Saturday, July 04, 2015

Virginia GOP Pledges to Pass License to Discriminate Laws

Anti-gay Virginia Republicans
Ever since the Supreme Court issued its same sex marriage ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, most Republicans have been falling all over themselves to not only condemn the ruling but to prostitute themselves to the Christofascist by promising to "protect religious freedom."  Even Southern Baptist Convention windbag Albert Molher has conceded that no threat exists that any church or denomination will be forced to perform same sex marriages or to cease preaching anti-gay rants from the pulpit.  Likewise, no one will be forced to cease worship in anti-gay churches.  There is, in short, NO THREAT to religious freedom notwithstanding Mike Fuckabee Huckabee's calls for the enforcement of public accommodation laws to be prosecuted as hate crimes.   All of this is, of course, a total distortion of the Founding Father's concept of religious freedom.  Compliments of a reader, her are excerpts from George Washington's address to the Jewish Community of Newport, Rhode Island (emphasis added):
The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past, is rendered the more sweet, from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good Government, to become a great and a happy people.

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

Pretty clear stuff: no special rights, no government sponsored discrimination. Yet the Virginia GOP has pledged that it will enact laws that will fly in the face of Washington's words and the concepts advanced by Founding Fathers from Virginia.  The Richmond Times Dispatch reports on the matter.  Note how hate group leader, Victoria Cobb of The Family Foundation is once again playing puppet master.  Here are highlights:

After the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly are preparing to push back in what they call a culture war aimed at destroying religious freedoms.
Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said protections of religious liberties are going to be the primary focus for House Republicans in the 2016 General Assembly session, which begins in January.
“My concern is that the ultimate goal of the far left is not to secure rights for gay individuals but to tear down religious institutions and the belief systems that support them,” Gilbert said this week.

A.E. Dick Howard, a constitutional law professor at the University of Virginia and author of the modern Virginia Constitution, said lawmakers who will not accept same-sex marriage as a proposition must be gathering their forces now and thinking of ways to craft legislation aimed at preserving, and even expanding, religious liberties.

“If you can’t defeat same-sex marriage as such at this point, then I think the next obvious step is to see how much protection can you give religious people,” Howard said.

In a year when all 140 seats in the assembly are up for election, some lawmakers in safe GOP districts remain loyal to opponents of same-sex marriage and advocates of religious freedom, believing that the Supreme Court ruling opens the door to discrimination against Christians who refuse to embrace marriages between same-sex couples.

“Given that the majority on the court refused to acknowledge that Americans have a constitutionally protected right to exercise our faith in the public square that’s not limited to ‘teaching’ or ‘believing’ as Justice (Anthony) Kennedy implied, we are concerned that at the very least religiously based organizations that provide a host of services from health care to homeless shelters will be forced to give up their tax-exempt status,” said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia.

Cobb also said she is concerned that businesses that don’t want to participate in same-sex unions will be punished, “like they have been in other states, even though they will provide their services to any individual, gay or straight.”

James Parrish, executive director of the gay rights group Equality Virginia, said his organization will continue to work toward protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination by business owners who deny them service for religious reasons.

“We truly believe when you open your doors to the business to the public, you are serving the entire public,” Parrish said. “We believe there is a social contract out there: When you open a public business, you are opening your business to the public.”

But efforts to push anti-discrimination legislation ends at the church door, Parrish said. “Any faith leader can refuse to marry anyone for any reason. That is all protected,” he said.
Rebecca Glenberg, legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, which supports same-sex marriage, said the federal gay marriage ruling will not affect how churches conduct marriages.
As is always the case, the lies and distortions come from the godly folk.  As for the organizations that Cobb whines about, the choice is simple: either stop taking state and federal funds or obey non-discrimination laws and public accommodation laws.  Once again, the Christofascists want special rights and to have their cake and eat it too.  

How "American Exceptionalism" Has Led America to Disaster in the Middle East

Having traveled the world a bit, one thing that drives me to distraction is the myth of "American exceptionalism."  As a prior post notes, the USA ranks 16th based on quality of life indexes, we have the most expensive yet least efficient healthcare system of and advanced nation, social mobility is plummeting, . . .  the list of America's shortcomings goes on and on.  Yet we see people - most generally Republicans, Christofascists and Tea Party types, although Democrats are not free from blame  - blathering on and on about American exceptionalism and America's special place in God's plan.  This ignorance and blindness to reality has serious consequences as examined in a piece in Salon that interviews Andrew Bacevich, a West Point graduate who served a tour in Vietnam before taking a doctorate in diplomatic history at Princeton, before teaching international relations at West Point and Johns Hopkins and Boston University.  Bacevich credits much of America's disasters in the Middle East on the delusion of American exceptionalism.  Here are excerpts:
[U]nlike the period of the Cold War, when you can make an argument that there was a certain cohesion in U.S. policy, there’s been virtually none with regard to the Greater Middle East. What we have is almost a pattern of random military interventionism justified by all kinds of reasons, few of which have produced anything like a positive outcome, and which cumulatively contributed to the destabilization of the Greater Middle East. . . . An American imperium bent on incessant expansion and more or less global dominance. . . 

[T]he preliminary point is to understand where this urge to create a global imperium came from. And several facts contributed. One of which is the long-standing, deeply embedded claim of American exceptionalism, which assigns to us a responsibility to transform the global order in our own image. That goes back to the founding of Anglo-America, the City upon a Hill.

The end of the Cold War persuaded American elites in both parties, people on the left and people on the right, that liberal democratic capitalism was destined to triumph everywhere, that the last ideological challenger had been vanquished.

The end of history is set. So that seemed to bring the vision of global hegemony that much closer. Desert Storm seems to demonstrate—this is not so inaccurate, misleading—that the United States is in possession of military powers such that the world has never seen. We believe by 1991 that we have not only vanquished the last standing ideological opponent, but that we have achieved a military supremacy.

They don’t use the term “empire,” but it is an imperialistic rhetoric, and you also find, under Clinton, a growing willingness to put that American military power to use. To do what Clinton would argue would be good things in the world. And that takes the form of a far greater willingness to intervene. In Somalia, in Haiti, in Kosovo, in Bosnia, with the expectation that somehow this interventionism is going to produce stability, spread our values, help to bring into existence this new American-dominated order. Problem is, of course, that the results are considerably different. Instead of creating stability we create instability, and, of course, the chickens come home to roost on 9/11, with the attacks on Washington and New York. 

I am certainly not optimistic about our willingness to learn. 

One of the great obstacles to rethinking U.S. foreign policy is the extent to which both of the major parties buy into, I think for mostly cynical reasons, the premises of American exceptionalism. So here we are, you and I are speaking. We’re in sort of the preliminary stages of the 2016 presidential campaigns, and it is not difficult to predict that from both sides we will hear calls for American leadership. The insistence that there is no alternative to American leadership, the promises of sustaining American strength. . . .

The right wants to use military power to spread freedom. The left wants to use military power to protect the innocent, but both on the right and on the left, proponents of intervention lack a prudent understanding of what military power can do, what it can’t do, and the likelihood of unintended secondary consequences that result from the use of military power.

There was an argument that we needed to depose Saddam Hussein because he was a cruel and oppressive dictator, but the consequences of deposing Saddam Hussein have not actually been very positive . . . . we have, through our efforts in that country, produced instability, killed people, displaced people, and contributed to such vast human misery as to make a mockery of the humanitarian claims that, to some degree, provided the rationale for invading the country in the first place.

[H]ere as we sit, we are once more, whether we like it or not, involved in an Iraq war. The very fact that this new Iraq war has begun indicates that the previous Iraq war of 2003 to 2011 was a failure. A costly failure. A many-trillion-dollars failure. And yet, there is astonishingly little public interest in requiring any kind of accounting for that debacle. Here we are in the 14th year, we’re approaching the 14th anniversary of the beginning of the Afghanistan war, which is another failure. 

Whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not, we’ve been conducting a War for the Greater Middle East that began in 1980 and continues to the present day. Further, I—my new book—will argue that that war isn’t going well. That three and a half decades later, we haven’t won it, we’re not winning it, and the likelihood of simply continuing down the path that we’re on, with the expectation that final victory lies out there just over the horizon, is an absurdity. 

My crystal ball is not any better than anybody else’s, but my crystal ball does say that we are moving into a globally multiple order  . . . also in the first tier, China, probably India, Japan, in its weird way, Europe. Weird in the sense that it has tremendous economic and cultural clout, but limited willingness to use hard power. There is a second tier of other nations whose views will have to be taken into account—Turkey, Russia, Korea—and the prospects for avoiding the kind of catastrophes that made the 20th century such a horror lie in the ability of these several nations to produce some semblance of stability. To create an order in which each is sufficiently invested that no one will overturn the apple cart: that’s a huge challenge. . . . the problem there is, from a U.S. point of view, it’s unacceptable even to acknowledge that such a world can possibly exist.

Not an optimistic outlook, but one that is likely accurate.  Americans need to start facing reality and let go of myths - American exceptionalism being one of them - and efforts to avoid thinking.

4th of July Male Beauty

Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

As Americans enjoy this holiday weekend, it is critical to remember that enlightenment concepts and intellectualism motivated the most remembered Founding Fathers.  Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Washington - all Virginians, Franklin and others were educated men who respected and embraced learning and knowledge.  They all were also skeptical and suspicious of religion and the toxicity it could bring to the secular government they eventually established.  These realities are now totally ignored by the Christofacists and most of the Republican Party that is only too willing to prostitute itself to the demands and bigotry of the spittle flecked, knuckle dragging elements of the party base.  The following is a reprint of the Declaration of Independence via the Virginian Pilot.  Read it.  This is not the work of anti-intellectuals.  This is the work of those who embraced the best of The Enlightenment.  Those who truly love this country need to fight tooth and claw to defeat those who seek to embrace ignorance be they in pulpits or in political office.
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.    

Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America

Nowhere in America is the embrace of ignorance and anti-intellectualism higher than in the Republican Party base, particularly among the Christofascists and Tea Party elements, which are largely one and the same.  Indeed, the embrace of ignorance and the rejection of science, knowledge and intellectualism is down right celebrated - all as the rest of the world, outside of perhaps Islamic nations and and heavily Christian areas of Africa, is moving forward and embracing modernity and knowledge.  The Founding Fathers embraced knowledge and intellectualism.  Today's GOP abhors these things.  As a piece in Psychology Today notes, the rise of anti-intellectualism is harming America and the nation's future.  Here are article highlights:
The tragedy in Charleston last week will no doubt lead to more discussion of several important and recurring issues in American culture—particularly racism and gun violence—but these dialogues are unlikely to bear much fruit until the nation undertakes a serious self-examination. Decrying racism and gun violence is fine, but for too long America’s social dysfunction has continued to intensify as the nation has ignored a key underlying pathology: anti-intellectualism.

America is killing itself through its embrace and exaltation of ignorance, and the evidence is all around us. Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter who used race as a basis for hate and mass murder, is just the latest horrific example. Many will correctly blame Roof's actions on America's culture of racism and gun violence, but it's time to realize that such phenomena are directly tied to the nation's culture of ignorance. 

In a country where a sitting congressman told a crowd that evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of hell," where the chairman of a Senate environmental panel brought a snowball into the chamber as evidence that climate change is a hoax, where almost one in three citizens can’t name the vice president, it is beyond dispute that critical thinking has been abandoned as a cultural value. Our failure as a society to connect the dots, to see that such anti-intellectualism comes with a huge price, could eventually be our downfall. 

Rational public policy, including policies that allow reasonable restraints on gun access, simply isn't possible without an informed, engaged, and rationally thinking public.

An anti-intellectual society, however, will have large swaths of people who are motivated by fear, susceptible to tribalism and simplistic explanations, incapable of emotional maturity, and prone to violent solutions. Sound familiar?

What Americans rarely acknowledge is that many of their social problems are rooted in the rejection of critical thinking or, conversely, the glorification of the emotional and irrational. What else could explain the hyper-patriotism that has many accepting an outlandish notion that America is far superior to the rest of the world? Love of one’s country is fine, but many Americans seem to honestly believe that their country both invented and perfected the idea of freedom, that the quality of life here far surpasses everywhere else in the world.

But it doesn’t. International quality of life rankings place America far from the top, at sixteenth. America’s rates of murder and other violent crime dwarf most of the rest of the developed world, as does its incarceration rate), while its rates of education and scientific literacy are embarrassingly low. American schools, claiming to uphold “traditional values,” avoid fact-based sex education, and thus we have the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world.
And those rates are notably highest where so-called “biblical values” are prominent. Go outside the Bible belt, and the rates generally trend downward.

[T]he impact of fundamentalist religion in driving American anti-intellectualism has been, and continues to be, immense.   Interestingly, anti-intellectual fundamentalists are joined in their climate change denial with unusual bedfellows: corporate interests that stand to gain from the rejection of sound science on climate.  . . . these corporate interests encourage anti-intellectualism, conditioning Americans into conformity and passive acceptance of institutional dominance. They are the ones who stand to gain from the excessive fear and nationalism that result in militaristic foreign policy and absurdly high levels of military spending.

At the core of all of this dysfunction is an abandonment of reason. More on this subject in David Niose's latest book, Fighting Back the Right: Reclaiming America from the Attack on Reason

Friday, July 03, 2015

More Friday Male Beauty

Jeb Bush’s Big Lehman Brothers Problem

The right's pundits and Fox News continually to talk breathlessly about Clinton scandals, but they are noticeably quiet when it comes to scandals involving Republicans, especially the Bush family which has had more than its share of questionable business deals - indeed, Neil Bush of failed savings and loan fame has become entirely invisible.  But not to worry, Jeb "Jebbie" Bush has plenty of his own just waiting to get the attention that they deserve.  One involves Jebbie's very lucrative job advising Lehman Brothers, one of the firms that triggered the financial collapse causing the Great Recession.  And not only are the right wing pundits silent, but so is Jebbie.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at what Jebbie is trying to hide.  Here are excerpts:
[Jeb Bush]he continuing to obfuscate some of his most lucrative and potentially controversial business dealings he had before announcing his candidacy, like his work as an “adviser” for investment bank Lehman Brothers?

So, if Jeb won’t tell you what Jeb exactly did while working on Wall Street, in the interests of transparency and disclosure, I will try.

Not much is known about what Bush actually did for Lehman—the firm that went belly-up in 2008 and sparked the wider financial crisis, and Barclays, the bank that purchased Lehman out of bankruptcy and continues to work out of its midtown Manhattan headquarters.
The two banks were his biggest sources of income in recent years: Bush earned more than $14 million working for Lehman and then Barclays, which based on my understanding of simple math accounted for nearly half of the $29 million he made after he left government. Yet in Tuesday’s disclosure, and even in many of his public comments, Bush has downplayed his work for the two banks.

I’ve interviewed numerous Wall Street executives about Jeb Bush, and his role at both firms. What emerges is a portrait of a bank “adviser” who operated more like a high-level investment banker. . . . Bush, according to people with direct knowledge of his activities, helped the firm look for business from well-heeled clients, including everyone from hedge funds to billionaire investors like Carlos Slim Helu, the Mexican business magnate widely regarded as the world’s richest man.

And, in at least one instance, he appears to have been Lehman’s go-to man for an emergency investment during the 2008 financial crisis.

Bush was paid handsomely for this work, but he was also thrust into several awkward situations. A couple of years ago, he met with executives from the Minneapolis-based hedge fund Whitebox Advisors, a major Barclays client. Bush was supposed to be providing high-level insight into economic issues for the big hedge fund, which was one of a handful that correctly predicted the mortgage meltdown that eventually led to Lehman’s collapse. . . . Whitebox’s chief executive, Andrew Redleaf, began to openly browbeat Bush on his brother’s record as president, including his handling of the Iraq War.

One of those clients included Slim, the Mexican billionaire, which looms as one of the most controversial aspects of Bush’s private business dealings. This is because, if accurate, it shows how closely Bush worked with Lehman officials during the firm’s final days.

According to former Lehman executives and various news reports, Bush met with Slim to ask him to make an investment in the firm in the summer of 2008. The investment never happened, and Lehman, famously, filed for bankruptcy in September of that year.

[F]ormer Lehman executives say senior executives at the firm had discussed using Bush as a direct conduit to policymakers—including those reporting to his brother, who was president during the financial crisis—as Lehman was sinking further into insolvency and regulators balked at including the firm in their broader bailout packages.

Given Lehman’s role in the 2008 financial meltdown, it’s easy to see why the former governor would like people to focus on what he billed the other day as the “broken tax system that’s one of the most convoluted and anti-growth in the world” rather than the work he did that earned him millions . . .

[A]as an avowed small-government conservative, you would think Bush would know all about corrosive effects of crony capitalism, where executives at the big banks sit at its epicenter, ready to call in favors from politicians who in turn can help make those executives make a lot of money. For that reason, it’s time for Jeb to fess up about all the work he did for Lehman and Barclays. Only then can he brag that he’s acting “in the spirit of transparency.”

Today's "Religious Liberty" Claims Mirror Those of Segregationists

It seems the Christofascists and their allies have little desire to cease pushing their specious "religious liberty" claims through which they seek to exempt themselves from compliance with non-discrimination laws and even having to serve those they don't like even if they are governmental officials.  This tactic is actually nothing new and in the 1968 decision of the Supreme Court in Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, the Court rejected the claims of a barbecue chain that claimed that it could refuse to serve black people (in violation of an anti-discrimination statute) because the owner’s “religious beliefs compel him to oppose any integration of the races whatever.”  The Court, in fact, allowed the plaintiffs to recover attorneys fees against the restaurant chain.  A piece in the Washionton Post looks at the Christofascist demand for special rights under the deceptive claim of "religious liberty."  Here are highlights:

Don’t like same-sex marriage, contraception, HIV testing or even child labor laws? Never you worry: Just say that a higher power has exempted you, even if your exemption means trampling on other people’s rights. 

Texas’s attorney general recently encouraged public officials to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses if doing so violated their religious convictions. Other state politicians and companies have also recently tried to cite religious belief as an excuse for refusing to serve gay men and lesbians or to treat them equally under the law, even in states where sexual orientation is a legally protected class.
“Religious liberty” has been invoked to circumvent other laws, too.

“Religious liberty” torchbearers speak as if there is a rich tradition of accommodating any citizen who says that a law burdens her faith, regardless of the societal fallout. But the actual history of religious accommodation looks different.

[R]eligious exemptions to laws have been granted only within very prescribed bounds — including the principle that you’re entitled to religious accommodations only if they don’t burden or harm others, or otherwise create havoc in the legal system.  

[I]n 1985 the court also struck down a different state law requiring employers to honor whatever holy day their workers chose. Why would the court say that workers’ holy days deserved deference in one case and not another? The government has to allow you to practice whatever religion you choose — and observe whatever holy day you wish — but it will not protect your right to excessively burden other citizens (here, employers and co-workers who must accommodate your schedule) in the name of that religious belief.

The court has used similar logic when considering whether faith can exempt people from civil rights and public accommodations law. Bob Jones University lost its tax-exempt status because it refused to admit students engaged in or advocating interracial relationships. The school had claimed that it should be exempted from anti-discrimination law because its leaders “genuinely believe[d] that the Bible forbids interracial dating and marriage.” 

In the case perhaps most directly comparable to the latest arguments made about religious liberty and gay customers, 1968’s Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, the Supreme Court affirmed the principle that a barbecue chain could not refuse to serve black people, in violation of an anti-discrimination statute, simply because the owner’s “religious beliefs compel him to oppose any integration of the races whatever.”

Constitutional and statutory protections of religious liberty give Americans the right to worship whomever they choose, however they like, on whatever day they like. But there are well-established limits to weaponizing those beliefs against your fellow man.
Fundamentalist religions and those who use religion to harm others and deprive them of their rights are a plague on the world.  They and their claims need to be rejected and tirelessly opposed.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Latino Leader: Trump Exposing Truths About the Republican Party

Donald Trump continues to be proving toxic to the Republican Party's effort to pretend to be inclusive and a "big tent."  The fact that Trump is polling so well (in relative terms) is because, as previously noted, his racism is gospel among much of the GOP base.  As Trump seeks to exploit this thinly veiled racism and anti-minority bigotry he is exposing the real GOP, if you will.  And people are taking note, especially in minority communities, but Hispanics most of all. One such person is Arturo Carmona, the executive director of Latino advocacy group Presente Action, who believes that it is a good thing that Trump is exposing the real nature of the Republican Party.  Think Progress looks at this acknowledgement.  Here are highlights:

Real estate mogul and presidential candidate Donald Trump touted his business and dealmaking expertise in his campaign launch speech last month, saying, “I did a lot of great deals and I did them early and young, and now I’m building all over the world.” But remarks he made in that same speech are threatening his business empire as companies move to distance themselves from the candidate who said that undocumented immigrants from Mexico “killers and rapists.” On Monday, NBC cut ties with Trump and on Wednesday, Macy’s announced it would stop carrying merchandise from his brand. 

Trump responded on Wednesday, saying it was his decision to terminate his relationship with Macy’s and NBC because the corporations clearly “support illegal immigration, which is totally detrimental to the fabric of our once great country.”

One group that hasn’t yet cut ties with the real estate mogul is the Republican Party. While NBC, Univision and Macy’s have publicly denounced his beliefs, members of the Republican party have remained silent or have expressed their support for his anti-immigrant sentiment.  

“Donald Trump’s remarks are very racially charged and should have no place in the American political dialogue of today,” Arturo Carmona, the executive director of Latino advocacy group Presente Action, told ThinkProgress. “In a way, it’s good that we have somebody that’s actually speaking the truth like Donald Trump about what’s really motivating many of these [anti-immigrant] policies. I’d rather have somebody like Trump be honest about what the motivations are than have the GOP and Congress hiding behind political rhetoric, but at the same time, passing policies that are criminalizing immigrants and trying to take away executive action protections.” 

While some members of the Republican party will attempt to distance themselves from Trump and his remarks to appeal to a wider swath of voters, Carmona said it won’t be so easy.

“[Trump’s remarks] show powerful racist undercurrents that are connected with very important sectors of the GOP and the Republican party,” he said. “Now many of its leaders try to distance themselves from that, but very often, as we’ve seen with Trump and many other right-wing leaders, we see that they often pop their head out and the GOP quickly wants to hide them and throw them under the carpet. Well they can’t do that anymore with Donald Trump running for president and it’s going to have a very important impact in showcasing the true colors of the Republican Party.”  

“The fact that Donald Trump is polling so high in some of these early voting states is because there is still a significant share of the population — a minority but a very influencial portion of the Republican Party — that is still anti-immigrant and anti-Latino and I would venture to say anti-communities of color,” Carmona said. “But they’re a minority and they drive an agenda based on fear, based on division and based on the superiority of one group. And I think that’s something that this country is quickly running away from. The electorate is rapidly changing and any candidate that is associated with that platform, as most of the GOPers are, is destined to lose.”  

Personally, I hope Trump remains in the race long enough to fully expose the ugliness of the GOP base's agenda and to taint all of the other GOP presidential nomination candidates. 

When "Religious Freedom" Becomes Freedom From Laws

Republicans who seek to subvert the U.S. Constitution
I have consistently maintained that the Christofascist and GOP push for falsely named "religious freedom" laws is in reality an effort to gran special rights to far right Christians and basically exempt them from obeying laws that they claim are inconsistent with their warped, hate-filled beliefs.  These laws have nothing to do with protecting religious freedom as contemplated by the Founding Fathers and everything to do with granting religious extremist special exempt status under the laws that govern the rest of us.  First and foremost, far right Christians are self-centered and full of hatred towards others.  A piece in Salon looks at this reality and the ugly truth behind the effort to enact these laws.  Here are highlights:

When the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges came down and same-sex marriage was suddenly, finally legalized throughout the country, the response from social conservatives was loud and predictable: “What about our religious liberty?” We’ve seen versions of this fight play out time and again over the last few months and years as religious conservatives have sought to slow the rapid advance of gay rights by arguing that their constitutionally protected religious freedoms are threatened when the state makes it illegal to discriminate against gays. With the Obergefell ruling, the “religious liberty” crowd are facing their most challenging setback: If marriage equality for gays is now the law of the land, what can one do to protect one’s “religious freedom”?

Republicans like Ted Cruz and the Republican attorney general of Texas think they have the answer, and it gets to the ugly trajectory of the “religious freedom” push against gay rights: If the law won’t allow you your “religious freedom,” well, then, declare your freedom from the law.

Cruz said that government clerks should “absolutely” be able to refuse to issue marriage licenses if they have a religious objection. “Ours is a country that was built by men and women fleeing religious oppression.” Cruz’s opinion on the matter was joined by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton . . .

[T]wo high-ranking conservative public officials explicitly arguing that government employees may ignore the law if they can claim a religious objection. As the Atlantic’s David Graham writes, this is the very stuff of nullification theory: the idea that states are either not obligated to follow federal law or that states can pass laws that supersede federal law. Anyone who’s spent any time studying the Constitution – like Harvard Law graduate and former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz, for example – knows that nullification is flagrantly unconstitutional and undermines the very foundations of our system of government.

There’s an easy pattern to observe here: Social progress leaps forward as a result of federal action, conservative opponents assert individual liberty and states’ rights to defy the feds in a last-ditch effort to thwart change, and they lose because they lack moral and legal justification.

The important thing to understand with the current gay rights battle is that the proponents of the “religious freedom” argument aren’t actually talking about “protecting” religious freedom — they’re talking about expanding the definition of what can be considered an expression of religious faith.

That argument “is not justified in either well-established constitutional law or in statutes that prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion,” Columbia Law’s Katherine Franke wrote in response to Paxton’s memo. “Religious freedom,” according to Cruz et al., allows the faithful to deny other people their legal rights, and allows for government employees to impose their religious beliefs on others. That’s an insane perversion of the First Amendment.

Ted Cruz has to know how insane that is. But he very much doesn’t care. Cruz is talking up nullification for the modern age not because he thinks it’s a legitimate legal strategy, but because it portrays him as a warrior for Christian rights. His whole 2016 campaign is based explicitly on mobilizing Christian conservatives, and positioning himself as a lone stalwart standing against the tyrannical judiciary in defense of “traditional values” is part of that strategy. In doing so he’s advocating lawlessness and discrimination in defiance of the established constitutional order.
The Christofascists and their GOP political whores constitute a clear and present danger to our system of constitutional government.  They must be defeated and ultimately driven into social and political oblivion. 

Anti-Gay Texas Attorney General Faces Possible Felony Indictment

With Texas Republicans there seems to be a contest as to who can be the most anti-gay - - and the most corrupt.  Former Governor Rick Perry is already facing serious allegations and now Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who has encouraged rogue clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same couples is facing possible  felony charges for securities fraud.  Not surprisingly, Paxton is a darling of the lunatic Tea Party and Christofascists who hold sway in the Texas GOP.  The Raw Story looks at yet another possible corrupt Republican in Texas.  Here are highlights:
Special prosecutors will ask a Texas grand jury as early as this month to indict the state’s attorney general on first-degree felony charges for suspected securities laws violations, one of the prosecutors said on Thursday.

A spokesman for Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican who came to office earlier this year with strong Tea Party support, was not immediately available for comment.

“There is evidence that needs to be presented to the grand jury about a couple of different violations. One of which that they will have to determine is if securities fraud was present,” said attorney Kent Schaffer, appointed to investigate the suspected violations.

Paxton drew national attention recently when he said county clerks in Texas who object to gay marriage on religious grounds can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite last week’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring states to allow same-sex marriage.

When Paxton was in the legislature, he was hired to seek clients by an investment firm called Mowery Capital Management, which is facing allegations from the State Securities Board of defrauding investors.

The Texas State Securities Board in May 2014 found that Paxton was not properly registered as an investment advisor in his work with the firm. It reprimanded him and fined him $1,000.

The special prosecutors, appointed earlier this year, have been looking into possible criminal violations stemming from Paxton’s role with the firm and his failure to properly register as an advisor.

A first-degree felony conviction in Texas can result in 5 to 99 years in prison.

Huffington Post Recaps HR Pride Fest

The husband and I were aboard the American Rover pictured above
To my surprise Huffington Post has a piece extolling last weekend's Hampton Roads 2015 Pride Fest  in a piece that ought to make both the Pride board and the City of Norfolk - which has finally awakened to the fact that the event has the potential to be a real tourism draw, hence the City's cooperation in moving the Block Party into Scope due to threatening weather - very proud.  The piece is full of great photos and nice things about the event and certainly gives the event some great national exposure.  Here are some article highlights:
This year I had a strong desire to attend a unique and rare style of pride event, especially in light of the landscape-altering decision by the United States Supreme Court, forever altering America's social contracts.

The State of Virginia holds the nation's only Gay Pride Boat Parade, that's right: no floats, just boats! Hampton Roads Pride, in Norfolk, Virginia, is the State's largest pride celebration, throwing a unique twist on the gay festivities.

Norfolk is synonymous with boats. It's the home of largest naval base in the world, Naval Station Norfolk, and the final resting position of the Wisconsin . . . . . The Wisconsin, a WWII and Korean Conflict battleship punctuates the Norfolk skyline and helps to educate future generations as a fully functional museum ship.

The floating festivities are open to everyone. If you own a boat you're more than welcome to get a permit, color her up, and ride in the parade. If you aren't lucky enough to have your own boat, join someone else's! If you're plagued by the devil that is sea-sickness, get yourself an inflatable swan and watch the parade from the safety of a mimosa on the waterfront!

[T]he American Rover makes a strong and powerful entrance, and best of all, it was open to the public. Tickets were sold to sit aboard this grand vessel as it unfurled those gorgeous sails, and presented a dignified wrut (the water equivalent of a strut) along the parade woute (the water equivalent of a route).

The annual Pridefest Block Party had a seamless run even after a last minute venue change prompted by Mother Nature's insistence on hydrating the land. That's coordination at its finest, moving the party at the last minute, and still having everyone show up. Well done!

What I was most proud of at Hampton Roads Pridefest was the next generation of Americans. These are folks who're going to grow up in the environment we leave to them, and they're in many ways better prognosticators than we were.
In all seriousness, the City of Norfolk - and other local cities - need to advertise the event which is steadily becoming a week long event.  Interestingly, at the event the mayor of Virginia Beach suggested that perhaps Pride should consider Virginia Beach as a future venue for the event.  The times are changing!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

County Clerks Refusing to Issue Marriage Licenses Need to Find New Jobs

Click to enlarge - the Founders; real view of religion
Even before the Supreme Court handed down its same sex marriage ruling in Obergefell, the Christofascists were hard at work distorting the intend behind and the protections afforded by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The Founding Fathers' concept of "religious freedom" was actually very narrow: (i) no citizen could be force through taxes or otherwise to support an established church or religion, (ii) every citizen could worship in the church or denomination of their choosing, and (iii) no citizen could be prohibited from seeking public office based on their religious beliefs or church affiliation.  Never, ever, did the Founders contemplate that "religious freedom" would be used to exempt elected officials and/or state employees from refusing to perform the duties of their office or job position.  Nevertheless, now we see the Christofascists claiming that  their right to religious freedom allows them to ignore laws they do not like and to refuse to perform their job duties.  It's a total distortion and lie - like most of what comes from the mouths of Christofascists.  A piece in Salon looks at their lies and hypocrisy.  Here are excerpts:
As attorney Joe Dunman, co-counsel for the Kentucky plaintiffs in the state’s marriage equality cases, noted on Twitter on Tuesday, “It must be made clear: public servants, acting in their official capacity, simply do not have religious beliefs. They are secular servants…. If you, acting as an agent of the state, may invoke your religious whims, those whims become the whims of the state. We are not a theocracy. If your religious beliefs make it impossible for you to enforce and uphold the constitutional rights you swore to defend, you must resign.” (Kentucky is dealing with its own rogue county clerks, too.)

And in a statement, Denton County Clerk Juli Luke said this week, “Personally, same-sex marriage is in contradiction to my faith and belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. However, first and foremost, I took an oath on my family Bible to uphold the law, and as an elected public official, my personal belief cannot prevent me from issuing the licenses as required.” Parker County Clerk Jeane Brunson echoed the remarks, noting that the county is working on creating gender neutral marriage applications and saying, “As an elected official, I have taken an oath to execute the duties of the office, and that I will preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States and of the State of Texas without subjecting those actions to my own personal values. I believe you want nothing more from your elected County Clerk.”

Nothing more — and certainly nothing less. If your job is to serve your community — every member of it — then that’s what you do. You can’t as a firefighter decide you’re not going to put out a blaze in an atheist’s home. You can’t as a postal worker decide you’re not going to deliver mail to a transgender person’s apartment. And you should not be permitted, as a county clerk, to decide your private feelings overrule your official duties. Your obligations are spelled out in your job description. They include issuing marriage licenses. If that’s a problem, then I guess it’s time to look for another job, huh?
These rogue clerks need to be fired from their jobs and, in instances where they are defying legitimate court orders, charged with contempt of court and put in jail.  But it is important to understand that all of this moaning and carrying on is really about something else much larger that blogger friend Bob Felton hit squarely on the head:
And it is no coincidence that racial antagonisms are flaring-up just as gay rights are progressing, for the latter reprises the former defeat, and both bespeak the same thing: Widespread public rejection of slavish submission to the scribblings of Bronze Age anonymities. The present discontents are not merely about gay rights; that is only the focal point. It is the wholesale rejection of the innately degrading premises of the Abrahamic faiths writ large which provokes, to the mind of believers, the existential crisis alluded to by the mantra “religious liberty.”

Mac Brunson, Albert the Pious, and all the rest, know perfectly well that their religious liberty is not threatened. Their churches will remain open for business, they will continue unimpeded to humiliate themselves with preposterous claims that the Bible is inerrant, nobody will arrest them for standing in a pulpit and howling that the Invisible Wizard’s (poorly expressed, locally interpreted) rules must precede the laws of legislatures and their interpretations by the courts.

The pastors understand, however, that their day has ended — that they are no longer their community’s wise man, sage, informal moral leader without portfolio, and their congregations understand that they no longer enjoy the presumption of goodness, that they are somehow “better” people. They can still believe whatever they like, they can still preach whatever they like, they can still enforce whatever rules they like in their clubhouses and homes — but they should expect ridicule and disdain from “the world” rather than admiration and deference. They have sustained not merely a political defeat, but the rejection of an entire culture.
As the Christofascist become increasingly marginalized by rational members of society, their outrage and fury over their lost sense of entitlement will likely increase.  The irony is that the selfishness and obnoxious demands for special rights will likely only hasten the decline of respect for their ignorance embracing beliefs.  In the last analysis, the sooner the Abrahamic faiths become dead religions, the better off the world will be.


The Lunatic GOP Base Loves Donald Trump

Donald Trump's GOP nomination campaign is continuing to provide huge entertainment value to those of us who like to see the insanity of today's Republican Party writ large.  The Donald seems hell bent to totally destroy the GOP brand with Hispanic voters much to the delight of the white supremacist party base.  I continue to look forward to the spectacle of Trump in the GOP candidate debates and love the thought of the so-called GOP establishment cringing in fear over what racist, batshit crazy statements will come from Trump.  Meanwhile, the knuckle dragging elements of the GOP base seem to be in love with Trump.  A piece in Slate looks at the GOP's unfolding nightmare.  Here are highlights:
There’s no world in which Donald Trump is a serious candidate for president. Republican elites don’t want him, Republican donors don’t want him, and if—through some cosmic fluke—he managed to win a major primary, every strategist and activist in the Republican Party would turn their aim toward him and his candidacy.

But just because Trump is an unqualified vanity candidate doesn’t mean he’s unimportant in the story of the 2016 GOP presidential primary. Unlike Chris Christie or Mike Huckabee—two vastly more legitimate candidates—Trump is popular with Republican voters. A new CNN national poll puts him in second place in the GOP field at 12 percent support—seven points behind the leader, Jeb Bush—while recent polls from Iowa and New Hampshire also show him with a second place spot in those crucial early contests. If Trump holds his position, he’ll be on stage with Bush, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio when official debates start in August . . . .

“Why?”—why does Trump have a hold on this thick slice of the members of the Republican base? The answer is, unlike the professional politicians in the race, Trump is—from his views on immigration to the “issue” of Obama's citizenship—one of them.

He doesn’t have to do anything other than put himself on a debate stage and get publicity. And so, he says what he thinks.

The last time he entered the fray, in the runup to the 2012 primaries, this meant “birtherism,” the belief that Barack Obama was foreign-born and thus ineligible for the White House. For this round, it means casual xenophobia. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said during his presidential announcement last month. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Appalled, corporate America moved to break bonds with the real estate mogul. NBC ended its relationship with Trump, longtime host of Celebrity Apprentice and co-owner of the Miss USA and Miss Universe franchises. Macy’s dropped him from its stores, and Univision, the Spanish-language network with wide reach in the United States, cut its ties as well. On Wednesday, Trump replied: “Clearly, NBC and Macy’s support illegal immigration, which is totally detrimental to the fabric of our once great country.”

Through all of this, actual Republican voters not only weren’t bothered, they actually seemed supportive, as evidenced by Trump’s rise to near the top of the heap. The reason is clear. While Trump was out-of-bounds of mainstream conversation, he was well in the bounds of Republican Party politics and the kinds of rhetoric used there about Mexican and Latin American immigrants.

His complaints about “drugs,” “crime,” and “rapists,” for example, echo those from influential Iowa Rep. Steve King, the all-but-official leader of the GOP’s anti-immigration wing.   . . .
Trump also sounds like Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who—in the last month of his 2014 campaign against Democrat Mark Pryor—warned that terrorists were working with cartels to send fighters into the United States.

All of these claims—from drugs and disease to ISIS—were insane. But they reflected (and encouraged) a climate of anti-immigrant hostility in the Republican Party,

Trump doesn’t just represent the Republican base on immigration. He is the Republican base on immigration. His anxieties are their anxieties. And his rhetoric—a revanchist stew of foreign policy belligerence, small government ideology, anti-elite agitation, and raw bigotry—reflects and appeals to a meaningful part of the Republican electorate.

Get out the popcorn and enjoy the spectacle!!

Episcopal Church Approves Same Sex Weddings

Again leading the way among mainline denominations, the governing bodies of Episcopal Church USA have adopted resolutions establish same sex wedding liturgies.  The move will no doubt drive a further wedge between the church in America and ignorance embracing churches within the Anglican Communion, particularly in Africa where ignorance and bigotry are worn as a badge of honor.   Towleroad looks at this welcomed development.  Here are highlights:
The Episcopal Church voted late Wednesday to adopt two new liturgies on a trial basis that aim to enable same-sex couples to marry in the church. The Church had convened in Salt Lake City to discuss the question of same-sex marriage. Today’s vote is the beginning of a process that if continued would amend the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and require action from two successive General Conventions.

The House of Bishops on Monday approved two liturgies for trial use that will permit same-sex couples to be married in the Episcopal Church, beginning on the first Sunday of Advent of this year. Their action came just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can now be married in all 50 states.

The two liturgies, which were in Resolution A054, include a gender-neutral version of the current marriage service in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, as well as a version of a liturgy that was approved in 2012 for blessing same-sex unions that now also provides vows of marriage. These rites do not refer to “man and woman” or “husband and wife,” but instead use “these persons” or “the couple” to refer to the two people being married.

Bishop Gene Robinson, famous for being the first openly gay bishop in the church, was present for today’s debate:

“I think it is time for us to do this,” [he said]. He disagreed with Bishop Edward Little of Northern Indiana that the church’s love and respect for gay and lesbian people was made clear in the Rite of Baptism. “We wouldn’t have been clawing our way into this church if that was true,” he said.
Late yesterday the House of Deputies likewise passed the resolutions by a wide margin. 

5th Circuit Slams Hold Outs on Gay Marriage

Christofacists and their self-prostituting allies in the Republican Party in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana have been dragging their feet and making excuses to not commence issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.  Yesterday, the 5th Circuit reaffirmed the binding nature of the Supreme Court's marriage ruling last week and made it clear that those who continue to hold out are doing so at their own legal risk.  It was but one more defeat for Christofascists who want the special right to ignore court ruling and laws that they don't like.  The Houston Chronicle looks at the 5th Circuit's ruling.  Here are story highlights:

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday affirmed the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, a final procedural move that closes the book on a long legal battle over Texas' ban on gay unions.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday legalized gay marriage nationwide, but a separate legal challenge filed against Texas' ban still was pending in a federal appeals court. While most county clerks in Texas already were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, there was a small chance state officials could have chosen to exploit the case to shield the last few hold-outs refusing to comply.

In a June 30 brief to the court, however, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller said in light of the Supreme Court ruling it should uphold a lower court's ruling striking down Texas' gay marriage ban.

On Wednesday, the court acknowledged the high court's ruling and told the district court judge to formally rule in favor of the four plaintiffs, a lesbian couple and a gay couple who had challenged Texas' ban on same-sex unions.

Attorney General Ken Paxton on Sunday issued guidance to clerks saying some could refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples if they believe their religion prohibits them from doing so. County attorneys and civil rights groups blasted that advice, saying it would be illegal for state employees required by law to issue licenses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, and have said it represents a need to remain vigilant in the fight for gay rights.
One can only hope contempt of court orders (and threats of jail time) will be issued against Clerk's refusing to perform their legal duties. 

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Jeb Bush’s South Korean Sugar Daddy

The Republicans seeking to attack Hillary Clinton for her husband's speaking fees and alleged conflicts of interest may need to tread cautiously.  As noted before, Jeb "Jebbie" Bush may have problems of his own in this regard, including largess doled out by those benefiting form his idiot brother's failed regime.   Of particular note is Poongsan Corporation, and its CEO Jin Roy Ryu have been generous patrons of the Bush family over the years. In return, the company won more than $1 billion in contracts from Jebbie's brother’s presidential administration.  Politico looks at what it calls Jebbie's South Korean sugar daddy.  Here are highlights:

As he amassed wealth after leaving the governor’s office, Jeb Bush delivered 10 separate paid speeches to a South Korean metal company that won more than $1 billion in contracts from his brother’s presidential administration, according to disclosures released Tuesday.

The company, Poongsan Corporation, and its CEO Jin Roy Ryu have been generous patrons of the Bush family over the years, raising about $1 million for the presidential library of Bush’s father George H. W. Bush, while also helping to organize trips to South Korea for Jeb Bush and his presidential relatives.

The first speech was in 2007, just months before George W. Bush’s administration awarded Poongsan a coin-production contract with the U.S. Mint worth as much as $1 billion. Jeb Bush delivered nine more speeches between then and 2013, when he delivered two separate speeches to Poongsan..

Bush’s association with Poongsan dates back to the mid-1990s, when he was the president of his father’s presidential library foundation, where Ryu sits on the board of trustees.

Jeb Bush served as Florida governor from 1999 to 2007, after which he began giving paid speeches to Poongsan and other companies and non-profits during a period of rapid wealth accumulation.

His net worth mushroomed from $1.3 million to $19 million, according to tax returns and other documents released by Bush’s presidential campaign on Tuesday. The document release – which included a list of 277 speeches that paid a total of nearly $10 million – seemed intended partly to highlight Bush’s commitment to transparency and also to head off a damaging trickle of stories about his ties to controversial businesses.

But the documents also contain fodder for Bush’s critics, who have sought to cast him as a privileged scion of a political dynasty with little in common with middle-class voters. Democrats highlighted affiliations Bush’s allies would rather avoid – such as his work as an adviser for Lehman Brothers, which paid him $1.3 million a year before it went bankrupt and helped spur the financial crisis.

And, while the list of speeches does not contain precise dates or amounts for each speech, it does in some ways shed light on how Bush traded on the political clout that comes with being a former governor who is the son of one former president and the brother of an outgoing one.

Neither Jeb Bush’s campaign spokeswoman nor PMX representatives responded to questions about the speeches or the Bushes’ relationship with Poongsan or Ryu.

Overall, the company has received $1.6 billion in federal contracts, primarily from the U.S. Mint, but also from the U.S. Army.   In addition to coins, Poongsan manufactures ammunition, including land mines and cluster bombs that have run afoul of international human rights standards.

Perhaps those who live in glass houses - i.e., Jeb Bush - should be careful about casting stones.