Saturday, October 17, 2015
With the House Republicans running the Benghazi partisan witch hunt against Hillary Clinton have unwittingly opened the door for much deserved attacks of George W. Bush's failure to protect the nation against the 9-11 attacks. If Hillary is liable because Benghazi occurred on her watch, then Bush is liable for the 9-11 attacks. Now, Donald Trump has seized the opening and gone on attack referring to George Bush's "reign." Talking Points Memo looks at the this entertaining turn of event. Here are highlights:
“He was President,” Trump said. “Blame him, or don’t blame him, but he was President. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.”ADVERTISINGTrump asserted that unlike the George W. Bush, he would be “a leader” who could command the United States during national crises.“I think I’m much more competent than all of them,” Trump said, referring to George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. “Say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time,” Trump told Bloomberg.Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush took to Twitter to criticize his GOP presidential rival for the remarks, writing that his brother “kept us safe.”
Friday, October 16, 2015
Almost every Republican presidential candidate has released some version of a "tax policy" plan and each plan calls for basically the same thing: large tax cuts for the rich, reductions in the corporate tax rate - never mind that many huge corporations already pay no taxes - and elimination of the estate tax, a tax that only impacts estates above $5.35 million. Little is said in these plans as to where the lost revenues will be made up, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it will be by slashing programs that benefit most Americans. On top of this, regulations of big business will be slashed so that vulture capitalism can run rampant. So how will the GOP sell the same failed voodoo economics they have pushed for the last 35 years? By pandering to racial fears, religious extremism, and other dog whistle issues, of course, to convince the ignorant to vote against their own best interests. A column in the New York Times looks at the huge divide between the GOP proposals and the Democrat alternatives. Here are highlights:
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had an argument about financial regulation during Tuesday’s debate — but it wasn’t about whether to crack down on banks. Instead, it was about whose plan was tougher. The contrast with Republicans like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, who have pledged to reverse even the moderate financial reforms enacted in 2010, couldn’t be stronger.For what it’s worth, Mrs. Clinton had the better case. Mr. Sanders has been focused on restoring Glass-Steagall, the rule that separated deposit-taking banks from riskier wheeling and dealing. And repealing Glass-Steagall was indeed a mistake. But it’s not what caused the financial crisis, which arose instead from “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers, which don’t take deposits but can nonetheless wreak havoc when they fail. Mrs. Clinton has laid out a plan to rein in shadow banks; so far, Mr. Sanders hasn’t.But is Mrs. Clinton’s promise to take a tough line on the financial industry credible? Or would she, once in the White House, return to the finance-friendly, deregulatory policies of the 1990s?Well, if Wall Street’s attitude and its political giving are any indication, financiers themselves believe that any Democrat, Mrs. Clinton very much included, would be serious about policing their industry’s excesses. And that’s why they’re doing all they can to elect a Republican.Many liberals feel that the Obama administration was far too lenient on the financial industry in the aftermath of the crisis. After all, runaway banks brought the economy to its knees, causing millions to lose their jobs, their homes, or both. What’s more, banks themselves were bailed out, at potentially large expense to taxpayers (although in the end the costs weren’t very large). Yet nobody went to jail, and the big banks weren’t broken up.But the financiers didn’t feel grateful for getting off so lightly. On the contrary, they were and remain consumed with “Obama rage.”By any normal standard, President Obama has been remarkably restrained in his criticisms of Wall Street. But with great wealth comes great pettiness: These are men accustomed to obsequious deference, and they took even mild comments about bad behavior by some of their number as an unforgivable insult.The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has proved highly effective, and the “too big to fail” subsidy appears to have mostly gone away. That is, big financial institutions that would probably be bailed out in a future crisis no longer seem to be able to raise funds more cheaply than smaller players, perhaps because “systemically important” institutions are now subject to extra regulations, including the requirement that they set aside more capital.While this is good news for taxpayers and the economy, financiers bitterly resent any constraints on their ability to gamble with other people’s money, and they are voting with their checkbooks. Financial tycoons loom large among the tiny group of wealthy families that is dominating campaign finance this election cycle — a group that overwhelmingly supports Republicans.[T]his lopsided giving is an indication that Wall Street insiders take Democratic pledges to crack down on bankers’ excesses seriously. And it also means that a victorious Democrat wouldn’t owe much to the financial industry.If a Democrat does win, does it matter much which one it is? Probably not. Any Democrat is likely to retain the financial reforms of 2010, and seek to stiffen them where possible.[W]hile there are some differences in financial policy between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders, as a practical matter they’re trivial compared with the yawning gulf with Republicans.
|Click image to enlarge - Norfolk area|
I write about climate change and rising sea levels often - living on tidal waters and having experienced flooding first hand makes one sensitive to the reality that rising sea levels are here to stay. The husband and I have spent over $100,000 making our home waterproof, if you will and outfitting it with pumps and a whole house generator to be prepared for future flooding events. Republicans, on the other hand, deny that climate change and rising sea levels are happening and, worse yet, are doing nothing to prepare for the reality staring America in the face. Virginia Republicans will not even allow the terms "climate change" and "rising sea levels" to be used in official state language. The best they can get to is "repetitive flooding" while ignoring the cause of the phenomenon. A piece in Salon suggests that this head in the sand approach may be dooming many American cities. Here are article highlights:
An alarming new study has found that, no matter what we do to fight climate change, it is already too late for more than 400 U.S. cities — including Miami and New Orleans — which will be overcome by rising sea levels caused by anthropogenic climate change. Under a worst-case scenario, New York could be unlivable by the year 2085. Most of the population in those cities live within five feet of the current high tide line.
“Some of this could happen as early as next century,” said lead author Ben Strauss, vice president for sea level and climate impacts at Climate Central, a nonprofit climate news organization with offices in New York and Princeton, New Jersey. “But it might also take many centuries,” he added. “Just think of a pile of ice in a warm room. You know it is going to melt, but it is harder to say how quickly.”
The reason that current efforts to combat climate change won’t save many of these cities is because of what mankind has done in the past, as carbon pollution that humans have already emitted will continue to affect planetary surface temperature for centuries to come. “Historic carbon emissions have already locked in enough future sea level rise to submerge most of the homes in each of several hundred American towns and cities,” according to Climate Central.
The researchers warned that, under a “business-as-usual” scenario in which greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked through the end of the century, then the total number of “locked-in” cities could grow to more than 1,500. However, if society somehow manages to achieve extreme carbon reductions, many cities could be saved, such as Jacksonville, Florida; Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach in Virginia; and Sacramento and Stockton in California.
“In our analysis, a lot of cities have futures that depend on our carbon choices but some appear to be already lost … and it is hard to imagine how we could defend Miami in the long run,” said Strauss, who noted that due to the city’s low elevation and porous limestone foundation, sea walls and levees will not be enough to stop a rising sea.
The study, which was edited by renowned NASA climate scientist and activist James Hansen, found that the worst hit state will be Florida, home to at least 40 percent of the American population living on land that may be affected by sea level rise. After the Sunshine State, the next three states that will most likely be overcome by the ocean are California, Louisiana and New York.
To see mapping out your area, go here. This poses a huge threat to America, yet today's GOP wants to sit by and do nothing. It is criminal.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Like the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention ("SBC") is hemorrhaging members and as youth go off to college like so many Millennials they leave their Baptist parishes never to return. Despite the numerous surveys that show that anti-gay bigotry is a huge factor in the exodus of Millennials from organized religion, ven if scientists prove people are born gay, the “sinfulness of homosexuality” would not be eliminated." Of course, Mohler still clings to the myth of the existence of Adam and Eve despite the fact that the human genome project has proven that they never existed as historical persons because without them the entire Christian story line of "The Fall" and the need for a savior crumbles. If you want an example of the Christofascist embrace of ignorance, look no farther than Mohler. Huffington Post looks at Mohler's latest batshitery. Here are highlights:
Christians should not attend a same-sex wedding — even of their own child — because it signals “moral approval” of the union, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said in a new book. . . . “At some point, attendance will involve congratulating the couple for their union,” he wrote. “If you can’t congratulate the couple, how can you attend?”
Even if scientists prove people are born gay, the “sinfulness of homosexuality” would not be eliminated because human sin taints the world, Mohler said in addressing other topics of sexual identity. He contended that transgender people who are “saved” should consult with their pastors about whether to have surgery to return to their original gender.
In the past he has said that delaying marriage and limiting family size are both sins, that the Roman Catholic Church teaches a “false gospel,” that the pope holds an “unbiblical office,” and that Christians who practice yoga “either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace” of it.
He wrote his 213-page book, subtitled “Speaking truth to a culture redefining sex, marriage & the very meaning of right and wrong,” for what he called “intelligent evangelical readers,” pastors, other church leaders and the public, he said.
“Dr. Mohler’s self-righteous intractability on this issue — even banning followers from simply attending the weddings of their LGBT loved ones — can cause nothing but strife, heartache and hardship,” said director Chris Hartman of the Fairness Campaign, a Louisville-based non-profit advocacy organization that works to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Southern Baptists are the largest Protestant denomination in the USA, numbering a little less than 15.5 million members, down from a peak of 16.3 million in 2003.
While Jesus regularly ate with sinners, Mohler said that “his constant call was to repentance” and in no case did he endorse sin.
Mohler said he never has attended a same-sex wedding and wouldn’t even if one of his children or grandchildren were marrying. In an interview, he said he addressed the question in the book because students and grandparents had asked about it even before the June 26 Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.
“I don’t want to underestimate the difficulty of these questions, but I don’t think a faithful Christian can recognize or celebrate … what we don’t think is a marriage,” he said.
I have to laugh at Mohler's comment about "intelligent evangelical readers." Intelligent and evangelical are oxymoron. Moreover, studies have shown that the more evangelical and fundamentalist ones denomination is directly correlates to a lower level of education and intelligence. It's not an accident that Episcopalians and Lutherans are better educated and intelligent than sat Jehovah's Witness members. Sadly, individuals like Mohler celebrate the embrace of ignorance and the bigotry that often goes with it.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Calls for End of "Ex-Gay" Therapy (SAMHSA)
As long time readers know, I am a vocal opponent to "ex-gay" therapy or "conversion therapy" and believe that the practice needs to be banned nationwide, especially for minors. While I never underwent formal "ex-gay" therapy myself, for many, many years I tried to "pray away the Gay" and try to change my attractions. I never changed, but I was filled with self-hate and self-loathing and believed that it was my fault that I did not "change." The result? Years of inner unhappiness and constant thoughts of suicide. Nowadays, all legitimate medical and mental health associations condemn "ex-gay" therapy and hold that it does not work and has the potential for great harm. The take away? Those who push or engage in administering "ex-gay" therapy are delusional, charlatans or both. Now, the Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has upped the stakes and called for a nationwide ban of "ex-gay" therapy. Here are highlights from the Administration's press release:
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is releasing “Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth,” a comprehensive report that provides an in-depth review of research and clinical expertise related to conversion therapy. This important new resource makes it clear that conversion therapy is not an appropriate therapeutic approach based on the evidence, and explores alternative ways to discuss sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression with young people.
This report includes the first publication of consensus statements developed by an expert panel held by the American Psychological Association in July 2015. The expert panel included researchers and practitioners in child and adolescent mental health with a strong background in gender development, gender identity, and sexual orientation in children and adolescents. Experts with a background in family therapy, ethics, and the psychology of religion also participated.
Through a collaborative process, this panel found that variations in sexual orientation and gender identity are normal, and that conversion therapies or other efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity are not effective, are harmful, and are not appropriate therapeutic practices. The report provides an overview of existing efforts to eliminate the practice of conversion therapy.
The information and resources contained within the report include a review of the research in this area, detailed information on supportive therapeutic approaches, areas of opportunity for future research, existing strategies to end the practice of conversion therapy, and targeted guidance for various audiences.
These materials help providers, families, and care-givers support their LGBTQ and gender non-conforming children and adolescents. They also illuminate practices that may contribute to the health disparities facing LGBTQ youth, which should be avoided.
The full report can be found here. Here are a few important findings:
[C]onversion therapy—efforts to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression —is a practice that is not supported by credible evidence and has been disavowed by behavioral health experts and associations. Conversion therapy perpetuates outdated views of gender roles and identities as well as the negative stereotype that being a sexual or gender minority or identifying as LGBTQ is an abnormal aspect of human development. Most importantly, it may put young people at risk of serious harm.
Eliminating the practice of conversion therapy with sexual and gender minority minors is an important step, but it will not alleviate the myriad of stressors they experience as a result of interpersonal, institutional, and societal bias and discrimination against sexual and gender minorities.
Interventions aimed at a fixed outcome, such as gender conformity or heterosexual orientation, including those aimed at changing gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation are coercive, can be harmful, and should not be part of behavioral health treatments.
Every once in a while Republicans tell the truth, although most often it is by mistake or inadvertently. Breaking that mold is Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) who has confirmed what Kevin McCarthy slipped up and stated last month: the main goal of the House Benghazi Committee has been to harm Hillary Clinton in anticipation of the 2016 presidential election. Millions of dollars spent and hearings that have now gone on longer than the Watergate hearings - all for the partisan purpose of harming a political opponent. Think Progress looks at this latest admission of the real agenda of the House Republicans behind the Benghazi hearings. As the image above indicates, there were far more deaths of State Department personnel under George W. Bush, yet there was no GOP outrage. Here are article highlights:
A second House Republican has now conceded that the overarching purpose of the House Select Committee on Benghazi has been to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In September, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) argued that one of House Republicans’ successes has been using the Benghazi Committee to drive down Clinton’s poll numbers. Though McCarthy tried to walk back his controversial comments, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) argued on Wednesday that the Majority Leader had it right to begin with.
“Sometimes the biggest sin you can commit in D.C. is to tell the truth,” Hanna said in an interview on Keeler in the Morning, a radio show in upstate New York. The third-term congressman paused for a moment, perhaps recognizing the importance of what he was about to say, before going on to agree with McCarthy’s original statement.
“This may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton,” Hanna said.
For years, House Republicans had claimed the Benghazi probe was about investigating the events surrounding the 2012 attack in Libya that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, rather than undermining Clinton’s potential presidential bid.
But after McCarthy’s Kinsley gaffe, which was among the factors that doomed his seemingly-inevitable rise to the House Speakership, and now Hanna’s admission, there is growing doubt even among GOPers about the Benghazi Committee’s true purpose.
McCarthy and Hanna aren’t the only Republicans to publicly declare that the Benghazi Committee has been on a partisan quest. Over the weekend, Maj. Bradley Podliska, a Republican investigator formerly working on the Committee, revealed that he had lost his job for refusing to solely focus his investigation on Clinton. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who heads the Committee, denies the charge.
Clinton is set to testify before the Committee, which has now continued longer than the Watergate probe, on October 22nd.
|Victims' parents charged in their beatings|
The fundamentalist Christians and their political whores in the Republican Party blather about the threat of Islam and Sharia law yet some of the far right Christian sects are just as frightening and insane as their Muslim counterparts. Bring much needed focus on this reality is the murder of a 19 year old in Central New York who was savagely beaten during a "counseling session" to force him to confess his sins (the exact sins as yet are unidentified). The victims younger brother remains hospitalized from his injuries. I have long maintained that forcing children and youths - but especially LGBT youth is a form of criminal child abuse. This sad case underscores that reality. Fundamentalist Christianity id an evil, plain and simple. The New York Times has details on the sick and disturbing murder at Word of Life Christian Church. Here are highlights:
To its neighbors in this upstate town, Word of Life Christian Church presented itself as a constant curiosity: an imposing but tidy former schoolhouse whose occupants kept to themselves, almost never opening their doors or their mouths, secluded behind a closed entrance.
Over the last three days, however, the inner life of that secretive sect suddenly spilled into the outside world. On Sunday evening, the authorities said, two teenagers — brothers and the sons of two members of Word of Life — were called into a sanctuary and savagely beaten by at least a half-dozen people, including their parents and older half sister.“Both brothers were continually subjected to physical punishment over the course of several hours, in hopes that each would confess to prior sins and ask for forgiveness,” Chief Michael S. Inserra of the New Hartford Police Department said at a news conference on Wednesday.It is not clear what those sins were, but for several hours, into Monday morning, punches and kicks landed on the brothers’ stomachs, genitals, backs and thighs, as the so-called counseling session turned into a case of manslaughter and assault.On Monday afternoon, Lucas Leonard, 19, was pronounced dead at a hospital, after being found unresponsive and not breathing by other church members, Chief Inserra said. Hours later, his brother, Christopher, 17, was found to be on the second floor of the church, suffering from serious injuries. He remains hospitalized.
The teenagers’ parents, Bruce T. Leonard, 65, and Deborah Leonard, 59, who live in nearby Clayville, have been arrested and charged with first-degree manslaughter in their son’s death. Four other church members, including the teenagers’ half sister, Sarah Ferguson, 33, were also arrested and face felony assault charges.
At least seven children, from about 2 to 15 years old, had also been taken from the church site, the police said, including four of Ms. Ferguson’s children, and placed in foster care.
The Leonards were apparently longtime members of the church, part of what Lieutenant O’Neill called an immersive religious environment. “This was a way of life,” he said. “Their church life, if you can call it that, was the center of their world.” Lucas and Christopher were home-schooled, said Ron Wheelock, the superintendent of the Sauquoit Valley Central School District.
Given the history of torment and torture of gays by the "godly folk" part of me wonders if the boys were suspected of being gay given the severity of their beatings. Adding to the sick story is the fact that this "church" enjoyed tax-exempt status and thus was being indirectly subsidized by the other residents of the community. To me, adherence to fundamentalist religious beliefs suggests a serious form of mental illness.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
I have said it before and I will say it again: the descent of the Republican Party began when white, racist, Christofascists were cynically welcomed in to the party by the so-called GOP establishment which put short term electoral victories over the long term future and viability of the party. These angry white conservative Christians - many of whom, particularly in the South view the Jim Crow era a golden period in America - have become a cancer in the GOP that has proved to be just as hard to eradicate as the AIDS virus. A piece in Salon looks at the role racism has played in the coming implosion of the GOP. Here are highlights:
Republicans in the House are reportedly no closer to finding John Boehner’s successor. As a matter of fact, things have gotten so bad that the conservative establishment is begging Rep. Paul Ryan to take the job. He says he’d rather not.But over the weekend, it started to look like Ryan may not have to resign himself to the miserable fate of being one of the most powerful people on the planet — at least not yet. Because according to reports which first emanated from Breitbart.com and other tribunes of the far right, but which have since been corroborated by the New York Times and others, even Ryan may not be conservative enough to please the 30-40 extremists who felled Boehner, thwarted McCarthy, and call themselves members of the House Freedom Caucus.ADVERTISINGYes, that’s right: The Republican Party is now beholden to a faction so zealously reactionary that Paul “Ayn Rand is the reason I got involved in public service” Ryan is, in its reckoning, much too far to the left.[R]ecognizing the problem is the easy part. The harder part is acknowledging where it comes from. Brooks chalks the GOP’s militancy up to 30 years of “rhetorical excesses, mental corruptions and philosophical betrayals” and suggests that Republicans are “addicted to a crisis mentality.” . . . .No, as is so often true in American politics, the problem is race.Some hardliners pay lip service to his supporting the 2008 bailouts when explaining their opposition to Ryan. But if you follow the far-right press, or listen to rank-and-file activists, it’s blindingly obvious that conservatives’ real problem with Paul Ryan is that he not only supports comprehensive immigration reform, but supports higher levels of overall immigration, too. “There’s nobody in the Republican Party who could be worse than Paul Ryan,” said Roy Beck, a leading “immigration control” activist, to Breitbart. “Open Borders is in his ideological DNA. That’s the terrifying thing.”Where they break from the rest of the political establishment is in their analysis; that apocalyptic stuff about the end of the republic, the New Black Panther Party, and immigration being akin to “invasion.”But that’s not craziness; that’s racism. They’re different. So if Brooks and others really want to know how this dysfunction got started, they’ll have to look back further. Before the Tea Party, and before Paul Ryan was even born. They’ll have to examine the roots of today’s Republican Party. I’d recommend they start with Richard Nixon and the presidential campaign of 1968.
As noted before, the GOP has become so extreme on race that I often wonder why they do not hand out KKK robes at the beginning of GOP city and county committee meetings. The GOP was not always like this - certainly not in the more distant years past when I was on the Virginia Beach City Committee for the GOP.
As the House Republicans continue in total disarray as they await Paul Ryan's decision as to whether or not he wants to be a masochist and accept the position of Speaker of the House in the face of the growing insanity of the Republican Party, it is right and just - to use a phrase from the Catholic liturgy - to remember the hypocrisy of the so-called "family values" Republicans who do not practice what they preach. A case in point is former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert who is under federal indictment for banking law violations that arose from his hush money being paid to a former male student with whom Hastert allegedly had inappropriate sexual contact back in his years as a high school coach. Politico looks at the plea deal being offered by the feds. Here are excerpts:
Federal prosecutors in Chicago want former House Speaker Dennis Hastert to serve prison time to resolve a criminal indictment charging he violated federal banking law when he withdrew about $900,000 in cash to pay to an unnamed associate as part of an effort to cover up past [sexual] misconduct [with a minor], sources said.Defense attorneys and prosecutors are negotiating a plea deal that they will bring before U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin, according to sources close to the case. The deal, details of which are still emerging, would likely call for Hastert to spend more than a year behind bars, one source said.
Hastert, who retired from the House in 2007, was indicted in May on charges of structuring bank withdrawals to avoid federal reporting requirements and lying to the FBI about what he did with the money. The indictment said that between 2012 and 2014 Hastert withdrew $952,000 in increments of less than $10,000 after a bank official warned him that larger amounts would be reported to federal authorities. The federal charges said the money was part of $1.7 million the former speaker paid and a total of $3.5 million he promised to pay to compensate for "past misconduct" against a longtime acquaintance and to compensate for that misdeed.
I come from a generation younger than the late John Lennon, but I know all about conforming to societal expectations and suppressing ones feelings and attractions. I denied admitting who I really was for 37 years. Nonetheless, I surprised to see Yoko Ono state in an recent interview that she thought Lennon was bisexual although she believes he never acted on his same sex attraction. The take away? That many of us live lives that hide aspects about ourselves and try to be what we believe others expect us to be. It can be stifling and oppressive. Some will likely claim that Ono is sullying Lennon's memory. I am not of that view. Here are highlights from The Advocate on Ono's interview:
John Lennon has long been rumored to have been bisexual, and now his widow, Yoko Ono, says he had a desire to have sex with men but she believes he never acted on it.
“I think he had a desire to, but I think he was too inhibited,” Ono told The Daily Beast in a wide-ranging interview published today. She noted that Lennon had to be both physically and intellectually attracted to a partner. “He said, ‘I don’t mind if there’s an incredibly attractive guy.’ It’s very difficult: They would have to be not just physically attractive, but mentally very advanced too. And you can’t find people like that.”
Despite rumors Lennon that had been sexually intimate with Beatles manager Brian Epstein, who was gay, Ono says Lennon was not sexually involved with Epstein or any other man.
“Uh, well, the story I was told was a very explicit story, and from that I think [Lennon and Epstein] didn’t have it [sex],” Ono told the Beast. “But they went to Spain, and when they came back, tons of reporters were asking, ‘Did you do it, did you do it?’ So he said, ‘I did it.’ Isn’t that amazing? But of course he would say that. I’m sure Brian Epstein made a move, yeah.”
Ono believes Lennon’s lack of sexual intimacy with men had more to do with societal limitations than Lennon’s sexuality.
“John and I had a big talk about it, saying, basically, all of us must be bisexual. And we were sort of in a situation of thinking that we’re not [bisexual] because of society. So we are hiding the other side of ourselves, which is less acceptable."
Perhaps the most striking thing about the first Democratic presidential debate last night was the fact that real issues and policy considerations were discussed in sharp contrast to the Republican debates which so far have largely consisted of sound bites pushing the favorite racist and paranoia based concerns of the increasingly delusional GOP base and/or taking cheap shots at other candidates. It's as if this debate involved adults versus the GOP debates where loud mouth bullies and story tellers have held sway. The contrast is striking and ought to make thinking voters wonder WTF is wrong with the GOP field of clowns. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders dominated the debate with the others making some points but nonetheless in the shadows of Clinton and Sanders. Hillary did a better job than I expected. A column in the New York Times reflects thoughts similar to my own. Here are highlights:
I never doubted that Hillary Clinton had many talents. I just didn’t know that seamstress was among them.There were moments in the first Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday night when she threaded the needle as delicately and perfectly as a politician could.The debate’s moderator, Anderson Cooper, noted that she’d told some audiences that she was a progressive but extolled her moderation in front of others. Wasn’t she just a chameleon, flashing whatever colors suited her at a given moment?“I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive who likes to get things done,” she said strongly but not stridently. “I know how to find common ground and I know how to stand my ground.”Even when she was confronted anew by her vote in the Senate long ago to authorize the invasion of Iraq, she was neither defiant nor apologetic, steering a smooth midcourse by recalling that at debates in 2008, Barack Obama had attacked her for that. “After the election,” she pointed out, “he asked me to become secretary of state. He valued my judgment.”The subject of Iraq caused her less grief than Sanders suffered on gun control, when not only Clinton but also Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor, rejected his explanation of votes in the Senate against various bills and his insistence that he was representing rural areas with gun cultures, not a nationwide electorate. It was clumsy because he presents himself as a creature of pure principle, immune to political convenience.But on Tuesday night an odd sort of role reversal occurred. For much of the debate, Sanders somehow came across as the embattled incumbent, targeted by the other four candidates, while Clinton came across as the energetic upstart.It was as poised a performance as she’s finessed in a long time, and while I’ve just about given up making predictions about this confounding election — I never thought Donald Trump would last so long, and I never saw Ben Carson coming — I think Clinton benefited more from Tuesday’s stage than Sanders did.She mixed confidence and moments of passion with instances of humor, and her manner was less didactic and robotic than it can often be.[S]he was seldom rattled, though the discussion of her use of a home-brewed server for her emails as secretary of state did prompt a visible stiffening of her posture, a conspicuous strain in her smile. Will she ever, ever find language that takes full ownership of her mistake and that puts real flesh on her continued claim that she’s being as transparent as possible?It was perhaps Sanders’s best. Surprisingly, he called for an end to talk about the emails, saying there were more important issues to focus on.And she benefited from the visual contrast when she stood side by side on TV next to Sanders, with his slight hunch, his somewhat garbled style of speech, and a moment when he cupped his hand behind his ear, signaling that he hadn’t heard the question.He evoked yesterday. Despite many decades in the political trenches, she didn’t. It was a nifty trick. Turns out she’s a bit of a sorceress as well.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
I will confess that it makes me nervous when I find myself in agreement with New York Times columnist David Brooks who typically is an apologist for right wing idiocy and the Republican Party. Thus, it is unnerving when Brooks blasts today's House Republicans and laments about the decline of the GOP into insanity. Yet along the way as this descent to craziness took place, Brooks was more often than not a cheerleaders for radicals masquerading as conservatives. Whether or not Brooks has finally seen the light or if his latest column is an anomaly will have to be decided down the road. Meanwhile, here are highlights from his column on the incompetence and growing derangement of the Republican Party:
The House Republican caucus is close to ungovernable these days. How did this situation come about?This was not just the work of the Freedom Caucus or Ted Cruz or one month’s activity. The Republican Party’s capacity for effective self-governance degraded slowly, over the course of a long chain of rhetorical excesses, mental corruptions and philosophical betrayals. Basically, the party abandoned traditional conservatism for right-wing radicalism. Republicans came to see themselves as insurgents and revolutionaries, and every revolution tends toward anarchy and ends up devouring its own.By traditional definitions, conservatism stands for intellectual humility, a belief in steady, incremental change, a preference for reform rather than revolution, a respect for hierarchy, precedence, balance and order, and a tone of voice that is prudent, measured and responsible.All of this has been overturned in dangerous parts of the Republican Party. Over the past 30 years, or at least since Rush Limbaugh came on the scene, the Republican rhetorical tone has grown ever more bombastic, hyperbolic and imbalanced. Public figures are prisoners of their own prose styles, and Republicans from Newt Gingrich through Ben Carson have become addicted to a crisis mentality. Civilization was always on the brink of collapse. Every setback, like the passage of Obamacare, became the ruination of the republic. Comparisons to Nazi Germany became a staple.Among people too ill educated to understand the different spheres, political practitioners adopted the mental habits of the entrepreneur. Everything had to be transformational and disruptive. Hierarchy and authority were equated with injustice. Self-expression became more valued than self-restraint and coalition building. A contempt for politics infested the Republican mind.Compromise is corruption. Inconvenient facts are ignored. Countrymen with different views are regarded as aliens. Political identity became a sort of ethnic identity, and any compromise was regarded as a blood betrayal.Republicans developed a contempt for Washington and government, but they elected leaders who made the most lavish promises imaginable. Government would be reduced by a quarter! Shutdowns would happen! The nation would be saved by transformational change!These insurgents can’t even acknowledge democracy’s legitimacy — if you can’t persuade a majority of your colleagues, maybe you should accept their position. You might be wrong!People who don’t accept democracy will be bad at conversation. They won’t respect tradition, institutions or precedent. These figures are masters at destruction but incompetent at construction.These insurgents are incompetent at governing and unwilling to be governed. But they are not a spontaneous growth. It took a thousand small betrayals of conservatism to get to the dysfunction we see all around.
Again, I ask this: where was Brooks when these thousand betrayals of conservatism took place? Some of us have loudly condemned the process all along. Others were too silent if not complicit in the degradations and betrayals.
|Bishop DiLorenzo - anti-gay and anti-woman bigot who seems to have never missed a meal|
[John Murphy claims that Bishop DiLorenzo] forced his removal from the top job at a diocese-owned assisted living home because he's gay and married to his partner of 30 years.
John Murphy filed a discrimination claim against the Catholic Diocese of Richmond with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last month. He said he served as executive director of the Saint Francis Home in Richmond for about a week before two deputies of Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo told him that he was being fired because his marriage goes against church doctrine.Murphy was terminated without severance pay and he and his husband, a retired clinical social worker, are relying primarily on Social Security benefits to get by, he said.
At least one board member has resigned out of frustration with the bishop's actions.
"I didn't want to be a part of that decision — not in this day and age," said Sam Dibert Sr., who had been vice president of the board and served on it for more than 20 years. Dibert said he didn't know that Murphy was gay until after he was hired, but it didn't affect his opinion of him or whether he thought he could do the job.
The board's president didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dozens of openly gay employees at Catholic institutions in the U.S have reported losing their jobs since 2010 over their same-sex relationships or support for gay marriage and gay rights, according to New Ways Ministry, which advocates for gay and lesbian Catholics.
The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission ruled in July that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act — which bars employers from discriminating against someone because of their sex, race and religion — also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
There is a religious exemption in the law, but it goes only so far as to allow organizations from refusing to hire people who aren't part of their religion, said Samuel Bagenstos, a professor at the University of Michigan who specializes in constitutional and civil rights law.
If the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finds that Murphy was discriminated against, it will try to negotiate a settlement between the two sides. If it finds that there has been no discrimination or a settlement can't be reached, it will likely end up in federal court, where the potential outcome is unclear.
The former Executive Director of Saint Francis Home in Richmond, a nonprofit, assisted living facility for persons of limited financial means, was hired in March of this year and claims he had received praise for his handling of the job. But after filing his employee benefits paperwork, and marking the forms with his same-sex spouse, he found himself on the receiving end of a pink slip.DiLorenzo is a douche bag and is a prime example of why the Roman Catholic Church is losing members at an accelerating rate. He also is a poster child for why the IRS needs to start revoking tax exempt status for so-called religious institutions that are not directly related t worship services. The Founder never envisioned allowing schools, hospitals, and many other types of facilities getting a tax free ride at the expense of those targeted by religious based bigotry. Sign the petition to force DiLorenzo to rescind Murphy's firing.
Murphy said he spoke with his employers before being hired, he mentioned his marriage and they told him it wouldn’t be a problem. But according to a press release by Equality Virginia, Virginia’s leading LGBTQ activist organization, when the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Francis X. Di Lorenzo, noticed the same-sex relationship, he ordered the St. Francis Board to fire Murphy.
“I expect to be judged by my job performance, but I am appalled and deeply hurt that the Bishop of the church I grew up in would suddenly fire me solely because of the gender of the person I share my life with – a person to whom I am lawfully married according to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Murphy in the EV statement. “It is shocking to me that this can happen in 2015 in America, and I fear for my financial survival if any employer can do this to me at any time.”According to EV, the board unanimously refused, and some members resigned over the order. It took Bishop Di Lorenzo personally deputizing someone to go to Murphy’s house and fire him.The state of Virginia lacks protections in employment based on sexual orientation, however a claim of sex discrimination can be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC handles investigations into these claims, and can make decisions based on federal law.The use of a sex discrimiantion claim is one used by a few LGBTQ Americans in recent years as it relates to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination by covered employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Looking at the current field of GOP presidential nomination candidates, they all look pretty scary if one lives in a reality based world where logic, reason, and objective reality are important. Each of the GOP standard bearers lives in a fantasy world, the only issue being how detached from reality they are. As a column in the Washington Post argues, perhaps the scariest GOP candidates is Ben Carson. As indicated before, a family member used to work at Johns Hopkins and has said that the Carson we now see seems to have gone crazy or had a nervous breakdown compared to the Carson that was renown at Johns Hopkins. The column underscores Carson full fledged insanity. Here are column excerpts:
The craziest thing about the Republican presidential contest isn’t that Donald Trump is in the lead. It’s that Dr. Ben Carson — who truly seems to have lost his mind — is in second place and gaining fast.Trump may be a blowhard, but Carson has proved himself to be a crackpot of the first order. Of all the GOP contenders, he’s the scariest.I say this as a longtime admirer of Carson for his stellar medical career. As the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Carson not only saved lives in the operating room but also inspired countless young people to overcome rough beginnings and reach for the stars.[D]espite spouting more utter nonsense than the law should allow, Carson has the support of 18 percent of GOP voters, according to the RealClearPolitics poll average — five points behind Trump and miles ahead of the rest of the field.Carson speaks softly, slowly, thoughtfully. Much of what he says, however, is dangerously wrong.His most recent burst of blather was over gun control in the wake of the Oregon massacre. As recently as Sunday, on “Face the Nation,” Carson was defending his assertion that the Holocaust would have been “greatly diminished” if Jews had been able to keep firearms in their homes. Gun control laws enacted by the Nazi regime, he contends, were a prelude to genocide.To say that experts disagree is an understatement. As Jonathan Greenblatt, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in the Huffington Post: “It is mind-bending to suggest that personal firearms in the hands of the small number of Germany’s Jews (about 214,000 remaining in Germany in 1938) could have stopped the totalitarian onslaught of Nazi Germany when the armies of Poland, France, Belgium and numerous other countries were overwhelmed by the Third Reich.”It is equally beyond the pale, in my view, for Carson to have written on Facebook that while he saw the horror of gun violence as a youth in Detroit and as a doctor in emergency rooms, “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” Or to have implicitly criticized the victims in Oregon by saying that “I would not just stand there and let him shoot me,” stating that people who find themselves in such circumstances should rush the gunman.Carson is a fan of dark conspiracies. Witness his claim that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Russian President Vladimir Putin got to know each other in Moscow in 1968. All of them, he claims, were at Patrice Lumumba University at the time.PolitiFact looked into the matter and found one meager shred of evidence that Abbas might have attended the university, though no indication of when; zero evidence that Khamenei ever studied in Moscow; and the inconvenient fact that Putin was 16 at the time. PolitiFact’s verdict: “Pants on Fire!”Carson has compared the Affordable Care Act to slavery. He has called President Obama a psychopath. He disbelieves established science on evolution and climate change.
Carson is a lunatic - which is why apparently he is loved by so many in the GOP base who are just as insane and dangerous.
Demographic changes are overtaking America just as surely as climate changes is overtaking the Earth. Yet in both cases, today's Republican Party denies the reality of both. As a former Republican I remain dumb founded that the GOP has no long term plan for dealing with the changing demographic reality. They simply cannot disenfranchise enough people to stop the coming tide of voters who are not angry whites clinging to fond memories of Jim Crow and unquestioned white privilege. Yet, as the current crop of would be GOP presidential nominees reveals, the GOP still thinks it can run campaigns aimed solely at the shrinking angry vote voter pool. Even states like Texas (where GOP batshitery is currently off the charts) will eventually tip away from the GOP as noted in a piece in addictingfo.org. Here are highlights:
Texas is, indisputably, the corner stone of Republican presidential ambitions. Should Texas, with its 38 electoral votes, go blue, the chances of a Republican ever setting up shop in the Oval Office again are bleak.
If Texas had voted blue in 2012, Mitt Romney could have won the entire West Coast including California and still lost.
THAT’S how important Texas is to Republicans. There is almost no path to victory without it. If Texas had voted blue in 2000 or 2004, George W. Bush would have lost. This is a weakness unique to Republicans. For instance, if California with its 55 electoral votes (by far the largest chunk of the electorate) had voted red in 2008 or 2012, Obama still would have won.
The bottom line is that if Texas turns blue, or even purple, Republicans are completely and utterly screwed. But that’s exactly what is happening:
Houston is not merely more Hispanic; the fastest-growing ethnic group is Asian. The kimchi taco is a hit. Some 90 languages are spoken. The city government will soon publish information in six languages. And 98 percent of the population growth in the first 10 years of this century has been nonwhite.This diversity is rippling out to the far suburbs, counties that have long been white and Republican — and vital for winning statewide office. The most diverse part of the Houston region is now Missouri City, which straddles Brazoria County and Fort Bend County on the city’s southwestern edge and is filling with Hispanics, Asians and African-Americans seeking bigger homes and better schools.
The same trends are found in the Texas Triangle, an increasingly dense region bounded by Houston, San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth. It includes less than 20 percent of the state’s land but all its biggest cities. Conservative politicians do poorly in these settings.The only way Republicans can respond to this is with increasingly more extreme voter suppression laws but even that won’t work for very long. It also risks a massive backlash by liberal and independent voters.The other problem for Republicans is that, as the minority residents start spreading out into the suburbs, the not-at-all-racist white conservative residents are going to flee. White Flight will decimate traditional Republican strongholds, further weakening the GOP’s grip on Texas.It might not happen this year, or even in the next ten, but the writing is on the wall: A Republican Party that keeps only pandering to the whitest and most racist of Texans will lose the entire state and any chance of putting another Bush in the White House.
The same demographic changes are happening in Virginia and just as in Texas, the Virginia GOP's only response is to double down on racism and religious extremism and the Republican brand more toxic in the eyes of the increasingly diverse population. I do not understand the shortsightedness.
Monday, October 12, 2015
From its outset, the GOP controlled House Benghazi committee has been a partisan witch hunt with only one goal: Damage Hillary Clinton as much as possible and Barack Obama as well should the opportunity present itself. The GOP hit men have conveniently developed amnesia on the issue of their own cuts to funding for State Department security. Meanwhile, they have near orgasm leaking selective tidbits to the media - which is itself part of the problem - with the knowledge that lazy journalists will likely run with the proffered GOP sound bite/talking point. Thankfully, the charade is now getting unwanted scrutiny that shows that the committee's work has been akin to one of Josef Stalin's show trials in the 1930's. A piece Salon looks at the GOP's wet dream unraveling. Here are highlights:
The chaos and dysfunction currently roiling the Republican majority in the House of Representatives has made life difficult for the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Under the leadership of Trey Gowdy, the committee had been maintaining a low profile, keeping quiet and staying out of the news as it dug up dirt on Hillary Clinton to strategically leak to the press. The low-profile game plan was shot to hell by Kevin McCarthy, who bragged of the committee’s political agenda on national television, and was then forced to walk back his comments and deny saying the thing he said several times over. Suddenly, Gowdy and his committee were facing the one thing they’d hoped to avoid: scrutiny.
That scrutiny has taken the form of a front-page New York Times investigation into what the committee has been up to over the past year and half. What the paper turned up is an investigation that didn’t really seem to be going anywhere until Hillary Clinton’s emails emerged as an issue, at which point its focus “shifted” from the actual attacks in Benghazi to Clinton’s electronic communications.
As the Times notes, the official response from the Republicans on the committee is to “dispute any suggestion that their inquiry… has been partisan or ineffective or that it has changed course.” . . . though it became harder to maintain that fiction in the aftermath of McCarthy’s inopportune truth-telling.
But the unofficial Republican response to the committee’s recent troubles is a bit more enlightening:
Senior Republican officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing confidential conversations, said that Mr. Boehner had long been suspicious of the administration’s handling of the attacks and that Mrs. Clinton’s emails gave him ato keep the issue alive and to cause political problems for her campaign.[[N]ow Republican officials are dishing to the Times about how it was all the outgoing Speaker’s idea to focus on Hillary’s emails for political benefit. This has all the hallmarks of a cover-your-ass operation – Paul Waldman sees this as Gowdy and his people working to push away any responsibility for what is turning into a damaging story for his committee.
But it doesn’t really matter what excuses Republicans come up with. The Times story has punched a hole in the committee’s credibility and made clear just how little trust one can place in the public statements emerging from the Benghazi investigators.
The three-pronged investigation was supplanted by a singular focus on Clinton’s emails. The interviews they promised would happen were, per the Times, “never followed up on.” And its mandate seems to have been abandoned in a messy political fight that is threatening to blow up in their faces.
All three of my children - who are within the so-called Millennial generation - have walked away from organized religion, in particular the Roman Catholic Church. Most of their cousins and many of friends have done likewise. Why? It's actually very simple: the rabid homophobia of many supposed Christian denominations and for those who are Catholic, the sex abuse scandal. The two combine to make the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in the Gospels pale in comparison. That's not to say that many Millennials aren't spiritual. They simply want nothing to do with denominations best defined by their hatred towards others. And I suspect the number of those who will walk away from religion in my grand children's generation will be even higher. As a piece in LGBTQ Nation makes clear, there is no better reason to leave Christianity than the godly Christians. (Note the fact that coming out is not a one time process. It is ongoing and often involves standing up to bigots and changing hearts and minds). Here are article excerpts:
My husband and I live with our twin sons in rural New Jersey — the garden of the Garden State. We moved there shortly after we adopted them in 2001. We don’t live in the mythic “gay community.” We live in a community. A fully integrated community. We attend the kids’ sporting events, drive the kids to and from basically everywhere a teenager would need to go (indeed the ol’ “sometimes I feel like I’m running a car service” applies). I’ve even ascended through the cutthroat ranks to become president of the PTA. Along the way, my husband and I have needed to constantly educate other non-LGBT people around us about our family, and we are happy to do it — to better the lives of our children.
We may not be throwing bottles and bricks in a bar in Greenwich Village, but we are on our own front line advocating for change right here, in suburban America. Simple, small battles, year after year, like meeting with the superintendent ensuring all school forms from our district read “Parent and Parent” and not “Mother and Father.”
Always the ten-second feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach as we “educate” and “integrate” our family into the community around us.
Just this week our 15-year-old son’s bus driver was listening to her “Christian” radio station while driving the school bus, giving him religious propaganda — in the form of a comic book — with Jesus as Superman and the rest of us poor citizens of Gotham living a dark dreary life until we accept the Man of Steel as our Lord and savior. Why has she taken it upon herself to volunteer this information? He already subscribes to all the teenage angst: attempting to fit in, questioning his parents’ beliefs and doubting his self confidence. As my son listened to the religious Sermon on the Mount…or rather the Sermon on the Bus, he discussed with the driver that he had two fathers. She imparted her wisdom unto him; she doesn’t have a problem with homosexuals, but “they are not blessed, and they will go to hell.”
So again — I had to “rouse rabble,” teach and advocate for change. Our son’s bus driver has been swapped out, and she was given a slap on the wrist. The very kind and helpful woman from the bus company told us, “She is not to listen to religious programming on the bus, discuss her religious views or talk about people’s lifestyle.”
Next battle: Umm, It’s not a “lifestyle.” It’s not some choice like jetting off to Napa (maybe we have), baking like Martha Stewart (possibly we do) or keeping a regular yoga practice (definitely guilty). But I’ll save that “opportunity to teach” for next week.
I am a lapsed damaged Catholic. I was raised Catholic: Sunday School, Stations of the Cross, altar boy. At 14, when I mentioned to my pastor that I was having certain strong feelings (it was way more than feelings, but I only told him it was “feelings”) about men, he told me not to worry. “You’re just starting high school. This can be normal at this age. If you were starting college, then we might consider it a problem.”
LGBT people and our families cannot allow the Catholic church to willingly escort us to the back of the bus as second-class citizens. “Love the sinner, but not the sin” is not even a little bit acceptable. It also makes it difficult for me to make the kids clean up their rooms when the Catholic church is telling them they won’t see me in the afterlife.
And to anyone — whether a Pope, bus driver, butcher, baker or candlestick maker — who wants to begin a conversation where I or my family are second class citizens, My inner Dad voice says “go fuck yourself,” then I remember: this is an “opportunity to teach” right here. Pull this bus over.
Folks like this brain dead bus driver will be the death of Christianity. Thankfully, my grandchildren are growing up seeing gay granddads as normal - just this weekend the husband and I baby sat my grand daughter overnight - and those who condemn us as abnormal. Time truly is on our side. Meanwhile, we need to live our lives openly and with pride, taking opportunities that present themselves to "educate" anti-gay bigots and those who are to lazy to question the status quo.