Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More Tuesday Male Beauty


Thanks to Failed GOP Policies, American Middle Class No Longer Richest in the World


In its quest to destroy Barack Obama by tanking the U.S. economy and obstructing levels of stimulus spending high enough to actually turn the economy around Congressional Republicans and, to a lesser extent, their state level counterparts, have claimed an additional victim: the American middle class, once the most prosperous in the world.  Now, the middle class in Canada - which has a national health care system and much more restrictive regulations on big banks - claim the title of the most prosperous in the world.  Moreover, America's poor are now poorer than the poor in a number of other countries. Yet despite this shocking data, cretins in the Tea Party continue to support the party that is working against their best economic interests.  The New York Times looks at the sad situation.  Here are highlights:

The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.

After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.

The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time. They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.

Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then. Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several — including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden — is much smaller than it was a decade ago.

The struggles of the poor in the United States are even starker than those of the middle class. A family at the 20th percentile of the income distribution in this country makes significantly less money than a similar family in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland or the Netherlands. Thirty-five years ago, the reverse was true.

With a big share of recent income gains in this country flowing to a relatively small slice of high-earning households, most Americans are not keeping pace with their counterparts around the world.

“The idea that the median American has so much more income than the middle class in all other parts of the world is not true these days,” said Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist who is not associated with LIS. “In 1960, we were massively richer than anyone else. In 1980, we were richer. In the 1990s, we were still richer.”  That is no longer the case, Professor Katz added.

Three broad factors appear to be driving much of the weak income performance in the United States. First, educational attainment in the United States has risen far more slowly than in much of the industrialized world over the last three decades, making it harder for the American economy to maintain its share of highly skilled, well-paying jobs.

A second factor is that companies in the United States economy distribute a smaller share of their bounty to the middle class and poor than similar companies elsewhere. Top executives make substantially more money in the United States than in other wealthy countries. The minimum wage is lower. Labor unions are weaker.


Finally, governments in Canada and Western Europe take more aggressive steps to raise the take-home pay of low- and middle-income households by redistributing income.
 

[T]he stagnation of income has left many Americans dissatisfied with the state of the country. Only about 30 percent of people believe the country is headed in the right direction, polls show.


Even with a large welfare state in Sweden, per capita G.D.P. there has grown more quickly than in the United States over almost any extended recent period — a decade, 20 years, 30 years. Sharp increases in the number of college graduates in Sweden, allowing for the growth of high-skill jobs, has played an important role.

Even in Germany, though, the poor have fared better than in the United States, where per capita income has declined between 2000 and 2010 at the 40th percentile, as well as at the 30th, 20th, 10th and 5th.
The task for Democrats is to take the message to voters that the policies of the GOP andGOP  preferences for the wealthy and contempt for the middle and lower classes are fueling the data set out above.    GOP ploys to religious belief and feign patriotism are used as smoke screens to blind the ignorant to the fact that the GOP is rapidly becoming their worst enemies. 

Anti-Gay Catholic Bishop's Damning Testimony Released


Among the members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in America there are few high clerics than bear more open hate and animus towards gays than Archbishop John Nienstedt (pictured above) of the archdiocese of  Minneapolis and St. Paul.  Nienstedt has disseminated foul anti-gay lies and gone above and beyond in his efforts to block marriage equality in Minnesota.  He even went so far as to claim that Satan is the source of same sex marriage.  Thankfully, his efforts failed and now, Nienstedt finds himself exposed as a liar and major player in obstruction of justice in the context of sexual abuse of children and youths by Catholic clergy.  Based on Nienstedt's own testimony, Pope Francis ought to strip Nienstedt of his title and cast him out into the streets.  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at Nienstedt's own damning testimony:

After much stonewalling, the archbishop of Minneapolis and St. Paul finally testified in a four-hour court deposition on April 2 about his role in managing child sex abuse cases, and his comments can only be described as damning.

Archbishop John Nienstedt claimed to have no knowledge that known child sexual abusers were working under his nose during his current six-year tenure, claimed to have delegated all duties surrounding allegations and follow-up of child sex abuse cases, admitted to actively hiding information of priests suspected of child abuse, and even admitted that his diocese had never handed over to law enforcement authorities a single complete case file.

One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys is accusing Nienstedt of lying under oath. “We have a serious pattern of deceit and deception by this archbishop and his predecessors,” Jeff Anderson says, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

Throughout the contentious questioning, Nienstedt portrayed himself as a leader who relied on others to handle the clergy sexual abuse crisis. He professed little knowledge of the scandal within his archdiocese and said he assumed it was safe for children. Nienstedt said it “didn’t occur” to him to ask for a list of abusive priests when he arrived in 2007 and that he didn’t review any clergy files.
Archbishop Nienstedt has been one of the loudest anti-gay voices in the Catholic Church in America. He has claimed “Satan” is the source of same-sex marriage, he spammed hundreds of thousands of Minnesota residents with an anti-gay marriage DVD sent through the U.S. mail, and yet had the audacity to claim his attempts to ban same-sex marriage were “not intended to be hurtful.”   

Make no mistake.  If Pope Francis fails to take action against Nienstedt it will speak volumes about the falsity of his claims to wanting to end the sex abuse scandal and hold high clerics responsible.  

Study: Marriage Leads to Improved Health for Same-Sex Headed Families


The Christofascists and their simpering political whores in the Republican Party who oppose same sex marriage always claim to be "concerned about the children" - even as they are only too willing to throw the children of same sex couples onto the trash heap along with their gay or lesbian parents.  Actions speak louder than words and by their opposition to marriage equality these individuals and "family values" organizations demonstrate that they truly do not give a damn about the children of same sex couples.  Now, a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine finds that marriage equality has positive effects on public health by improving access to healthcare for same-sex couples and their children and reducing stresses.  Thus, in reality, the Christofascists are harming the children.  Deliberately harming them.  Here are highlights on the study via GayRVA:

 [M]arriage equality has positive effects on public health by improving access to healthcare for same-sex couples and their children, and reducing the risks of anxiety, depression and other mental health problems when a couple’s relationship is not legally recognized.

According to the report, public health research has suggested not only that discriminatory environments and bans on same-sex marriage are detrimental to health but also that legalizing same-sex marriage (among other policies expanding protections) contributes to better health for LGBT people.

Legalizing same-sex marriage also improves access to health insurance for LGBT people, the report finds:

About 55% of Americans are covered through their own or a family member’s employer-sponsored health insurance plan, but many employers do not extend coverage to same-sex partners or children of same-sex partners. Even among companies with more than 200 employees, only 42% offer health benefits to same-sex partners, according to the 2012 Employer Health Benefits Survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust.

Thus, adults in same-sex relationships are less likely than their heterosexual counterparts to have health insurance and may therefore delay or forgo necessary medical care. When states legalize same-sex marriage, some workplaces that offer employer-sponsored insurance are required to treat married same-sex couples just as they treat married opposite-sex couples.

Therefore, disparities in insurance coverage are narrower in states that permit same-sex marriage or civil unions that guarantee complete spousal rights to same-sex couples.

Same-sex marriage also strengthens access to health insurance for the 220,000 children who are being raised by same-sex parents in the United States.

[C]hildren with same-sex parents are less likely than children with married opposite-sex parents to have private health insurance. These disparities diminish when LGBT families live in states with marriage equality or laws supporting adoptions for same-sex parents.
The take away?  When Victoria Cobb, Tony Perkins and Maggie Gallagher bloviate about caring about "the children" know that they are lying.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Retired Justice Stevens Condemns Majority in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission


With the sometimes exception of Justice Anthony Kennedy (particularly in the area of gay rights), the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court hold most average Americans in open contempt and have sided with the wealthy, huge corporations and GOP racists.  With its ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, this majority more or less put the government up for sale to big money interests and amazingly found that huge campaign bribes contributions while one is a candidate is miraculously different than a huge bribe while in office.  The distinction, of course defies belief and common sense.  Former Justice John Paul Stevens has condemned the ruling and has suggested a constitutional amendment to protect America's democracy.  A piece in the New York Times looks at Justice Stevens' views.  Here are excerpts:
Justice John Paul Stevens, who turned 94 on Sunday, is a mild man with an even temperament. He has a reverence for the Supreme Court, on which he served for almost 35 years until his retirement in 2010, and he is fond of his former colleagues.

But there was a hint of anger in some of his remarks when I went to see him last week in his Supreme Court chambers. He said the court had made a disastrous wrong turn in its recent string of campaign finance rulings.

“The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate,” he said. “It’s really wrong.”

He talked about what he called a telling flaw in the opening sentence of last month’s big campaign finance ruling. He filled in some new details about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to the Citizens United decision. And he called for a constitutional amendment to address what he said was the grave threat to American democracy caused by the torrent of money in politics.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. started his controlling opinion with a characteristically crisp and stirring opening sentence: “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”

But that was misleading, Justice Stevens said. “The first sentence here,” he said, “is not really about what the case is about.”

The plaintiff, Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama businessman, had made contributions to 15 candidates in the 2012 election. He sued so he could give money to 12 more. None of the candidates in the second group was running in Alabama.

Mr. McCutcheon was not trying to participate in electing his own leaders, Justice Stevens said. “The opinion is all about a case where the issue was electing somebody else’s representatives,” he said.

The occasion for our talk was Justice Stevens’s new book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.” One of those amendments would address Citizens United, which he wrote was “a giant step in the wrong direction.”

The new amendment would override the First Amendment and allow Congress and the states to impose “reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.”

His own book has, in addition to the chapter on campaign finance, chapters on gun control, the death penalty, gerrymandering and aspects of state sovereignty. Each concludes with a proposed amendment.

13 States and District of Columbia File Briefs in Bostic v. Rainey


While Bostic v. Rainey has prompted briefs to be filed by a number of lunatic "family values" groups which are little more than hate groups that wrap themselves in the Bible, the pending appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has also seem many sane, legitimate organizations file amicus briefs.  Now, thirteen states and the District of Columbia have filed a brief asking the 4th Circuit to uphold the ruling that the anti-gay animus inspired Marshall-Newman Amendment is unconstitutional.  The states joining the District of Columbia on the brief are Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington State.  The full brief can be viewed here.

Other groups filing briefs in support of the plaintiffs' position and that of Attorney General Mark Herring include NAACP, PFLAG, the Episcopal Church, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and  the Family Equality Council.  The 31 briefs filed in support of marriage equality can be found here

In the brief filed by the American Psychological Association, among the arguments made are the following:
Although some groups and individuals have offered clinical interventions that purport to change sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual— sometimes called “conversion” therapies—these interventions have not been shown to be effective or safe. A review of the scientific literature by an APA task force concluded that sexual orientation change efforts are unlikely to succeed and can be harmful.

[T]the same factors are linked to children’s positive development, whether they are raised by heterosexual, lesbian, or gay parents.  Moreover, when their parents can legally marry, children benefit in terms of all three factors. Marriage facilitates positive parent-child relationships by providing children with a legal relationship to both parents. This legal relationship can provide needed security and continuity, especially during times of crisis (such as school emergencies, medical emergencies, or the incapacity or death of a parent). In addition, children benefit when their parents are financially secure, physically and  psychologically healthy, and not subjected to high levels of stress. To the extent that marriage facilitates same-sex couples’ well-being, strengthens their relationships with each other, and reduces the risk of household instability, it enhances their children’s well-being as well. Thus, Amici conclude that  permitting same-sex couples to marry is likely to have positive effects on the children they raise.
And yes, the APA slams the Regnerus "study."