Saturday, October 19, 2013

The GOP Isn’t Learning From its Mistakes

Former GOP Congressman and current TV news show host Joe Scarborough has been pretty blunt at times with the problems in today's GOP.   And deservedly so since Scarborough is a realist who understands that the lunacy that has become the norm for the Republican Party is killing the GOP brand.  If the GOP is to survive long term, it has to cast aside the fantasy world of the Christofascists and Tea Party racists and bigots and cope with a changing America. In a piece in Politico, Scarborough lambastes the GOP for not learning from its mistakes.  Here are highlights:

My children and I love watching Peter Pan. In fact, we’ve seen the Disney classic so often through the years that we could probably recite most of the movie from memory. Maybe that’s why the opening lines came so easily to my mind earlier this week while watching a far less joyful tale unfold on Capitol Hill.

“This has all happened before and it will happen again” are the first words to that sweet movie about eternal youth. Unfortunately, those lines also fit a bit too snugly on the carcass of a political movement that seems incapable of learning from past mistakes. Chances are good that Republicans will continue getting blindsided by political events until Republican leaders stop cowering to public figures who insist on filtering out all realities that are in conflict with their preexisting worldviews.

If this sounds all too familiar, it’s because Republicans were licking their wounds around this time last year after being blindsided by a presidential election whose outcome they should have seen coming a mile away. But ignorance was bliss as conservative politicians and talkers pushed bogus polls and political fairy tales to angry voters who were once again on the losing side of history. Media outlets that released polls showing President Obama winning were attacked as biased and conservatives who warned of Romney’s weaknesses were rhetorically burned at the stake as heretics.
Barack Obama won again and Republican leaders swore that next time would be different.
Well, next time came one year later, and one year later, way too many conservatives once again found themselves shocked by the obvious. The Shutdown Strategy was doomed from the start even though conservatives like myself, Scott Walker, Tom Coburn and Charles Krauthammer agreed with The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page’s early assessment that Ted Cruz’s approach would lead to political disaster.

The costs have been pretty big to the GOP. This shutdown drove the Republican brand into the ground, with only 24 percent of Americans approving of the party’s performance. That may not hurt conservative senators from Alabama or Texas, but it is a nightmare for Republicans representing states like New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. More troubling is just how divided this episode left us. I’m not sure how it happened but the Grand Old Party is now divided in two camps over something as grubby as legislative tactics.

As the smoke clears, we now see a Republican Party holding on to its lowest ever ratings in both the Gallup and the NBC News/WSJ polls. There is enough blame to go around but the bottom line is this: Republicans will not win the White House back again until they unite behind a candidate who wins the vote of Ted Cruz and Colin Powell. The GOP used to manage that feat and that’s why nominees like Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon won 49 states against a hapless Democratic Party. Unless a unified Republican Party comes together, the conservative movement will keep getting blindsided by history, and what has happened before will come back to haunt us all once again.
Personally, I do not see what Scarborough is calling for happening unless and until the Christofascists and Tea Party are neutralized within the GOP.  They are by definition irrational and all consumed by their fear and hate based bigotry and opposition to modernity.  They need to be thrown into the political wilderness where they belong.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The South Really Is Different — And It’s Because Of Race and Religion

The last post looked at the winners and losers in the rapidly changing post Great Recession economic front.  Not surprisingly, with few exceptions which mainly have energy industry or entertainment industry ties, most of the cities that fall into the "winner" category" are not in the South.  Why?  Because the South is not welcoming to diversity, knowledge and innovation thanks to the twin pillars of racism and backward thinking, intolerant religiosity.  As I have argued many times before, innovators and entrepreneurs simply do not want to relocate to areas that are socially toxic and unattractive to educated employees who have numerous options on where to live and work.  A piece in Think Progress makes the case that racism in particular (followed by religious extremism) is a poison that hurts the South's prospects for the future.  Here are highlights:

The debt ceiling crisis may be over (at least until February), but the crisis created by the Republican Party’s sharp reactionary turn emphatically is not. I’ve argued that the Tea Party, is the legacy of structural racism in the South dating back to the 1930s, and will remain a powerful force in the Republican Party absent tectonic shocks to the political landscape on the level of the civil rights movement.

The buried story of Wednesday’s government-opening vote in the House was a split between Republican Southerners — and everyone else. Southern Republican whites voted overwhelmingly against the deal — 73 against, 18 in favor. Other Republicans were evenly split (69 in favor, 71 against) and Democrats, of course, unanimously supported the deal. Roughly the same thing happened the last time House Republicans almost took the United States off the default cliff.

The overwhelming Tea Party conservatism in the Southern delegation reflects the region’s exceptionally conservative bent. In a brand-new American Politics Research article, Columbia University’s Steven White ran a series of regressions analyses aimed at separating out the effect of region and religion on Southern political views. White found “very substantial support” for the idea that Southern whites were across-the-board more conservative than whites in the rest of the country. Moreover, whites in the Deep South (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina) were more reactionary than their also super-conservative peers in the Peripheral South (Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia).

Southern political uniqueness appeared to be partly religious — but only partly. Roughly half of America’s evangelicals live in the South, a pattern dating back to the early 1800s. . . . . Since then, Southern Oregon University’s Mark Shibley documents, evangelical faith has dominated spiritual and cultural life among Southern whites in a way that it hasn’t anywhere else in the United States.
Something else, something distinctly regional, explains why the South, both Deep and Peripheral, has more conservative views across-the-board than the rest of the country. Race, and its historical legacy, appears to be the key. 

Three political scientists at the University of Rochester found that, when you control for series of potentially confounding factors, white Southerners in the Mississippi Delta-to-Georgia “Black Belt” were “less likely to identify as Democrat, more likely to oppose aļ¬ƒrmative action policies, and more likely to express racial resentment toward blacks” if their county housed high percentages of slaves prior to the Civil War. This effect survives controls for the percentage of African Americans in-county today, inclining the Rochester scholars to believe that racial prejudice (in mutating forms, to be sure) has been passed down continually among Deep South whites from parent-to-child since slavery.

Race and religion, then, have always set the South apart. So the South’s turn away from the Democratic Party over race, beginning in the 1930s and finalizing in the 1990s, is a pattern of evolution consistent with the region’s long history of racial conservatism. That the religious right became a dominant force in both the South and the Republican party in the 80s and 90s is the other side of the coin. 

The South, in short, was a region uniquely well suited for the modern conservative movement’s “fusion” between social and economic conservatism. It’s no surprise that the South is the driver of hard-right conservatism today. That’s what its racial and religious heritage would suggest.

[T]he Religious Right’s growth was tied up in the South’s race problem.  . . . . “It was not the school-prayer issue, and it was not the abortion issue,” Weyrich said. “What caused the movement to surface,” he told Columbia University’s Randall Balmer, “was the federal government’s move against the Christian schools.” After Brown v. Board of Education, many Southern whites moved their kids to private schools (“segregation academies,” in common parlance). Many of these academies were religious in character.

Bob Jones University, which was fully segregated until 1971 and subsequently continued to ban interracial dating, become the flashpoint. In in 1970, the Internal Revenue Service began proceedings against BJU and, in 1975, the IRS revoked its tax-exempt status, citing its racially discriminatory practices. Weyrich and his allies spun IRS’ action into a liberal campaign against the Christian way of life. The Religious Right as an organized movement grew in significant part out of the defense of Bob Jones and other similarly “persecuted” Christian schools.

Evangelical Christianity was politicized by conservative activists who exploited the legacy of Jim Crow to mobilize evangelicals as foot soldiers in the emerging Republican and conservative Southern establishment that itself was born from segregation’s ashes. It isn’t religion that explains the South’s conservatism; it was the rise of conservatism that explains the powerful political role Southern religion plays today.

Studies of Tea Party attitudes suggest a pervasive fear that America is no longer “their” country. Sociologist Theda Skocpol, one of the foremost scholars of the political movement, sees a tinge of racism and xenophobia in that, but more importantly “they also resent young people – including in their own families.”

They believe, according to Skocpol, that younger folks “hold ideas that are not very American.” In reality, these younger folks hold ideas that are not very traditionally Southern.

Things are changing, but nowhere rapidly enough.  As a result, until more of the older generations of Southerners die off, the twin evils of racism and religious extremism will continue to haunt the South and, unfortunately, the rest of America.

Economic Winners and Losers Among America's Cities - The Cost of Intolerance

Click image to enlarge

Since the economic crash of 2008, economic winners and losers have been shaking out among America's cities.  Not surprisingly, cities in more liberal states and/or which are liberal islands in their own states are leading the pack among the winners while conservative (perhaps anti-knowledge is a better term) cities with low wages are filling the ranks of the losers as evidenced by the map above.  In Virginia, outside of the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., and Charlottesville - perhaps the most liberal city in Virginia outside the D.C. area - the loser category predominates.  So what is a city to do to prosper?  As a lengthy piece in The Atlantic suggests, welcoming diversity, innovation and knowledge are perhaps the key.  Sadly, outside of less than a dozen or so cities in Republican dominated states, diversity, innovation and modern knowledge are not welcome.  Low taxes are not the panacea that the GOP claims to be the cure for economic backwardness.  Here are highlights from the article authored by Richard Florida:

Back in the spring of 2009, I wrote in these pages that the financial crisis would “permanently and profoundly alter the country’s economic landscape.” Some cities and regions “will eventually spring back stronger than before,” I predicted. “Others may never come back at all.”

It might have sounded apocalyptic, but tectonic shifts of this kind are not unprecedented. They are the geographic counterpart to what the economist Joseph Schumpeter dubbed “creative destruction”—the great gales of change that level some companies and industries, and give rise to others. As powerful as they might seem in the moment, it is only when we look back through the lens of history that the full extent of economic and geographic changes becomes clear.

Five years after the crash, with the national economy just beginning to return to something resembling normalcy, we can begin to trace the outlines of America’s emerging economic map—and take inventory of the places that are thriving, those that are declining, and those that are trying, in novel ways, to come back.

A variety of measures can be used to divine the health and prospects of these different places—population growth, job growth, housing prices, and the unemployment rate are among the more common. Each of these measures has its uses, but some of them can conceal as much as they reveal. Population growth, for instance, tells you nothing about the skills and education of the people arriving; job growth says nothing about whether the new jobs are good or bad.

Throughout this article, I will draw on some of these measures. But I’ll lean most heavily on three measures less commonly seen in the popular press, but perhaps more telling: the composition of job growth (high-wage, mid-wage, or low-wage); productivity growth (which is the basis for improvements in the standard of living); and venture-capital funding (a proxy for the sort of entrepreneurial innovation that can power future growth).

The economic landscape is being reshaped around two kinds of hubs—centers of knowledge and ideas, and clusters of energy production. Overwhelmingly, these are the places driving the economic recovery. Outside them, the economy remains troubled and weak.

New York City was widely expected to be devastated by the financial crisis. Wall Street’s collapse, the conventional wisdom went, would bring the whole city down with it. In 2009, I predicted that New York would in fact prove to be one of the country’s most resilient places. Even so, the speed and strength of its rebound has surprised me—its explosive growth as a start-up center especially so.

New York’s rise as a tech center signals a major shift in the locus of venture-capital-fueled innovation. For a long time, high-tech start-ups have clustered in suburban office parks along freeways, places that are sometimes called “nerdistans.” But since the crisis, start-ups have taken an urban turn. San Francisco, which has fared extremely well since the crash, is a striking case in point. Over the past several years, Twitter has established its headquarters downtown, Pinterest has moved from Silicon Valley to San Francisco, and even Yahoo has created a new facility in the old San Francisco Chronicle building in the South of Market neighborhood.

America’s “knowledge metros,” large and small, make up perhaps the biggest group of winners, overall, since the crash. Data provided by Economic Modeling Specialists International show that a handful of knowledge metros have an overwhelming lead in generating the high-wage jobs (those paying more than $21 an hour) that America needs. Nearly two-thirds of San Jose’s new jobs have been high-wage, as have nearly half of the new jobs in nearby San Francisco. San Jose also leads the nation in productivity growth . . . .  Portland, Oregon, posted the second-highest level of productivity growth among large metros, nearly 7 percent, belying its Portlandia caricature as a place for slackers. Austin’s tech-fueled economy combined the fastest job growth of all large metros (10.5 percent between 2009 and 2013) with well-above-average growth in productivity and in high-wage jobs.

Knowledge, it turns out, is what allows metros to generate good high-wage jobs. Across America’s metro regions, I have found that high-wage jobs are closely related to several key markers of regional knowledge economies: the share of adults who are college grads; the share of the workforce in professional, technical, and creative jobs; the levels of innovation and venture-capital investment.

The Sun Belt features two kinds of regional economies: declining real-estate economies and booming energy economies. Energy stands alongside knowledge as the second pillar of America’s recovery.

Houston’s high-wage-job growth stems from two main sources—the fossil-fuel industry and information technology. The city is home to more than a third of the country’s petroleum engineers and by far the highest concentration of geoscientists. From 2009 to 2012, Houston added 30,000 jobs in a mix of industries related to oil and gas extraction and scientific and technical consulting services. These pay an average salary of $124,000. Houston has also seen rapid growth in software-development jobs (16 percent) and information-technology jobs (12 percent), along with consistent growth in its medicine-and-health-care sector.

Back in 2009, I predicted that the crisis would exact its steepest toll in “the interior of the country—in older, manufacturing regions whose heydays are long past,” and “in newer, shallow-rooted Sun Belt communities whose recent booms have been fueled in part by real-estate speculation, overdevelopment, and fictitious housing wealth.”

Sadly, the data bear me out. Just before the crisis, greater Las Vegas was one of the nation’s leaders in population growth; today it has the highest concentration of fast-food jobs in the nation. Palm Coast, Florida, the metro with the fastest population growth since 2001, has seen the nation’s worst rate of growth in economic output per person since that same year (negative 3.2 percent through 2011).

Population growth alone has never proved a sufficient foundation for future prosperity—not when many of the new arrivals are retirees or modestly educated people looking to get in on a real-estate boom. But since the crash, even that imperfect engine has failed many Sun Belt cities.

The metros where low-wage jobs make up the largest share of job growth since 2009 are in the Rust Belt and the Sun Belt: St. Louis (where 90 percent of new jobs are low-wage); California’s so-called Inland Empire of Riverside–San Bernardino (where nearly three-quarters of new jobs are low-wage) . . .

The main threats to America’s growth model don’t come from other countries, but from domestic contradictions. The more talented people cluster, the greater the economic returns they produce.

The cultural, political, and economic gulfs that separate advantaged and disadvantaged people and places go well beyond the wage gap. Knowledge workers benefit from living in neighborhoods with better schools, better amenities, and lower crime rates, while less advantaged groups are sometimes stuck in place, with limited prospects for climbing even one rung up the economic ladder, and insufficient resources to move out of stagnant areas. Americans have seen a dramatic decline in economic mobility, overall. But a poor person from a knowledge center like San Jose or San Francisco has twice the chance of becoming wealthy as a poor person from some Rust Belt or Sun Belt centers like Cleveland or Atlanta.

On November 5, 2013, here in Virginia voters will select a new Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General as well as a new House of Delegates.  Sadly, the Republican ticket is a case study on those who reject knowledge, reject diversity, and reject innovative thinking as they seek to drag Virginia and society backwards in time.  For future economic reasons alone, they need to be defeated.  Meanwhile, localities need to stop trying to do things the way they have always been done and make themselves more welcoming for diverse and innovative individuals.  Hampton Roads has a long, long way to go on this front. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

More Friday Male Beauty

Republican Donors' Frustration with Christofascist/Tea Party Dominated GOP Mounts

I have been saying for a long time that the so-called GOP establishment created a Frankenstein monster when it willingly - or at least by default - allowed the Christofascists and then the Tea Party to infiltrate and ultimately take over much of the Republican Party grass roots, driving out sane and rational Republicans from the Party in the process.  I saw it happen first hand in Virginia Beach, Virginia where I finally resigned from the GOP City Committee when I could no longer close my eyes and hold my nose to the Christofascists batshitery that sought to fuse the GOP with the extremist dogma of the far right Christian extremists.  At the time, the establishment types  foolishly thought they could control the unwashed cretins and demagogues of the Christian Right.  Now, the monied powers that be - or more aptly, used to be - are discovering just how uncontrollable the Christofascists and spittle flecked Tea Party minions are in fact.  A piece in Politico looks at the angst and frustration of the GOP mega donors.  Here are excerpts:

Republican donors were horrified in November after pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns for president and Congress with nothing to show for it. A year later they’re appalled by how little has changed, angered by the behavior of Republican lawmakers during a string of legislative battles this year capped by the shutdown, and searching for answers.

Some donors are looking to take matters into their own hands.

New York City GOP mega-bundler Paul Singer has held a series of informal, and a few very formal, discussions in recent months with other extremely wealthy donors about how best to spend their cash in 2014, including debating the idea of forming a new entity to play a serious role in the midterm races. Its focus would be on improving the quality of Republican candidates in the hopes of avoiding more Todd Akin-like candidates who blow eminently winnable races.

“He wants to win,” one donor who attended a session said of Singer. The donor stressed that the hedge fund billionaire’s meetings, like other informal gatherings among the monied class this year, were taking place well prior to the government shutdown.

Still, some donors think the reluctance about giving among their ranks may have reached an inflection point over the way a number of Republicans in Washington acquitted themselves the past few weeks.
Donors and business leaders, whose words used to carry great weight with candidates ever worried that the money spigot might be turned off, now face a new reality. It’s a Frankenstein syndrome of sorts, in which the candidates they’ve helped fund, directly or indirectly, don’t fear them, and don’t think they need them.

Many business leaders are exasperated by their diminished influence among congressional Republicans since the 2012 election, and by the rising clout of groups like the Senate Conservative Fund, which have run ads against incumbent Republican senators for not taking enough of a hard line on the shutdown.
At issue is not just the shutdown, but legislative battles earlier this year, such as the stymied attempt at immigration reform. Several Republican donors said watching that effort run into headwinds among conservative House members, combined with the tortured standoff over the government shutdown and potential debt default, had left a sour taste in their mouths.

Some expressed frustration that the national party has not taken a strong stand. That sentiment extends to the RNC, whose chairman, Reince Priebus, wrote shortly before the shutdown that he would “stand with Ted Cruz any day” against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).  Fred Zeidman, a Texas-based bundler who supported Mitt Romney and George W. Bush, is among those who don’t want to give to party committees right now.

“Why do I want to fuel a fire that’s going to consume us?“ he asked.  Singer, meanwhile, is considering a do-it-yourself approach.

Despite his business background, Singer’s issue is not with the tea party per se — he has been a major donor to the Club for Growth, which has backed Cruz, a progenitor of the movement to defund Obamacare — but with the GOP at large losing race after race.

[A] senior Republican familiar with an event planned in New York on Nov. 4, also with Wall Street donors, said the response has been tepid.

In November, Priebus faced an angry group of donors who demanded changes to the party’s primary calendar and, according to sources present at the meeting in New York, asked him to try to shrink the influence of Iowa on the presidential nominating process.

Instead, the grass roots — with its ability to raise money in low-dollar amounts online and spread a message through self-selected conservative-leaning media — have only demonstrated to major donors the limits of the national party’s influence.

Al Hoffman, a mega-donor and former U.S. ambassador to Portugal, said conservative activists have delivered an unmistakable message to donors and business leaders who warned about a potential default on the debt: “We don’t care.”

“So many in the House are hard-right reactionary tea party,” he told POLITICO during the shutdown. “And those Republicans, it appears, are ready to self-immolate, and are willing to risk the destruction of the party by risking the destruction of the economy, by risking a default.”

There's more worth a read.  I for one, have zero sympathy for the GOP large donor class.  They allowed the swamp fever to over take the party and are reaping what they sowed.  Frankly, they need to cease ALL donations to the GOP, allow it to crash and burn and come in after the fact and rescue the party, kicking the Tea Party loons and Christofascist extremist to the curb in the process.  The GOP will never resurrect it self unless and until ignorance embracing lunatics, out right racists and bigots no longer can control the party either nationally of locally.

New Jersey Supreme Court: Same-Sex Couples Can Begin Marrying on Monday

Senator elect Cory Booker and Gov. Chris Christie

First Oregon ruled that it will recognize same sex marriages legally performed in other states where gay marriage is legal.  Now the New Jersey Supreme Court has rejected Governor Chris Christie's request that a stay be issued to block gay marriages from proceeding based on a lower state court ruling.  While there is always the possibility that the New Jersey Supreme Court could find against gay marriage, the fact that it is allowing same sex marriages to commence on Monday suggests that this likelihood is remote.  The folks at NOM and FRC and similar anti-gay hate groups must be truly shrieking and howling.   BuzzFeed has details.  Here are highlights:

The New Jersey Supreme Court on Friday denied Gov. Chris Christie’s request to put a marriage equality ruling on hold while the state high court considers the appeal of a lower-court ruling in support of marriage equality. 

The unanimous decision denying the Christie administration’s request for a stay means same-sex couples can begin marrying in the Garden State on October 21.

Senator-elect and Newark Mayor Cory Booker is among those local officials planning to officiate same-sex couples’ weddings at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

The decision does not end the matter in the state, as the state Supreme Court previously announced it will be hearing a full appeal of the merits of the case, in which trial Judge Mary Jacobson found that New Jersey could not deny same-sex couples marriage licenses, in January 2014.

In the meantime, however, the court is allowing Jacobson’s ruling to go into effect, in part, because “the state has not shown a reasonable probability or likelihood of success on the merits,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote for the court.

The case was brought in 2011 by Garden State Equality and several same-sex couples with legal representation by Lambda Legal. It argues that, following on federal recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages, the civil unions started in New Jersey after the state Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that same-sex couples be given the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex married couples are no longer sufficient at meeting the court’s order.

In deciding whether to issue a stay, courts look to the likelihood that an appeal will succeed, along with whether the party seeking the stay will face “irreparable harm” if a stay is not granted, whether balancing the hardship to parties whether a stay is issued or not weighs in favor of granting a stay and whether the public interest weighs in favor of a stay.

The court held that Christie administration failed to show it would prevail on any of those factors and, as such, “the trial court’s order dated September 27, 2013 remains in full force and effect.”

Because allowing same-sex couples to marry in New Jersey only to take the right away after it hears the appeal would be particularly jarring to couples, the court likely only would refuse a stay if it considered the final outcome of the case to be a foregone conclusion. The opinion Friday comes close to saying as much.

As for Christie's motivation in seeking an appeal, it's pretty obvious.  He wants to run for president in 2016 and if he had not opposed the lower court ruling, it would have been used to bludgeon him in the GOP primaries.  Christie's big worry should be not that he loses the appeal, but rather that the Christofascists see through his actions.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Oregon Orders State Agencies To Recognize Out-Of-State Gay Marriages

In a move which is in keeping with has historically been the case in terms of recognizing marriages performed in other states, the State of Oregon has ordered state agencies to recognize out of state gay marriages.  The action is separate and unrelated to the lawsuit currently pending in Oregon that challenges that state's current ban on same sex marriages being performed in that state.  It goes without saying that there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst the Christofacists and professional Christian crowd who cannot tolerate others not adhering to their hate and fear based version of Christianity.  Here are highlights from Willamette Week:

The state of Oregon will now recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who legally wed out of state.

In a memo sent to all state agencies today, state Chief Operating Officer Michael Jordan says any gay couple who wed in a state where same-sex marriage is legal will now be eligible for the same benefits as any other married couple.

"Oregon agencies must recognize all out-of-state marriages for the purposes of administering state programs," Jordan writes. "That includes legal, same sex marriages performed in other states and countries."

Jordan made the decision based on a legal opinion from the Oregon Department of Justice. 
"The opinion says that for years, Oregon has had a history of recognizing valid marriages that were performed in other states," says Department of Administrative Services spokesman Matt Shelby tells WW. 

For example, he says, common law marriages are one example of weddings not legal in Oregon, but legal elsewhere.

Changing Oregon's practices to recognize the union between couples of the same gender brings the state in line with the federal government, which began recognizing gay marriages last year when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.

The opinion from the state Department of Justice does not involve the legality of allowing same-sex couples to wed in Oregon.

That question is currently under two separate challenges: both a 2014 ballot initiative to overturn the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and, as WW reported first yesterday, the ban is also being challenged in federal court.


Terry McAuliffe Up 8 Points in Latest Poll

One of my big fears is that Democrat voters will become complacent when they see yet another poll showing Terry McAuliffle with an 8 point lead over Ken Cuccinelli, a/k/a Kookinelli.  Turn out remains critical in order to (i) guarantee that McAuliffe beats Cuccinelli, preferably by a significant margin, thereby rebuking The Family Foundation and the lunatics who nominated Cuccinelli, and (ii) to guarantee that Ralph Northam and Mark Herring win the races for Lt. Governor and Attorney General, respectively.  It is very important that the Democrat candidates win a clean sweep of all statewide positions since it is perhaps the only way that sane Republicans will realize the need to drive the Christofascists and white supremacists in the GOP base back into the political wilderness, hopefully forever.  Here are highlights from Politico:

Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe has an 8-point lead in the Virginia governor’s race, a new poll found, the latest evidence of his advantage with less than three weeks left until Election Day.

The NBC4/NBC News/Marist poll found McAuliffe winning 46 percent of likely voters, compared with 38 percent for GOP Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and 9 percent for libertarian Robert Sarvis. If the election were a two-way race between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, McAuliffe’s lead would increase to 9 points, 52 percent to 43 percent.

The new numbers are consistent with other recent polling in the race, most of which gives McAuliffe a high single-digit lead. A POLITICO poll out last week found McAuliffe leading by 9 points, 44 percent to 35 percent.
McAuliffe has had a sustained financial advantage in the state, and he and his Democratic allies have far outspent Cuccinelli and the GOP on the airwaves — allowing the Democrat to effectively build up Cuccinelli’s negatives. McAuliffe’s ads have highlighted Cuccinelli’s “extreme” positions on social issues, seeking to win the support of female voters.

That advantage is clear in the new poll’s numbers: McAuliffe increased his lead among women to 20 points, taking 52 percent of female voters to 32 percent for Cuccinelli.

He’s also seen as more likeable than his Republican opponent: McAuliffe’s favorability ratings are almost even, at 42 percent favorable and 41 percent unfavorable. By contrast, 53 percent view Cuccinelli unfavorably, compared with just 36 percent who view him favorably.

Again, we need the largest turnout possible to hand a crushing defeat to the lunatic "dream team" of the far right which will be hard put to claim that their hand picked ticket lost because it was not sufficiently conservative. 

Debunking The Christianist "Complementarity" Argument Against Marriage Equality

The Christofascists go to great lengths to fabricate arguments against same sex marriage that help disguise their agenda of forcing their religious beliefs on all of society.  Like so much that comes from the lips of mouth pieces for the Christian Right and toxic "family values" organizations, most of this arguments are, pardon my French, utter bullshit.  Once the veneer is stripped off, it all devolves back to the desire to give their religious beliefs a quasi-established position in American law.  Among the arguments these people make is that one man and one woman are a necessity for the   "Complementarity" of marriage.  A piece at Think Progress debunks this argument.  Here are excerpts:

The Family Research Council has released a new policy analysis about “Complementarity in Marriage: What it is and Why it Matters.” In it, FRC Senior Vice President Rob Schwarzwalder reiterates several trite arguments against marriage equality, but also attempts to flesh out the argument that men and women are inherently different. This, he argues, is proof that marriage between a man and a woman is unique in such a way that it could never be extended to same-sex couples. After citing a variety of studies about how men and women’s brains function differently, Schwarzwalder concludes:
The Journal of Neuroscience and The American Journal of Psychiatry, among many other scholarly publications, are replete with studies about male-female distinctions. These distinctions are not grounded in culture or environment, but genetics. . . .  
Schwarzwalder is drawing two big conclusions without any evidence. First, he is asserting that because men and women have some biological difference, those differences must be complimentary. Extrapolating from that, he then posits that children “need” exposure to these differences, because that’s what they would hypothetically receive if raised by their biological father and mother. But none of Schwarzwalder’s citations, which are mostly theologians or other conservative pundits biased against marriage equality, actually speak to such causation, if they even speak to correlation.

Schwarzwalder’s narrow stereotypes ignore the broad diversity of gender expression among men and women, and of course erases transgender people entirely. FRC does not argue that straight people should not be allowed to marry or have children if they are particularly masculine women or feminine men, only that same-sex couples should be prohibited from the institution. If opponents of marriage equality truly valued complementarity, they would instead recognize that every study that has actually evaluated the parenting of same-sex couples has found that their commitment to each other and to the children they are raising together is what ensures success. Complementarity is not a defining characteristic of straight men and women, but perhaps the most obvious trait of all successful families, regardless of sex, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ken Cuccinelli Donor Linked To Kidnapping Case, Anti-Semitic Newspapers

Consol Energy and Star Scientific's Jonnie R. Williams aren't Ken Cuccinelli's only unsavory campaign contributors.  He also has accepted money from individuals with ties to the Lisa Miller kidnapping case and anti-Semetic newspapers.  In my view, it's par for the course with Cuccinelli who has made a career out of pandering to religious extremists and bigots.  Right Wing Watch has details;  Here are highlights:
While Ken Cuccinelli may be the top law enforcement officer in the Commonwealth of Virginia, that hasn’t stopped him from taking campaign contributions for his gubernatorial bid from a Religious Right activist linked to a kidnapping investigation. Blue Virginia notes that Cuccinelli donor Philip Zodhiates of Response Unlimited is tied to the Lisa Miller kidnapping case.
Zodhiates was named in a RICO lawsuit [PDF] filed by Janet Jenkins, whose former partner Lisa Miller kidnapped their daughter, Isabella, and fled to a Mennonite community in Central America. Before leaving the country with Isabella, Miller broke off a civil partnership with Jenkins after she renounced homosexuality and moved to Virginia and joined the church founded by Jerry Falwell, who also established Liberty University. Miller abducted Isabella after refusing a court order to transfer custody of their daughter to Jenkins.
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While Ken Cuccinelli may be the top law enforcement officer in the Commonwealth of Virginia, that hasn’t stopped him from taking campaign contributions for his gubernatorial bid from a Religious Right activist linked to a kidnapping investigation. Blue Virginia notes that Cuccinelli donor Philip Zodhiates of Response Unlimited is tied to the Lisa Miller kidnapping case.

Zodhiates was named in a RICO lawsuit [PDF] filed by Janet Jenkins, whose former partner Lisa Miller kidnapped their daughter, Isabella, and fled to a Mennonite community in Central America. Before leaving the country with Isabella, Miller broke off a civil partnership with Jenkins after she renounced homosexuality and moved to Virginia and joined the church founded by Jerry Falwell, who also established Liberty University. Miller abducted Isabella after refusing a court order to transfer custody of their daughter to Jenkins.

Zodhiates’ company is also closely tied to Nativist and anti-Semitic groups. Author David Neiwert described how Response Unlimited worked with anti-immigrant “Minutemen” groups in his book And Hell Followed With Her:

Headed up by Diener’s Phil Sheldon and a man named Philip Zodhiates, Response Unlimited makes its money by brokering mailing lists—hundreds of them, gleaned from right-wing organizations and political campaigns, and made available to fundraisers and organizers who can select a list of thousands of names based on their specific interests. Besides the [Minutemen Civil Defense Corps] and readers of the conservative Weekly Standard, among the lists offered by RU is one culled from readers of the notoriously anti-Semitic weekly the Spotlight.

The Southern Poverty Law Center adds that even after Spotlight closed down, Zodhiates maintained ties with its successor:

Response Unlimited, based in Waynesboro, Va., and headed by Christian Right activist Philip Zodhiates, charges $100 for the rental of every 1,000 names of subscribers to the now-defunct Spotlight newspaper. Founded by veteran anti-Semite Willis Carto, The Spotlight carried anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic and wildly conspiracist articles interspersed with ads for Klan, neo-Nazi and related hate groups.

Zodhiates also peddles lists of subscribers to the American Free Press, which replaced The Spotlight when that tabloid was shut down amid legal and financial troubles surrounding Carto. The Free Press began immediately after The Spotlight fizzled in 2001 and picked up many of its predecessor paper's propagandists. Today, the Free Press carries stories on Zionism, secret "New World Order" conspiracies, American Jews and Israel. Mixed in are advertisements for outfits like Pete Peter's Scriptures for America and Kingdom Identity Ministries -- practitioners of Christian Identity, a theology that claims that Jews are the literal descendants of Satan.
 And let's not forget Cuccinelli's ties to the extremists at The Family Foundation which recently had lunatic Ted Cruz as a keynote speaker.

Thursday Male Beauty

Is The Tea Party A Religion?

I have espoused the view many times that the Republican Party's descent into insanity began when the far Christian Right - what I call the Christofascists began to infiltrate and take over local city and county committees and caucuses.  At least 15 years ago, it became clear to me that their goal was to force their religious beliefs and social views on all citizens.  While not all members of the Tea Party are Christofascists, some 85% of them identify as "conservative Christian."  This reality means, reason, logic and acceptance of objective reality is anathema to far too many of them. They are in open rebellion against modernity, changing racial demographics and a decline of white privilege that allowed many of them to feel good about themselves.  Andrew Sullivan correctly views the Tea Party as a quasi-religious cult.  Ultimately, it is this religious fanaticism that must be defeated if we are to regain a balanced constitutional government.  Here are excepts:

I believe that you cannot understand the current GOP without also grasping how bewildered so many people are by the dizzying onset of modernity. The 21st Century has brought Islamist war to America, the worst recession since the 1930s, a debt-ridden federal government, a majority-minority future, gay marriage, universal healthcare and legal weed. If you were still seething from the eruption of the 1960s, and thought that Reagan had ended all that, then the resilience of a pluralistic, multi-racial, fast-miscegenating, post-gay America, whose president looks like the future, not the past, you would indeed, at this point, be in a world-class, meshugganah, cultural panic.

When you add in the fact that the American dream stopped working for most working-class folks at some point in the mid 1970s, and when you see the national debt soaring from the Reagan years onward, made much worse by the Bush-Cheney years, and then exploded by the recession Bush bequeathed, you have a combustible mixture. It’s very easy to lump all this together into a paranoid fantasy of an American apocalypse that must somehow be stopped at all cost. In trying to understand the far-right mindset – which accounts for around a quarter of the country – I think you have to zoom out and see all of this in context.

The first black president could, perhaps, clean up some of the mess of his predecessor, but as soon as he moved on an actual substantive change that he wanted and campaigned on, he was deemed illegitimate. Even though that change was, by any standards, a moderate one, catering to private interests, such as drug and insurance companies; even though it had no public option; even though its outline was the same as the GOP’s 2012 nominee’s in Massachusetts, this inching toward a more liberal America was the casus belli. It still is – which is why it looms so large for the Republican right in ways that can easily befuddle the rest of us.

But it is emphatically not the real reason for the revolt. It is the symptom, not the cause. My rule of thumb is pretty simple: whenever you hear a quote about Obamacare, it’s more illuminating to remove the “care” part. And Obama is a symbol of change people cannot understand, are frightened by, and seek refuge from.

That desperate need for certainty and security is what I focused on in my book about all this, The Conservative Soul. What the understandably beleaguered citizens of this new modern order want is a pristine variety of America that feels like the one they grew up in. They want truths that ring without any timbre of doubt. They want root-and-branch reform – to the days of the American Revolution. And they want all of this as a pre-packaged ideology, preferably aligned with re-written American history
And given the apocalyptic nature of their view of what is going on, it is only natural that they would seek a totalist, radical, revolutionary halt to all of it, even if it creates economic chaos, even if it destroys millions of jobs, even though it keeps millions in immigration limbo, even if it means an unprecedented default on the debt.

This is a religion – but a particularly modern, extreme and unthinking fundamentalist religion. And such a form of religion is the antithesis of the mainline Protestantism that once dominated the Republican party as well, to a lesser extent, the Democratic party. 

It also brooks no distinction between religion and politics, seeing them as fused in the same cultural and religious battle. Much of the GOP hails from that new purist, apocalyptic sect right now – and certainly no one else is attacking that kind of religious organization. But it will do to institutional political parties what entrepreneurial fundamentalism does to mainline churches: its appeal to absolute truth, total rectitude and simplicity of worldview instantly trumps tradition, reason, moderation, compromise.

[T]his is not just a cold civil war. It is also a religious war – between fundamentalism and faith, between totalism and tradition, between certainty and reasoned doubt. It may need to burn itself out – with all the social and economic and human damage that entails. Or it can be defeated, as Lincoln reluctantly did to his fanatical enemies, or absorbed and coopted, as Elizabeth I did hers over decades. But it will take time. The question is what will be left of America once it subsides, and how great a cost it will have imposed.
I view the Christofascists and their Tea Party cousins to be a clear and present danger to America.  More citizens need to recognize this reality and these foul forces which are motivated by hate and fear of anyone deemed "other" need to be defeated completely and utterly discredited.

Cuccinelli's Assistant Improperly Aided Energy Companies

The Virginia Inspector General's report is out and as no surprise, at least to me with an energy company background from my role as in-house counsel to an oil and gas company, report finds that Ken Cuccinelli's Assistant Attorney General, Sharon Pidgeon, acted improperly when she provided legal advice and trial strategy to energy companies embroiled in litigation with Virginia landowners seeking to secure gas royalty payments due to them.  Pidgeon's and Cuccinelli's original excuse was that Pidgeon was defending the constitutionality of Virginia's force pooling statute.  However, her role and assistance continued long after that aspect of the litigation ended.  As noted before, I find it inconceivable that Pidgeon acted alone and without the knowledge of Cuccinelli who just happened to have received $111,000 in campaign contribution from the parent company of one of the energy company litigants.   In my opinopn, both Pidgeon and Cuccinelli are lying.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post:

Virginia’s inspector general has found that a deputy in the office of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II improperly collaborated with energy companies in a legal dispute over natural gas royalties in southwest Virginia, according to a report released Tuesday.

Inspector General Michael F.A. Morehart said that Sharon Pigeon, a senior assistant attorney general, “inappropriately” used state resources to assist the energy companies on legal strategy in a battle between landowners and coal companies over the extraction of natural gas from coal beds.
The long-running and complicated dispute, in which property owners have accused two out-of-state coal companies of withholding millions in gas royalties owed to them, has become a bitter issue in the Virginia governor’s race between Cuccinelli (R) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

McAuliffe’s campaign has pummeled Cuccinelli for his office’s intervention on behalf of the energy companies while highlighting the campaign contributions he has received from the industry. Cuccinelli has maintained that he has done nothing wrong and took steps to correct the situation after his deputy’s actions came to light.

Pigeon told the inspector general that she had intervened to defend a state law that dictates how disputes are to be settled between landowners and energy companies over natural gas extraction from coal beds, Morehart’s letter says.

But after reviewing dozens of e-mails, the inspector general found that Pigeon assisted energy companies directly, in some cases improperly, and continued to do so after a federal court had upheld the law in question, in September 2011. Morehart found that Pigeon’s assistance inappropriately extended to strategy that could benefit the companies in potential state litigation outside the federal court, the letter says.

The legal dispute — which involves perhaps hundreds of landowners and about $28 million in disputed royalties — pits property owners against two of Virginia’s largest producers of natural gas pumped from coal seams, known as coal-bed methane.

The dispute has led to accusations that Cuccinelli, who has stressed his advocacy for the plight of coal workers, has sided with energy companies at the expense of southwest Virginians. And it has given McAuliffe an opening to attract support in a part of the state that has voted heavily Republican in recent years, in part because of the Obama administration’s environmental policies.
The Virginia Inspector General confirmed today what Virginians have found troubling for months — that Ken Cuccinelli’s office had stepped over the line and improperly used taxpayer funds to advise out-of-state energy companies trying to avoid paying Southwest Virginia landowners mining royalties that are rightfully theirs,” McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin said in a written statement. Schwerin called on Cuccinelli to return campaign contributions from one of the energy companies.

The inspector general opened the investigation after news reports that a U.S. magistrate had expressed shock that Pigeon was assisting the energy companies. State Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) also called for an independent examination. Puckett said at the time that he was troubled because Consol Energy has contributed more than $111,000 to Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign.

Cuccinelli has consistently demonstrated that he believes that he is above the law and that money from donors looking for political and legal favors is the norm with him.