Saturday, November 08, 2014

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Legends Gala 2014 Legend: The Honorable Ralph and Mrs. Pam Northam

Tonight is the 9th annual Equality Virginia Legends Gala - the husband and I have been to all but one of the galas and I was on the Legends committee for 5 years (which had the added benefit of helping me make many wonderful friends).  The black tie event honors Hampton Roads area "legends" for their role in advance the cause of LGBT rights and equality.  This year's individual honorees are  Honorable Ralph Northam, Lt. Governor of Virginia and his wife,  Pam Northam.  The organizational honoree is Hampton Roads Pride which through its sponsorship of "Out in the Park" in the past and this year's amazing PrideFest has done much to increase the visibility of the LGBT community in a positive way.  Here are details from Equality Virginia's webpage:
Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and Mrs. Pam Northam have been longtime advocates for Virginia’s LGBT community.  For the Lt. Governor, as a pediatric neurologist first, and for Mrs. Northam, as an educator, their compassion for all people and families shines brightly both in their personal and professional lives.  As a state senator from 2008 to 2013, the Lt. Governor supported policies that promote LGBT equality; he scored a 100 percent in Equality Virginia’s 2012 and 2013 legislative scorecards.  When elected as Lt. Governor for the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2013, both he and Mrs. Northam  continued to advocate for marriage equality and workplace fairness.

Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and Mrs. Pam Northam believe that nobody should be discriminated against for their sexual orientation or gender identity, and have been vocal in their support of LGBT equality in Hampton Roads and beyond.  Their efforts for making Virginia a more welcoming and supportive place to live is inspiring and their warmth and humanity contagious.
Hampton Roads Pride has successfully put the Hampton Roads LGBT community and the issue of equality front and center in the civic consciousness. Its marquee event, PrideFest, has moved to Norfolk’s Town Point Park, expanding its reach to thousands of new people and gaining countless additional LGBT allies and advocates.  Hampton Roads Pride is also the only such organization in the United States to put on a Boat Parade, underlining the connections with the maritime history of Virginia’s port cities.  

Being Gay at Work is Still a Struggle

While gays can marry in more and more states, in 29 states - Virginia, naturally is one of them - it remains potentially dangerous to ones career to be out at work.  There are zero employment protections unless works for a federal government contractor.  I found this out first hand when a former law firm where I was out merged (actually, was taken over) by another firm that did not want a gay partner, and yours truly was out on the street. Thankfully, my new employer which is NOT based in Virginia could care less about my sexual orientation.  But far too many friend continue to worry that a slip up may expose their secret at work and lead to a firing.  A piece in The Economist looks at this sad state of affairs.  Another story via CNN that puts the closeted figure at 53% is here.  Here are highlights (Note: Walmart's homophobia - yet another reason to NEVER shop there):
WHEN American politicians, television presenters and even clergy come out of the closet these days, it barely makes the headlines. But the corporate world is different: until Apple’s boss, Tim Cook, said on October 30th that he is gay, there had never been an openly homosexual CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

The crossing of this symbolic threshold demonstrates both how much conditions have improved for gay executives and how far boardrooms lag the rest of society. Optimists see Mr Cook as the tip of an iceberg: since the average CEO is over 50 years old, others who are gay have already spent decades in the closet and are unlikely to come out now. Their successors, coming from a generation that has found it ever easier to be “out” at work, will be more visible.

Employers used to avoid hiring gay people for fear of alienating prejudiced customers—John Browne, who ran BP until he was outed in 2007, says Walmart, based in conservative Arkansas, withdrew an invitation to join its board in deference to the “religious right”. Such concerns now look unfounded: recent campaigns to boycott Starbucks and Target shops over gay-friendly policies had little impact. The number of big American firms scoring a maximum 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index—which requires a “public commitment” to gay rights—has risen to 304, from just 13 in 2002.

Though employment policies, such as providing medical benefits to gay partners, are changing rapidly, corporate cultures evolve slowly. It is no coincidence that the first big firm with an openly gay boss once had “Think Different” as its slogan.

In his book, “The Glass Closet”, Mr Browne notes that two-fifths of gay, bisexual and transgender Americans are still closeted at work. Even in banks making an effort to be gay-friendly, he finds, many still keep quiet about their sexuality, just in case. Kenji Yoshino of New York University’s law school notes a tendency for those who are “out” to become ever more open among colleagues until they become candidates for top management, when they begin to play down their sexuality anew. Acceptance of gay people in business is growing, but there is still some way to go.

Being closeted at work is exhausting.  So much energy that could be better focused on one's job and productivity is wasted on worry and paranoia about your secret being discovered.  I've been there and done that and will NEVER do it again.  Never, ever.

Chicago Priests Raped and Pillaged for 50 Years

It's a story of conduct and crimes that have been repeated all across the globe, but nonetheless, a document dump of records for the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago brings to stark reality just how morally depraved the Catholic Church hierarchy was - and still is notwithstanding Pope Francis Charm and PR offensive.  The question remains one of why, if Francis is serious about cleaning up the sexual abuse mess, he hasn't sacked countless bishops and cardinals who were up to their eyeballs in cover ups and abetting of sexual predators.  In my view, until such a sweeping house cleaning occurs, no one decent and moral should continue to be a churchgoing Catholic.  By attending and worse yet giving financial support, one becomes complicit in the crimes against children and youths.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the filth and horrors revealed by the Chicago documents.  Here are excerpts (Note: it's not just boys who were being molested, so blaming it all on gays fails):
Some of the accusations against perverted priests are handwritten letters penned by worried mothers. Others are emails sent decades after the abuses occurred. There are letters so old the mimeographed typewriting is smudged and difficult to read. There are emails so recent, they call into question just how much of the clerical abuse is still going on. In all, more than 15,000 pages from the secret archives of the Chicago Archdiocese’s Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review have been released on the Chicago Archdiocese website relating to hundreds of lurid sexual-abuse crimes by 36 perverted priests dating back to the 1950s. The most recent documents are only a year old.

The disturbing document dump was released Thursday as the retiring Cardinal Francis George prepares to leave the post he has held since 1997. They follow a similar gesture last January when the archdiocese released 6,000 pages of documents pertaining to 30 pedophilic priests as part of a legal settlement brokered by Chicago attorney Jeff Anderson. The Chicago Archdiocese has paid more than $130 million in abuse-victim settlements.

The allegations include accusations of priests plying young victims with alcohol and cigarettes, of fondling, masturbating, and performing oral sex on minors, and a strong current of denial and well-documented coverup by the church that can be traced all the way to Rome.

Take the case of Father Gregory Miller, whose 275-page dossier is filled with congratulatory letters of advancement within the archdiocese. But his file is also dotted with frequent warnings of misconduct. On Page 105 of the Miller dossier (PDF), one brief summary of an allegation states, “while in Fr. Miller’s quarters in the rectory, he instructed XX to remove his clothes; Fr. Miller also removed his clothes and had an erection; Fr. Miller took his hand and rubbed XX’s leg two times, then placed his hand on XX’s stomach and began to move his hand down to XX’s genital area” the rest of the complaint has been blocked by the diocese.

Reading through the documents is frustrating at times because full pages are blackened out, like the memos concerning Father William Lupo, a priest who faced multiple allegations, including “exposure of full naked body in bed to 14 year old girl in rectory and of partial nakedness to two other teen-age girls in/around his bedroom shower; passionate kissing and hugging over approximately six years with at least 3 teenage girls.”

Some priests, like Father Joseph Savage (PDF), apparently not only raped children, they also pillaged Episcopalian churches in the area. The documents in his lengthy dossier clearly point to suspicion that he often brought young teenage boys into churches to steal precious relics. Yet he was allowed to keep his collar.

The revelations in the Chicago document trove show the church was clearly involved in the coverup and proliferation of pedophile abuse by not removing the abusers, which is something victims’ groups have always known. David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, says the latest revelations prove his group’s point. “This information could and should have been revealed years ago,” he said. “Lives could have been saved. Crimes could have been prevented. Families could have been preserved.” Instead, Clohessy accuses Cardinal George and dozens of his clerical colleagues of opting to put their own reputations first.

The latest documents are apparently endorsed by Pope Francis, who assigned a special child-abuse SWAT team almost a year ago with an eye toward greater transparency. John O’Malley, special counsel to Cardinal George on misconduct issues, told the Associated Press, “Cardinal George wanted it finished on his watch.” The victims understandably wish he would have “finished it” when he started almost 20 years ago, not on his way out.
Francis may have endorsed the document release, but why hasn't he stripped George of his rank, sacked him, and kicked him out without a luxurious retirement? 

Friday, November 07, 2014

Friday Morning Male Beauty

When Wrong Wins Out

Just because a political party wins elections doesn't mean that it has right on its side or that the citizenry hasn't made a horrible mistake.  Let's not forget that the German people first legitimately elected Adolph Hitler to office before he proved to be a demented monster.  More recently, George W. Bush got elected president twice.  Talk about bad decisions. All too often, the larger public makes bad decisions.  The same holds true for the results of the elections on Tuesday.  When people are motivated by racism and hate - which is the GOP base's real motivation - the results are almost sure to be wrong.  A piece in the New York Times looks at when wrong wins out in the electoral field.  Here are excerpts:
The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet midterms to men of understanding. Or as I put it on the eve of another Republican Party sweep, politics determines who has the power, not who has the truth. Still, it’s not often that a party that is so wrong about so much does as well as Republicans did on Tuesday.

I’ll talk in a bit about some of the reasons that may have happened. But it’s important, first, to point out that the midterm results are no reason to think better of the Republican position on major issues. I suspect that some pundits will shade their analysis to reflect the new balance of power — for example, by once again pretending that Representative Paul Ryan’s budget proposals are good-faith attempts to put America’s fiscal house in order, rather than exercises in deception and double-talk. 

So now is a good time to remember just how wrong the new rulers of Congress have been about, well, everything.

First, there’s economic policy. According to conservative dogma, which denounces any regulation of the sacred pursuit of profit, the financial crisis of 2008 — brought on by runaway financial institutions — shouldn’t have been possible. But Republicans chose not to rethink their views even slightly. They invented an imaginary history in which the government was somehow responsible for the irresponsibility of private lenders, while fighting any and all policies that might limit the damage.

So here we are, with years of experience to examine, and the lessons of that experience couldn’t be clearer. Predictions that deficit spending would lead to soaring interest rates, that easy money would lead to runaway inflation and debase the dollar, have been wrong again and again. Governments that did what Mr. Boehner urged, slashing spending in the face of depressed economies, have presided over Depression-level economic slumps. And the attempts of Republican governors to prove that cutting taxes on the wealthy is a magic growth elixir have failed with flying colors.

In short, the story of conservative economics these past six years and more has been one of intellectual debacle — made worse by the striking inability of many on the right to admit error under any circumstances.

Then there’s health reform, where Republicans were very clear about what was supposed to happen: minimal enrollments, more people losing insurance than gaining it, soaring costs. Reality, so far, has begged to differ . . .

And we shouldn’t forget the most important wrongness of all, on climate change. As late as 2008, some Republicans were willing to admit that the problem is real, and even advocate serious policies to limit emissions . . . 

But if Republicans have been so completely wrong about everything, why did voters give them such a big victory?

Part of the answer is that leading Republicans managed to mask their true positions. Perhaps most notably, Senator Mitch McConnell, the incoming majority leader, managed to convey the completely false impression that Kentucky could retain its impressive gains in health coverage even if Obamacare were repealed.

But the biggest secret of the Republican triumph surely lies in the discovery that obstructionism bordering on sabotage is a winning political strategy. . . . This was, it turned out, bad for America but good for Republicans. Most voters don’t know much about policy details, nor do they understand the legislative process. So all they saw was that the man in the White House wasn’t delivering prosperity — and they punished his party.

Will things change now that the G.O.P. can’t so easily evade responsibility? I guess we’ll find out.

6th Circuit's Judge Jeffrey Sutton: Modern Day Segregationist?

Sutton - Is he a racist too?
Reactions to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling upholding marriage bans continue and outside of knuckle dragging Christofascists circles, none are very favorable towards Judge Jeffrey Sutton who not surprisingly is a George W. "Chimperator" Bush appointee. As previously notes, Sutton's "let the people decide" analysis would have been very popular in the South in the 1950's and 1960's and one can only speculate that we would still have segregated schools and bans on interracial marriage if Sutton's approach had been applied by the Supreme Court in cases such as Brown v. Board of Education and/or Loving v. Virginia.   Sutton clearly underscores the dangers of placing a cretin in the White House.   Here's one good take down of Judge Sutton:
Well, the media reports are correct. Sutton's lengthy introduction, before the analysis: "And all come down to the same question: Who decides? Is this a matter that the National Constitution commits to resolution by the federal courts or leaves to the less expedient, but usually reliable, work of the state democratic processes?" 
 Sutton did make two cute rhetorical moves with Loving. First, he insisted that the Court assumed marriage only encompassed opposite-sex unions, since the Court did not say differently and because the couple in Loving where not same-sex. Second is this: "Loving addressed, and rightly corrected, an unconstitutional eligibility requirement for marriage; it did not create a new definition of marriage." But this seems too clever by a half--all definitions of a thing are based on eligibility requirements for the definition of that thing. Is Sutton really suggesting that Loving would have come out differently if, instead of the law saying "If any white person intermarry with a colored person, or any colored person intermarry with a white person, he shall be guilty of a felony," it said "marriage shall only be between two white persons or two black persons"? 

Say this: Sutton hit every possible argument and issue surrounding marriage equality (although he soft-pedaled his discussion of the "marriage is for men and the women they accidentally knock-up" argument). So the opinion presents a good vehicle for thorough consideration (and reversal).

Finally, a question: Judge Daughtrey in her dissent described at length the facts underlying the claim by the Michigan plaintiffs. Under Michigan law, unmarried couples cannot jointly adopt, which means only one parent is the legal parent of the child and there is no guarantee that, if the legal parent dies, the child will be allowed to stay with the other, non-legal parent. But that imposes huge financial costs on the state, if it has to bring that child into the foster care system, not to mention the human and social cost to the child and the entire system. But if the ban on same-sex marriage imposes such costs, doesn't that render it irrational, if not based on animus?
Of course, all of us know that animus IS the real motivation.  Wonkette has an even less kind analysis:
Let’s skip ahead now to the lone dissenting voice of reason, Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, who politely points out that, ahem, that argument is some kind of bullcrud:
There is not now and never has been a universally accepted definition of marriage. In early Judeo-Christian law and throughout the West in the Middle Ages, marriage was a religious obligation, not a civil status. Historically, it has been pursued primarily as a political or economic arrangement. Even today, polygamous marriages outnumber monogamous ones—the practice is widespread in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, especially in countries following Islamic law, which also recognizes temporary marriages in some parts of the world. In Asia and the Middle East, many marriages are still arranged and some are even coerced.
But oh well, guess the majority forgot about that, because it sure does insist — over and over and over again — that up until about a decade ago, there was one definition of marriage, everywhere, for all time. And that is why the real question is whether the court has the authority to overrule The Voice Of The People, when The People have been homophobic bigots for all these millennia.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Has the Catholic Church Civil War Begun

For some years now the Republican Party has been caught in a civil war that pits the sane and rational Republicans - those that are left - against the insane, ignorance embracing forces of the Christofascists/Tea Party crowd who reject objective reality and oppose any and all modern knowledge.  Now, it seems a similar civil war may be igniting within the Roman Catholic Church in the wake of the recent synod on the family in Rome.  In some ways the mindset of the "conservatives" it is not surprising given the fact that it is minds such as theirs that kept the Church's on the wrong side of history time and time again over the centuries be it refusing to concede that the earth revolved around the Sun instead of vice versa or the condemnation of Galileo.  The Spectator looks at the lines being drawn in the latest battle over whether or not the Church should enter the current century.  Here are highlights:
‘At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder,’ said a prominent Catholic conservative last week. No big deal, you might think. Opponents of Pope Francis have been casting doubt on his leadership abilities for months — and especially since October’s Vatican Synod on the Family, at which liberal cardinals pre-emptively announced a softening of the church’s line on homosexuality and second marriages, only to have their proposals torn up by their colleagues.

But it is a big deal. The ‘rudderless’ comment came not from a mischievous traditionalist blogger but from Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura — that is, president of the Vatican’s supreme court. As it happens, Pope Francis intends to sack Burke, whose habit of dressing up like a Christmas tree at Latin Masses infuriates him. But he hasn’t got round to it yet. And thus we have the most senior American cardinal in Rome publicly questioning the stewardship of the Holy Father — possibly with the tacit approval of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Nothing like this has happened since the backstabbing behind the scenes at the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago. It raises the question: is the Catholic church in the early stages of a civil war between liberals and conservatives, fought not over liturgical niceties (the source of relatively harmless squabbles under John Paul II and Benedict XVI) but fundamental issues of sexual morality?
The October synod was a disaster for Pope Francis. Before it started, he had successfully tweaked the Catholic mood music relating to divorcees and gay people.

The synod’s ‘special secretary’, the Italian archbishop Bruno Forte, wrote a mid-synod report suggesting that the participants wanted to recognise the virtuous aspects of gay unions. In doing so, Forte — an even more radical figure — overplayed his hand. Most synod fathers wanted no such thing. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal George Pell, head of the Vatican’s finances, were horrified. They ensured that the final report kicked Communion for divorcees into the long grass and did not even mention homosexual relationships. ‘Synod rebuffs Francis on gays,’ reported the media — the last thing the Pope wanted to read.

And now another voice is being heard. The last pope is neither dead nor senile nor as silent as we thought he was going to be. In the last month Benedict XVI has written to the ex-Anglicans of the Ordinariate expressing delight that they now worship in the former Bavarian chapel in Warwick Street, London; to Rome’s Pontifical Urban University about the dangers of relativism; and, most significantly, to supporters of the old liturgy.

Where does this leave Francis? Looking a bit like ‘the Hamlet Pope’, Paul VI, whom he has beatified. He supports some sort of reform, but uncertainty is breaking the church into factions reminiscent of the Anglican Communion. Old enemies of Benedict XVI reckon they can persuade Francis to stack the college of cardinals in their favour. 

Cristina Odone, former editor of the Catholic Herald, says that ‘Francis achieved miracles with his compassionate, off-the-cuff comments that detoxified the Catholic brand. He personifies optimism — but when he tries to turn this into policy he isn’t in command of the procedures or the details. The result is confusion.
 Regardless of what the so-called conservatives want to believe, the Church is dying in the west and it is largely because the Church's far right policies towards gays, women, contraception, and the divorced  are driving people away.  Especially the younger Catholics. Growth in ignorant backward areas such as equatorial Africa will not replace the losses in the west - especially since America and German are the main bank rollers of the Vatican. 

6th Circuit Issues Batshit Crazy Opinion Upholding Marriage Ban

6th Circuit Panel - Judge Daughtrey is at left.  Assholes are at center and right

Because the Supreme Court left intact rulings by the 4th Circuit, 7th Circuit and 10th Circuit Courts of Appeals striking down same-sex marriage bans in those five states, those appeals courts’ decisions applied to six other states in those three circuits: West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. In a ruling that ought to terrify minorities of all stripes, by a 2 to one ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has held that minority rights can in effect be granted or denied based on the vote of the majority through the "democratic process."  Under the Court's reasoning, state constitutions - and by extension, the Federal Constitution - can be amended to strip the rights of minorities.  Blacks, Jews, Muslims, Hispanics, and so forth all should be very concerned by the reasoning of the Court.  Their rights, like gay rights are according to the majority ruling subject to the whims and prejudices of the majority of voters.  While the Christofascists are jumping for joy at the ruling - hate merchants Brian Brown and Tony Perkins seemingly are near orgasm - longer term they should be quaking: the day is coming when whites and Christian (certainly conservative Christians) will be in the minority.  Applied to its logical limits, the 6th Circuit ruling would allow the non-white, non-Christofascist majority of the future to strip the "godly folk" of their civil rights and treat them as they have so foully treated others (talk about Karma being a bitch). The ruling is so insane that it's hard to know if the majority wanted to be remembered in the same category as those judges that decided the Dred Scott ruling in the 1800's or if they are seeking to force the U.S. Supreme Court to make marriage equality nationwide.  Metro Weekly looks at the bizarre ruling.  Here are highlights:
In a 2-1 decision, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are constitutional. The decision reverses rulings by federal district courts striking down same-sex marriage bans in those four states.

“In just eleven years, nineteen States and a conspicuous District, accounting for nearly forty-five percent of the population, have exercised their sovereign powers to expand a definition of marriage that until recently was universally followed going back to the earliest days of human history. That is a difficult timeline to criticize as unworthy of further debate and voting,” wrote Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton for the majority. “When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers. Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.”
Under Judge Sutton's reasoning, schools would perhaps still be segregated and interracial marriage bans might still exist.   One judge dissented and called out the majority for their closed mindedness and, I would argue, bigotry.  Here's more from Metro Weekly:
Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey dissented.

“The author of the majority opinion has drafted what would make an engrossing TED Talk or, possibly, an introductory lecture in Political Philosophy,” Daughtrey wrote in her dissent. “But as an appellate court decision, it wholly fails to grapple with the relevant constitutional question in this appeal: whether a state’s constitutional prohibition of same-sex marriage violates equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead, the majority sets up a false premise—that the question before us is “who should decide?”—and leads us through a largely irrelevant discourse on democracy and federalism. In point of fact, the real issue before us concerns what is at stake in these six cases for the individual plaintiffs and their children, and what should be done about it. “

“The legacies of Judges Deborah Cook and Jeffrey Sutton will forever be cemented on the wrong side of history,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement.

The decision by the 6th Circuit marks the first time a federal appeals court has upheld a state ban on same-sex marriage and presents a split among the circuit courts, which could encourage the Supreme Court to once again take up the issue of same-sex marriage and decide whether the Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in September that if the 6th Circuit allowed same-sex marriage bans to stand “there will be some urgency” for the Supreme Court to step in.

Because the Supreme Court left intact rulings by the 4th Circuit, 7th Circuit and 10th Circuit Courts of Appeals striking down same-sex marriage bans in those five states, those appeals courts’ decisions applied to six other states in those three circuits: West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Top Republicans: Get Ready to Make Deals

While it is depressing to even contemplate a GOP controlled Congress, if one is a cynic and writes about politics, the coming two years may provide lots to comment about as the Republican leadership tries to restrain the excesses of the Christofascists/Tea Party lunatics of the Party, more of whom are now members of the U.S. Senate.  Thinking that they have a mandate - don't they always? - many of these reality free individuals will want to make no compromises and will want to take obstructionism to new levels.  The problem for the GOP as a whole, however, is that it needs to show that it can govern.  Something far different from merely opposing everything Democrats and/or the president wants.  A piece in Politico looks at the internal war that the GOP may be facing.  Here are highlights:

Congressional Republican leaders are sending subtle warnings to the right wing of their party: The days of crisis-dominated Washington are over.

House Speaker John Boehner’s allies are quietly telling members he wants to be a “responsible leader.” Incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed little willingness to use the debt ceiling as leverage for spending cuts. And top Republicans in both chambers have even showed a new eagerness to cut deals with the White House and allow Democratic proposals to come before the Senate.

Emboldened by sweeping midterm election victories, Republican leaders are vowing not to repeat the errors of past years, when messy fiscal fights eroded public confidence in Washington and became the hallmark of the GOP-controlled House.

“There will be no government shutdown, and there will be no national default,” said McConnell, speaking here at a news conference at the University of Louisville.

Asked whether he would insist on spending cuts as part of a debt ceiling increase, something House and Senate conservatives have demanded in past years, McConnell signaled he would pursue other avenues instead.

Much is on the line for the GOP. In 2016, Republicans will once again have a shot at retaking the White House, and they could lose control of the Senate after spending hundreds of millions of dollars to win it back in Tuesday’s elections. They want to be confrontational with the president, but not to overreach, which might mean taking a more moderate approach than many on the right would like. Only time will tell whether they can overcome the influence of their activist base.

Republican leaders may have reason to feel more free to stand up to conservatives in their party. In Tuesday’s elections, Republicans won their biggest House majority since the Truman era, while taking back the Senate for the first time since 2006. Their Senate victories were powered by pushing establishment-backed candidates . . . 

Republicans face a brutal map in Senate races in 2016 — with a number of GOP senators up for reelection in blue and purple states, like Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Senators facing tough races rarely want to cast tough votes, especially ones that put them out of step with their electorate. That could put McConnell in a bind between conservatives pushing a harder-line agenda and blue-state Republicans seeking to moderate.

“I think we will have to keep expectations realistic of what we can accomplish, knowing it will be a very narrow majority and we will have to manage that dynamic in the Senate,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, No. 3 in Senate GOP leadership. “But I do think there will be more of an incentive for the House and Senate to work together because our fortunes are going to rise and fall. Right now, the dynamic is very different between the House and Senate.”
The challenges now facing McConnell and Boehner underscore the brutal reality in Washington: Enacting legislation is much harder than making promises on the campaign trail.

My prediction?  The lunatic far right will not cooperate and soon we will see more of the never ending GOP civil war between those in touch with objective reality and the Christofascist/Tea Party element.