Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Will the GOP Get the Message in Kansas?

Many of us are hoping that the GOP will get a much needed message in Kansas with the re-election defeat of Gov. Sam Brownback and Senator Pat Roberts (as well as other GOP elected officials).  Based on the Congressional GOP's economic agenda recently reviewed in a post on this blog, even if Kansas goes blue, one has to question whether or not the message will be received.  After all, part of being a Republican nowadays is to reject objective reality in every form and to blindly cling to ideology and one's Bible. A piece in The Daily Beast asks whether or not the GOP will get the message that its 30+ year old policies simply do not work.  Here are excerpts:
For many political observers, the question about Kansas these days is no longer, “What’s the matter?” so much as, “What the fuck?”

There was the unexpectedly close GOP Senate primary—three-term incumbent Pat Roberts wound up winning by 7 points—and the forced retirement of the Democratic Senate candidate; there’s the fact that Gov. Sam Brownback, whose average margin of victory in state-wide races is 23 points, is now fighting for his political life. Tom Frank made the state famous for illustrating how its citizens elected conservative candidates whose actual policies went against the voters’ economic self-interest; after one term of Brownback’s “Tea Party experiment,” Kansas voters seem to have enlightened their self-interest and want to undo the extremism that Brownback both promised and delivered. The question remains as to whether their Republican candidates will ever wise up to the same conclusion.

There’s no doubt that Brownback’s radically conservative economic policies failed. Schools closed, the deficit ballooned, highways crumbled, jobs disappeared—I imagine ruby slippers were hocked. That failure has the reddest state in the nation blushing blue.

Citing the state’s fiscal woes, moderate and not-so-moderate Republicans have flocked to Brownback’s opponent, Paul Davis, who trails by just 0.6 points. On the Senate front, independent candidate Greg Orman, who will likely caucus with the Democrats, is reaping the benefits of that Tea Party-weighted primary. “Traditional Republicans for Common Sense,” made up of 70 Republican moderates who served in the Kansas legislature, endorsed Orman and he is favored by independent voters by a margin of 30 points.

In the face of this, both Brownback and Roberts have chosen not to battle for the wide swath of Kansas voters who identify as moderate Republicans (47 percent, versus 38 percent “conservative Republicans”), but to move further to the right.

[O]ne has to wonder not just if the Republican leadership is shooting itself in the foot, but why it is. Is it misplaced, or at least short-sighted, cynicism, which might have them believe that their old white guy coalition (if you can call it that) will sustain them a few more cycles? (At least long enough to pass voting restrictions?) Or is it a form of psychosomatic blindness, a function of such deeply held, incorrect perceptions, that the party leaders literally cannot imagine the need to change their tactics, much less their policies?

In other words, are we dealing with cynics or zealots?  Obviously, one hopes for the former. Cynics respond to defeat, for one thing. Cynics and opportunists look at polls. Cynics are the lifeblood of representative democracy. Cynics will do anything to save their own skin, even change their minds.
Sadly, I suspect we are dealing with zealots who cannot grasp the reality that the nation is changing and pushing the same failed agenda is not the route to victory.   As for Brownback, he seems to think that attending every anti-gay rally is his ticket to reelection.

South Florida’s Desperate Secession Movement

Like here in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, in South Florida anyone sentient knows that climate change and rising sea levels is a real phenomenon that is threatening both property and civic vitality.  And like here in Virginia, the main obstacle to addressing the problem is that Tallahassee is full of inland yahoos who when not thumping their Bibles and denigrating minorities and gays have their heads in the sand denying what objective observation would tell them is the truth.  So what does a region imperiled by ignorance embracing cretins do?  Some in South Florida believe that the answer is to secede from the rest of the state.  A piece in Slate looks at the situation which mirrors the problem in the eastern half of Virginia.  Here are highlights:
One way or another, South Florida is leaving the rest of the state. The Mayor of South Miami just wants to speed that process up a bit.
An unprecedented lucky streak of few serious hurricanes is lulling South Florida residents into a false sense of security. The threat from powerful storms, mixed with the now inevitability of 10 feet of sea level rise, means that Miami will likely be one of the first American cities to wink out of existence due to climate change.

Sooner or later, Miami will sink into the sea.

In a resolution passed by the mayor and city commission on a 3-2 vote earlier this month, the City of South Miami proposed that, because of the unique threat climate change poses to its part of the state, the region should immediately break away and form the 51st state:

Whereas, South Florida’s situation is very precarious and in need of immediate attention. Many of the issues facing South Florida are not political, but are now very significant safety issues; and

Whereas, presently, in order to address the concerns of South Florida, it is necessary to travel to Tallahassee in North Florida. Often South Florida issues do not receive the support of Tallahassee. This is despite the fact that South Florida generates more than 69 percent of the state’s revenue and contains 67 percent of the state’s population; and

Whereas, the creation of the 51st state, South Florida, is a necessity for the very survival of the entire southern region of the current state of Florida.

Mayor Philip Stoddard, quoted in the Orlando Sentinel—Disney World, by the way, would be part of the new state—didn’t mince words. “It’s very apparent that the attitude of the northern part of the state is that they would just love to saw the state in half and just let us float off into the Caribbean," Stoddard said. "They’ve made that abundantly clear every possible opportunity and I would love to give them the opportunity to do that.”
For the first time, a region of the United States is in a for-real existential battle, and its central government­—personified by Gov. Rick “I’m not a scientist” Scott—doesn’t seem to care.
The situation truly mirrors Virginia's problem: the rural western areas in Virginia are supported by the eastern and northern areas of the state, yet thanks to GOP gerrymandered districts, GOP extremists in the General Assembly block much needed legislation and infrastructure improvements.   Perhaps Southwest Virginia needs to break away and join West Virginia. 

GOP Congressman: Gays Are "Condemned To Hell"

I often say that no one is more full of hate and bigotry here in America than the "godly Christian" folk. And among the GOP elected officials there are few that hate more than Tea Party Republican Congressman Steve King who, when not being a flaming racist and blaming the poor for their own plight - as if small children picked the families into which they were born - is denigrating gays.  Like many in the extreme right of the GOP, King claims to be a devout Roman Catholic even though the policies he supports are diametrically the opposite of Catholic social gospel teachings.  Now, in the face of possible gay accepting statements from Pope Francis, King is lashing out at gays and openly disagreeing with the Pope.  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at Kings latest condemnation of gays:

Rep. Steve King is a devout Roman Catholic, but he really doesn't care what the Pope has to say about gay people, because he answers to a higher authority – his re-election campaign.

The Iowa Congressman has served in the United States House of Representatives since 2003, and knows a thing or two about getting re-elected: attack the gays – something he's been doing his entire congressional career, along with immigrants, women, abortion, stem cells, Hurricane Sandy victims,  King's never met a minority he liked, but bankers, well, that's different.

This week, King gave an interview to a local Iowa paper, The Jefferson Herald.

After discussing the Vatican's initial document that called for a more "welcoming" approach to gay people, King, the paper reports, suggested "gays won’t make it to heaven."

“I would say that what was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today, and we need to stick to that principle,” King said. “I’ll just say that what was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today, and people that were condemned to hell 2,000 years ago, I don’t expect to meet them should I make it to heaven. So let’s stick with that principle.”

Let's of course remember that this is the Steve King who just a few years ago declared same sex marriage to be a part of the socialist agenda to undermine "the foundations of individual rights and liberties."

If there is a Hell, I suspect that King has a reserved seat.  Like his Christofascists/Tea Party supporters, King is working hard to kill the Christian brand.  To say that the man is a modern day Pharisee is an understatement.
But on matters such as co-habitation and divorce, which the Vatican also discussed at the Synod, King was far more tolerant.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Quote of the Day: The Right's Continuing Palin Problem

If one has been even a casual reader of this blog for any period of time, it is likely that you have figured out that I despise Sarah Palin and find her an affront not only to the GOP but decency in general.  My New Orleans belle grandmother had a term for people like Palin and her family: white trash.  This was the lowest of the low in my grandmother's mind.  That Sarah Palin was ever selected to be John McCain's running mate will forever be a harsh indictment of McCain.  The women isn't qualified to run for dog catcher much less the second highest elected position in America. As I've shared, my late mother abandoned the GOP after McCain selected Palin as his running mate, stating that she could not vote for "that woman."  Today, Andrew Sullivan lambasted the GOP and Tea Party for their continued deference to this toxic individual and her equally trashy family.  Here are the money quotes:

To infer from the police report that the Palins were entirely the victims here is, well, bonkers, not least because it requires believing a single word any Palin family-member says. Track even gave a false name to the cops at first, the usual Palin reflex.

This is an amazingly lurid, tabloid story and it gains traction because it contrasts this trashy, violent Jerry Springer behavior with someone who actually ran for vice-president of the United States six years ago. Of course the press will cover this. It’s irresistible and further proof that what John McCain did in 2008 disqualified him from any serious, subsequent role in our public life. And that was my only point. If McCain were retired or had the good sense to leave public life after that fiasco, it would be another thing entirely. But he carries on, never publicly acknowledging the greatest fuck-up (of so many) in his public life.

[S]till otherwise sane conservatives continue to attack those noting this absurd public figure not because they don’t know what a joke she is and what a joke she still makes of their party; of course they do. They do it to stoke culture war resentment (an easy partisan dodge around their own fantastic misjudgment), and to falsely play the feminist card. Sorry, but they lost that card when they nominated a woman candidate who couldn’t even finish one term of office as governor of Alaska, who knew next to nothing about the world, who told transparently tall tales about her own biography, and who had to be quarantined for much of her own campaign, for fear of her actual nutso persona being rumbled by a lazy media.

That’s my point. And they know it’s irrefutable. Maybe one day they’ll have the balls to apologize. And then we can all move on.
Very well said!!!   What's truly sad, however, is the fact that more and more of the Republican Party base resembles Sarah Palin.  They embrace religious extremism and revel and take pride in their ignorance.  Worse yet, they are too stupid to recognize their own intellectual limitations.  This goes a long way in explaining why lunatics like Ted Cruz are so warmly embraced by the Christofascists/Tea Party. .

Federal Cout Throws Out Lawsuits by Tea Party Groups Against the IRS

Remember the hysteria in Teabagistan and among GOP political whores over the IRS's questioning or denial of far right groups seeking tax-exempt status, many under the guise of "educational" organizations even though the organizations' main goals was to either (i) engage in banned political activity and/or (ii) enrich the organizers (much like how Sarah Palin's PAC spends less than 6% of revenues on candidates).   Having filed numerous applications for non-profit clients for tax exempt status, the fury was always misguided, in my view.  The IRS always assumes that something is amiss and asks countless questions and/seeks further clarification even for organizations that ultimately gain tax exempt status.  Well, the IRS found away to turn the tables (at least for now) by granting the Tea Party organizations tax-exempt status.  The result?  Their lawsuits were thrown out and the IRS will still have the option of revoking their tax exempt status down the road when they violate the Internal Revenue Code and associated regulations.  Politico looks at the IRS's court win:

The IRS may have inadvertently figured out how to win its legal battles against aggrieved tea party groups: Give them what they wanted in the first place — tax-exempt status.

That was a major reason a Republican-appointed federal judge on Thursday threw out two lawsuits brought by more than 40 conservative groups seeking remedies for being singled out in the tea party targeting scandal, a victory for the IRS.

Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia dismissed almost all counts brought against the tax-collecting agency in two cases, ruling that both were essentially moot now that the IRS granted the groups their tax-exempt status that had been held up for years.

Walton, a President George W. Bush-appointee, also said individual IRS officials could not be fined in their individual capacity for allowing such treatment because it could hurt future tax enforcement.

Republicans said they were outraged at Walton’s decision. . . . You get targeted and harassed for three years but, oh, because you finally get [tax-exempt status], the three years of harassment doesn’t mean anything?” asked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who heads a congressional subpanel investigating the controversy. “I find that argument lacking tremendously in light of what these people went through.” 
But others said the agency needs to do more — not less — to scrutinize nonprofit groups that don’t follow the rules and over-engage in political activities. To obtain the status in question, political activity must not be the groups’ primary activity — a vague and difficult-to-administer test.

“Judge Walton got it right — there is no ongoing injury to these groups,” said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, which backs tighter rules on political nonprofits. “The IRS needs to enforce tax law with respect to nonprofit political groups more aggressively.”

Perhaps Republicans Should Move to Communist China

Pro-democracy protests continue in Hong Kong where particularly students and younger citizens want more say in electing government officials.  An interesting side note is that Hong Kong's Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying, holds views that would thrill many in the Republican Party base - or at least those too stupid to realize that they'd ultimately be included in the ranks of those disenfranchised. Leung Chun-ying view in this instance?  That open elections are unacceptable because they could give the poor - and in the Republican's view, minorities - too much input into government. Andrew Sullivan has a post that looks at the Communist Chinese view as well as parallels with the GOP base.  Here are excerpts:
After a two-hour meeting between Hong Kong officials and protest leaders made no real progress toward resolving the standoff, the demonstrations continued yesterday, including some 200 protesters marching to the home of the territory’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Many are reportedly outraged over comments Leung made to the foreign press on Monday insisting that open elections were unacceptable because they could give the poor too much of a voice:
In an interview with a small group of journalists from American and European news media organizations, [Leung's] first with foreign media since the city erupted in demonstrations, he acknowledged that many of the protesters are angry over the lack of social mobility and affordable housing in the city. But he argued that containing populist pressures was an important reason for resisting the protesters’ demands for fully open elections. Instead, he backed Beijing’s position that all candidates to succeed him as chief executive, the top post in the city, must be screened by a “broadly representative” nominating committee appointed by Beijing. That screening, he said, would insulate candidates from popular pressure to create a welfare state, and would allow the city government to follow more business-friendly policies to address economic inequality instead.
Beinart ties this in with the debate over voter ID laws and early voting in the US, arguing that “Leung’s views about the proper relationship between democracy and economic policy represent a more extreme version of the views supported by many in today’s GOP”: 
In 2010, Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips observed that “The Founding Fathers … put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote … one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community.”

In 2011, Iowa Representative Steve King made a similar observation, noting approvingly, “There was a time in American history when you had to be a male property owner in order to vote. The reason for that was, because [the Founding Fathers] wanted the people who voted—that set the public policy, that decided on the taxes and the spending—to have some skin in the game. Now we have data out there that shows that 47 percent of American households don’t pay taxes … But many of them are voting. And when they vote, they vote for more government benefits.”
Most prominent Republicans would never propose that poor people be denied the franchise. But they support policies that do just that.
My Republican fore bearers would be horrified to know that the political party they supported now holds views and supports policy derived from communist China and Putin's anti-gay Russia. 

The Idiocy of Those Supporting "Biblical Marriage"

Click image to enlarge
This morning I wrote about a state court magistrate judge in North Carolina who resigned from his judicial position rather than - the horrors - marry same sex couples now that marriage equality has come to North Carolina despite the efforts the North Carolina Republican Party.  The judge, Magistrate Judge Gilbert Breedlove, justified his action with this statement: "The whole Bible from front to end states that a marriage is between a man and a wife," . . . "Any other type of sexual activity other than that is what is defined as fornication."  I'm sorry, but Breedlove might just have well had "I'm an ignorant ass" on his forehead.  Why?  Because, as a post in Huffington Post by a biblical scholar points out, there is NO biblical marriage in the form of "one man and one woman."  Making matters worse, Breedlove purports to be an ordained minister.  He obviously never bothered to actually read the Bible. As I have stated many times, fundamentalist Christianity requires ignorance to survive.  Here are excerpts from Huffington Post that underscores Breedlove's ignorance:
In light of the recent resignations of two North Carolina magistrates, explained by their religious convictions that same-sex marriage is a sin or desecrates the "holy institution established by God Himself," I would like to offer a few points of clarification to the overall discourse. 

First, the kinds of relationships that qualify for marriage in the Bible, and thus could count as "biblical marriage," represent quite a striking range of options. They include polygamy (more than one wife or concubine, simultaneously), open marriage for the man (since he can have access to the female slaves or servants in the house), forcing a woman to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and levirate marriage (wherein a childless widow must marry the brother of her deceased husband). Those are just a few of the examples from the Hebrew Bible. 

What we see in the Newer Testament includes Jesus claiming that men can leave their wives and children in order to follow him (Luke 18:28-30), in addition to him somewhat throwing the gauntlet in Matthew 19:10-12, where he discusses men being made eunuchs or making themselves such for the sake of the kingdom . . . 

I think most people are simply unaware of the range of possibilities that qualify, regardless of which testament of the Bible we look to. 

The second point I would like to clarify is that, aside from that one moment in 1 Corinthians 7, marriage is discussed in terms of the woman as the property of the man. I say this with a fairly literal sense intended. It does explain why or how so many biblical stories show wives being treated as less than fully human, but I do hope that people who love the Bible can admit that this is an element of it that we ought not to continue to endorse.

Third, when people say that the "Bible says homosexuality/gay marriage is a sin," I know that they believe that the Bible says this, since I used to think so, too. But it does not.  . . . . the issue is about the people of Israel needing to grow in numbers. Any wasting of semen was not to be tolerated and thus was an abomination. None of those situations are talking about two same-sex people in loving relationships.Finally, there is no specific place where "God Himself" establishes marriage as a holy institution.

When I hear someone say she only believes in "biblical marriage," my knee-jerk reaction is to want to ask her which version she is referring to. I also find myself wanting to remind her that love is never discussed as foundational to marriage. Thus, while same-sex marriage is not endorsed in the Bible, neither is a loving, mutually agreed upon union of a man and woman.

As I said this morning, the North Carolina judiciary is far better off with a self-professed ignoramus like Breedlove off the bench.

Transgender Federal Employee Wins Major Discrimination Case

Tamara Lusardi
Here in Virginia, gays and transgender Virginians have ZERO non-discrimination protections under state law.  While we can now legally marry, we can nonetheless be fired from our jobs at will and face discrimination in housing and other realms.   At the federal level things aren't much better except now federal employees and employees of federal contractors are being held to non-discrimination requirements.  Today, a major victory was won by a transgender federal employee who had faced discrimination and harassment.  It goes without saying that the Christofascists will be hyperventilating and let out spittle flecked rants that they have now lost the right to discriminate in federal employment situations.  Here are details on the case from the Washington Post:

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel on Thursday announced a landmark determination that the Department of the Army engaged in “frequent, pervasive and humiliating,” gender-identity discrimination against Tamara Lusardi, a veteran and civilian Army software specialist who transitioned from male to female.

Lusardi was working in the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (“AMRDEC”) in Redstone, Ala., when she transitioned from male to female in 2010. During that time, the Army improperly restricted her restroom usage, referred to her with male pronouns and by her birth name and stopped giving her work, the OSC said in a report released Thursday.

In a telephone interview from Alabama, Lusardi, 49, who served in the Army from 1986 to 1993, including in Desert Storm, said she was called “sir” and “it” by co-workers and management after she legally changed her name, driver’s license and security clearance and began dressing as a woman.   Lusardi was also required to use a single-user, gender-neutral restroom, out of concerns that other employees might feel “uncomfortable” sharing a restroom with her.

The OSC, a federal investigative and prosecutorial agency, said that coworker preferences alone “cannot justify discriminatory working conditions,” since it could reinforce the very stereotypes and biases that nondiscrimination laws are intended to protect against. According to the report, Lusardi should be able to use bathrooms designated for her gender identity.

The case is part of a broader push by the federal government and the OSC to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees in the government.

In July, Obama signed an executive order banning workplace discrimination against millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors and the federal government. The executive order prohibits firing or harassment of federal contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and it bans discrimination against transgender employees of the federal government.
In response, the Army agreed to provide training to correct and prevent future discrimination, the OSC said. It also now permits Lusardi to use the restroom associated with her gender identity.

The Army did not respond to further requests for comment, but it agreed to the OSC’s recommendation to provide workplace diversity and sensitivity training, with a specific focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues.