Thursday, May 28, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty


Will Benghazi Testimony Work to Hillary's Advantage?


As noted numerous times on this blog, Republicans - or perhaps I should clarify, and say lunatics in the party base - are obsessed with Benghazi.  No conspiracy or rumor is too far fetched to not be grasped and believed by spittle flecked Christofacsists and Tea Party loons who seemingly all have IQ's under 70 (no offense intended to the retarded).  Given this reality, GOP House members have decided to have yet more hearings on Benghazi in order to  further prostitute themselves to the unwashed swamp dwellers of the party base.  Some suggest, however, that this exercise could backfire and actually work to Hillary Clinton's advantage.   Here are excerpts from a piece in Politico that thinks the GOP is unwittingly helping Hillary:
Three out of four Democratic insiders in the early states believe testifying before Congress about the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, will work to Hillary Clinton’s advantage.

This week’s survey of The POLITICO Caucus, a bipartisan group of the most influential activists, operatives and elected officials in Iowa and New Hampshire, found that most Democrats think it would be beneficial to Clinton when she is called to discuss the matter before Congress, something she is expected to do at some point, likely this summer.

Democrats were skeptical that Clinton would get a fair hearing, but were confident she would do a good job shutting down questioners in the hopes of moving on from the issue.

“Republicans prefer the safety of manufactured outrage on Benghazi. In person, I think Clinton will crush their questions,” said an Iowa Democrat.

Added a New Hampshire Democrat, “As she has proven many times before, Hillary is not afraid to testify and is a very good witness; she will walk out of the hearing room enhanced.”

A majority of Republicans — nearly 60 percent — also said it would be helpful for Clinton to address the issue head-on (she appeared before Congress once before on this issue in 2013). Several Republicans warned some in their party could overdo the confrontation, which could work to Clinton’s advantage if she appears to be answering questions openly and honestly.

“It is a real opportunity for her to face this and defuse it—the R’s will not be able to resist the temptation to gang up and it may actually engender some sympathy for her, hard as that is to imagine,” said a New Hampshire Republican.

Another Granite State Republican acknowledged, “Hillary is at her strongest when she answers her critics head-on. She should embrace it — and hope her opponents overplay their hands. Which they could do, easily.”

74 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Republicans — including one-third of the 15 New Hampshire Republicans who responded this week — say that the Benghazi attack is not quite as much of a hot-button issue for the GOP base as it was in the aftermath of the attacks and during the 2014 midterm elections.

“The nut job conspiracy theorists on the fringe love the issue. Everyone else sees shades of gray in a horrible, messy, tragic situation, and how it was handled,” said a New Hampshire Republican. “Could have happened just as easily in a Republican administration.”
Sadly, nowadays "nut job conspiracy theorists" describes a majority of the GOP base. Logic, reason and objective reality are now scorned by the GOP base, especially among Christofascists. 

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory to Veto Anti-gay Marriage Recusal Bill

Lately, the North Carolina Republican Party has been working hard to out do the insanity/batshitery of the Virginia GOP.  A case in point?  A bill passed by the GOP controlled North Carolina legislature that would allow court officials to opt out of same-sex marriage duties based on "sincerely held religious" objections.  Stated another way, the bill would have allowed Christofascists to ignore laws of general application - a special right, if you will.  Much to the surprise of many, North Carolina GOP Governor Pat McCrory (pictured at right) has announced that he will veto the bill which may not have enough support in the legislature to over ride McCrory's veto.  In his statement as to why he will veto the bill, McCrory sent a message that needs to be sent over and over to the Christofascists, namely, that they are NOT above the law and that when one accepts a job or governmental position, you cannot cite religious belief to avoid your duties and responsibilities.   Here are details via ABC11 News:
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory says he'll "defend the Constitution" and will veto a gay marriage objections bill that would allow court officials to opt out of same-sex marriage duties based on "sincerely held religious" objections.
"I recognize that for many North Carolinians, including myself, opinions on same-sex marriage come from sincerely held religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman. However, we are a nation and a state of laws. Whether it is the president, governor, mayor, a law enforcement officer, or magistrate, no public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath; therefore, I will veto Senate Bill 2," said McCrory.
Earlier Thursday, the House gave final approval to the bill to let magistrates and some registers of deeds employees have the option to opt out of same-sex wedding ceremonies, but they would have to stop performing all marriage duties - for gay and heterosexual couples.

The Senate had already approved the bill, which came from Republicans after gay marriage was legalized in North Carolina last October.

"The clear intent of the supporters of this bill is to make it harder for same-sex couples to marry in North Carolina," Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake told Eyewitness News after the final vote.

Critics said the measure was merely discrimination in disguise for gay couples whose marriages have been found to be equal under the law compared to opposite-sex partners. Several people who opposed the bill likened it to efforts 50 years ago to prohibit interracial marriages.

"All eyes ... are on us today," Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, warned colleagues, adding that the bill was the "newest abandonment of equal justice under the law."

The debate devolved into a passionate discussion about religious beliefs, with some Republican supporters of the measure saying they were following biblical principles that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
Kudos to McCrory for having the backbone to say no to the Christofascists and the political whores in his own party.  As for the morons who cited "biblical law" I have a news bulletin: THERE IS NO ESTABLISHED RELIGION IN AMERICA AND THE BBLE HAS NO PLACE IN THE CIVIL LAWS.  End of discussion.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Marco Rubio Pathetically Plays the LGBT Victim


With Rick Santorum now officially in the GOP nomination race, expect Marco Rubio to prostitute himself to the Christofascists with even more desperation.  Like Bobby Jindal, Rubio seems to think that if he says enough inflammatory anti-gay things that the elderly whites in the GOP base will overlook the fact that he's not "white" by their definition.  Hence the increasing flow of lunacy and pathetic statements of victimization coming from Rubio.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at Rubio's pathetic and insulting statements of late.  Here are excerpts:
Poor Marco Rubio. With history rushing past him, its dust gritty in his eyes, he, the bully, resorts to playing the victim.

And so it was on Tuesday, when he tried—in this now-practiced right-wing way—to claim that he and other Christians were the victims of LGBTs and their demands for, er, basic equality and civil rights.

What else can Rubio do? People like him have lost the argument.  All they can do now, after years of fostering a climate of prejudice and persecution against LGBTs, is to claim that with the prospect of equality, it is they, the bullies, who are persecuted.

They cannot argue how equality affects them negatively, so merely claim to be victims.

On Tuesday, Rubio dared to use the phrase “hate speech” when describing how, one day, those who objected to marriage equality would be seen as propagating hate speech.

Does Marco Rubio have any idea of the toxicity of the phrase he is flinging around to score some cheap political capital?

Does he have any idea of the true “hate speech” LGBTs have suffered, not just on political platforms at the hands of people like Marco Rubio in their stoking of their Christian voting base—words like “unnatural,” “pretend families,” words of exclusion that seek to put us outside the boundaries of family, home, and love?

Because “hate speech” doesn’t end on political platforms. They’re the words that LGBTs hear before they are beaten by homophobes on street corners and in schoolyards. Beaten, sometimes fatally. How dare Marco Rubio seek to invoke a phrase like “hate speech” to feed his own pathetic persecution complex? Has he any idea of the true cost of “hate speech” as it has been used against LGBT people?

If you claim that LGBTs do not deserve marriage equality, and your argument has the ring of prejudice about it—and it necessarily would because you are arguing against the principles of equality—then expect to be called out for it.

But you are not being silenced. You are being disagreed with. And now you’re feeling persecuted because it’s not just LGBTs calling you out on it, but all those who believe people should be treated equally under the law.

Simply, Mr. Rubio, when will you stop scapegoating LGBTs to score votes?
In a way, Rubio’s nonsensical words are heartening. They are like the last gasp of a poisonous old world order of determined prejudice and discrimination. How furious and scared he must have been to see Catholic Ireland face down the kind of misinformation and lies he and his cronies propagate against LGBTs on Saturday, and vote instead for a future of equality.

Rubio and others like him know their grip on fear and prejudice is loosening. And so now, he plays the victim: it’s the last pathetic piece of pantomime left to him.

Rick "Frothy Mix" Santorum Declares His Canidacy


Self-loathing closet case Rick Santorum announced yesterday that he is running again for the Republican presidential nomination.  The GOP clown car just gets more and more crowded.  On the plus side, with "Frothy Mix" now in the race along with Mike Huckabee, the Christofascists batshitery will be harder to keep under wraps, I'm sure much to the dismay of the so-called GOP establishment.  Think Progress has a piece that reminds us - and we need to remind everyone else - just how batshit crazy Santorum is in fact.  Here are some article highlights:

Now that he’s running for president again, many analysts and voters may recall Santorum’s controversial assertions during his 2011 campaign. His frequent comparisons of same-sex relationships to inanimate objects like trees, basketballs and paper towels became a major punchline of the campaign cycle.

But here are ten equally outrageous comments he’s made that you may not remember:

Putting women in combat is a bad idea because of “emotions that are involved.” Women’s “emotions” may render them unworthy soldiers and thus not fit for the battlefield, according to the former Pennsylvania senator. “People naturally may do things that may not be in the interests of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved,” Santorum said after the Pentagon eased restrictions on women in combat in 2012. He has also made dire warnings about what would happen to the military after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed and gays were allowed to openly serve.

American culture is being corrupted by “the NBA” and “rock concerts.” According to Santorum, our culture and manners and decency have been collectively ruined by the NBA, among other culprits.

His top issue in 2012 was opposing “all forms of pornography.” During his 2012 presidential bid, Santorum vowed to oppose “all forms of pornography” if elected president. In fact, pornography was the top issue on his campaign’s website. He warned that “America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography,” which “causes profound brain changes in both children and adults, resulting in widespread negative consequences.”

Obamacare is (a) like apartheid, (b) a plot to kill the opposition’s voters, and (c) the “final death knell” of America. Santorum’s anti-Obamacare arguments regularly delve into the absurd.

If you don’t have an ID, you’re trying to rig the election. More than one in ten Americans don’t have a government-issued photo identification, like a driver’s license or a passport. And, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice, minorities and low-income citizens are more likely than others not to have a government-issued photo ID. But to Santorum, each one of these millions of individuals aren’t disenfranchised voters; they’re out to commit fraud.

Even if it survives Obamacare, “our country will fall” because of same-sex marriage. The government recognizing gay people’s love will be the downfall of America, according to Santorum.

He believes consensual sex between gay people should be illegal. Until 2003, states were still permitted to outlaw sodomy. Though those statutes were struck down in a landmark Supreme Court case that year, as recently as 2011, Santorum was still wishing for the good old days when states could tell gay people what they can and cannot do in the bedroom.

In Obama’s America, religious people are on “the path” to being beheaded. During a Texas town hall in 2012, Santorum predicted that America was on the road toward beheading religious people because of their faith.

After Jerry Sandusky sexual assault revelations, he defended Penn State. Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is currently in prison serving a 30-60 year sentence for molesting young children. But Santorum, an alumni of Penn State, rushed to the university’s defense after an investigation found that officials had covered up evidence of Sandusky’s misdeeds.

Health insurance companies should discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. There’s a belief among some conservatives that insurance companies should be permitted to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, though they leave open the question of whether or not insurers ought to do that. Not Santorum. According to the former Pennsylvania senator, people with pre-existing conditions “should pay more.” 
Santorum belongs in a mental ward, not the White House.  Perhaps he an Ken Cuccinelli need to get together and help each other come out . . . .

Fox News Ignores Growing Duggar Scandal


Proving yet again that Fox News is little more than a right wing propaganda machine, the "news" channel is ignoring the Duggar scandal which seems to be getting worse by the hour as more individual challenge the storyline put out by the freak show family and more questions arise about the investigation of Josh Duggars admitted five episodes of molesting under aged girls, some of whom were his sisters.  Media Matters looks at Fox News' apparent effort to keep its brainwashed viewers from the facts about this less than normal or decent family.  Here are highlights:
Fox News largely ignored the controversy surrounding Josh Duggar following his recent admission that, as a teenager, he molested young girls, including several of his sisters. The revelations are particularly stunning given that, under the guise of protecting children, the Duggar family has played an active role in the fight against LGBT equality.

On May 21, In Touch magazine revealed that in 2006, Jim Bob Duggar - patriarch of TLC's hit show 19 Kids and Counting - had waited more than a year before telling police that his son, Josh, had confessed to molesting several female minors, including his sisters, when he was a teenager. TLC has since pulled episodes of 19 Kids from its schedule.

The revelations drew widespread criticism in the media, with many outlets pointing out the Duggar family's reputation as a torch-bearer for conservative values and strong involvement in Republican politics and anti-LGBT activism. The revelations look to many like hypocrisy from a family that's become a political powerhouse in socially conservative circles in recent years by wielding its reality show influence to stump for "family values," Republican politicians, and the repeal of legal protections for LGBT people.

But while MSNBC and CNN have reported heavily on the Duggar scandal, Fox News has largely ignored the story. According to a Media Matters analysis, Fox News spent less than two minutes covering the story between May 21 and May 25, compared to almost an hour of coverage from the other cable news networks.

The Duggar controversy has put Fox News in an awkward position. Before he resigned the day In Touch's story broke, Josh Duggar was the head of the Family Research Council's (FRC) political wing. Representatives of FRC, an anti-gay hate group that routinely links homosexuality to pedophilia and describes LGBT people as a threat to children, are a regular fixture on Fox News.

Former Fox News employee Mike Huckabee, who is running for president in 2016, has come under fire for defending the Duggar family in the wake of the controversy.
The right wing's "family values" stink to high Heaven.  And if you want to remain uninformed, then Fox News should be your news network of choice.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

More Wednesday Male Beauty


The Virginia GOP and False "Pro-Life" Values


The following is a cross post of my May, 2015, column in VEER Magazine which looks at the dishonesty of the Virginia Republican Party and Christofascists supporters who make a great show of claiming that they are "pro-life" yet continue policies that make it clear that for the most part, once a child is born and leaves the womb, they really don't give a damn about that child as it grows up - especially if it has mental or developmental disabilities.  And that doesn't factor in those dying prematurely due to lack of affordable health care.  Some of the data in the column is most damning.  Here is the column:


VIRGINIA'S SHAMEFULL RESPONSE TO THOSE WITH INTELLECTUAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES 

In August of last year, we lost my husband's father, a retired Baptist minister, the last of our surviving parents, four months to the day after the date of our marriage in Washington, D.C., where he co-officiated at our wedding.   While one expects to navigate through grieving and issues of settling an estate, selling the deceased parent's home and similar travails - my husband is the executor and trustee of the estate - nothing had prepared us for what would prove to be the biggest challenge: finding community services and housing and appropriate supervision for my husband's adopted special needs brother who was adopted many years ago by my husband's late parents who realistically had no idea what they were getting themselves and now us into.  Now age 43, their adopted son - a fetal alcohol syndrome child - through no fault of his own suffers from intellectual and developmental disabilities and will never be a fully functioning adult.  

As a result, the husband and I have found ourselves being thrust into dealing with the Byzantine bureaucracies of the local Community Services Board, local Department of Social Services and the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services (“DBHDS”) and witnessing the disturbing manner in which Virginia treats those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The lack of accountability and seeming near indifference on the part of some personnel encountered has been both disturbing and maddening.  However, the more we have learned, the more it has become apparent that there is a systemic problem with the manner in which Virginia deals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Indeed, it is much akin the shocking deficiencies in Virginia's inadequate mental health care services that were brought into sharp focus by the tragic wounding of Senator Creigh Deeds and the suicide death of his son.  Pushing paper and playing a shell game to hide the reality that there is nowhere near enough state funding or enough available facilities is not meeting anyone's needs, especially those in desperate need of community based services. 

Depending on the income ranking one chooses, the Commonwealth of Virginia ranks either 5th in the nation in per capita income or 7th in median per capita income.  In short, in relative terms nationwide, Virginia is a wealthy state. But in terms of its spending on the needs of those suffering from intellectual and developmental disabilities, Virginia ranks 49th in the county.  That's right, second to last.  Only Mississippi spends less on those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Stated another way, even Alabama and Arkansas - ranked 45th and 49th, respectively - spend more per capita on those with intellectual and developmental disabilities than Virginia spends.  This circumstance is nothing short of a disgrace.  Making the situation even more outrageous - or hypocritical depending upon one's political view - is the fact that Virginia is currently controlled by a General Assembly dominated by the Republican Party.  The GOP elected officials and sycophants incessantly blather about being "pro-life," protecting the unborn, etc., with the result that Republican members of the General Assembly seek to restrict all abortions (which will yield yet more children with disabilities).  

Sadly, the concern of the Republicans and their constituents who demand never ending tax cuts and their far right religious supporters for the unborn seemingly evaporates the moment those unborn children pass from their mothers' wombs.  These "god fearing folk" oppose Medicaid expansion, oppose government programs for the poor and unfortunate, and care nothing if those children suffer from intellectual and developmental disabilities.   Historically, their solution has to been to lock away such individuals in institutions where they lack socialization and optimization of their potential.  Even then, the spaces available came nowhere near meeting the demand for services.  

Just how bad are things in Virginia?  In 2010, the Civil Rights Division of United States Department of Justice "("DOJ") launched an investigation that found that Virginia violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in integrated settings appropriate to their needs, and failing to provide adequate community services and supports.  The Department of Justice filed suit against Virginia in while anti-abortion warrior Ken Cuccinelli was Attorney General of Virginia.  Ultimately, Virginia entered into a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice upon the advice of Mr. Cuccinelli's office in an effort to reach a settlement without subjecting the Commonwealth to an extremely costly and lengthy court battle with the federal government. (See Civil Action N0O: 3:12cv059-JAG in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division) The settlement agreement resolves DOJ’s investigation of Virginia’s training centers and community programs and the Commonwealth’s compliance with the ADA and Olmstead with respect to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities provided that Virginia complies with the mandated improvements set forth in the settlement agreement.

Since Virginia has proven that it cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, an Independent Reviewer files a report with the Court that evaluates Virginia's compliance with the settlement agreement and the progress or lack thereof being made.  The most recent report was filed in December, 2014, and found that despite progress "Despite these efforts, however, the Commonwealth continues to be significantly behind schedule. There have been repeated delays in complying with certain obligations, including elements critical to an effective community based services system that is truly responsive to individuals with ID/DD."

What does this mean for every day Virginians?  From my conversations with agencies familiar with the situation faced by those waiting for Medicaid waivers that will allow them to receive much needed housing and/or grants to allow them to remain in their own homes or the homes of family caregivers, the situation is grim.  Here are some of the statistics:

According to the most recent data from DBHDS, there are 7,948 people waiting for the Intellectual Disability (“ID”) Waiver (4,851 individuals are on the urgent list and 3,097 are on the non-urgent list) and 1,902 waiting for the Developmental Disability (“DD”) Waiver. Between June 2014 and April 2015, 903 people were added to the ID waiting list, and 447 added to the DD waiting list.  Despite this growing need, only 365 slots were funded during this last general assembly session for this fiscal year (Jul 2015-Jun 2016); this was the minimum required by the DOJ settlement agreement referenced above.

According to 2013 data that was released last month in the State of the States that compares data nationwide:
- --Virginia is ranked 29th in family support spending.
--- Virginia is ranked 50th in family caregivers receiving I/DD state agency support.  There are an estimated 98,828 care giving families of people with I/DD in Virginia; in 2013, only 325 of these families received state agency support (i.e., 0.3%).

As bad as these statistics are, I suspect that they likely mask the true number of individuals in need of services because the existing bureaucracy discourages those in need and/or their families from seeking services.  The husband's experience in dealing with the local community services board and office of social services has been one of bureaucracy at its worst: indifferent on the part of many of the staff and/or non-responsive staff and unrelenting passing the buck.  The more I have learned, the more I believe that their ultimate ploy is to avoid admitting that there simply is no state funding.  People with developmental and intellectual disabilities simply do not matter in Virginia.  It is far past time that our state legislators correct this situation – particularly those who talk disingenuously about supporting “family values” and being pro-life.

Countries Where Gays Are the Happiest- America is Well Down the List

Green = most happy; red + least happy
One hears about American exceptionalism for the Christofascists/Tea Party and their political whores in the Republican Party ad nausea.  Having just returned from a stay in France, the falsity of such claims was underscored for me yet again.   Yes, America is exceptional in some ways if you count soaring obesity, crumbling infrastructure, decreased upward social mobility, and the most expensive and least cost effective health care system as matters to brag about (more about these issues in a future post).  In America, we also hear much blather about America being the land where its citizen are endowed by their creator with the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  As the Washington Post reports, on the happiness ranking, gay Americans rank a pitiful 26th in levels of happiness (a chart with the full rankings is below).  True, this beats the Hell out of somewhere like Uganda, but it certainly is not anything exceptional.  Here are article highlights:

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are still officially considered criminals in roughly one-third of countries worldwide, and homosexuality is punishable by death in seven countries. But other places, such as northern Europe, are very accepting of homosexuality.

Unsurprisingly, a new survey shows that gay men are happiest in those welcoming locations. Planet Romeo, an Amsterdam-based dating and community site, collaborated with the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz in Germany to carry out an online survey of 115,000 gay men around the world. They combined rankings on public opinion, public behavior and life satisfaction – how gay men feel about society’s view on homosexuality, how gay men feel they are treated by other people, and how satisfied gay men are with their own lives, respectively – into one worldwide ranking on gay happiness.

Iceland tops their list as the country where gay men are the happiest, followed by Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Uruguay, Canada, Israel, Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg. The United States ranks 26th in the list. The 10 worst countries by this ranking are Kazakhstan, Ghana, Cameroon, Iran, Nigeria, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda. The map above shows that ranking, with the highest ranked countries appearing in green and the lowest ranked countries in red.

In the top 20 countries, 37 percent of respondents were currently in a committed relationship with another man, while 3 percent were in a relationship with a woman. In the 20 worst countries, only 22 percent were in a committed relationship with a man, and 5 percent were in a relationship with a woman.

Though many societies are growing more accepting of homosexuality, gay men in some countries report that things have gotten worse in the past few years. Uganda, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Nigeria and Ethiopia top this list, though Russia, Turkey and Hungary have also seen a negative trend in the index.

click image to enlarge