Saturday, February 23, 2013
The descent of the GOP into a political party that knows no shame - or integrity, for that matter - is personified by Senator Ted Cruz (pictured at left) who seems to believe that he is the New Joseph McCarthy. What's even scarier is that the man even bears a surface physical resemblance to McCarthy at first glance. With Cruz, lies, innuendo and extremism all go hand in hand. What is additionally disturbing is that Cruz seemingly thinks the Soviet Union is still in existence and that we are back in the 1950's. A piece in The New Yorker looks at the latest buffoon/hate merchant out of Texas. Here are some article highlights:
Last week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s prosecutorial style of questioning Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary, came so close to innuendo that it raised eyebrows in Congress, even among his Republican colleagues. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, called Cruz’s inquiry into Hagel’s past associations “out of bounds, quite frankly.” The Times reported that Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, rebuked Cruz for insinuating, without evidence, that Hagel may have collected speaking fees from North Korea. Some Democrats went so far as to liken Cruz, who is a newcomer to the Senate, to a darkly divisive predecessor, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, whose anti-Communist crusades devolved into infamous witch hunts. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, stopped short of invoking McCarthy’s name, but there was no mistaking her allusion
Boxer’s analogy may have been more apt than she realized. Two and a half years ago, Cruz gave a stem-winder of a speech at a Fourth of July weekend political rally in Austin, Texas, in which he accused the Harvard Law School of harboring a dozen Communists on its faculty when he studied there. Cruz attended Harvard Law School from 1992 until 1995. His spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request to discuss the speech.
Cruz made the accusation while speaking to a rapt ballroom audience during a luncheon at a conference called “Defending the American Dream,” sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit political organization founded and funded in part by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch.
He then went on to assert that Obama, who attended Harvard Law School four years ahead of him, “would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.” The reason, said Cruz, was that, “There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”
“We are puzzled by the Senator’s assertions, as we are unaware of any basis for them,” Robb London, a spokesman for Harvard Law School, told me. . . . . Harvard Law School Professor Charles Fried, a Republican who served as Ronald Reagan’s Solicitor General from 1985 to 1989, and who subsequently taught Cruz at the law school, suggests that his former student has his facts wrong.“I can right offhand count four “out” Republicans (including myself) and I don’t know how many closeted Republicans
Fried acknowledged that “there were a certain number (twelve seems to me too high) who were quite radical, but I doubt if any had allegiance or sympathy with anything called ‘the Communists,’ who at that time (unlike the thirties and forties) were in quite bad odor among radical intellectuals.”
Sounding like a disappointed professor, Fried said that Cruz’s willingness to label the faculty Communist “lacks nuance.” He said he remembered Cruz well, as “very bright, very hard-working and very conservative, in a well-mannered, agreeable way.” So he said, “This surprises me. It suggests he’s changed.” So too, perhaps, has the U.S. Senate.
As I have said so often, ignorance and lies now predominate just as in the Christian Right and Tea Party which now control the GOP.
The batshitery and outright insanity - not to mention seething ant-gay animus - of the falsely self-labeled far right "family values" organizations truly seems to no limits. Nor does there seem to be any limit to what societal problems they will try to blame on LGBT individuals. Name the problem and somehow they will blame it on the gays. The latest hate and batshitery coming from the hate group American Family Association is that gays and LGBT-inclusive educational policies in public schools are the cause for falling grades and poor student performance. Yep, that's what Sandy Rios (pictured above), Christian bitch extraordinaire at AFA is peddling to the ignorant and mentally challenged Christofascists. Right Wing Watch has details:
On her radio program today, the American Family Association’s Sandy Rios read listener responses to her recent interview with anti-gay activist Brian Camenker, who claims that bullying-prevention programs and LGBT-inclusive curricula are ruining American education.
Rios praised one email from “Margaret,” who wrote that “basic skills” like reading and writing are being “pushed aside in favor of teaching moral choices and left-wing agenda. It is no wonder American students have fallen so far behind other nations.” Margaret lamented that schools “rob the innocence of children through forced instruction of alternate lifestyles,” adding: “When two percent of America’s population seeks to dictate to the rest of us how our children should be educated, we have truly sunk into a pit of moral decay.”
Rios concurred and claimed that schools are “teaching radical environmentalism or homosexuality” now “instead of math and science,” which she explained is “the reason our test scores are so shockingly low compared with the world.”
According to Rios, it all goes back to a plan of Bill Ayers to “radicalize” teachers and the National Education Association’s goal of “promoting homosexuality in every discipline in public schools.”It’s sad; it’s just amazing how they are throwing—whether they are teaching radical environmentalism or homosexuality. Can you imagine that they are teaching this instead of math and science? And they are. And Margaret’s right, that’s the reason our test scores are so shockingly low compared with the world.
The National Education Association was led by a gay man for over twenty years who was not out until he stepped down and they started promoting, radically promoting, homosexuality. This started a long, long time ago, they started with a film called ‘It’s Elementary,’ I remember when that came out; it was a total propaganda piece for homosexuality. Gradually the National Education Association made this one of their largest concerns, was promoting homosexuality in every discipline in public schools, so that’s how it started.
In a welcome move, the Obama administration has filed a brief in United States v. Windsor now before the U.S. Supreme Court that the Defense of marriage Act, a/k/a DOMA is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. DOMA bars same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married heterosexual couples. NBC News has details on the government's brief. Here are highlights:
The brief was filed Friday in United States v. Windsor, a case challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, the law that legally declares marriage to be only between a man and a woman. That section allows state and federal authorities to deny benefits to same-sex couples that are commonplace for heterosexual couples, like insurance for government workers and Social Security survivors' benefits.
In its brief (.pdf), the U.S. bluntly declares: "Section 3 of DOMA violates the fundamental constitutional guarantee of equal protection.
"The law denies to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married opposite-sex couples," said the brief, which was signed by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the government's chief trial lawyer. "Because this discrimination cannot be justified as substantially furthering any important governmental interest, Section 3 is unconstitutional."
In a footnote, the brief mentions California's Proposition 8 and similar measures in other states as evidence that anti-gay discrimination remains a major problem.
The Obama administration, in a sweeping defense of marriage rights for same-sex couples, argued on Friday that the denial by states of those rights over the last decade is proof that discrimination against gays and lesbians still continues. The brief cited California’s flat ban on such marriages — Proposition 8 — as an example of the ongoing problem of bias against homosexuals.
In the context of the brief, the brief references to California’s Proposition 8 were subtle and fleeting, but they immediately raised the question of whether the administration was getting into position to come out directly, next week, against that voter-approved ballot measure.
In a separate administration brief, also filed Friday in the Windsor case, the government’s lawyers argued that their appeal challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act is properly before the Court, and thus can be decided in that case.
The brief continued the efforts by the administration, begun two years ago tomorrow, to persuade the courts to adopt a rigorous test when they judged laws that discriminated against gays and lesbians. Instead of the much more tolerant “rational basis” test, the government has been pressing for what is called “heightened scrutiny.” And Friday’s brief defended that approach energetically.
This is the first time the federal government has proposed that constitutional test in a gay rights case before the Supreme Court. The Court itself has never specified just what constitutional standard it will apply in such cases, but it may have to settle that this Term.
Some observers — including one judge who was on the court panel that ruled in the case the administration has taken to the Court — have argued that, if the tougher standard is applied, not one of the state denials of marriage to same-sex couples can survive constitutionally. Such denials have come in thirty-nine states.
Here, in summary, is how U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., the administration’s top courtroom advocate, went about bringing Proposition 8 and the other thirty-eight states’ denials into the Windsor case:
First, among the factors that Verrilli cited in arguing for the standard were those that have led the Court, in cases involving other forms of discrimination, to adopt a “heightened scrutiny” standard: that is, whether the group seeking that kind of protection has been a target of discrimination and has been lacking in political power so that it has less or little chance of gaining protection.
Second, in finding that gays and lesbians have been, in the past and currently, the targets of discrimination and have been lacking in political power, Verrilli cited “the recent history of marriage initiatives” — the history of thirty-nine states, including California with Proposition 8, adopting bans on same-sex marriage, either by state laws or constitutional amendments.
Third, Verrilli pointed out that, at the time DOMA was passed in 1996, only three states had laws allowing only opposite-sex couples to marry. Now, thirty-nine states do, with thirty of those coming from voter-approved state constitutional amendments.
Fourth, only six states have given same-sex couples marriage rights “through the political process,” while three more have done so through state court rulings. “That is not a convincing record of political power rendering protection unnecessary,” Verrilli wrote. And, at that point, the brief dropped in a footnote, which said that, “[b]y way of example, in May 2008, the California Supreme Court held that the state was constitutionally required to recognize same-sex marriages….In November 2008, California’s voters passed Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.”
The government’s brief on the Court’s jurisdiction argued that the Republican leaders of the House of Representatives, who have taken up the defense of DOMA after the Administration abandoned it, do not have a legal right under Article III to take the place of the federal government in pursuing a final Court ruling on DOMA’s validity. But, the brief said, the Court need not reach the issue of the GOP leaders’ “standing” because the federal government is properly before the Court in the Windsor case.
While I have welcomed those conservatives who seem to be recognizing that the Republican Party needs major reformation - e.g., Kathleen Parker, Jon Huntsman, Michael Gerson, et al - in the final analysis I have dim hopes that any meaningful reform will actually occur. The Christofascists and Neanderthals of the Tea Party are simply too entrenched in local city and county committees and caucuses and in the primary process to allow sane candidates to be nominated or eschew that batshitery of the rabidly insane base. To me, of any of the original GOP nomination contenders, Jon Huntsman had the best chance of defeating Barack Obama yet Huntsman was never able to get out of the single digit range in the primaries. He simply wasn't willing to fully embrace the insanity demanded by the Christofascists and the Tea Party. The problem hasn't changed since Mitt Romney's much deserved defeat. A column in The Daily Beast looks at the systemic problem facing the GOP. Here are excerpts:
Conservative pundits and intellectuals have spent the past week or two—ever since the publication in Commentary magazine of Peter Wehner and Michael Gerson’s “How to Save the Republican Party”—talking about, well, how to save the Republican Party. They have lots of ideas—some good, some not so good, most very sober-minded policy prescriptions.The party they purport to support and care about has been engaged in burning down the house of American politics for three or four years now, and they are saying nothing about it; and until they say something about it, everything else they say is close to meaningless.[T]he conventional view of what’s wrong with the GOP gets at only a portion of the truth. When The New York Times or Politico does such a story, the story inevitably focuses on policy positions. Immigration. Same-sex marriage. Climate change. Tinker with these positions, several sages are quoted as saying, and the GOP will be back in the game.
God knows, policy positions are a problem. But they are not the problem. The problem is that the party is fanatical—a machine of rage, hate, and resentment. People are free to scoff and pretend it isn’t so, but I don’t think honest people can deny that we’ve never seen anything like this in the modern history of our country. There’s a symbiosis of malevolence between the extreme parts of the GOP base and Washington lawmakers, and it is destroying the Republican Party. That’s fine with me, although I am constantly mystified as to why it’s all right with the people I’m talking about. But it’s also destroying the country and our democratic institutions and processes, which is not fine with me.
The party can change all the positions it wants, but until people stand up and yell “Stop!” to this fanaticism, it won’t mean anything. In fact, the problems feed into each other, because the idea that today’s Republican Party can change its stripes on same-sex marriage or immigration is absurd, and it is absurd precisely because of the rage and fanaticism I’m talking about, much of which is directed at brown people and gay people. Such a party cannot change its stripes on these issues until the mindset and world view are changed.
I bet the House is likely to break immigration reform into two pieces, enforcement and path-to-citizenship. Maybe more, but for now let’s say two. A big majority of Republicans will support the former. The latter will pass, if it does, with a small number of Republicans joining nearly all Democrats, and therefore only with John Boehner breaking the Hastert Rule once again. And the haters will go on hating. And the following people will write nothing about it: David Brooks; Ross Douthat; the aforementioned Wehner and Gerson; Reihan Salam; Yuval Levin; Ramesh Ponnuru.
I do not understand how they can watch this and let it happen—to their party!—without saying anything. This past week, we have had four Republican senators—Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and Rand Paul—in essence demand that a cabinet nominee, Chuck Hagel, disprove rumors against him. It’s one thing for Breitbart bloggers to do that. But senators? Using tactics that are straightforward McCarthyism?
We all know the problem. It’s Rush Limbaugh and his imitators and Roger Ailes and his network. They drive this hatred daily, and they intentionally misinform and lie; you think it’s an accident that polls always find Fox viewers the least connected to empirical reality? Pushing this fury and constructing this alternate reality is great for business. But it’s horrible for America.
This is the poison in our politics. Nothing changes until it changes. . . . . only David Frum has addressed this problem. His 2011 New York magazine essay “When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?” said it well. He understands that this problem is one of the central facts of our current historical moment.
Again, I expect the downward spiral of the GOP to continue. The big question is how much damage is done to the country before the GOP shrinks sufficiently to no longer be able to damage.
Over the close to 20 years that I have been closely following Christian Right and "family values" years, beginning in my days in the Republican Party when the Christofascists began to take over the Republican Party of Virginia, my contempt for many of these people has grown geometrically. Simply put, many are not nice people and if one isn't a white evangelical/fundamentalist Christian their attitude towards these "others" is one of hate and bigotry. Worse yet, while they whine about freedom of religion and liberty under the U.S. Constitution, they see those rights as belonging only to themselves. No one else has any rights and when you stand up to them and demand your own equal rights the Christofascist claim that you are persecuting them. Bottom line, they are some of the most dishonest, selfish and hypocrisy filled individuals one is likely to ever encounter. Here in Virginia the situation is particularly egregious with The Family Foundation, a hate group in all but formal designation, playing puppet master to the Republican Party of Virginia. The Family Foundation constantly claims that "Christians" are being persecuted:
The right of conscience and the right to practice faith according to personal beliefs are sacred and should not be infringed or denied. In the birthplace of religious freedom, state police chaplains should not be censored; students should be allowed to share their faith at graduations; Christian run businesses should not be forced to hire people whose lifestyle is contradictory to their faith; pastors should not fear reprisal for speaking against lifestyles contrary to their beliefs. Yet in Virginia today, all those scenarios have either happened or could happen in the very near future if we don’t reestablish our First Freedom.
Yet in reality, they are the ones actively persecuting others, particularly LGBT individuals who they view with a hatred not too far removed from that of the Nazis towards the Jews in the 1930's. A piece in Metro Weekly looks at this sickening state of affairs. Here are highlights:
One thing about living in Virginia is that it makes you sensitive to small victories. While my friends in D.C. and Maryland enjoy the local legal benefits of getting gay married, my husband and I are simply happy that we can be on the same health insurance policy. While much remains to be done in D.C. for transgender Washingtonians, the city is bounds ahead of most of the country and Maryland is on a path to catch up. Transgender Virginians may enjoy some minor local protections and accommodations, as long the state government doesn't decide to step in and put a stop to it. So the bar for success is set low on this side of the Potomac.
The latest example is Virginia's upcoming anti-bullying law that could in theory provide protections for LGBT students who are victims of sustained harassment. I say ''in theory'' because the whole reason that the bill is poised to pass with strong support is that it was neutered to avoid directly addressing LGBT youth and to provide more protections for the ''real'' victims of bullying: Christians.
We've gotten used to anti-gay churches playing victim over the past few years as they've come to realize they're on the losing side of their culture war. That's why we keep seeing flare-ups of idiocy, like the group of concerned Christian parents in Indiana who decided they wanted a fag-free prom — that's what ''traditional prom'' means in their context — because the simple act of seeing the existence of gay people is bullying to them.
Things like the Virginia anti-bullying legislation aren't as flamboyant as small-town fights over proms, but they capitulate to the exact same fantasy that somehow Christians are losing their rights when we gain ours. Their relentless focus on being able to clothe their children in anti-gay slogans and spout Bible verses at any moment of their choosing continues to show their inability to understand that a right to free speech doesn't come with a right to force others to listen to it. Telling high-school hallway proselytizers to leave LGBT kids alone isn't bullying, it's the commonsense way to make sure all of them, Christians too, enjoy their right not to listen.
The only thing that matters to these self-appointed moral guardians is maintaining special status for their own children, no matter the damage their hate causes LGBT youth or that their indifference causes youth who are the wrong kind of Christian. I may be distant from my own church upbringing at this point in life, but I did pick up a lesson from Sunday school that should be universal: Selfishness in the face of suffering and injustice is an affront to God or the universe, whichever you happen to prioritize. It's as un-Christian an act as they come.
In truth, these foul people are not followers of Christ despite their application of the Christian label to themselves. They utterly ignore the Gospel message and selectively focus on Old Testament passages that they use to condemn others while making the Pharisees of the New Testament look like paragons of Christian virtue. We must do all we can to cause the larger public to see them for the horrible liars and hypocrites that they are in fact. Am I being too harsh? I think not. Here's what Matthew 23:13-15, 23-28 has to say about these types of people:
13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye enter not in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering in to enter. 14 (Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, even while for a pretence ye make long prayers: therefore ye shall receive greater condemnation.) 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is become so, ye make him twofold more a son of hell than yourselves. 23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye tithe mint and anise and cummin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith: but these ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone.
Friday, February 22, 2013
In a surprising column in the Washington Post, Michael Gerson - who is typically an apologist for the Republicans - argues that the GOP needs a transformation and that the party needs to come out of embracing the past and move towards the future. Obviously, it is not the message that the Christofascists in the GOP base want to hear as they endeavor feverishly to move the country back into the 1950's if not the Medieval period. No doubt Gerson - like Jon Huntsman - will be viewed as a heretic or a RINO, but sometimes the truth isn't what one wants to hear. The GOP needs to stop living in a fantasy world that doesn't exist and start to embrace objective reality. Here are some column highlights:
It is the nature of resilient institutions to take stock of new realities and adjust accordingly. In a new cover essay for Commentary magazine, Peter Wehner and I detail the examples of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Clinton broke a long Democratic presidential losing streak by emphasizing middle-class values, advocating the end of “welfare as we know it” and standing up to extreme elements within his coalition (thereby creating the “Sister Souljah moment”). In Britain, Blair went after the “moral chaos” that led to youth crime, abandoned his party’s official commitment to public ownership of the means of production and launched New Labor.The Republican Party now needs similar transformation. Out of the past six presidential elections, four have gone to the Democratic nominee, at an average yield of 327 electoral votes to 211 for the Republican. During the preceding two decades, from 1968 to 1988, Republicans won five out of six elections, averaging 417 electoral votes to Democrats’ 113.This stunning reversal of electoral fortunes has taken place for a variety of reasons: changing demographics; the end of a GOP foreign policy advantage during the Cold War; a serious gap in candidate quality; the declining relevance of economic policies that seem better suited to the 1980s; and an occasionally deserved reputation for being judgmental and censorious.Mitt Romney, lost by 5 million votes to a beatable incumbent presiding over an anemic economy. The explanation is not purely technical or personality oriented. At the national level, Republicans have a winning message for a nation that no longer exists. In retrospect, last year’s Republican primary process was entirely disconnected from the actual needs of the party.A Republican recovery in presidential politics will depend on two factors. First, candidates will need to do more than rebrand existing policy approaches or translate them into Spanish. Some serious rethinking is necessary, particularly on economic matters. In our Commentary essay, we raise ideas such as ending corporate welfare, breaking up the mega-banks, improving the treatment of families in the tax code, and encouraging economic mobility through education reform and improved job training. Whatever form Republican proposals eventually take, they must move beyond Reagan-era nostalgia.Second, Republican primary voters, party activists and party leaders have a choice to make, ruthlessly clarified by recent events. They can take the path of Democrats in 1988, doubling down on a faltering ideology. Or they can follow the model of Democrats in 1992 and their own party in 2000, giving their nominee the leeway needed to oppose outworn or extreme ideas and to produce an agenda relevant to our time.
As I have noted over and over again, I do not anticipate any meaningful change in the GOP until the Christofascists are driven from having any serious role in the GOP nominating process. They are fanatics who by definition want to move the country backwards and who ignore a changing reality.
The briefs in support of gay marriage and the striking down of Proposition 8 have begun to be filed with the American Foundation for Equal Rights ("AFER") submitting its brief yesterday. On the brief are David Boies and Ted Olson as well as mega-law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher based in Los Angeles. The brief argues at the broadest level that anti-gay marriage laws and state constitutional amendments are discriminatory and need to be struck down under the U. S. Constitution. In as much as there is NOTHING to support these anti-gay laws and amendments other than religious based discrimination and animus, the U.S. Supreme Court should, if intellectually honest and consistent with its pass rulings should issue a broad ruling ending all anti-gay marriage laws and amendments nationwide. As noted earlier in the week, the Mexican Supreme Court saw this reality when it struck down a gay marriage ban and relied on Loving v. Virginia and Brown v. Board of Education as supporting authority. BuzzFeed looks at the brief filing. Here are article highlights:
Nearly four years after filing the case, Ted Olson and David Boies told the Supreme Court Thursday that the Constitution "does not tolerate the permanent exclusion of gay men and lesbians from the most important relation in life" — marriage.As part of the challenge to California's Proposition 8 that the two lawyers have brought on behalf of two same-sex couples unable to marry in the state, Olson and Boies argue both broadly for a constitutional right to marry that should include same-sex couples and more narrowly that the vote in November 2008 to end same-sex couples' right to marry in California was unconstitutional."The unmistakable purpose and effect of Proposition 8 is to stigmatize gay men and lesbians—and them alone—and enshrine in California's Constitution that they are 'unequal to everyone else,'" they write.The Supreme Court is schedule to hear the arguments in the case on March 26, and a decision is expected by late June.
Here is an excerpt from the brief itself:
“Because of their sexual orientation—a characteristic with which they were born and which they cannot change—Plaintiffs and hundreds of thousands of gay men and lesbians in California and across the country are being excluded from one of life’s most precious relationships. They may not marry the person they love, the person with whom they wish to partner in building a family and with whom they wish to share their future and their most intimate and private dreams,”
“Although opening to them participation in the unique and immensely valuable institution of marriage will not diminish the value or status of marriage for heterosexuals, withholding it causes infinite and permanent stigma, pain, and isolation. It denies gay men and lesbians their identity and their dignity; it labels their families as second-rate. That outcome cannot be squared with the principle of equality and the unalienable right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness that is the bedrock promise of America from the Declaration of Independence to the Fourteenth Amendment, and the dream of all Americans. This badge of inferiority, separateness, and inequality must be extinguished. When it is, America will be closer to fulfilling the aspirations of all its citizens.”
View the full brief here. The forces in support of Proposition 8 largely base their argument on the lie that sexual orientation is a "choice" - despite the findings of every legitimate medical and mental health association in America - and that marriage should be reserved to those who can procreate while ignoring the fact that countless heterosexual couples who cannot have children are allowed to marry virtually every day of the year. It is sadly the typical dishonesty one can expect from those who seek to force their religious beliefs on all Americans and who seek to punish same sex couples for rejecting Christofascists beliefs.
It is an interesting phenomenon: as the influence of the Christian Right has increased in the Republican Party the level of lies and outright dishonesty of the GOP and its members in Congress has increased dramatically. For those who follow conservative Christian and "family values" groups, the phenomenon is actually what one would have expected because no one lies as much or as shamelessly as the "godly Christian" crowd and the professional Christian set which makes a living disseminating lies, hate and discord. Among the lies favored by the GOP is the myth that government spending has exploded under Barack Obama when in fact the real explosion in spending occurred under Bush/Cheney. Of late, the GOP claims that sequestration originated with the White House when in fact as evidenced by a recently disclosed e-mail and power point presentation, it originated with John Boehner and the GOP. And then there is the lie that the size of government is exploding under Obama, yet again it is not true. In fact, the number of government employees at all levels is shrinking as shown by the chart above (the peak in 2010 coincided with the hiring of large numbers of temporary census workers). If, sequestration kicks in on March 1, the number of government employees will drop further - as will the number of private sector employees as defense contractors, shipbuilding concerns, and many other market segments lay off workers. Here are highlights from a piece in the Virginian Pilot:
Republicans and other fiscal conservatives keep insisting on more federal austerity and a smaller government. Without much fanfare or acknowledgement, they've already gotten much of both.Spending by federal, state and local governments on payrolls, equipment, buildings, teachers, emergency workers, defense programs and other core governmental functions has been shrinking steadily since the deep 2007-2009 recession and as the anemic recovery continues.This recent shrinkage has largely been obscured by an increase in spending on benefit payments to individuals under "entitlement" programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans benefits. Retiring baby boomers are driving much of this increase.Another round of huge cuts - known in Washington parlance as the "sequester" - will hit beginning March 1, potentially meaning layoffs for hundreds of thousands of federal workers unless Congress and President Barack Obama can strike a deficit-reduction deal to avert them.Even as the private sector has been slowly adding jobs, governments have been shedding them, holding down overall employment gains and keeping the jobless rate close to 8 percent, compared with normal non-recessionary levels of 5 to 6 percent that have prevailed since the 1950s."It's a massive drag on the economy. We lost three-quarter million public-sector jobs in the recovery," said economist Heidi Shierholz of the labor-friendly Economic Policy Institute. "We're still losing government jobs, although the pace has slowed. But we haven't turned around yet."Soaring recent government deficits are partially a side effect of the worst recession since the 1930s, which took a huge bite out of tax revenues at the same time spending increased on recession-fighting programs like unemployment compensation and stimulus measures under both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama."The problem going forward is one of demographics and rising health care. It is the baby boom generation retiring," said Alice Rivlin, a White House budget director under President Bill Clinton. "It's the fact that everybody is living longer."The federal budget deficit for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 is estimated to be $845 billion - the first time it's dropped below $1 trillion in five years. But it's on track to rise again as more and more baby boomers retire and qualify for federal benefits and as interest payments on the national debt keep going up.Republicans oppose any new taxes, even if for closing loopholes rather than increasing rates.
As a former Republican myself, I like to believe that the GOP once stood for valuing reason, logic, intellect and some level of honesty. Those days are gone and the GOP now stands for lies, racism, bigotry and the open embrace of ignorance. My former compatriots who remain in the GOP truly need to take a good look in the mirror at themselves and honestly ask how and why they remain in the GOP. Again, I attribute much of the GOP's descent into rank dishonesty to the rise of the Christofascists within the party. These modern day Pharisees have absolutely no regard for the truth.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
We may never know what really caused football player Tim Tebow to cancel his scheduled appearance at the virulently anti-gay First Baptist Church of Dallas. As prior posts on this blog noted, Tebow - who I think often acts like a pretentious Pharisee through his public displays of supposed religiosity - was to have appeared in the company of Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church who has a horrific record on gay bashing and slandering and denigrating LGBT individuals in general. The Dallas Voice looks at Tebow's change of heart. Not surprisingly, First Baptist is trying to deny just how ugly Jeffress has made the "Christian" message. Here are article highlights:
Christian quarterback Tim Tebow announced this morning via Twitter that he was canceling his visit to First Baptist Church of Dallas “due to new information that has been brought to my attention.”
Perhaps that new information was how anti-gay First Baptists’ Pastor Robert Jeffress is, if anyone didn’t already know. Tebow was scheduled to share a “message of hope and Christ’s unconditional love,” but the athlete was criticized for agreeing to speak at such an anti-gay church.
A petition started on Change.org requested he cancel and affirm his inclusive views of the everyone, including the LGBT community.
First Baptist released a statement that said media reports had “grossly misrepresented past comments” by Jeffress. After his cancellation, they released a statement that the church was “saddened that Mr. Tebow felt pressure to back out of his long-planned commitment.”
Here's First Baptist's full CYA statement:
Statement by First Baptist Church Dallas re: Tim Tebow’s Cancellation of His First Speaking Engagement at First Baptist Church in April during Grand Opening Celebration February 21, 2013
The leaders and congregation of First Baptist Church Dallas are disappointed that New York Jets’ Quarterback Tim Tebow has announced he will no longer speak at First Baptist Church Dallas on April 28, 2013, as part of the month-long celebration events surrounding the grand opening of our new $130 million, state-of-the-art campus on Easter Sunday.
Mr. Tebow called Dr. Jeffress Wednesday evening saying that for personal and professional reasons he needed to avoid controversy at this time but would like to come to First Baptist Dallas to speak at a future date. We are saddened that Mr. Tebow felt pressure to back out of his long-planned commitment from numerous New York and national sports and news media who grossly misrepresented past comments made by our pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress, specifically related to issues of homosexuality and AIDS, as well as Judaism.
As a Christian pastor, Dr. Jeffress takes a biblical approach to moral and social issues, closely following his duty to preach ‘the whole counsel of God,’ and not just address issues that are politically correct. First Baptist is a church built on the truth of Scripture, even though at times that approach can be perceived as controversial or counter to the prevailing winds of culture.
The reason for the recent media firestorm is not because the Word of God has changed, but because society has changed.
More important, contrary to editorializing in the media, Dr. Jeffress shares a message of hope, not hate; salvation, not judgment; and a Gospel of God’s love, grace and new beginnings available to all.
Frankly, I don't believe a word of the First Baptist statement which might be best described as a fairy tale if one knows Jeffress' history. Indeed, under Jeffress, First Baptist Church has become best know as a messenger of hate. And when it refers to "Dr. Jeffress' biblical approach to moral and social issue,s" the statement utterly ignores the selective picking an choosing of which Bible passages can be conveniently ignored. The truth be told, Jeffress and First Baptist represent the hideous face of conservative Christianity which is driving the under 50 generations to leave organized religion entirely. If Tebow has any sense, he will never reschedule and never set foot in a hate filled church like First Baptist.
Echoing a theme that Andrew Sullivan voiced years ago and which more recently the Tory Party leadership in Britain has embraced, Jon Huntsman has come out for gay marriage and said that the Republican Party needs to shed its anti-gay mindset. Lest we forget, Huntsman is a Mormon with a conservative although his record when he was governor of Utah sought moderation on gay issues. Huntsman also argues that the GOP needs to rethink its positions on numerous others, including tax reform and immigration. Obviously, to the Christofascists and white supremacists in the GOP base, Huntsman is a heretic. Personally, I believe that Huntsman is a pragmatist who sees the GOP's homophobia as harming the Republican Party's long term viability. So long as religious denominations are free to recognize or not recognize same sex marriage, civil marriage should be open to all committed loving couples, gay or straight. Here are highlights from a piece in The American Conservative written by Huntsman:
The party of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan has now lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. The marketplace of ideas will render us irrelevant, and soon, if we are not honest about our time and place in history. Unfortunately, much of the discussion has focused on cosmetic solutions to, say, our underperformance among ethnic and young voters. This is a mistake: we cannot cross this river by feeling for stones. Instead, we need to take a hard look at what today’s conservatism stands for.
Conservatives can start by examining how Republicans working with Democrats have governed in several successful states, including Utah; free-market-based healthcare reform, tax reform that eliminated deductions and closed loopholes to bring down rates, and practical education reforms that spoke to 21st-century realities.
Instead of using immigration reform as a wedge issue, like many leaders in Washington, Utah passed legislation to help manage immigration based on our real economic needs. . . . . Building a winning coalition to tackle the looming fiscal and trust deficits will be impossible if we continue to alienate broad segments of the population. We must be happy warriors who refuse to tolerate those who want Hispanic votes but not Hispanic neighbors.
And, consistent with the Republican Party’s origins, we must demand equality under the law for all Americans.
While serving as governor of Utah, I pushed for civil unions and expanded reciprocal benefits for gay citizens. I did so not because of political pressure—indeed, at the time 70 percent of Utahns were opposed—but because as governor my role was to work for everybody, even those who didn’t have access to a powerful lobby. Civil unions, I believed, were a practical step that would bring all citizens more fully into the fabric of a state they already were—and always had been—a part of.
That was four years ago. Today we have an opportunity to do more: conservatives should start to lead again and push their states to join the nine others that allow all their citizens to marry.
All Americans should be treated equally by the law, whether they marry in a church, another religious institution, or a town hall. This does not mean that any religious group would be forced by the state to recognize relationships that run counter to their conscience. Civil equality is compatible with, and indeed promotes, freedom of conscience.
Marriage is not an issue that people rationalize through the abstract lens of the law; rather it is something understood emotionally through one’s own experience with family, neighbors, and friends. The party of Lincoln should stand with our best tradition of equality and support full civil marriage for all Americans.
We are at a crossroads. I believe the American people will vote for free markets under equal rules of the game—because there is no opportunity or job growth any other way. But the American people will not hear us out if we stand against their friends, family, and individual liberty.
I have always liked Huntsman and believe that the GOP threw away its chance of winning in 2012 by kicking Huntsman to the curb. Huntsman's only crime, if you will, was that he wasn't a nutcase and wasn't willing to prostitute himself to the worse elements of the GOP base. He sees the future while the gay haters and racists in the GOP are trying to recapture a past that will never again exist - if it ever even existed as they like to think it did. Will the GOP listen to his wisdom? Probably not. I can just image the spittle flying at FRC and other hater groups that control far too many of the GOP's policies.
LGBT Pov that looks at the development. Here are excerpts:
A San Francisco Chronicle article adds these details:
For a brief shining week at the end of January and into February, it appeared that the private, religious-based Boy Scouts of America might relent, acknowledge the progress made in ending discrimination against LGBT people, and lift its ban on gays serving as scouts or scout leaders. Of course, antigay groups such as the Family Research Council freaked out with FRC distributing a “May Day” to members to get in touch with BSA board members. It worked. BSA decided to postpone any decision until May, which was fine with FRC:Like you, we’re encouraged that the Board chose not to walk away from 103 years of tradition, but now the real work begins. As far as we’re concerned, it’s not enough that the Board postponed the decision on homosexuality. Instead, the Scouts should publicly reaffirm their current standards on homosexuality, as they did in July. Until they do, FRC will continue to rally parents and the faith-based groups chartering the majority of troops to reject any proposal that compromises their moral convictions. For now, educating Scout leaders about the dangerous fallout of a “fully inclusive” policy will be our top priority. . . . . The threats from the Left will keep coming, but we stand united in our goal to protect children and preserve the Boy Scouts’ proud heritage.Right again, though “threats from the Left” are actually much more in concert with American public opinion. . . . . And on Tuesday, Feb. 19, openly gay California State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) and Equality California introduced SB 323, a bill to advance that trend by removing a “state tax exemption for any youth group, including the Boy Scouts, that discriminate against members and leaders on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, organizations that discriminate on these grounds may still receive sales [see items BSA sells here ] and corporate tax exemptions, a provision that is intended to encourage acting in the public interest,” according to a joint press release. “SB 323 would end this exemption for youth groups that continue to discriminate by treating their sales to the same extent as any other retailers. This bill would also require organizations with discriminatory policies to pay corporate taxes on donations and other forms of income.“SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups by revoking their tax exemption privilege should they not comply with our non-discrimination laws.” “California does not tolerate discrimination, and by removing this exemption, we will make it clear to the Boy Scouts and all other organizations that discrimination has a real cost,” said John O’Connor, Equality California executive director. “We believe this legislation will encourage groups to do the right thing, which is ending their discriminatory policies that unfairly exclude LGBT people.”
A San Francisco Chronicle article adds these details:
Under what backers are calling the "Youth Equality Act," tax-exempt organizations - including student groups or sports and activity groups organized through public or private schools - would be barred from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. If passed, it would be the first such law in the country to revoke the tax-exempt status of youth organizations.
Because the measure involves changes to California's tax code, it would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature in order to pass.
As the prior post noted, polls show that a majority of blacks, Hispanics and younger voters support gay marriage and even in Virginia, polls show super majorities of voters supporting employment non-discrimination protections for LGBT citizens. Yet the GOP, both and at the national level, continues to prostitute itself to the Christofascist elements of the GOP party base - even though doing so is harming the party's competitiveness at a national level. In 2012, hate group leader Tony Perkins - who virtually personifies anti-gay animus - played a major role in drafting the GOP party platform. It doesn't get much more homophobic. A piece in The Daily Beast reviews how the GOP's continued prostitution of itself to the gay haters and professional Christian hate merchants is harming the party's national prospects. Here are highlights:
Republicans have just founded a new organization to groom minorities in the party. The GOP will never rebound, explains the group’s chairman, African-American former Republican congressman J.C. Watts, “until you get people that look like me in the trenches.”Republicans probably overestimate the traction they’ll get from changing the color and accents of their pitchmen. There’s something deeply patronizing about the GOP’s assumption that while its voters are motivated by ideology, Latino and black Democrats act merely on ethnic or racial affinity. The harsh truth is that the single biggest reason Latinos and African-Americans vote Democratic is that they mostly agree with Democrats that government should do more for people in need, even if that means less military spending and higher taxes.[T]he GOP’s new cult of racial and ethnic diversity bespeaks some recognition of the way America has changed. Where the party remains in deep denial is on the question of sexual orientation. For the Republican Party to truly compete in 21st-century America, it’s going to need more than merely black and brown spokespeople. It’s going to need openly gay and lesbian ones, too.
When it comes to accepting lesbians and gays, today’s Republican Party lags decades behind the Democrats. . . . . In today’s GOP, by contrast, not much has changed since 1977. Gays now serve openly in the Marine Corps, but being a gay or lesbian politician in the GOP still generally requires staying in the closet—at least until you’re outed in some humiliating scandal.
It’s easy to see why the GOP is not searching for openly gay and lesbian spokespeople in the same way it is hungering for black and Hispanic ones. Being a prominent African-American or Latino Republican may be tricky, but it doesn’t require embracing a party that explicitly opposes your right to get married, or to be free from various other forms of discrimination.
The problem is that the GOP’s problems are not just ethnic, they’re generational, too. Since younger Americans of virtually every ethnic and racial group are far more supportive of gay rights than are their elders, stitching together a multi-ethnic coalition against gay rights means building a coalition of the old. Even more important, for many younger Americans, supporting gay equality has become a symbol of modernity, as obvious and uncontroversial as knowing how to use Facebook. As Robert Draper noted in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, when male, 20-something Ohio swing voters were asked to describe the GOP, they volunteered words like “out of touch,” “hateful” and “1950s.” The party’s “brand,” one young Republican pollster told Draper, is “that we’re not in the 21st century.”
To overcome this generational disconnect, Republicans need to embrace gay marriage now rather than continuing to play catch-up as it becomes a fait accompli in more and more of the country. And they need to seek out gay and lesbian politicians who can personify the GOP’s new pro-gay rights stance.
To embrace gay rights, Republicans don’t need to abandon cultural conservatism. To the contrary, an unthinking, bigoted opposition to gay equality is preventing Republicans from fashioning a more meaningful culturally conservative message for today’s age. The real threats to traditional values in America today don’t come from committed, monogamous gays and lesbians.
Eventually, the Republican Party is likely to move in this direction, irrespective of the conflict it causes with the party’s Christian evangelical base. The sooner it does so, the faster it will make itself nationally competitive again.
The piece is, in my opinion, on point. Unfortunately, I do not see the GOP changing given the way in which the Christofascists have taken over the GOP grass roots. Added to the mix is that gay bashing is a prime money raising part of the professional Christian propaganda machine. If the gay bogey man goes away, many of the Christofascist hate merchants might have to get real jobs.
With a week to go before the deadline for filing a brief in the DOMA and Proposition 8 cases now before the U.S. Supreme Court the speculation of whether the Obama Justice Department will file briefs urging the striking down of both DOMA and Proposition 8 is intensifying as the speculation of how broadly the Court would be struck down. With majorities of black, Hispanic and younger voters now supporting gay marriage the risks to the administration would seem minimal and the reality is that older, racist white voters and Christofascists will never support Obama under any circumstances. Thus, a strong pro-gay marriage brief would seem to have the benefit of underscoring the growing anti-modernity and bigotry of today's GOP without any real downside. Here are highlights from a Virginian Pilot article that looks at the situation:
Facing heightened expectations from gay rights supporters, the Obama administration is considering urging the Supreme Court to overturn California's ban on gay marriage - a move that could have a far-reaching impact on same-sex couples across the country.The administration has one week to file a friend-of-the-court brief with the justices outlining its opinion on the California ban, known as Proposition 8. While an administration brief alone is unlikely to sway the high court, the government's opinion does carry weight with the justices.Opponents of the Proposition 8 ban believe the president signaled his intention to file a brief when he declared in last month's inaugural address that gays and lesbians must be "treated like anyone else under the law." An administration official said Obama - a former constitutional law professor - was not foreshadowing any legal action in his remarks and was simply restating his personal belief in the right of gays and lesbians to marry, though the official said the administration was considering filing a brief.Solicitor General Donald Verrilli is consulting with the White House on the matter, according to a senior administration official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to address the private deliberations publicly.While the Justice Department would make the filing, the president is almost certain to make the ultimate decision on whether to do so."I have to make sure that I'm not interjecting myself too much into this process, particularly when we're not a party to the case," Obama said Wednesday in an interview with San Francisco's KGO-TV.Seeking to capitalize on growing public support for gay marriage, advocates are calling on the administration to file a broad brief not only asking the court to declare California's ban unconstitutional but also urging the justices to make all state bans illegal."If they do make that argument and the court accepts it, the ramifications could be very sweeping," said Richard Socarides, an attorney and advocate.The administration could also file a narrower brief that would ask the court to issue a decision applying only to California. Or it could decide not to weigh in on the case at all.The Supreme Court, which will take up the case on March 26, has several options for its eventual ruling. Among them:- Uphold the state ban on gay marriage and say citizens of a state have the right to make that call.- Endorse an appeals court ruling that would make same-sex marriage legal in California but apply only to that state.- Issue a broader ruling that would apply to California and seven other states: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island. In those states, gay couples may join in civil unions that have all the benefits of marriage but may not be married.- Rule that the Constitution forbids states from banning same-sex unions.
Last month, Theodore Olson and David Boies, lawyers arguing for gay marriage, met with Verrilli and other government lawyers to urge the administration to file a brief in the case. A few days later, Charles Cooper, the lawyer defending Proposition 8, met with the solicitor general to ask the government to stay out of the case. Those kinds of meetings are typical in a high court case when the government is not a party and is not asked by the court to make its views known.Boies and Chad Griffin, president of the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, also had a meeting at the White House on the case.Ahead of next week's deadline, nearly two dozen states have filed briefs with the court asking the justices to uphold the California measure.
Obviously, I hope Obama pushes his administration to file a brief and make the argument that the U. S. Constitution bars states from banning same sex civil law marriage. With France and Britain on the verge of approving gay marriage and the recent Mexican Supreme Court ruling, to argue such a position is increasingly in the mainstream. It is the Christofascists and gay-haters who no longer represent the mainstream.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Speaking of liars and hate merchants, Pope Benedict XVI and his sycophants in the Catholic Church hierarchy speak out of one side of their mouths that LGBT individuals should be treated with respect and dignity. But then we see what they really believe as they seek to defame gays and deprive us of civil legal rights. What am I talking about? On the issue of defaming gays, African Cardinal Peter Turkson (pictured above), one of the top contenders for the papacy, has issued statements that seek to blame gays for the Church's worldwide sex abuse crisis. Never mind the hierarchy's sick obsession with all things sexual and the warped psycho-sexual development of far too many seminarians. Gay Star News looks at Turkson's anti-gay batshitery. Here are highlights:
The African cardinal widely tipped to be the next pope has blamed the Catholic Church’s pedophilia on gay priests. Cardinal Peter Turkson, from Ghana, said the sex abuses would never happen in Africa because the culture is against homosexuality.
Speaking to CNN, the 64-year-old said: ‘African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against the tendency. ‘Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa homosexuality or for that matter any affair between two sexes of the same kind, are not countenanced in our society.’ ‘So that cultural taboo, that tradition has been there,’ Turkson said. ‘It has served to keep it out.’
Never mind the fact that many experts on the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal expect that before long a scandal similar to what has been seen all around the world will explode in Africa. Indeed, the only reason that it hasn't exploded yet is because of the general ignorance and lack of education of most of the victims and their families. When the sex abuse scandal does explode, I'm sure that once again Tuckson will blame it on the gays. The real problem as often noted is the Church's bizarre and obsessive approach to all things sexual as symbolized by the image below:
I was raised as a Catholic, so I know all too well the obsession with sex and the evil nature and temptations of women.
Meanwhile the Church hierarchy continues its attack on any form of gay rights in America. With the recent announcement that the Department of Defense will be extending some spousal benefits to gay service members and their families, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, and the vitriolic anti-gay Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco are throwing hissy fits that would out do the most outrageous drag queen. The Navy Times looks at their efforts to undermine the goal of affording equal treatment to same sex couple headed military families. What exposes the actions of these men as disingenuous bullshit is their supposed concern for children. This from men who are part of the organization that has orchestrated a world wide criminal conspiracy to protect child rapists and obstruct justice. Excuse me while I go make use of a vomit bag. Here are excepts from the Navy Times article:
Two Catholic archbishops — one of them the archbishop of the military archdiocese — have expressed concern about the potential effects of the Defense Department’s new policy extending more benefits to same-sex domestic partners, to include negative effects on religious freedom and on children.
Broglio said the new policy could have possible negative effects on religious liberty, and used the example of an attorney in the Judge Advocate General Corps. “Could a JAG officer choose, out of religious or moral convictions, not to give legal advice on marital and family issues to same-sex ‘partners’ without being subject to discipline? Forcing the officer to violate his conscience would not be fair,” he said in the statement.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops’ subcommittee for the promotion and defense of marriage, also expressed concerns about the policy’s potential effects on children.
Cordileone focused on the potential effects on children. “There is no question that all service members should be treated equally, but it is not discrimination to treat different things differently. Only a man and a woman can bring children into the world, and so marriage, as the foundation of the family, by its very nature can only be between a man and a woman,” he said.
Under Cordileone's bizarre manifestation of concern for children, the children of same sex military couples would be deprived of benefits and legal rights and resources. Sadly, it is not surprising that "princes of the church" such as Broglio and Cordileone - who are part of a criminal conspiracy involving crimes against children - would seek to harm the children of same sex couples one or both of whom is/are in the U.S. military. And believe me, I know a number of same sex couples locally where one of the spouses is in the military. Real couples and real children are harmed by the agenda of Broglio and Cordileone - just as real children were and are being harmed by the Vatican orchestrated conspiracy to protect child rapists.
In several previous posts on this blog it was noted that with sequestration to commence on March 1st the Republican mantra has become that sequestration was the brainchild of the Obama White House. There's only one problem with the GOP storyline is that it isn't true. That's right, sequestration actually began with the Congressional Republicans as evidenced by an e-mail and power point presentation from none other than GOP Speaker of the House John Boehner. This reality needs to be shouted from the mountain tops to educate the general populace that the GOP leaders in Congress are - surprise, surprise - lying (one Hampton Roads local subscriber repeated the lie in a comment on the article I linked to in this morning's post on sequestration). A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the documentation that traces sequestration right back to the GOP members of Congress. Here are excerpts:
With deep sequestration cuts just days away, Congress is on vacation. But they’ve still got plenty of time to play the blame game. The latest semantic spin is to call the looming $1.2 trillion in cuts, which could throw the whole economy back into recession, “Obama’s Sequester.” House Speaker John Boehner indulged this approach half a dozen times in a floor speech before he went on break, establishing its place in the talking-points firmament.
There are a couple problems with this tactic, as my colleague Michael Tomasky pointed out Tuesday. Congress passed sequestration before the president signed it, and the whole self-defeating exercise was carried out in response to Tea Party Republicans’ insistence that we play chicken with the debt ceiling, which ultimately cost America its AAA credit rating.
But here’s the thing. I happened to come across an old email that throws cold water on House Republicans’ attempts to call this “Obama’s Sequester.” It’s a PowerPoint presentation that Boehner’s office developed with the Republican Policy Committee and sent out to the Capitol Hill GOP on July 31, 2011. Intended to explain the outline of the proposed debt deal, the presentation is titled: “Two Step Approach to Hold President Obama Accountable.”
It’s essentially an internal sales document from the old dealmaker Boehner to his unruly and often unreasonable Tea Party cohort. But it’s clear as day in the presentation that “sequestration” was considered a cudgel to guarantee a reduction in federal spending—the conservatives’ necessary condition for not having America default on its obligations.
The presentation lays out the deal in clear terms, describing the spending backstop as “automatic across-the-board cuts (‘sequestration’). Same mechanism used in 1997 Balanced Budget Agreement.”
- Sets up a new sequestration process to cut spending across-the-board—and ensure that any debt limit increase is met with greater spending cuts—IF Joint Committee fails to achieve at least $1.2T in deficit reduction.
- If this happens, POTUS may request up to $1.2T for a debt limit increase, and if granted, then across-the-board spending cuts would result that would equal the difference between $1.2T and the deficit reduction enacted as a result of Joint Committee.
- Across-the-board spending cuts would apply to FYs 2013-2021, and apply to both mandatory & discretionary programs.
- Total reductions would be equally split between defense and non-defense programs. Across-the-board cuts would also apply to Medicare. Other programs, including Social Security, Medicaid, veterans, and civil & military pay, would be exempt.
- Sequestration process is designed to guarantee that Congress acts on the Joint Committee’s legislation to cut spending.And that’s pretty much exactly what’s scheduled to start happening on March 1. Democrats could just as easily spin this as “Boehner’s Sequester” or “Cantor’s Sequester” and offer indelible digital evidence to back up their claim.
|A slide from the final page of Speaker John Boehner's Powerpoint to House Republicans on July 31st, 2011, obtained by The Daily Beast.|
Boehner's full power point can be found here. Boehner and his fellow Republicans are, simply put, liars. What's particularly telling is that the increase in the rank dishonesty of the GOP is that to correlates directly with the rise of the Christofascists within the GOP. No one lies more than the self-congratulatory "godly Christian" crowd and their political whores in the GOP.
Thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA") legally married same sex couples are treated as total strangers under America's immigration laws and, as the non-citizen's visas expire, many couples are deciding to leave the United States. It's a phenomenon that I'm sure warms the hearts of Christofascists who would deport all gays (e.g., Del. Bob Marshall here in Virginia), but it ought to disturb anyone who believes in equality under the nation's civil laws and religious freedom. The ONLY basis behind DOMA was and continues to be to punish same sex couples for refusing to live their lives in accordance with far right Christian beliefs. A piece in the New York Times looks at gay couples being forced to leave America rather than be separated from the lawful spouses. Here are excerpts:
Not long ago, Brandon Perlberg had a growing law practice and a Manhattan apartment he shared with his partner, who is British. They hosted themed dinner parties and wine tastings for a wide circle of friends.But Mr. Perlberg, an American who is gay, now lives in London. Early last year he reluctantly left his law firm, rented out his apartment and said goodbye to friends. After nearly seven years in the United States on legal but temporary visas, his partner had not been able to obtain a visa as a permanent resident. The two were facing the possibility of permanent separation.Americans with a foreign-born spouse of the opposite sex are able to get them resident visas, or green cards, with relative ease. But federal law does not allow Americans to petition for green cards for same-sex spouses or partners. Eventually, they face a choice of remaining in the country with the immigrant here illegally or leaving the United States.“Ultimately, we resolved that staying together was the most important thing for us,” Mr. Perlberg said. “And the only way to guarantee that we got to stay together was by making this move.”Mr. Perlberg is part of a diaspora of gay Americans who have found they had to uproot and leave the country to continue to live with foreign partners. And this year, binational gay couples like his are a new — and controversial — focus of the debate in Washington on an ambitious overhaul of immigration laws. In a blueprint that President Obama presented last month, he pledged to give citizens, and also immigrants who are legal residents, the ability to petition for a green card for a same-sex foreign partner, if they can show they have “a permanent relationship.”The Supreme Court will also take up same-sex issues this year, with hearings in March on two cases that challenge the definition of marriage as being a union between only a man and a woman. One case deals directly with a 1996 statute, the Defense of Marriage Act, that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage and governs the exclusion of gay couples from visas and other immigration benefits.Leading Republican lawmakers have questioned whether Congress should include such a hotly disputed issue in the debate when it will also wrangle with giving legal status to 11 million illegal immigrants.In July 2011, same-sex marriage became legal in New York State. But under the federal marriage law, Mr. Storey still would not have been eligible for a green card as a spouse.As Mr. Perlberg watches from London, he acknowledges that things could be worse. “London is not Siberia,” he said. “I have a new job and a new career, and I’m excited about that.” But he said he wrestles with resentment. “It’s very difficult as an American to have gone through all that and know that the country just pushed us out for being in love,” he said, “and being gay.”
I understand the resentment part. The sad truth is that certainly in Virginia, but in America at large, LGBT individuals are less than full citizens - all because of insidious religious based discrimination. Something the Constitution itself prohibits, yet the GOP and the Christofascists persist in defending discrimination and bigotry. If circumstances were different, I would leave not only Virginia but the USA as well. Hopefully, rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court in June will move me towards full, equal citizenship.