Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Russian Lawmaker Threatens Pro-Gay Athletes & Tourists

From Gay Star News
A Russian lawmaker has said the ‘gay propaganda’ law will remain enforced during the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in 2014. 
Vitaly Milonov, co-sponsor of the ‘non-traditional relationships’ bill, said the government cannot decide when to selectively enforce the law. 
It comes as the International Olympic Committee said the Russian government had ‘assured’ them all athletes and spectators will be safe from arrest. 
Speaking to Interfax and as translated by GSN, Milonov said: ‘I have not heard any comments from the government of the Russian Federation but I know it is acting in accordance with Russian law. 
‘If a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn’t have the authority.’
A Russian lawmaker has said the ‘gay propaganda’ law will remain enforced during the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in 2014.
Vitaly Milonov, co-sponsor of the ‘non-traditional relationships’ bill, said the government cannot decide when to selectively enforce the law.
It comes as the International Olympic Committee said the Russian government had ‘assured’ them all athletes and spectators will be safe from arrest.
Speaking to Interfax and as translated by GSN, Milonov said: ‘I have not heard any comments from the government of the Russian Federation but I know it is acting in accordance with Russian law.
‘If a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn’t have the authority.’
- See more at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/russian-lawmaker-we-will-arrest-gay-athletes-tourists-olympic-games300713#sthash.VrsYwMs8.d

A Russian lawmaker has said the ‘gay propaganda’ law will remain enforced during the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in 2014.
Vitaly Milonov, co-sponsor of the ‘non-traditional relationships’ bill, said the government cannot decide when to selectively enforce the law.
It comes as the International Olympic Committee said the Russian government had ‘assured’ them all athletes and spectators will be safe from arrest.
Speaking to Interfax and as translated by GSN, Milonov said: ‘I have not heard any comments from the government of the Russian Federation but I know it is acting in accordance with Russian law.
‘If a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn’t have the authority.’
- See more at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/russian-lawmaker-we-will-arrest-gay-athletes-tourists-olympic-games300713#sthash.VrsYwMs8.dpufA Russian lawmaker has said the ‘gay propaganda’ law will remain enforced during the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in 2014.
Vitaly Milonov, co-sponsor of the ‘non-traditional relationships’ bill, said the government cannot decide when to selectively enforce the law.
It comes as the International Olympic Committee said the Russian government had ‘assured’ them all athletes and spectators will be safe from arrest.
Speaking to Interfax and as translated by GSN, Milonov said: ‘I have not heard any comments from the government of the Russian Federation but I know it is acting in accordance with Russian law.
‘If a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn’t have the authority.’
- See more at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/russian-lawmaker-we-will-arrest-gay-athletes-tourists-olympic-games300713#sthash.VrsYwMs8.dpuf

Unconstitutional Overreach By Baton Rouge Police

Monday, July 29, 2013

Marriage News Watch: July 29, 2013

NBC's Olympic Coverage of Russian Homophobia

From the Los Angeles Times
NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus said NBC would provide coverage of Russia's anti-gay laws if the controversial measures surface as an issue during the upcoming Winter Olympics. 
Political tensions and cultural differences have long provided a vivid backdrop for the Games, and NBC expects that tradition to continue next year in Sochi, Russia. The Winter Olympics are set to begin Feb. 6.
Lazarus sought to tamp down speculation that Russia's recently enacted anti-gay laws could upstage the athletes or competitions. "Governments across the world have different laws," he said. Lazarus also stopped short of saying NBC would use its huge platform to advocate against the laws. 
One of the measures, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, forbids the adoption of Russian-born children by homosexuals. Another measure allows Russian authorities to detain tourists and foreign nationals who are gay.

NC Gov. Will Sign Voting Bill He Doesn't Understand

Governor Pat McCrory (R-NC)
From Think Progress:
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) said Friday he would sign a bill passed by the North Carolina legislature that would become the most suppressive voting law in the nation. But when asked to speak about a provision in the bill that would prohibit 17-year-olds from registering in advance of their 18th birthday, McCrory admitted he “did not know enough” and had not read that portion of the bill. 
The bill, passed just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act and paved the way for new suppressive state laws, imposes a laundry list of new restrictions on access to the ballot, including eliminating same-day registration, cutting early voting, easing campaign contribution limits, and expanding the mechanisms for alleging voter fraud. In remarks saying he would sign the bill, McCrory focused on his support for the bill’s voter ID requirement — a particularly suppressive and discriminatory policy that McCrory has long supported. But when asked by an Associated Press reporter about another provision in the bill to limit new voter registration opportunities, McCrory said, “I don’t know enough. I’m sorry. I haven’t read that portion of the bill.”
When a reporter repeated the original question, McCrory said same-day registration concerns him because of the “possibility for abuse.” He added: “There’s plenty of opportunity for voter registration — online, off-line, through many methods. I thought that was a fair system before, and I think it’s a fair system now.” The Associated Press pointed out that North Carolina has no online voter registration, although voters can download a form online and print it out.
Someone who can't be bothered to read a bill before voting on it or signing/vetoing it should not be in office. 

RWNJ's Threaten Government Shutdown Over Obamacare

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Multiple States Report Lower Health Care Premiums

Health premiums in Maryland’s exchanges will be “among the lowest of the 12 states that have available proposed or approved rates for comparison,” the state’s exchange — Maryland Health Connection — announced Friday. The news comes just asNew York,Oregon, Montana, California, andLouisiana are also reporting lower than expected premiums. 
In Maryland, a 25-year-old will be able to purchase a plan that is more comprehensive than policies currently available on the individual market for $114 per month, while a middle aged adult will have to pay approximately $260 per month for insurance. A 21-year-old non-smoker can start as low as $93 a month. Officials say they used their authority to deny rate increases to reduce the proposed premiums by “more than 50 percent.” Thirty other states have have similar authority.

Georgia GOP Wants to Scrap the 17th Amendment

Sen. Chambliss (R-GA)
From the National Memo
The Douglas County Sentinel reports that state representatives Dustin Hightower, Mike Dudgeon, Buzz Brockway, Josh Clark, Kevin Cooke, and Delvis Dutton — all Republicans — have introduced a resolution to repeal the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 17th Amendment, which was adopted in 1913, mandated that senators be elected by popular vote; before its passage, senators were selected by state legislatures. 
Cooke, who authored the resolution, told the Sentinel “It’s a way we would again have our voice heard in the federal government, a way that doesn’t exist now.” 
“This isn’t an idea of mine,” he added. “This was what James Madison was writing. This would be a restoration of the Constitution, about how government is supposed to work.” 
Successfully repealing the amendment would require two-thirds approval by both houses of Congress, followed by ratification by at least 38 states — giving the Georgia lawmakers next to no chance of accomplishing their goal. After all, most voters would prefer to keep the power to elect their own representatives — especially considering the pervasive corruption that has characterized the election process within state legislatures.
It seems as though Georgia Republicans do not want to hear the voice of the people, at least not unless the people are with them. That says a lot about these Republicans.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Openly Gay Skater on Russian Homophobia/Olympics

“The fact that Russia is arresting my people, and openly hating a minority and violating human rights all over the place is heartbreaking and a travesty of international proportions. … I respect the LGBT community full heartedly, but I implore the world not to boycott the Olympic Games because of Russia’s stance on LGBT rights or lack thereof.” 
He added, “I beg the gay athletes not to forget their missions and fight for a chance to dazzle the world. … Olympics are history, and they do not represent their host, they represent the world entire. People make their own futures, and should a government or sponsor steal that future, whether it be a Russian government or American government, it is, as an athlete, the death and total demolition of a lifetime of work. Support the athletes.
There isn’t a police officer or a government that, should I qualify, could keep me from competing at the Olympics.”

A Bill Precluding Rapists From Custodial Rights

Rep. Schultz (D-FL)

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) held a press conference to explain their recently-introduced legislation designed to help rape survivors maintain full custody rights over their children. The lawmakers were joined by Shauna Prewitt, a rape survivor and victims’ rights advocate who was forced to endure the type of custody battle with her rapist that the bill seeks to prevent. 
The Rape Survivor Child Custody Act would provide funding incentives to states that have laws allowing mothers of children conceived through rape to “seek court-ordered termination of the parental rights of her rapist.” These states would receive federal grant funding for programs authorized under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). 
Currently, 31 states have no custodial rights protections for mothers of children conceived in rape. Of the 19 states that do have some protections, only six reach the standard advocated by the proposed bill...
It will be interesting to see how people against this bill justify their position.

Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA) Gets Trolled on Facebook

To Cenk's point at the end, it is completely valid. Some people, primarily Cuccinelli's supporters, would say that it is none of anyone's business what Mr. Cuccinelli does with his wife. I would have two responses to this claim. One: if it is none of the voters' business what an elected official does with his partner, why is what the voters do with their partners any of the government's business? Two: what we are really talking about is whether or not the potential governor - leader of the Commonwealth of Virginia - has violated the very law for which he has ardently expressed support on multiple occasions. Asking a political candidate whether or not he has broken a law is completely above board. If the question is of too personal a nature for him to want to answer, then he needs to re-evaluate his support of that law.

This trolling couldn't have happened to a more deserving person.

Ohio AG Strikes Against Terminally Ill Man

Ohio AG Mike DeWine
From Think Progress
In his final days, Arthur wants to honor his commitment to his husband. He wants his own death certificate to list Obergefell as his “surviving spouse.” And he wants to die knowing that his partner of 20 years can someday be buried next to him in a family plot bound by a directive that only permits his lawfully wedded spouse to be interred alongside him. And, on Monday, a federal judge ruled that Arthur should indeed have the dignity of dying alongside a man that Ohio will recognize as his husband
And now, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) wants to take that dignity away from Mr. Arthur. The day after a judge issued a temporary restraining order requiring Ohio to list Arthur’s husband as his “surviving spouse” on his death certificate, DeWine announced that he would appeal this decision and try to strip a dying man of his final wish
There are marriage equality cases with sweeping national implications. This is not one of them. The judge’s order is limited exclusively to Arthur and Obergefell. Indeed, as the judge explains, “there is absolutely no evidence that the State of Ohio or its citizens will be harmed by the issuance” of an order requiring Ohio to acknowledge the two men’s marriage. “No one beyond Plaintiffs themselves will be affected by such a limited order at all.”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Maverick is Back

Mitch McConnell's Primary Problem

It looks like things are about to get pretty interesting for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in his 2014 re-election bid. Kentucky businessman Matt Bevin has decided to offer himself up as a primary challenger in the Bluegrass State, and it looks like McConnell is about to get a pretty undiluted taste of what's been making House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) life a "living hell" lately. 
Yesterday, the National Review's Katrina Trinko reported that Bevin -- then "on the cusp" of announcing his run -- had been the target of much cajoling, and later, threats, from the McConnell camp:

“Mitch McConnell’s people reached out to Matt for several months through all different avenues trying to convince him not to run,” the adviser close to Bevin tells National Review Online. “They can pretend like they’re not afraid, they can call him a nuisance, but they were desperate not to have him. Because they are scared.”
“First they tried to threaten him,” the source added, “and then they tried to dangle shiny political prizes.”

McConnell, through campaign manager Jesse Benton, issued the standard denials, telling Trinko that no one from his camp had ever said anything to Bevin. He went on to allege that if anyone had cautioned Bevin against a run, it was "people from Matt's life" who were "desperately trying to prevent Matt from making a serious mistake." The McConnell campaign, Benton told Trinko, had a wealth of opposition material to use on Bevin. 
It was this sort of scenario that cost the Republican Party control of the Senate in the 2010 midterm elections. the GOP could have picked up another couple of seats, perhaps even that of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), were it not for some really far right and "not ready for primetime" candidates in nevada, Deleware, Connecticut, and elsewhere. The "establishment" Republican faced a primary challenge from a farther right candidate, the farther right candidate won the primary only to be defeated by a Democrat. It appears that the party (or at least the Tea Party sect thereof) has not learned from recent mistakes. Having said all of that, it is unlikely for the Democrats to win this particular Senate seat in conservative Kentucky. the potential candidate with the greatest shot was actor Ashley judd, but she decided months ago not to run. Regardless of that however, the details of this story paints McConnell in an even more unflattering light, compounding other recent goings-on he has had challenging his leadership. These are not good times to be Senator Mitch McConnell.

The Politics of Raising the Minimum Wage

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

More Lies From Social Conservative Groups

From Towleroad
This time around, NOM and The Heritage Foundation are trying to present pseudo-scientific data linking marriage equality with single motherhood, children in poverty, and the claim that men will start to leave their wives if they are allowed to marry other men.  
The data in question comes via a chart publicized by the two groups, comparing rates of poverty of single-mother households to that of two-parent households. Not surprisingly, when compared side-by-side, single-mother households ranked significantly higher. While this may not come as a shock to very many, subsequent arguments made by Heritage's Ryan T. Anderson just might:
"Redefining marriage further distances marriage from the needs of children and denies the importance of mothers and fathers. Redefining marriage rejects as a matter of policy the ideal that children need a mother and a father. Redefining marriage diminishes the social pressures for husbands to remain with their wives and children, and for men and women to marry before having children."
In other words, "redefining marriage" would create more of these single-mother households, since husbands will no longer feel obligated to stay with their wives after they have children. This would then lead to increased levels of poverty, much like the ones illustrated in the chart. Alvin McEwen was good enough to point out that “the Heritage Foundation offers no proof that marriage equality leads to single-mother families.” Furthermore, ThinkProgress also observes that...
"The study is based on census data and presents no comparable information about the experience of children in same-sex families. This follows a long trend of conservative groups citing studies about “fatherless” children — those being raised by single mothers — and trying to attribute those results to families headed by lesbian couples."
Conversely, I would posit that if we were rid of equality bans specifically and homophobia in general, there would be fewer broken homes that result from gay people being pressured by society - particularly in socially conservative areas - into "straight' marriages. I have read far too many stories where someone tried to play it straight, got married, and had kids, only to reach their breaking point and come out or get caught by a loved one. This anti-gay societal coercion has caused far too much heartache and it needs to be brought to an end.

You would think that organizations that are supposedly christian in nature and are supported heavily by Christians would adhere to the whole "thou shalt not bear false witness" thing. Unfortunately they are yet more groups that are highly selective when it comes to the bible. Their biblical philosophy seems to be "read the parts that can be used to demagogue against people I don't like and forget the rest."

To Boycott or Not to Boycott the Olympics: Part 2

I recently wrote a post about how some people are calling for a boycott of next year’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia given the country’s enactment of laws which we in the States - as well as others in the western world - would say violate the freedom of speech. While that post primarily addressed a formal boycott by the United States Olympic Committee - thus precluding participation by American athletes - it has since been brought to my attention that I did not mention a critical part of the discussion: the safety of sports fans in attendance of the Games.

While in the first post I mentioned that the USOC boycotting the Games or the United States government issuing a travel ban would be tragic for the athletes whose dreams would be crushed, fans not going to the Games is a completely different story. People deciding not to go of their own volition makes total sense, but this is something that goes beyond just next year’s Olympic Games. Just this week the first tourists were arrested under Russia’s draconian homophobic laws. According to the Huffington Post, four Dutch tourists were put in jail as they were suspected of “promoting homosexuality” to children. These laws are not just endangering gay people (which would be bad enough), but also allies and anyone else who believes in free speech.

With the radically anti-gay laws they have put in place, Russia has set itself amongst the ranks nations in the Middle East and Africa where most countries outlaw being supportive of homosexuality as well as homosexuality itself, even to the point where being gay will get you a state-sanctioned execution. As such, a concerted tourism boycott of Russia and a boycott of Russian products is something I can support. It should also be incumbent upon  the United States Department of State and its foreign counterparts to issue travel advisories. While we in the LGBT community are aware of what is happening given that we are the primary target of these laws, many people outside of the LGBT community are unaware and thus they risk being thrown behind bars for saying the wrong thing. They will not even know why they are being jailed. 

Whether or not even this will be enough to change Russia’s stance on LGBT equality and freedom of speech remains to be seen. However it is also incumbent upon the international community to make sure Russian officials how this makes Russia appear: as an archaic state that seeks to crush minority rights, trample free speech, and oppress its people. The fact of the matter is that instead of striding forward into the future where people‘s rights are concerned as it had been doing before, Russia is now pulling itself back into its own dark past where human rights mean nothing. It is high time Russia entered the 21st century with the rest of the world.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA), "I Am Deeply Sorry..."

Gov. Bob McDonnell has repaid the roughly $120,000 in loans that he and his wife received from a wealthy donor and expressed sorrow for the “embarrassment” brought upon the state.
“I am deeply sorry for the embarrassment certain members of my family and I brought upon my beloved Virginia and her citizens,” McDonnell said in a statement released today by a spokesman for his private legal team.   
“I want you to know that I broke no laws and that I am committed to regaining your sacred trust and confidence. I hope today’s action is another step toward that end.” 
McDonnell paid back $52,278 for a loan that Jonnie Williams Sr., CEO of Star Scientific, made to  first lady Maureen McDonnell in 2011, and $71,837 for two other loans in 2012 to the real estate business owned by the governor and his sister, according to the release...
...McDonnell strongly indicated that he plans to stay in office while facing state and federal probes relating to his relationship with Williams. 
Between governor McDonnell's corruption, support of invasive/mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasounds and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's homophobia, the Commonwealth's republicans have made Virginia a national joke. And we should let them have power in the state because...?

Would Your Child Pass the Predator Test?

Kentucky Dumps Private Prisons

Court Allows Chevron To Seize Americans' Email Data

From Mother Jones
Last month, a federal court granted Chevron access to nine years of email metadata—which includes names, time stamps, and detailed location data and login info, but not content—belonging to activists, lawyers, and journalists who criticized the company for drilling in Ecuador and leaving behind a trail of toxic sludge and leaky pipelines. Since 1993, when the litigation began, Chevron has lost multiple appeals and has been ordered to pay plaintiffs from native communities about $19 billion to cover the cost of environmental damage. Chevron alleges that it is the victim of a mass extortion conspiracy, which is why the company is asking Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, which owns Hotmail, to cough up the email data. When Lewis Kaplan, a federal judge in New York, granted the Microsoft subpoena last month, he ruled it didn't violate the First Amendment because Americans weren't among the people targeted. 
Now Mother Jones has learned that the targeted accounts do include Americans—a revelation that calls the validity of the subpoena into question. The First Amendment protects the right to speak anonymously, and in cases involving Americans, courts have often quashed subpoenas seeking to discover the identities and locations of anonymous internet users. Earlier this year, a different federal judge quashed Chevron's attempts to seize documents from Amazon Watch, one of the company's most vocal critics. That judge said the subpoena was a violation of the group's First Amendment rights. In this case, though, that same protection has not been extended to activists, journalists, and lawyers' email metadata.
The moral of the story: if you want to be beyond the reach of the law, you should work for big oil.

Monday, July 22, 2013

GOP Chairman Priebus Isn't A Fan of "Tolerance"

Marriage News Watch: July 22, 2013

Cuccinelli Makes Virginia a Punchline...Literally

Detriot's Bankruptcy: Bankers Versus Pensioners

To Boycott or Not Boycott the Olympics?

Over the course of the last year, Russia has passed many draconian laws regarding the LGBT community. One such law makes it illegal to spread pro-gay "propaganda," except the law's definition of propaganda is extremely broad. The Pride Parades that go on in much of the world during the Summer months are for all intents and purposes outlawed throughout Russia. Anyone flying a rainbow flag, anyone who tells children that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, and same-sex couples holding hands risk being thrown behind bars. Such laws in the States would be a violation of the freedom of association and freedom of speech which are guaranteed by the first amendment of the United States Constitution. The punishments can run up to a 200,000 ruble fine (which is several thousand U.S. dollars) and jail time. Travelers from outside the country could be detained for 14 days before being deported In short, being "out and proud," or even supporting that notion, is against Russian law. Insulting religious feelings can result in a one year prison term.

With all of this and more (Russia will no longer allow same-sex couple and gay people in general to adopt children from out of the country) in mind, there are LGBT groups in the States calling for the United States Olympic Committee to boycott the 2014 Olympics which will be held in Sochi, Russia (a similar thing happened with human rights watch dog groups calling for a boycott of the Olympic Games held in Beijing, China because of that nation's human rights violations), while other groups are saying that a boycott is a bad idea.

I see both sides of this problem but I think I have come to my own personal conclusion. First and foremost, there are absolutely ZERO excuses for what Russia has done. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that these laws were passed in order to protect children from pedophilia, which shows how categorically ignorant he and members of Russia's government are when it comes to homosexuality. The mayor of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is cutting the city's ties with Russia given its homophobic actions. It is the duty of the international community to put pressure on Russia regarding its homophobic laws. I 100% support boycotting vacationing in Russia, purchasing Russian products, etc.

Having said that, I can not say that I support the United States Olympic Committee boycotting the Sochi Games as many are calling for them to do. We are talking about athletes who have spent day-after-day for several years training for the opportunity to represent their country in the Olympic games. These are people's dreams. For some, this will be their last/only chance at making it to the Olympics since they only come around once every four years. I would sincerely hate to see all of that work come to naught but might-have-beens in the end. On a slightly selfish note, Meryl Davis and Charlie White have a really good shot at winning the gold in Ice Dance and I would LOVE to see that happen.

American Figure Skater Johnny Weir
On a more practical point, I do not believe that America alone boycotting the Games would suffice to sway Russia beyond a symbolic gesture (not to belittle symbolic gestures). The only way to truly sway Russia by way of the Olympics would be to either move the Olympics out of Russia or to have several major nations boycott the Games in a concerted effort. The former is logistically impossible and the chances of the latter happening are infinitesimal.

Using the Olympics for political reasons, even benevolent political reasons, is always a dodgy prospect. The way to get Russia to change its course will not involve five rings. Possibly reaching the Sochi Games is openly gay American figure skater Johnny Weir, who has in the past expressed an affinity for any things Russian (he is married to a Russian man). New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup, also openly gay, has said that should he make it to the Sochi Games, he will march in wearing a rainbow pin that he got from his visit to the London Games in 2012 which were far more gay friendly. These and other openly gay athletes have an opportunity to offer something to fly in the face of these Russian laws: defiance. At least hundreds of millions of people will be watching these games and if Russian authorities had the audacity to actually enforce these laws, it would be huge news that would shed an incredibly unflattering light on the discrimination happening there.

If I thought that America's absence from the Games would genuinely make a difference, then I would be humming a different tune. But as things are, I simply do not see that happening. It would be a shame to see the dreams and years-long hard work of so many athletes go up in smoke.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Problem With the GOP's "Hastert Rule"

Former Speaker Dennis Hastert
The so-called Hastert Rule is an informal rule that House Republicans have where the speaker will not bring up something for a floor vote unless it is supported by a majority of the majority. To my knowledge, House Democrats do not have a similar rule.

From Salon:
Today, Boehner's violations of the Hastert rule have angered conservatives who see themselves as the ones marginalized by his ability to get around their demands. Under pressure, Boehner has repeatedly reassured them that he won't break the rule again when it comes to immigration reform. Something resembling the bill that has passed the Senate would likely pass the House if it came to a floor vote, with a majority of Democrats and a minority of Republicans in support. But Boehner has made clear he won't allow that to happen. 
Back when the Hastert rule first became a thing, a Hastert spokesman named John Feehery defended it to the Washington Post. "If you pass major bills without the majority of the majority, then you tend not to be a long-term speaker," Feehery said, adding, "I think [Hastert] was prudent to listen to his members." 

That's what the Hastert rule is really about, Feehery, now a lobbyist and consultant, told me recently -- political survival. It's just common sense: The speaker is elected by a majority vote of his caucus; if he does things a majority of his caucus doesn't like, they can vote him out. 
Feehery actually wrote the speech in which Hastert laid out the rule that bears his name. He coined the catchy phrase "majority of the majority." And now he thinks Boehner ought to ditch the Hastert rule. 
Feehery outlined his thinking in a blog post in January. In a recent interview, he elaborated: Given the current "ungovernable" state of the House GOP caucus, he told me, Boehner must balance the risk to his own standing with the "larger reputational risk" to the Republican Party of things like, say, blocking the Violence Against Women Act -- which would have happened had Boehner not violated the Hastert rule to get it through with the votes of just 38 percent of his members. 
Any time a Republican House member talks about majority rule and democracy, they should have the Hastert Rule thrown in their face. It seems that when the GOP is in power in the House of Representatives, they forget it is the people's House and not the GOP's House. If a piece of legislation has the support of a majority of all the duly elected members of the House, it should come up for a vote. Otherwise, it appears that the House has its own version of the Senate's filibuster, and both are destructive abuses of power that demonstrate how against democracy the GOP - in actuality - is.

The Religious Wrong: Only Christians Can Graduate

Arizona is throwing its hat into the theocracy ring. Arizona House Bill 2467 states the following: 
Beginning in the 2013‑2014 school year, In addition to fulfilling the course of study and assessment requirements prescribed in this chapter, before a pupil is allowed to graduate from a public high school in this state, the principal or head teacher of the school shall verify in writing that the pupil has recited the following oath:

I, _________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God.
Though I'm a Christian, I'm a firm believer in the separation of church and state (for the benefit of both) as prescribed by Thomas Jefferson and the establishment clause of the first amendment to the United States Constitution. This law is a crystal clear violation of that Constitution that has very little chance of withstanding a court challenge.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

No Wonder Republicans Are Anti-Immigration Reform

Hispanic Party ID, With Independent Leaners Allocated, January-June 2013

Gee, I wonder what Rep. Michele Bachmann has to say about this issue...

It is interesting that here we have a member of the Republican party worried about Democrats getting into power and changing election law when Republicans have come into power in several states and - you guessed it - changed election law. The problem is that when Republicans change election law, there is less access to voting. They eliminate early voting/reduce early voting periods, they pass ID laws that disproportionately affect people that are less likely to vote for Republicans, etc. It is a well known fact that the lower the turnout on Election Day, the better it is for the GOP.

It is also both interesting and telling that the arguments Mrs. Bachmann is making are purely political. The primary reason that she is against the immigration bill has nothing to do with people's rights and has everything to do with how it affects the Republican party. Way to show how much you care about liberty and freedom. Then again, we already know how much (read: little) she cares about liberty and freedom. What she - and the rest of her party - seem unable to realize is that the reason people are not voting for them is because of their policies...and how much those policies suck. If you want to regain power, you have to come up with better ideas than the GOP-led House voting against Obamacare 37 times at a total cost of 55 million dollars to the taxpayers, filibustering everything you do not like in the Senate, and saying that your number one job is defeating the President. These are the "ideas" that have led the GOP nationally. Clearly, America believes it deserves better...and America DOES deserve better.

Also, spanking the President? Those are really the words she wants to go with? No wonder no one takes her seriously (at least no one in their right mind).

And lastly, if Mrs. Bachmann want to know what is wrong with Congress, she need look no further than the nearest mirror.

International Olympic Committee Warns Russia

"The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation," the statement said. "The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle.” 
The winter Olympic games, which are set to take place in Sochi, Russia in 2014, has been the topic of much contention since the Kremlin passed a law last month prohibiting the distribution of “homosexual propaganda” to minors. 
While the legal definition of “propaganda” remains unclear, there have been several instances of arrest and lawsuit that have helped to carve some of the law’s far-reaching boundaries. 
Reports of arrest for kissing or hold hands, wearing or using rainbows, or pro-gay activism have helped to clarify the definition of “propaganda” as “any statement, oral or otherwise, that is pro-gay.”
With violence against homosexuals on the rise in Russia, a coalition of Russian LGBT rights groups—Russian LGBT Network, LGBT Organization Coming Out, and the Alliance of Straights for LGBT Equality—is warning of “impending tragedy.” 
The group said that the most recent episodes of violence “confirmed the apprehensions of many human rights defenders that Russia’s newly-enacted homophobic legislation would spur a growth in violence and incite action from neo-Nazi groups,” adding that those who are committing the violence can do so because they are aware of their impunity to the law.

Friday, July 19, 2013

North Carolina's Restriction of Voter Access

From the Charlotte Observer
Resurrecting one of the legislative session’s most contentious issues, Senate Republicans unveiled a new voter ID bill Thursday that would further restrict the forms of photo identification accepted at the polls. 
The new measure would require voters to show one of seven types of photo identification issued by the government, such as driver’s licenses, passports, non-driver IDs and military or veteran cards. 
It eliminates about half the types of photo identification allowed under the House version, including cards from UNC system colleges, state community colleges, local governments, private employers and law enforcement agencies. The bill would take full effect in the 2016 elections. 
“We want a state-issued ID or a federal-issued ID,” said Sen. Tom Apodaca, the bill’s chief supporter, expressing concern that college IDs “could be manipulated” and allow out-of-state students to vote in two states.
Republican lawmakers are emboldened in their effort to push a photo identification requirement for in-person voting after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The ruling means the bill would no longer need Justice Department approval before it becomes law.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/07/18/4173935/senate-republicans-unveil-stricter.html#storylink=cp

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/07/18/4173935/senate-republicans-unveil-stricter.html#storylink=cpy~h

Will Wyoming Unleash Another Cheney on America?

Cenk pretty much said it all explicitly, but I just want to point out that the last couple of quotes a mentioned from Liz Cheney make it clear that she would not be going to the Senate in an effort to solve America's problems, she would instead be going specifically to be a road block to obstruct the other side. It is already crystal clear that she would not in any way be a productive member of Congress. There are already too many people like that in Washington and another one is not necessary. Wyoming should do America a favour and not unleash this woman on the rest of us.

Media Ignores Obamacare-Related Premium Drops

Early on Wednesday, as House Republicans prepared to vote for a delay of the Affordable Care Act’s employer and individual mandates, New York state officials announced that health care premiums in the new exchange will plummet by at least 50 percent as a result of the law. 
For reform advocates, the story represented a reprieve from the constant drum beat of media coverage about implementation delays, predictions of rate shock, and employers dropping coverage. But a ThinkProgress analysis of television reports about the health care law for Wednesday, July 18th, confirms that even with good news to report, bookers and segment producers are still far more interested in broadcasting stories about the political brinkmanship in Washington, DC than the actual, tangible progress of implementation. New York joined Oregon, Montana, California, and Louisiana in reporting lower than expected rates in the law’s new health care marketplaces.
As it already stands, 40 percent of Americans don’t know whether the Affordable Care Act is actually law, and for that, the media may be at least partly to blame. 
Mainstream media fails yet again.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ex-Gay Group Sued For Consumer Fraud

On Friday (July 19) the New Jersey Superior Court will hear arguments in the lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center against the group Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing. 
The complaint says the Jersey City-based JONAH’s practices violate the state’s Consumer Fraud Act by falsely promising that it can help clients change their sexuality from gay to straight. 
“JONAH profits off of shameful and dangerous attempts to fix something that isn’t broken,” Christine P. Sun, deputy legal director for the SPLC, said when the lawsuit was filed last November. 
“Despite the consensus of mainstream professional organizations that conversion therapy doesn’t work, this racket continues to scam vulnerable gay men and lesbians out of thousands of dollars and inflicts significant harm on them.” 
The suit is being brought by four young men and two of their parents, who claim that JONAH induced them to pay for services by making deceptive claims that sexual orientation is a choice that can be changed.
Reparative therapy is neither reparative nor therapeutic. It is at best a misguided attempt to do the impossible. At worst, it is an outright scam. Either way, it does not work.

Under Cuccinelli, Virginia Won't Be For Lovers

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Marriage Equality Support in Virginia

From Quinnipiac
Virginia voters support 50 - 43 percent allowing same-sex couples to marry in the state. Support is 68 - 26 percent among Democrats and 52 - 39 percent among independent voters. Republicans are opposed 68 - 26 percent. Women back same-sex marriage 55 - 39 percent while men are opposed 49 - 43 percent. White voters support it 51 - 43 percent while black voters are opposed 48 - 42 percent.

Republicans, Terror Suspects, & Guns

From Raw Story

A proposal to ban the sale of firearms to individuals on the FBI’s terrorist watch list was defeated by House Republicans on Wednesday. 
Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and David Price (D-NC) offered an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill that would have given the U.S. Department of Justice authority to block suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms and explosives. 
“Terrorists are knowingly exploiting our laws,” Lowey said, citing American-born al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn
The amendment was defeated in the House Appropriations Committee by a 19-29 vote.

So just for the record, the GOP has positioned itself against universal background checks, AND they are okay with people on the FBI's terrorist watch list having fire arms. No wonder this party is so unpopular.

House Democrats & Republicans Unite Against NSA?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Filibuster Deal That Shamed Mitch McConnell

From Huffington Post:

Democrats not only got much of what they wanted in Tuesday's deal to move some of President Barack Obama's nominees through the Senate, they also got what they see as an important bonus -- casting Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in an unflattering light. 
The unfortunate moment culminated Tuesday morning, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) marched onto the Senate floor not with the leader from Kentucky opposite him to announce a deal to pass the stalled nominees, but with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). 
McCain was there, according to several sources who spoke about private, behind-the-scenes talks on the condition of anonymity, because he and and several other Republicans grew fed up with their own side's stalling tactics and went around McConnell (R-Ky.) to cut the deal with Reid and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), avoiding a "nuclear option" rules change to pass the nominees. 
Reid declined to gloat, but he went out of his way to praise McCain effusively on the Senate floor. 
Democratic aides were less circumspect. 
"Today was really, really bad for him," said one, revealing that McConnell was cut out of the deal and rebuffed by Reid twice when he tried to personally work his way back in -- including just minutes before the Nevada lawmaker went to the floor with McCain...
So much for McConnell's leadership skills. First he couldn't make good on making Obama a 1-term president, now this. 

Massachusetts May Invoke Ex-Gay "Therapy" Ban

From The Advocate

Massachusetts may join the growing list of states that will outlaw gay "conversion therapy" being practiced among minors. 
Testimony in favor of the ban was heard by the Massachusetts Legislature’s Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities on Tuesday. H 154 was sponsored by Rep. Carl Sciortino, and would bar licensed health care professionals from engaging in any type of therapy to "cure" a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, for those under 18 years of age.
The American Psychiatric Association has deemed conversion therapy to be an unproven practice, which it officially opposes.
You can't be cured if you aren't sick to begin with.

Pennsylvania Republican Admits to Voter Suppression

From Think Progress:
Last year, Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai (R-PA) admitted that voter identification efforts were designed to suppress Democratic votes, telling a Republican Steering Committee meeting that Voter ID “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” 
Romney ended up losing the state, but Republicans still believe that they successfully kept Democrats from supporting President Obama. As Pennsylvania’s GOP Chairman Rob Gleason told Pennsylvania Cable Network earlier this week, the party “cut Obama by 5 percent” in 2012 and “probably Voter ID had helped a bit in that.” Watch it:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Not-So-Solid South

...Over the next two decades, it will become clear to even the most clueless Yankee that the Solid South is long gone. The politics of the region’s five most populous states—Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Texas—will be defined by the emerging majority that gave Obama his winning margins. The under-30 voters in these states are ethnically diverse, they lean heavily Democratic, and they are just beginning to vote. The white population percentage is steadily declining; in Georgia, just 52 percent of those under 18 are white, a number so low it would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. 
By the 2020s, more than two-thirds of the South’s electoral votes could be up for grabs. (The South is defined here as the 11 states of the former Confederacy.) If all five big states went blue, with their 111 electoral votes, only 49 votes would be left for Republicans. (That’s based on the current electoral-vote count; after the next census, the fast-growing states will have more.) Win or lose, simply making Southern states competitive is a boon to Democrats. If Republicans are forced to spend time and resources to defend Texas and Georgia, they’ll have less for traditional battlegrounds like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Even if Democrats aren’t competitive in those states for another decade, they will benefit from connecting with millions of nonvoters who haven’t heard their message. They are building for a demographic future that Republicans dread: the time when overwhelming white support will no longer be enough to win a statewide election in Texas and Georgia...
...The demographic big bang didn’t begin in earnest, however, until the 1990s. Large numbers of African Americans had begun moving South in what would become known as the “great remigration.” From the early 20th century until the 1960s, more than seven million blacks fled the Jim Crow South in the Great Migration to pursue a better life, mostly in the industrial North. It was the largest domestic migration in American history. Now hundreds of thousands are returning. Last decade, 75 percent of the growth in America’s black population was in the South. Atlanta and its endless suburbs gained 491,000 African Americans in the past decade, more than any other city. Some are middle-class blacks whose families once relied on government jobs up North that are now disappearing. Some are caring for older relatives left behind in the Great Migration. Some are simply coming home to reunite with their families, finding a region that has undergone seismic changes since the South’s segregated “way of life” finally came to a merciful end. 
While blacks were remigrating, Latino populations were expanding rapidly. Birth statistics tell the story: By 2010, 49 percent of newborns in Texas were Latino. Among the big five Southern states, Virginia has the lowest rate at 12 percent. Hundreds of thousands of young Latinos become eligible to vote in the South every year, and that number will be climbing for decades. At least for now, this strongly favors Democrats, who win Latino votes by large margins. Florida used to be the exception, because first-generation (and often second-generation) Cuban Americans were staunch, anti-communist Republicans. But younger Cuban Americans have joined a new immigrant population in Central Florida to help flip the state in the Democrats’ favor...
...In the South’s new battlegrounds, 2020 shapes up as a pivotal year. If Democrats have gathered enough strength by then to send majorities to Richmond, Raleigh, Atlanta, Tallahassee, and/or Austin, they can tear up the Republican maps from 2011 and make it dauntingly difficult for the GOP to regain its majorities. That’s likeliest to happen in Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina; Democratic majorities could take longer in Texas and Georgia, where Republicans are more deeply entrenched...

The Political Reality of Renewing Glass-Steagall

Monday, July 15, 2013

Marriage News Watch: July 15, 2013

Addressing Leviticus (You Know Which Part)

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination." Leviticus 18:22

"If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death: their blood shall be upon them." -Leviticus 20:13

If you are gay, you have had these words thrown in your face more times than you can count by biblical literalists attempting to excuse homophobic discrimination. I would just like to point out a couple of things regarding these quotes that these folks have overlooked.

First, even if taken literally, these particular verses in no way address lesbians. It seems they are in the clear. Second, if you are a gay man, you would not lie with mankind as you would with womankind because you would not lie with womankind at all. So, I am not really seeing how these verses apply to gay men either. 

If you are bisexual, well, I don't know what to tell you.

And then of course there are the other bits of Leviticus which go completely ignored. The same people calling same-sex relationships abominations forget that they are supposed to kill their kids if they use curse words (20:9), they should be protesting the practices of Red Lobster and any other place that sells shellfish (11:9-12), they should be passing laws against having tattoos (19:28), and the list goes on and on (and that is just the Leviticus stuff, let alone the rest of the Bible).

While there are certainly other Bible verses that are used to denounce homosexuality, these particular Leviticus verses are flimsy at best and do not hold up to the slightest bit of scrutiny.

As I have said elsewhere, using the Bible to denounce homosexuality is a pretense. If this were really about the Bible, they would be publicly protesting a host of things they do not protest while supporting a host of things that they do not currently support. Their focus however is on using the Bible as a weapon against the gay community. As much as they say they are not against gay people and the are simply trying to adhere to the Bible, they have made it very clear that their idea of holiness is cherry-picking the parts of the Bible they like, which includes the parts they deem to be homophobic and not the parts about loving thy neighbour.

Children of Same-Sex Couples Speak Out

Before You Go To Wal-Mart Again...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tweet of the Day: July 13, 2013

The Koch Brothers Claim All of Us Are "Rich"

Russia's Threat To Gay Travelers

From Travel & Escape:
In a throwback to the country’s authoritarian ruling, Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a controversial law that punishes people for “homosexual propaganda.” The law fines people—including tourists—up to 200,000 rubles ($6,240 CDN) for “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” For Canadians—where same-sex marriage is legal—it is unfathomable that Russia’s laws permit the government to arrest and detain gay, or pro-gay, foreigners for up to 14 days before they would then be expelled from the country. 
So what is considered pro-gay? Anything from gay-affirmative speech to hand-holding; even displaying a rainbow flag alongside a maple leaf on your backpack is illegal. Recently in southern Russia, there were complaints that Elton John’s stage outfits fell under “gay propaganda.” While LGBT are being told they are unwelcome in Russia, with such vague definitions, one wonders if anyone who even looks like they might be gay could also be fined or deported from the country
According to Voice of Russia, any display of affection between same-sex couples could cause a “distorted understanding” that gay relations and heterosexual relations are socially equivalent, and risk spreading Western liberalism. Putin claims the law doesn’t discriminate against LGBT people, but rather—in an argument riddled with faulty logic—is there to “protect children from pedophilia.”
Sochi, Russia will be hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics. With openly gay athletes like America's Johnny Weir and New Zealand's Blake Skjellerup possibly competing at the Olympics, as well as openly gay attendants, this poses quite a few problems all around. Usually, such an event like this is where a nation and a city try to showcase their greatness to the wider world. Instead, Russia seems to moving backwards in time with draconian homophobic laws.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Poll: Most Virginians Support Marriage Equality

Today HRC President Chad Griffin is on the ground in Richmond to unveil the results of a new, bipartisan poll showing that Virginians are generally supportive of LGBT equality. The poll found a strong majority of Virginians – 55 percent – support marriage equality. That number jumps to 71 percent for Virginians under the age of 30, indicative of the direction Virginia is moving. A third of Republicans in the commonwealth also support marriage for loving, committed same-sex couples.
Additional findings from the poll include:
Support for marriage equality is high throughout most of Virginia. It stands at:
  • 68 percent in Northern Virginia
  • 53 percent in Central Virginia
  • 51 percent in Eastern Virginia
  • 58 percent of African Americans in Virginia support marriage equality.
In 2006, a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was passed in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Also of note is that this shift is happening just as Virginia is in the midst of a statewide election. On the one hand, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Terry MacAuliffe, supports marriage equality. On the other hand, his Republican counterpart, Ken Cuccinelli (as well as the Republican candidates for Lt. Governor and Attorney General, E.W. Jackson and Mark Obenshain respectively) stand firmly opposed to marriage equality. This, combined with the on-going corruption issues being faced by Cuccinelli, will be a major headache for the Republican candidates over the coming months as the debate about marriage rights continues to rage.

Fighting For Glass-Steagall

A Plea For Tolerance From An Anti-Gay Author

The Return of Glass-Steagall?

From the New York Times:

Senator Elizabeth Warren on Thursday introduced an aggressive piece of legislation that intends to take the financial industry back to an era when there was a strict divide between traditional banking and speculative activities. 
The bill, which is also sponsored by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and two other senators, is named the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act. Its intention is to create a modern version of the seminal Glass-Steagall legislation from the 1930s, which placed firm limits on what regulated banks could do. It was fully repealed in 1999, laying the groundwork for the mergers that created some of the biggest banks of today. If passed, it could force many of those banks to let go of their trading operations. 
Senator Warren’s bill is one of several that have aimed to add far more bite to the overhauls that have been put in place since the financial crisis. The bill serves as a jarring reminder to Wall Street of why it feared her election to the Senate last year.
Senator Warren seemed to acknowledge the battle ahead, but she said that having Senator McCain as an ally was an advantage. “He’s a fighter, and it’s going to take a fighter to get this Glass-Steagall bill through,” she said in a news conference. 
Nostalgia for the original Glass-Steagall Act might help the new bill gain interest. Its supporters say the former law had several straightforward benefits, in contrast to the complex regulations that have been put in place since the crisis, like the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. Glass-Steagall, which had 37 pages, was simple and so easy to put into practice, they say. 
The act also kept banks that use federal deposit insurance out of potentially volatile Wall Street activities, like trading. As a result, problems at investment banks were less likely to infect regulated banks. Losses at the Wall Street operations of Citigroup and Bank of America weighed heavily on those banks during the 2008 crisis.