Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Obama Administration Backs Transgender Gloucester County Teen

I have posted before about the ongoing legal battle being waged by Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student against the backward and bigoted Gloucester County, Virginia school division.  By way of full disclosure, I know Grimm and he and his mother have been to our home and, in my view, this kid is amazing and justice is on his side. I would further note that while I frequently complain about Norfolk and Hampton, they are centers of the liberal universe compared to Gloucester County which wants time to be permanently trapped in the 1950's.  As Huffington Post reports, the Obama administration through the Justice Department and U.S. Department of Education have joined the lawsuit on the side of Grimm.  Gloucester County is playing with fire since it ultimately could lose its federal funding for failure to comply with the Civil Rights Act, something I would personally love to see happen so as to send a strong message to other backward, homophobic school districts.  The irony is that, the school district had initially treated Grimm properly until some "concerned citizen" - I suspect some anti-gay pastor - started making complaints. Sadly, the school board gave deference to religious based bigotry rather than Grimm's civil rights. Here are story highlights:

Schools can't prevent transgender students from using the restrooms that correspond with their gender identities without violating federal law, the Obama administration says.

The U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice made that argument in a friend-of-the-court brief submitted late Wednesday in support of a Virginia teenager who is suing for access to the boys' restrooms at his high school.

The government's filing says a Gloucester County School Board policy that requires 16-year-old junior Gavin Grimm to use either the girls' restrooms or a unisex bathroom constitutes unlawful bias under Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

The policy denies Grimm "a benefit that every other student at this school enjoys: access to restrooms that are consistent with his or her gender identity," lawyers for the two departments wrote. "Treating a student differently from other students because his birth-assigned sex diverges from his gender identity constitutes differential treatment on the basis of sex under Title IX."

The administration's position in Grimm's case represents its clearest statement to date on a modern civil rights issue that has roiled some communities as more children identify as transgender at younger ages.

The brief "sends a crucial message to schools across the country — transgender youth are valuable members of our community who are entitled to full protection of the law," Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said. "No one should be humiliated or marginalized by the adults responsible for helping them to achieve."

Gloucester County Attorney Ted Wilmot was not available for comment on Thursday, his office said. After the Justice Department indicated in July that it wanted to weigh in on Grimm's lawsuit, Wilmot told the Daily Press newspaper in Newport News, Virginia that existing court precedents do not support the idea that the school board's restroom rules violate Title IX.

The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights already has reached agreements with two southern California school districts, one in 2013 and one last year, to settle complaints of harassment and unequal treatment brought by transgender students.

In a pair of memos issued last year, one on the responsibility of schools to respond to reports of sexual violence and the other on access to single-sex classes, the office also articulated its view that Title IX entitles transgender students to be treated in accordance with their expressed gender.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued to overturn the policy on his behalf in June. A federal judge sided with the school board last month, dismissing the sex discrimination claim the ACLU had advanced and that the Obama administration had embraced.

The case is now pending before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Religious belief has no place in the civil laws and elected officials and judges who cannot put aside their own beliefs need to resign from office.  It is really that simple.  No more undeserved deference to religion and religious belief. 

The GOP's Voodoo Tax Plans

There is the saying that insanity is evidenced by doing the same action over and over again and expecting a different result than what has occurred innumerable times before. Under this definition, the tax plans being offered by the Republican presidential candidates are nothing short of insane. These lunatics ignore the fact that since 1980 forward massive tax cuts for the wealthy and big business have failed to generate the economic growth promised by GOP charlatans and carnival barkers. Instead, what we have seen is a massive transfer of wealth to the top 1% and stagnation or decline in wages and wealth for everyone else.  Moreover, to make their fantasy based plans work, massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare would be needed, thus sending more average Americans into destitution in their supposed golden years.   The New York Times lets loose on the GOP in a main page editorial today. Here are highlights: 

The Republican presidential candidates were full of tax talk at this week’s debate. But none has a tax plan coherent enough to be the basis of a substantive discussion, let alone one that could meet the nation’s challenges. Take, for example, the issue of how much revenue any plan would raise or lose.

All of the Republican plans focus on tax cuts, so losses are all but inevitable. Quick-and-dirty calculations of proposals from Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz show red ink running into the trillions of dollars.

Yet the candidates assert, against historical evidence, that revenue losses from tax cuts will be offset by economic growth. Ted Cruz invoked the Reagan-era tax cuts as a model for success for his 10 percent flat-tax proposal. In fact, President Reagan raised taxes to close the budget deficit that opened up after he cut them in 1981. Ben Carson offered his muddled proposal for a tax equal to 15 percent of gross domestic product, saying it would be appealing to everyone once he “put all the facts down.”

The tax proposals from Jeb Bush, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, while not as fantastical as those of Mr. Cruz and Mr. Carson, all make big and broad cuts, mostly to benefit the wealthiest Americans, including an end to the estate tax, cuts in tax rates and enhanced tax breaks for investments. The only way the Republican candidates could ever pay for such large tax cuts would be by slashing big spending programs, namely, Medicare and Social Security.

All of these candidates deny fiscal reality. In the next 10 years, revenues will need to increase by 40 percent simply to keep federal spending even, per capita, with inflation and population growth. Additional revenues will be needed to pay for health care for the elderly, transportation systems and other obligations, as well as for newer challenges, including climate change. And interest on the national debt will surely rise because interest rates have nowhere to go but up.

In light of these needs, taxes have to go up. The reality is that income tax increases can be prudently imposed only on the wealthy at this point, because only they have had meaningful income gains in recent decades.

The Democratic candidates have acknowledged this and have called for high-end tax increases, while keeping proposed tax cuts targeted on low- or middle-income Americans. They have also called for new taxes on financial transactions. Most important, their tax plans are part of broader economic proposals to raise wages, including support for a higher minimum wage, unions, expanded profit-sharing and employee ownership.

Responsible policy for the near term demands tax increases on individuals and sectors that can bear them. There is no room or rationale for across-the-board tax cuts, no matter what the Republican candidates say.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Bermuda Cruise Reflections

Dining Room at Fourways Inn
I have not blogged in days - the longest break ever since I started blogging daily in 2007 - largely because we have been so busy with friends and I have had to do legal work everyday except one.  We are at sea today and will arrive back in Norfolk tomorrow morning.  The trip has been a lot of fun and my impression of Bermuda has been positive even though it needs to catch up on LGBT rights and same sex marriage.  The island is far more tropical than I expected.  The most memorable parts of the trip were dinner at the Fourways Inn on Monday and lunch at The Reefs on Tuesday.  Friends on the cruise are the former owners of The Reefs and the Fourways Inn is one of their long time favorite restaurant.  On Monday night, the husband and I and a young married gay couple enjoyed the partying and dancing at Club Aqua near the cruise terminal at the Navy Wharf.

The original portion of the Fourways Inn was built in 1727 of native coral stone and cedar by John Harvey of Harvey's Bristol Cream fame, who made it his home. The name came from the fact that the residence spread in all four directions and was enclosed within two and a half acres of walled garden.  The property now also includes 10 guest suites.

The Reefs is built strung along a cliff on the southeast side of Bermuda with a beautiful private beach.  The current owner used to work for our friends when they owned the place.  We had an amazing lunch on the terrace with a special menu and spectacular views.  The photos below are of the view we enjoyed.