Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

ISIS Barbarians Throw Two Gay Men to Their Deaths

ISIS continues to underscore the toxicity of religion and fundamentalist religion in particular as it murders two more gays, all to uphold the writings of Mohammad who claimed the angel Gabriel dictated the Koran to him.  Nowadays someone like Mohammed would be residing in a mental institution, yet a billion plus Muslims continue to allow their lives to be controlled by the writings of a likely deranged madman.  Blogger friend John Becker has the horrible details at The Bilerico Project.  Here are highlights:

The jihadist barbarians of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have executed two more gay men -- this time in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, located in the Nineveh province.

And unlike two earlier executions, where a total of three men were stoned to death by ISIS militants in Syria for alleged homosexuality, these latest killings were carried out by throwing the victims off the roof of a tall building. Graphic photos of the executions were then uploaded to Twitter.
Radio Free Europe reports:
The Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq has published photographs that appear to show a man being thrown from the roof of a tall building apparently in Mosul, as punishment for being gay...
One photograph, taken from the top of the building from where the man was apparently pushed to his death, shows a large crowd gathered in the public square below.

Another image shows a man with his face covered by a black balaclava, reading out the sentence imposed on the man under the IS group's version of Shari'a law. The caption to the photograph says that the verdict was issued by a Shari'a court in "Wilayat Nineveh," IS's name for Mosul and its environs.
A graphic image shows the man being pushed to his death. Another image shows what appears to be the man's body on the ground.
The Daily Beast puts the images in context:
Death is shown in high resolution--the killing carefully composed inside the frame. These images belong to a deliberate social media and information strategy. Like all good Internet propaganda the images are made to be readily "shareable" and appear to have been released with the intent that they travel to a broader audience. It worked. Obscene and merciless, it's a reflection of the state of life under ISIS rule.
The situation for LGBT people living in areas controlled by ISIS extremists could not be more bleak: international human rights groups say they are "at imminent risk of death."

The next time someone tells you how offensive images depicting the prophet Muhammad are, show them these images instead.

Religion is an evil that needs to be eradicated.

Marriage Bans are About Anti-Gay Animus

I have not studied all of the legislative and campaign history behind the gay marriage bans enacted in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, but if they are anything like what happened in Virginia before passage of the vile Marshall-Newman Amendment or what transpired in Congress before passage of DOMA, the effort was all about anti-gay animus and the desire of Christofascists to permanently denigrate gays and to make us forever inferior under the law.  "Protecting the sanctity of  marriage" had little to do with the real agenda.  This anti-gay animus was analyzed by the Supreme Court in the Windsor ruling and in Virginia, the foul anti-gay rhetoric of Bob Marshall and Ken Cuccinelli helped document the animus behind the Marshall-Newman Amendment.  Now, with the Court taking the appeal from the 6th Circuit, animus will again be prominent in the Court's focus.  A piece at SCOTUS Blog lays out why these marriage bans are all about animus.  Here are excerpts:
Were the thirty-one state constitutional bans against same-sex marriage enacted between 1998 and 2012, including four the Court decided Friday to review, the products of constitutionally repugnant “animus” – that is, a desire to disparage or injure gays out of fear, misunderstanding, or dislike?  Or, do they represent, as Judge Jeffrey Sutton maintained in the opinion for the Sixth Circuit that is now before the Court, a benign, even admirable, initiative by “people of good faith,” endowed with a “Burkean sense of caution,” to validate a “long-existing, widely held social norm”?  Who are we, Judge Sutton asked, to “indict” millions of voters who supported these mini-DOMAs?

The question of animus will be prominent – perhaps pivotal – in this final phase of marriage litigation.  So far, the arguments made by plaintiffs have been remarkably sterile, emphasizing formal equal protection and due process arguments and failing to say much about how the mini-DOMAs actually came into being.  But such a picture is incomplete.  To fully consider the constitutionality of the remaining anti-marriage laws, we must lift up these proverbial rocks to see what was festering underneath them.

When evidence of gratuitous or irrational intent to harm a group outweighs a law’s purported legitimate justifications, the law betrays an improper purpose and violates equal protection.  As the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist observed in Hunter v. Underwood, the same law can be valid or not under the Equal Protection Clause depending on whether it was “motivated by a desire to discriminate.”

The Court has demonstrated time again – in Underwood, as well as cases like Mount Healthy City School District Board of Education v. Doyle, Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., Personnel Administrator of Massachusetts v. Feeney, and Romer v. Evans – that in a purpose inquiry, history, circumstances, and objective evidence (both direct and inferential) about the enactors’ intent all matter. 

First, look at the record.  Spend a few minutes browsing news databases for coverage of the mini-DOMA campaigns and it confirms what you knew but may have forgotten: the campaigns were substantially characterized by negative code words, moral judgment, and disparagement (often implicit, sometimes explicit) of gays’ dignity.

A few weeks before Ohioans voted on their mini-DOMA, the Columbus Dispatch reported that Ohio’s secretary of state was “standing by remarks he made comparing same-sex couples with barnyard animals.”  (Judge Sutton apparently missed that report.) . . . . we can find plenty of animus propelling these initiatives if we’re simply willing to see it.

Then, look at the data.  Data from the American National Election Survey on attitudes toward various groups, known as a “feeling thermometer,” show that for much of the period when the mini-DOMAs were debated, Americans had quite frigid feelings toward homosexuals. 

Remember, this was wedge-issue politics.  Anyone who paid even modest attention to politics over the past twenty years knows that gay marriage was, until recently, one of the conservative movement’s most potent wedge issues to mobilize its base and drive up turnout.
Wedge issues are rarely helpful to “earnest and profound debate,” but they are kissing cousins with animus.  Politicians count on voters to react to wedge issues emotionally and reflexively, not with calm nuance and reason.

Query why mini-DOMAs go farther than necessary.  It is one thing for a state to reserve marriage licenses for heterosexuals.  It is another thing, as I have written, to claim to void or nullify marriages created by other states.  Almost all the mini-DOMAs do this, even for long-married couples who are migrating to a different state and did not evade their home state’s marriage laws.

The nearly universal principle of reciprocal state marriage recognition, according to a leading conflict of laws treatise, “provides stability in an area where stability (because of children and property) is very important, and it avoids the potentially hideous problems that would arise if the legality of a marriage varied from state to state.”  To impose such “hideous” burdens on a legally married couple is cruel.  But millions of Americans nonetheless decided it was acceptable to do that to gays and lesbians.

Moreover, if the amendments were simply intended to preserve a traditional definition of marriage, it was unnecessary to also prohibit, as most of them did, civil unions, domestic partnerships, or (in the words of the Michigan amendment) any “similar union for any purpose.”  These amendments permanently barred gays from seeking even some lesser forms of legal recognition for their relationships.  If voters knew what they were doing, then it is difficult to imagine a reasonable, non-animus-based explanation for such overreaching.

Finally, probe the frivolous justifications.  If the mini-DOMAs collectively stand for more than knee-jerk moral judgments by voters, whipped up by activists with their own agenda, then the states now defending them should be able to offer more substantial justifications than the fanciful and logic-defying idea – notably pulverized by Richard Posner, a jurist who took the argument seriously enough to actually think about it – that banning gay marriage somehow channels more children into mom-and-dad households and promotes “responsible procreation” by heterosexuals.  This argument, in one form or another, is pretty much the only substantive purpose that states have offered in post-Windsor marriage litigation.

[A]s a solid body of equal protection jurisprudence has demonstrated, they are often the tip-off that something more unsavory – animus, perhaps? – was actually at work.

Supreme Court to Take 6th Circuit Marriage Appeal

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit which upheld the same sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee and tried to depict such bans as "a benign, even admirable, initiative by “people of good faith,” endowed with a “Burkean sense of caution,” to validate a “long-existing, widely held social norm” rather than animus inspired acts to permanently denigrate gays and lesbians.  Indeed, under the reasoning of the Sixth Circuit's ruling, slavery and bans on interracial marriage ought to still be valid.  A final ruling should be handed down by late June.  This action comes after the Court refused to take the appeal from the Fourth Circuit last October which had the effect of making gay marriage legal in Virginia and the other states in the Fourth Circuit. SCOTUS Blog has details on the Court's action.  Here are excerpts:
Taking on a historic constitutional challenge with wide cultural impact, the Supreme Court on Friday afternoon agreed to hear four new cases on same-sex marriage.   The Court said it would rule on the power of the states to ban same-sex marriages and to refuse to recognize such marriages performed in another state.  A total of two-and-a-half hours was allocated for the hearings, likely in the April sitting.  A final ruling is expected by early next summer, probably in late June.

The Court fashioned the specific questions it is prepared to answer, but they closely tracked the two core constitutional issues that have led to a lengthy string of lower-court rulings striking down state bans.  As of now, same-sex marriages are allowed in thirty-six states, with bans remaining in the other fourteen but all are under court challenge.

Although the Court said explicitly that it was limiting review to the two basic issues, along the way the Justices may have to consider what constitutional tests they are going to apply to state bans, and what weight to give to policies that states will claim to justify one or the other of the bans.
The Court told the lawyers for same-sex couples to file their written briefs on the merits by February 27, and the lawyers for the states to file by March 27.  Reply briefs by the couples’ lawyers are due on April 17.

The Court is scheduled to hold its final session of oral arguments from April 20 through 29, so the same-sex marriage cases will be scheduled during that time.  The order issued on Friday did not set that date; that will be done later.

The focus of the Court’s review will be a decision issued in early November by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  That decision, breaking ranks with most other courts, upheld bans on marriage or marriage-recognition in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.
While one never knows what the Supreme Court will do, it would seem unlikely for the Court to uphold state bans after allowing same sex marriage to extend to 36 states, with legalization in nearly half of those states coming from the Court's refusal to hear appeals where bans were struck down.  The outlier ruling of the Sixth Circuit has forced toe Supreme Court to have to act.

Locally, it has been amazing to see even formerly very conservative private clubs now accept married same sex couples as members.  The husband and I belong to such club and friends have recently joined a local conservative country club.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Why Porn is Exploding in the Middle East

Here in America, Internet porn usage is highest in the Bible Belt where all the sexually repressed "godly Christians" apparently cannot get enough porn to satiate their otherwise sexually frustrated lives.  Thus, it should not be surprising that porn is exploding in another repressed part of the world - Muslim countries in the Middle East.  Whenever myth based religion deprives individuals of sexual outlets, nowadays, the Internet provides an escape valve although admittedly porn tastes in Pakistan are beyond a bit bizarre and would certainly get Rick Santorum foaming at the mouth.   The more religiously oppressed - think Catholic priests - the more strange the "turn on" it would seem.  A piece in Salon looks at the Middle East's porn explosion.  Here are excerpts:

Porn is being made and watched in the Middle East, and millions more are watching it around the planet. In fact, some of the world’s top porn consumers come out of the Middle East. According to data released by Google, six of the top eight porn-searching countries are Muslim states. Pakistan tops the list at number one, followed by Egypt at number two. Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey come in at numbers four, five, seven and eight, respectively. Pakistan leads the way in porn searches for animals like pigs, donkeys, dogs, cats and snakes.

According to research put out by PornMD, the terms “creamy squirt,” “blowjob” and even “Kendra Wilkinson” (Hugh Hefner’s former girlfriend) appear on the top 10 most-searched terms coming out of countries like Iraq, Syria and Iran. The word “Arab” is the number-one searched porn term in Egypt, Iran and Syria. Some get a little creepier. “Pain” lands at Iraq’s fourth most-searched term, while “father daughter” and “brother sister” come in at numbers four and five for Syria. Both the words “mother” and “mom” appear on Egypt’s top 10 list.

The specifics are representative of a broader change taking place in a society all but defined by extreme “moral” standards. The fact that porn trends within the region can even be tracked is impressive, given that the sale of erotic material is banned in nearly every Arab country except Lebanon and Turkey.

[R]ecently, the Saudi Arabian government announced that it had hacked and disabled about 9,000 Twitter accounts associated with the publication of pornography and arrested many of the handles’ owners. The move was organized by the Commission for the Promotion and Prevention of Vice, also known as Haia, the Saudi religious police.

The good news for porn fans in the region is that a lot of these restrictions seem fairly easy to overcome. It’s not uncommon to find vendors lining the streets armed with pornographic videos. Nor is it rare to find young men hanging around popular shopping centers, selling cards to disable Internet blocks.

Is this a sex problem? Or is it a porn problem? Or is it just another hiccup in the long, thorny path to gender equality? Women are given center-stage in a lot of pornography, after all. Maybe some in the Middle East aren’t interested in seeing that happen. Or maybe they feel that sex should be restricted to a more private and procreative space. Many Muslim states declare that cemented social morals should not be violated. The data out there, however, suggest their public may feel otherwise.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

How the GOP and Far Right Hope to Fool America

A part of the GOP propaganda campaign that the party can govern is to promote the myth that many of its so-called leaders are "moderates."  But they fail to say what standard is used to deem one a moderate.  Compared to the Republican Party of my youth and my years as a GOP city committee member, there are no moderates left.  Almost all of the current crop of would be 2016 candidates and congressional leaders of the GOP are extremists compared to their counterparts from the days of Rockefeller Republicans.  Sadly, the media for the most part ignores this reality and mere parrots the GOP talking points without question.  A piece in Salon looks at how the GOP and its far right elements hope to play the American public for suckers yet again.  Here are highlights:

After the election the Villagers all declared that the Republicans now have to “prove they can govern,” apparently meaning they would have to moderate their views, hold hands with moderate Democrats and basically be the moderate centrists all politicians surely yearn to be. There is reason to be skeptical of this scenario for a couple of reasons.

The first is that Republicans just won a large number of seats in both Houses after they pushed far right policies and engaged in unprecedented obstructionism. Perhaps they have searched their hearts and decided that no matter how much their voters approved of their behavior and rewarded them with a congressional majority, it was the wrong thing to do. But it’s doubtful.

The second reason this is unlikely is that the base of the Republican Party votes and the base of the Republican Party is extremely conservative. The Republican activists, of which their are legions, are even more conservative. 

When even staunch conservatives like Bob Bennet of Utah and Richard Lugar of Indiana are unceremoniously booted out of office by challengers from their right, the message is pretty clear: stray from right-wing orthodoxy at your peril.  However, that has not stopped the D.C. pundits from insisting their fantasy is coming true. 

First, let’s dispense with the ludicrous idea that Paul Ryan represents the “intellectual wing” of the Republican Party. He represents the flim-flam wing of the Republican Party, which is admittedly a very large faction, but it can hardly be defined as “intellectual.” Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam are actual intellectuals. (And at this point they are practically the only ones.) But it doesn’t take an intellectual to see that policies benefiting the non-college-educated, blue-collar, “Sam’s Club” voter would be useful to a party that must win the vast majority of white votes in order to even have a dim chance at obtaining the presidency. This is the stuff of Fox News analysis, not intellectual inquiry.

The article also points out that Heritage Action has recently been ostracized in Washington for taking on the political establishment. They were even barred from attending the meetings of the Republican Study group, which is the D.C. Republican equivalent of being shunned by the Mean Girls table in the cafeteria — a kind of social death. The article characterizes this as an ideological battle between the center and the right, but it’s really a little family spat among conservatives. There is no center.

[T]here isn’t a “rebranding” going on at the Heritage Foundation. Under the mature and reasonable leadership of Jim DeMint, the Christian right ex-senator who said Obamacare would be the president’s “Waterloo,” the foundation is undergoing a bit of a face-lift. They are touting the sexy new Beltway brand called the “Reform Conservative Movement” (which strikes me as something of an oxymoron. Why would conservatism want reform?).

[I]t’s fair to guess that it means they will simply reiterate that the Invisible Hand of God will intervene once the government is drowned in the bathtub. And lest anyone think this means they won’t be going after the dreaded “entitlements,” think again. The alleged intellectual leader of the “reform conservative” movement, Paul Ryan, wants to voucherize Medicare and privatize Social Security. He just thinks they need to stop saying such mean things about poor people as they take away their food stamps.

Conservatives believe that average working families need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop asking for anyone to do anything to help them improve their lot. But apparently, they realize that in a world in which the top 1 percent is gobbling up more and more of the nation’s wealth while everyone else is dramatically falling behind, that isn’t selling as well as it used to, particularly when the demographics of presidential elections may just keep them out of the White House for a good long time unless they can attract a few more voters. So they are “rebranding.”

U.S. Allies That Nurture Islamic Extremism

Fear of and the actions of Islamic extremists are dominating the news of late after the terror attacks in Paris last week.  The only think that made the Paris attacks unique is that the occurred in a modern western nation.  Horrors are being committed by Islamic extremists all around the globe.  Worse yet, countries that are putative U.S. allies and which receive billions in U.S. foreign aid are nurturing the extremists.  Why are we indirectly funding our enemies?  A column in the New York Times looks at some of these other atrocities and our "allies" who are allowing extremism to flourish.  Here are excerpts:

As one group of Islamic militants was waging war in Paris, another was slaughtering vast numbers of civilians in Baga in northern Nigeria — as many as 2,000, according to Amnesty International; “only” 150, according to the Nigerian government.

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda has blown up scores of people in Yemen, and the Pakistan Taliban murdered 150 people at a school. Libyan extremists blew up a Foreign Ministry building last month because an official wished people “Merry Christmas.”

These spasms of terrorism cry out for a conversation among Muslims about faith and tolerance. 

Saudi Arabia could play a leadership role in Islam. In the mid-20th century, King Abdul Aziz al-Saud overcame traditionalists who opposed cars, radio and the telegraph as non-Islamic by having the Koran read aloud on the radio.

Yet since then Saudi elites have retreated, sipping whiskey at private parties while deferring publicly to the traditionalists. Saudi Arabia does not allow Christian churches and sometimes has confiscated Bibles. (I once smuggled in a Bible to see what would happen if I were caught; Saudi customs officials searched the wrong bag.) The kingdom oppresses Shiites, funds extremist Wahhabi madrasas across the Islamic world and last month referred two women to its antiterrorism courts — for driving cars.

To be blunt, Saudi Arabia legitimizes Islamic fundamentalism and intolerance.

Pakistani officials play a similar game. Pakistan was once a tolerant country whose first foreign minister was a member of the Ahmadi sect. Now Ahmadis are persecuted, and a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, is on death row in a preposterous blasphemy case after drinking water said to be for Muslims only.

Republicans have been hounding President Obama for not sending a top official to Paris. They’re right. But let’s engage in more than symbolism and actually support the moderates in the Islamic world who are pushing for change — and, sometimes, being flogged for it. By our “allies.”
The column also mentions Saudi liberal, Raif Badawi, who our supposed Saudi allies sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam.”  The money and support to these nations needs to stop until they cease supporting and legitimizing Islamic extremists.

GOP's Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) Plays to Party's Racist Base

When not prostituting themselves to the Christofascists, congressional Republicans can't do enough to make the white supremacists in the party base (the other twin pillar of today's GOP) happy.  A case in point is House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) who said there is no need to undo damage to the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court's ruling in 2013.  Never mind that he once supported the re-authorization of the Act.  Now, the GOP goal is to restrict minority voting as much as possible to compensate for the fact that the party's agenda is increasingly attractive to an aging white demographic that is literally dying off.  Here are highlights from Talking Points Memo:

"There are still very, very strong protections in the Voting Rights Act in the area that the Supreme Court ruled on, which is the question of whether or not certain states — there were, I think 11 states, all Southern states that were required by law to seek precleareance of any changes in where polling places are located and other matters like that," House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

"To this point we have not seen a process forward that is necessary because we believe the Voting Rights Act provided substantial protection in this area right now," he said. "And we'll continue to examine, we'll continue to listen to the concerns of individuals."

Republican support for fixing the Voting Rights Act is scant. One year ago this week, such a proposal was introduced by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said Goodlatte's remarks "ought to be of very serious concern for everyone who cherishes the fundamental right" to vote, urging him to consider the Conyers-Sensenbrenner bill.

"I am deeply concerned and disappointed by comments from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte that Congress does not need to take corrective action to address the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Shelby v Holder, which guts one of the most important and effective provisions ever enacted to combat voter discrimination," Hoyer said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. "As we prepare to commemorate the 50th anniversaries of the march in Selma and the enactment of the Voting Rights Act, it would be a blow against the march toward fairness and equality at the ballot box for Congress to do nothing to address the Shelby decision."

As I have pondered before, when will it become official GOP policy to hand out KKK robes to city and county GOP committees at the start of each meeting.  It's be very popular I suspect, especially in Southern states and Southwest Virginia. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Which Shape Shifter Will Romney Be This Time?

I don't like Mitt Romney for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that he's a rich, spoiled brat who suffers from an overweening sense of entitlement.   He thinks he's entitled to the presidency.  In addition, his ego drives him to be the first Mormon president.  He's in love with the idea of being president.  What he'd actually do if elected is a bigger question - a question that Romney himself doesn't seemed to have fleshed out even when he ran for the office in 2012.   Thus, the question becomes one of what version of Romney will we see/Romney seek to project?  The speculation on Romney's reasoning is all over the place.  Here are examples of the speculation.  First,  highlights from a piece in Time:
It is always wonderful to see a twice-failed politician suck it up and sort of announce he’s going to be running for President again. Mitt Romney’s allies say he will be different this time. There is talk of a new personal style that was really his old personal style—as seen in the Netflix documentary Mitt—but was brutally suppressed by his … political consultants, most of whom seem back on board.

There is talk of Romney emphasizing the eradication of poverty as one of his three campaign pillars. There is talk about his being less gaffe-prone this time. (Translation of last two sentences: he will try to act like a rich guy who cares for the 47%.) He will “position” himself just to the right of Jeb Bush.

What they don’t talk about is whether this iteration of Romney will come equipped with a backbone. The last two certainly didn’t, to the point of embarrassment. In neither campaign did Romney take a position that was even vaguely controversial with his party’s rabid base. He was disgraceful on immigration, “self-deporting” himself to Dantean circles of chicanery. He was craven on fiscal sanity, opposing in one debate—along with all his fellow candidates—a budget proposal that would include 90% cuts and 10% revenue increases.

Worst of all, he self-lobotomized on the subject of health care, dumbing himself down egregiously, denying that his (successful) universal-health-coverage program in Massachusetts was the exact same thing as Barack Obama’s (increasingly successful) national version. He never expressed a real emotion—not anger, not sadness, not unscripted laughter. His manner was as slick as his hair.

Ouch!  The there are these highlights from a piece in
It looks we’re in for a Romney trilogy: Since The Wall Street Journal reported last Friday that Mitt Romney, the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee and a 2008 primary contender, was considering another campaign, it’s become increasingly clear that Romney is aggressively scouting a route to 2016.

Getting real means changing his tune. His 2012 presidential campaign left a lot to be desired. This time, he says, things will be different. Different how, you ask?  You know…different.

So it’ll be more of the same, but with different packaging. This is the wrong lesson of the 2012 campaign. Romney had a number of communications foibles, but his big problem wasn’t communications. It was substance. The communications foibles arose in part because the messaging operation had so little to work with, and thus ended up distracted and unfocused, sucked into daily controversies that they couldn’t respond to.

Romney’s verbal flubs from last time will still be on the record. He’ll have to defend them or distance himself from them, repeatedly, and he’ll have to do so without contributing too much to the not-insane perception that he’s an ideologically unmoored flip-flopper.
And then there is this from the Washington Post:
Ever since the news broke last Friday that Mitt Romney is not only thinking about running for president again in 2016 but also making moves that suggest he is going to run, I've been trying to figure out why.  I've talked to Republicans who are close to Romney and Republicans who are only interested observers.

For people outside of Romney's direct orbit, there is bafflement about what Romney is doing. Closer allies explain, without their names attached, why Romney running again isn't as odd as it is being portrayed.
[I]n short those conversations -- and my own thinking -- have produced three basic reasons to explain why Romney is doing what he is doing. They are:

1. He doesn't believe Jeb Bush is a terribly strong candidate/frontrunner.
2. He doesn't think anyone in the current field can beat Hillary Clinton
3. He believes he has something more/new/different to offer the country at a critical moment in history.

I don't doubt Romney's sincerity. But I do think he and those close to him are fooling themselves that he can simply proclaim that he is running a new and different campaign -- one based on foreign policy and poverty, according to Politico -- and that will be that.

Does Romney think either his Republican opponents or, potentially Hillary Clinton in a general election, are going to just let the whole "47 percent" thing drop? Or that the car elevator, "severely conservative" and the picture of him with money coming out of his suit jacket are going to disappear?

The image of him as an out-of-touch plutocrat, which the Obama team so effectively painted, will linger no matter what Romney says or does as a candidate. And, unlike in 2012 when he was seen as the de facto frontrunner due to his close-but-no-cigar bid in 2008, the logic (or lack thereof) for why he would choose to run again in 2016 would make him a puzzle in the eyes of many Republican primary voters. People don't usually vote for puzzles.
As I have said before, the would be GOP candidate field is going to provide wonderful spectator sport.   Meanwhile, Hillary and would be Democrat candidates need only to carefully record the insanity and lunacy so that it can be trotted out in the general election.

NOM's Brian Brown Applauds Russia's Persecution of Gays

I am of an age that I remember when applauding Russia and its dictatorial government caused one to viewed as a possible traitor.  Indeed, during the reign of terror pushed by Joe McCarthy, even rumors that one supported Russia and/or communism ended careers and ruined lives.  Now, Russia is ruled by a former communist KGB officer and the country has moved from a flirtation with democracy to a  dictatorship headed by the aforesaid former communist KBG officer, Vladimir Putin.  So who has been to Russia cheer leading for Putin's vile and corrupt government and policies?  Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.  Right Wing Watch has details on Brown's disgusting support for Putin's efforts to make Russian gays the modern day equivalents of Jews in early 1930's Germany.  Here are highlights:
[W]e recently discovered that the website for the international conference of social conservatives hosted at the Kremlin in September has posted a number of English transcripts of speeches given at the event, including those of a handful of American activists.

One of those activists was Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, who had previously testified before a Russian parliamentary committee in favor of tightening the country's laws  preventing the adoption of Russian orphans by same-sex couples.

Brown warned the audience in Moscow that “[i]n the West especially there is an attempt to silence those of us who stand for the truth of marriage” but claimed that Americans in general oppose LGBT rights. Lamenting that “there’s a picture that is sometimes painted of the United States as if all of us in the U.S. are somehow embracing this new and false vision of the family,” Brown said that it is “unelected judges” who are “coming and simply throwing away the votes” of Americans who oppose LGBT equality, violating “our civil right to have our vote counted.”

Brown told the conference attendees that he was hopeful for the future of the “international pro-family movement” that would “stand in a united manner against the attempt to redefine the very nature of what it means to be a human being:

It is a great blessing to be with all of you here, in Moscow. . . .  There are three things I want to discuss today. I want to focus primarily on what the future of the international pro-family movement is. Because what is occurring here, and what is occurring around the world, with leaders coming together, and meeting, and thinking, and discussing, and planning, and organizing, is a historic moment. We have an opportunity, we have been placed here to make a change.
It is a testament to how far the Republican Party has fallen that someone like Brown would not only be welcomed but with allies like Tony Perkins aids in setting the GOP's virulently anti-gay agenda.   The irony of it all is that I suspect Vladimir Putin doesn't give a damn one way or another about gays.  But in order to rally support from the heinous Russian Orthodox Church, he is willing to persecute and ruin the lives of Russian gays solely for the purpose of maintaining his own power.  That said, it speaks volumes about what a vile low life Brian Brown is - as are his "godly Christian" allies.

The GOP's Idea of Governing America

Since the Republican Party took control of the United States Congress all we have heard from the GOP leadership (think John Boehner and the insufferable Mitch McConnell) is how the Congressional Republicans seek to prove to the country that the GOP can govern and pass common sense legislation.  Joe Jervis pulled together some examples of the "common sense legislation" that has been introduced to date by Republican members of Congress.  Here are some highlights:

Here are just a few items that I've pulled from the House site.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced a resolution to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment, which authorizes Congress to levy income tax.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) introduced a resolution that would authorize Congress to sue to the president for "actions inconsistent" with his duties regarding immigration laws.

Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) introduced a resolution that would authorize the House to sue any member of the executive branch who "oversteps their authority" regarding immigration laws.

Rep. Robert Anderholt (R-AL) introduced a resolution that would repeal any executive order regarding immigration reform and "restore" such actions to the federal legislature.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced a resolution that would "terminate" the Internal Revenue Code.

Rep. Andy Barre (R-KY) introduced a resolution that would limit members of the Senate to serving two consecutive terms and limit members of the House to serving six consecutive terms.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced a resolution that would make it a felony punishable by five years in prison to perform an abortion on a woman carrying a "pain-capable" fetus.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced a resolution to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (How many times have they tried this? Thirty? Forty?)

Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) introduced a resolution that would raise the threshold for classification as a full-time worker from 30 hours per week to 40 hours per week, which would mean the end of mandated health insurance for everybody who works fewer than 40 hours.
My Republican ancestors must be spinning in their graves.  These people are lunatics!

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

U.S. Senate to Vote on Whether Climate Change is Happening

Other than a very few outliers, scientists are in agreement that climate change is happening and that rising sea levels and changes in weather patterns pose a huge problem for mankind.  But in the reality free world of the Republican Party where every GOP candidate and elected official is in a contest to see who can prostitute them self to the ignorance embracing Christofascists and Tea Party followers of the party base, what scientists believe simply doesn't seem to matter.  Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that he will allow the Senate to vote on an amendment asking if they agree that climate change is impacting the planet.  It will be interesting to see how crazy the GOP batshitery becomes.  The Hill looks at the coming vote:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he will allow the Senate to vote on an amendment asking if they agree that climate change is impacting the planet.

At his weekly press briefing, McConnell said "nobody is blocking any amendments" to legislation that would approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

But a measure proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had raised questions about whether he would stick to that commitment.

The Sanders measure asks whether lawmakers agree with the overwhelming consensus of scientists who say climate change is impacting the planet and is worsened by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Democrats believe the measure could be a tough vote for some Republicans, particularly GOP senators running for reelection in 2016 in states carred by President Obama in 2012.

McConnell shot back at reports he might block the Sanders amendment, exclaiming "yeah" when asked if his caucus is prepared to take a vote on climate change.

Sanders's amendment is one of many Democrats are looking to tack on to the controversial bill, which Republicans are eager to send to President Obama's desk. The White House has threatened to veto the Keystone legislation.

Other amendments from Democrats include a requirement for oil companies to pay into a spill cleanup fund, and to block exports of the oil shipped via the Canada-to-Texas pipeline out of the U.S.

Get your popcorn.  GOP lunacy will likely be on display!

Can Jeb Bush Defy the Tea Party and Win?

In the lead up to the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney prostituted himself to the far right of the GOP in the Republican Party nomination contest and it came back to bite him in the general election and contributed to his loss to Barack Obama.  With Jeb Bush flirting with running for president in 2016, some are wondering if Bush may try to appear more moderate during the primary contests.  The problem for Bush will be that the GOP has become much more extreme with Christofascists/Tea Party fanatics dominating the nomination process.  A column in the New York Times looks at whether such a strategy is possible given the nature of the base of today's GOP.  Here are column highlights:

Can Jeb Bush win the Republican presidential nomination while defying the most ideologically committed wing of his party?

Bill Clinton did this successfully in 1992, when he staked out conservative stands opposed by the liberal wing of his party — the so-called Sister Souljah strategy, designed to distance himself from the dogma of the left generally and from Jesse Jackson specifically.

Over the past 23 years, however, the voting public has become more politically consistent, with the Democratic left and Republican right each exerting greater influence on their respective parties, particularly in primary elections.

[O]nly 34 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of Democrats today fall into the middle range. The percentage of liberal Democrats has nearly doubled, from 30 percent in 1994 to 56 percent in 2014. The percentage of conservative Republicans has grown from 45 to 53 percent. As a result, Jeb Bush has fewer moderate Republicans to rely on as a base in his primary bid for the nomination than Clinton had among moderate Democrats in 1992.

Bush has decided to confront his party’s right wing on issues of immigration, the Common Core and same-sex marriage. The closest he has come to a Sister Souljah moment so far was on April 6, 2014, when he told a gathering celebrating the 25th anniversary of his father’s presidency that for many illegal immigrants, crossing the border “is not a felony. It’s an act of love” . . . 

Bush’s remarks set off a fury. The Associated Press reported that
Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho accused Bush of “pandering.” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and House Speaker John Boehner said the country should enforce the “rule of law.” And conservative commentator Michelle Malkin created a new Twitter hashtag: #CancelJebBush.
The Democratic pollster Geoff Garin argued in a phone interview that a candidate seeking the Republican presidential nomination on a pro-immigration platform was like a politician seeking the Democratic nomination “as a pro-life candidate.”

This will make it difficult for Bush if the nomination fight turns into a two-person contest between Bush and an anti-immigration candidate. 

An unknown factor is how much leeway Bush has because of his wife, Columba, who is Latina. 

Recently, however, Bush has demonstrated a notable open-mindedness on social and cultural issues – a posture, generally speaking, which is anathema to the Tea Party, but advantageous in a general election.

Bush has also defied the Tea Party wing of his party on education policy. He has remained a steadfast supporter of national education testing standards under the Common Core program, despite growing, and often intense, opposition from the right. 

Bush’s strategy carries substantial risk. . . . Republicans might not be ready for a challenge to party ideology.

The question is, can Jeb Bush can be the Bill Clinton of the Republican Party? Does he have that level of political talent? And, if he does, will his party allow him to make use of it?

Bush will have his work cut out for him!  Here in Virginia, the GOP base has become ever more extreme and delusional.  Just look at the insanity of the 2013 GOP slate for statewide office.  It doesn't get much crazier than Ken Cuccinelli and "Bishop" Jackson, not to mention Obenshain. 

Texas Republicans Introduce Bills to Bar LGBT Non-Discrimination Laws

State Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano)
Proving yet again that the GOP is the enemy of LGBT Americans, four Texas Republicans have introduced bills in the Texas legislature that would bar localities and cities from enacting non-discrimination laws and ordinances to protect LGBT citizens from employment and housing discrimination.  The measures were prompted by the city of Plano's recent adoption of a non-discrimination ordinance.  The move is part of a nationwide Republican effort to grant open license to Christofascists to discriminate against LGBT citizens.  Here are highlights from the Texas Observer:

Four Republican lawmakers from the Plano area plan to introduce legislation that would bar cities and counties from adopting ordinances prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people, the Observer has learned. The proposed legislation also threatens to nullify existing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in cities that are home to roughly 7.5 million Texans—or more than one-quarter of the state’s population.

The bill comes in response to the Plano City Council’s passage last month of an equal rights ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

“There is legislation that’s being worked on,” Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) told a group of pastors who gathered in mid-December at Plano’s Prestonwood Baptist Church in response to passage of the city’s equal rights ordinance, according to an audio recording obtained by the Observer.

Shaheen said. “There’s actually four state representatives that represent Plano—all of us will be joint authors of that legislation—but Rep. Leach will lead that effort.”

Shaheen declined the Observer’s request for an interview about the legislation, which had not yet been filed as the session got under way Tuesday. Shaheen, Leach and the other two GOP Plano lawmakers—Reps. Pat Fallon and Jodie Laubenberg—wrote a letter to the Plano City Council opposing the equal rights irdinance prior to its passage. Calls to the offices of Fallon, Leach and Laubenberg went unreturned.

Texas Pastor Council Executive Director David Welch, whose group is leading efforts to repeal equal rights ordinances in Plano and Houston, told the Observer the legislation would prohibit political subdivisions of the state from adding classes to nondiscrimination ordinances that aren’t protected under Texas or federal law—neither of which covers LGBT people.

“It should be a uniform standard statewide, and cities can’t just arbitrarily create new classes that criminalize a whole segment of the majority of the population,” Welch said.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers in both the House and Senate have introduced proposed constitutional amendments—branded by progressives as “license to discriminate” measures—that would carve out broad religious exemptions to local anti-bias laws.

But the Plano Republicans’ bill would need only simple majorities in both chambers, instead of two-thirds for a constitutional amendment. And the bill is effectively a nuclear option that could abruptly end fights in Houston and Plano. Other cities with LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances at risk of being nullified include Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth and San Antonio. In some cases, the laws are decades old.

Pastor Welch - how long until he gets busted seeking to suck dick?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

More Tuesday Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

Today's GOP: Have Americans Gone Crazy?

GOP extremist, GOP Senator Joni Ernst
With the GOP suddenly speaking well of France and other member countries of the European Union, some in Europe must be wondering what has come over the erst while French hating Republicans.  But the bigger question in the minds of most foreigners, I suspect, especially from my own experience traveling outside the USA as far back as 2004 when my son and I were in Canada (every Canadian we met said we Americans deserved better than the Chimperator) and even as recently as this past September when the husband and I were in Venice and Greece, is how and why has America gone so insane and allowed the insane far right to be ascendant.  A piece in Salon looks  at the phenomenon.  Here are excerpts:
Americans who live abroad — more than six million of us worldwide (not counting those who work for the U.S. government) — often face hard questions about our country from people we live among. Europeans, Asians, and Africans ask us to explain everything that baffles them about the increasingly odd and troubling conduct of the United States.  Polite people, normally reluctant to risk offending a guest, complain that America’s trigger-happiness, cutthroat free-marketeering, and “exceptionality” have gone on for too long to be considered just an adolescent phase. Which means that we Americans abroad are regularly asked to account for the behavior of our rebranded “homeland,” now conspicuously in decline and increasingly out of step with the rest of the world.

I still remember a time when to be an American was to be envied. The country where I grew up after World War II seemed to be respected and admired around the world for way too many reasons to go into here.

That’s changed, of course. Even after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I still met people — in the Middle East, no less — willing to withhold judgment on the U.S.  Many thought that the Supreme Court’s installation of George W. Bush as president was a blunder American voters would correct in the election of 2004. His return to office truly spelled the end of America as the world had known it.  Bush had started a war, opposed by the entire world, because he wanted to and he could. A majority of Americans supported him.  And that was when all the uncomfortable questions really began.

In the early fall of 2014, I traveled from my home in Oslo, Norway, through much of Eastern and Central Europe. Everywhere I went in those two months, moments after locals realized I was an American the questions started and, polite as they usually were, most of them had a single underlying theme: Have Americans gone over the edge? Are you crazy? Please explain.

Then recently, I traveled back to the “homeland.”  It struck me there that most Americans have no idea just how strange we now seem to much of the world. In my experience, foreign observers are far better informed about us than the average American is about them.   This is partly because the “news” in the American media is so parochial and so limited in its views both of how we act and how other countries think — even countries with which we were recently, are currently, or threaten soon to be at war.

Take the questions stumping Europeans in the Obama years (which 1.6 million Americans residing in Europe regularly find thrown our way).  At the absolute top of the list: “Why would anyone oppose national health care?” European and other industrialized countries have had some form of national health care since the 1930s or 1940s, Germany since 1880.  Some versions, as in France and Great Britain, have devolved into two-tier public and private systems.  Yet even the privileged who pay for a faster track would not begrudge their fellow citizens government-funded comprehensive health care. That so many Americans do strikes Europeans as baffling, if not frankly brutal.

Sweden led the way in the 1930s, and all five Nordic countries pitched in during the postwar period to develop their own variations of what came to be called the Nordic Model: a balance of regulated capitalism, universal social welfare, political democracy, and the highest levels of gender and economic equality on the planet. It’s their system. They invented it. They like it. Despite the efforts of an occasional conservative government to muck it up, they maintain it. Why?

In all the Nordic countries, there is broad general agreement across the political spectrum that only when people’s basic needs are met — when they can cease to worry about their jobs, their incomes, their housing, their transportation, their health care, their kids’ education, and their aging parents — only then can they be free to do as they like. While the U.S. settles for the fantasy that, from birth, every kid has an equal shot at the American dream, Nordic social welfare systems lay the foundations for a more authentic equality and individualism.

These ideas are not novel. They are implied in the preamble to our own Constitution.

Knowing that Americans used to support such ideas, a Norwegian today is appalled to learn that a CEO of a major American corporation makes between 300 and 400 times as much as its average employee. Or that governors Sam Brownback of Kansas and Chris Christie of New Jersey, having run up their state’s debts by cutting taxes for the rich, now plan to cover the loss with money snatched from the pension funds of workers in the public sector. 

Implications of brutality, or of a kind of uncivilized inhumanity, seem to lurk in so many other questions foreign observers ask about America like: How could you set up that concentration camp in Cuba, and why can’t you shut it down?  Or: How can you pretend to be a Christian country and still carry out the death penalty? The follow-up to which often is: How could you pick as president a man proud of executing his fellow citizens at the fastest rate recorded in Texas history?  (Europeans will not soon forget George W. Bush.)

Other things I’ve had to answer for include:
* Why can’t you Americans stop interfering with women’s health care?
* Why can’t you understand science?
* How can you still be so blind to the reality of climate change?
* How can you speak of the rule of law when your presidents break international laws to make war whenever they want?
* How can you hand over the power to blow up the planet to one lone, ordinary man?
* How can you throw away the Geneva Conventions and your principles to advocate torture?
* Why do you Americans like guns so much?  Why do you kill each other at such a rate?

To many, the most baffling and important question of all is: Why do you send your military all over the world to stir up more and more trouble for all of us?

That last question is particularly pressing because countries historically friendly to the United States, from Australia to Finland, are struggling to keep up with an influx of refugees from America’s wars and interventions.

Did you note the question about claims of being a "Christian nation"?  While America pretends much more religiosity than old Europe, when it comes to governmental policy, the European models are much more in line with the Gospel message than America's vulture capitalist inspired model that kicks the needy to the gutter.   And who drives the effort to destroy the social safety net in the USA?  The Christofascist base of the GOP, of course.   I find the words selfish hypocrites on my lips.