Saturday, August 29, 2015

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Official Misconduct Charge Filed Against Renegade Rowan County Clerk, Kim Davis

4 times married Kim Davis
Of late, no one epitomizes the Christofascist demand for special rights and exemption from the laws that pertain to the rest of us than renegade Rowan County, Kentucky, Clerk, Kim Davis who believes her claimed religious beliefs trump all laws.  The irony, of course is that Davis claims that same sex marriage is contrary to the Bible and harms the "sanctity of marriage" even though Davis is on her 4TH marriage.  Despite the rejection of her request for a stay by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, Davis has continued to refuse to issue marriage licenses and has now sought a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court.  Rowan County officials have belatedly had enough of Davis' hypocrisy and demand for special rights and misconduct charges being sought against Davis (personally, I want her jailed for contempt of court).  Here are highlights from WKYT-TV:

A flurry of activity happened Friday afternoon in the case of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, including an apparent effort to have her charged with official misconduct.

Friday afternoon, Davis, who refuses to issue marriage licenses despite a court order, said in court documents that she filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court to have a justice review her appeal. A spokeswoman with the Supreme Court told WKYT they had not received the petition as of Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Rowan County Attorney's Office said on Friday that it has referred to the Attorney General's Office a charge of official misconduct against Davis. A release from the county attorneys office says Kentucky Bar Association "Rules of the Supreme Court of Kentucky prohibit the Rowan County Attorney's Office from prosecuting Davis" because they are involved in current litigation with Davis. 

A spokeswoman for the attorney generals office told WKYT they are looking into the matter.
The referral of charges comes after Davis refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple Thursday morning. 

A rally in support of gay marriage is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday outside the Rowan County courthouse.
Sadly, too many members of the public refuse to recognize the danger that rabid Christofascist pose to constitutional government and the rule of secular laws.  Earlier in the week  Rena Lindevaldsen, Liberty University Law School’s interim dean, issued an address that pronounced that government has no power to enact "un-Biblical laws."  How Linevaldsen, a licensed attorney isn't facing discipline from the state bar - and how Liberty University retains accreditation - is mind boggling.  Here are highlights from Right Wing Watch:

Recently, Rena Lindevaldsen, Liberty University Law School's interim dean, delivered an address to students on the question "Do Government Officials Have Authority to Impose Their Morals on Others?"

Lindevaldsen's answer was a resounding "yes," provided that the morals being imposed are Christian ones. But if the morals being imposed are not Christian ones, then the answer is obviously "no."

As she explained, "civil government only has the authority that God has established" and so "civil government, if it's acting rightfully within its authority, should be acting consistent with Scripture."

"Government's only just authority [is] derived from God and it's purpose is to protect those inalienable rights that we have been given, not to infringe them as we're seeing take place a lot in society today," Lindevaldsen said.
One has to wonder when some of these lunatics will start inciting civil insurrection.  They are a menace to society. 

Don Lemon Slams CNN's "Homophobic" Coverage of Virginia Shooting

As previously noted in prior posts, the far right is having orgasms over the fact that Virginia shooter, Vester Falangan was gay.  Adding to their thrill and titillation is the fact that Flanagan apparently had two gay porn domain names registered in his name.  None of this, of course, has anything to do with Flanagan's top reason for his killing spree: racism and a delusional response to Dylann Root's effort to start a race war through the murder of black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.  Sadly, now some other mainstream media outlets have jumped on the gay website connection (ignoring, of course the reality that the (i) vast majority of porn sites are for heterosexual porn, and (ii) the highest per capita viewership is among Bible Belt evangelicals) to drum up more sensation and, in the process, reinforce the societal idea that there is something wrong or perverted about being gay.   As Pink News reports, CNN anchor Don Lemon had enough of the bigotry and let loose at his own network.  Here are story highlights:
This week WDBJ-TV reporter Alison Parker and videographer Adam Ward were shot and killed during a live TV news report on Wednesday morning in Virginia. Inexplicably, CNN appeared to suggest a link between suspect Vester Flanagan’s (pseudonym Bryce Williams) ownership of legal gay porn sites.

CNN host Don Lemon has since criticised the “gay shaming” reports by his network, whilst condemning the tragedy.

In a video posted by Media Matters he says: “The gay porn site thing, to me, I don’t really see the relevance of it.

“If it’s not illegal, then what’s wrong with him owning gay porn sites or straight porn sites or as a journalist forming a media company like Dan Abrams did? I don’t see anything wrong with it. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s an American — as long as it’s two consenting adults, I don’t see what difference it makes.”

He went on to say: “I don’t want to gay-shame him. There’s nothing wrong with being gay. I’m sure he probably faced some discrimination, as we all do, and that’s horrible. But it still does not condone his actions two days ago.”

Despite CNN’s coverage never explicitly drawing a link between the gay porn sites and the shooting, correspondent Drew Griffin called the revelation “just another disturbing twist” in the incident.

Kudos to Lemon (in the interest of disclosure, we are Facebook friends)! CNN has never been my preferred news outlet and now, I will watch it even less.

Jeb Bush Is Losing and The GOP Establishment Is to Blame

Yes, Jeb "Jebbie" Bush is a crappy candidate in my estimation (as a number of past posts have laid out), but in the bubble world of the GOP establishment, he was supposed to soar.    That plan to date has not played out and  Jebbie has been languishing in a distant second or even third place.  Meanwhile, loud mouth buffoon extraordinaire continues to surge.  If the GOP establishment wants to know why, it needs to look in the mirror.  It has in the past embraced and welcomed into the party the insane elements - i.e., Christofascists, open white supremacists, etc . - now viewing and following  Trump with adoration.  When you allow the insane to take over the grassroots of your political party, bad things are going to happen.  A piece in Salon throws the blame for Jebbie's losing effort at the feet of the GOP establishment.  Here are excerpts:
With polls showing Donald Trump in a better position than ever, and with the next presidential debate still nearly a month away, now appears to be the summer of the Republican Party donor class’s discontent.

Their favored candidate, Jeb Bush, has been (obsessively) tagged by Trump as a “low-energy person.” And Bush’s attempts to nab some of “The Donald’s” presumably invigorating xenophobia have been embarrassing, to say the least. For the CNBC-watching plutocrats who comprise “the establishment” of the Republican Party, the summer has been, if not quite a disaster, certainly a mess.

For the Very Serious People in U.S. punditry, however, the situation may be even worse. If you’re the kind of elite hot-taker who tries to understand Republicans by watching “Morning Joe” and reading George Will, Trump’s ascendancy undermines your entire political worldview. It seems to validate the liberal claim that GOP voters care more about whiteness than free markets. And it suggests that the Wall Street Republicans you rely on for insight into the GOP don’t have a clue.
[T]he truth is that Bush’s struggles — like Trump’s triumphs — are the product of conservative ideology itself.

Specifically, it’s the fault of Citizens United, and the tidal wave of outsider spending that it’s unleashed on American politics. If it weren’t for that essentially limitless outsider spending, there would likely be considerably fewer candidates in the GOP race. And if there were fewer candidates in the race, Bush would have an easier time joining together those Republicans who do not want to nominate Trump.

As things stand, Bush cannot distinguish himself from the rest of his “establishment”-friendly competitors, so he ends up looking like just one of the dozen-plus candidates who are not Donald Trump. Worse still, because Bush has already raised such an unfathomable amount of money for his super PAC, his inability to stand toe-to-toe with Trump makes him look in comparison not only drab but also weak. And there’s no one Republican voters hate more than the weak.

As my colleague Joan Walsh has been rightly noting for a while, “Jeb!” has been a straight-up bad candidate. He’s repeatedly done exactly what he shouldn’t. It has been 13 years since Bush last won an election, and one gets the sense that, when he wasn’t cashing checks from Lehman Brothers or hanging out with Michael Bloomberg, he spent the time forgetting everything he’d learned.

But it’s possible for two things to be true. Bush can be both a bad candidate and be wounded less by his own hand than by the results of conservatism itself. The men and women (but mostly men) in the Republican Party can rail against Bush to the Matt Bais of the world all they want. It won’t change the fact that when the Citizens United ruling was handed down and forever changed the rules of American politics, they were cheering as loud as anyone else.
The piece is on point so far as it goes, but it fails to look at the composition of the lunatics swarming to Trump - they are those who in my days in the GOP would have been viewed with disdain at best and barred from local city and county committees and caucuses.  Now, they are controlling them.   Just ask Eric Cantor what has become of the GOP grassroots. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Haters Seize on Shooter's Rainbow Flag

As noted in the previous post, the usual "family values" organizations and "news outlets" that pander to them are ecstatic that a rainbow flag was found among the possessions of Roanoke shooter, Vester Flanagan.   The presence of the rainbow flag is being used to fan the meme that Christians are under persecution, especially by gays.  The irony is, of course, that Christians have a documented history of oppressing and in some instances murdering LGBT people, not to mention Christianity's history of forced conversions and enslavement of indigenous peoples  not to mention the genocide inflicted on "pagan" and "savage" Native Americans.  Looking back over history, if anything is a symbol of hate, one could argue it is the Christian cross. The sickness of the far right and so-called fundamentalist Christians is festering and becoming more and more of a threat to the rest of society.  The good news is that more and more of the general population are coming to recognize the toxicity of fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity in America.  Joe Jervis looks at some of the batshitery from Breitbart:

The gay pride rainbow flag reportedly found in Flanagan’s apartment is seen by many as a symbol of anti-Christian hate. After a white racist terrorist in South Carolina murdered nine innocent black churchgoers, photos of the racist with the Confederate Flag resulted in a media frenzy to ban the flag. Like the Confederate flag, the provocative gay pride flag, a symbol of religious oppression, has flown on government property. The Confederate Flag has since been taken down in South Carolina. Thus far, other than a mention in the Telegraph, the media has not reported on the fact that Flanagan might have owned the LGBT rainbow hate-flag.
Thousands of Breitbart commenters are posting the usual Christ-filled responses.
These folks truly are living in a fantasy world and a scary one at that.  Nothing seems likely to deter their increasingly strident demands to be above the nations laws and any and all opposition to such special rights will be labeled as the persecution of Christians. .  

Image of Virginia Shooters Shows He Should Never Been Able to Buy Gun

While the far right continues to have near orgasms over the fact that the obviously mentally disturbed Vester Lee Flanagan II was gay - Brietbart is calling the rainbow flag a "hate flag" - there has been a studious avoidance of the reality that the emerging facts that make it painfully clear that Flanagan should NEVER has been able to purchase a gun.  Yet Virginia's shameful gun laws made such a purchase all to easy.  Flanagan may have been the shooter, but the Virginia GOP also has blood on its hands.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the delusional Flanagan and the ticking time bomb that he represented.  What is frightening is that there are likely countless Vester Flanagans out there and in Virginia they can all easily buy guns to go on a shooting spree. Here are article highlights:

For two years after losing yet another television job, Vester Lee Flanagan II lived in a nondescript apartment across the street from WDBJ Channel 7, the station that had fired him. He worked in modest jobs at several insurance companies nearby. As thoughts of murder and revenge were swirling around his brain, he did his best to keep them out of sight.

But he was, in his own words, putting on “a smiley face to disguise what was to come.” Three separate suicide notes, typed within the last few weeks and sent to a news organization on Wednesday, document the homicidal rage that had apparently been building for years, culminating when Mr. Flanagan shot and killed a reporter and a cameraman for his former station before shooting himself in the head as the police closed in.
The fax, along with letters and photographs from his childhood, and interviews with people who have known him over the years, reveal someone who was consumed for much of his life with an encyclopedia of grievances. He was a black man who saw racism in every workplace; a gay man who felt demeaned, especially by other black men; a floundering son who addressed his accusatory suicide note to his successful father; an aspiring television newsman who, despite some talent, could not succeed at work or get along with his colleagues.

There were arguments and confrontations at work,  periodic eruptions, including a road rage episode captured on video and a sacrifice of his two pet cats, killings that Mr. Flanagan said he carried out because of anger at his firing. And then the final horrific explosion, broadcast live on television and posted on Facebook.

By the summer of 2012, managers at the station had begun to document problems in his employment file, accusing Mr. Flanagan of “misinterpreting” the actions and words of his co-workers. “Under no circumstances should you engage in harsh language, demonstrate aggressive body language, or lash out at a photographer in front of members of the public,” the station warned in one memo.

The station also ordered Mr. Flanagan to get employee-assistance counseling and warned: “It is your responsibility, going forward, to work at repairing these relationships, as the station cannot be put in the position of making assignments based on the inability of team members to get along.”

After he was fired from the Roanoke station in February 2013, Mr. Flanagan seethed again. He filed another harassment lawsuit, and served as his own lawyer. So angry one day after what he called “an awful chain of events,” he writes that he killed his two cats and drove to a forest, where he dug a grave and covered the bodies with leaves and a flower.

The anger occasionally spilled out. A video of a road rage incident this summer shows Mr. Flanagan apparently following another driver and confronting him after they get into an argument. The video, taken by the other driver, was posted online after Wednesday’s shootings.
Sadly, Virginia's gun laws fail to protect the public and help set the stage for tragedies like the one that occurred near Roanoke.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

More Tuesday Male Beuaty

Valdimir Putin's Insane Jihad Againt "Illegal" Imported Food and Goods

With oil prices plummeting and economic sanctions in place due to Russia unlawful annexation of the Crimea and unofficial invasion of Ukraine, Russia's economy is headed towards potential collapse and consumers are facing a possible return to a consumer market akin to that of the bad old days of the Communist era.  One of Putin's retaliation against European countries that have applied sanctions against Russia for its Nazi regime like behavior is to ban the import of various meats, cheeses, fruits and food stuffs form nations imposing and/or supporting sanctions against Russia.  Now, both the government and self-styled vigilantes are penalizing those who have continued to purchase and consume such foreign foods.  With all of the huge problems that face Russia, one would think that Putin would have larger worries to dwell upon.  Cynics - or perhaps they are realists - believe there is a method to Putin's madness: he is preparing the Russian public for the harsh austerity that is looming in the future in no small part due to Putin's own mismanagement. A piece in The Atlantic looks at Putin's outwardly insane behavior.  Here are highlights:
Russia’s Federal Customs Service has drafted legislation classifying banned foreign foods as “strategically important.” Until now, that label only applied to weapons, explosives, poisons, and radioactive materials.

If it becomes law, the new classification will mean those caught importing banned fruits, vegetables, meat, and poultry can face up to seven years in prison. French cheese is apparently now just as dangerous to the security of the state as plutonium, uranium, assault weapons, and dirty bombs.

And speaking of cheese, the Interior Ministry this week released footage of a bust of what it called a “major cheese-smuggling ring.” Some 470 tons of forbidden cheese was found and six members of the alleged cheese mafia were arrested.

And why stop with food? The head of the Russian Association of Textile Manufacturers says contraband foreign clothing should also be destroyed. Russian authorities have also begun removing household products manufactured by Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, and other leading Western companies from stores, claiming health risks.

It’s hard to wrap your head around all this craziness. At first glance, the Kremlin’s jihad against all things Western looks like the post-imperial temper tantrum of a regime that is truly losing the plot. And perhaps it is. Russia’s leaders want their empire back, dammit, and if they can’t have it they’re going to smash their dinner plate on the floor and trash their room.

“All the falling regimes share an interesting pattern. Before a fall they start acting crazy, they are struck by the epidemic of mass idiocy,” political analyst Valery Solovei wrote on Facebook.

Or perhaps there is a method to the madness. Perhaps Putin’s Kremlin is preparing society for what is coming in an era of low oil prices, a weak ruble, sanctions, and a long-term confrontation with the West. Consider it reverse shock therapy. 

[T]he director of the Moscow-based Center for Post-Industrial Studies, wrote that the Russian economy was heading for an era of austerity and autarky, with thousands of private businesses going under and the state sector expanding.

The real consequence will be Russia’s retreat from the global market and its economy’s transformation into one which is much more closed,” Inozemtsev wrote. “This way leads us towards a quasi-Soviet economy detached from the world and, at the same time, proud of its autarky; towards a deteriorating economy which compensates for the drop in living standards with pervasive propaganda.”

How long the regime can remain stable, to a degree, depends on people like Nikolai the food snitch and Polyakov the food vigilante. It depends on how long patriotic fervor can keep the population supportive with patriotic appeals as living standards plummet. But much of it also depends on how long the elites—who have become accustomed to their comfortable globalized lives—remain cohesive.

We should soon learn whether we are witnessing the death throes of the Putin regime or the birth of a new fortress Russia.
Putin's one misjudgment may be that he has forgotten that Russia's inferior standards of living compared to the West and the Communist police state led to the fall of the Communist regime.  Ironically, Putin is reinstating the exact situation that led to the downfall of the system he so reveres.  The tsars learned to their chagrin that calls for patriotism only go so far when standards of living are falling and oppressive government control is riding.  I know that Putin sees himself as Russia's new tsar, but does he really want to emulate the policies of Tsar Nicholas II (who had good intentions compared to Putin)? 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Republicans Remain Largely Silent in Face of Trump’s Bigotry and Misogyny

With Donald Trump spouting some crazy, racist or misogynist virtually every day, one would think Republicans would be up in arms protesting the batshitery.  But they are not.  Instead they remain largely silent and the reason for this is simple: Trump is spouting the beliefs of the swamp fever sickened GOP base.  To attack Trump would be to attack the Christofascis/Tea Party base of the party and few Republicans dare face the wrath of these hate and fear driven extremists.  Meanwhile, the GOP continues to alienate more of the rest of the country.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the phenomenon.  Here are excerpts:

Wednesday was Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote 95 years ago.  And how have Republicans marked this egalitarian milestone? Why, with another bimbo eruption, of course.

The perpetrator, as usual, was Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, who, in his three-week-old feud with debate moderator Megyn Kelly, circulated a tweet late Monday once again referring to the Fox News star as a “bimbo.”

Fox News boss Roger Ailes, who had already had words with Trump over his sexist attacks on the anchor, fired back Tuesday with a statement saying Trump’s “surprise and unprovoked attack on Megyn Kelly during her show last night is as unacceptable as it is disturbing.” He went on to call Trump’s Twitter attack “crude and irresponsible.”

Trump’s response, at a press conference in Iowa: “It is a very small element in my life, Megyn Kelly. I don’t care about Megyn Kelly. No, I would not apologize. She should probably apologize to me, but I just don’t care.”  Right. The victim of Trump’s misogyny should apologize to him. 

[T]he character of the [other GOP presidential] candidates already has been revealed. Trump is acting like a sexist and a bigot — and the rest of the candidates are, with occasional exceptions, too timid to call him what he is.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus even praised the contribution made by Trump’s candidacy. “I think it’s a net positive for everybody,” he said in a radio interview.

A net positive? That’s an intriguing calculation, considering all the gross negatives:
Describing Mexican immigrants as rapists and thugs.
Kicking one of the nation’s leading Latino journalists, Jorge Ramos, out of a news conference, telling him, “Go back to Univision.”

[A]s the Trump outrages continue, they tend to be met more by eye-rolls and a Trump-will-be-Trump acceptance — and less by condemnation. After this week’s bimbo episode, a Washington Post search for responses by the candidates as of late Wednesday found only George Pataki (yes, he’s still in the race) weighing in, saying Trump was “over the line” and displaying a “demeaning attitude towards women.”

The way to combat Trump’s bigotry and misogyny is to denounce it as loudly as he spews it. 

Lessons From the Latest Virginia Shootings: Gun Control Reform is Needed NOW

While much of the far right is obsessing over the race - and sexual orientation - of the shooter in the shocking on air murder of two TV journalists outside of Roanoke, Virginia yesterday, sane people are once again citing the problem that made the murders far more likely: America's insane gun laws that continue to make America like something out of the Old West and an international embarrassment.  The far right loves to bloviate about "American exceptionalism." When it comes to our gun control laws, America is exceptional: exceptionally stupid. A column in the New York Times looks at the ridiculousness of the current gun control laws and things that could be readily done to drastically reduce gun carnage if politicians would grow a spine and stand up to gun manufacturers and the lunatics of the GOP base.  Here are highlights:
The slaying of two journalists Wednesday as they broadcast live to a television audience in Virginia is still seared on our screens and our minds, but it’s a moment not only to mourn but also to learn lessons.

The horror isn’t just one macabre double-murder, but the unrelenting toll of gun violence that claims one life every 16 minutes on average in the United States. Three quick data points:

■ More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides every six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.
More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history.
American children are 14 times as likely to die from guns as children in other developed countries, according to David Hemenway, a Harvard professor and author of an excellent book on firearm safety.

Bryce Williams, as the Virginia killer was known to viewers when he worked as a broadcaster, apparently obtained the gun used to murder his former co-workers Alison Parker and Adam Ward in response to the June massacre in a South Carolina church — an example of how gun violence begets gun violence.  

Whether or not Williams was insane, our policies on guns are demented — not least in that we don’t even have universal background checks to keep weapons out of the hands of people waiting to go boom.

The lesson from the ongoing carnage is not that we need a modern prohibition (that would raise constitutional issues and be impossible politically), but that we should address gun deaths as a public health crisis. To protect the public, we regulate toys and mutual funds, ladders and swimming pools. Shouldn’t we regulate guns as seriously as we regulate toys?

Gun proponents often say things to me like: What about cars? They kill, too, but we don’t try to ban them!

Cars are actually the best example of the public health approach that we should apply to guns. Over the decades, we have systematically taken steps to make cars safer: We adopted seatbelts and airbags, limited licenses for teenage drivers, cracked down on drunken driving and established roundabouts and better crosswalks, auto safety inspections and rules about texting while driving.

This approach has been stunningly successful. By my calculations, if we had the same auto fatality rate as in 1921, we would have 715,000 Americans dying annually from cars. We have reduced the fatality rate by more than 95 percent.

Yet in the case of firearms, the gun lobby (enabled by craven politicians) has for years tried to block even research on how to reduce gun deaths. The gun industry made a childproof gun back in the 19th century but today has ferociously resisted “smart guns.” If someone steals an iPhone, it requires a PIN; guns don’t.

The United States is an outlier, both in our lack of serious policies toward guns and in our mortality rates. Professor Hemenway calculates that the U.S. firearm homicide rate is seven times that of the next country in the rich world on the list, Canada, and 600 times higher than that of South Korea.

We need universal background checks with more rigorous screening, limits on gun purchases to one a month to reduce trafficking, safe storage requirements, serial number markings that are more difficult to obliterate, waiting periods to buy a handgun — and more research on what steps would actually save lives.

Australia is a model. In 1996, after a mass shooting there, the country united behind tougher firearm restrictions. The Journal of Public Health Policy notes that the firearm suicide rate dropped by half in Australia over the next seven years, and the firearm homicide rate was almost halved.

Here in America, we can similarly move from passive horror to take steps to reduce the 92 lives claimed by gun violence in the United States daily. Surely we can regulate guns as seriously as we do cars, ladders and swimming pools.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Right Wing Jumps on Sexual Orientation of Black, Gay Shooter in Virginia

By now I suspect almost anyone in America who is not living under a rock has heard of the horrific murder of two WDBJ-TV (Channel 7) employees - reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27 - during an on air broadcast by a disgruntled former WDBJ-TV employee.  The shooter, Vester Lee Flanagan II’s, a/k/a Bryce Williams, obviously had serious mental problems, yet under Virginia's ridiculous gun laws was able to easily purchase a gun.  Governor MsAuliffe (who I saw last evening) has rightly cited the murders as yet more proof that Virginia needs to change its lax gun control laws - Virginia is a major source of illegal guns in New York City.  The Christofascists and whores of the gun lobby have a different take.  According to them, the whole tragedy is the result of the evil of disaffected gays (and by inference, cry baby minorities) and the Democrat Party.   First, blogger friend Joe Jervis looks at the poison being disseminated by Christofascists and right wing extremists such as little twerp Ben Shapiro who seemingly has no credentials to make him a knowledgeable commentator on anything.  Here are highlights:
According to Ben Shapiro, the Virginia shooter was driven to murder by the left’s enabling of his gay black victimhood status.
Bryce Williams’ self-described victim status, even while murdering innocents, will merit no rethinking of the divisive politics in which he apparently bathed. We won’t have a conversation about whether pushing a perennial picture of victimhood for blacks and gays in the most black-friendly, gay-friendly country on the planet could drive supposed victims to violence.
It is true that statistical outliers should not be used to club entire movements into submission. But leftists protesting at the linkage between Williams and their favored political causes have no ground on which to stand – they consistently blame conservatives for outlier events with no statistical basis. Moreover, Williams’ violence is part of a larger trend, not of black men killing white people (that still happens disproportionately, but the numbers are down), but of black men using supposed American racism as a rationale for violence more generally, and of gay people using supposed American homophobia as a rationale for violation of others’ rights.
Sample Breitbart comment: “Who should I despise more? Sick queers or low IQ blacks?”
Not a word out of Shapiro on Virginia's lax gun laws which have seen little change since the Virginia Tech massacre.  Likewise, not a word out of Shapiro on the role racism and the murders in Charleston by white supremacist Dylann Root played in today's carnage.  As ABC News reported, a portion of the shooter's rambling manifesto stated as follows:
Flanagan "writes what triggered today’s carnage was his reaction to the racism of the Charleston church shooting:"
“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…”

“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them."
It is unclear whose initials he is referring to. He continues, “As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!” He said Jehovah spoke to him, telling him to act.
I am in no way condoning today's murders, but in must be noted that those like Shapiro have consistently supported unlimited guns access to crazies under the guise of "protecting" the 2nd Amendment and have regularly fanned the flames of homophobia and white racism yet then complain about the consequences of their own handiwork and, as seems to be the norm, immediately play the role of the victim even thought they are the real aggressors.  

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Trump-ward, Christian Soldiers?

One of the hallmarks of conservative Christians in America today is their utter hypocrisy.  The claim that the Bible - which includes the New Testament Gospels - is the inerrant word of God, yet on almost every issue, they back policies that are diametrically opposed to the social gospel found in the New Testament Gospels.  They oppose health care for all, want to see government benefits for the poor and unfortunate slashed, they support a political party that seeks to create a new Gilded Age, they embrace racism, and now, they support a thrice married, loud mouthed bigot for the presidency.  And yet they wonder why the Millennials are fleeing religion in droves.  They should take a good look in the mirror.  A column in the New York Times  looks at  the "godly folk's" support for Donald Trump.  Here are excerpts:

Let me get this straight. If I want the admiration and blessings of the most flamboyant, judgmental Christians in America, I should marry three times, do a queasy-making amount of sexual boasting, verbally degrade women, talk trash about pretty much everyone else while I’m at it, encourage gamblers to hemorrhage their savings in casinos bearing my name and crow incessantly about how much money I’ve amassed?

Seems to work for Donald Trump.

Polls show him to be the preferred candidate among not just all Republican voters but also the party’s vocal evangelical subset.  He’s more beloved than Mike Huckabee, a former evangelical pastor, or Ted Cruz, an evangelical pastor’s son, or Scott Walker, who said during the recent Republican debate: “It’s only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I’ve been redeemed.”

The holy rollers are smiling upon the high roller. And they’re proving, yet again, how selective and incoherent the religiosity of many in the party’s God squad is.  Usually the disconnect involves stern moralizing, especially on matters sexual, by showily devout public figures who are then exposed as adulterers or (gasp!) closet homosexuals.  

What’s different and fascinating about the Trump worship is that he doesn’t even try that hard for a righteous facade — for Potemkin piety. Sure, he speaks of enthusiastic churchgoing, and he’s careful to curse Planned Parenthood and to insist that matrimony be reserved for heterosexuals as demonstrably inept at it as he is.

But beyond that? He just about runs the table on the seven deadly sins. He personifies greed, embodies pride, radiates lust. Wrath is covered by his anti-immigrant, anti-“losers” rants, and if we interpret gluttony to include big buildings and not just Big Macs, he’s a glutton through and through. 

I’m grasping at straws, because there’s no sense in the fact that many of the people who most frequently espouse the Christian spirit then proceed to vilify immigrants, demonize minorities and line up behind a candidate who’s a one-man master class in such misanthropy.

As for Trump, I must not be watching the same campaign that his evangelical fans are, because I don’t see someone interested in serving God. I see someone interested in being God.

"Family Values" Virginia GOP Leader Used Ashley Madison

GOP's Tommy Norment
As noted before, the hacking of the Ashley Madison adultery site continues to provide gifts exposing the hypocrisy of "family values" Republicans and professional Christians such as Josh Duggar.  Yes, there are Democrats on the Ashley Madison lists, but unlike the Republicans they have not made a career out of attacking gays and women's rights while putting on a hypocritical cloak of piety.  Locally, the name of Virginia Senate majority leader Tommy Norment has been revealed to has used Ashley Madison's services to seemingly cheat on his wife. Somehow, I suspect that Victoria Cobb of The Family Foundation which basically runs the Virginia GOP is not too happy with Mr. Norment (unless, of course, she's too busy worrying about her own name or her husband's name popping up).  Here are highlights from a piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Jeff Ryer, spokesman for the Senate Republican Caucus, when asked about the appearance of Norment’s name in the data, said, “It is the policy of our office to neither respond to nor comment on any inquiry related to Senator Norment’s personal life.”

Several attempts to reach Norment by phone and email were unsuccessful.

The records show three transactions under Norment’s name, with his home address, partial credit card information and purchase history on the website.

A payment of $68.99 was made Sept. 15, 2009. Two $79 payments followed on Aug. 22, 2010, and Jan. 4, 2011. The member used the email address for the transactions.

Norment, 69, who is married, is a 23-year veteran of the state Senate. In April, two months after he was appointed to the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council, Norment admitted to a past personal relationship with a lobbyist. He said it occurred while he was contemplating divorce.
Personally, I don't care if Norment and others are cheating on their spouses.  What I DO care about is their rank hypocrisy. 

Hypocrisy on Display: Richmond Bishop Francis DiLorenzo

On issues of human sexuality the Roman Catholic Church continues to ignore modern knowledge and science, especially on issues of sexual orientation.  Rather than accept the fact that homosexuality is (i) a normal, naturally occurring condition for a portion of the world's population, and (ii) no more sinful than breathing, the Church continues to embrace 13th century batshitery first launched by individuals who modern experts would likely label as mentally disturbed.  Locally, one of the worse proponents of such backwardness is the Bishop of the Diocese of Richmond, Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, who is virulently anti-gay.  Similarly, he believes in the subjugation of women to men and bars divorced and remarried Catholics from positions  in the diocese's schools.  Yet this Neanderthal knuckle dragger is now exhorting local Catholics to accept the science of climate change.  As regular readers know, I am all for accepting and acting on scientific knowledge of climate change and regularly , but for DiLorenzo to suddenly embrace knowledge and science on every other issue, is the height of hypocrisy.  The Virginian Pilot looks at this hypocrisy on display:
Responding to Pope Francis' call this summer for prompt action to address climate change, Catholic Bishop Francis DiLorenzo told an audience of about 200 Tuesday night that people must learn about the science of what is happening to the world.

DiLorenzo's remarks came at the start of a symposium of theologians and climate experts, including retired naval officers, that was sparked by the lengthy papal encyclical in June that called for a worldwide effort to confront climate change.

The pontiff condemned the destruction of the environment for personal profit and short-term gain. Such a pronouncement from the pope in a formal letter to Catholics is considered an authoritative teaching.

The bishop said he believes the region's Catholics should begin with stronger education about environmental problems and issues in the church's elementary and high schools, as well as colleges and adult education.

Tackling environmental problems is in keeping with the Catholic beliefs that "every human being has the right to life, food, clothing, shelter, health care," he said.

The last part of the quoted language is perhaps the most hypocritical since DiLorenzo consistently opposes any and every gay friendly proposal in Virginia as well as women's rights.   He epitomizes the bitter old men in dresses that are steadily killing Catholicism in America.  Oh, and before he condemns gays, perhaps he should focus on his own sin of gluttony - the man obviously hasn't missed any meals given his large girth.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Kentucky Learns Cost of GOP Self-Prostitution to Christofascists

Political prostitute Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

Just as the dominoes eventually fell favor of the good guys in the gay marriage battle, now we are witnessing another form of dominoes falling: GOP governors and GOP attorney generals who jump happily jumped to prostitute themselves to the Christofascists in the party base are now receiving the legal bills from successful marriage equality plaintiffs  who are seeking payment of their legal fees against states that continued to defend unconstitutional anti-gay marriage bans.  Kentucky is the latest state to have the cost of bigotry and religious zealotry brought painfully home to it as it receives a bill for $2.3 million in legal fees - $2.3 million that could have been better spent on countless other things. Ideally, these bills should be paid personally by the governors, attorney generals and/or members of GOP controlled legislatures that made self-prostitution to Christofascists their top priority rather than looking out for the rights of ALL state citizens.   The Lexington Herald-Leader looks at the situation.  Here are highlights:
Gov. Steve Beshear hired lawyers to defend the state of Kentucky's ban on gay marriage for two years in the federal courts, arguing that Kentuckians deserved "finality and understanding of what the law is."

Understanding can be expensive. Two months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage, teams of attorneys who successfully represented the same-sex couples have submitted a bill for more than $2 million in legal fees, court costs and related expenses. Under federal civil rights law, the losing party — in this case, the state of Kentucky — gets stuck with the tab.

Total cost to taxpayers: $2,351,297.

In a statement Monday, Beshear said he would challenge the plaintiffs' legal bill as "unreasonable." U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson III gets the final say.

So far, courts have sympathized with the couples' lawyers. Last year, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II, who died in April, awarded the lawyers $70,778 in legal fees and court costs for the early stage of their fight in district court. On his own initiative, Heyburn tossed in a $10,000 bonus, saying the lawyers "undertook a difficult, unpopular case and achieved remarkable success." That award was put on hold pending the appeals.

In their filing Friday in U.S. District Court in Louisville, nine attorneys for the same-sex couples specified who worked how many hours as two separate lawsuits — Bourke vs. Beshear and Love vs. Beshear — wound their way through the district court, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Beshear acknowledged the state must pay "reasonable attorneys' fees" to the victors.

Read more here:

Attorney General Jack Conway initially represented the state, but he dropped out of the case in March 2014 after Heyburn sided with the couples and ruled that Kentucky's ban was arbitrary and unconstitutional.

"From a constitutional perspective, Judge Heyburn got it right, and in light of other recent federal decisions, these laws likely will not survive on appeal," Conway said at the time. "We cannot waste the resources of the office of the attorney general pursuing a case we are unlikely to win."

Read more here:

Read more here:
Beshear, of course, cared nothing about winning.  Sadly, it was all about pandering to the gay-hating Christofascists in the Republican Party base.  Now, all Kentucky citizens are footing a portion of the cost of appeasing the hate-filled religious extremists.

Read more here:

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Is Hillary Clinton’s “Emailgate” a Fake Scandal

I will admit that I generally have a very low opinion of America's mainstream media, especially so called news outlets.  Reporters tend to be lazy and the sole emphasis is on sensation and grabbing headlines.  Real investigative reporting is increasingly rare and it's one reason why one finds the need to read British and other news outlets if one wants in depth  and/or investigative reporting.  Worse yet, time and time again the American media simply parrots what the GOP talking heads are spouting without challenging assertions that can easily be documented to be either untrue or deliberate lies.  A piece in Newsweek looks at the media's role in fanning "emailgate."  Here are highlights:

When it comes to the teapot tempest that is the Hillary Clinton email imbroglio, the real controversy isn’t about politics or regulations. It’s about journalism and the weak standards employed to manufacture the scandal du jour.

Because luminaries such as the public editor of The New York Times have dismissed critics of the emailgate coverage as rabid members on one side of a partisan divide—the pro-Hilary screamers versus the anti-Hillary frothers—I feel obligated to cut off that self-satisfied response up front: My opinion of Clinton is on par with my opinion of Jeb Bush. Neither is crazy, stupid or unelectable, which can’t be said about most other politicians stomping their way around Iowa these days. I’m not a Clinton supporter or opponent. I’m a Clinton agnostic.

Now let’s look at the real scandal—the one in journalism that’s been exposed by this whole episode.

There are two parts to emailgate: One, that Clinton used a personal email account when she served as Secretary of State, and the other, that neither she nor her aides preserved the emails. Break out the fainting couches and the smelling salts.

The first article about this episode (sorry, can’t even call it a scandal) appeared in The New York Times. . . . In what has to be one of the most snide journalistic defenses in a long time, Margaret Sullivan, the Times public editor, calls detractors of the piece as just Hilary supporters and dismisses most of the criticism by helpfully linking to the 2009 Federal Register, which lists an exceptionally technical series of regulations relating to the use and preservation of emails. She even cites a place to look, section 1236.22b. With all those numbers and letters, and the information coming out of a document as dull as the Federal Register, the story must be true, right?

In fact, the very rule that Sullivan cites contradicts the primary point of the Times story. For everyone except the two people who actually followed the link Sullivan posted, here is what the section actually says:
"Agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system."
Catch the problem? The regulation itself, through its opening words, “specifically designates that employees of certain agencies are allowed to use non-federal email systems.” And one of those agencies just happened to be…drumroll please.… The State Department. In other words, not only was the use of a personal email account not a violation of the rules, it was specifically allowed by the rules.

Secretary of State Colin Powell did the same thing. And, just a tidbit—so did every other Secretary of State up until the current one, John Kerry. Why? Because the rules changed in 2014, after Clinton left office, and now it’s required to use a federal system. If Kerry used a personal account, he would be violating a regulation. Clinton did not.

[L]et’s get to part two of emailgate—that the agencies are required to make sure emails from non-federal accounts are preserved. Here is what the Times article says about that: Clinton "may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.

Let’s dismantle this one part at a time. There is a term in journalism for the word may. It’s called a weasel word, which helps readers gloss over what the story is really saying: That the Times doesn’t know if the regulations were violated, but it sure sounds good to suggest that it could have been.

Then there is the part about how “Clinton and her aides failed” to preserve the records. Well, guess what? Under the very same regulation that Sullivan cites, it is not the responsibility of the email senders, recipients or their aides to make sure that the records are preserved. It is the responsibility of the State Department itself, which does so through technical analysis of all of the systems being used.
Every email that Clinton sent to any federal email account was preserved, automatically. And what kind of preservation systems existed in the server for Clinton’s personal emails that didn’t go into a federal server? Were they copied into the DoD–5015.2 STD-certified product (a lot of techno-speak which means a particular record-keeper)? Was there an automatic relay out of the server into a preservation system? Hell, my email account has that.  

The Times article makes it sound like Clinton just opened up a Gmail account and started sending emails without any consideration for the State Department techno-geeks responsible for following the rules and regulations,which, again, allowed for private email accounts to be used.

[A]s Clinton said on Tuesday, the server in question is the same one used by former President Bill Clinton and is located on private property, guarded by the Secret Service. 

The rest of the stories Sullivan links to show things such as Democrats reacting to the Times story and that Clinton’s daughter Chelsea had an email account on the same domain name. (Which is a truly bizarre point, since every employee at the State Department—down to the lowliest person on the rung of authority—would be using the same domain name as Clinton if she was on the federal system.)

The end question: Was security compromised? Was the process she used inappropriate or create any dangers? Or was it potentially safer, with more protections than exist in the federal system? I don’t know. But what’s sad here is, neither do the reporters who are huffing and puffing about this folderol. And aren’t journalists supposed to know if there is a scandal before declaring that one exists?

Remember  one thing: if the New York Times and other major outlets had done real reporting and challenged Bush/Cheney assertions, the entire Iraq War debacle might have been avoided.  Despite this reality, we some of the same players making the same lazy ass mistakes that were made back then.  Before you write stories about scandals, make sure one actually exists. 

Oil Price Drops Raise Fears of Unrest From Venezuela to Iraq to Russia

For years - actually decades - oil producing countries (think OPEC) have played a game of economic blackmail on non-oil producing nations, worked to keep oil prices high and enjoyed power and influence that under any other standard they did not deserve.  The side effect that they seemingly never thought through was that over time, such blackmail (i) made exploration and production feasible in places it had never existed, (ii) made secondary and tertiary recovery economically practicable, and (iii) made alternate fuels attractive and more competitive.  The end result has been more worldwide production and falling oil prices - and revenues that have often propped up failed regimes.  As a piece in the New York Times notes, the chickens could be about to come home to roost as falling prices are setting the stage for possible political unrest.  Here are article excerpts:
Oil, the lifeblood of many countries that produce and sell it, appears to be rapidly turning into an ever-cheaper economic curse.

A year ago, the international price per barrel of oil was about $103. By Monday, the price was about $42, roughly 6 percent lower than on Friday.

In oil-endowed Iraq, where an Islamic State insurgency and fractious sectarian politics are growing threats, a new source of instability erupted this month with violent protests over the government’s failure to provide reliable electricity and explain what has been done with all the promised petroleum money. 

In Russia, a leading oil producer, consumers are now paying far more for imports, largely because of their currency’s plummeting value. 

In Nigeria and Venezuela, which rely almost completely on oil exports, fears of unrest and economic instability are building. 

In Ecuador, where oil revenue has fallen by nearly half since last year, tens of thousands of demonstrators pour into the streets every week, angered by the government’s economic policies.

Even in wealthy Saudi Arabia, where the ruling family spends oil money lavishly to preserve its legitimacy, the government has been burning through roughly $10 billion a month in foreign exchange holdings to help pay expenses, and it is borrowing in the financial markets for the first time since 2007. Other Arab countries in the Persian Gulf that are dependent on oil exports, including Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain, are facing fiscal deficits for the first time in two decades.

[N]ew anxieties about frailties in China, the world’s most voracious consumer of energy, have raised fears that the price of oil, now 30 percent lower than it was just a few months ago, could remain depressed far longer than even the most pessimistic projections, and do even deeper damage to oil exporters.

Although the price drop has most directly hurt oil exporters, it also may signal a new period of global economic fragility that could hurt all countries — an anxiety that already has been evident in the gyrating stock markets.

The price drop also has become an indirect element in the course of Syria’s civil war and other points of global tension. Countries that once could use their oil wealth as leverage, like Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, may no longer have as much influence, some political analysts said. Iran, which once asserted it could withstand the antinuclear embargo of its oil by the West, appeared to have rethought that calculation in reaching an agreement on its nuclear activities last month.

[W]hile lower oil prices stimulate economies of consuming countries, a protracted decline carries many unanticipated consequences — starting with the economic weakness in developing countries that buy increasing amounts of goods from the United States and others in the industrialized world.

A supply glut has been evident for some time, driven partly by a vast increase in Saudi production and a growing energy self-sufficiency in the United States, which was once heavily reliant on Middle East oil.

Saudi Arabia not only is producing a record amount, but also is increasing the number of rigs drilling for future production. And its Gulf allies, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, are following suit. . . . all the exporters in the Middle East are struggling with each other to protect Asian markets, now that the United States is using much less of their oil.

The global glut is likely to worsen if the nuclear deal with Iran is approved, potentially releasing as much as one million more barrels onto the 94-million-barrel-a-day global market in a year or so.  Iran’s oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, has made no secret about his country’s intentions. “We will be raising our oil production at any cost, and we have no other alternative,” he was quoted Sunday in Iran’s state-run news media as saying.

The big change in recent years has been the surge of United States oil production, adding more than four million barrels a day to global supplies. But in recent months the oversupply has been driven primarily by the Saudis, who have flooded the market in what economists regard as a deliberate attempt to drive down the price so that other high-cost producers can no longer compete — most notably the Americans.

“The hemorrhaging of government budgets reliant on oil will force dramatic cuts in spending or dangerous increases in borrowing, if not both,” Mr. Goldwyn said. “The countries without significant foreign exchange reserves are most at risk, and they include Nigeria, Angola, Algeria, Venezuela and Iraq. The countries which need to sustain investment to maintain political legitimacy need to be worried, and that’s Brazil, Russia and even Iran.”

[A] longer-term worry about possible miscalculations by Saudi Arabia, on both the duration and magnitude of the oil price drop.

“With a burgeoning population looking for jobs, education and health care every day,” she said, “the expensive social contract between the royal family and Saudi citizens will get more difficult, and eventually impossible, to sustain if oil prices do not recover.”
Past greed, arrogance and shortsightedness may well upset the political apple cart in many countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Russia.