Saturday, December 08, 2012

Saturday Male Beauty

Letters From Millennial Voters Bode Ill for The GOP's Future

Over at The Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan has been running a number of posts that contain excerpts from letters - or more likely e-mails - from millennial voters.  In the recent election, the Democrats won the under 30 vote by a large margin.  The content of these letters ought to terrify the Republican powers that be since they clearly demonstrate that the current backward facing, Christofascist embracing agenda of the GOP is alienating younger voters in droves and there is no evidence that this will change.  Add in the growing flight of Hispanics, Asians and other minorities to the Democrats and it appears that the GOP has nothing short of a suicide wish.  As noted before, the only way to save the GOP from the swamp fever that now holds it is to eject the Christofascists and Tea Part crowd from control.  Unfortunately, given the way in which these toxic forces have overrun the candidate nomination process, exterminating the virus from the party will be difficult.  Here are a sampling of highlights from some of the "letters":

My wife and I (31 and 30 years old) are both heterosexuals who believe in full civil rights for gay people and the right for these fellow citizens to marry the person they love and not have the government tell them they are invalid. After this most recent election (we both voted for Obama largely because he publicly endorsed gay marriage), we got to thinking about the waning role of religion in the lives of people our age and how that might affect how we vote.

My family (we have two daughters, 3 years old and 6 months) does not attend church and we don't adhere to any religious beliefs. I was raised Catholic and attended church from birth until I went to college.

I stopped going largely because I feel the church has involved itself too much in politics as a means to control the lives of people who may not necessarily adhere to their beliefs through the passage of laws by friendly legislators. What we've noticed these days is not a single one of our friends in our age group attends church, talks about religious beliefs, or appears to be the least bit religious. We pride ourselves on being free thinkers and on not taking, at face value, the pronouncements of those who hold perceived authority. Compare this to many of my older relatives who still receive their voting marching orders from the pulpit.

I always chuckle when people run for office on a "family values" platform. They didn't check with me to see what my values are, so how can they assure me those are the ones they will protect. I more get the sense they want me to live by THEIR family values, and I don't like that.

Here are thoughts from another millennial:

I stayed pretty religious and conservative through 9/11 and into the Iraq war. But those two events got me interested in politics. And the aftermath of those events, particularly the failure in Iraq and the way it was sold to us, tore away at the next layer of how I perceived the world and replaced it with a cynicism and curiosity that put me on the path to where I am. From that point on I questioned everything, and the college experience was right there to help that along. I went from being an O'Reilly-watching Catholic to now being a very progressive atheist.

And another:

The biggest difference I've noticed between the conservatives of my generation and those of my parents' is that most of the people my age lean strongly libertarian. They may oppose gay marriage on 'moral' grounds, but they're more likely to consider it a choice that, so long as it's not forced on them, they don't give a damn about. "Civil unions? If they want to go to hell, let them. Just don't make my church do it." I've even heard a few propose that government should butt out of the business of marriage entirely, which, even as a liberal, doesn't seem like such a bad idea of me. 

And still another:

I attended my dad's alma mater, a small private evangelical Christian college in southern California, and had almost no opportunities to meet anyone different than myself.  .  .  .  . Other than what I was told about abortion, I was very ignorant about politics.

After graduating college in 2003, I moved back to Seattle, and more-or-less was thrust into the "real world" with the opportunity to encounter a diversity of opinion for the first time.  .  .  .  .  I began to intentionally pursue understanding of perspectives different than my own - the pro-choice position, the case for marriage equality, tolerance and understanding (rather than demonization) of other religions, modern feminism. For the first time, I became exposed, both online and in real life, to nonwhite, non-straight, non-conservative people.

I don't currently consider myself a "liberal" or a "conservative" - I still try to see the good in both "sides" of contentious issues. But increasingly, I'm brought to the realization that the Republican party currently has virtually nothing to offer - it is decidedly not the party of family values or morality, is hypocritical and in the pocket of large corporate interests.  .  .  .  .    I saw, and in some ways still see, in President Obama a way forward, a rejection of polarizing us-versus-them narratives, an embrace of a multicultural, diverse America - an embrace of America at its best. I still support that vision.
One last one:

I cast my ballot for McCain. After Obama's inauguration, I realized it would be the last time I ever voted for a Republican.  .   .  .  The rise of the Tea Party appalled me. Their rhetoric, their unhinged paranoia, their thinly-veiled racist attitudes toward Obama. If they were what the Republican party was offering, I no longer wanted a part of it. I drifted further and further to the left, while still clinging to my LDS faith. Then the healthcare debates began. Healthcare! Something Jesus probably would be on board with! I would read scriptures and sing hymns that made me think, "Oh yeah, that Jesus guy was really on to something when he said take care of the sick and afflicted," but then my Republican friends would support things that flew in the face of the very same scriptures and hymns.

By 2009 I was no longer active in the Mormon church, partly because I'd realized that I was gay and partly because I realized that it offered nothing but a pessimistic view of the world.   .   .   .   .   I came to see the Republican party as a backwards-looking and regressive machine that does nothing to bring the United States into the 21st century; no, it was not the party for me.

Many of my generation of similar stories to mine. I think it is safe to say that my generation is not satisfied with the status quo that the generations before us were satisfied. We are leaving our parents'' dogmatic faiths behind us in favor of tangible knowledge, which will lead to breakthroughs in science and other realms of academia. We are abandoning their antiquated notions of gender, family, sexuality, and morality en masse. We have lived through the results of their belief in trickle-down economics and deregulation. We have watched in horror as the climate has changed, while they have sat content in their inaction. 

I've said it before and I will say it again:  the GOP leadership sold the party's soul to the Christofascists and far right extremists in the pursuit of short term advantage.  By doing so, they have likely killed the party's future as older Neanderthal voters literally die off and are replaced by those who reject the drum beat of fear, hate and bigotry.  It is also a safe bet that millennials will raise their children in turn to reject the GOP message.

Afghanistan: The Fools Errand Continues As Does the Betrayal of Our Troops

Click image to enlarge
The United States has expended billions of dollars and squandered thousands of young American lives in the doomed from the outset fiasco in Afghanistan.  Anyone other than the cretinous George W. Bush and the war mad Emperor Palpatine Cheney could have predicted the outcome of America's fool's errand given the last 2,000+ years of Afghan history.  But, no, the Chimperator and his malevolent Vice President were more concerned in fighting a religious crusade and enriching defense contractors like Halliburton than look out for America's true interests.  And what do we have to show for the wasted billions and lives?  One of the most corrupt and incompetent nations on earth.  At least that is the finding of Transparency International which has just released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index.  How bad are things in Afghanistan?  It is tied with Somalia and North Korea as the most corrupt nation in the world.  Here's a sampling of some of the findings via the Washington Post:

Afghanistan ranks as one of the most corrupt countries, and it seems bribes and fraud permeate nearly every level of life there. One Afghan in seven paid a bribe in 2010, and the average bribe is equal to one third of the average Afghan salary. A recent report found that high-level political interference and institutional failures thwarted efforts to probe the 2010 collapse of Afghanistan’s Kabul Bank, recover hundreds of millions of dollars from fraudulent loans and prosecute the people who profited, the Washington Post’s Pamela Constable reported. The Transparency International authors concluded last year, ”Corruption, weak institutions and a lack of economic development pose a fatal threat to the viability of Afghanistan,” and it seems the situation this year is sadly no different.

As for the "progress" that senior military leaders claim to be making, UPI has this:

KHOST, Afghanistan, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Taliban militants in Afghanistan's Khost province ambushed a convoy of NATO-led coalition security forces and claimed to have killed nine NATO troops.

Local authorities confirmed that the incident took place, but have denied that there were any casualties, Khaama Press reported Saturday.  No other information on the incident was released.

Based on the experience of how information was kept under wraps when my son-in-law was badly wounded in Afghanistan last month, I am sure no account of the incident will be released until the military brass decides how to best spin yet another failure in security.  Meanwhile two more Americans have lost their lives for nothing:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. 

They died Dec. 3, in Lashkar Gah City, Helmand province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 818th Engineer Company, 164th Engineer Battalion, Williston, N.D. 

Killed were:Sgt. 1st Class. Darren M. Linde, 41, of Sidney, Mont., andSpc. Tyler J. Orgaard, 20, of Bismarck, N.D.

Americans and politicians who really support our troops should be demanding that we withdraw completely from Afghanistan NOW.

Gay Marriage: The Next Civil Rights Landmark

As a recent Gallup survey revealed (see my previous post), opposition to same sex marriage stems almost entirely from the religious beliefs of those I refer to as the Christofascists - those who seek to force all Americans to live according to their own fear and hate based religious beliefs.  Gays are among their favored targets for hate and stigma and nothing better stigmatizes gays than to bar legal recognition of our relationships to the fullest extent possible.  Such was certainly the goal of The Family Foundation and its allied hate groups here in Virginia in 2006 when the toxic Marshall-Newman Amendment was passed after a particularly dishonest marketing campaign spearheaded by the godly Christian crowd.  The message to gays: you are less than nothing and no one in Virginia can legally recognize your relationships.   The message to the larger society: gays deserve discrimination and abuse because even the civil laws treat them as less than full citizens.  Now, with the U. S. Supreme Court to take up two gay marriage cases, the modern day equivalents of the old Jim Crow laws and anti-miscegenation laws need to be thrown on the trash heap of history.  The main editorial in the New York Times makes the case for striking down DOMA and bans on same sex marriage.  Here are excerpts:

Fifty-eight years after it banned discrimination in public education, the Supreme Court has set the stage for the defining civil rights decision of this era — agreeing to hear two cases challenging laws that define marriage to exclude couples of the same sex. To us, and a growing number of Americans, the right course seems clear: that the justices continue the march toward real equality. 

The Supreme Court could leave California’s same-sex marriage ban in place, planting the court on the wrong side of justice and equality. Or, in the absence of a five-vote majority to establish a nationwide constitutional right to same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court could affirm the narrower approach of the Ninth Circuit panel, which was confined to California.  The appellate panel reasoned that Proposition 8, as the voter initiative was known, was unconstitutional because it stripped gays, lesbians and bisexuals of the right to marry declared by the State Supreme Court. Thus it harmed “the status and dignity of the members of a disfavored class.”

Because the Defense of Marriage Act did not allow the Internal Revenue Service to treat Ms. Windsor as a surviving spouse when Ms. Spyer died in 2009, she was required to pay some $360,000 in federal estate taxes from which opposite-sex spouses are exempt. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, sensibly said that violated the Constitution’s promise of equal protection. The ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act, the second by a federal appeals court, said laws treating same-sex couples differently deserve heightened judicial scrutiny, like other laws that single out minorities long subjected to discrimination. 

These profound legal tests have reached the nation’s highest court at a remarkable moment. There has been a string of persuasive lower federal court rulings against the Defense of Marriage Act and the denial of gay people’s freedom to marry. 

A month ago, voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington State became the first to approve same-sex marriage at the ballot box rather than through courts or legislatures. Voters in Minnesota rejected a ballot measure that would have enshrined the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in the State Constitution. 

Public opinion is shifting on this issue as more people recognize the inherent wrong in a last bastion of official discrimination. The most important hearts and minds to be won at this point belong to the nine justices.

Australia: Crackdown on Sex Abuse by Priests Stymied by Vatican

Over the last few years the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has gone into a virtual free fall as government investigations of sex abuse of children and youths by Catholic clergy has revealed a moral cesspool of previously unimagined scope.  Now, a government commission in Australia is poised to begin a similar type of investigation and many expect that similar horrific details will be exposed and, once again details will likely reveal that the Vatican helped orchestrate the cover ups and coddling of sexual predators.  Personally, I left the Roman Catholic Church over a decade ago and joined the Evangelical Church in America - which I highly recommend to Catholics in search of a new church home - because I felt literally dirty and amoral being a part of a church so morally bankrupt at an institutional level, especially since a portion of each dollar dropped into the local parish collection plate helps to financially support the foul and malignant Church hierarchy.  A piece in the National Catholic Reporter (hardly a favored publication at the Vatican) looks at the situation in Australia and traces responsibility back to Rome.  Here are some article excerpts:

The Catholic church in Australia is about to be put under the spotlight of the most sweeping inquiry into child sexual abuse ever conducted in this country.

Describing child abuse as "vile and evil," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said a national royal commission will examine the treatment of children in all churches, charities and private bodies. But it is clear that a major factor in her decision has been the mounting public outcry at ongoing scandals involving Catholic personnel and procedures.

These scandals include:
  • Recent suicides of victims of sexual abuse by priests;
  • Allegations of children dying in the care of Catholic institutions;
  • Ongoing arrests and convictions of priests in relation to matters involving child sexual abuse;
  • New allegations that some church authorities failed to report abusive priests;
  • Claims by police in two state jurisdictions -- three states are currently conducting their own inquiries into child abuse in institutional care -- that existing church protocols fail to address the long-term interests of victims and that the Catholic church, in the words of one detective, "covers up, silences victims, hinders police investigations, alerts offenders, destroys evidence and moves priests to protect the good name of the church."

"Beyond the evidence of abuse," Gillard told a press conference, "there is also cause for concern that other adults who could have done something to make a difference to the lives of these children didn't do what they should have done, either by becoming complicit in people being moved around, for example, or by averting their eyes and by acts of omission."

If what is to come proves extremely gut-wrenching for the Catholic church, it only has its leadership to blame: At a national level, the bishops were slow to respond to the mounting evidence of clerical sexual abuse through the 1980s and 1990s; at an even more senior level the Vatican has stymied the national response that eventually did emerge in the Australian church.

In 1996 the [Australian] bishops also undertook to commission a study into the factors inside the church that might produce abusive clergy.  .  .  .  .  .  It found that clerical sexual abuse was a "direct consequence" of the failure of the Catholic church to treat men and women equally. "As long as the culture of the Church does not put men and women on a basis of true equality, then women and children will remain vulnerable to abuse," it argued.

[I]t did find that the pattern of abuse was the "complete opposite" of that found in the general community, with boys more likely to be victims than girls.  .  .  .  .  it did acknowledge a consensus among those consulted in the study that the "arresting of human psycho-sexual and psychological development accompanied entry to the seminary or religious life directly from secondary school."

By implication, "Towards Understanding" was arguing that the culture of clericalism should be fundamentally reformed. Not surprisingly, the report was never made public, never acted upon in any serious manner, and, like a similar report into the priesthood -- with similar findings -- commissioned by the U.S. bishops in 1971, effectively buried.

What had happened between 1996 and 1999 was a meeting in Rome in 1998 in which 13 of the 38 Australian bishops attending the Synod for Oceania were summoned by Vatican officials responsible for matters of doctrine, clergy, worship and the sacraments, bishops, religious orders and Catholic education. Three weeks after the meeting, a summary of its deliberations, known as "The Statement of Conclusions," was presented to all the Australian bishops to sign. Under the circumstances, they had little choice.

The statement referred to a "crisis of faith" in Australia and presented a blueprint for responding to it. The church "does not create her own ordering and structure," that blueprint insisted, "but receives them from Christ himself." Many of the subsequent prescriptions laid out in the document entrenched the clerical culture "Towards Understanding" was to criticize. The statement also, by implication at the very least, dashed any hopes the bishops might have harbored that they were free to act in ways they saw necessary to respond comprehensively to the problem of clerical sexual abuse.
[I]t is no longer 1998, the royal commission has bipartisan political support, and the Australian public expects answers. Perhaps that will be enough to tilt the balance -- even in Rome.

As I have stated before, Pope Benedict XVI belongs behind bars for his role in the systematic burying of efforts to address and stop sexual abuse of minors.  As the head of the then name Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - it was formerly called the Inquisition -  he was aware of all of the abuse and effective worked to cover it.  Of course, it must be noted that John Paul II who some farcically seek to see canonized - was fully involved in the cover ups and criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice all across the globe.  These men are two very foul individuals.  They deserve no respect and absolutely no deference of any kind.  The same holds true for far too many of the Church's bishops and cardinals as well.

Prime Minister David Cameron Backs Gay Weddings in Church

While many Republicans like to call themselves conservatives, increasingly they are better described as reactionary Neanderthals who are fighting a battle against both modernity and losing the white male privilege that has long been so important to their psychological sense of self-worth.  It's both sick and sad, but many of the angry white men in the GOP and particularly in Christofascist circles only feel self-satisfaction when looking down on others they deemed to be inferior and/or sinners.  Thus, if one wants to see true conservatives nowadays one needs to look across the Atlantic to the united Kingdom where conservatism doesn't immediately equate with backwardness and bigotry.  The London Evening Standard looks at the pro-gay marriage agenda of Tory leader David Cameron who is not only pushing for full same sex marriage but also church marriage for denominations that wish to perform such weddings.  Here are some article highlights:

David Cameron will risk a major battle with his party next week by backing gay weddings in churches, the Evening Standard can reveal.

He will go further than ever in his modernising drive by saying religious groups should be allowed to host same-sex civil weddings in churches, synagogues and other religious buildings if they choose.  Organisations that reject gay marriage, such as the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, will have legal protection from being forced to host ceremonies against their wishes, the Prime Minister will pledge.

Tory MPs will have a free vote on a Bill next year, while Labour MPs will be whipped in favour.   It means all three party leaders now support a historic equality reform that would once have seemed incredible — that homosexual partners can have the same civil marriage rights as heterosexual couples and even get married in a religious setting. But some Conservatives said there would be “outrage” and warned that the Tories would haemorrhage members.

Mr Cameron’s view is that there is no reason to bar other churches from voluntarily hosting same-sex weddings, providing the “locks” ensure no church will be forced to take part.

Quakers and some Liberal Jews have loudly called for the right to marry gay worshippers, saying it is unfair to exclude some members of the congregation from the joys of marriage.

The consultation is thought to have revealed a blanket ban on church weddings would be open to legal challenge. This means churches such as the C of E are better protected if religious organisations that want to conduct same-sex marriage are permitted to do so.

Mr Cameron is prepared for a row with his MPs, say sources, because he believes the public are relaxed about the idea. Several polls have shown clear backing for gay weddings among voters, with only older people and regular church-goers strongly opposed.

In America, the views - and bigotry - of far right religious extremists continue to trump the beliefs and rights of other citizens and, in so doing make a mockery of the Constitutions guarantee of religious freedom for all citizens, not just Christofascists.

Friday, December 07, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear DOMA and Prop 8 Challenges

The United States Supreme Court announced today that it would consider the appeals from of the ruling of the 9th Circuit which struck down California's Proposition 8 as unconstitutional and a ruling by the 2nd Circuit that struck down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA").  What  Court will do in each of the cases is the subject of an array of speculation with some hoping that the Court will rule broadly and strike down same sex marriage bans nation wide  strike down DOMA.  Perhaps a more likely result will be narrow rulings that avoid national application and (1) allow the 9th Circuit decision to stand, perhaps on a decision focusing on the standing of the Prop 8 defenders and (20) striking down DOMA to the extent is would apply to couples legally married in states which allow same sex marriage.  Should the narrower approach prevail it would be in keeping with the inclination of appellate courts to address issues as narrowly as possible while resolving the issue immediately at hand.  Make no mistake about what these cases are really all about: will a majority the Supreme Court have the collective courage to rule against religious based anti-gay discrimination discrimination or not.  The Williams Institute has summarized some of the ways the lives of LGBT citizens would change should the Court rule expansively|:

DOMA & Federal Recognition of Married Same-Sex Couples: United States v. Windsor raises questions about federal recognition of same-sex couples legally married under state law. Of approximately 645,000 same-sex couples nationally, at least 20% live in a jurisdiction where they can marry. From 50,000 to 80,000 of same-sex couples in the United States are legally married, and more than 85,000 are in civil unions or registered domestic partnerships. If federal recognition of same-sex couples comes as a result of the court’s review, changes to federal policies will have a profound impact on these couples. Changes to federal leave, tax and entitlement policies:
• Surviving spouses of same-sex couples would gain access to partners’ Social Security benefits, which could add over $5,700 to the monthly income of the surviving spouse. See study.
• In situations similar to that of the plaintiff in the Windsor DOMA case that the Supreme Court has decided to hear, same-sex couples who are affected by the estate tax would no longer be subject to a greater tax burden upon the death of their spouse than similarly-situated different-sex married couples.See study.
• Same-sex couples working in the private sector would no longer have to pay 11% more than different-sex couples in taxes for employer-sponsored healthcare. See study.
• Same-sex spouses of federal employees would be eligible for employee benefits that are currently provided to employees with different-sex spouses.See study.
Proposition 8 and State Recognition of Same-Sex Couples
Research suggests the court’s decision to review Hollingsworth v. Perry, the federal challenge to California’s Proposition 8, could impact thousands of same-sex couples.
“There has been extensive research on the lives and experiences of LGBT people and their families. This research has been critical in legal analysis of disparate treatment of same-sex couples under the law, including legal analysis by the federal trial court that ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional in the case that the Supreme Court is now reviewing,” said David Codell, the Williams Institute’s Visiting Arnold D. Kassoy Senior Scholar of Law and Legal Director.
Research shows:
• There are nearly 100,000 same-sex couples living in California. See study.
• Over 24,000 same-sex California couples would be likely to marry within the next three years if permitted to do so. [Williams Institute Same-sex Couple Survey, 2010]
• If California recognized same-sex marriage, 35% of same-sex couples in the U.S. would live in states where they can marry; and 28% of the U.S. population would live in states where same-sex couples can marry.
• Extending marriage to same-sex couples has a positive economic impact. Wedding spending in Maine, Maryland and Washington could generate over $166 million in the first three years. In California alone, weddings could generate almost $290 million in new spending over three years.
Towleroad also provides some analysis that is consistent with my own, although, again, there is no way of knowing how the Court will actually rule.  Here are highlights:

One thing is clear: The reason the Court took so long to grant these hearings is the complexity of the orders and myriad options open to the Court. Evidently, there was also a lot of strategy involved. That is, even though the Court gave itself great space to decide every substantive issues, each order includes a jurisdictional question that would allow the Court to avoid the substance if it really wanted to.

Hollingsworth v. Perry, challenging California's Proposition 8. 
The Supreme Court is interested in the broader holding. Its order takes as the question presented whether, under the Fourteenth Amendment, California can define marriage as between one man and one woman. It did not limit its consideration of the case to the Ninth Circuit's taking away theory.

Plus, the Court will return to the "standing" question. If you recall, the Ninth Circuit Prop 8 decision took extra time because that court had to determine if the proponents of Prop 8, ProtectMarriage, could stand in the shoes of the state to defend the law when the state government refused to. The Court would like to determine that for themselves, and because jurisdictional issues are determined de novo -- "from the beginning" -- the Supreme Court is more than free to come to a different conclusion than the Ninth Circuit.

Windsor v. United States, challenging the Defense of Marriage Act.

This is the only DOMA case for which the Court granted a hearing. It said nothing about Gill, which was the First Circuit case decided on "rational basis with bite" and included a Tenth Amendment question. But, Gill was also the case in which Justice Kagan would have had to recuse herself, so that was the least likely to be granted.

The Court chose the Government's question presented -- Whether DOMA Section 3 (one-man, one-woman definition of marriage for federal purposes) violates the Fifth Amendment -- but also included two other questions: Does the fact that the Government agreed with the Second Circuit's decision deprive the Court of jurisdiction to hear the case? And, do House Republicans, who took up defense of DOMA when President Obama refused, have standing?
By these questions, the Court gave itself space to answer both the underlying merits of the DOMA challenge and the scrutiny question. After all, it may not be possible to decide if DOMA Section 3 is unconstitutional without first deciding how to answer the question, i.e., heightened scrutiny versus rational basis.
The orders on both Hollingsworth and Windsor include jurisdictional questions that could decide the entire matter outright without letting the Court get to the substance of either case. So, if some of the justices feel their position won't get 5 votes, they may be more inclined to live to fight another day by making non-precedential decisions on jurisdiction now. This speaks to one of the main reasons why it might have taken so long to come to these decisions: strategy. The ideological wings of the divided Court may have been looking for ways to have a fall back position if they could not get a swing vote on their side, and sometimes, jurisdictional questions that prevent wide application of a decision beyond the one at hand offer that kind of safe default position.
Granting Windsor gives the Court a unique opportunity to come together to declare DOMA unconstitutional, though it is not clear that the Court is ready to mandate heightened scrutiny. But, there is no doubt that the grant in Hollingsworth took me by surprise. Its framing the case in the broadest way possible offers a chance for a monumental victory or a great loss because the breadth of the case could have ramifications outside California. This is what Ted Olson, David Boies, and the AFER team wanted all along and the country is so much closer to accepting the freedom to marry in great part because of AFER's skillful engagement with the American public on marriage freedom.

What happens next? The Court has set the stage for a March argument and a decision on the last day of the Court's current term in late June 2013. For now, the Ninth Circuit's stay that prevents the implementation of Judge Walker's original order remains in place. Gays cannot marry in California just yet. But, they are oh so much closer to a resolution.

Obviously, I would love to see expansive rulings that would striker down anti-gay marriage bans nationwide.  I am long over being a second or third class citizen merely because spineless politicians and courts have for too long given deference to the religious based bigotry of ignorant morons and demagogues.  The Supreme Court has the opportunity to drive a stake through the heart of legalized bigotry and homophobia.  The issue is whether it will have the courage to do so even as courts - e.g., Mexico - and legislatures - e.g., Uruguay, Colombia, France and the United Kingdom are taking or are poised to take the steps that cowards on the bench and in legislatures in America have failed to take.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

A Republican Glasnost?

Many political pundits would have one believe that the Republican Party has gotten the message from the 2012 election results.  Here in Virginia, it is somewhat hard to believe as Ken Cuccinelli becomes the all but crowned GOP nominee for governor in the 2013 Virginia elections.  Cuccinelli embodies the worse aspects of the GOP's white supremacist, anti-woman, anti-gay and theocratic agenda as exhibited during the past year by candidates like Newt Gingrich, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdoch, Rick Santorum and others.  More frightening is the fact that Cuccinelli is worshiped by the base of the Virginia GOP.   David Brooks makes the contrary case in a column in the New York Times and looks at what he sees as trends toward a new GOP.  I think he is giving Republicans too much credit and fails to see just how insane and toxic the GOP's Christofascist/Tea Party base has become.  I see little to make me believe that the GOP leadership such as it is can stop the party's continued lurch to extremism - at least not until the Christofascist extremist are driven from the GOP.  Here are column highlights:

But the speech really began to sing toward the end. Rubio made an oblique rebuttal to some of the Republican gaffes during the campaign: “Some say that our problem is that the American people have changed. That too many people want things from government. But I am convinced that the overwhelming majority of our people just want what my parents had: a chance.”

“It all starts with our people,” Rubio continued. “In the kitchens of our hotels. In the landscaping crews that work in our neighborhoods. In the late-night janitorial shifts that clean our offices. There you will find the dreams America was built on. There you will find the promise of tomorrow. Their journey is our nation’s destiny. And if they can give their children what our parents gave us, the 21st-century America will be the single greatest nation that man has ever known.”

The Republican Party has a long way to go before it revives itself as a majority party. But that speech signifies a moment in that revival. And I would say the last month has marked a moment.
Over the past month, the Republican Party has changed far more than I expected. First, the people at the ideological extremes of the party have begun to self-ghettoize. The Tea Party movement attracted many people who are drawn to black and white certainties and lock-step unity. People like that have a tendency to migrate from mainstream politics, which is inevitably messy and impure, to ever more marginal oases of purity. 

Jim DeMint, for example, is leaving the Senate to go lead the Heritage Foundation. He is leaving the center of the action, where immigration, tax and other reforms will be crafted, for a political advocacy organization known more for ideological purity and fund-raising prowess than for creativity, curiosity or intellectual innovation. 

Second, politics is being reborn. For a time, Republican candidates like Richard Mourdock of Indiana proudly declared that they didn’t believe in compromise. Political activists spent more time purging deviationists than in trying to attract new converts. 

But that mania has passed. There are increasing signs that House Republicans are willing to unite behind Speaker John Boehner so he can cut a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff.” There has been an epidemic of open-mindedness as Republicans try to win minority votes and create a version of their party that can be competitive in states like Connecticut and California. 

The Republicans may still blow it. If President Obama is flexible and they don’t meet him partway, Republicans would contribute to a recession that would discredit them for a decade. But they are moving in the right direction and moving fast. These are first steps, and encouraging ones.  

Again, I believe that Brooks is mistaken and that no real change will occur readily in the GOP.  Indeed, if he wants to see the real GOP, perhaps he should attend the Virginia GOP's convention that will crown Cuccinelli as the party's 2013 nominee for governor.  Barry Goldwater had it right.  The GOP allowed the Christofascists to get control of much of the party and it will be difficult, if not impossible to rid the party of that infestation.

2 Out Of 3 Americans See Anti-Gay Discrimination As A "Serious Problem"

A new Gallup survey has bad news for organizations like the National Organization for Marriage, Family Research Council, American Family Association, etc., who have fanning anti-gay bigotry as their principal raison d'etre: 2 out of 3 Americans see anti-gay discrimination as a serious problem.  More over, the survey results make it clear that most of the anti-gay bigotry is religion based.  Stated another way, in a nation (and states) that purports to prohibit discrimination based on religion, gays continue to be subjected to discriminatory laws and lack protections because we do not conform to Christofascist religious dogma.  The situation makes a mockery of both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and every state law that pretends to bar discrimination based on religion.   Yet courts like the Virginia Supreme Court won't even touch the issue or admit that allowing anti-gay discrimination in employment, especially by government entities is unconstitutional.  Here are some highlights from the Gallup findings:

Most Americans see discrimination toward gays and lesbians as a serious problem in the United States today, and those perceptions are particularly common among those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Even so, LGBT Americans are rather optimistic that things will get better, with the vast majority expecting a consensus on gay rights issues in the future.

Though the demographic trends in gay rights issues would predict a growing consensus in the future, politics may get in the way of that. Republicans still trail Democrats and independents in their support for gay rights and it is unclear whether that will change. The Republican Party still officially opposes gay marriage, consistent with the views of its rank-and-file members. And those who oppose gay marriage most often cite biblical or religious teachings as the reason for their opposition. Thus, consensus on gay marriage and other gay rights issues may depend on whether Republicans and those opposed to gay marriage on religious grounds hold firm to their current beliefs or follow the growing societal trend toward greater tolerance, acceptance, and equality for gays and lesbians.
 Interestingly, 48% of Republicans admit that discrimination against gays and lesbians is a “very” or “somewhat serious” problem in the United States.  The chart below reveals that nearly 80% of the anti-gay animus arises directly from religion - something that needs to be excised from the civil laws:

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Largest Anti-Gay Marriage Donor in Maryland Active in White Supremacist Organizations

Some readers scoff when I link anti-gay bigots and organizations to the larger realm of white supremacist organizations which have historically targeted gays, non-Christians and non-whites with their divisive vitriol.   But, if one tacks the leading "family values" organizations that incessantly disseminate anti-gay propaganda, it quickly becomes readily apparent that their hate and derision extends far beyond the realm of LGBT citizens.  Indeed, today's anti-gay, "family values" organizations are becoming synonymous with a modern day version of the KKK.  The Human Rights Campaign has connected the dots in Maryland and revealed that the largest individual supporter of the anti-gay marriage campaign in that state has ties to both white supremacists groups and secessionist organizations.  Today's Republicans mat protest that they are not racists and homophobes, but the objective data indicates otherwise.  Here are highlights from HRC:

HRC is calling on the Maryland Marriage Alliance to return the $10,000 donation of Michael Peroutka, an active white supremacist and secessionist sympathizer who was one of the three largest individual donors to the campaign against marriage equality in Maryland. HRC also calls on the Maryland Catholic Conference, which played a leading role in founding the Maryland Marriage Alliance, to publicly denounce Peroutka’s donation. Peroutka is an active member of the League of the South, a neo-Confederate, secessionist organization labeled an “explicitly racist” hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). 

Filings made available by the Maryland Board of Elections indicate that Michael Peroutka donated $10,000 to MMA on October 31, 2012.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance was founded and funded by the Maryland Catholic Conference and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

According to the SPLC, the League of the South “believes the ‘godly’ nation it wants to form should be run by an ‘Anglo-Celtic’ (read: white) elite that would establish a Christian theocratic state and politically dominate blacks and other minorities.” The organization says that its relentless pursuit of white supremacy is “healthy and Biblical.”

League of the South President Michael Hill has written that white people possess a “God-ordained superiority” and that African Americans “have never created anything approximating a civilization.” Its Florida chapter chairman, Michael Tubbs, is, according to the SPLC, a convicted “Aryan” terrorist who amassed a stockpile of weapons and explosives along with a list of targets including businesses owned by Jews and blacks.

Peroutka appeared along with Hill and Tubbs in front of Confederate flags at the League of the South conference, said that he was grateful for the organization’s endorsement of his fringe 2004 presidential campaign and remarked that “If this be hate, let's make the most of it.”

He has also appeared on a white supremacist radio show called The Political Cesspool. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that one of the bedrock principles of the show Peroutka appeared on is the need to “grow the percentages of Whites in the world relative to other races.”

NOM is no stranger to exploiting race as a means of advancing its agenda. Documents obtained by HRC earlier this year revealed NOM’s racially divisive strategy to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” and to “interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity - a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.”
It is truly frightening to realize what the "family values" crowd and their political whores in the Republican Party have become: active racist, homophobes, anti-women extremists and anti-immigrant zealots.   Th only thing some of them haven done is to openly organize their own equivalent to the Nazi Schutzstaffel, a/k/a the SS.   Or perhaps they have and we just don't know it yet.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Rick Santorum Versus Those With Disabilities

When not striving to demonize gays or to roll back the right of women to control their own bodies, failed GOP nominee Rick Santorum continues to busy himself pushing Christofascist causes and opposing anything that might recognize the fact that children are not the chattel of their religiously crazed parents.  This latter agenda is the only explanation for Santorum's efforts to convince the U. S. Senate to oppose the united Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The words that gave Man on Dog Santorum conniptions?  A a section of the Convention on children with disabilities that said: “The best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” With religious extremists like Santorum - who seems to believe that by fathering hoards of children he can convince both himself and the world that he's a macho heterosexual - parental rights to brainwash and indoctrinate their children trump all other rights, including what is best for the child medically and psychologically.  A column in the New York Times looks at Santorum's successful effort to block this worthy Convention.  Here are highlights:

The rejected treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark law Dole co-sponsored. So, as Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts kept pointing out during the debate, this is a treaty to make the rest of the world behave more like the United States. But Santorum was upset about a section on children with disabilities that said: “The best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” 

“This is a direct assault on us and our family!” he said at a press conference in Washington. 

The theory about the treaty on the disabled is that the bit about “best interests of the child” could be translated into laws prohibiting disabled children from being home-schooled. At his press conference, Santorum acknowledged that wasn’t in the cards. But he theorized that someone might use the treaty in a lawsuit “and through the court system begin to deny parents the right to raise their children in conformity with what they believe.” 

If I felt you were actually going to worry about this, I would tell you that the Senate committee that approved the treaty included language specifically forbidding its use in court suits.

In the Capitol this week, disabled Americans lobbied for ratification, arguing, among other things, that it could make life easier for them when they travel. Since more than 125 countries have already signed onto the treaty, there will certainly be pressure to improve accessibility to buses, restrooms and public buildings around the globe. It would be nice if the United States was at the table, trying to make sure the international standards were compatible with the ones our disabled citizens learn to handle here at home. 

But, no, the senators were worried about the home-school movement. Or a boilerplate mention in the treaty of economic, social and cultural rights that Senator Mike Lee of Utah claimed was “part of a march toward socialism.”

The big worry was, of course, offending the Tea Party. The same Tea Party that pounded Mitt Romney into the presidential candidate we came to know and reject over the past election season. The same Tea Party that keeps threatening to wage primaries against incumbents who don’t do what they’re told. The Tea Party who made those threats work so well in the last election that Indiana now has a totally unforeseen Democratic senator. 

The threat the Republicans need to worry about isn’t in the United Nations.

Conservative Christianity in America has become a dangerous sickness that threatens logic, knowledge and the rights and safety of millions of children not to mention others in society targeted or hate and stigma by the self-anointed godly folk.  It is a pestilence that needs to be driven from the public forum and excised from a place of influence on the nations laws.  

Is the GOP About to Capitulate?

If one listens to the far right noise machine of Fox News, a/k/a/ Faux News, and Rush Limbaugh, et al, it seems impossible that the Republicans is Congress are finally beginning to grasp the fact that if they refuse to find a deal to avoid the so-called Fiscal cliff, it will be they, not Obama and the Democrats who go over the political water fall.  The image above shows the results of a new poll by Pew Research Center and it is clear where bale will fall.  Thus, the political whores of the far right in the GOP must decide whether they prefer facing the wrath of the Kool-Aid drinkers or perhaps poisoning the GOP brand even further.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the prospects before Republicans.  Here are excerpts:

Right now, he[John Boehner]  is hoping to lead his fractious GOP to an orderly surrender. The question is no longer whether Republicans will give on taxes; they already have. All that remains to be negotiated is how they will increase taxes, and whether they will do it before or after the government reaches the “fiscal cliff.”

“I believe that it’s appropriate to put revenues on the table,” Boehner told reporters. “Now, the revenues we’re putting on the table are going to come from — guess who? — the rich.”

One of Boehner’s lieutenants, Pete Roskam of Illinois, stepped to the microphones, essentially pleading for the president to show mercy. “President Obama has an unbelievable opportunity to be a transformational president — that is, to bring the country together,” he said. “Or he can devolve into zero-sum-game politics, where he wins and other people lose.”

Those “other people” would be the House Republicans, because it is Obama who seems to be holding all the cards right now. A poll by the Pew Research Center found that 53 percent of Americans would blame Republicans for sending the nation off the cliff and only 27 percent would blame Obama. And Republicans didn’t help their cause by ending their workweek on Wednesday and going home.

The speaker is trying to hold out for making those hikes come from fewer deductions rather than higher rates, but the White House is feeling so confident that it dismissed Boehner’s offer out of hand. Obama communications director Dan Pfeiffer told Peter Baker of the New York Times that Obama “won’t sign a deal that doesn’t have higher rates for the wealthy. Until they cross that bridge, nothing else is relevant.”

Republicans are looking for face-saving ways to retreat, such as allowing a tax increase to pass the House by voting “present” instead of “no.” Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), the outgoing chairman of the House GOP conference, acknowledged Wednesday on CNN that “the president is going to get his revenue one way or the other.”

As they prepare to accommodate Obama, Republican leaders have begun to crack down on hard-liners in their ranks who routinely defy compromise. On Monday, two dissidents were removed from the House Financial Services Committee and two from the Budget Committee.
Outside their meeting in the Capitol basement Wednesday morning, House Republicans were coming to grips with the inevitability of the tax increase.

But the bromides couldn’t conceal the fact that House GOP leaders, with little dissent from the rank and file, had already acquiesced on some form of a tax increase. “House Republicans are prepared to get to yes,” Roskam said. “House Republicans are not prepared to get too foolish, and it is foolish to reject President Obama’s own self-described architecture of $3 in spending cuts for every dollar in new revenue.”

Coming from a bunch that liked to say they wouldn’t allow a dollar of new revenue even if it came with $10 in spending cuts, this white flag is as big as a bedsheet.

Of course, even if the Congressional GOP comes to grips with reality on the budget, the party as a whole will continue to be suffering from a form of deadly swamp fever until it wrenches control of the party from the Christofascists and their Tea Party cousins. 

Bullying/Suicide Claim Another Gay Teen

With their unrelenting attacks on gays the professional Christian set, child rapists enablers at the Vatican, and homophobic politicians like Rick Santorum and Ken Cuccinelli (whose hysteria over gays suggests to me that there's something "going on" with their own sexuality) continue to fan and nurture societal attitudes that give a green light to the harassment and bullying of LGBT youth and adults.  Their disgusting handiwork has now claimed another life: 17  Josh Pacheco who killed himself leaving a note that said  "I'm sorry I wasn't able to be strong enough."  Those like  Rick Santorum, Ken Cuccinelli, Maggie Gallagher, Brian Brown, Tony Perkins, Victoria Cobb,  and Benedict XVI are just as guilty of responsibility for Pacheco's suicide as if they had been the ones who closed the door to the garage in which Pacheco sat in a running vehicle.  It sickens me that we as a society cannot see that it is the anti-gay crusaders, not the gays, who are abnormal and a real threat to society.  And as seems to be the case time and time again, school administrators claim that they knew nothing of the bullying, suggesting once again that people need to be fired.  Here are highlights from the Flint Journal

FENTON, MI – Linden High School junior Josh Pacheco had a heart for theater and an infectious smile, but above all else he cared for others, his family said.

“My son was very funny and exceptionally sensitive and loving to other people’s feelings,” said Pacheco’s mother, Lynnette Capehart.

Pacheco, 17, committed suicide Nov. 27. His parents believe bullying is to blame.

Pacheco was part of the Fenton-based Kidz Theatre Kompany, worked at Tim Hortons, loved his advanced placement politics class and called his four siblings his best friends, Capehart said.
Pacheco also was gay, which led to him being bullied both inside and outside of school, said his mother, Lynnette Capehart.

He told his mother he was gay just two months ago, but Capehart said she wasn't surprised and she said it made no difference to her. She loved her son just the same.

Lynnette and stepfather Michael Capehart said they didn't know until recently that Pacheco was bullied.
Capehart said her first indication that there was a problem came after the homecoming dance on Oct. 6. She was out of town, so she called to see how the dance was. It was the only one he attended this fall.

Pacheco was upset and crying, but wouldn’t tell her why, Capehart said.

After his death, she found out from students that her son had been pushed into lockers and teased at school. It wasn’t surprising that he didn’t tell many people about it, Lynnette Capehart said, because Pacheco never wanted to make anyone else upset.

“He was having problems with bullying. He didn’t really want to tell us very much,” she said. “It was very disheartening to me.”

The weekend after Thanksgiving, Pacheco talked to his sisters, questioning life and his future -- comments that worried his parents. His mother talked to him that Sunday and on Monday, Nov. 26, set up an appointment for him to see a counselor on Wednesday -- even though he seemed back to his normal, "quirky" self.

Pacheco was home sick that day, so Capehart called his neighbor to check on Pacheco. He was found unresponsive in his truck, which had been running in the closed-up garage.  He left a note in the truck: "I'm sorry I wasn't able to be strong enough."

After news of Pacheco’s death had spread around the school, Lynnette and Michael Capehart said they received calls from friends and parents saying Pacheco had been bullied.
Another needless death and lost life all so that sick and twisted individuals can feel superior about themselves and/or either make a living peddling hatred or pandering to the foulest elements of society to  further their political careers.  If there is a Hell, it will be full of the godly Christian crowd.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Mexican Supreme Court Strikes Down Gay Marriage Ban

While the United States Supreme Court apparently remains busy contemplating its collective navel on how to deal with the appeals before it involving California's Proposition 8 which has been struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the cases wherein DOMA has been struck down by among others the First and Second Courts of Appeals, the Supreme Court of Mexico in an unanimous ruling struck down a law of the southern state of Oaxaca which had banned same sex marriages.  Adding to the appearance that the United States is increasingly out of step with educated, non-Muslim portions of the world, both Uruguay and Colombia are both considering same sex marriage legislation as is France.  If nations formerly dominated by the Roman Catholic Church in South America can end the special rights given to far right Christianists, why can't the U. S. Supreme Court have the spine to do likewise?  Here are highlights on the ruling in Mexico:

The Supreme Court of Mexico issued a unanimous ruling Wednesday afternoon that paves the way to universal marriage rights in the country.

The actual ruling won’t be published for a little while, but the gay rights advocates who brought the case are proclaiming that today’s ruling “opens the door to equal marriage in the whole country.”

The court ruled on behalf of three same-sex couple seeking to marry in the southern state of Oaxaca. The court had already ruled in 2010 that gay marriages performed under a Mexico City ordinance had to be recognized nationwide. With this precedent, the remaining bans on gay marriage in most Mexican states could quickly fall.

This ruling does not immediately eliminate marriage statutes limiting unions to a man and a woman—the Mexican Supreme Court doesn’t have the power to strike down state laws like that en mass as the United States Supreme Court does. But the lawyer who brought the case, Alex Alí Méndez Díaz, said before the ruling that victory would mean the beginning of the end for bans on same-sex marriage.

The court’s ruling that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutionally discriminatory is partly based on a February ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that governments can’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, Karen Atala Riffo y Niñas v. Chile.

This case could have repercussions outside of Mexico—by expanding this precedent to include the right to marry, courts in other Latin American countries that recognize the Inter-American Accord on Human Rights could follow this precedent and determine that marriage rights are also protected in their countries. And the Inter-American Court itself could be more likely to recognize a right to marry—a case brought by three couples trying to strike down Chile’s ban on gay marriage has already begun making its way through the international judicial system. 

As I noted before, it is pretty sad when the nation that likes to promote itself as "the land of liberty" now lags behind nations that it once viewed as  two bit third world countries when it comes to affording full rights to LGBT Citizens.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Obama Needs to Share His Campaign Data Base

With Virginians likely faced in 2013 with the most extreme and dangerous GOP candidate for governor in the state's history, it will be critical that Democrats turn out the coalition of those threatened by Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli's ignorance and theocracy based agenda, namely all citizens other than Christofascists, angry white men and Tea Party loons.   Gays, blacks, Hispanics, women, non-Christians - i.e., anyone who is not a Kool-Aid drinking white evangelical - is threatened by Kookinelli.  It is critical that these groups targeted by Kookinelli be educated as to just how extreme and dangerous this man is to them.  Hence the need for Barack Obama to share his campaign data base with the Virginia Democrats so that they can defeat Kookinelli and other minions of the Christofascists at Family Foundation.  In 2009 Obama did little or nothing to assist Democrat candidates in Virginia and the result was that perhaps the most extreme slate of GOP candidates in recent memory was swept into office.  This cannot be allowed to happen again, particularly with Kookinelli aiming for the governorship which would allow him to appoint extremists to boards and commissions across Virginia.  A piece in Politico looks at this issue as it applies to Virginia and elsewhere.  Here are highlights:

The hottest property to emerge from Barack Obama’s lopsided victory over Mitt Romney is not the president’s much lauded campaign team. Nor is it the shrewd turnout operation that catapulted him to victory.

It is something far more valuable that’s being guarded as zealously as the Pentagon: Obama’s unprecedented database of an estimated 16 million voters, volunteers and donors, which gave the Democrat an indisputable edge in November.

From the candidates running in 2014 to the state Democratic parties to progressive advocacy groups, there is an intense behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign afoot to pry from Obamaland its groundbreaking voter database. The data is rich with intricate layers of information about individuals’ voting habits, television viewing tastes, propensity to volunteer, car registration, passions, email address, cellphone numbers, and social media contacts. The historical trove enabled Obama to connect with voters on a highly personal level and get them not only to vote but to actively persuade their neighbors to do the same.

Now that Obama has been reelected, other Democrats are falling over themselves to get their hands on these sophisticated indicators for their own campaigns.

Among the prime options being discussed by president’s political hands: setting up an independent, not-for-profit entity, run by Obama aides, to manage and keep the electronic files updated so the contacts could be used to further the president’s agenda. Handing over the names to campaigns is not high on the list right now

Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped Democrats from beating at the vault’s door.  So excited was Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Brian Moran about the prospect of getting the database for next year’s governor’s race that he announced last week that he already had it. He doesn’t.

So intent are Senate incumbents to get their hands on the voter files that, at a private meeting with Senate leaders and incumbents up for reelection in 2014, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Tom Harkin of Iowa led the group in imploring Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to lead the charge.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) has also prodded the Obama campaign to make the database available to House and Senate candidates to avoid a midterm bloodbath like the party saw in 2010.

Instead, Obamaworld — in an effort similar to the post-2008 campaign period — is attempting to leverage its campaign data to generate support for legislative initiatives.
Messina was emphatic on the point in his first post-election on-camera interview last month.

“The important thing to note is — and I want to be firm about this — you can’t just hand this to the next candidate for president,” he said at a POLITICO Playbook breakfast last month.

“You know, this organization was built for people who supported this president and who were involved. We had over 32,000 neighborhood team leaders who basically volunteered full time, and those people were involved because of the issues and positions the president took, and … you can’t just hand it to the next candidate. They have to have their own relationship with [voters]. … Look, we learned from our shellacking we took in 2010: Too many Democrats thought they could put Barack Obama’s picture on a piece of literature and his supporters would turn out magically for them. It doesn’t work like that.”

Yes, each candidate needs to have their own base.  But the Obama campaign data would expedite the process.   There's much more to the article, which deserves a read.  Personally, I remain very concerned that Obama will ignore Virginia as he did in 2009 and now the stakes are even higher.  And, if he is worried about his legislative agenda, having an insane nutcase like Cuccinelli become governor of Virginia would be extremely detrimental.  I supported Obama for president - the boyfriend and I even housed one of his campaign staffers for two months - but I am worried that he may revert to having his head up his ass as he did in 2009 when it comes to Virginia and the anti-gay forces in this state.

Initial Attempts to BlockCalifornia Ban On Reparative Therapy Fail

Two rulings were handed down by federal judges in California in response to separate law suits filed by anti-gay "Christian" organizations and "ex-gay" therapy quacks.  The anti-gay forces are desperate to stop this law which bars therapists from inflicting fraudulent reparative therapy on individuals under the age of 18 and, to my view is necessary to prevent nothing less than a form of child abuse.  Just as legislation and courts have intervened to require needed medical treatment of minors over the often bizarre religious based objections of parents, so too, the courts and legislation should prevent harmful treatment that claims religious belief as its only real justification.  The National Center for Lesbian Rights has a summary of yesterday's rulings.  Here are highlights:

(San Francisco, CA, December 4, 2012)—Today, Judge Kimberly Mueller of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California denied a request by an anti-LGBT group to postpone the January 1, 2013 start of the state’s new law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from psychological abuse at the hands of state-licensed therapists who use dangerous practices to try to change their clients’ sexual orientation or gender expression. The ruling means that the law will go into effect as scheduled.

The court also granted a motion by Equality California to intervene in the lawsuit in order to defend the law alongside California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who represents the State of California defendants. Equality California was the lead sponsor of the law and is the state’s leading political advocacy group representing LGBT people and their families.

The Court’s decision was prompted by a lawsuit filed by the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality that challenges the new law protecting LGBT youth from practices—including the use of shame and aversion therapy—that are known to lead to depression and suicide attempts. The group is represented by Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBT legal group. In rejecting the groups’ request to temporarily prevent the statute from going into effect on January 1, Judge Mueller concluded that the California law “prohibits a therapeutic practice deemed unproven and potentially harmful to minors by ten professional associations of mental health experts.”

Judge Mueller’s decision follows another decision yesterday by Judge William B. Shubb, also of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, in another case brought by a different set of plaintiffs who are also challenging the California law. Judge Shubb issued an order temporarily exempting three plaintiffs in that case from being subjected to enforcement of the law while the case proceeds in his court. Judge Shubb’s order applies only to the three plaintiffs in the case before him and does not prevent the state from enforcing the law against other licensed mental health professionals. Judge Mueller’s decision today clears the way for the law to go into effect on January 1, 2013.

Senate Bill 1172 was authored by Senator Ted Lieu and sponsored by Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gaylesta, Courage Campaign, Lambda Legal, and Mental Health America of Northern California, and supported by dozens of organizations including the California Psychological Association, the California Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and the California Division of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. California Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law on September 29, 2012.

The reparative therapy myth has long been a tool used by the anti-gay far right to dupe some in the larger public into believing that sexual orientation is a choice and something that can be change because they realize that if sexual orientation is immutable and not something that can be changed, then courts and legislatures will be more inclined to grant LGBT protections.  The basis for reparative boils down to anti-gay animus and psychotic religious extremist who are threatened by the reality that God, nature, etc. makes some us gay.   Then of course, there is lots of money to be made preying on tormented gays who have been religiously brainwashed and their parents. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

The GOP's Continued Budget Delusions

Watching the MSNBC lineup last night, a common thread came through: Congressional Republicans are throwing a conniption fit over the fact that Barack Obama is pushing the budget deficit plan that he campaigned upon over the better part of the last year.  Actually doing what one promised to Americans during seems an inconceivable concept to blowhards like John Boehner and the Palmetto Queen, Lindsey Graham, who prefer to cater to the wealthiest 2% of Americans and big business interests while throwing 98% of Americans under the bus.  Their reaction would be comical but for the fact that it indicates that today's GOP would rather harm the country than fail to deliver on promises to the greediest and most selfish elements of the GOP puppeteers.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the ongoing delusions in the GOP leadership.  Here are excerpts:

How dare he? President Obama, I mean: How dare he do what he promised during the campaign? How dare he insist on a “balanced approach” to fiscal policy that includes a teensy-weensy tax increase for the rich? Oh, the humanity.

Republicans are having conniptions. Witness the way House Speaker John Boehner reacted when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner presented the administration’s proposals on taxes and spending:

“I was flabbergasted,Boehner told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “I looked at him and said, ‘You can’t be serious.’ I’ve just never seen anything like it. You know, we’ve got seven weeks between Election Day and the end of the year. And three of those weeks have been wasted with this nonsense.”

The “nonsense” in question is a set of perfectly reasonable measures that Obama wants Congress to approve. Nothing in his package should be a surprise — except, perhaps, that the president has opened this negotiation by demanding what he really wants, rather than what he believes would be convenient for Boehner to deliver.

“The president’s idea of a negotiation is, roll over and do what I ask,” Boehner groused.  Hmmm. Where do you imagine the president might have learned this particular bargaining technique? Might his instructors have been Boehner’s own House Republicans, who went so far as to hold the debt ceiling for ransom — and with it, the nation’s full faith and credit — in order to get their way?

Obama’s proposals include effectively taking away congressional authority over the debt ceiling, which would preclude a repeat of last year’s hostage crisis. Boehner called it “silliness” to think that Congress would willingly surrender a power it can use to “leverage the political process.” So it’s fine when Congress uses muscle to get its way but not when the president does the same?

This fight isn’t about whether the rich will pay more in taxes; it is clear that they will. It’s about whether this new revenue is collected in a way that allows House Republicans to say they have kept their pledge never to raise marginal tax rates for anyone, for any purpose.

Refusing to budge has served House Republicans well in previous budget negotiations. But the no-taxes-ever bulwark has not served the country well, and if Obama sees a way to blast through it, he would be remiss not to try.

Geithner seems confident. “You’ve heard (Republicans) for the first time, I think, in two decades, acknowledge that they are willing to have revenues go up as part of a balanced plan,” he said Sunday. “That’s a good first step, but they have to tell us what they are willing to do on rates and revenues. That’s going to be very hard for Republicans. We understand that, but there’s no way through this without that.”
Most House Republicans are in safe districts, but not all of them — and the GOP majority will be smaller when the new Congress convenes. Polls indicate that most Americans believe the tax increase Obama seeks for the wealthy is no big deal. It’s hard to imagine how Republicans can possibly get a better offer on taxes and spending in January than they can get now.  Hence Boehner’s urgency. Time is not on his side.

We can expect more shrieks and fits of the vapors from the GOP before year end.  One can only hope that Obama hangs tough and forces Republicans to for once do something that is in the best interests of the country rather than their political cronies and vulture capitalists like those associated with Mitt Romney.