Saturday, October 04, 2014

Natural Gas is Not America's Energy Solution

The oil and gas industry, rather than diversifying and investing heavily in solar and wind power, continues to chant a mantra of "drill, baby drill" like the cretin from Alaska so popular with brain dead Republicans.   A new part of that mantra is that natural gas is going to deliver America from foreign oil dependence and save the environment.  Like much of what comes out of the oil and gas industry the ads run by Exxon, BP, and the Petroleum Institute don't tell all of the story.  As I not in my not yet published October column in VEER Magazine, I was once an in-house lawyer for an oil company, so I understand the intricacies of oil and gas exploration and the side effects of secondary and tertiary recovery not t mention fracking.   A column in the Roanoke Times calls attention to some of the ignored costs of the natural gas obsession.  Here are highlights:

Natural gas is indisputably cleaner and cheaper than oil or coal, a factor that makes it desirable for a nation that, until now, has been fearful of being dependent on foreign energy sources. Our country has been energized by the natural gas boom, which may not peak until 2030, allowing us to sell some of this valuable fuel, whose smaller carbon footprint makes it desirable worldwide, especially to our European friends who are tied to Russian energy sources and their unpredictable reliability.

To find the true cost of natural gas, however, requires including ancillary costs that are not part of the business model: the cost that communities accrue in their doing or having done business with the power companies; the unbudgeted costs of disaster clean-up; reduced land values where pipelines cross; remediation of by-spills from leaking pipes that invade the water table.

Ryan Hankins, in his Aug. 21 commentary (“Don’t blindly oppose pipeline based on fear”), asks us not to “blindly oppose” the Mountain Valley Pipeline “based on fear.” It would be a blessing to be “blind,” to not know so much about the havoc being wrought by this industry The pipeline to which he refers is but one of many “straws” sucking from the Marcellus Shale, siphoning off the dwindling supply of natural gas.

The natural gas industry, in its hydraulic fracturing process, requires 2 billion gallons of water a day, according to the Government Accountability Office. Fear instructs me that once approved by the Federal Regulatory Commission, the proliferation of these natural gas pipelines will encourage the growth of fracking along its length, in spite of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s assurance that he will not allow it in the George Washington National Forest. And where will the water come from? And where will the toxic wastewater go?  . . . . Gov. Christie of New Jersey recently vetoed a law passed by his legislature that would have prevented importing and disposing of wastewater from other states.
Not mentioned in the column is the increased frequency of earthquakes in areas where fracking is active.  Too many Virginians forget the dangers of increasing earthquakes in central Virginia where the North Anna nuclear power plant sits near fault lines.  And lets not forget the vulnerability of the Lake Gaston watershed that provides a huge portion of the water for south Hampton Roads. The cost of expanded natural gas production in Virginia could be huge when these elements are factored in.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Why Fundamentalist Christians Fear Knowledge and Intellectualism

I've said before that for fundamentalist Christians - and I would extend this to Islamic fundamentalists as well - the most terrifying prospect is having to think for oneself and face the fact that modern scientific knowledge is proving many dearly held beliefs to be false.  A prime example is the human genome project proof that Adam and Eve never existed as historic figures.  From that discovery, the entire Christian story line of the Fall and Christ redemption begins to come crashing to the ground.  For those with what I see as almost a form of mental illness that demands certainty and the ability to "check off the boxes" to confirm one's goodness or assurance of going to "heaven" knowledge and intellectualism threaten the entire artificial  world in which they live.   A piece in Patheos looks at the terror knowledge and intellectualism strikes in fundamentalists.  Here are highlights:
It is much easier to believe you understand who you are and to be stable when your core belief system is stable. For folks like liberals and progressives this is a little more difficult because the walls around our core beliefs are a little less rigid and more willing to flex as new information presents itself. Which means that we, more frequently than fundamentalists, are reshaping our understanding of who we are and how we relate to society, even if in small ways.

This just isn’t true for a fundamentalist Christians. The protective walls around their core beliefs are tall and rigid – and with good reason. We have to keep in mind, these core beliefs are so much more than ideas or ideals, they are identification and identity. Who we understand ourselves to be is formed around them. When you challenge a specific belief you are also, in small part, challenging the person’s understanding of who they are.

For fundamentalist Christians, it is even more complicated than just that. In both direct and subtle ways, they believe their salvation, at least in part, is dependent upon being correct on issues of faith.

Intellectualism invites the constant assessment of the “correctness” of a person’s belief system. That’s dangerous ground for a fundamentalist Christian. When you confront them on a particular belief you are not only confronting them on an idea that they have held to more rigidly for a longer time than most other folks but you are confronting the very core of who they understand themselves to be. For them, it is those core beliefs upon which their salvation hangs in the balance, at least in part. Questioning it doesn’t just question the thought but, for them, it puts into question a lifetime of holding on tightly to that thought.

When you take all of that into consideration, it’s really not surprise that most fundamentalist Christians react negatively to or avoid all together any intellectual questioning of their core belief systems.
It's a sad form of existence in my view, but that's precisely what demagogues in the pulpits and your Muslim imam  - and bitter old Catholic cardinals - seek to maintain.  Religion remains the source of so much misery in the world.  Fundamentalists of all faiths are the true slaves and, in my view, knowingly or unknowingly, the agents of evil. 

Is the Roman Catholic Church Capable of Change?

This month the Roman Catholic Church will hold an Extraordinary Synod in Rome where bishops and cardinals will ostensible meet to discuss possible changes in the Church's position on divorced Catholics and other issues that liberals are saying are driving the decline of the Church in Europe and North America.  Many apologists for the Church seem to be hoping that Pope Francis can push through changes to modernize the Church.  It would be nice to see that happen, but I'm not holding my breath.  Moreover, I hope Francis has a food taster - I would not put it past some of the power mad bitter old queens in the Vatican to want to hasten him to his heavenly reward so to speak.  Here are highlights from the New York Times on the coming gathering:
From the outset of his papacy, Pope Francis has encouraged a robust and open debate over the contentious social issues that have long sundered the Roman Catholic Church. Now, with a critical meeting on the theme of family about to begin at the Vatican, he is seemingly getting what he wanted: a charged atmosphere with cardinals jousting over how and whether the church should change.

Conservatives, in particular, are trying to stop any prospects for allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacrament of holy communion. A group of powerful conservative cardinals has released a handful of books — timed to coincide with the opening of the Vatican meeting on Sunday — that are fashioned as rebuttals to such proposals but that some analysts see as thinly veiled swipes at Francis.
“The conservatives have already mobilized,” said Marco Politi, a longtime Vatican analyst and the author of a new book, “Francis Among the Wolves.” “Now it is up to the reformers to come out.”

For Francis, the two-week gathering is the beginning of a yearlong process that could determine what sort of changes he will, or will not, bring to the church’s approach to social issues such as divorce, gay civil unions or single parents. The meeting, known as an Extraordinary Synod, is an open forum at which 191 bishops, cardinals and other church leaders are expected to debate these and other issues, and to set the agenda for a final, decisive synod next October.

Having enjoyed a mostly charmed papacy, Francis is now plunging into contested terrain that requires confronting entrenched power blocs in the Vatican and beyond.

Some analysts believe he [Francis] sent a pointed signal last month when he oversaw a wedding of 20 couples in St. Peter’s Basilica, including couples who had been living together and a person whose previous marriage had been annulled.

“The synod is dedicated to the family because the context of the family has changed from the way it was 33 years ago,” said Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri during a news conference at the Vatican on Friday. Cardinal Baldisseri, appointed by the pope to oversee the synod, added, “We need to be able to put the church’s reality in today’s reality.”

He noted that although the Western news media and many Western Catholic leaders have fixated on certain social issues, the talks would be wide-ranging, given the church’s global scope, to include issues like poverty, migration and polygamy.

Yet for many, the bellwether topic will be whether church leaders will ease the process for allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion. The church already uses annulments to declare that a marriage was never actually valid, clearing the way for Catholics who have divorced and remarried to receive communion. But annulments are usually a cumbersome, time-consuming process. Recently, Francis appointed a commission to simplify procedures.

The opposition is led by a group of conservative cardinals who this week published a book, “Remaining in the Truth of Christ,” that included essays intended to rebut Cardinal Kasper. In a conference call with journalists this week, one of the authors, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, said the church could not change teachings on marriage and bluntly criticized Cardinal Kasper.

Mr. Politi, the Vatican analyst, said the emerging political fault lines were actually a boon to Francis, who organized the synod over two meetings — divided by a year — in order to stir the sort of deep conversation needed to bring a mandate for change.

“You can only have big changes to the Catholic Church if all the bishops and cardinals are involved,” Mr. Politi said. “For Pope Francis, it is important that people speak out, even if they speak out against him.”
The Church remains a Medieval monarchy where the Pope as emperor needs to be just as worried as monarchs of old about treachery, poisonings, and insurrection by power mad courtiers and  underlings.  If I were Francis I'd sleep with trusted guards watching over me and a food tester.  The Vatican is a snake pit filled with bitter neurotic old men unduly obsessed with all things sexual.

The GOP's Mug Shot Primary

When investigations of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell in "Giftgate" first began, the GOP pundits all claimed it was a partisan plot - some even in their delusions claimed that Obama was orchestrating the entire affair - but the multi-count conviction of Taliban Bob and his wife made it clear that there was fire where the GOP claimed there was smoke at most.  As the early phases of the 2016 jockeying begins among the would be GOP candidates, it is telling that so many of them are under criminal investigation at present.  Like McDonnell - and the Christofascists who make up so much of the hardcore GOP base - there seems to be a mindset that the rules apply to others.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the legal problems of some of the contenders.  Here are excerpts:
Why is the lineup of prospective GOP presidential candidates beginning to look like, well, a lineup?

Chris Christie went to campaign this week for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, putting the New Jersey governor in the company of a man who is in almost as much legal jeopardy as he is. Between them, the two would-be 2016 presidential nominees are the subjects of six investigations.

But Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another presidential aspirant, is far ahead of them in the mug-shot primary: He’s already under indictment on two felony counts related to abuse of power. And, speaking of felonies, former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, long considered presidential timber, was convicted on 11 corruption counts after his salacious trial this summer that disgraced him and his wife.

Democrats are trying to tie another prospective presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to a Republican contributor who was convicted this summer of witness tampering in a campaign-finance case; the governor had been subpoenaed to appear in the case but was never called.

Beyond that, the Republican governors of Iowa, Kansas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maine, South Carolina and New Mexico all face varying degrees of legal liability on matters ranging from influence peddling to the firing of whistleblowers. Completing the GOP version of a most-wanted list: John Rowland, the former governor of Connecticut, who was found guilty last month of conspiracy charges in a campaign-finance case. It was the second time he had been convicted on criminal charges.

This doesn’t necessarily mean governors, or other politicians, are more corrupt than they used to be; there has always been some sense of entitlement among elected leaders, a belief that the usual rules don’t apply to them. Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, adds that “unfathomable amounts of money flowing through the system” have increased the opportunity for misconduct, while the proliferation of media and electronic paper trails makes it more likely to get caught.

[T]here’s some rough justice that Republicans, who popularized this criminalization of politics in the 1990s [against Bill Clinton], now find at least three of their top presidential prospects being hoist with the GOP’s own petard. New Jersey’s Christie, of course, has Bridgegate and related troubles. The campaign of Wisconsin’s Walker is being investigated over allegedly illegal campaign finance coordinated with various conservative groups; a federal appeals panel ruled last month that prosecutors could proceed with the long-stalled investigation. Then there’s Perry . . . a grand jury has indicted Perry on charges carrying up to 109 years in prison combined.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Don’t Fall for the GOP’s Over-the-Counter Contraception Racket

As more voters - especially women - wake up the the reality of just how extreme the Republican Party has become and that the party platform is to restrict contraception and to gut the Affordable Health Care Act, some extremist Republican candidates have disingenuously begun to claim that they support over the counter access to some forms of birth control.  These claims, of course, are diametrically opposed to the prior actions and stances.  Facing possible defeat they have done what their Christofascists always do: start lying.  It's the "Christian" thing to do right?  A piece in The Nation looks at this dishonest ploy and the truth about some of these candidates, including Ed Gillespie here in Virginia.  Here are excerpts:

It’s time to call bullshit on the GOP’s embrace of over-the-counter birth control. Several Republican candidates, under fire for radical positions on women’s health, have recently adopted the idea in a naked attempt to woo female voters. These politicians say they’re all in favor of access to contraception. But sudden calls for the pill to be available without a prescription do not signal a real shift in conservative attitudes toward reproductive rights. They simply mask tired opposition to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurers cover birth control.

The list of Republicans that have endorsed the idea includes Senate nominees Cory Gardner (Colorado), Tom Tillis (North Carolina), Ed Gillespie (Virginia) and Mike McFadden (Minnesota). Republicans running for the House have also spoken up for over-the-counter access.

None of these people were championing the proposal before their campaigns. Instead, they were working to limit women’s access to abortion and other healthcare. Gardner, who started the over-the-counter trend in June with an op-ed in The Denver Post, has campaigned for “personhood” measures that would outlaw abortion and possibly some forms of birth control since at least 2006. Early in his campaign Gardner denounced the state-level personhood legislation he’d supported—yet he’s still a co-sponsor on a federal bill that would have the same impact. Gardner has resorted to claiming that bill doesn’t exist.

Then there’s Tom Tillis, who endorsed over-the-counter birth control during a debate with Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan in September. As the top Republican in the state House, Tillis shepherded extreme anti-choice legislation in a decisively dishonest manner, inserting restrictions into unrelated bills like one ostensibly about motorcycle safety. Tillis, like other Republicans trumpeting their support for over-the-counter contraception, opposes not only the ACA’s birth control mandate but the healthcare law in general, which has a range of other benefits for women.

The latest candidate to pivot to contraception when confronted about her record is Joni Ernst, a Senate hopeful in Iowa who supports a personhood amendment as well as criminal prosecution of doctors who provide abortions.

[A]ttempts to block abortion access—for example, by cutting funds for clinics like Planned Parenthood that provide a range of services besides abortion—can have the perverse effect of making it more difficult for women to get other healthcare, birth control included.

Nor is making contraception available without a prescription an alternative to the birth control mandate (or, needless to say, the entire healthcare law). Over-the-counter birth control has support from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a point that several Republican candidates have pointed out when their motives were questioned. Yet the same medical association is quite clear that women still need insurance coverage for contraception. Not all women can or want to take the pill, and other forms of birth control like the IUD are expensive and require a doctor’s appointment. In June, ACOG warned politicians against using calls for over-the-counter contraception “as a political tool.”

That Republicans need such a tool to alter their reputation among women is obvious. . . . why over-the-counter birth control, specifically? It’s a win-win-win for Republicans trying to appeal to female voters, while bashing Obamacare and boosting their free-market street cred. 

To understand why this sudden embrace of “access” is a racket, and a dangerous one, consider Kevin Williamson, National Review’s self-described “roving correspondent.” In a recent post titled “Five Reasons Why You’re Too Dumb to Vote,” Williamson characterizes women who care about preserving access to abortion or the birth control mandate as “women who cannot figure out how to walk into Walgreens, lay down the price of a latte, and walk out with her own birth-control pills, no federal intervention necessary.

When conservatives fight to empower women to make decisions about their own bodies in all cases, regardless of income, then maybe we’ll take them seriously. In the meantime, there’s little of substance in an ideology that promotes birth control without a prescription for some women and hanging for others.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Gay Virginia Teen Hospitalized for 9 Days Charged with Assualt After Suffering Anti-Gay Beating

If one wants to realize just how bigoted and f*cked up things are in Virginia look no farther than the case of 14-year old Eric Martin who was bullied and beaten by at least four Highland Springs High School classmates in Henrico County, Virginia.  The beating put Martin in the hospital for 9 days.  But who gets charged for assault and persecuted by the high school?  Not those who beat him but Martin.  It is this type of mindset in Virginia that allows anti-gay bullies to go unpunished and leads to suicides such as that of Christian Taylor of nearby Yorktown, Virginia.  School administrators give lip service to "protecting all students" but what that equates to is protecting anti-gay bullies from accountability and the consequences of their violence towards LGBT students.  Here are highlights from the New Civil Rights Movement:
Early last month 14-year old Eric Martin (photo, above) was bullied and beaten by at least four Highland Springs High School classmates in Henrico, Virginia. 

Now, police are charging Eric with two counts of assault because he supposedly threw the first punch. School officials refuse to allow him back into school until he signs a statement saying he threatened the school -- a charge he denies, and a charge for which the school has no proof.

Eric was hospitalized for nine days because of the brutal beating. Early reports stated "Eric's arm is possibly broken. He is suffering from a concussion, and doctors have placed him on brain rest." He was also reportedly "on suicide watch."

"When I try to call the school, and I try to get answers they just blow me off," Mary Martin, Eric's mother, told WWBT. "They don't want to talk to me." She says Eric has been called "gay" and a "faggot."
"Bullying is real," cried Martin. "And bullying can take your children away from here if you don't pay close attention."
Mary Martin "admits Eric threw the first punch, but she says he was a victim of bullying. She says he was constantly hit with gay slurs," NBC 12 reports.  "I'm angry, and I'm hurt," Mary Martin also said. "He's got bruises all down the spine of his back where he was just slammed on that table."

The Virginia Anti-Violence Project issued a statement that "condemns the brutal assault on Eric Martin."

Eric's family has started a campaign, Letters for Eric, to show the bullied teen support. The address is: Letters for Eric, P.O.Box 993, Sandston, Va. 23150.
Stories like this sicken me and are a reminder that no LGBT individual is truly safe in Virginia.  Meanwhile, Victoria Cobb and the other hate merchants at The Family Foundation are likely celebrating that a gay teen "got what he deserved."  As for the school officials, they need to be fired and have their teaching certificates revoked by the State Board of Education.  Until administrators are held accountable, expect to see more stories such as this one coming out of Virginia.  If you find this situation disgusting, contact the high school and voice your disgust: Highland Springs High, 15 S. Oak Avenue, Highland Springs, 23075 (804) 328-4000.  Also consider contacting the Richmond tourism office - which has been trying to attract the LGBT tourist market -  and tell them that because of this incident, you won't be visiting Richmond anytime soon.  Here's the number: (800) 370-9004.

HIV Pandemic Traced Back to 1920's Congo

The Christofascists and falsely named "family values" organizations consistently claim that AIDS/HIV is God's punishment inflicted on gays for their failure to adhere to the Christofascists hate and fear based religious beliefs.  The truth, of course, is something far different and conveniently ignores the reality that in Africa where the highest incidences of HIV/AIDS are among heterosexuals.  Not that the "godly folks" ever let the truth get in the way of their theocratic, hate-filled agenda.  Now, a new research has traced the beginning of the HIV/AIDS pandemic to the 1920's in the Congo.  Reuters has details.  Here are highlights:
Bustling transport networks, migrant labor and changes to the sex trade in early 20th-century Congo created a "perfect storm" that gave rise to an HIV pandemic that has now infected 75 million people worldwide, researchers said on Thursday.

In an analysis of the genetic history of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, the scientists said the global pandemic almost certainly began its global spread in the 1920s in Kinshasa in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

Here, a confluence of factors including urban growth, extensive railway links during Belgian colonial rule and changes in sexual behavior combined to see HIV emerge in Congo's capital and spread across the globe. 

Oliver Pybus, a professor at Oxford University's zoology department who co-led the research, said that until now most studies have taken a piecemeal approach to HIV's genetic history and looked only at certain HIV genomes in particular locations.

"For the first time, we have analyzed all the available evidence using the latest phylogeographic techniques, which enable us to statistically estimate where a virus comes from," he said. "This means we can say with a high degree of certainty where and when the HIV pandemic originated."

United Nations AIDS agency (UNAIDS) data show that more than 35 million people worldwide are currently infected with HIV, and some 1.5 million people died of AIDS-related illness in 2013.

Various strains of HIV are known to have been transmitted from primates and apes to humans at least 13 times in history, but only one of those transmissions - of a strain known as HIV-1 Group M - led to the current human pandemic. 

The team's findings also suggest that along with transport, social changes such as the changing behavior of sex workers and public health initiatives against other diseases that led to the unsafe use of needles may have contributed to turning HIV into a full-blown epidemic.

"We think it is likely that the social changes around the independence in 1960 saw the virus break out from small groups of infected people to infect the wider population and eventually the world," said Faria.
To date some 40 million people have died of AIDS and the vast majority have been heterosexuals.  So the next time you hear some preacher bellowing from the pulpit about gays and AIDS, ask them to explain what has happened in Africa.   It should also be noted that the use of condoms by both gays and straights can reduce the transmission of HIV.  However, the Roman Catholic Church and some evangelical Christians oppose any form of birth control  as they try to increase the number of members of their cults.  Never mind that opposition to condoms has caused many to die needlessly.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Republican Donors to Meet at Not so Secret LGBT Conference

Paul Singer and Chad Griffin
As noted in prior posts, some wealthy Republican donors see the GOP's anti-gay platform to be a losing approach in the long term and are putting their money behind their efforts to make the GOP more inclusive and to support LGBT candidates.  Like anti-gay churches in America, the GOP's self-prostitution to anti-gay Christofascists is alienating the younger generations even as elderly homophobes die off.  The Washington Blade looks at coming conference between some such Republican donors and LGBT groups.  Here are excerpts:

High-dollar donors seeking to make the Republican Party more LGBT-inclusive are set to gather in D.C. on Thursday for a closed-door conference, according to four sources familiar with the event.

The American Unity Conference is set to begin Thursday morning at the Hay Adams Hotel on H and 16th streets, N.W. It’s hosted by the same pro-LGBT Republican advocates behind the American Unity Fund and the American Unity PAC, related groups that seek to elect pro-LGBT Republican candidates and encourage GOP support for LGBT rights.

Both organizations are funded by Paul Singer, a billionaire hedge fund manager and philanthropist who backs LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. His son, Andrew Singer, is gay.

Although the meeting is confidential and off-the-record, the Washington Blade learned limited details based on information from sources familiar with the conference. The American Unity Fund didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, is set to speak at the event, according to the sources, despite his record as a Democratic operative. HRC didn’t respond to a request for comment.

One source said Griffin’s role is scheduled to be limited to an introduction of Theodore Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general under the Bush administration who was lead counsel in the federal lawsuit against California’s Proposition 8 and pending litigation challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Americans for Workplace Opportunity, which was set up by Griffin as a collaborative project with other pro-LGBT groups to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also reportedly took $375,000 from Singer to encourage House members to vote for the bill.

Singer himself is scheduled to deliver remarks at the Hay Adams at 8:30 a.m. to kick off the event, according to one source.

Republicans Remain Clueless on Women's Issues

With new polls showing him trailing His Democrat challenger, Charlie Crist, Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott sought an ad that would attract women voters to his side.    What he got from the College Republicans is a clueless ad that is both insulting to women - especially the segment of the women vote that Scott desperately needs - and Exhibit No. 1 of the problem of the  GOP's gender gap in general.  Contrary to what chauvinistic GOP males believe, women do care about more than shopping.  I have two bright, intelligent daughters who are far more politically savvy than these dolts think they are.    Slate looks at the clumsy GOP effort to attract women that in reality ought to be driving them into the arms of Democrats.  Here are highlights:

Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?  At this point, it's hard not to wonder if the people being hired to do outreach to women on behalf of Republican candidates aren't all a bunch of Democratic moles. The College Republican National Committee created this ad for Rick Scott, who is running for re-election as governor of Florida, and it appears to be written by men who learned everything they know about women from reading bridal magazines. It's modeled after TLC's popular show Say Yes to the Dress, except it's called "Say Yes to the Candidate" and the "dresses" in this case are Rick Scott and Charlie Crist. 

"The Rick Scott is perfect," says our blond and youthful heroine, Brittany, admiring herself in the mirror while wearing a wedding dress, which is a thing Republicans have heard women like to wear. Her friends ooh and aah. But mom, who is of course a harridan because she dared age past 35, has other ideas. "I like the Charlie Crist," she says, as we see Brittany—an undecided voter, by the way—in a frumpier dress. "It's expensive and a little outdated, but I know best." Ominous music.

It turns out Republicans made this ad in bulk. As Bloomberg View's Jonathan Bernstein notes, "not only does Brittney 'the undecided voter' think that 'The Rick Scott is perfect,' she feels the same way about 'The Rick Snyder,' 'The Tom Corbett' and three other dresses. The ads are identical, only the candidate names change."

The Connection Between ISIS and Lack of Education

I've noted often that to thrive extremist forms of religion require ignorant and uneducated populations.  Hence why Christianity's main growth area at present is in the most backward regions of Africa.  It's also the reason that American Christofascists seek to gut education programs in America and rewrite text books to support their poisonous belief system which begins to disintegrate in the face of scientific and modern knowledge.  But religious extremism is not limited to Christian extremists as demonstrated by ISIS (or ISIL as it is sometimes called).  To survive Islamic extremism also needs ignorant and uneducated populations.  Apiece in the New York Times makes the case that to defeat ISIS not only must America and its allies use military might, but they also need to over time  attack the underlying basis for religious extremism: lack of educated populations.  Here are excerpts:
As we fight the Islamic State and other extremists, there’s something that President Obama and all of us can learn from them. For, in one sense, the terrorists are fighting smarter than we are.

These extremists use arms to fight their battles in the short term, but, to hold ground in the long run, they also combat Western education and women’s empowerment. They know that illiteracy, ignorance and oppression of women create the petri dish in which extremism can flourish.

That’s why the Islamic State kidnapped Samira Salih al-Nuaimi, a brave Iraqi woman and human rights lawyer in Mosul, tortured her and publicly executed her last week. That’s why the Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai, then 15 years old, after she campaigned for educating girls. And that’s why Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls in northern Nigeria and announced that it would turn them into slaves.

In each case, the extremists recognized a basic truth: Their greatest strategic threat comes not from a drone but from a girl with a book. We need to recognize, and act on, that truth as well.

For similar reasons, the financiers of extremism have invested heavily in fundamentalist indoctrination. They have built Wahhabi madrassas in poor Muslim countries like Pakistan, Niger and Mali, offering free meals, as well as scholarships for the best students to study in the gulf.

Shouldn’t we try to compete?

Shouldn’t we use weapons in the short run, but try to gain strategic advantage by focusing on education and on empowering women to build stable societies less vulnerable to extremist manipulation?

[W]e’re not playing the long game, as the extremists are. We are vastly overrelying on the military toolbox and underemploying the education toolbox, the women’s empowerment toolbox, the communications toolbox. We’re tacticians; alas, the extremists may be better strategists.It’s not a question of resources, because bombs are more expensive than books. The United States military campaign against the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS and ISIL, will cost at least $2.4 billion a year and perhaps many times that

Obama seems to have dropped his 2008 campaign promise to establish a $2 billion global fund for education. And the United States gives the Global Partnership for Education, a major multilateral effort, less in a year than what we spend weekly in Syria and Iraq.

[T]he historical record of the last half-century is that education tends to nurture a more cosmopolitan middle class and gives people a stake in the system.

Girls’ education seems to have more impact than boys’ education, partly because educated women have markedly fewer children. The result is lower birthrates and less of a youth bulge in the population, which highly correlates to civil conflict.

I support judicious airstrikes in the short term against the Islamic State, but that should be only one part of a policy combating extremism.
So let’s learn from the extremists — and from those brave girls themselves who are willing to risk their lives in order to get an education. They all understand the power of education, and we should, too.
The USA never seems good at playing the long game.  We need to think in the long term as well as short term military action.  We also need to recognize the threat that our home grown extremists of every faith represent and oppose efforts to dumb down education and fill our text books with religious based fairy tales.  It's no coincidence that overall belief in Bible inerrancy directly correlates with one's low level of education.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

4th Circuit Strikes Down North Carolina GOP Effort to Disenfranchise Voters

This blog has noted numerous times that, faced with a shrinking base of aging, angry white voters, the Republican Party nation wide has endeavored to pass voter ID laws to disenfranchise as many minority and college age voters as possible.  The justification?  To prevent "voter fraud" which various reports have shown to be a non-existent problem.  This false justification plays well with the white supremacist element of the GOP base and is foolishly believed by lazy journalists and partisan pundits.  With the GOP take over of the North Carolina legislature, that body - now perhaps the most extreme in the state's history - enacted new voter ID laws aimed clearly and disenfranchising minority and other voters unlikely to vote Republican.  Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit )"4th Circuit") struck down the North Carolina voter disfranchisement ID law.  The court's opinion can be found hereHuffington Post has details:
A federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered a lower court to block two new voting restrictions in North Carolina, saying there was "no doubt" the measures would disenfranchise minorities.

North Carolina will now be required to reinstate same-day voter registration, as well as allow voters to cast ballots even if they show up to vote in the wrong precinct.

In a two-to-one ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that "whether the number is thirty or thirty-thousand, surely some North Carolina minority voters will be disproportionately adversely affected in the upcoming election" and that it was important to act now, since "there could be no do-over and no redress" once the election was over.

The appeals court ruled that the lower court "failed to adequately consider North Carolina’s history of voting discrimination" and said the new law eliminated "voting mechanisms successful in fostering minority participation."

"The injury to these voters is real and completely irreparable if nothing is done to enjoin this law," the ruling said.

The law eliminated a number of measures intended to protect would-be voters from being disenfranchised and required them to show photo identification at the polls.

The Justice Department joined civil rights groups in suing over the law a month later.

"The election laws in North Carolina prior to House Bill 589’s enactment encouraged participation by qualified voters," the appeals court ruled Wednesday. "But the challenged House Bill 589 provisions stripped them away. The public interest thus weighs heavily in Plaintiffs’ favor."
In its ruling, the 4th Circuit gave the lower court a sever spanking.  It also made this statement concerning specious justifications for disenfranchising voters.  Here is a telling quote:

At the end of the day, we cannot escape the district court’s repeated findings that Plaintiffs presented undisputed evidence showing that same day registration and out-of-precinct voting were enacted to increase voter participation, that African American voters disproportionately used those electoral mechanisms, and that House Bill 589 restricted those mechanisms and thus disproportionately impacts African American voters.

To us, when viewed in the context of relevant “social and historical conditions” in North Carolina, Gingles, 478 U.S. at 47, this looks precisely like the textbook example of Section 2 [Voting Rights Act] vote denial. . . . Neither North Carolina nor any other jurisdiction can escape the powerful protections Section 2 affords minority voters by simply "espous[ing]” rationalizations for a discriminatory law.