Given that a major it of the Church's funding comes from North America, it will be interesting to watch the Church's growing financial problems, especially where shuttered churches and Catholic schools are becoming more common.  Those who would "save" the Church will be the death of it.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Vote to Move Virginia Forward in November

Attorney General Mark Herring, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, Rep. Bobby Scott, friends Claus and Robert and Suzanne Patrick in yellow.

The following is a reprint of my latest column in VEER Magazine which makes the case for re-electing Mark Warner to the U.S. Senate and electing Suzanne Patrick to replace Scott Rigell in the Virginia 2nd Congressional District:
For non-political junkies (for the record I will admit that I am a political junkie!), living in Virginia can be exhausting given its off year state elections which result in Virginians undergoing political campaign overload literally every year.  But every year’s election cycle does matter and the outcome can have a huge impact on our lives and the society in which we live.  The 2014 mid-term national elections are no exception and, if voters are complacent, the wrong candidates could end up being elected to the detriment of many Virginians.  This year’s important contests are for (i) the United States Senate between incumbent Democrat, Mark Warner, and former lobbyist and GOP candidate Ed Gillespie, and (ii) for the 2nd Congressional District between GOP incumbent, Scott Rigell and Democrat Challenger, Suzanne Patrick.

I have the distinct advantage of knowing three out of the four candidates involved.  From my perspective, the November election in these two contests is a very clear choice between moving Virginia and the nation forward or a destructive effort to move backwards in time to a mythical time that never existed.  Despite my long Republican past, the two candidates that deserve election and who will move Virginia and America forward are Democrats Mark Warner and Suzanne Patrick for the reasons that I will set forth.

For most Virginians, Mark Warner is a known commodity, having served as a popular governor (he ran against and defeated one of my former law partners) and a very good U.S. Senator for Virginia.  Mark has a track record of putting the nation first and political party second, and has demonstrated that he will strive to work on a bipartisan basis despite the Republican Party obstructionism which has made the current Congress one of the least productive in history.  As I have noted in past columns, America has one of the most expensive and least cost efficient health care systems of any advanced nations where those with insurance coverage pay exorbitant bills to pay for the treatments written off by non-profit hospitals.  Recognizing this reality, Mark Warner has supported the Affordable Health Care Act which, although not perfect, over time will decrease the rise in health care costs and expand the number of Americans who have health care insurance.  He also supports legislation that will aid increasing jobs and boosting the economy. He also understands that our broken immigration system needs reform.  On social and civil rights issues, Mark supports equal rights for LGBT individuals, supports immigration reform and minority rights and respects a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions with the counsel of her physical and family.

Mark Warner’s opponent, Ed Gillespie, in contrast is supportive of all of the failed Republican policies of the last 35+ years.  Gillespie talks in generalities about jobs, the economy, and energy resources, but offers few specifics beyond the typical GOP approach of slashing taxes for the wealthy, slashing social programs (using subtle race baiting code words, of course, in his ads to suggest that some undeserving individuals are free loading off others), seeking to repeal safety and environmental regulations, and over all leaving the middle class to slowly regress further economically.  With upward social mobility now higher lower in America than “Old Europe” as the Republicans derisively call it, Gillespie offers nothing except the canard that cutting takes and cutting regulations will create jobs to reverse this downward spiral.  On health care, Gillespie would repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and return us to the totally broken health care system that predated it where insurance companies control the market place.  Worse yet, on social issues, Gillespie would keep LGBT Americans second class – if not 3rd class – citizens and would have women’s health care decisions made by aging white men and/or religious extremists such as those at The Family Foundation who believe women should be subordinate to men and basically bare foot and pregnant in the home. In short, Gillespie seems to yearn for a recreation of a misogynist version of the 1950s when gays, blacks, Hispanics, and women “knew their place.” Oh, and did I mention that Gillespie was a lobbyist for Enron?

Given the contrasts between Mark Warner and Ed Gillespie, anyone who wants to see Virginia and America move forward in the coming years needs to vote for Mark Warner.

A similar contrast is presented to voters in the 2nd congressional district between Scott Rigell and Suzanne Patrick.   Like Gillespie, Rigell’s main mantra to improve the economy is to (i) cut taxes for the affluent, (ii) repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and leave millions of Americans without health care coverage, and (iii) allow offshore oil drilling off Virginia’s coast.  As a former in-house counsel for a Fortune 50 oil company’s oil and gas subsidiary, I suspect I know far more about oil exploration than Mr. Rigell.  First, should such drilling be permitted, most of the jobs created would go to oil industry companies based outside of Virginia that would bring in personnel from outside Virginia.  If jobs were created as Rigell boasts, few would be Virginia jobs.  As for offshore oil production being a quick fix for America’s foreign oil dependency, even if oil were to be found in economically feasible quantities off Virginia’s coast, bringing such production online would take a decade or more at the earliest and provide little relief.

On social issues and women’s rights, Rigell, like Gillespie is more than willing to prostitute himself to religious extremists at The Family Foundation. On gay rights, Rigell has followed the dictates of the Christian Right and, although invisible on his current campaign website, Rigell has been endorsed in the past by the founder of a leading anti-gay hate group. Rigell also was a leader of a far right group that broke away from Galilee Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach following the ordination of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. True to form, Rigell also opposes a woman’s right to access family planning services and would restrict access to contraception.

Opposing Rigell is Suzanne Patrick, a retired Navy Commander, who like myself has held government appointments from Republican office holders. Suzanne is a fourth generation military officer who has had overseas postings in Beijing, Berlin, Delhi, Seoul and Warsaw.  In 2001, she was appointed by President George W. Bush to be Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy.  In short, she knows the needs of our military from the inside out unlike Mr. Rigell.  On job creation, Suzanne has ideas that go far beyond tax cuts for the rich and leaving millions of Americans without access to healthcare insurance, including the need to rebuild America’s infrastructure and to position Virginia’s port facilities to remain competitive in the changing international market place.

On social issues, Suzanne Patrick’s positions are 180 degrees from those of Scott Rigell.  She believes in civil law equality for all Americans and Virginians, including LGBT individuals. Unlike Rigell, Suzanne has attended events of the local LGBT chamber of commerce and been willing to listens to the needs of the LGBT business community.  On women’s issues, Suzanne believes that women and their doctors should make health care decisions for women, not aging white men in the House of Representatives.  Suzanne understands that with America’s changing demographics, the 1950’s mindset of Scott Rigell (Rigell’s idea of “outreach” is joining the James River Country Club) will hold both the 2nd District and America back.

This column does not permit the space to go into an in depth analysis to fully compare the four candidates discussed.  Suffice it to say, Ed Gillespie and Scott Rigell hold views that want to repeat the failed GOP policies of the last 30+ years which will in the process hold both Virginia and America back, if not move it backwards in time.  In contrast, Mark Warner and Suzanne Patrick recognize that Virginia, America, and the world are changing.  Therefore, our elected officials need to seek innovative solutions and recognize that the policies of the past no longer work.  If you want to vote to move Virginia forward, get out and vote in November and support Mark Warner and Suzanne Patrick.

Disclosure: Michael Hamar is a former 8 year member of the City Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach and held a four year state appointment under former Governor Jim Gilmore. 

Is Pope Francis Demoting Viciously Anti-Gay Cardinal?

A prior post looked at the viciously anti-gay statements made by Cardinal Raymond Burke who up until now has held the post of chief justice of the Vatican's Supreme Court.  Among other things, Burke said parents should keep children away gay relatives:

If homosexual relations are intrinsically disordered, which indeed they are — reason teaches us that and also our faith — then, what would it mean to grandchildren to have present at a family gathering a family member who is living [in] a disordered relationship with another person?”..."We wouldn’t, if it were another kind of relationship — something that was profoundly disordered and harmful — we wouldn't expose our children to that relationship, to the direct experience of it. And neither should we do it in the context of a family member who not only suffers from same-sex attraction, but who has chosen to live out that attraction, to act upon it, committing acts which are always and everywhere wrong, evil.”
Now it appears that perhaps Pope Francis has had enough of Burke's batshitery and Burke may be about to get sacked from his high position and relegated to a minor and  largely ceremonial post as patron to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.  In an interview, Burke seems to have confirmed that the demotion is in the works.  I for one hope that the rumors are true and that perhaps through Burke's demotion, Francis is seeking to send a strong message to the reactionary elements in the Vatican.  With some 80% of young American Catholics believing that homosexuality is socially and morally acceptable, bitter, nasty old men like Burke (who is likely a self-loathing closet case) are hastening the death of the Church in America.  Here are excerpts from the National Catholic Reporter:

U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, a former archbishop of St. Louis known for his rigorist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, has reportedly confirmed rumors that Pope Francis is planning to remove him from his influential post as the chief justice of the Vatican's Supreme Court.

Burke is reported to confirm the rumors, which have attracted attention in recent weeks as a sign that Francis may be preparing a tonal shift at the Vatican, in a piece Friday by BuzzFeed News.

The rumors in recent weeks have speculated that Burke, currently the prefect of the Vatican's Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, would be moved to the largely ceremonial post of patron to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Burke, who took up the Vatican role in 2008, has made news frequently in recent days voicing disapproval with the direction of a worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops, known as a synod, taking place at the Vatican from Oct. 5-19.

He has voiced staunch disapproval in particular to a landmark document released by the synod on Monday, which called on the church to listen more widely to people's concerns and to apply mercy more generously.

Burke has said in interviews that the document was "not of the church" and that Francis should issue a clarification reaffirming traditional Catholic doctrines.

The Apostolic Signatura is the Vatican's highest court and is widely responsible for ensuring the proper administration of justice in the Catholic church. The Knights of Malta is a lay religious order that seeks to aid people in need around the world. 

Burke also previously served as the bishop of La Crosse, Wis. A native of that state, he has been known through the years for his staunch conservative positions. In one instance in 2009, he called on U.S. bishops from his position at the Vatican to withhold Communion from pro-choice Catholic politicians. 

Francis previously removed Burke in December from an influential position as a member of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, the Vatican office responsible for advising the pontiff on bishop appointments around the world.

Should the 4th Circuit Issue Sanctions Against Thom Tillis?

Over the last two days we have seen governors and attorney generals in Wyoming and Arizona indicate that they will not appeal lower district court rulings in circuits where the U.S. Courts of Appeal have already issued sweeping rulings striking down state same sex marriage bans.  Such actions recognize (i) the futility of any such appeal and (ii) that filing such an appeal is frivolous and could potentially expose the appealing party and their legal counsel with sanctions.   As an attorney, one is not supposed to bring appeals that are frivolous.  Yet, this reality isn't stopping North Carolina House speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis (pictured at right) from seeking an appeal from the U.S. District Court ruling that struck down North Carolina's ban.  Why?  Because some believe Tillis is still seeking to prostitute himself to the Christofascist base of the North Carolina GOP and bolster turn out in next month's mid term elections.  One can only hope that the 4th Circuit summarily rejects the appeal and issue sanctions and makes Tillis and company pay the legal fees of the appellees. The New York Times looks at Tillis' disgusting behavior - which underscores his unfitness for the Senate - and the arguably unethical behavior of his legal counsel.  Here are highlights:
Thanks to three court rulings over the last week, North Carolina has become the most southern state where same-sex marriage is clearly legal, and dozens of gay couples have wasted no time getting married. But conservatives are still waging a desperate rear-guard action to prevent it — at considerable cost to the taxpayers — and one of them happens to be the Republican candidate for senator.

That candidate, Thom Tillis, the speaker of the state House, has yet to take a lead in the polls against the Democratic incumbent, Senator Kay Hagan, which may explain why he has decided to wave the marriage banner in the final days of the campaign.

Last week, the United States Supreme Court effectively allowed gay marriage in five states when it refused to consider appeals brought by conservatives. One of those states was Virginia, where a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage had been struck down by a federal appeals court.
North Carolina, which has a similar amendment approved by voters in 2012, is in the same federal judicial district as Virginia. As a result, within days of the Supreme Court announcement, two federal judges in North Carolina ruled that Virginia’s situation applied in their state, too, officially legalizing gay marriage. One of the judges, William Osteen Jr., said he could find “no substantive distinction” between the North Carolina amendment and the one struck down in Virginia.

For most public officials here, that ended the battle. The attorney general, Roy Cooper, said he would drop all legal efforts to defend the amendment. “It is the job of the attorney general to argue for state laws, but also to recognize when there are no arguments left,” he said. Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, said he disagreed with the rulings but would enforce them. “Whether I disagree with it or not, that’s the way democracy works,” he said.

But it’s not the way Mr. Tillis works. He and the state Senate Republican leader, Phil Berger, immediately announced that they wanted to intervene in the case and pursue further appeals on behalf of the legislature, and Judge Osteen agreed to let them try.

The Supreme Court, though, has already ruled, as Mr. Tillis knows. Pursuing this appeal will cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars, all so that he can rally conservative opponents of gay marriage to support his election bid. Though the appeal has no chance of success, Mr. Tillis has his eye on a very different victory.

One can only hope that some attorney in North Carolina will file an ethics complaint against Tillis' legal counsel.   This is a flagrant abuse of the court system.

Friday, October 17, 2014

America's Looming GOP Freak Show

If some of the predictions for the 2014 midterm elections prove right and the GOP captures the U.S. Senate, Congressional Republicans will have to live up to the job of governing.  These later expectations are about as realistic as expectations that there will be a major change in the Catholic Church towards gays.  They are a nice fantasy, but do not expect them to actually occur.  Not with the GOP base controlled by spittle flecked Christofascists, white supremacists and other nasty elements of the under belly of society.  A piece in Salon looks at the more likely freak show that Americans will witness which hopefully make sane elements of the voting public think twice about voting Republican come 2016.  Here are highlights:
[T]he case rapidly picking up steam that another midterm loss will be good for Democrats is both silly and a little dangerous. . . . those takes rely at least in part on the notion that if Republicans gain the Senate, they’ll either have an incentive to help “govern” – or they’ll shame themselves in the eyes of the American public if they don’t. Unfortunately, neither premise is true.

Bill Scher reprised his Politico argument on MSNBC’s “Up with Steve” on Saturday, continuing to press the case that Republicans will suffer politically “if they look like a completely dysfunctional party incapable of governing.” (Scher, unlike Seib, holds out no false hope that the GOP will get its act together and compromise with Obama if it wins back the Senate.)

But Republicans already look like a completely dysfunctional party incapable of governing, and they’re on the verge of another great midterm win. A year after the government shutdown, it’s shocking even to me how little it ultimately cost the party politically. Everyone knew that October 2013 polls weren’t as important as October 2014, and that the GOP would have a year to recover – but even I didn’t believe that they would, so completely.

The Republican base is more than content to have its leaders do nothing but block and sabotage Obama. And the Democratic base still disproportionately sits out the midterms, which lets the obstructionists dominate the agenda.Seib holds out hope that a GOP Senate might be able to deliver on immigration reform. Continued Beltway optimism about that prospect is delusional.

There’s no doubt 2016 will be much better for Democrats. The base turns out for presidential elections, and the Senate map that year will be as tough on Republicans as it is in 2014 on Democrats, forcing the GOP to defend more seats and offering their rivals more pickups. All of that is a given.
But even a 2016 rout is unlikely to force Republicans to focus on a policy agenda and commit to governing again. All they have to do is thwart the plans of President Hillary Clinton, or whomever, and reap the rewards two years later.

Until the Democrats’ structural disadvantage in voter turnout is corrected, American politics is an endless feedback loop of futility: little or no policy change leads to a discouraged electorate, which ensures little or no policy change, which guarantees more voter apathy. Democrats may yet keep the Senate, and if they do it will come down to greater grassroots and national emphasis on turning out unmarried women voters (more on that later this week). But if they don’t, there will be no silver lining.

Sure, it will be entertaining to watch de facto House Speaker Ted Cruz make life even more miserable for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It’s a given that the 2016 Republican primary race will be as big a freak show as 2012 (and maybe even with Mitt Romney again too!) But this optimist no longer believes the GOP will pay any lasting price for more cartoonish dysfunction. But the rest of us will, for a long time.

I agree with the author.  I am also starting to believe that a majority of Americans are idiots and that perhaps just maybe they deserve the government they get, especially the Democrats who sit on their asses during the midterms.  That. of course, doesn't make watching the circus any easier for the rest of us.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Ignore the PR, the Catholic Church Continues Its Homophobia

As noted in recent posts, my view is that the Roman Catholic Church is largely incapable of any meaningful change when it comes to its horrific treatment of gays.  All of the fanning oneself with the vapors and orgasmic gushing over the statement released earlier in the week at the special synod in Rome suggesting a thawing of the Vatican's anti-gay jihad has been misplaced in my view, as evidenced by the swift back peddling by the conservative elements in the Church - .i.e. the bitter old self-loathing closet cases in Rome and in bishoprics around the world, and those in the laity who desperately need others to condemn so as to avoid facing their own betrayal of the Gospel message of love and caring for others.  A column in Pink News largely sums up views like my own.  Here are highlights:
When the BBC reported that some Catholic bishops at the Vatican had issued a statement saying that gay people should be “welcomed” by the Church and noting they had “gifts and qualities” to offer, I was almost sick with fury.

The anger intensified when the reporter went on to say that the statement had been welcomed by gay rights groups as “progress.”

Its sheer delusion to think that this is anything but propaganda and flim-flam from an organisation trying to protect itself from the international battering it is getting over its grotesque homophobia. These gay rights groups who want to praise and congratulate the Vatican can include me out.

Gay rights have been opposed by the Vatican at every step of the way – from legalising gay sex to getting an equal age of consent, from getting protection from discrimination at work to having the right to marry. When it came to trying to derail these measures, the Vatican was on the front line every time.

If the Vatican had prevailed none of these things would have happened. If it was left to the bishops and popes we would still be living in fear and dread, unable to love openly and in constant terror of losing our jobs and homes.

We should tell the congregation loud and clear that we do not want the poisonous crumbs from their wobbling table of bigotry. Instead they should be begging our forgiveness for the centuries of torture and discrimination they have heaped upon us.

The Catholic Church is about a thousand years behind everybody else but still it expects praise for yet again sneakily trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

This latest statement signifies nothing. The smiley Pope Francis is in no way different from his glowering predecessor. Nothing is going to change. Teachers are still going to be fired from Catholic schools because they are gay, lesbian or transgender. Organists and choirmasters are still going to be kicked out of their congregations because they are living with same-sex partners.

The Catholic Church is still going to agitate behind the scenes in governments round the world to try to stop gay progress. It has tried every dirty political trick in the book to retard the march of gay marriage in the United States. It has succeeded in getting itself exempted from employment protection legislation, it doesn’t want to deal with gay people in the adoption services it runs (often at taxpayers’ expense).

When you look at these spiteful acts of discrimination, the statement from the Vatican bishops looks like what it is – a mocking slap in the face for gay people.

Congressman Randy Forbes: A Do Nothing Extremist

I've noted before that I've known 4th District Congressman Randy Forbes for 37 years and I don't know what became of the young law student I once knew.  Forbes has become increasingly a willing prostitute for far right religious extremists and compared to other members of Congress, including other members from Virginia, has little in the way of legislation to show for his years in Congress.  Crazy Christofascist backed bills and obstruction are about all he has to show for his years drawing a nice congressional salary.  A piece in the Virginian Pilot looks at Forbes' dismal record and how he stays in office thanks to districts that are racially gerrymandered.  Here are excerpts:

Randy Forbes has not been a consequential member of Congress.

By almost every measure of effectiveness, he trails his peers in the House of Representatives, not just among the 435 members of Congress, but among the 11-member Virginia delegation.

In Forbes' 13 years in office, only one piece of his legislation has been signed by a president, according to Congress's database. It was a bill, in 2002, to "designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 3131 South Crater Road in Petersburg, Virginia, as the 'Norman Sisisky Post Office Building.' "

In the current Congress, Forbes has sponsored legislation:

-- "Affirming the vital role that prayer has played throughout the more than 200-year history of our Nation..."

-- Expressing "the sense of the House of Representatives that the funds made available for the cost of the President's trip to Africa instead be used to compensate those who have been placed on an administrative furlough as a result of sequestration."

He's also introduced bills that would bar the use of embryonic stem cells and rein in the IRS (the "Prevent IRS Overreach Act of 2013").

Late last year, Politico reported that Forbes was creating "friction" within the House leadership by pushing to have campaign funds denied to gay GOP candidates.

The bills a member of Congress sponsors say something about his priorities. The legislative success of a member of Congress says something about his influence among his peers.

The fact that none of Forbes' legislation since 2002 has made it to the president's desk argues that he's not representing the residents of the 4th Congressional District as they deserve and have every right to expect.

Forbes has instead wasted his time in Congress on inconsequential and unnecessarily divisive issues (does Congress need to inform Americans about the role of prayer?) that appeal to a narrow band of the electorate.

Which is all he needs to get re-elected.

This is what happens when elected officials get to tailor their own electoral districts. By packing Democrats into Scott's district, the General Assembly has made the 4th Congressional District so reliably Republican that, not only is Forbes in no danger of losing next month's election, but the Democratic Party has consistently failed to find or support a credible candidate to oppose him.

Forbes, instead, seems content to keep his head down and run for the finish line in his sharply tailored district, confident that he won't be held accountable for his stunning lack of influence and legislative success.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Unanimous Arkansas Supreme Court Rules GOP Voter ID Law Unconstitutional

With the 2014 midterm elections just weeks away, a unanimous Arkansas Supreme Court struck down that state's GOP backed voter ID law aimed at disenfranchising blacks and those thought likely to vote Democrat.  Brace yourself for shrieks of "judicial tyranny" from the Tea Party/Christofascists and their GOP operatives.  It is telling that the GOP's thinly veiled efforts to win by cheating, if you will, are not doing well when analyzed by the courts.  Think Progress has details on this latest GOP defeat.  Here are excerpts:

Late Wednesday afternoon, the Arkansas Supreme Court released a unanimous decision holding the voter ID law passed earlier this year in violation of the state’s constitution. The judges wrote: “The legislature can not, under color of regulating the manner of holding elections…impose such restrictions as will have the effect to take away the right to vote as secured by the constitution.”

“We are extremely pleased,” lead attorney Jeff Priebe told ThinkProgress. “This decision really shows the importance of voting. The Arkansas Constitution holds that the right to vote is a fundamental right, the gateway to all others. It’s so important that we can’t erect additional qualifications that would keep people from voting.”

The ruling affirms a lower court ruling back in April, saying the law is “unconstitutional on its face.”

[T]he Arkansas case turned on a purely technical question: can the legislature add any more requirements to vote than those already listed in the state’s constitution? The court said today they cannot. 

The judges went on to quote Democratic Governor Mike Beebe calling the law “an expensive solution in search of a problem” and “an unnecessary measure that would negatively impact one of our most precious rights as citizens.”

In the case, Priebe and the Arkansas American Civil Liberties Union represented four registered voters in Pulaski County who lacked a valid ID and would thus be disenfranchised in the upcoming midterm election.

“These voters will now be able to cast a ballot in the November general election that will be counted,” he told ThinkProgress. “And countless others will be able to cast a ballot and they won’t have to jump through any hoops to get an ID.”

Putin Continues to Expand His Hitler Like Policies

One of the key tools used by Adolph Hitler and the Nazi regime in their rise to power in the early 1930's was the muzzling of the press and organizations that questioned the official Nazi propaganda machine.  Newspapers were closed, editors and reporters were threatened and arrested any organization that questioned Nazi brutality was shut down.  So far we have seen Putin reprise Hitlers performance at the 1936 Olympic Games with his spectacle at Sochi.  We have also seen him use Hitler's claims of protecting Germans outside of Germany for his blue print for meddling in and likely invading eastern Ukraine.  And, of course, we have seen Putin impose anti-gay laws reminiscent of what the Nazis did to the Jews.  Now we see Putin engaging in another Hitler tactic: closing down any organization that might help everyday Russians of the dangers a regime like Putin's poses to not just freedom, but one's life.  A column in the Washington Post looks at Putin's move to shut down an organization that reminds Russians of the brutality of a regime that Putin in some ways seeks to restore.  Here are highlights:
The letters revealed the love story of Lev and Svetlana Mishchenko, a couple separated by Lev’s imprisonment in the Soviet gulag after World War II. What made the letters extraordinary is that they were uncensored, smuggled back and forth from the Pechora prison camp in the far north. The letters became the basis for Orlando Figes’s moving book, “Just Send Me Word,” published in 2012.

What makes this relevant today is that the Mishchenko trove of letters was found by Figes at Memorial, a Russian organization formed in the dying days of the Soviet Union to ensure that the story of Stalinist repression would not be forgotten. Memorial has also, separately, been at the forefront of human rights work, determined not to let the brutality of the past be repeated. Now Memorial is facing demands by President Vladimir Putin’s government that the organization be closed. This would represent a loss beyond description.

In its archives, Memorial has preserved stories of the suffering inflicted upon millions of people by the Soviet police state. The Mishchenkos survived and were reunited; many others met a worse fate. The only way a society can begin to heal from such wounds is to preserve the lessons of history for future generations.

But Mr. Putin, a scion of the Soviet KGB that inflicted so much of the suffering, has no use for Memorial. On Friday, news services reported that the Russian Justice Ministry had filed a petition with the Supreme Court to force Memorial to close. A hearing is set for Nov. 13.

As if to twist the knife, Mr. Putin’s loyalists unleashed a smear campaign against Memorial on the NTV television channel, accusing the group of supporting extremists and terrorists. 

Earlier, the Kremlin’s pressure on Memorial included attempts to force it to accept the status of a “foreign agent” under a new Russian law that has been used to harass groups that receive funding from abroad. Memorial has resisted the insulting label, which is redolent of Soviet-style accusations of disloyalty and treachery.

No one should underestimate the power of the Russian state to crush a person or organization. Mr. Putin has done it repeatedly to silence his critics. But the squelching of Memorial would be an especially grievous blow to the Russian people and their ability to understand, and shape, their history.

"Religious Liberty" - The Far Right's Next Attack on Marriage Equality

If one follows Christofascist organizations' websites, one sees constant messaging that gays are child molesting perverts going to hell, woman who use contraception are whores and sluts, and that the "sanctity of marriage is under attack even though it is evangelicals themselves who have the highest divorce rate.  One also sees constant whining that "religious freedom" is under attack.  In the mind of the Christofascist this translates to the fact that increasingly, the larger society doesn't want Christofascist religious beliefs imposed on them.  To the sick minds of the Christofascists, anything that restricts their ability to ride rough shod over others and/or to ignore the rights of others is an attack on their "religious freedom."  It's a very selfish mindset, but, in my view, there are few people more selfish than far right Christians.  

The irony, of course, is that same civil law sex marriage and other claimed threats would never be seen as attacks on religious liberty by the Founding Fathers who viewed religious liberty quite simply: citizens should be allowed to attend the churches that they wanted to attend, no particular church would have a monopoly on performing marriages - e.g., there was time in Virginia when only marriages in Anglican churches were "official" - and the general citizenry not be required to pay taxes to support a particular denomination.  None of the things the Christofascists rail about run afoul of this simple concept of freedom of religion.  Rather, their complaint is they are not being allowed to force others to live by their fear and hate based religious dogma.  

A piece in the Virginian Pilot looks at the coming Christofascist attack on marriage equality under the banner of protecting religious freedom.  It's a disingenuous story line, but one ran expect Republicans to none the less stampede to prostitute themselves to the Christofascists by embracing the lie.  Here are highlights:

Alarmed by the broad expansion of same-sex marriage set in motion by the U.S. Supreme Court, religious conservatives are moving their fight to state legislatures - seeking exemptions that would allow some groups, companies and people with religious objections to refuse benefits or service for gay spouses.

Winning sweeping carve-outs for faith-affiliated adoption agencies or individual wedding vendors, though, will be an uphill battle. Public attitudes against exceptions have hardened, and efforts by faith groups in states where courts, not lawmakers, recognized same-sex unions have had little success.

Gay advocates say broad carve-outs perpetuate the discrimination they had been working to end. 

That argument gained currency after the high court's Hobby Lobby ruling in June. It decided the arts-and-crafts chain and other "closely held" private businesses with religious objections could opt out of providing employees the free contraceptive coverage required by the Affordable Care Act. Liberal groups were outraged, and many promised to aggressively oppose exceptions for faith groups.

"I think there's a broad consensus that the rules should apply to everyone, which is why we withdrew our support from ENDA," said Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel at the national gay rights group Lambda Legal. "If you have different standards, then it communicates a message that some kinds of discrimination are not as serious as others."

The religious exemption fight isn't about what happens inside the sanctuary. First Amendment protections for worship and clergy are clear. . . . the high court decision last week to turn away appeals by states trying to protect their same-sex marriage bans moves the debate over exemptions into territory that is more conservative, politically and religiously. Utah, Nevada and Idaho are heavily Mormon. South Carolina, where the attorney general is fighting to uphold the state's gay marriage ban despite the court ruling, is largely evangelical Protestant.

But a controversy in Arizona in February over exemptions showed the limits on the public acceptance of broad opt-outs, even in conservative-leaning states. When lawmakers expanded protections in the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the national backlash from business leaders, gay rights groups and others was so intense that Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the measure.

"There will be a temptation to enact broad exemptions in states that otherwise would oppose same-sex marriage," said John Green, a religion and politics expert at the University of Akron's Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. "However, overly broad exemptions can backfire as well: They can be perceived as intolerant and discriminatory."

It is safe to say that here in Virginia, at the direction of The Family Foundation, a hate group in all but formal designation, some Republican political whores will be introducing exemption bills so that the "godly folk" can continue to mistreat others. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Maggie Gallagher Is a Miserable and Sick Person

I've written before about Maggie Gallagher (pictured above), the former president of the National Organization for Marriage, who made a lucrative career out of marketing anti-gay hatred while also demanding that the nation's civil laws match her fear and self-denigrating religious beliefs.  As noted before, Gallagher found herself as an unwed mother in college and she seems to never have gotten over (i) being dumped by the father of her child or (ii) her apparent need to do penance by harming others who do not adhere to her religious beliefs as much as possible.  Indeed, like so many of the Christofascists, Gallagher truly seems to feel good about herself when preaching hate and discrimination against others, gays being perhaps her favorite target.  Gallagher, who likes to see herself as an uber-Catholic, is in an apparent melt-down over the mere possibility that the Catholic Church might relent on its Inquisition type abuse of LGBT people. The Bilerico Project looks at Gallagher's agnst over the possibility that the Church might tone down its anti-gay jihad.  Here are excerpts:
In a breathtakingly myopic and stunningly self-pitying blog post this morning, former NOM president Maggie Gallagher -- one of America's foremost proponents of marriage discrimination -- hinted that reports of a possible softening in the Vatican's tone towards so-called "non-traditional" families have her seriously thinking about leaving the Catholic Church.

Gallagher writes:
I hope to respond intellectually to the synod report. Tears right now are streaming from my face, and it is not about objections to welcoming gay people. There is something more profoundly at stake for me.
Is this me? In the corner?
Just to make it abundantly clear that she's shedding tears of sorrow and not joy, Gallagher closed her post with the video of the R.E.M. song "Losing My Religion."

Wow, folks. I'm not often stunned, but right now I'm absolutely gobsmacked. Whether or not Maggie's telling the truth about her feelings having nothing to do with gay issues (and I suspect she's not being entirely honest here), her reference to the Vatican synod suggests that she's "losing her religion" because the Catholic Church is maybe -- just maaaaybe -- poised to become marginally less malicious and overtly hostile towards gays, divorced people, and unmarried couples.

What a miserable person.
Gallagher epitomizes the Christofascist mindset that seemingly revels in doing harm to others who hold different beliefs and who might just demonstrate the wrongheadedness and sickness of Christofascist religious belief - beliefs based on myths and fairy tales.

HRBOR October 16, 2014, Third Thursday - Governor's School for the Arts

I first became politically involved over 20 years ago largely through my efforts to support gifted education in the Virginia Beach City Public Schools.  Between being the president of the Virginia Association for the Gifted and Talented and my involvement in the Republican Party of Virginia Beach (those were the days when the GOP sought to strengthen education, not dumb it down to please the Christofascists), I worked to improve public school offerings and in the process to make the area more attractive for relocating businesses.  Yes, I had another motive: three academically gifted children of my own who needed more than the standard education fare. Through such efforts, magnet school programs were initiated and the International Baccalaureate program came to Virginia Beach.  Another program that benefited from our advocacy was the Governor's School for the Arts.  Tomorrow night, HRBOR's October Third Thursday will be hosted by the Governor's School in its new building.  Here's a brief description f what this amazing school does for students:
The Governor's School for the Arts (GSA) offers premiere arts training in Hampton Roads in six departments:  Dance, Instrumental Music, Musical Theatre, Theater & Film, Visual Arts and Vocal Music.  Each department trains students to develop in their art form with a focus on conservatory style study. Students attend their neighborhood high schools in the morning and are bussed to GSA for 3 hours each afternoon.Each department at GSA is tailored to meet the demanding needs of each art form.
The talent of the students is amazing and often awe inspiring.  And yes, there are a good many LGBT students.

Here are details of tomorrow's event which I hope local readers will make an effort to attend.  I assure you, it will be a wonderful evening:

Date/Time Information:Thursday October 16th, 2014, from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM
Where: Governor's School for the Arts, 254 Granby Street,NorfolkVA 23510,757-995-1671

Bar Sponsors - L. Ashley Brooks PLC and Denette Cooke/The Cooke Veterinary Medical Center
Food Sponsor - The Norfolk Economic Development Authority/Charles Rigney

Fees/Admission: Free to HRBOR Members, Guests pay $15 to enter.