Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Australian Capital Territory to Legalise Gay Marriage by Year End

Despite the efforts by conservatives and a vow by newly elected prime Minister Tony Abbott to block gay marriage in Australia, the Australian Capital Territory - Australia's equivalent to the District of Columbia - is promising to enact gay marriage legislation before the end of the year.  As has happened in America, once gay marriage comes to one state or territory, pressure will increase in others to follow suit.  As is always the case, the "godly Christian" folk are opposed to the measure since they only feel good about themselves when forcing their poisonous religious beliefs on all citizens just like their American Christofascist counterparts.  The Guardian looks at the development.  Here are highlights:

The Australian Capital Territory government is set to legalise same-sex marriage by the end of the year and chief minister Katy Gallagher told Guardian Australia that she doesn’t expect the federal Coalition government to overturn the legislation.

The Labor administration of the territory will put forward a bill that will enable gay marriage, following a decade-long attempt to legislate in the area.

Seven years ago, the John Howard-led government used its federal powers to overturn an ACT move to allow same-sex civil unions. The ACT has since reinstated civil unions.

The legislation is set to be an early test for the prime minister elect, Tony Abbott, who has consistently opposed same-sex marriage but has held out the prospect of a vote on the issue at some time in the future.

Gallagher told Guardian Australia that she didn’t expect the Coalition to intervene to prevent gay marriage in the ACT.  “We’ve been pretty clear on this issue for some time now and there’s overwhelming community support for this,” she said.

“Any intervention won’t be easy and we certainly don’t want to be the first test of the new Senate. I think opposition to this has softened within politics in acknowledgment of the fact that the community has shifted its view in favour.

The federal government’s power over the territories has changed since Howard used his executive veto. A repeal of ACT marriage equality would have to pass both houses of the federal parliament, presenting a potentially tricky challenge for the Abbott government.

Gallagher said that she expected the ACT’s stance on marriage equality to be replicated across Australia.

“I can see Tasmania is making a good effort in this area but we will be the first,” she said. “I would expect that something will be put to the federal parliament in this term. The Labor party has led this debate nationally and I expect more and more people to support it. We have waited long enough for this.”

On Thursday, the Australian Christian Lobby urged federal Labor not to introduce a private member’s bill to legalise same-sex marriage.

Republicans Worried About Cuccinelli’s Prospects

Meanwhile, as the ad mentioned in the last post prepares to run, panic appears to be setting in Republican circles.  This is a very good thing because, if the perception becomes one that Cuccinelli has already lost, it may depress Republican turn out.  The risk, of course, is that Democrats become complacent and stay home.  This cannot be allowed to happen because in my view it is crucial that Cuccinelli and the rest of the GOP extremist slate lose, but that they lose by a landslide.  Why?  Because the GOP slate was nominated by The Family Foundation and Tea Party extremists.  A horrific loss may be what the Virginia GOP needs to convince what moderates are left and the so-call GOP establishment to wrench the GOP back from the forces of hate and bigotry best personified by the Christofascists and Tea Party factions.  The Washington Post looks at the growing panic in the Virginia GOP.  Here are excerpts:

National and state Republicans are increasingly nervous about Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II’s campaign for Virginia governor, which they said is lagging behind Democrat Terry McAuliffe because of internal mistakes as well as forces beyond Cuccinelli’s control.

With seven weeks to Election Day, Cuccinelli is trailing in public polls and in fundraising. Republicans are scrambling to improve a field operation that underperformed in 2012. And while McAuliffe has faced scrutiny for his business dealings, the legal cloud surrounding Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and a probe of how the attorney general’s office has handled a gas royalties case have cast a spotlight on Cuccinelli’s own ethics that neither party expected.

Several Republican officials and operatives outside the campaign, most of whom requested anonymity in order to be frank about the state of the race, said they believe Cuccinelli is down . . . .

“I think McAuliffe has a real advantage in the race,” said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.

Now that Labor Day has passed, Rothenberg said, voters’ “opinions are gelling. That doesn’t mean the race is over, but there is a significant burden now on Cuccinelli to change the trajectory. . . . He’s going to have to get a significant portion of the people who haven’t made up their minds yet.”

 A Quinnipiac University poll released last month showed McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli among likely voters, 48 to 42 percent. Three other automated polls released this month showed McAuliffe ahead by similar margins.

The state inspector general is investigating whether an assistant in Cuccinelli’s office gave improper legal help to energy companies battling with Southwest Virginia landowners over gas royalties.

Republicans lamented Cuccinelli’s fundraising disadvantage; through June 30, he had raised $7.7 million, while McAuliffe had raised $12.7 million. Fresh fundraising numbers are due Monday.

In a memo on the state of the race issued Friday, McAuliffe spokesman Brennan Bilberry suggested the Cuccinelli team was becoming “shrill” and desperate.
“It is clear that the Cuccinelli campaign is seeing the same things in their internal polls that Virginians see in public polls: Terry’s position continues to strengthen while Cuccinelli’s position continues to slip as a result of his ethics scandals and extreme social agenda,” Bilberry wrote.
Again, we need a massive Democrat turn out to hand Cuccinelli, Jackson and Obenshain a massive defeat.  The Family Foundation and Tea Party extremists nominated this nutcases and a devastating loss would be wonderful to hang around their necks.  Such a defeat would lead to delicious back biting and backstabbing within the Virginia GOP and perhaps embolden Republicans elsewhere to seize the party back from extremists and white supremacists.  The Family Foundation and Tea Party extremists need to become persona non gratis within the Virginia GOP from November 5th on forward.

New Ad Hits Ken Cuccinelli on CONSOL Energy Scandal

I have been maintaining for some time that Ken Cuccinelli's "Giftgate" scandal involving money and gifts received from Jonnie R. Williams, Sr./Star Scientific pales in comparison to the Consol Energy scandal in which Cuccinelli received $140,000 in exchange for improper assistance to private energy company litigants battling against Virginia property owners.  Now, a new ad that I mentioned previously is about to hit the airwaves and hopefully educate voters on this scandal.  According to Mike Casey of NextGen Climate Action Committee Virginia the ad will run in the Richmond, Roanoke, and Norfolk markets for the next 10 days starting tomorrow morning.  Casey also noted that the "CONSOL scandal is far, far worse - it's a lot more money, it's a gross violation of public trust, and it involves an active state investigation into his office's conduct."  In fact, Casey added, "it appears that the only reason why [Cuccinelli himself] is not being investigated is because of the loophole in Virginia's Inspector General law."  Here are more details on Casey's remarks via Blue Virginia:

[A]s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wasn't just enriching himself with luxury gifts and meals from Jonnie Williams, while pleading poverty...when he was faced with calls to return that money on a $194,000-per-year salary, he was taking enormous amounts of campaign cash from an out-of-state fossil fuel company while his office helped it rip off the people that elected him...Campaign shake-ups, 30-minute Hail Mary commercials, and a YouTube apology video is not going to address the very ugly timing of contributions and favors in the CONSOL scandal...

Ken Cuccinelli must release all of his office's email contacts with CONSOL, he needs to return this dirty money, and he needs to stop ducking questions...He has run from the media, he has run from watchdog groups, and he has run from citizens - it is ridiculous...Ken Cuccinelli's corruption is making us look like some sort of banana republic...This commercial is not going to be the last [Cuccinelli] will hear [on this issue]...

He's in deep trouble in Southwest Virginia and he should be, because that's where most of the people who were hurt by his actions live, and this commercial is designed to ensure that the rest of the state zeroes in on these questions and presses him for answers. We have every confidence that this is becoming not just a Southwest Virginia issue but a statewide issue...

...Being a climate denier and appearing to rent out the top law enforcement office [in Virginia] to an out-of-state fossil fuel company go hand and hand.
Cuccinelli can dissemble all he wants, but the reality is that something stinks to high Heaven and I find it impossible to believe that Cuccinelli's office took it upon itself to improperly aid energy companies without Cuccinelli's knowledge and direction.  If he claims otherwise, there is one word that describes him: LIAR.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Hate Group: Boycott Betty Crocker

Tony Perkins - the KKK affiliated leader of registered hate group Family Research Council - has his panties in a wad and is calling on godly Christofascists to boycott Betty Crocker products in particular and General Mills products in general.  Why?  Because the company has been supportive of gay marriage and recognizes that a majority of Americans now support marriage equality.  Of course, the idea of a Christofascist boycott is a farce.  When faced with a boycott orchestrated by American Family Association, another registered hate group, Starbucks' saw its profits increase significantly.  I for one will make a point of buying General Mills products.  Here's a sampling of Perkins' spittle flecked caterwalling:

At Betty Crocker, the only thing they're mixing up is their priorities. Hi, I'm Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. If you ask conservatives, Betty Crocker's latest promotion is a recipe for disaster. This summer, the famous dessert line decided to jump on the same-sex "marriage" bandwagon-and bring cakes to celebrate. In Minnesota, where parent company General Mills is headquartered, Betty Crocker decided to donate wedding cakes to the first homosexual couples who exchanged vows on the first day that counterfeit marriage was legal. "Betty celebrates all families," said manager Laura Forero. "We don't want to be old fashioned," the company explained. Unfortunately for General Mills, the majority of Americans think natural marriage is anything but old fashioned. And they've made it tough on companies like Target, Starbucks, and JC Penney who disagree. Know where your money is going. When you're at the store, think outside the Betty Crocker box! For a full list of products that are undermining marriage, check out

The irony, of course, is that Christofascists like Perkins have a conniption fit when LGBT groups call for boycotts of anti-gay companies.  Joe Jervis sums up the hypocrisy well:

When anti-gay Christianist hate groups call for nationwide boycotts of LGBT-friendly companies, that is a righteous use of the free market in order to preserve morality, marriage, family, and The American Way. But when GAY groups use or threaten the use of a boycott, THAT is homofascist intimidation, intolerance, bullying, and a "mafia-style" attempt to deny the freedom of speech. (Hello, Oregon!) Just so we're clear.

My contempt for the "conservative Christian" crowd grows more every day.

Rich Man’s Recovery

The Republican Party's goal for America is a return to the Gilded Age when multimillionaires lived like royalty and the rest of us lived like serfs and feudal vassals.  Unfortunately, this goal is coming into fruition as social mobility is now greater in Europe than in America and the wealthy disparities are so great that they would shock banana republic rulers of old.  They myth of the American Dream is dying for most Americans and many realize that their children will not have a better life and more financial security that they or their parents enjoyed.  It is demoralizing, but this what is happening.  A column in the New York Times looks at the ugly reality.  Here are excerpts:

A few days ago, The Times published a report on a society that is being undermined by extreme inequality. This society claims to reward the best and brightest regardless of family background. In practice, however, the children of the wealthy benefit from opportunities and connections unavailable to children of the middle and working classes. And it was clear from the article that the gap between the society’s meritocratic ideology and its increasingly oligarchic reality is having a deeply demoralizing effect. 

The report illustrated in a nutshell why extreme inequality is destructive, why claims ring hollow that inequality of outcomes doesn’t matter as long as there is equality of opportunity. If the rich are so much richer than the rest that they live in a different social and material universe, that fact in itself makes nonsense of any notion of equal opportunity. 

By the way, which society are we talking about? The answer is: the Harvard Business School. . . .
The point, of course, is that as the business school goes, so goes America, only even more so — a point driven home by the latest data on taxpayer incomes. 

The data in question have been compiled for the past decade by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, who use I.R.S. numbers to estimate the concentration of income in America’s upper strata. According to their estimates, top income shares took a hit during the Great Recession, as things like capital gains and Wall Street bonuses temporarily dried up. But the rich have come roaring back, to such an extent that 95 percent of the gains from economic recovery since 2009 have gone to the famous 1 percent. In fact, more than 60 percent of the gains went to the top 0.1 percent, people with annual incomes of more than $1.9 million.

Only a small fraction of college graduates make it into the charmed circle of the 1 percent. Meanwhile, many, even most, highly educated young people are having a very rough time. They have their degrees, often acquired at the cost of heavy debts, but many remain unemployed or underemployed, while many more find that they are employed in jobs that make no use of their expensive educations. The college graduate serving lattes at Starbucks is a cliché, but he reflects a very real situation.

[W]hatever is causing the growing concentration of income at the top, the effect of that concentration is to undermine all the values that define America. Year by year, we’re diverging from our ideals. Inherited privilege is crowding out equality of opportunity; the power of money is crowding out effective democracy.

So what can be done? For the moment, the kind of transformation that took place under the New Deal — a transformation that created a middle-class society, not just through government programs, but by greatly increasing workers’ bargaining power — seems politically out of reach. But that doesn’t mean we should give up on smaller steps, initiatives that do at least a bit to level the playing field. 

Take, for example, the proposal by Bill de Blasio, who finished in first place in Tuesday’s Democratic primary and is the probable next mayor of New York, to provide universal prekindergarten education, paid for with a small tax surcharge on those with incomes over $500,000. The usual suspects are, of course, screaming and talking about their hurt feelings; they’ve been doing a lot of that these past few years, even while making out like bandits. But surely this is exactly the sort of thing we should be doing: Taxing the ever-richer rich, at least a bit, to expand opportunity for the children of the less fortunate. 

Some pundits are already suggesting that Mr. de Blasio’s unexpected rise is the leading edge of a new economic populism that will shake up our whole political system. That seems premature, but I hope they’re right. For extreme inequality is still on the rise — and it’s poisoning our society. 

Sensing Impending Loss, Cuccinelli Changes Campaign Staff

As noted in the prior post, the 2013 Virginia elections are perhaps the most important ever for LGBT Virginians.  Thus, the boyfriend and I have been doing all we can to support the Democratic ticket of Terry McAuliffe, Ralph Northam and Mark Herring.  We have been to fundraisers for all three (we are going to another one for Northam next week), we have housed a McAuliffe campaign worker and we have our yard sign already in place.  Local readers should check out my column in the September 15, 2013, edition of VEER Magazine in which I make the case as to why all forward thinking voters need to vote for McAuliffe.   

The good news is that Ken Cuccinelli seems to be rightfully tanking in the polls and a sense of desperation appears to be overtaking Cuccinelli's campaign.  But, pro-equality, pro-women, and pro-minority voters cannot get complacent.  It is critical that Cuccinelli - and the rest of the Family Foundation nominated GOP slate - lose by a land slide.  Nothing short of a staggering defeat will force the Virginia GOP to come into the 21st century and kick the Christofascists to the curb where they belong.  If the GOP slate loses, there will be no opportunity to claim they lost because the ticket was not conservative enough.  And the message Virginia can send against far right extremism can reverberate all across America.

The Virginian Pilot reports on changes in Cuccinelli's campaign staff as even the insane Cuccinelli seems to realize that his campaign is sinking.  Here are highlights:

Some senior staff members working to get Ken Cuccinelli elected governor have had their roles redefined in a move that insiders say was made to reinvigorate the Republican's campaign.

The announcement at a Monday meeting in the campaign's Springfield headquarters came as Cuccinelli tries to reframe his race with Democrat Terry McAuliffe. It was also made as anxious supporters and donors take note of recent polls showing Cuccinelli trailing.

Adjustments or not, structural changes this late suggest there's internal worry, University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato said.

"You do not shake up a winning team," he said. "You shake up a team when its campaign seems to be losing."

Sources familiar with the Cuccinelli campaign who spoke on the condition of anonymity say things haven't reached panic mode.

"They are circling the wagons, trying to rescue the campaign," said a Republican familiar with the inner workings of Cuccinelli's operation.

Said another: "They are putting people more in charge that know him best" to improve things in the critical weeks after Labor Day.

Polling can shape perception, and the Real Clear Politics average of three polls in the past month have Cuccinelli more than 7 percentage points behind McAuliffe.

This week, the Rothenberg Political Report reclassified Virginia's gubernatorial contest as "Leans Democrat" after labeling it a "Pure Toss-up" since May.

Other distractions stemming from his work as attorney general seem more of Cuccinelli's own making because he chose to keep that job while seeking higher office. Those issues have interfered with the campaign's attempt to make the race a referendum on McAuliffe's resume as a political money man with a questionable business record, some Republicans lament.

"McAuliffe isn't looking like the devil to the business community as Democrats sometimes do," said the GOP source familiar with fundraising.

 I cannot stress enough how important it is that those who want to move Virginia forward, expand equality, stop voter disenfranchisement and support women's' rights turn out vote on election day.  The Virginia GOP - and by extension, the Christofascists and Tea Party - must suffer a humiliating defeat on November 5th.

Virginia's 2013 Battlefield - What It Means for LGBT Virginians

For LGBT Virginians, the candidates of the Virginia GOP and the Democrats are polar opposites.  On the Republican side, the candidates would like to re-criminalize homosexuality and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court to reinstate Virginia's sodomy statute which despite Cuccinelli's claims to the contrary has historically been used to target gays and impose felony convictions rather mere misdemeanor convictions that would otherwise apply.  In contrast, the Democratic slate supports gay marriage and employment non-discrimination protections.  A piece in Metro Weekly looks at the race and what is at stake for LGBT Virginians.  Here are highlights:

In recent years, the Virginia General Assembly has passed legislation making it harder for gay people to adopt, placed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the ballot – easily approved by voters – and has scuttled bills that would prohibit employment discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee for governor, has arguably made a career out of opposing LGBT equality.

Against this backdrop, Virginia's LGBT community and its allies are hoping to rally, raise money and fight back against even further erosion of rights in the commonwealth.

[On] LGBT-related issues, however, Fisette noted there, too, Richmond can pull the rug out from under local jurisdictions. He pointed to the Arlington County Board, prior to his election, adding domestic-partner benefits, after which the county was successfully sued, with the Supreme Court of Virginia ruling the county had not been granted authority by the General Assembly to grant such benefits. He also noted that although some jurisdictions have nondiscrimination laws that cover sexual orientation, bills that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity have regularly passed the state Senate only to be killed in the House of Delegates.

The passage of a nondiscrimination bill remains one of Equality Virginia's main priorities, but Fisette told Metro Weekly that it will require ''significant turnover'' in the House of Delegates in November to find enough votes to pass such a bill.

''This election is more stark than most, because you have a rabidly anti-gay candidate versus a strong ally for governor,'' Fisette said of LGBT issues in this year's elections. ''And, frankly, it goes all the way down the ticket. In Virginia, we have to be as committed to voting this year as we were last year for Obama.''

Regarding this fall's statewide races, Parrish said that Virginia's business community has already weighed in on LGBT equality by instituting employment-nondiscrimination policies and domestic-partner benefits, in contrast with Virginia government.

Parrish characterized Cuccinelli's actions as attorney general as ''quite aggressive'' in opposing LGBT equality, and suggested that voters also look closely at the attorney general's race in addition to the governor's race, as the next attorney general will interpret various laws that directly impact LGBT Virginias.

''Local and state governments need to catch up with the business community,'' Parrish said. ''We cannot continue to be hurt by an attorney general and a governor who think LGBT people should not be treated equally.''

LGBT Virginians cannot afford to be complacent or to sit on their asses at home on election day.  They need to get out and vote and work to make sure all of their friends and neighbors get out and vote for pro-equality candidates.   If they don't, we may pay a very high price.  The same goes for women and minorities.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

More Thursday Male Beauty

click image to enlarge
Tom Daley - This one's for you Douglas.

Consol Energy - Ken Cuccinelli's Most Serious Conflict of Interest/Ethics Problem

Click image to enlarge
Even though he has donated $18,000 to a charity - a charity run by some of his large donors - in an effort to deflect the ongoing "Gift Gate" scandal arising from gifts he received from Jonnie R. Williams, Sr./Star Scientific, Ken Cuccinelli continues to take a beating and is accused of doing too little too late.  But by far the largest ethical/conflict of interest problem for Kookinelli is that relating to Consol Energy and the improper assistance Cuccinelli's office gave to private litigants in a civil lawsuit against Virginia landowners.   The Virginia news media should be jumping on this issue non-stop.  Given the timing of the AG's office's improper assistance and the subsequent large contributions made to Cuccinelli's campaign by the beneficiaries of such improper assistance, it is difficult to see the contributions as anything other than payments made in exchange for favorable treatment.  Another word for such payments might be bribes.   

As noted before in prior posts, I find it inconceivable that a senior Assistant Attorney General would have provided assistance to the energy company litigants without directives from above.  From my many dealings with the AG's office, such things simply do not happen and Cuccinelli's claims that he knew nothing about it just do not ring true.   From my experience in the oil and gas industry (both with a law firm representing energy companies and as in-house counsel for the oil and gas subsidiary of a Fortune 50 company), this type of assistance is NOT normal and simply does not happen under normal circumstances.  In short, it is difficult to explain why the improper assistance occurred except Cuccinelli's use of his office to benefit contributors in exchange for money.  In my view, the FBI needs to be investigating Cuccinelli for this behavior which would seem to be directly tied to very large campaign contributions.  A piece in The Checks and Balances Project lays out a timeline that shows that Cuccinelli's lies explanations to date do not add up.  Here are highlights:

The unfolding controversy around Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s involvement with CONSOL Energy Inc., a Pittsburgh-based fossil fuel (oil, gas and coal) company, has focused on the widely criticized assistance his office provided the company. It also has focused on the total amount of money Cuccinelli has received from CONSOL.

When forced to respond to C&BP recently, Cuccinelli has asserted the company “gave me $100,000 after I opposed them.” A comparison of the timing of contributions and actions that favored CONSOL paint a very different picture.

In the first eight years of Mr. Cuccinelli’s political career (state senate), his campaigns received a total of $3,500 from CONSOL. However, once elected to Attorney General, his office began taking actions that favored CONSOL and disadvantaged southwestern Virginia landowners who hadn’t been paid by CONSOL. A comparison of the timelines of actions and money show a pattern of accelerating support as favorable actions increased, bringing a total of $140,000 to Cuccinelli after the actions favorable to CONSOL began.

In June 2010, Mr. Cuccinelli issued an advisory opinion that limited the jurisdiction of the Virginia Gas and Oil Board that forced Virginia landowners to go to court over royalty payments, a move clearly in CONSOL Energy’s favor.

Two months later, in August 2010, his office sided with CONSOL and against Virginians in a lawsuit to recover improperly withheld royalties, helping the out-of-state oil company defend against a claim by Virginia landowners.

From August 2010 through April 2012, Cuccinelli’s office (through a Senior Assistant Attorney General Sharon Pigeon) began secretly providing legal research and advice to CONSOL’s attorneys regarding the lawsuit, outside of the scope of the AG office’s official capacity. The Virginia Inspector General is now investigating to determine whether the AG’s office misused taxpayer funds.

Finally, Mr. Cuccinelli, helped CONSOL again earlier this year when he issued another advisory opinion that barred local jurisdictions from using zoning laws to establish fracking moratoriums.

This situation stinks to high heaven and Virginia voters and taxpayers deserve answers as to why Cuccinelli was improperly assisting out of state energy companies against Virginia landowners and taxpayers.  To date, Cuccinelli runs from reporters when asked about this very dirty business. 

A Fake PhD Played the Neocon Fantasy World and Hijacked The Syria Debate

One of my constant criticism of the far right and the Christofascists is their love of "experts" who in fact have no legitimate credentials.   Indeed, FRC, CWFA and AFA are notorious for their fake experts who have no background on issues on which they pontificate despite the lofty titles they are given.  As long as one is saying what these extremists want to hear and playing to their prejudices, you can become an overnight sensation and have credibility where none is merited.  Think Progress looks at the manner in which Elizabeth O’Bagy, a supposed PhD expert on Syria duped the pro-war Neocons and Republican members of the U. S. Senate.  The problem is that Ms. Bagy is no PhD and she played people for fools by saying what they wanted to hear.  I never cease to be amazed how people who ought to know better never bother to check out credentials.  Here are highlights from the Think Progress story:

Dr. Elizabeth O’Bagy, Syria expert, made quite an impression on Senator John McCain. During Senate hearings, the former Presidential candidate quoted at length from her recent Wall Street Journal op-ed painting a rosy picture of a mostly secular, pro-Western anti-Assad insurgency.

“John, do you agree with Dr. O’Bagy’s assessment of the opposition?,” the Senator asked the Secretary of State John Kerry. “I agree with most of that,” he replied. 

Except Dr. O’Bagy wasn’t actually a doctor. Her PhD was fabricated, a lie she told her employers at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), an influential neoconservative-aligned think tank, to get hired. Ironically, it ended up being the lie that got her fired Wednesday. This postmodern reenactment of the Icarus myth also provides a bizarrely informative window into the way that Washington’s foreign policy sausage gets made.

O’Bagy got her start last year, when she interned for ISW’s Iraq portfolio while completing a Master’s in Arab Studies at Georgetown University.  . . .  Several media outlets have repeated this account as fact in their write-ups of O’Bagy’s firing, all maintaining that she is still in the process of completing a Georgetown doctorate.

This is almost certainly false. Either O’Bagy was at one point enrolled a PhD program and dropped out, or she has been lying the entire time. Some evidence points to the latter.  . . . . She is not listed as a PhD student on the Government department’s website. She does not exist in the university directory. A search of the entire Georgetown website turns up only one hit, a congratulations notice for her Master’s graduation.

However O’Bagy acquired her contacts, the work they helped her produce was influential and widely respected. Over the course of roughly a year, she went from a graduate student and intern to a pundit making regular appearances on Fox News and being published in Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, and well, The Wall Street Journal. She was promoted to Senior Analyst and then to Syria Team Lead at ISW, and had become known as a go-to expert on the Syrian rebels among foreign policy experts. But the closer Icarus flew to the sun, the faster the wax on her feathers began to melt.

Regardless, O’Bagy’s rise and fall is yet more evidence that the talented people who populate America’s media and policy apparatus never seem to quite fully internalize: never, ever lie about something someone else can prove you wrong about. You’re going to get caught.

Andrew Sullivan has some telling, put dead on point comments about the Neocons and the far right:

The Kagans – so many you can barely keep track of them – are a particularly Washington clan. Like other neocons – the Podhoretzes and Kristols come to mind – the family occupies various posts and play assorted roles in advancing the idea of US global hegemony, constant interference in other countries (but never Israel!), and warfare. They played a key part in deceiving much of official Washington – wittingly or not – about the situation in Iraq, and thereby bear responsibility for the catastrophe that followed. Their “surge” subsequently failed to achieve what it was designed for: getting a multi-sectarian government with lower levels of mass violence in Iraq. You can see how utterly divorced from reality that pipe-dream was by just reading the news reports daily of the low-burning civil war there every day.

So is anyone surprised they were duped again? Zack Beauchamp (former Dishtern) gives a great account of the sorry story of how the woman who became one of the more conspicuous advocates for full-scale entry into another Middle East civil war was not what she said she was. Elizabeth O’Bagy lied to Kimberley Kagan about her doctorate and Kagan never checked it out before putting her Institute for the Study of War on record behind it.

It’s a classic example of how dubious actors with vague backgrounds can ascend so rapidly in Washington as long as they are parroting one faction’s preferred version of the truth. This isn’t unique to the neocons, of course. But since they currently hold the world record in being duped and duping others on matters of war and peace, the fact that this is still happening – especially after the lies and bullshit that occurred before the war in Iraq – is instructive that these people never learn.

These were the people touting Chalabi, remember? These were the people telling us there was no serious sectarian issue in Iraq under Saddam and a civil war was highly unlikely if we invaded. These were the people dismissing the notion in advance that we did not have enough troops to secure the country. These were the people – once trapped in their own delusional universe – that sanctioned grotesque and endemic torture of prisoners as a way to get out of it.

It sickens me to see this same propaganda machine wheeled into action again, and to see Washington take it seriously. But it heartens me as well that this unreliable person and demonstrable liar has been exposed. May she be the first of many.
Which brings us back to the question of why does anyone listen to these people who have proved to be so demonstratively wrong much less supposed "experts" that no one has vetted?

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

The Rise of the New New Left

Given Bill de Blasio’s unexpected rise out of nowhere and win in New York City’s Democratic in primary, some are shaking their heads in surprise.  Some have made the case that Blasio's victory may be the harbinger of a huge political shift powered by the so-called Millennials who do not fit either the old Republican or Democrat stereotypes, yet who decidedly trend against the current aging white Christofascist controlled GOP.  A piece in The Daily Beast suggests that a seismic political change may be coming that both the GOP and the Democrats need to prepare for.  Here are highlights (read the whole piece):

Maybe Bill de Blasio got lucky. Maybe he only won because he cut a sweet ad featuring his biracial son. Or because his rivals were either spectacularly boring, spectacularly pathological, or running for Michael Bloomberg’s fourth term. But I don’t think so. The deeper you look, the stronger the evidence that de Blasio’s victory is an omen of what may become the defining story of America’s next political era: the challenge, to both parties, from the left. It’s a challenge Hillary Clinton should start worrying about now.

To understand why that challenge may prove so destabilizing, start with this core truth: For the past two decades, American politics has been largely a contest between Reaganism and Clintonism. In 1981, Ronald Reagan shattered decades of New Deal consensus by seeking to radically scale back government’s role in the economy. In 1993, Bill Clinton brought the Democrats back to power by accepting that they must live in the world Reagan had made. Located somewhere between Reagan’s anti-government conservatism and the pro-government liberalism that preceded it, Clinton articulated an ideological “third way”: Inclined toward market solutions, not government bureaucracy, focused on economic growth, not economic redistribution, and dedicated to equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. By the end of Clinton’s presidency, government spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product was lower than it had been when Reagan left office.

America’s youngest adults are called “Millennials” because the 21st century was dawning as they entered their plastic years. Coming of age in the 21st century is of no inherent political significance. But this calendric shift has coincided with a genuine historical disruption. Compared to their Reagan-Clinton generation elders, Millennials are entering adulthood in an America where government provides much less economic security. And their economic experience in this newly deregulated America has been horrendous. This experience has not produced a common generational outlook. No such thing ever exists. But it is producing a distinct intragenerational argument, one that does not respect the ideological boundaries to which Americans have become accustomed. The Millennials are unlikely to play out their political conflicts between the yard lines Reagan and Clinton set out.

By 2012, data showed how economically bleak the Millennials’ first decade of adulthood had been. Between 1989 and 2000, when younger members of the Reagan-Clinton generation were entering the job market, inflation-adjusted wages for recent college graduates rose almost 11 percent, and wages for recent high school graduates rose 12 percent. Between 2000 and 2012, it was the reverse. Inflation-adjusted wages dropped 13 percent among recent high school graduates and 8 percent among recent graduates of college.

But it was worse than that. If Millennials were victims of a 21st-century downward slide in wages, they were also victims of a longer-term downward slide in benefits. The percentage of recent college graduates with employer-provided health care, for instance, dropped by half between 1989 and 2011.

[A] mountain of survey data—plus the heavily Democratic tilt of Millennials in every national election in which they have voted—suggests that they are less susceptible to these right-wing populist appeals. For one thing, right-wing populism generally requires rousing white, Christian, straight, native-born Americans against Americans who are not all those things. But among Millennials, there are fewer white, Christian non-immigrants to rouse. Forty percent of Millennials are racial or ethnic minorities. Less than half say religion is “very important” to their lives.  

[T]oday, a Republican seeking to divert Millennial frustrations in a conservative cultural direction must reckon with the fact that Millennials are dramatically more liberal than the elderly and substantially more liberal than the Reagan-Clinton generation on every major culture war issue except abortion (where there is no significant generational divide).

They are also more dovish on foreign policy. According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials are close to half as likely as the Reagan-Clinton generation to accept sacrificing civil liberties in the fight against terrorism  and much less likely to say the best way to fight terrorism is through military force.

It is these two factors—their economic hardship in an age of limited government protection and their resistance to right-wing cultural populism—that best explain why on economic issues, Millennials lean so far left. In 2010, Pew found that two-thirds of Millennials favored a bigger government with more services over a cheaper one with fewer services, a margin 25 points above the rest of the population. While large majorities of older and middle-aged Americans favored repealing Obamacare in late 2012, Millennials favored expanding it, by 17 points. Millennials are substantially more pro–labor union than the population at large.

Most striking of all, Millennials are more willing than their elders to challenge cherished American myths about capitalism and class. According to a 2011 Pew study, Americans under 30 are the only segment of the population to describe themselves as “have nots” rather than “haves.” They are far more likely than older Americans to say that business enjoys more control over their lives than government.  And unlike older Americans, who favor capitalism over socialism by roughly 25 points, Millennials, narrowly, favor socialism.
There's much more, but the result is that both the GOP and the Democrats will be increasingly facing voters for whom the old mantras mean nothing. And given the views of my own children and their friends - all of whom are Millennials - I think the author is onto something.  Both parties will need to change as the elderly die off and the Millennials become an increasing force to be reckoned with.  I expect the GOP to have the most difficulty adapting to this new political world given its current control by the Christofascists/Tea Party.

North Carolina Teacher Suspended for Showing Class "Same Love" Video

North Carolina continues its descent into batshitery by embracing Christofascist dogma and drawing negative national publicity to itself.  Indeed, since the Republicans took control of the state's government, it appears that everything possible is being done to convince modern, progressive businesses that North Carolina is to be avoided like the plague.  The latest story to underscore that North Carolina has become a state where hate and bigotry flourish involves the suspension of a middle school teacher who a class Macklemore's "Same Love" video.  As if many of the little darlings haven't already heard the song - its even been number 1 on local pop stations in backwards Hampton Roads - or seen the video.  The Charlotte Observer looks at the Inquisition like behavior of the school administration.  Here are excerpts:

A Taylorsville teacher has been suspended for showing a group of students a music video for a song that supports same-sex marriage. 

The video in question is for the song “Same Love,” the fourth single released by Seattle rap artist Macklemore and producer Ryan Lewis.

It’s the first song that promotes gay marriage to make it into the Top 40, according to gay rights advocates. It was ranked 13th this week.

Alexander County Schools Associate Superintendent Jeff Peal told the Taylorsville Times: “At West Alexander Middle School, there was an inappropriate video shown in class, outside the bounds of the curriculum that called for disciplinary action last week.”

Peal didn’t name the teacher in the article.

The video goes through the life of a gay man and includes images of him kissing his boyfriend, getting married and lying motionless in a hospital bed while holding his partner’s hand. 

The video has been viewed nearly 78 million times on Youtube, and was featured as part of the website’s Pride Week. 

God forbid that youth realize that gays not only exist, but that we have loves and families just like everyone else.   Oh, and the cynical part of me can't help but wonder whether Superintendent Jeff Peal is one of the "godly folk" in the Bible Belt who loves his Internet porn. 

Read more here:

Read more here:

Minneapolis Marriage Ads Draws Condemnation of Christofascists

In a smart marketing move aimed at increasing gay tourism and the city's bottom line, Minneapolis has launched a marketing campaign to attract residents of currently anti-gay marriage states like Wisconsin and Illinois to make a trip to the city to get married.  While their marriages would not be recognized by their home states, those married in Minneapolis or other parts of Minnesota would enjoy a number of federal benefits.  This ad campaign has the spittle flying amongst Christofascists groups but also underscores the growing economic disadvantage of anti-gay states like Virginia.  Think Progress looks at Minneapolis' campaign and the reactions of the knuckle dragging religious zealots.  Here are highlights:

Though the fight for marriage equality is still playing out across many states, the advancement of federal benefits for legal same-sex marriages has an immediate effect for couples throughout the entire countries. Conservatives, however, don’t want families who live in states that don’t have marriage equality to access those benefits, and thus they’re trying to pretend that they don’t exist.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (DFL) has been reaching out to Wisconsin and Illinois same-sex couples, inviting them to travel to his city to marry now that Minnesota has marriage equality.

According to the National Organization for Marriage, however, Ryback is trying to “force same-sex marriage on neighboring states”:
Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak is launching an ad campaign encouraging Wisconsin same-sex couples to come to his town to ‘marry’. The campaign, which will start running in Milwaukee and Madison area publications, is already being called a shameless attempt at self-promotion, with the mayor simply using marriage to raise his own profile.

Wisconsin law is irrelevant in Minnesota, so nothing is stopping Wisconsin residents from driving across the border to legally wed. And Wisconsin law is irrelevant for many of the federal benefits that recognize place of celebration, such as immigration green cards, benefits for military servicemembers and federal employees, veterans’ benefits, Medicare nursing home benefits, and the benefits of filing taxes jointly. As Wisconsin couples married in Minneapolis access those federal benefits, the state is perfectly welcome to continue to not recognize their marriage at the state level — no “forcing” is at hand.

Surely Rybak is hoping to get some tourism business to his city from marriage equality, but he’s also got marriage licenses for any and all same-sex couples who want to come get one. And of course, if states like Illinois and Wisconsin are upset they aren’t getting the revenue from those marriage licenses, there’s an easy way to fix it so that they can.

Syria - Is the Myth of American Exceptionalism Part of Obama's Problem?

I trust Vladimir Putin about as much as I would trust a rattlesnake.  I view the man as scheming and manipulative and his recent signing of anti-gay laws in Russia demonstrates that he talks out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to respecting differences in people and supporting international law.  That said, he has an op-ed in the New York Times that does raise interesting and relevant points about Barack Obama's rush to take the United States to war in Syria.  Among them is the dangerous mindset of too many Americans that America is "exceptional."  American exceptionalism is in my view a dangerous myth that stands only when one white washes the many horrors America has committed ranging from its policy of exterminating native Americans to stealing Hawaii by over throwing an independent government to incidents like the fire bombing of Dresden during World War II (pictured in ruins above) in which somewhere between 25,000 and 500,000 civilians died.  Here are excerpts from Putin's op-ed which must be read with caution, but not ignored either:

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization. 

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance. 

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.” 

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal. 

I would ask Mr. Putin to reread his last sentence and then justify the anti-gay laws he has championed in order to gain support from the foul leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church, a church with a long history of opposing freedom and equality.  He needs to practice what he is preaching.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

All But Three States To Comply With Pentagon Gay Marriage Directive

As noted before, all but three states - Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana - intend to comply with the Pentagon policy of treating legally married same sex couples no differently than married heterosexual couples.  Even Virginia intends to comply with Pentagon policy - much to the chagrin of gay haters like Del. Bob Marshall - perhaps for a simple reason: Most of the state National Guards' budgets comes from the Pentagon.  Some readers have said the states can do as they wish because they fund their respective National Guards.  Such is not the case and one can hope that the Pentagon will send  Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana a message they will understand by holding back funding.  The Charlotte Observer looks at the issue and notes that 90% of Virginia's funding for the Virginia National Guard comes from the federal government.  Here are story highlights:

The three states that have defied a Pentagon order to allow all active-duty military personnel to apply for same-sex spousal benefits are – so far – going it alone.

Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi are the only states to decline to process applications for such benefits at state-run National Guard facilities, citing state laws and constitutional amendments that ban gay marriage.

More than a dozen states with similar laws have elected to follow the Pentagon’s policy, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri, Idaho and Alaska. “It is not in conflict with our state constitution or state laws,” said Lt. Bernie Kale, a spokesman for the Alaska National Guard.

Read more here:

“The military is not telling any state what the state has to do,” said Evan Wolfson, the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, a gay rights group. “It’s saying for federal purposes, couples who are married should be treated as what they are: married.”

According to Col. Timothy Marsano, a spokesman for the Idaho National Guard, married same-sex couples will be treated no differently from any others.  “It’s going to be no problem for someone who’s legally married in another state to come to us and apply for benefits,” he said. “We’re not going to send them packing.”

Read more here:

Read more here:
For their part, the Pentagon and the National Guard Bureau have clarified that active-duty personnel in those three states may apply for same-sex spousal benefits at any federal base or installation.  “All federal military installations will issue IDs to all those who provide a valid marriage certificate from a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage,” said Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the Department of Defense.

Read more here:

Every state and territory receives federal funding to support its national guard. In some states, that constitutes most of the guard’s money.  Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell noted last week that his state receives 90 percent of its National Guard funding from the federal government, and though Virginia bans gay marriage, he said the state – home to the Pentagon and several military bases – would comply with the policy.

Read more here:

Again, the Pentagon needs to simply tell Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana that they have a choice: either comply with the policy or plan on funding 100% of their own operations.  I suspect that overnight they'd have a miraculous epiphany.

Read more here:

Richmond Times Dispatch Column: Cuccinelli’s Damage Control Too Little, Too Late

I must confess that there is some sweet satisfaction watching Ken Cuccinelli twist on the rope created by his own greed, arrogance and unethical conduct.  As noted yesterday, he has belatedly tried to quell "Gift Gate" issues that may yet force Bob McDonnell from office by donating $18,000 - the supposed value of the gifts Cuccinelli received from McDonnell's benefactor - to a Richmond charity.  However, Cuccinelli has done nothing in respect to the $140,000 he received from Consol Energy and its affiliates in what would seem to be exchange for the Attorney General's office assisting energy companies in private, civil litigation with Virginia landowners.  A coulm in the Richmond Times Dispatch looks at Cuccinelli's lame efforts.  Here are excerpts:

Ken Cuccinelli thinks he’s found a way to unring the bell.

Gambling he can start talking about issues other than himself, the Republican nominee for governor announced Tuesday that he is donating to charity $18,000 — roughly the value of controversial gifts and goodies from Jonnie Williams Sr., the rich political uncle Cuccinelli and Bob McDonnell now wish they never had.

As an exercise in damage control, it could prove too little, too late.

Republicans tried waving off Giftgate as trite and insignificant when it exploded in late March. Nearly six months later, the scandal is wrecking McDonnell’s governorship and threatens to prevent Cuccinelli’s.

Pleading poverty, Cuccinelli said in July that he could not reimburse Williams for his beneficence.
“There are some bells you can’t unring,” Cuccinelli said two months ago.  But having had his bell rung in public-opinion polls that suggest voters view him as untrustworthy and unlikeable, Cuccinelli came up with 18 large for CrossOver Ministry, a health clinic for Richmond’s poor. The money was scrounged, his campaign said, from Cuccinelli’s accounts and those of his wife and their family.
End of discussion?  Not likely.

In the remaining eight weeks of this campaign, Cuccinelli must still explain how and why he allowed himself and his current office — the attorney generalship — to become ensnared in this ethical tangle in the first place. Such questions are kept alive not only by the cash-fueled Democratic noise machine, but also by two investigations into McDonnell and his knotty relationship with Williams.

As if that’s not enough, there is the growing phalanx of private lawyers — paid at growing expense to taxpayers — hired to defend McDonnell, the staff of the governor’s office and other state employees in Giftgate and related matters because Cuccinelli, as attorney general, can’t. That’s because Cuccinelli has a conflict of interest. . . . The bill for all those lawyers, so far, is nearly $250,000.

As if that’s not enough, there are two other private lawyers — one a former attorney general; the other, a former solicitor general, both Republicans and partners in the same firm — representing the state in its continuing fight with Star Scientific over $2.2 million in unpaid taxes and penalties on company warehouses in Mecklenburg County. . . .  they’re handling the case is a consequence of yet another Cuccinelli conflict of interest. He quit the case because of his stake in Star Scientific. Cuccinelli owned shares in the firm at the same time he was pressing it to pay its tax bill. He ultimately sold his shares at a loss.

Cuccinelli might have avoided all of this with one simple step he stubbornly insisted he would not take: resign as attorney general, freeing him from many of the constraints of a lawyer; freeing him to be a candidate.

How Cuccinelli disclosed his attempted game-changer shows that the candidate has largely lost control of his message.   Cuccinelli announced it by attempting to bypass the news media, issuing a video news release . . . 

It's a mess of Cuccinelli's own creation due to greed and arrogance.  And the column doesn't even get into the Consol Energy fiasco.

National Security Agency Violated Court-Approved Privacy Rules

As more and more information comes out about the National Security Agency's ("NSA") domestic spying operations, one picture is increasingly clear: NSA is a rogue agency that feels free to violate court orders and existing laws with no one seemingly in over all charge or control.  Abuses and lies about the abuses and violation of legal parameters seem to be the norm.  An article in the Washington Post looks at new evidence that the NSA and it's trampling on Americans' privacy and disregard for the law.  Here are highlights:

The National Security Agency for almost three years searched a massive database of Americans’ phone call records attempting to identify potential terrorists in violation of court-approved privacy rules, and the problem went unfixed because no one at the agency had a full technical understanding of how its system worked, according to new documents and senior government officials.

Moreover, it was Justice Department officials who discovered the problem and reported it to the court that oversees surveillance programs, the documents show, undermining assertions by the NSA that self-reporting is part of its culture.

A strong rebuke of the NSA by the court comes less than a month after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a highly critical FISA court opinion that took the agency to task for its operation of a separate surveillance program. Taken together, the documents released by the office over the past month paint a troubling picture of an agency that has sought and won far-reaching surveillance powers to run complex domestic data collection without anyone having full technical understanding of the efforts, and that has repeatedly misrepresented the programs’ scope to its court overseer.

“It has finally come to light that the FISC’s authorizations of this vast collection program have been premised on a flawed depiction of how the NSA uses” the phone data, Walton wrote.

“This misperception by the FISC existed from the inception of its authorized collection in May 2006, buttressed by repeated inaccurate statements made in the government’s submissions,” he continued.

Privacy procedures “have been so frequently and systemically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall [phone records] regime has never fully functioned effectively,” he said.

Beginning in late January 2009, Justice Department officials began notifying the court of problems, in particular that the NSA had been running an automated “alert list” on selected phone numbers without meeting the court-required standard of “reasonable and articulable suspicion” that those numbers were tied to terrorists.

Justice Department officials notified the court that the NSA had been searching the business records “in a manner directly contrary” to the court’s orders “and directly contrary to the sworn attestations of several Executive Branch officials,” Walton wrote in a Jan. 29, 2009, order.

In November 2009, Walton also expressed concern that the NSA had searched phone numbers long after the numbers had been found to be irrelevant and said he “remained concerned” that the NSA did not meet the required standard for using the numbers, exposing information about Americans who were not the subject of FBI investigations. 

“Now that the agency has been forced to release them, we can see that the real reason for secrecy was to conceal the fact that surveillance under the Patriot Act was far broader, and less focused, than the public and Congress had been led to believe.”

America's Hypocrisy In Decrying Assad's Use of Chemical Weapons

I'm by no means anti-America, but at times the hypocrisy that this country displays is shocking given some of the past actions of the national government and the U.S. Military.  Yes, the use of chemical weapons against civilians and children in Syria by most likely the Assad regime is horrible and against international laws that date back to the 1920's.  But how quickly America forgets the horrors or its own past conduct.  The image above that shows screaming children who were hit by American Napalm in Vietnam (other children were killed) is an iconic reminder that America has less than clean hands when it piously condemns the actions of others.  And when it comes to the use of poison gas, how quickly some have forgotten the USA's aid during the Iran/Iraq war during the Reagan years when America supplied chemical weapons used in the conflict.  George Will has a column that helps remind us that when one knows accurate history, America frequently doesn't live up to the standards it likes to apply to others.  Here are column excerpts:

U.S. power and security are somewhat dependent on a president’s stature, which should not be diminished unnecessarily. Neither, however, should America’s well-being be equated with a president’s policy preferences or political health. The real but limited importance of presidential prestige and the real but limited diminution of it that would result from blocking Obama’s attack both matter. But so do the manifest and manifold weaknesses of his argument. 

Skepticism is warranted, given the prodigies of confusion in administration statements, including historical amnesia. 

Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons is only his most recent, and he is not the first to have used such weapons in war since the 1925 Geneva Protocol proscribing them. But because attacking Syria is said to be necessary as reinforcement of the 1925 “norm,” it matters that the norm has been violated before. In the 1960s, Egypt used chemical weapons against Yemen. Saddam Hussein used them not only against disobedient Iraqis but in the 1980-88 war with Iran. A March 23, 1984, CIA report said: “Iraq has begun using nerve agents . . . [which] could have a significant impact on Iran’s human wave tactics, forcing Iran to give up that strategy.” A new article by Shane Harris and Matthew M. Aid in Foreign Policy says that in 1988:
“The United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.” 
U.S. officials denied acquiescing in such attacks because Iraq never announced them. But Harris and Aid quote retired Air Force Col. Rick Francona, a military attache in Baghdad during the 1988 strikes, saying, “The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn’t have to. We already knew.” 
I disagree with much of the rest of the column, but the point quoted need to not be forgotten.   Americans - especially politicians - like to forget America's many sins.  The rest of the world is less prone to such amnesia and, if Obama and America as a whole want to be believed and want to hold the moral high ground, it is important that complete and accurate history be remembered.  Too often it is not.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Cuccinelli Belatedly Contributes Star Scientific Bribes - I Mean Gifts - To Charity

After offering a plethora of lies explanations as to why he had to date refused to return or give to charity the bribes gifts that he received from Jonnie R. Williams/Star Scientific, today GOP gubernatorial candidate finally gave a sum equal to the known amounts he received to CrossOver Healthcare Ministry, a Richmond-area operation providing medical care to the uninsured.  Not surprisingly, CrossOver Healthcare Ministry is a Christian faith-based operation, although it has a surprisingly reputable board of directors.   Politico looks at Cuccinelli's surprising too little too late donation.  The cynic in me wonders where Cuccinelli found the money to make the donation.  Here are story highlights:

Virginia‘a Republican candidate for governor, Ken Cuccinelli, announced Tuesday that he has donated $18,000 to a Richmond-based charity to offset the value of gifts he accepted from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.

His move came after Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is under federal investigation for his ties to Williams, and his family returned all the gifts and repaid $125,000 in loans to Williams in late July.

Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe has been pressuring his opponent to follow the governor’s lead. But Cuccinelli has said that he did not receive the kind of gifts that easily can be returned and suggested that he did not have the financial wherewithal to make such a large donation on his income, which was $194,000 last year.

“I made the decision to send the check because it is the right thing to do, plain and simple,” the attorney general said in a video statement released by his campaign.

There’s a palpable sense in the commonwealth that McAuliffe has opened up a clear lead in the election, and this move seems designed to get some momentum and take away one of the top Democratic attacks.

“For those who’ve been disappointed in this situation or how I’ve handled it, I apologize,” Cuccinelli said on the video. “It’s been a humbling set of lessons for me.”
Cuccinelli expressed hope in his video announcement that he can now talk more about issues than scandal in the final eight weeks of the race.

McAuliffe’s campaign scoffed at the move.  “Cuccinelli’s pattern of ethical behavior is always the same,” spokesman Josh Schwerin said. “Get caught in scandals, do nothing for months, and then buckle to pressure for his own political reasons.”
Again, my question is this: who gave Cuccinelli the funds so that he could make the donation? 

Virginian Pilot: Mark Herring for Attorney General

I have written a number of posts about the Virginia Attorney General race that pits the GOP nominee, extremist Mark Obenshain against Democrat nominee Mark Herring.   In my view, there's no contest in determining that Mark Herring is the far superior candidate.  Apparently, the Virginian Pilot editorial board felt the same way as it endorsed Mark Herring for Attorney General and in doing so cited some of Obenshain's extremism that I described in an editorial at LGBTQ Nation that can be found here.  As I noted in the op-ed, if one knows Obenshain's background and voting record in the Virginia General Assembly, he is every bit as extreme and – I would argue insane – as GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli and GOP Lt. Governor candidate “Bishop” E. W. Jackson.  Here are highlights from the Pilot's endorsement of Herring:

The record reflects Herring is better suited for the job.

Obenshain has developed a reputation in the Senate during the past nine years as a legislator who favors ideology over the common interest. That approach has led him to support proposals that tread on shaky legal ground: granting legal rights at conception, mandating photo identification to cast a ballot and gerrymandering Senate district boundaries in an off year, for example.

Herring fought each of those measures and has increasingly established himself as a socially liberal, fiscally pragmatic voice.

Unlike Obenshain, Herring supports expansion of Medicaid and voted for the bipartisan transportation-funding package that has become Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's crowning achievement. He has reversed his position on gay marriage, favoring repeal of the constitutional amendment that he supported in 2006 as a freshman senator. He has noted that his job, if he is elected attorney general, would require him to try in good faith to find a basis to defend the amendment's legality, a duty that he has pledged to fulfill.

Herring also supports legislative efforts to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and opposes further restrictions on abortion. He has repeatedly suggested Obenshain is of the same mold as Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee for governor, who has championed conservative social causes and relished fighting the federal government.

[T]he contrast between the two candidates - in judgment, in legal analysis, in priorities - couldn't be clearer. Herring is the better choice to be Virginia's next attorney general.

P.S. For non-Virginians, until the nomination of the current GOP statewide slate, Mike Farris was the most extreme candidate ever nominated in Virginia.  As for the Duggars, they are a virtual baby factory and, in my opinion, more than just a little unhinged.  And Obenshain calls these nutcases his "good friends."  Need I say more?