Saturday, March 07, 2015

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

DOJ Brief Urges Nationwide End To Same-Sex Marriage Bans

Conclusion of the DOJ brief
With all kinds of groups, individuals and corporations - e.g., the people's brief (which I have joined) and Mayors for Marriage brief and 379 corporations - filing amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court urging that bans on same sex marriage be struck down nationwide, the Christofascists must be sweating bullets and directing their typical lies and hate towards a growing circle of "enemies of marriage."  The Obama administration now joins the list that has filed a brief with the Court urging the court to find a constitutional right to same sex marriage under the U. S. Constitution.  A piece in BuzzFeed looks at the filing (the full brief can be found here).  Here are excerpts:

The United States government on Friday urged the Supreme Court to strike down state bans on same-sex couples’ marriages across the country, concluding, “There is no adequate justification for such a discriminatory and injurious exercise of state power.”

The filing in the cases challenging bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee represented nearly the end of a long path for the Obama administration on the issue, which began with President Obama opposing marriage rights for same-sex couples and his administration defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

On Friday, the Justice Department — which stopped defending the constitutionality of DOMA in February 2011 — told the Supreme Court, “The marriage bans challenged in these cases impermissibly exclude lesbian and gay couples from the rights, responsibilities, and status of civil marriage. These facially discriminatory laws impose concrete harms on same-sex couples and send the inescapable message that same-sex couples and their children are second-class families, unworthy of the recognition and benefits that opposite-sex couples take for granted.”  . . . . “The bans cannot be reconciled with the fundamental constitutional guarantee of ‘equal protection of the laws.’”

Specifically, the administration noted, “The President and Attorney General have determined that classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny.” That decision, made when the administration shifted gears on DOMA in 2011, would — if adopted by the Supreme Court — mean that laws and governmental policies that classify people based on sexual orientation should be viewed by courts with additional skepticism.  
As the piece notes, the states’ briefs defending the bans are due March 27, supportive amicus briefs due by the next Friday, and the oral arguments in the case are set for April 28.  I can just imagine the batshitery that will be found in the anti-gay amicus briefs.  It will no doubt be religious extremism and insanity on display. 

Losing Selma's Legacy

Today is the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma, Alabama which put on open display the hate and white supremacy that was rampant in that state and across the South and elsewhere.  50 years later, we have states - Virginia is one of them - where Republicans are working diligently to disenfranchise minorities and instructively, top Republicans will be boycotting Selma as noted in Politico

Scores of U.S. lawmakers are converging on tiny Selma, Alabama, for a large commemoration of a civil rights anniversary. But their ranks don’t include a single member of House Republican leadership — a point that isn’t lost on congressional black leaders.

None of the top leaders — House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy or Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was once thought likely to attend to atone for reports that he once spoke before a white supremacist group — will be in Selma for the three-day event that commemorates the 1965 march and the violence that protesters faced at the hands of white police officers. 

The Republican Party has become something very, very ugly, and Boehner, McCarthy and Scalise likely understand that their attendance at the event would be deemed an act of heresy  by the increasingly racist Christofascist/Tea Party party base.   A piece in Slate looks at the unfortunate trend where some in America would only be too happy to bring back the bad old days of Jim Crow.  Here are highlights:  

Fifty years ago on March 7, civil rights activists John Lewis and the Rev. Hosea Williams led 600 people on a march from Selma, Alabama, to the capitol in Montgomery. Stopped by a gang of state police and white civilians on the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside of Selma, they were attacked in a vicious display of white supremacist violence. Besieged by tear gas, whips, nightsticks, and other makeshift weapons, they were injured, bloodied—dozens required care and 17, including Lewis, were hospitalized—and pushed back into town. Recorded by national media and broadcast to the world, these events would galvanize thousands of Americans, inspire a larger (and successful) march to Montgomery, and lead President Lyndon Johnson to commit to and push a voting rights act that would stand as the high-water mark of civil rights movement.

Now, in commemoration of “Bloody Sunday,” tens of thousands of Americans have converged on modern-day Selma, where they will memorialize and celebrate the great racial progress of the past half-century. Unfortunately, this happens at a time of terrible retrenchment, as a host of forces pushes back against those hard-fought wins. If the 1960s were a Second Reconstruction—a second attempt to fulfill the promise of emancipation—then our present period is a second Redemption, where a powerful movement attempts to reverse gains and dismantle our fragile efforts at racial equality.

In 1883, the Supreme Court overturned the Civil Rights Act of 1875, denying that the 14th Amendment prohibited private discrimination in public accommodations and declaring that “there must be some stage” where blacks cease “to be the special favorite of the laws.”

What’s striking here is how familiar this sounds, and how Redemption is echoed in the politics of the past 10 years. Then as now, the federal courts are increasingly hostile to race-conscious legislation. In 2007, with Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, the Supreme Court struck down voluntary integration efforts in an opinion punctuated by Chief Justice John Roberts’ declaration that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” In 2013, with Shelby County v. Holder, the same court struck down the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act, which required federal supervision in states with a history of voting discrimination.

The Redemption parallel extends to the states as well. While the 2010 elections brought a wave of reactionary lawmakers to power throughout the country, this was especially the case in the South, where the last white Democrats fell to their Republican opponents, leaving a racially polarized politics of white Republicans and black Democrats. In short order, they imposed new voting restrictions and other laws meant to limit the franchise through obstacles and reduced access. . .

They reduced burdens on the wealthiest residents and replaced them with new fees and sales taxes that placed the heaviest burden on the poorest residents. At the same time, they’ve slashed education budgets, reduced services, and refused federal funds for the Medicaid expansion, keeping millions of low-income people—many of them black Americans—from needed medical services.

In appearance and in effect, the program of 21st-century conservatives is remarkably similar to the one of 19th-century Redeemers. It guts civil rights laws, shrinks state spending, and limits the scope of activist government.  

Today’s anti-government conservatism has its roots in the antebellum politics of Sen. John C. Calhoun, was modernized in reaction to the civil rights movement, and was brought to the Republican Party by an alliance of Southern reactionaries and ideological [Christofascist] conservatives.

As I have said before, I wonder when the GOP will commence its city and county committee meetings by handing out white robs with hoods.  It should be noted by LGBT citizens that the same hate and animus borne toward blacks by today's GOP base is likewise directed at gays. 

How Will the Catholic Church Cope with Nationwide Gay Marriage?

Over the centuries the Catholic Church has changed at typically a glacial pace - usually prodded only by a massive exodus of members, the Reformation being a prime example.  Now, the Church faces a coming exodus (it's actually already started) over the issue of gay marriage with Millennials increasing leaving the Church.  All three of my own children are part of the exodus and, if they were to join a church, it would have to be one that is gay accepting.   Meanwhile conservative social organizations - our local yacht club and country club are examples - are accepting married gay couples as members.  Yet a group of bitter old men, many self-loathing closeted gays, at the Vatican continue to oppose bring the Church into the 21st century on this issue.  The "church fathers" had hoped that a growing Hispanic population (and the custom of never removing non-churchgoing Catholics) from would keep membership numbers up, yet now even Hispanics are supportive of gay marriage.  The Church, like the GOP, finds itself preaching to a shrinking demographic.  A piece in Patheos looks at the Church's dilemma.  Here are excerpts:

As Philadelphia prepares for the Pope’s visit and the World Meeting of Families, one would expect to see a program aimed at addressing the Church’s plan to be more pastoral toward gay, lesbian, and transgender people. In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article, the only mention of such efforts to be expected during the World Meeting of Families was about a celibate man who is gay. That’s it. Not exactly a wide-ranging discussion on the contours of modern life and the family.

By June of this year, the Supreme Court of the United States may finally resolve the issue of same-sex marriage for the entire nation. Depending on the ruling, it’s likely that an increasing number of Catholic institutions (schools and hospitals, in particular) will have to make difficult policy decisions on issues such as granting benefits to same-sex couples. Many Catholics institutions will cite religious freedom or tradition to legitimize the denial of coverage to gay and lesbian couples. Others will try to make distinctions between fair and unfair discrimination, arguing that such a denial would be a morally licit form of discrimination.
For Catholics that cite long-standing rules as a reason to reject any recognition of same sex civil marriages or changes in pastoral care, it must be remembered that the Church has come to terms with changes to civil marriage in the past without altering its teaching. 
Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg recently said, “I do not wish to lend our voice to notions which might suggest that same-sex couples are a threat incapable of sharing relationships marked by love and holiness and, thus, incapable of contributing to the edification of both the church and the wider society.” Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp recently indicated that gay and lesbian couples should be more widely accepted in both society and the Church . . .

Sadly, such an atmosphere does not widely exist. Individuals and institutions that desire to provide greater pastoral care and rights to gay, lesbian, and transgender people and their families too often fear a backlash that might threaten the other important work that they do. No one should have to fear reaching out to the marginalized or ensuring that everyone has access to healthcare.

Finally, fixing the Church’s approach to gay, lesbian, and transgender people is essential when it comes to responding to the concerns of millennials. In a recent National Catholic Reporter article, it was reported that Fr. Peter Daly sat down with about 40 young Catholic adults and asked them why their age group is turning away from the church. The number one reason provided by the group was the Church’s treatment of LGBT people. This seems to reflect the data on millennials and millennial Catholics. The Pew Research Center found that 85% of young Catholics between the ages of 18 to 29 believe gays and lesbians should be accepted by society.
When millennial Catholics see friends and family members who feel isolated and unwelcome because of their sexual orientation, they too feel alienated. And when necessities like healthcare are denied, they often think the Church is being unjust. They see the Church as embracing a narrow commitment to man-made rules and traditions rather than a more loving, compassionate approach. 
In fairness, it should be noted that the Catholic Church is not the only denomination losing younger generations because of its extreme homophobia.  The Southern Baptist Convention is seeing a similar trend.   Thus, the question becomes whether or not churches will modernize or continue to engage in a slow form of suicide. 

Friday, March 06, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Cultural Fascism and the GOP

It's not just the Virginia Republican Party that has been infiltrated by extremists.  To see the broader problem, one only had to follow the gather of lunatics and extremists at the recent CPAC confab where would be GOP presidential candidates paraded through doing everything but putting on rouge while holding a Bible under their arms as they prostituted them selves a crowd that worships ignorance and could have been confused for a religious gathering or a KKK convention.  The thought of Jeb Bush meeting with an extremists and hate monger like Tony Perkins ought to send chills down the spines of saner Americans.  A piece in Salon looks at the larger problem of today's GOP although the CPAC gathering certainly provided a frightening glimpse at the ugly reality of today's GOP.  Here are excerpts:

Another CPAC came to an end this weekend. The hungover millennials are back to campus by now, with their backpacks full of Rand Paul buttons, and the oldsters are counting their profits. The consensus in the press is that this year’s extravaganza was a more sedate affair than usual, with the “Happiness is Hillary Clinton’s face on a milk carton” T-shirts relegated to the dustiest corners of the hall.

Brent Bozell issued a predictably turgid assessment of the threat America faces from terrorists the left:
“Tyranny is knocking at our door,” he warned, before declaring that the left “will do anything, using any means at their disposal, legal or otherwise” to strip conservatives of their freedom of speech and saying that the government isn’t “all that different from the East German Stasi.”  “Cultural fascism has arrived in America,” Bozell said. “Let us understand this soberly and unequivocally”
But despite the fact that the new CPAC organizers encouraged a slightly less fringy tone, they were unable to do anything about the fringy policies. Even the Great Whitebread Hope, Scott Walker (who, predictably, committed yet another embarrassing gaffe), reversed his position on immigration reform. He was for it before he was against it. And needless to say, the legislative game of chicken the House of Representatives was playing in the background over the funding of the Department of Homeland Security proved that the Tea Party wing of the GOP isn’t dead yet. Until the establishment is able to put a stake through its zombie heart, they have a big problem on their hands.

One little discussed CPAC panel on demographics discussed a new bipartisan report that reveals a daunting statistic that will make it very, very difficult for Scott Walker or any other anti-immigration Republican to win the White House in 2016. Ariel Edwards-Levy at Huffington Post reported:
“The fundamental challenge for my side is the seemingly inexorable change in the composition of presidential electorates,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres, whose clients include Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said during a panel discussing the report. “And there’s no reason to believe that that’s going to stop magically.”

The demographic change poses little problem for the GOP in midterm elections, when young and minority voters are far more likely than older, white voters to stay home. But in the run-up to 2016, the demographic trend has some Republicans citing a need for change.
 In 2004, Republicans’ most recent presidential victory, George W. Bush won 58 percent of the white vote, and 26 percent of the non-white vote — numbers that would lose him the White House today, Ayres said.

‘”That’s the stunning part for me in running these numbers — to realize that the last Republican to win a presidential election, who reached out very aggressively to minorities, and did better than any Republican nominee before or since among minorities, still didn’t achieve enough of both of those groups in order to put together a winning percentage” for 2016, Ayres said.
Today the Republican Party is so aggressively hostile to minorities that many of them are willing to defund the federal police agencies entirely rather than allow the president to soften our policies toward undocumented workers. They are likewise unable to contain their most vicious bigots — an open David Duke ally is a current member of the House leadership. And neither can they keep their primitive patriarchs from promoting barbaric practices like forcing girls to give birth to their own siblings. They have, in short, taken several giant step backward from the time when George W. Bush eked out a win by getting a quarter of minority voters to cast their ballots for his ticket. The chances of them being able to even get half of that today are getting fewer by the minute. And according to their pollsters, they need to exceed his numbers to win.

Over the weekend you started to hear some rumblings from a few Republicans on TV who categorized the right-wing fringe in the House as “delusional.” But keep in mind that they don’t think they’re delusional because they are insulting massive numbers of voters without whom they cannot win the presidency.

But nobody should be fooled into thinking that the various calls from Republicans in recent days to end this game of chicken has very much to do with a sober realization that they cannot afford to keep alienating minority voters if they ever expect to win the presidency. That may be the reality but it’s a reality they simply cannot face. Their base simply won’t let them.

Despite their best efforts to suppress the vote, gerrymander districts in their favor and otherwise try to rig the system, they simply cannot win a national election unless they change their approach toward racial minorities. At the moment the white tail is wagging the multicolor dog and there’s little evidence that’s going to change any time soon.
If one isn't a white, heterosexual, far right Christian, you simply are not welcome in today's GOP.  And the fascists at CPAC plan on keeping things that way.

The Virginia GOP's Fight Against Democracy

Not only does the Virginia Republican Party support a theocracy of sorts - despite the prohibitions in the U.S. Constitution against an established religion - but it is increasingly anti-democratic as reflected by its efforts to disenfranchise as many voters as possible (minorities are the favorite target) and the efforts of the Christofascists/Tea Party elements to turn nominations into coronations by a select few who support the theocratic, anti-democracy agenda.  Sadly, in the highly gerrymandered districts pushed through by the Virginia GOP, the party extremists continue to win in elections.  In statewide contests, however, Virginia's changing demographics make victory for GOP candidates increasingly elusive.  The Virginia GOP's solution?  Double down and get even more extreme.  An editorial in the Washington Post looks at the phenomenon.  Here are highlights:

THE FIX was in from the start when Virginia Republicans picked their ticket for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in 2013. 

Hard-line conservatives who control the state party apparatus decreed that the nominations would be determined not by primaries but by a convention, a mechanism well suited to limit the number of participants.

In the event, just 8,000 of the Republican faithful showed up — representing perhaps half of 1 percent of the party’s sympathizers in the state — and the right-wing ticket they picked was swept in the fall by the Democrats, who held much more widely attended nominating primaries.

Virginia has not elected a Republican to any statewide position since 2009, nor has it elected one to the U.S. Senate since 2002. 
That string of losses has coincided with venomous internecine divisions in the Republican ranks, in which hard-liners generally have prevailed by forcing nominating conventions, most of which have yielded hard-line candidates.

Rather than rethinking that losing strategy, Virginia’s conservative activists now seem inclined to double down on it. They are pressing for the GOP to hold a convention rather than a state-run primary to choose a presidential nominee in 2016.

That move would be designed to favor more ideological candidates, such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas or Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and handicap more moderate candidates, such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

In addition to giving more extreme candidates a leg up, the effect would be undemocratic. Tens of thousands of moderate Republicans — the sort of voters who might go to the polls for a primary but are unlikely to travel dozens or hundreds of miles to a convention — would be excluded.

Tens of millions of Americans might not be committed to one party or the other, but surely most would favor more participatory elections and more moderate candidates. By pressing for a process that would produce neither, hard-line Republicans are pursuing a losing strategy — not just for themselves but also for voters.

Unfortunately, the Virginia GOP is becoming akin to a insane religious cult - something not surprising given the reality that The Family Foundation for all practical purposes authors GOP policies in Virginia.  Until the Christofascists' stranglehold on the Virginia GOP is broken, expect things to become progressively worse.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

Cities Are Reviving A Jim Crow-Era Tricks To Suppress Latino Votes

It is disheartening when one sees that the same inhumanity towards others who are different that was a hallmark of the both the Old South and the Jim Crow South remains alive and well, sometimes even in progressive states.  The goal, as has always been the case, is to keep power vested in whites and those who see themselves as "real Americans" even though the nation's Native Americans, the only real Americans were largely eradicated through a policy of genocide by those now claiming the real American mantle and their forebears.  A piece in Think Progress looks at how at large voting districts and gerrymandered districts and other ploys - things that Virginians excel at - are now being used to suppress the Hispanic vote (all of the cities in Hampton Roads utilize at large voting systems).  Here are highlights:
Yakima, WA is one-third Latino, but a Latino candidate has not been elected to the city council for almost 40 years. Santa Barbara, CA is 38 percent Latino, but only one Latino has been elected to its council in the last 10 years. And Pasadena, TX is 43 percent Hispanic, but the ethnic group is not even close to being proportionately represented in the city government. 

All three cities have been or are currently being sued for allegedly using discriminatory at-large voting systems, a voter dilution tactic that has been recently and frequently employed against Hispanic voters. In an at-large system, every city resident votes for each member of the governing body and the city does not divide voters into districts. 

As the Latino population grows across the country, cities have employed at-large voting to dilute the Latino vote and maintain white control of local governing bodies. Instead of allowing each district to elect its own representative, an at-large system means that unless Hispanic populations reach a majority in the entire city, they will have no influence in electing their local members of government. According to Fair Vote, at-large systems allow 50 percent of voters to control 100 percent of seats, typically resulting in racially homogeneous elected bodies. The tactic used to be popular in the South to discriminate against neighborhoods with large African American communities but is now targeting a new threat: Latinos.

Because California has a state voting rights law, it “facilitates this type of challenge,” said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. As a result, he said we will see a lot of settlements and moves away from at-large systems in California.

Across the rest of the country, where voting rights laws may not be as strong, the only way to challenge at-large systems is by using Section 2 of the VRA [Voting Rights Act], a process that is “extremely time-consuming and expensive,” Saenz told ThinkProgress. As a result, a number of jurisdictions will attempt to get away with at-large systems without being challenged. 

Cities have historically used at-large districts to dilute the African American vote, McDonald said, and many still do. 

Beginning in 1986, a number of cases challenged at-large voting systems in Alabama over the course of a decade. A district court ultimately ruled that 200 jurisdictions were using the discriminatory voting system and required them to adopt new districting.

The problem seemed to have been solved in the South until the Supreme Court gutted the VRA in 2013, opening the door for Southern states to move forward with at-large voting districts. With growing immigrant and Hispanic populations, cities in Texas and other Southern states reverted to using discriminatory systems.

Cities that have gotten away with using at-large systems in the past may also be forced to change their systems as the Hispanic population grows and reaches a critical mass,  . . .

Alabama GOP Intoduces Bill to Allow Judges to Refuse to Marry Gays and Jews

The Christofascists and Republicans in Alabama continue to show their true colors and a bill has been introduced in the Alabama legislature which would allow state court judges to refuse to marry sames sex couples and Jews.  That's right, bigotry is truly alive and well  in Alabama and, candidly, one can only wonder when bills will be introduced to add blacks and Hispanics to the list.  I hate to say it, but the U.S. Supreme court needs to expedite its ruling striking down state bans and then, if states do not comply, Barack Obama needs to threaten to call out the National Guard as was done at the height of the desegregation battles.  The Raw Story looks at the bill backed by homophobes and anti-Semites.  Here are excerpts:
A Republican-led bill in Alabama’s state legislature could radically alter the institution of marriage for Alabamians.

The bill was written in reaction to a federal judge striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban, and sponsors say ​it could clear up confusion and protect religious rights. But activists say the bill’s implications would reach far beyond the LGBT community, and claim it is little more than an attempt to ​remove rights under the guise of religious freedom.

The bill allows ministers and judges to opt out of performing or – critically – recognizing any marriage that defies their convictions. The bill, the Freedom of Religion in Marriage Protection Act, also allows religiously affiliated social organizations to deny service on the basis of religion, activists said.

Legal experts say religiously affiliated hospitals could refuse visits from a sick patient’s ​spouse, on the basis that their marriage defies their religious convictions.

Judges could refuse to grant a divorce if divorce was against their religious beliefs; a Catholic judge could refuse to marry a Hindu, Muslim or Jewish couple, Susan Watson, executive director with Alabama’s American Civil Liberties Union, said.

LGBT activists say the bill is little more than a veiled attempt to legalize discrimination. What’s more, activists said many are upset that the state continues to resist the right for same-sex couples to marry.

“We could be going back 50 years with this,” said [Equality Alabama board chair Ben] Cooper. “This affects all married individuals, not just those that are LGBT.”

The bill is expected to move through the house with little opposition. Hill vice-chairs the judiciary committee, where the bill is being debated Wednesday.

“The legal team is just working in a frenzy right now,” said Watson. “They were on calls last night, they were on calls this morning, they have a call at 3pm. They’re doing research.  “Let’s put it this way – we have a super-duper [Republican] majority here in Alabama,” she said. “It could easily be passed.”

379 Big Companies Urge SCOTUS to Strike Down Gay Marriage Bans

Arkansas has enacted and other states - many in the South - are considering bills that will legalize anti-gay discrimination and ban localities from enacting their own non-discrimination protections.  Among the disingenuous justifications for such bigotry are claims that non-discrimination laws are unwelcome by businesses and that uniform bigotry should prevail statewide.  The dishonesty of such claims is stunning.  First, a majority of Fortune 500 companies already have their own internal nondiscrimination policies that protect LGBT employees. Second, as evidenced by an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court today, literally hundreds of corporations are urging the Court to strike down state marriage bans so that marriage equality will be nationwide.  It's anti-gay bigotry that causes problems for these corporations in running their businesses, not LGBT equality. has details on the amicus brief.  Here are highlights:
Large businesses from Main Street to Wall Street are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down laws banning same-sex marriage.

In a friend-of-the-court brief expected to be filed on Thursday, hundreds of banks and other corporations argue that states that still prohibit gay unions “hamper employer efforts to recruit and retain the most talented workforce possible in those states.”

The justices will hear oral arguments on the push for marriage equality in late April. The court is expected to rule by late June.

Major companies and financial institutions previously have backed the campaign to recognize same-sex unions, so the brief isn’t a surprise. What’s impressive is that as of Wednesday night, 379 corporations and employer organizations had signed on to the amicus brief, representing industries from technology to financial services, transportation to consumer products, retail to restaurants to sports.

Among those that signed on: Aetna, Alcoa,, American Airlines, American Express, Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Barclays, BlackRock, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Capital One, Cardinal Health, Chubb, Cigna, Cisco, Citigroup, Colgate-Palmolive, ConAgra, Corning, Credit Suisse Securities, CVS Health, Delta Air Lines, Deutsche Bank, Dow Chemical, EBay, Facebook, General Electric, General Mills, GlaxoSmithKline, Goldman Sachs, Google, Hartford Financial Services, Hilton, HSBC, Intuit, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, Kimberly-Clark, KPMG, Levi Strauss, Marriott, Marsh & McLennan, Massachusetts Mutual, McKinsey, Microsoft, MillerCoors, Morgan Stanley, Nationwide Mutual, the New England Patriots, New York Life, Nike, Northrop Grumman, Office Depot, Oracle, Orbitz, Pandora, PepsiCo, Pfizer, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Procter & Gamble, Prudential, Qualcomm, RBC Capital Markets, the San Francisco Giants, Staples, Symantec, the Tampa Bay Rays, Target, TD Bank, Twitter, UBS, United Airlines, Verizon, Walt Disney, Wells Fargo, and Zynga.
Written by the management-side employment law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, the amicus brief strikes a pragmatic tone. With 37 states allowing gay marriage and the rest banning it, employers face costly uncertainty and administrative complexities, the brief argues. “The burden imposed by inconsistent and discriminatory state laws of having to administer complicated schemes to account for differential treatment of similarly situated employees breeds unnecessary confusion, tension, and diminished employee morale.”
 As of this morning, business has cast its vote.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

SCOTUS - How Obamacare’s fate will really be decided

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell, a suit brought by far right elements seeking yet again to sabotage the Affordable Health Care Act ("AHCA") and leave millions of Americans, including children, uninsured.  Naturally the opponents of AHCA have no proposed alternative plan and seemingly want those they see as "takers" left to die.  It's after all, the "Christian" thing to do if one is a far right Christofascist/Tea Party adherent. With the votes of Scalia, Thomas and Alito in the camp to destroy AHCA, the focus turns to Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy who will cast the deciding votes.  A piece in Salon looks at their dilemma.  Here are excerpts:

Oral arguments in King v. Burwell began and ended yesterday, and the Supreme Court will determine over the next few days whether the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance tax credits can be legally distributed in states that relied on the federal government to set up their insurance exchanges. The plaintiffs in this case argued vigorously that a hyper-literal interpretation of one short clause in the ACA should prevent those subsidies from going out, even though such an interpretation would put the law at war with itself and defeat its stated intention of making insurance affordable for all Americans.

The plaintiffs had sympathetic ears in at least two of the conservative justices: Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito. (Clarence Thomas, as is his custom, remained silent during the oral arguments, but his opinion of the ACA is no secret.) Scalia in particular was enthusiastic to see the law blown up from within, regardless of what Congress intended or what the rest of the law says.

The liberal justices did an effective job of tearing down the plaintiff’s arguments – Elana Kagan offered a great deconstruction of the petitioners’ case that put the plaintiff’s lawyer, Michael Carvin, in such an awkward spot that Alito had to come to his rescue. But what mattered most were the comments from the two justices broadly viewed as the “swing” votes in this case: Chief Justice John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy. Roberts didn’t say a whole lot and left people guessing as to what he’s thinking, but Kennedy was quite voluble, and what he said left liberals feeling confident and conservatives noticeably deflated.

For Kennedy, one the biggest issues confronting the justices in this case is state sovereignty. King v. Burwell does not pose a constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act, it simply seeks to have the text of the statue interpreted in a very narrow and outlandish way. Kennedy raised the possibility that interpreting the statute in accordance with the plaintiff’s argument would actually serve to create a constitutional crisis by coercing the states into acting to set up their own insurance exchanges.

Trying to figure out how the justices will rule based on their remarks during oral arguments is a dangerous pursuit, but if you’re looking for a basic lay of the land, it feels safe to say that there are three obvious votes against the Affordable Care Act (Scalia, Thomas, Alito), four obvious votes in favor (Kagan, Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor), and two question marks in Kennedy and Roberts. Bloomberg View columnist Noah Feldman made the interesting argument that Kennedy, in pursuing the federalism angle so enthusiastically, was actually pressuring Roberts to be the one to vote to in favor of the ACA. It was Roberts who used the coercion argument to defang the ACA’s Medicaid expansion back in 2012, and Kennedy may have been unsubtly reminding him that this is his principle to stand on.

That, of course, assumes that the conservative justices will care about principle more than they do about destroying the Affordable Care Act. Either way, we’re in the thoroughly depressing situation in which the health insurance of millions of Americans depends on whether Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts can work out amongst themselves who will be the one to “betray” conservatives by adhering to principle and common sense and voting to protect the Affordable Care Act.

AG Mark Herring: School Boards Can Add LGBT Protections

Mark Herring speaking at our home - October, 2013
Back in 2002, Jerry Kilgore (R), then the Virginia attorney general and one many whispered about as being a closeted gay, issued a formal opinion ruling that local school boards across Virginia, could not add non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation.  Kilgore, always a shameless whore when it came to pandering to the Christofascists, basically said that LGBT students - and teachers - were fair game for harassment and abuse.  Now, Mark Herring, the current Virginia Attorney General, has issued an opinion that reverses Kilgore's batshitery, proving yet again that elections can indeed make a difference.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post:
Local school boards have the authority to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their anti-discrimination policies, Attorney General Mark R. Herring declared in an official opinion issued Wednesday.

“Every Virginian has the right to live, learn, and work without fear of discrimination,” Herring (D) said in a written statement. “That’s a Virginia value, and one that we must guard even more carefully when it comes to our children.

The opinion, which reverses one issued in 2002 by Jerry Kilgore (R), then the attorney general, is likely to further raise Herring’s profile on gay-rights issues and perhaps boost his prospects with Democratic primary voters if he runs for governor, as expected, in 2017. Herring was already a hero to gay-rights activists and a lightning rod for conservatives after refusing to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage last year.

While written more than a decade apart, Herring’s and Kilgore’s opinions were both triggered by the Fairfax County School Board. Back in 2002, the board sought Kilgore’s opinion as it considered providing protections concerning sexual orientation.

It was deterred by Kilgore’s response, which said the Fairfax officials did not have the legal authority under the Dillon rule to amend its policies concerning sexual orientation. The Dillon rule limits local government bodies from creating policies where a state statute does not exist.

In November, noting that in October the U.S. Supreme Court let stand rulings that allow gay marriage in Virginia, the Fairfax board approved a new nondiscrimination policy that included protections for sexual orientation.

“The Supreme Court of Virginia has been clear that our constitution allows school boards to regulate for the ‘safety and welfare’ of children, and the General Assembly has been clear that school boards shall ‘provide that public education be conducted in an atmosphere free of disruption and threat to persons or property and supportive of individual rights,’ ” Herring said in his statement. “The law and the precedents are clear.”

Herring’s opinion quickly drew rebukes from conservatives. State Sen. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun) said Herring was catering to “radical elements” and had overstepped his authority.

And Chris Freund, spokesman for the Family Foundation of Virginia, said: “The attorney general has once again placed his desperate desire to be the Democrat nominee for governor over the longstanding policy and law of Virginia. In doing so he has put at risk the welfare of students who have deeply held religious beliefs about human sexuality that a teacher or administrator could deem ‘discriminatory’ and single out for punishment.”
Note the typical lies from The Family Foundation ("TFF").  The opinion and the Fairfax County policy in no way harms those with "deeply held religious beliefs" other than barring them from bully and abusing others.  Sadly, as is always the case with  TFF, they only care about the self-centered, modern day Pharisee crowd of Christofascist who make the strongest case of anyone in this state as to why a decent and more person should walk away from Christianity.  TFF and its followers remains a pestilence on Virginia.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

More Wednesday Male Beauty

The Feds vs. The Racists in Ferguson

In the wake of the murder of Michael Brown by a member of the Ferguson, Missouri police force, the Department of Justice has released a report summarizing the utterly devastating results of its investigation of the Ferguson Police Department.   Suffice it to say that racial discrimination is a huge problem and that the violation of citizens' - especially black citizens - constitutional rights was more or less the norm.   The findings are ugly, but I suspect that similar results would be produced if a similar investigation was conducted of many other police forces across America.   Moreover, the findings should be of little surprise when one of the national political parties engages in the use of "dog whistles" to stir white fear and resentment of blacks on a consistent basis.   A column in the New York Times looks at the report finding:  Here are highlights:
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice released the utterly devastating results of its investigation of the Ferguson Police Department.

The report contained charges that the Police Department and the municipal courts treated citizens less like constituents and more like a revenue stream, violating citizens’ constitutional rights in the process.

And it found that this burden was disproportionately borne by the black people in a town that is two-thirds black. This disproportionate weight is exacerbated when people are poor.
As the Justice Department report pointed out:
“Court practices exacerbate the harm of Ferguson’s unconstitutional police practices. They impose a particular hardship upon Ferguson’s most vulnerable residents, especially upon those living in or near poverty. Minor offenses can generate crippling debts, result in jail time because of an inability to pay, and result in the loss of a driver’s license, employment, or housing.”
The view that emerges from the Justice Department report is that citizens were not only paying a poverty tax, but a pigment tax as the local authorities sought to balance their budgets and pad their coffers on the backs of poor black people.

Perhaps most disturbing — and damning — is actual correspondence in the report where the authorities don’t even attempt to disguise their intent.
“In March 2010, for instance, the City Finance Director wrote to Chief [Thomas] Jackson that ‘unless ticket writing ramps up significantly before the end of the year, it will be hard to significantly raise collections next year. . . . Given that we are looking at a substantial sales tax shortfall, it’s not an insignificant issue.’ Similarly, in March 2013, the Finance Director wrote to the City Manager: ‘Court fees are anticipated to rise about 7.5%. I did ask the Chief if he thought the PD could deliver 10% increase. He indicated they could try.’”
Furthermore, the report made clear that “officer evaluations and promotions depend to an inordinate degree on ‘productivity,’ meaning the number of citations issued.”  The report read like one about a shakedown gang rather than about city officials.

And the racial disparities as charged by the Justice Department are unconscionable.  According to the report, “Ferguson’s approach to law enforcement both reflects and reinforces racial bias” and “there is evidence that this is due in part to intentional discrimination on the basis of race.”

Whatever one thinks about the case of the [Michael Brown] killing and how it was handled in the courts, it is clear that Brown’s death will not be in vain. It is clear that the frustration that poured out onto the streets of Ferguson was not without merit.

Once again, the oppression people feel as part of their lived experiences, and can share only by way of anecdote, is bolstered by data.

When people say “Black Lives Matter,” they’re not referring only to the lives lost, but also to those stunted and controlled by a system of power that sees them as pawns.
The cynic in me cannot help but wonder what percentage of the city officials and police officers engaging in these despicable conduct nonetheless go to church every Sunday and pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves for their piety and godliness. It is with good reason that I no longer refer to myself as a Christian.  What moral and decent person would want to be associated with racists and bigots and hypocrites?

Quote of the Day: Slams Alabama Supreme Court

As noted in a post last night, the Alabama Supreme Court in a move reminiscent of the 1950's and 1960's issued a ruling ordering state court judges to ignore a federal court ruling invalidating Alabama's ban on same sex marriage.  The Alabama Supreme Court took this move despite the fact that the U. S. Supreme Court had refused to stay the lower federal court ruling thereby signally that a high court ruling striking down same sex marriage bans is likely towards the end of June this year. - which disseminates stories from Alabama's largest newspapers - seems to be over Alabama ALWAYS being on the wrong side of history and took the Alabama Supreme Court to task over its insane ruling.  Here are the money quotes:
The Alabama Supreme Court has ordered Alabama's probate justices to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

In doing so, the state's highest court has muddied the legal waters of Alabama, contradicting U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade's ruling that the Alabama Marriage Protection Act is unconstitutional and that Alabama's probate system should license same-sex marriages.

Our state leaders have argued that the federal court system's decision subverts the will of the majority, that an unelected federal judge should not holder greater authority over Alabama than her elected state judges or be able to overturn an Alabama law.

We feel compelled here to reiterate that the point of Granade's ruling is the U.S. Constitutional guarantee that in no state can the majority impose its will on minorities when it comes to unalienable rights.

Yesterday's decision does not change the definition of equal or unalienable in Alabama. It only delays the state's recognition of it.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to provide the final word on same-sex marriage in June; and we believe that Alabama's Supreme Court will find its decision does not hold legal weight.  . . . the [U.S.] Supreme Court denied Alabama's request for a stay, and that should have been the final word on the matter. History has demonstrated that, in constitutional matters, federal courts trump state courts. 

We continue to believe that, in June, the Supreme Court will rightly hold that the unalienable rights of Americans include the right to marry, for all. 

So how does one explain the action of the Alabama Supreme Court?  Two words - elected judges.  Sadly, in Alabama, the Christofascist have largely hijacked much of state government and justices on the Court fear having to face the knuckle dragging Christofascists come the next time they must stand for reelection.  Virginia's appointed judiciary has its problems, but compared to an elected judiciary, it looks pretty remarkable. 

Conflict in Teabaghistan: David Koch Backs Marriage Equality

One can only assume that there must be exploding heads across Teabaghistan as the "godly folk" come to the realization that one of their puppet masters, David Koch, one of the insidious Koch brothers, supports gay marriage and has joined in an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court asking the Court to strike down state marriage bans nationwide.  If the cretins in the "family values" crowd figure out that their theocratic agenda has been betrayed - a big if, admittedly, given the general stupidity of the Christofascists/Tea Party - the spittle will be spraying in veritable sheets like windblown sea foam.    A piece in the Washington Free Beacon looks at Koch's participation in the amicus brief.  Here are highlights:

Libertarian avid Koch is backing a federal challenge to same sex marriage bans, signing on to a Supreme Court brief urging the court to overturn state-level prohibitions on the practice.

He will join hundreds of other prominent right-of-center thinkers, activists, and public figures in asking the Supreme Court to prohibit states from outlawing the practice under the 14th Amendment.
Koch, the vice president of Koch Industries and the world’s sixth wealthiest person, is a deep-pocketed donor to Republican and conservative groups.

Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden confirmed on Tuesday that Koch will sign his name to the brief. Holden said he did so in his personal capacity.

“I believe in gay marriage,” he told Politico in 2012. A former vice presidential candidate on the Libertarian Party ticket, Koch is in line with that movement’s thinking on the issue, despite his support for a party that frequently opposes gay marriage.

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin on Tuesday reported some of the brief’s other signatories, and on the argument they’re presenting:

The brief’s signatories include former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, conservative pundits S.E. Cupp and Alex Castellanos, former White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein, former Mitt Romney senior advisers Beth Myers and Carl Forti, conservative economists Doug Holtz-Eakin (formerly director of the Congressional Budget Office) and Greg Mankiw (formerly on the Council of Economic Advisers), former senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend and former Massachusetts state Senate minority leader Richard Tisei.
In the brief, the signatories argue that they “have concluded that marriage is strengthened, and its value to society and to individual families and couples is promoted, by providing access to civil marriage for all American couples—heterosexual or gay or lesbian alike. In particular, civil marriage provides stability for the children of same-sex couples, the value of which cannot be overestimated. In light of these conclusions, amici believe that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits States from denying same-sex couples the legal rights and responsibilities that flow from the institution of civil marriage.”
One can only assume that Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer, Maggie Gallagher and the Catholic bishops are writhing in convulsion with spittle driveling from their mouths at this development.  It will be interesting to see if Koch's signing on to the brief diminishes the acceptance of the Koch brothers' ploys to use religious extremism and racism in the GOP base/Tea Party.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Another GOP Meltdown Bodes Ill for 2016

Yesterday, after gaining all kinds of negative publicity, John Boehner and his band of GOP cretins among the House of Representatives punted on Home Land Security funding and passed a spending bill for the coming year.   That's the good news.  The bad news is that now the GOP will face another show down a year from now in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election when it will be important that the GOP can show that it can govern - a concept lost on the Christofascist/Tea Party darlings of the GOP base.  Kathleen Parker has again ceased, at least temporarily, drinking the GOP Kool-Aid and writes in the Washington Post that the GOP is setting itself up for failure in 2016.  Here are column excerpts:

I’m getting that deja vu feeling as House Republicans these past several days have failed to alter the public’s perception that they’re incapable of governing. 

This week marked Episode 2, Season 2 in the series “Homeland Security Face-Off.” Subtitle: “How Republicans Forfeit the White House in 2016.”

We’ve seen this all before. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) tries to get his conference to act rationally, but the 52 or so whose mission is to act disruptively at any opportunity force the House majority into a “bad deal,” to borrow from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s description of our current negotiations with Iran. 

President Obama, much of the media and the tea party gang share common cause in placing blame for the House’s fumblings on Boehner’s leadership. But comparisons to previous speakers are too facile. Times change.

Lest the tea party faction or the Freedom Caucus construct an effigy in my image, allow me to note that, yes, they are doing their people’s bidding. These folks who prefer shutdowns to compromise were elected to stand on principle, no matter the consequences. Given that most are in no danger of being challenged in their home districts, they seem perfectly content to oblige.

But principles defended at the expense of pragmatic application is the business of priests.

Here on terra firma, if you lose, you lose. You may be reelected as approval for your zeal as a live-free-or-die, stand-with-Bibi, “Duck Dynasty” patriot, but to what effect if one’s ability to bring about change is neutered in the process?

Not even Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who is a member of the tea party, has been able to whip his brethren into line. Herding cats? Loading frogs into a wheelbarrow? There is yet no simile or metaphor adequate to describe the moment. How about this: They are like the football player who intercepts a pass, then turns around and runs the ball over the opposing team’s goal line.

Insisting that Homeland Security funding be attached to the president’s executive actions to curtail deportations of immigrants here illegally — a predictably losing gamble for Republicans — was a touchdown for the other team.

Whether this solution changes public perception sufficiently — and whether it can hold up through the Republican primary process — is yet to be seen. In the meantime, what we do know is that a Republican can’t win the presidency if the party more widely is considered not ready for prime time.

Without the 40 percent of the Hispanic vote widely considered necessary to win — and enough independents and moderates who are turned off by the more-righteous-than-thou Freedom Caucus — a Republican doesn’t stand a chance.

The GOP ceased to be a party of rational thought and logic years ago now when the Christofascists - the Tea Party is truly a bunch of Christofascists parading under a different name along with white supremacists - were allowed to hijack the party base.  When those how blindly follow dogma unsupported by objective reality and knowledge, are allowed control, what we are now seeing is the only plausible outcome.  The insanity will continue.