Saturday, November 02, 2013

The GOP's War on the Poor

Few things disgust me more than the Republican Party's disingenuous claims to allegiance to Christian values while in reality at the same time throwing Christ's Gospel message on the trash heap.   The principal beneficiaries of the GOP agenda?  The rich and large corporations.  The losers? The poor in particular, and to a lesser extent, everyone else.   And who makes up the core of the fanatical GOP base?  You guessed it, the Christofascists and their Tea Party first cousins.  An op-ed piece in the New York Times looks at the rank hypocrisy of the GOP and the menace that it poses to the most vulnerable members of society.   Here are highlights:

John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, has done some surprising things lately. First, he did an end run around his state’s Legislature — controlled by his own party — to proceed with the federally funded expansion of Medicaid that is an important piece of Obamacare. Then, defending his action, he let loose on his political allies, declaring, “I’m concerned about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor. That, if you’re poor, somehow you’re shiftless and lazy.”

Obviously Mr. Kasich isn’t the first to make this observation. But the fact that it’s coming from a Republican in good standing (although maybe not anymore), indeed someone who used to be known as a conservative firebrand, is telling. Republican hostility toward the poor and unfortunate has now reached such a fever pitch that the party doesn’t really stand for anything else — and only willfully blind observers can fail to see that reality. 

The big question is why. But, first, let’s talk a bit more about what’s eating the right. 

I still sometimes see pundits claiming that the Tea Party movement is basically driven by concerns about budget deficits. That’s delusional. Read the founding rant by Rick Santelli of CNBC: There’s nary a mention of deficits. Instead, it’s a tirade against the possibility that the government might help “losers” avoid foreclosure. Or read transcripts from Rush Limbaugh or other right-wing talk radio hosts. There’s not much about fiscal responsibility, but there’s a lot about how the government is rewarding the lazy and undeserving.

Republicans in leadership positions try to modulate their language a bit, but it’s a matter more of tone than substance. They’re still clearly passionate about making sure that the poor and unlucky get as little help as possible, that — as Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, put it — the safety net is becoming “a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.” And Mr. Ryan’s budget proposals involve savage cuts in safety-net programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. 

All of this hostility to the poor has culminated in the truly astonishing refusal of many states to participate in the Medicaid expansion. Bear in mind that the federal government would pay for this expansion, and that the money thus spent would benefit hospitals and the local economy as well as the direct recipients. But a majority of Republican-controlled state governments are, it turns out, willing to pay a large economic and fiscal price in order to ensure that aid doesn’t reach the poor. 

[I]t wasn’t always this way. Go back for a moment to 1936, when Alf Landon received the Republican nomination for president. . . . . : “Out of this Depression has come, not only the problem of recovery but also the equally grave problem of caring for the unemployed until recovery is attained. Their relief at all times is a matter of plain duty. We of our Party pledge that this obligation will never be neglected.” 

Can you imagine a modern Republican nominee saying such a thing? Not in a party committed to the view that unemployed workers have it too easy, that they’re so coddled by unemployment insurance and food stamps that they have no incentive to go out there and get a job. 

So what’s this all about? . . . .  some leading Republicans are, in their minds, acting out adolescent libertarian fantasies. “It’s as if we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel right now,” declared Paul Ryan in 2009

But there’s also, as Mr. Little says, the stain that won’t go away: race. . . . .  the Republican base “very conscious of being white in a country that is increasingly minority” — and seeing the social safety net both as something that helps Those People, not people like themselves, and binds the rising nonwhite population to the Democratic Party. And, yes, the Medicaid expansion many states are rejecting would disproportionately have helped poor blacks. 

So there is indeed a war on the poor, coinciding with and deepening the pain from a troubled economy. And that war is now the central, defining issue of American politics. 

There's a related cause not cited by the author that I believe is directly involved: the rise of the Christofascists who are almost all white and semi-closeted white supremacists.  These folks not only are killing the GOP brand.  They are also killing Christianity in America.  Their conduct is the antithesis of Christ's gospel message.  They are horrid people and anything but truly Christian.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Kathleen Parker to GOP: Stop Demonizing Hillary Clinton (and Women)

In yet another foray outside of the mental ward known as the Republican Party, columnist Kathleen Parker is admonishing the usual GOP suspects that if they are smart, they will stop trying to demonize Hillary Clinton.  Americans don't like bullies, especially women who often decide who wins an election (if Ken Cuccinelli loses on Tuesday, a strong point in this regard will be made). The column is somewhat tongue in cheek, but does speak some truths.  Here are excerpts:

Ms. Know-It-All, the anonymous political advice columnist whose identity remains a popular Georgetown cocktail party guessing game, is known to live up to her title now and then. Herewith a correspondence worth sharing.

Dear Ms. Know-It-All:  It appears the witch Hillary Rodham Clinton is going to run for president. It makes my skin crawl to think of her and that husband of hers back in our White House, not to mention that they are Marxists like Obama and want to turn us into Sweden, for God’s sake. It’s not too soon for Republicans to marshal our forces for a little shock and awe when the Hildebeast finally announces. How can we stop her?

Signed, A proud, God-fearing, right-wing wacko bird.

Dear Wacko:  Thank you for what seems to be your sincere interest in participating in our country’s health and welfare. And thanks, too, for contacting me, because you need to hear what I have to say. You might want to sit down for this. If you’re on anti-anxiety medication, all the better.

You are, how shall I put this? Idiotic seems too strong, so I’ll go with a foolish little man.
“The witch Hillary”? Yes, I saw the little photo on Drudge with Hillary wearing a witch’s hat. Clever! And on Halloween, too. The headline suggested that someone somewhere should be upset that she apparently earned close to $500,000 for two speeches for Goldman Sachs.

I do believe I detect the scent of envy. Is that the best you’ve got? I don’t think I heard you folks express outrage when Sarah Palin was paid $100,000 a clip, and she was just a short-term governor and a failed vice-presidential candidate. Ronald Reagan once was paid $2 million for two 20-minute speeches by a Japanese manufacturing company.

You get my drift. Speakers are commodities, and they earn what they’re worth to an audience. A former U.S. senator and secretary of state who also was once first lady is not a coupon item.

To the larger point, you must stop witchifying this woman. She has one of the best résumés in the country, certainly compared to anyone who might challenge her. This doesn’t speak to her personality, which seems to aggravate a certain kind of male, or to her involvement with issues that have inspired legitimate criticism. But in hurling personal insults, you are hurting only yourself. The bully always looks worse than the bullied. In so doing, you not only seem juvenile but also look petty and bereft of substantive arguments. While you consider this assessment, imagine how much Hillary must welcome such school-yard taunts.

Pivot now to your less-than-sterling record with female voters. Does the “war on women” ring a bell? I understand that this was mainly a fiction created by the Obama campaign (brilliant, I must say), but you had some help from a couple of star witnesses regarding “legitimate rape” and God’s will when a rape victim becomes pregnant. Why, do tell, would you be surprised that women who value their autonomy in making the most personal decisions might view such statements as “war”?

My point: Don’t attack a woman as a woman. No allusions to awful female characters or anything to do with her appearance. If you have to resort to commentary about someone’s personal attributes, assuming they’re not wearing ridiculous head gear, you are signaling that you have no arrows in your quiver.

This is especially relevant to female candidates for two reasons. One, men beating up a woman summons a number of associations that only make women recoil in revulsion. Two, while you were hunkering in your duck blind, women the world over were getting busy organizing and helping each other. There’s a global movement afoot in which Hillary Clinton has played a crucial part. If you attack her, all but the most rigidly ideological women will circle the wagons, and you will lose. On the bright side, you won’t have to worry anymore about birth control. Your own, that is.

[T]oday’s GOP holds the distinction of being among the first parties in polling history to have a negative rating higher than 50 percent (53), according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey.

Thus, my advice: Marshal your sharpest thinkers and create a product people want. If you can’t win with the strength of your arguments and the clarity of your vision, you can at least lose with your dignity intact — a decent start to a much-needed Republican Reformation. Good luck. 

Well said!

The Tea Party and the Collapse of America's Infrastructure

In the magical alternate universe of the Tea Party/Christofascists highways, bridges and other elements of the nation's infrastructure somehow maintain themselves without spending and without taxes to construct improvements and/or replacement structures.  And since the beginning of the George W. Bush presidency, infrastructure spending has plummeted even as the Chimperator took America into two unfunded wars based on lies.  The result is inadequate highway systems - a phenomenon well know in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia - collapsing bridges and other dangerous conditions.  Think Progress has a piece that looks at this dangerous trend.  Here are highlights:

The austerity fervor that’s seized Washington ever since the 2010 elections has lead to a sudden, steep drop in spending on building things. The collapse in infrastructure spending is illustrated in this chart [above]from investment research firm BCA Research.

After hovering around $300 billion per year from the middle of President George W. Bush’s tenure through 2010, government spending on building things not related to defense fell by about $60 billion in just a few years. The drop is a result of Republicans blocking President Obama’s efforts to invest in infrastructure that the country needs.

As the Financial Times’ Cardiff Garcia notes, the policy choices represented in the chart above aren’t compatible with a responsible effort to cut the country’s debt. Indeed, they’ll make things worse: “It’s also likely that much of the investment that has been forgone in the name of fiscal consolidation will have to be made eventually anyways — only it will be made when rates are higher, exacerbating the long-term fiscal outlook rather than improving it,” Garcia writes. In order to bring America’s infrastructure up to a reasonable level by 2020, Congress needs to be spending about $450 billion per year, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Infrastructure spending levels are tied fairly directly to economic performance. Continued underfunding in this arena over the coming years will cost businesses a trillion dollars in lost sales and cost the economy 3.5 million jobs. Infrastructure spending enjoys overwhelming support from voters. Democrats want to create a national infrastructure bank, something that would require just a $10 billion up-front investment but would provide an ongoing, sustainable funding stream for infrastructure projects.

Army Corps of Engineers: Severe Storm Could Submerge Norfolk Naval Base

Republicans in both the Virginia General Assembly and Congress continue to deny that climate change is occurring or that sea levels are dangerously rising.  Indeed, the only way a study on what is happening in Virginia could get authorization through the the General Assembly was to have it study "repetitive flooding" with no mention whatsoever of "rising sea levels" or "climate change."  It's an example of taking the concept of sticking one's head in the sand to a whole new level.  And the current GOP statewide slate all deny that climate change is occurring, especially the rabidly insane Ken Cuccinelli.  Now, a new Army Corps of Engineers study reports that the Norfolk Naval Base - the largest naval base in the world - is at risk of being inundated in a bad storm. We've already seen entire piers go under water in lesser storms and the Corps says things could be far, far worse.  Here are highlights from the Virginian Pilot:

Norfolk Naval Station's vital infrastructure wouldn't survive the kind of powerful storms and widescale flooding that rising seawaters are expected to bring by the second half of the century. And those conditions would likely get even worse in the following decades.

That's the conclusion of a three-year case study of the naval base, conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers, which analyzed computer storm models based on varying degrees of sea level rise.
It was one of four government-funded studies conducted nationwide to assess the impact of sea levels rising as much as 6 feet over the next 85 years.

"Military bases... are designed to be able to withstand hurricanes and flooding and that type of thing - to some extent," said Kelly Burks-Copes, a Corps of Engineers research ecologist who led the study of the base. . . . "But there was a growing concern that the military's infrastructure was no longer sustainable in the face of exacerbated storms and that climate change was likely to cause frequent storms, stronger storms, even if they are infrequent, more flooding," she said. "And they needed the questions asked: What were the risks and if there were risks, were there ways to reduce the risks?"

The results drive home the immensity of the challenge the Navy faces preparing for a long-term threat as budget crises and government shutdowns undermine even short-term planning.

The results found that at some point between a 1.5-foot and 3-foot rise of the sea, the Navy base - and much of Hampton Roads - would be submerged for hours or even days by a big storm. Without proper planning, the base would be unable to function.

The study identified weak points that can help the Navy plan as it replaces aging equipment and infrastructure, Burks-Copes said.  It can also help the Navy avoid spending money on short-sighted options that will force more spending down the road.

For example, since 2001, the Navy has been building expensive double-deck piers in Norfolk that are supposed to last for decades. They protect the utilities on the lower decks from water damage - based on current sea levels. That works now, she said, but because they weren't designed to address climate change, they won't be usable as long as expected.

"What is our backup if you lose Norfolk?" he asked. "What's plan B?"  Mayport Naval Station in Florida couldn't accommodate all of Norfolk's ships, and after rounds of base closings in recent decades, there are fewer Navy bases to choose from. Unlike the Army or the Air Force, which could just pull back and build an airfield farther inland, the Navy won't have those options.

"These questions are not or should not go away," Titley said. "The Navy will be front and center in dealing with this option whether it wants it or not."

On Tuesday Virginians have the choice of voting for a slate of candidates which doesn't even admit the problem exists or a slate that looks to the future and wants to prepare Virginia for the coming challenges.  Vote a straight Democrat ticket on November 5, 2013. 

Friday, November 01, 2013

Cuccinelli in Bristol to Shore Up Support in Southwest Virginia

Consol Energy campaign contribution timeline - Click to enlarge
Certainly over the last 25 years, Southwest Virginia has always been reliably Republican and any GOP candidate could plan on overwhelming voter support absent being "found in bed with a boy or a dead girl" as some have said.  Yet, less than a week before election day, Ken Cuccinelli was in Bristol, Virginia campaigning to shore up support in Southwest Virginia.  Equally, surprising, he only had 30 people turn out.  Apparently, Cuccinelli's acceptance of campaign bribes contributions from Consol Energy is continuing to haunt him. One can only hope that this all demonstrates that Cuccinelli is in real trouble.  Here are details from Tricities.Com:

BRISTOL , Va. – With just a few days left until Tuesday’s election, Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli stopped by downtown Bristol early Thursday to shore up his support base in Southwest Virginia.

Cuccinelli spoke inside the dusty construction site of the Birthplace of Country Music museum, a work in progress that is expected to open next year. And his audience was a friendly crowd of about 30 who responded to his message with claps, hoots and the occasional “amen!”

“The single biggest decision in Virginia that the next governor will make on our budget will be to either support or oppose expanding Obamacare in Virginia with the Medicaid expansion,” he said. “We will not hug Obamacare. We will keep our distance as best we can.”

The attorney general has trekked into Southwest Virginia several times in the last month, with a meet-and-greet lunch held in an Abingdon restaurant and a stump speech from the steps of the Washington County courthouse.

On Thursday, Cuccinelli’s planned path from Bristol was to wind northward to Tazewell, on to Wytheville and then to Galax. A return trip to Bristol is also set for Sunday.

The many stops in a region that traditionally votes Republican could be an attempt to regain any votes lost as a result of a scandal in which a senior assistant attorney general provided legal advice to energy company lawyers embroiled in a federal lawsuit with regional landowners seeking millions in natural gas royalties. The controversy intensified because CONSOL Energy, the parent company of one of the energy companies involved, has dropped $111,044 into Cuccinelli’s campaign since 2012.

McAuliffe’s campaign pointed to the campaign contribution Thursday when offered an opportunity to comment about Cuccinelli’s local stop.

“Ken Cuccinelli is the last one who should be talking about the needs of Southwest Virginia after he took more than $100,000 from the out-of-state energy company his office was inappropriately aiding in its fight against Southwest Virginia landowners,” McAuliffe campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin wrote.
I continue to hope that Cuccinelli's extremism, his greed and his sense of entitlement will be his undoing. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Alabama - A Test Case of Whether the Tea Party Can Be Killed

It's ironic that business interest within the GOP could not see the monster they were allowing to be created when the Christofascists and later the Tea Party (which mostly Christofascists hiding behind a different moniker) were allowed to infiltrate the GOP base.  Now that the cancer of these people is causing the GOP to suffer metastasizing cancer like symptoms, the GOP business community has seemingly finally begun to wake up and try to reclaim the GOP from the crazy people.  Will it work?  Only time will tell.  A piece in the New York Times looks at a struggle in my old home town of Mobile, Alabama, to stop a lunatic Tea Party candidate.  Note how the bulk of the Tea Party supporters are far right Christians.  Here are story excerpts:

With only days to go before a special Republican primary runoff for Congress here in South Alabama, the national business lobby is going all in. 

In the first test of its post-government-shutdown effort to derail Tea Party candidates, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce put on a rally on Tuesday in the warehouse of an aluminum plant to show its support for Bradley Byrne, a lawyer and former Republican officeholder. 

Companies as diverse as Caterpillar and AT&T have also sent in a last-minute flurry of donations. The goal, backers of Mr. Byrne said, is to elect not just a Republican, but the right kind of pro-business one. 

Dean Young, the Tea Party-backed businessman who is running against Mr. Byrne, seems only to be reveling in his opponent’s establishment, big-money support, repeatedly praising Senator Ted Cruz of Texas for leading the way to the government shutdown and saying that if he wins it will be in the face of “the entire Republican establishment.” 

Republican consultants and voters here say that the zeal of Mr. Young’s Christian conservative supporters puts the outcome of the runoff at even odds, suggesting that the fight over control of the Republican Party is likely to be long, hard and unpredictable. 

It is a reality that has some of the Washington lobbyists and political consultants who are helping orchestrate the anti-Tea Party push concerned, particularly given that extreme conservatives tend to be more reliable voters. 

Mr. Young’s voters are drawn by his declaration that homosexuality “always has been, always will be” wrong, his full backing of using a government shutdown “to stop Obamacare,” and his insistence that people “have the right to acknowledge God in schools and in the public square.”
Supporters of moderate Republican candidates worry about whose voters will turn out.

They [business interests] are increasingly concerned that a core group of anti-establishment conservatives in the House is threatening to derail their agenda, not just in terms of keeping the government open for business, but also when it comes to passing a comprehensive new immigration law, revising the nation’s tax code and making changes to the health care law, instead of just trying to kill it. 

Rob Engstrom, the chamber’s national political director, explained this strategy on Tuesday, when he flew in to endorse Mr. Byrne, standing on a stage next to him at the warehouse in Foley. 

“The No. 1 goal of the U.S. Chamber’s political program is to protect the pro-business majority in the House of Representatives,” Mr. Engstrom said to the crowd. “In addition to protecting that majority, we are also very interested in what is the composition of that majority. We want to find candidates who come from the private sector, we want to find candidates who come from the chamber family.” 

Recent elections in Alabama have proved that politicians with a strong Christian conservative following can win big races, even when significantly outraised. Aware of this, some in the Byrne camp have quietly reached out to Democrats, hoping to attract non-Republicans to the polls. But it is unclear whether that will happen, or would be enough.  

As the Christofascists have risen in power in the Alabama GOP, the state has become crazier and crazier.   Indeed, in some ways Alamaba was more moderate during George Wallace last term as governor than it is now.  That's pretty scary.

Cuccinelli Is Screwing Virginia Taxpayers

I have long argued that GOP gubernatorial candidate has always wanted Virginia taxpayers to be forced to help underwrite his campaign, hence his refusal to resign as attorney general as has it been the tradition in Virginia for decades.   Cuccinelli has wanted to draw a full time salary while working part time at best.  A new analysis of his schedule confirms that he has been campaigning - 74% of the time - more than he has been working - a mere 26% of the time.  The Virginian Pilot has details.  Here are highlights:

That same-day juxtaposition - attorney general in the morning, candidate in the afternoon - shows seesawing commitments that lately have tipped the balance of Cuccinelli's campaign.

A Virginian-Pilot analysis of Cuccinelli's office and campaign schedules for July, August and part of September suggests he has spent more time on the trail than behind his desk while earning a $150,000 annual state salary, plus health benefits for his nine-member family.

According to the schedules, he was in his office seven of 22 work days in July, four of 22 days in August, and just three of nine the first two weeks of September. That equates to roughly 26 percent of the total work days over that period.

Remaining attorney general while seeking higher office has given Cuccinelli a platform, but also been a nagging campaign issue, as evidenced by his physical absences.

The campaign also has been hampered by the gift scandal orbiting Cuccinelli and his office, as well as its role in a legal dispute between Southwest Virginia landowners and energy companies over natural gas payments. Those episodes allowed critics to cry conflict, charges Cuccinelli could have more easily avoided if he'd left office, and undercut an argument that McAuliffe is unscrupulous.

His decision proved a boon for Virginia Democrats already loaded to hit Cuccinelli for his views on gay rights, abortion and climate change, all demonstrated during his high-profile tenure as attorney general. They have hounded him since January to resign - a state tradition followed by the six prior attorneys general who ran for governor - and they gained ammunition when he stayed.
Cuccinelli is a self-centered extremist (a trait he shares with his supporters at The Family Foundation) and it sounds like he needs to return a huge chunk of his pay check back to Virginia tax payers.

The GOP's Next Gay Rights Balancing Act

Survey after survey indicate that Americans support workplace non-discrimination policies for LGBT employees.  Indeed, many mistakenly believe that they already exist.  Yet for the Christofascists in the GOP base, few things are more anathema than a law that would restrict the ability of hate-filled "godly Christians" to fire gays at will.  Indeed, opposition to non-discrimination protections is one of the pillars of the Christofascist goal of keeping LGBT citizens inferior under the law.  Among other things, it is a way to justify their own bigotry.  It is also a way to frightened the ignorant and simple minded into handing over money to hate groups such as Family Research Council.  This dicotomy puts many Republican elected officials on a high wire as they try to prostitute themselves to the Christofascists without totally alienating the rest of the voting public.  A piece in Politico looks at the challenge ENDA will pose for many in the GOP.  Here are excerpts:

[W]hen it comes to the ENDA bill heading to the Senate floor as soon as next week, those GOP senators aren’t so sure. They are balancing growing public acceptance of gay rights against concerns that the bill — which includes provisions addressing gender identity — is too expansive and doesn’t do enough to protect religious institutions.

“I said when I did ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ don’t misinterpret this as a blank check on issues that relate to same-sex anything,” Burr told POLITICO.

With the Senate poised to consider perhaps the most significant gay rights measure since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a handful of Republican senators will help determine its fate. While the bill has the support of every Senate Democrat, just four out of 44 Republican senators have yet to endorse the measure — a sign of how the party is still trying to appeal to a new bloc of voters who are becoming more open to gay rights.

“It’s significantly broadened [from the 2007 House bill], and with that comes greater possibilities for litigation and compliance costs,” Flake said. “I’m a firm ‘no’ if it’s the Senate bill.”

But supporters of the measure say those concerns are misplaced. And with Republicans in Congress still overwhelmingly opposed to gay marriage despite growing public approval of the issue, GOP backers of the ENDA bill argue that supporting the measure would help broaden the party’s appeal to young and LGBT voters who have been turned off by social conservative policies.

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) . . . added, “Some of us aren’t there on marriage equity, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t be there on nondiscrimination. We’re the party of Lincoln. It’s our roots.”

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 would address discrimination in the workplace by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is crafted to mirror Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, though it provides what proponents call a “broad” religious exemption.
[T]he American Unity Fund, founded by major GOP donor Paul Singer, has hired two former GOP lawmakers as lobbyists — Coleman and former New York Rep. Tom Reynolds — to press Republicans to back the plan. Reynolds is making clear that this issue isn’t the same as gay marriage — an issue he opposed when he served in Congress — saying the bill eliminates only “workplace discrimination.”
A prime target for backers of the bill is Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who became the first sitting GOP senator to back same-sex marriage earlier this year after learning his college-age son is gay.
Proponents of the measure say it’s time for the federal government to catch up as 17 states, the District of Columbia, and hundreds of local governments have laws on the books to prevent workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians. A wide array of Fortune 500 companies have also adopted such policies. And polls show that an overwhelming majority of the American public not only supports the proposal but also believes such laws are already on the books.
“The times they are a-changing,” said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the chamber’s No. 3 Democrat. “If you want to alienate young voters, opposing this is a good way to do it. And they know that.”
Meanwhile, some of the usual hate groups are shrieking about male sexual predators dressing as women in order to prey on children in rest rooms.  Hate and lies are the defining attributes of today's conservative Christians.  

Has Hillary Clinton Signaled a 2016 Campaign Theme?

Certainly as most Virginians are aware, Bill and Hillary Clinton have become involved in the 2013 Virginia elections as they have barnstormed for gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the Democrat statewide ticket.  Pundits and prognosticators have tried to read other motivations into the Clintons' support for McAuliffe and the Democrats which have ranged from seeking to make Virginia a friendly state in 2016 to signalling possible campaign themes for Hillary's 2016 run.  Here are excerpts from a piece in the Washington Post that looks at the later aspect of the phenomenon:

NORFOLK — In recent stump speeches and policy remarks, Bill and Hillary Clinton have offered sharp criticisms of the partisan gridlock paralyzing Washington, signaling a potential 2016 campaign theme if Hillary Clinton chooses to run for president.

The Clintons’ critiques in recent days have been explicitly aimed at congressional Republicans, who helped spur a 16-day government shutdown and potential debt default in October. But their remarks also seem to contain an implicit rebuke of President Obama’s failure to change Washington as he pledged when first running for the White House.

The arguments suggest a way that Hillary Clinton could attempt to run in 2016 as an agent of change — potentially putting her at odds with the two-term Democrat she would be seeking to replace.
At campaign rallies and other recent appearances, both Clintons have called for soothing partisan tensions and have espoused a vision of governing by compromise. Barnstorming Virginia this week with longtime friend and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, Bill Clinton repeatedly assailed ideological politics on both sides of the aisle.

“When people sneeringly say, ‘McAuliffe is a dealmaker,’ I say, ‘Oh, if we only had one in Washington during that shutdown,’ ” the former president said at a rally here in Norfolk on Monday. “It’s exhausting seeing politicians waste time with all these arguments. It is exhausting. People deserve somebody who will get this show on the road.”

Such themes of change and comity are particularly ironic for the Clintons considering that one or the other has held public office in Washington for the past two decades. Bill Clinton’s tenure in office was also marked by fierce partisan battles that roiled the nation, including an impeachment fight and two government shutdowns.

In the 2008 Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton dismissed Obama’s message of post-partisanship as woefully naive. But since stepping down as Obama’s secretary of state earlier this year, she has adopted a similar theme, repeatedly berating lawmakers for choosing “scorched earth over common ground.”

The Clintons have been careful to distinguish between promoting bipartisanship and ceding ground on core values. Hillary Clinton, for example, has been busy advocating for traditionally liberal issues such as minority voting rights, gay marriage equality and women’s rights.

This appears to be an effort by Clinton, following a four-year hiatus from domestic politics, to cement ties to the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. If she runs, Clinton would want to avoid a repeat of the 2008 campaign, when Obama built support among liberal activists by running to her left on the Iraq war.

The Clintons’ message is one that Democrats across the country could carry into the 2014 midterm elections, where the battle for control of the Senate could come down to a handful of hotly contested races in states that lean Republican.

“This economic thing, it’s terrible,” Clinton said in Hampton. “Median family incomeafter you adjust for inflation, is lower than it was the day I left office. That was a long time ago. And we need somebody who wants to do something about it.”  Many voters attending the rallies said they longed for a return to the Clinton era.

This is the sentiment that both Clintons have been channeling. At his Virginia stops, Bill Clinton repeatedly said the Founding Fathers wanted elected officials to be practical above all else, designing a system of governing that would force them to negotiate with each other.  “Read the Constitution of the United States of America,” Clinton said Sunday in Richmond. “It might as well have been subtitled, ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’ ”

Thursday, October 31, 2013

More Thursday Male Beauty

Is Cuccinelli’s Extreme "Conservatism" Headed for A Decisive Rejection

Remember how in the wake of Mitt Romney's 2012 loss to Barack Obama the far right of the Republican Party repeated the usual lie canard that the loss was the result of the GOP's failure to nominate sufficiently "conservative" - think insane - candidates?  Well, the 2013 Virginia GOP statewide slate could not be any more conservative.  In fact, the ticket is the dream ticket of the far right, religious extremists at The Family Foundation.  So far every poll suggests that Virginians are not falling over themselves to support the GOP extremist ticket.  As a column in the Washington Post suggests, ultimately the vote next Tuesday will be a referendum on Ken Cuccinelli and his extreme form of so-called conservatism. Here are column excerpts:

Here’s a statement by Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli II that I predict he will eventually disavow or at least regret: “We need people to know that Nov. 5 is a referendum in Virginia on Obamacare.”

Cuccinelli (R), who abhors the president’s health-care law, made the remark Monday at a Fairfax event in hopes of energizing party activists in the campaign’s final week.

But opinion polls are pointing to a comfortable victory, perhaps a landslide, for Democrat Terry McAuliffe. If that happens, do you think Cuccinelli will describe the outcome as an endorsement of the health plan he’s denounced as a reckless, unconstitutional violation of American liberty?
Neither do I.

But the Republican candidate is entirely correct in portraying the election as an important referendum. He just has the topic wrong.

The vote will be a plebiscite on Cuccinelli’s own, well-established brand of hard-line conservatism: a blend of tea party hostility to government and religious right opposition to abortion rights and gay equality. 

Perhaps Cuccinelli will stage a miracle comeback before Tuesday’s election. But if the polls are correct, then the result ought to smash the cherished myth of the Republican right that it can win elections in Virginia if it just stops offering milquetoast moderates such as Mitt Romney.

Republicans nominated Cuccinelli as part of the most conservative statewide ticket in memory.
Virginia voters have noticed. They don’t like what they see. 

Consider a striking bit of data from The Washington Post’s latest poll. Nearly 9 percent of likely Virginia voters share the following three characteristics: They voted for Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell four years ago. They plan to vote for McAuliffe this time. They view Cuccinelli as “too conservative.”

Cuccinelli has alienated past GOP voters partly through various actions in his job as attorney general, such as harassing a University of Virginia scientist with whom he disagreed about global warming.  “I voted for him for AG, but some of the things that he’s done are absolutely appalling to me,” said Pat Sheldon, a retired Navy lieutenant commander who lives in Prince William County. “His going after the Virginia professor. . . . That to me is a personal vendetta, just because he doesn’t know about climate change.”

The recent federal government shutdown also has hurt Cuccinelli, by arousing ire against his tea party allies.  “I don’t like the fact that he associated with people who are willing to shut the government down, which especially hurts the economy in this area,” said Jeff Hever, 36, of Leesburg, who works in the retail automobile business.

If Cuccinelli loses, then count on the Republican right to make three main excuses about why the outcome wasn’t “really” a rejection of its agenda. They’ll say they were massively outspent. That the government shutdown was unlucky timing. That they suffered collateral damage from the scandal over a businessman’s gifts to McDonnell.

Only one of the three rationalizations is valid. It’s true that McDonnell turned out to be a drag on the GOP ticket, instead of an advantage as expected.

By contrast, Cuccinelli has mainly himself to blame for his disadvantage in fundraising. Many Virginia businessmen who typically write big checks to the GOP supported McAuliffe, or sat on the sidelines, because they didn’t like Cuccinelli’s positions.

What is disturbing is the fact that even if Cuccinelli does goes down to defeat by a landside, the far right elements of the GOP who made him the nominee still will not get the message that people do not like what they and their candidates are peddling.   These people will remain untethered from reality and will likely continue to destroy the GOP.

Completely Descredited "Researcher" Paul Cameron Addresses Russian Duma

If one wants to truly understand the lengths American Christofascists are going to in their quest to export anti-gay hate and lies overseas, events in Russia continue to be most educational.  No lie and untruth seems to be too much and shockingly Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church seem only too happy to parade outright liars, charlatans and frauds "experts" to legitimize their anti-gay jihad.  Things have now reached a new low as the Russian Duma - the Russian equivalent to Congress - have welcomed Paul Cameron as a "researcher" on homosexuality.  As long time readers know, Cameron was thrown out of every legitimate association to which he was a member over a quarter of a century ago.  Why?  Because he deliberately falsified research results and deliberately skewed his "research" to reach predetermined results to slander and denigrate gays.  In one court case, a federal judge opined that Cameron was a fraud.  The Bilerico Project looks at Cameron's appearance before the Duma.  Here are highlights:

Want to know how dangerously, rabidly anti-LGBT the climate in Russia is getting? This one report from BuzzFeed encapsulates it in perfect, chilling detail:
Russia's parliament invited an American anti-gay psychologist whose work has been widely discredited to give expert testimony where he suggested that a third of LGBTs support pedophilia, according to a participant in the meeting.

Family Research Institute founder Paul Cameron, who has been censured by the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association for distorting statistics in efforts to block LGBT rights, spoke at a Duma roundtable on "family values," according to tweets from lawmaker Alexander Sidyakin.
BuzzFeed translates this tweet as follows: "[Cameron] cited statistics of a survey of homosexualists: 27% engage in sex with children from 15 to 18, 15% with children under 15; 32% think such sex is OK."

Of course, there is absolutely no legitimacy to these "statistics," or any other "facts" cited by this "researcher." Cameron was kicked out of both the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association for peddling virulently anti-gay junk science; the Southern Poverty Law Center calls him an "infamous anti-gay propagandist" and lists his organization, the Family Research Institute, as a hate group.

Cameron is best known for the thoroughly debunked canard about the supposed "health risks" of homosexuality -- you know, the one about how gay men, on average, live only half as long as their heterosexual counterparts. It's a lie that's been discredited for years, but it still surfaces in legislative testimony, city council hearings, and public comment forums across the country. Cameron's bogus "research" is also still cited by major anti-LGBT hate groups like the American Family Association, the Concerned Women for America, and until recently, the Family Research Council.

He's also, to put it simply, a crackpot. In an appearance on a Christian talk radio show last year, Cameron made the wild-eyed claim that "the long term goal of the homosexual movement is to get every little boy to grab his ankles and every little girl to give it a try." He also told nationally-syndicated progressive radio host David Pakman that he knows President Obama to be gay, the heinous crimes of Jerry Sandusky were caused by American acceptance of homosexuality, and that over half the children in Afghanistan and Pakistan are molested by their teachers because of the "fair degree of prominence" homosexuality has in those societies.

Seriously. And this is the man Russian parliamentarians are consulting as an "expert" on homosexuality. If that doesn't send chills up your spine, I don't know what will.

Russia wants to be regarded as a world leader and super power.  Allowing charlatans like Cameron appear before the nation's highest legislative body does nothing to further this ambition.  Indeed, it makes Russia and Russians look like laughing stocks.

The Worst of the Far Right's Arguments Against ENDA

With the United States Senate poised to take up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ("ENDA") which would extend employment non-discrimination protections to LGBT individuals (individuals who currently have no protections in 29 states), the batshitery and bigoted arguments from the Christofascists and their political prostitutes in the Republican Party are flying fast and furiously.  A piece in The Atlantic Wire looks at and debunks some of the tired excuses being proffered to justify killing ENDA.  Here are some excerpts:

The United States Senate looks like its ready to make a huge step in the recognizing the equality of LGBT America and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a measure that would bar anyone from firing someone based on their sexuality. That's a big move for gay rights in this country, where people are just getting around to the idea that you shouldn't be able to fire someone for being gay the same way you can't fire someone for being Catholic, black, or a woman. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the believes he has the 60 votes he needs. 

JOHN MCCAIN:  Despite a strong push from his wife to vote yes on ENDA, Sen. John McCain appears to be voting no. He was asked about any lingering reservations on Wednesday, and compared the measure to desegregation busing and quotas. "Busing was done in the name of equality. Busing was a failure. Quotas were a failure. A lot of people thought they were solutions. They weren't. They bred problems," McCain said.

Counterpoint: Its odd that McCain would recall the Boston bus riots, which gave us one of the most infamous images of racism of the Civil Rights Era. But if bussing was a mistake, it was not a mistake to try to end discrimination in public schools against black children. ENDA does not have measures to force employers to hire gays they way bussing forced kids to go to different schools. Employers would still hire the people who can do the job — and they just can't fire them if they find out an employee's gay.   

RICK SANTORUM:  "The bill would extend special privileges, not based on a person’s status in our society, but rather based on their lifestyle choice," said Rick Santorum back in 1996 (if ENDA was a person, it'd be old enough to purchase cigarettes).

Counterpoint: Being gay is as much of a choice as being heterosexual is — it's not. You'd think if it were that simple, then wouldn't someone fired for being gay simply just choose to be straight to avoid the bigotry and discrimination? But to Santorum's point of special protections, the right to work is not a "special privilege" in this country and there are already civil rights laws which protect against discrimination based on someone's race, religion, gender, and disability among other things. ENDA would put LGBT people on the same playing field as those people.

FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: [Peter] Sprigg belongs to the anti-gay group known as the Family Research Council. This summer he stopped by Janet Mefferd's Christian radio show to say how ENDA doesn't tolerate religious people's and religious organizations' intolerance.

Counterpoint: The whole of idea it being someone's religion to be intolerant of someone is a slippery slope. What if it's in your religion to treat someone of a different race terribly, or to beat up kittens? And what about the "treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated" clauses? Anyways, ENDA has religious exemptions,  . . . . 
  • A complete exemption for houses of worship, parochial and similar religious schools, and missions
  • A codification of the so-called "ministerial exemption" recognized by many federal courts, exempting positions at religious organizations that involve the teaching or spreading religion, religious governance, or the supervision of individuals engaged in these activities
  • A provision allowing religious organizations, for classes of jobs, to require employees and applicants to conform to a declared set of significant religious tenets, including ones which would bar LGBT people from holding the position
. . . . these exemptions seem like a begrudging concession since many LGBT organizations aren't fans of it, MetroWeekly reported. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Transgender Law Center released a joint statement in April which stated that the exemptions give a "stamp of legitimacy to LGBT discrimination that our civil rights laws have never given to discrimination based on an individual’s race, sex, national origin, age, or disability."

In the last analysis, anti-gay discrimination is a form of religious based discrimination and needs to be illegal.  That it is allowed to happen and that churches continue to be allowed to preach anti-gay hatred makes a mockery of the founding principles of equality under the civil laws.  Yes, this is a sensitive issue for me.  I was forced out of a law firm because I was gay.  It destroyed me financially, forced me into bankruptcy and led to a serious suicide attempt.  I have survived.  Many have not been so lucky.  All so that self-congratulatory, falsely pious bigots can feel superior about themselves. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Alabama or Mississippi: Which is More Homophobic?

Leave it to the Daily Show to cause mischief but also focus attention on the batshit craziness that plagues the states of Alabama and Mississippi when it comes to spittle flecked homophobia.  Alabama today, in my view, is far more extreme that it was 30+ years ago when I lived there.  Towleroad describes the mission as follows:

After consulting with Nate Silver about which states will be the last to get gay marriage, The Daily Show's Al Madrigal brought a stunt gay couple to Alabama and Mississippi to see "which one of these backwoods, inbred, homophobic states will swim the longest against the tide of history."

Do yourself a favor and watch the video here.  Some might think the video mean spirited, but the truth is that all of us have the option of embracing ignorance and bigotry or rejecting it.  With today's Internet and easily accessed information, no one has the excuse to remain ignorant and bigoted.

Cuccinelli is a Symptom of the GOP's Problems

Ken Cuccinelli and those who nominated him - especially the religious fanatics at The Family Foundation, a hate group in all but official designation as such - are not representative of mainstream Americans.  They represent a shrinking (and in my view, near mentally ill) element of American society that is in open rebellion against modernity, science, and equality for all citizens.  Their principal motivations are greed and hatred of others fueled by religious extremism and desperation that their white privilege is being eroded.  Despite all of this, the Republican Party has allowed these individuals to take over much of the Party grass roots and engage in behavior that has been near destructive for the nation's economy.  A piece in the National Journal looks at how Ken Cuccinelli reflects this sickness within the GOP.  Here are excerpts:

No, Ken Cuccinelli's expected defeat next week won't have any more bearing on the 2014 midterms than Chris Christie's anticipated landslide victory in solidly-Democratic New Jersey. But the divide that split the GOP asunder in Virginia is a powerful symptom of the problems that are hurting the party across the country.

Republicans are facing challenges winning over swing, suburban voters that were once a bulwark of the party's coalition. Cuccinelli has spent little time campaigning in vote-rich Northern Virginia, with his socially-conservative message failing to resonate with more-moderate voters.

Throughout his campaign, Cuccinelli has been catering to the party base, declining to criticize GOP tactics over the government shutdown and appearing with tea party leaders Ted Cruz and Rand Paul in the campaign's final month. His campaign appearance with Paul on Monday was at Liberty University, where the senator advocated a pro-life message to an evangelical audience.

"Republicans need to ask what's wrong with our business model here," said a frustrated Tom Davis, former Republican congressman from Northern Virginia and Cuccinelli supporter. "This should have been a slam dunk. Virginia almost always votes against the president's party ... All we needed was a mammal up there."

If Cuccinelli fails to engineer an unlikely comeback, it should signal that running an outspoken social conservative in a battleground state is a losing formula. But to the contrary, there are few signs that the message is getting through. If anything, the party's civil war – played out in Virginia between lieutenant governor Bill Bolling and Cuccinelli – is just beginning to heat up.

Consider: Seven of the 12 Republican senators up for re-election in 2014 are facing credible primary threats from the right. Few are expected to win, but most will pose more than a nuisance.

[W]ith the grassroots' energy focused on ousting their own, outside groups are paying less attention to the crop of vulnerable Democratic senators. The GOP campaign committees' fundraising is down, and American Crossroads is facing challenges replicating their fundraising success of elections past. Just like Cuccinelli has faced a huge financial disadvantage against deep-pocketed Terry McAuliffe, Republican candidates could find themselves outspent in pivotal races – thanks to the intraparty divide.

The Virginia governor's race also has highlighted how election rules designed to benefit conservatives have played an unheralded role in pushing the party rightward, costing them at the general-election ballot box. Most notable: The party's practice, in several states, of holding conventions instead of primaries to choose nominees, leaving the typically unrepresentative cross-section of single-issue activists to pick the Republican candidate.

In Virginia, Cuccinelli's allies bypassed the primary process to blunt intraparty opposition, a move that's contributed to his problems with unifying the party. Ironically, the outspoken conservative is belatedly trying to rally the base, something that would have been much easier had he engaged the broader GOP electorate in a primary campaign.

The bigger long-term fear, according to Republican strategists, is if the party divisions worsen, the tea party forces could emerge as a third party. Already McConnell's campaign has adopted a scorched-earth strategy not just against his primary opponent, but against the very tea party-oriented groups working to elect more conservative challengers to incumbents. The McConnell camp's goal is to exploit the groups' ideological inconsistencies, but those tactics are already inflaming intraparty tensions.

"The right could spring out very quickly and become their own entity—and then we're gone," said Davis. "These folks feel very empowered."

The so-called GOP establishment began creating this Frankenstein monster  as far back as a quarter century ago by welcoming Christofascists - who once had been viewed akin to lepers - into the local levels of the GOP.  Now the monster is out of control and frankly, I don't know how it can be killed. 

In Lead Up to Election Day, McAuliffe Depicts Cuccinelli as Anti-Gay

In the final days of the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial campaign, Democrat Terry McAuliffe is reminding Virginians that Ken Cuccinelli - like the rest of the GOP statewide ticket - is virulently anti-gay.  Personally, I view Cuccinelli as a likely self-loathing closet case and like so many closeted members of the GOP, he over compensates for his own psychological/sexual orientation issues by attacking normal gays who remind him of what he knows he really is in his secret heart of hearts.  No one is so hysterically anti-gay if they are comfortable with their own sexual orientation.  The Washington Blade looks at McAuliffe's well deserved accusations against Cuccinelli.  Here are excerpts:

HERNDON, Va.—Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe continues to portray Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as anti-gay in the final days of the commonwealth’s gubernatorial campaign.
McAuliffe pointed out his Republican rival once described gay Virginians as “soulless human beings” in response to a question during an Oct. 24 debate at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg that Roanoke television station WDBJ sponsored.

“Who talks like that,” McAuliffe said. “There’s somebody in this audience who might be gay or has a friend who’s gay. You cannot grow and diversify our economy with this mean-spirited language.”

McAuliffe, who has publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples alongside the two other Democratic candidates for statewide office, further sought to differentiate himself from Cuccinelli during a campaign rally at Herndon Middle School on Monday at which former President Clinton spoke. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner; Congressman Gerry Connolly and state Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), who chairs the Democratic Party of Virginia, also addressed those who attended the event.

“We must be a state where gay Virginians are treated equally,” McAuliffe said.

Fifty-four percent of likely Virginia voters who responded to the Washington Post/Abt SRBI poll said they feel Cuccinelli’s views on most issues are too conservative. Forty-six percent of respondents who took part in a Quinnipiac University survey conducted between Oct. 2-8 had the same opinion of the attorney general. 

LGBT rights advocates and Democrats have repeatedly criticized Cuccinelli and Virginia’s statewide Republican ticket over their opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples and other gay-specific measures in the commonwealth.

Obenshain sponsored a bill that Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law in March that bans public universities from denying recognition and funding to student organizations that discriminate in their membership based on sexual orientation and other categories that federal law does not protect. Obenshain also opposed a measure a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee in February tabled earlier this year that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees.

“For the past four years, Ken Cuccinelli has bent and twisted the law in order to impose policies on Virginians that are far outside the mainstream,” Mark Herring said during the McAuliffe rally at Herndon High School. “My opponent — Mark Obenshain — would be a continuation of that approach.”

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month denied Cuccinelli’s request to appeal a lower court ruling that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

Bottom line: Cuccinelli, as well as "Bishop" Jackson and Mark Obenshain are extremists who need to be defeated on November 5, 2013. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

More Wednesday Male Beauty

"Christian" Pastor to Rape Victim: “He should have killed you. At least you’d have died a virgin.”

The sickness of the "godly Christian" crowd just seems to be metastasizing more and more.  And in the process, these self-styled defenders of Christianity are making the faith something so vile that no one truly moral and decent would want to have anything to do with it.  Patheos has a post that sadly, I suspect is genuine.  It is certainly consistent with the mind set of Virginia Christofascists who are supporting the extreme, hate-filled GOP statewide ticket.  Here are excerpts:

I got this letter in:
Hi, John.

I became acquainted with your writing a couple of months ago and love it. I so wish I could travel back in time and hear your voice in my head while I was growing up, instead of the hard-core fundy “you’re going to hell” soundtrack of my early life.
I’ve read with great interest some of the things you’ve written about how the church treats victims of sexual violence. I just had to share a bit of my story around exactly that issue.

When I was 16 years old, I was raped at knife-point by a stranger. Not having a clue how to handle it, I decided to confide first of all in my pastor. While I was literally still bleeding from the attack, he told me (and I quote) “It’s too bad that you didn’t force him to kill you instead. That way you could have at least died a virgin.” That was the sum total of his “advice” to me—not, “Oh, you should go to the police,” or “Oh, I’m so sorry that happened to you,” or anything that might have been even remotely helpful anywhere on this planet.

After that reaction, I decided not to tell anyone else—including my parents or the police—ever. It wasn’t until six years later, after I had attempted suicide and was hospitalized for severe depression, that the truth came out. And then, only because I saw my rapist’s wedding photo and announcement in our local paper and freaked out a bit. (Well, okay, a lot.) It took me a long time, a ton of therapy, and no small measure of the grace of God to get past this exhibit of what a pastor-friend calls the “cult of virginity.”
Are you are a pastor, priest, or ministry leader who holds that women are intrinsically inferior to men—that women should submit to their husbands, that women are less intelligent than men, less emotionally sophisticated than men, not as ambitious, driven, or proud as men? Do you believe that a woman’s highest calling is to be a good mother, that a young woman’s moral status is tied to her virginity, that women’s sexuality causes men to sin?

If you do believe those things, then I’m begging you to right now resign all of your authority in the church. Get out—and don’t talk to anyone on your way to the door, either. You do not speak for God. You wouldn’t know good counsel from bad porridge. At best you are profound and grievous embarrassment to God; at worst the devil himself wonders at the fullness of the damage you do.

I agree with the post's author.  Increasingly, these "godly Christian" folk are nothing less than outright evil.  And it is far, far past time that the media, politicians and others cease giving these people the least shred of deference.  They need to be seen as a modern day pestilence that threatens society.

Did the NSA Hack into Google and Yahoo?

The revelations about the National Security Administration's ("NSA") lawless disregard for legal limits that keep flowing from the documents released by Edward Snowden seem to know no end.  Now, it is reported that the NSA hacked into Google and Yahoo's systems and spied on millions and millions of indviduals, many of them American citizens.  As noted before, Hitler's Nazi regime would be envious of what the NSA has done in terms of domestic spying.  Not surprisingly, the NSA is denying the reports, but based on what we've seen to date, I believe the NSA folks about as much as I could throw an aircraft carrier across Hampton Roads harbor.  CNN has some details.  Here are excerpts:

The National Security Agency's director flatly denied a Washington Post report Wednesday that the NSA secretly broke into communications links that connect Google and Yahoo data centers, calling the newspaper's allegation false.

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, pushed back against the report that cites leaked classified documents, saying the agency does not illegally access the servers of Internet companies.

"The servers and everything we do with those, those companies work with us. They are compelled to work with us. This isn't something the court just said, 'Would you please work with them and throw data over it.' This is compelled. And this is specific requirements that come from a court order," Alexander said at a cybersecurity conference in Washington.

"This is not NSA breaking into any databases. It would be illegal for us to do that. So, I don't know what the report is. But I can tell you factually we do not have access to Google servers, Yahoo servers. We go through a court order."

The Washington Post report is the latest in a series of allegations that stem from disclosures given to news organizations by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who describes himself as a whistle-blower.

The operation is code named MUSCULAR, and it is operated jointly by the NSA and its UK counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters, The Washington Post reported, citing the documents.

According to The Washington Post, the NSA and the Government Communications Headquarters are copying data flowing through fiber-optic network cables overseas, and the NSA sends millions of the records from Yahoo and Google to data warehouses at its headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.

There is no oversight of the NSA operation because it is occurring overseas out of the reach of the court, according to the report.

The report raised the concern of Google and Yahoo, with the Internet behemoths saying they never gave the NSA permission to access communication links to their respective servers.

"We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centers, and we have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency," said Yahoo spokeswoman Sarah Meron.

Google has "long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we have continued to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links," said David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer.

"We do not provide any government, including the U.S. government, with access to our systems. We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform."

The newspaper report emerged a day after Alexander and James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, testified before a House committee reviewing the agency's surveillance activities.

I for one increasingly view Snowden as a super patriot who wanted Americans to know about the lawlessness of branches of the United States government, the NSA in particular.  Domestic spying is illegal except in certain narrow instances.  It's arguably a violation of the U.S. Constitution, in fact.