Saturday, January 31, 2015

Obama to GOP: Put Up or Shut Up on the Middle Class

Over the last 10 years the actions and policies of the Republican Party have been to oppose anything Obama and the Democrats want in order to try to trash Obama.  The result has been that the obstructionist policies of the GOP slowed the economic recovery and killed programs and policies that would have benefited the middle class. Now, as if they have total amnesia as to their past actions, Congressional Republicans are disingenuously claiming to be concerned about the plight of the middle class.  Thankfully, Obama is having none of it and has called themGOP out and demanded that they either out up or shut up.  A piece in has details.  Here are highlights:

President Obama is putting Republicans on notice. The president told Republicans today that he wanted to see their ideas for helping the middle-class. In other words, it is time for Republicans to put up, or shut up.

The president said:
At a moment when our economy is growing, our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since the 1990s, and wages are starting to rise again, we have to make some choices about the kind of country we want to be.

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead?

That was the focus of my State of the Union Address – middle-class economics. The idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. 

This week, I will send a budget to Congress that’s built on those values.
The president short remarks contained a challenge to Republicans. Obama wants to know if Republicans have any ideas to help the middle-class. The president will be unveiling his ideas when he releases his budget proposal on Monday. Obama wants to know what the Republicans are going to bring to the table besides their usual chorus of no. Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader McConnell have already shot down the president’s proposed middle-class tax cut. 

The term middle-class has become the new “jobs” buzzword for Republicans. It wasn’t long ago that Republicans thought that they could boost their approval ratings by adding the word jobs into everything they said and did. A plan to cut taxes for the wealthy became a bill to aid job creators.

Obama isn’t going to sit back and let Republicans fill the air with empty talk. The president is challenging Republicans to back up their words with actions. In the days and weeks ahead, President Obama will likely sharpen his language and call out congressional Republicans. His weekly address was a warning shot that Republicans better be ready to put up or shut up when it comes to rebuilding the middle-class.

I suspect we will see/hear a lot of hot air but no actions.  Talk is cheap and that's all the GOP will offer the middle class.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Jeb Bush is No Moderate and Is a Pig Headed Fool

Michael Schiavo, the husband of the late Terri Schiavo,who became a national cause for the Christofascists before she was finally taken off life support, has little nice to say about Jeb Bush. While Jeb Bush is marketing himself as a "moderate" - at least by current GOP standards - the Schiavo incident shows that when confronted with a choice between pleasing the Christofascists in the GOP base or accepting medical and scientific knowledge, Bush consistently chooses ignorance and religious insanity.  Past actions are always a better indicator of what one will do if elected than words said on the campaign trail to get elected.  Bush's past actions offer little to support his current claims of being a moderate.  Politico Magazine has lengthy and detailed coverage on the issue and the Schiavo debacle in particular.  What's frightening is that Jeb Bush seems to have the same stubborn mindset as his idiot brother, the Chimperator, where facts don't matter, only he personal belief.  Here are excerpts:

Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.  For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state. “It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”

Michael Schiavo was the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman from the Tampa Bay area who ended up at the center of one of the most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars. The fight over her death lasted almost a decade. It started as a private legal back-and-forth between her husband and her parents. Before it ended, it moved from circuit courts to district courts to state courts to federal courts, to the U.S. Supreme Court, from the state legislature in Tallahassee to Congress in Washington. The president got involved. So did the pope.
But it never would have become what it became if not for the dogged intervention of the governor of Florida at the time, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates. On sustained, concentrated display, seen in thousands of pages of court records and hundreds of emails he sent, was Jeb the converted Catholic, Jeb the pro-life conservative, Jeb the hands-on workaholic, Jeb the all-hours emailer—confident, competitive, powerful, obstinate Jeb. Longtime watchers of John Ellis Bush say what he did throughout the Terri Schiavo case demonstrates how he would operate in the Oval Office.

The case showed he “will pursue whatever he thinks is right, virtually forever,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. “It’s a theme of Jeb’s governorship: He really pushed executive power to the limits.” . . . . “He may be wrong about something, but he knows what he believes.”

And what he believed in this case, and what he did, said Miami's Dan Gelber, a Democratic member of the state House during Bush’s governorship, “probably was more defining than I suspect Jeb would like.”

[Judge] Greer cited “overwhelming credible evidence” that Terri Schiavo was “totally unresponsive” with “severe structural brain damage” and that “to a large extent her brain has been replaced by spinal fluid.” His judgment was that she would not have wanted to live in her “persistent vegetative state” and that Michael Schiavo, her husband and her legal guardian, was allowed to remove her feeding tube.

Even one of the law’s [Terri's Law] architects up in Tallahassee expressed unease.  “I hope, I really do hope, we’ve done the right thing,” Republican state Senate president Jim King said. “I keep thinking, ‘What if Terri Schiavo really didn’t want this at all?’ May God have mercy on us all.”  Bush had no such qualms.

“Terri’s Law” had mandated the appointment of a guardian ad litem, and Jay Wolfson, a respected lawyer and professor of public health at the Stetson University College of Law and the University of South Florida, issued his report in December. . . . he wrote, Terri Schiavo was in “a persistent vegetative state with no likelihood of improvement” and “cannot take oral nutrition or hydration and cannot consciously interact with her environment.” He wrote that the practically unprecedented amount of litigation consisted of “competent, well-documented information” and was “firmly grounded within Florida statutory and case law.”

The seven state supreme court judges took less than a month to dismiss unanimously “Terri’s Law.” . . . Bush told reporters he was “disappointed, not for any political reasons, but for the moral reasons.” He said he didn’t think it had been “a full hearing.” Legal analysts disagreed. They called the ruling a categorical rebuke of what Bush had done.

In June, the medical examiner released Terri Schiavo’s autopsy, which confirmed what the judges had ruled for years based on the testimony from doctors concerning her prognosis. Her limbs had atrophied, and her hands had clenched into claws, and her brain had started to disappear. It weighed barely more than a pound and a third, less than half the size it would have been under normal circumstances. “No remaining discernible neurons,” the autopsy said. She couldn’t see. She couldn’t feel, not even pain. Forty-one years after her birth, 15 years after her collapse, Terri Schiavo was literally a shell of who she had been.

Today, looking back, what makes Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo, angriest about the case is Bush’s letter to McCabe. Even after 18 months of legal wrangling, even after her death, even after the autopsy—after all that—the governor asked a prosecutor to initiate a retroactive criminal investigation of his client. It struck Felos as “odd,” “bizarre”—“personal.”

What makes him “untrustworthy,” he said, is that he fought the courts as long as he did just because he didn’t like the decisions they kept making. “I wouldn’t trust him in any type of political office,” he said.

[S]aid Connor, the Bush attorney, “I never, ever heard Jeb Bush waver in the midst of the political fallout. He was steadfast.”  That’s what bothers his critics.

This very same mindset took America into the disastrous Iraq War.  We do NOT need another Bush in the White House ever.

Obama Executive Order: Federally Funded Projects Must Consider Sea Level Rise

Parking lot at Norfolk Naval Base
Here in Hampton Roads, there are plenty of federally funded construction projects, many involving the region's military installations, the largest of which is the Norfolk Naval Base.  With sea levels rising due to global warming - a term the Virginia GOP doesn't want even uttered - it would be insane to continue to build new projects that do not consider future sea levels and merely look at current data.  Yesterday, Barack Obama recognized the idiocy of the past and current practices and signed an executive order that will make it mandatory to factor in projected future sea levels for any federally funded projects.  If followed, many projects will need to be revised and many projects could be scuttled.  Here are highlights from the Virginian Pilot:

President Barack Obama on Friday signed an executive order requiring that all federally funded construction projects take into account flood risks linked to global warming. The order directs federal agencies to adopt stricter building and siting standards.  

The new standard gives agencies three options forestablishing the flood elevation and hazard area they use in siting, design and construction of federally funded projects. They can use data and methods "informed by best-available, actionable climate science"; build 2 feet above the 100-year flood elevation for standard projects and 3 feet above for critical buildings such as hospitals and evacuation centers; or build to the 500-year flood elevation.

The new policy does not make changes to the National Flood Insurance Program, which covers Americans in flood-prone areas with federally backed insurance provided they meet federal standards aimed at minimizing risks. But it will apply to grants the program provides, thereby affecting construction in flood-prone areas.

The standard also would make significant swaths of low-lying land ineligible for construction with federal money.

The White House move comes just days after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a massive post-Hurricane Sandy report examining flood risks for 31,200 miles of the North Atlantic coast.

The research explicitly took sea level rise induced by climate change into account and finds: "Flood risk is increasing for coastal populations and supporting infrastructure."

Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted coastal areas will face 30 or more days of flooding by mid-century because of sea level rise. According to the National Climate Assessment, more than $1 trillion of property and structures in the United States are at risk of inundation from sea level rise of 2 feet above current sea level - an elevation that could be reached by that same point.

While global warming is a contested political issue, more than 350 state and local governments have adopted flood standards along the lines of what the Obama administration is now requiring.

Lindsey Graham, a/k/a Palmetto Queen, Wants SCOTUS to Uphold Gay Marriage Bans

If one wants an example of a closeted gay who uses his political position to harm other gays, look no farther than South Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham.  Graham is such a prissy, lisping queen that I and others - I think Pam Spaulding first coined the phrase - refer to him as the Palmetto Queen.  Graham consistently supports anti-gay legislation and now is calling for the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold state marriage bans.  His own self-loathing and desire to disguise the fact that he's queer as a three dollar bill drives him to do constant damage to the lives of others.  He's a number one example of why such individuals need to be outed and I hope to Hell it happens to Graham sooner than later. The Washington Blade looks at Grahams latest anti-gay stance:

One day before comparing marriage equality to polygamy, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) added his name to the list of potential 2016 presidential contenders who are looking to the Supreme Court to uphold state bans prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Speaking to the Washington Blade in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, Graham had little to say when asked about pending litigation before the court, but made his position clear.

“I hope the court will allow each state to define marriage within its borders,” Graham said.

Graham was cautious about endorsing a constitutional amendment planned by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would prohibit courts from overturning state marriage laws, but expressed an openness to the measure.

Graham, who has set up an exploratory committee to evaluate a potential 2016 bid for the White House, made the comments after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed this month to hear same-sex marriage lawsuits and amid anticipation justices will hand down a nationwide ruling by the end of June.

Meanwhile, state legislators in South Carolina have introduced legislation that would cut off funds for distributing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and would allows clerks to refuse a license to same-sex couples if doing so would violate a religious belief

During the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Graham suggested a court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage would be a slippery slope leading to recognition of polygamy.

“If the Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, it violates the Constitution for a state to try to limit marriage between a man and a woman, that’s clearly the law of the land unless there’s a constitutional amendment to change it, what legal rationale will be in play that would prohibit polygamy?” Graham asked.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Mike Huckabee’s (The GOP's) Hateful True Colors

Mike Huckabee - the man who admitted that he wanted to replace the U.S. Constitution with the Bible as America's "guiding governmental document" - remains popular with the insane, lunatic Christofascist base of the Republican Party.  He also forces other less mentally unhinged Republicans, especially would be potential 2016 presidential candidates to move to the LaLa land of the far right in order to court the ugly elements of the party base.  A piece in Salon looks at Huckabee's - and by extension, the GOP's - hateful true colors.  Here are excerpts:

During a recent radio appearance, former Arkansas governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee continued his recent “police-women’s-behavior” tour, which in the past several weeks has most prominently featured his daring public criticisms of BeyoncĂ©. On Friday, during an interview with Iowa-based radio show Mickelson in the Morning, Huckabee criticized the “trashy” women of Fox News who have the audacity to curse around the office.

I actually want to thank the Huckster for his candor here. When the Baptist minister-turned-politico first arrived on the national scene, he had a reputation for his general niceness — he was “easy to like” and there were plenty of “I Heart Huckabee” references to go around.

But even back in 2008 — way earlier than that, in fact! — Huckabee aligned himself with ideals that were fundamentalist at best and hateful and bigoted at worst (remember that 1992 Senate bid when he suggested AIDS patients be forcibly isolated, which he refused to renege during his 2008 presidential campaign?). His public image as a softy didn’t quite match with his assertions that homosexuality, for instance, is “an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle.”

In recent years, though, it feels as if we’ve gotten to know the real Huckabee hiding beneath his cultivated political persona, especially when it comes to his views on women. In 2011, he criticized actress Natalie Portman for the “unfortunate” way she managed “to glorify and glamorize the idea of out of wedlock children” while pregnant, a precursor to his recent outrage at Queen Bey; the following year, he labeled it a mistake for Republicans to jump ship when former Rep. Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape” were “blown out of proportion.” And 2014, of course, was nearly overflowing with Huckabee’s sexist wisdom: there was his response to the contraception mandate, in which he called out women for relying on “Uncle Sugar” to provide birth control because they “cannot control their libido,” . . . 

Now, Huckabee has taken it one step further by denigrating women — his own former colleagues — in as straightforward a way as one could muster. He has gone from seemingly kindhearted patriarch (maybe of the “agree to disagree” variety) to all-out grandpa-after-a-few-too-many-drinks in his sexist honesty. And, in a way, it’s a nice change of pace from the other wingnuts in Huckabee’s party who would have voters believe they aren’t garden-variety conservative loony tunes when, indeed, they are. 

And while we’ve known for some time that Huckabee’s views are, well, terrifying, they’d been masked in such a way that once set him apart. But now, the real Huckster — in all his sex-panicked, purity-centric, woman-policing glory — is who we get to deal with. At least we know exactly what we’re up against.

Too Many Risks to Virginia Offshore Drilling?

President Obama has indicated that he wants to open areas offshore from Virginia's coast for oil and gas exploration.  The move has outraged environmentalists while thrilling Virginia Republicans who never seem to pause to worry about potential disasters that could happen.  As always, there is talk of creating new jobs, but as a former in-house attorney for a major oil company some years ago, I remain very skeptical about boasts of the number of jobs created.  From my experience, most of the technical workers would be imported in from elsewhere and send their earnings back to their home states and at best Virginia would see increases in rentals of some office space, residential housing rentals, and some small amount of business for local marine suppliers.   A column in the Virginian Pilot looks at the risks involved.  For those who don't know, the American Petroleum Institute is a lobbying arm of the major oil companies and its "studies" are about as reliable as something coming out of The Family Foundation on gays.  Here are excerpts:
IT TAKES a lot of assumptions to conclude that offshore drilling will benefit Virginia:
-- That the Navy will reverse years of analysis and decide that drilling poses no danger to its training mission offshore or its installations onshore.
-- That oil companies won't imperil Hampton Roads' tourism and commercial fishing with a spill, as has happened everywhere else.
-- That despite years of resistance, every state in America will now agree to simply hand over royalties to Virginia.
-- That Maryland and North Carolina won't care when Virginia tries to seize their territory.
-- That oil jobs - notoriously transient and temporary - will abandon places like Texas and Louisiana for Hampton Roads.
-- That a time with some of the lowest gas prices in recent history is also the time to start drilling for some of the most expensive oil and gas on the planet.
Despite all that, the White House' decision Tuesday to allow drilling off four Southeastern states was cheered by pro-petroleum politicians and their supporters. Among the parcels included was "Lease Sale 220," off Virginia's coast.

The federal decision comes less than five years after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. That disaster killed 11 and fouled huge swaths of the Gulf of Mexico. The environmental damage is inestimable.

The scope of the Deepwater Horizon disaster temporarily halted efforts to open Virginia's coast, but memories are short. Politicians from Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms to U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine cheered this week's decision.

U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, as he has before, claimed that offshore drilling would "create 25,000 good-paying jobs for Virginians." The source of that number - which has risen from 19,000 in recent years - is a study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute. The same report concludes that Atlantic coast offshore drilling would produce 279,562 jobs by 2035.

It's not likely to do so without imperiling others.   The U.S. Navy uses the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia for training. In 2010, the military concluded that 72 percent of the "Lease Sale 220 area should have no oil or gas activity due to our intensive training and testing in the area and the danger this would present to oil and gas industry personnel and property."

Sessoms, Warner, Kaine and Rigell - indeed, every elected official in Virginia - is acutely aware that Oceana Naval Air Station was nearly gutted in 2005, after the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission decided houses and businesses had been allowed too close to the fence line. There was serious consideration of moving the Navy's East Coast master jet base to Florida, a prospect that would have hollowed Hampton Roads.

Navy officials aren't likely to welcome drilling in the Virginia Capes, especially after the military has warned repeatedly of the dangers, including in 2006:

"Any structures built in the water... would restrict where military air wings can fire their weapons, drive aircraft further away from the coast, increase fuel costs and wear and tear on the airframes, increase flight times en-route to training areas, and increase the risk to aircrews...."

No matter what great benefits proponents promise, the dangers are real: To Navy operations, to the environment, to the tourism industry, to commercial fishing.

None of these cautions is likely to deter drilling supporters, who've proven themselves willing to make the assumptions necessary to support the petroleum industry. Experience shows the dangers are more likely than 279,562 jobs.

The threats are greater than the promises that the Hampton Roads economy and environment won't be damaged by an industry with a long history of destruction.
Sadly, I agree with the editorial, not that this will deter the pawns in the pockets of the petroleum industry.

Virginia to Pay $520,000 to Plaintiffs' Attorneys in Same-Sex Marriage Case

My former law partners, Tom Shuttleworth and Bob Ruloff
Across the country we see Republican elected officials - usually bent on prostituting them selves to Christofascists in the GOP base - opposing same sex marriage and filing one motion and appeal after another seeking to stop the inevitable.  Not only does this run up huge wastes in government funds and legal staff time, but when the opponents of marriage equality ultimately lose, the state gets hit with paying the legal fees of the plaintiffs who had been discriminated against all because the "godly folk" seek to inflict their beliefs on all of society.  And these legal fees can be high as demonstrated by the fees Virginia must pay to the attorneys for the plaintiffs in Bostic v. Rainey: $520,000 better spent on the needs of Virginia's citizens.  The Virginian Pilot has details:

Virginia will pay $520,000 to the lawyers for two same-sex couples who successfully challenged the state's gay marriage ban.

The settlement agreement was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Norfolk. The attorneys had sought more than $1.7 million.

The law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher will receive $459,000. Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swain, Haddad & Morecock will receive $61,000.

Court papers show that attorneys logged 2,372 hours on the case. Their fees will be paid by the state Department of Treasury's Division of Risk Management.

U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen declared Virginia's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional last February. A federal appeals court upheld the decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the case.
I hope Victoria Cobb and the hate merchants at The Family Foundation are happy with what their religious based anti-gay animus has cost the state.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

Delusional Graham, a/k/a "Palmetto Queen" Thinks He's what GOP needs in 2016

There are times I truly wonder what mind altering drug is being blended into the water that today's Republicans are drinking.  They seem utterly untethered from objective reality and, while professing a worship of "Christian values," they push an agenda that is the antithesis of the Gospel message.  The latest example id Lindsey Graham, a closeted gay Republican know by some as the "Palmetto Queen," who is insanely talking about running for the 20016 GOP presidential nomination.  The man is either totally insane, on drugs or trying to gain media attention.  Politico looks at Graham's bizarre belief that he's presidential candidate material.  Here are highlights:
Blunt-spoken Lindsey Graham is a vocal supporter of the Iraq War, a deal-cutter on immigration and a backer of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominees.  And that’s the profile the Republican Party needs in its next presidential nominee, he says.

“My party is center right,” Graham told reporters in the Capitol on Thursday. “There’s an element of the left and the right that I don’t think reflects both parties.”

He added: “For those people who believe we are not hard-ass enough on immigration — that we are losing the Hispanic vote because they think we’ve gone soft on immigration — really don’t understand what’s going on in America. A center-right candidacy can prevail in America.”

Graham, 59, who won a third Senate term in November, made his comments Thursday after announcing the formation of an exploratory committee, called “Security through Strength,” to test the waters for a potential 2016 presidential bid. 

Graham is viewed as a long shot to win the GOP nomination. But with the most wide-open presidential field in years — as many as two dozen potential candidates are exploring bids — Graham believes there’s an opening for his blend of conservatism. Specifically, Graham thinks he can bill himself as a bipartisan problem-solver who can appeal to Hispanic voters.

[John} McCain, who has been talking up Graham’s presidential prospects for weeks, said he would “absolutely” consider transferring his entire 2008 presidential campaign infrastructure to a potential Graham run. If Graham runs, McCain said, he would immediately endorse him.

“He’s the dark horse. And you watch him. He’ll be a lot more formidable than anyone thinks at this moment,” McCain said. “There are many supporters of mine who are more than happy to examine his campaign.”