Monday, July 27, 2015

BSA Votes to Lift Ban on Gay Leaders

The Executive Committee of the Boy Scouts of America has voted to lift its ban on gay leaders and will no longer allow discrimination based upon sexual orientation for paid employees or workers at BSA owned facilities.

Local troops and councils will still have the authority to restrict gay leaders.

Another domino of ignorance and bigotry falls.

There's a ways to go yet and the war is far from over but perhaps someday we'll see the end of discrimination against those who just happen to be different.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

David Barton

I'm not a fan of David Barton. Barton styles himself a historian but often what history he quotes is closer to fantasy or perhaps wishful thinking.

This is a man that wrote a book about Thomas Jefferson called "The Jefferson Lies" that has been so criticized by real historians that his publisher pulled the book.

This is a man that has claimed that there will never be an AIDS vaccine because the disease is God's punishment for homosexuality and that the three branches of US government are based upon the Bible.

Not only does Barton seem to be delusional about American history but on occasion has made claims about his own background that don't appear to bear out under scrutiny such as he smuggled Bibles into the Soviet Union and played on the Oral Roberts varsity basketball team.

So imagine my surprise when Right Wing Watch reported that Barton ripped a caller that claimed the Civil War was fought over states rights a new one. Some Barton quotes.

"It was not about states' rights, it was about slavery..."

This just goes to show you why you have to consider everything anyone says on its own merits. Even someone that is almost always wrong can sometimes be right. The one possible exception to this rule is Tony Perkins. Perkins will probably never be right about anything.

"What we've seen as a result of this is a lot of revision of history. And today, it literally appalls me to see that throughout the south, they still have elementary schools named after Nathan Bedford Forrest..."

This is irony of the 1st magnitude. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

..."(Forest) was one of the great Confederate generals in the Civil War. But you know, Nathan Bedford Forrest was also the founder of the Ku Klux Klan ... We've got elementary schools named after a great murderer?" 

Barton then went on to cite the massacre at Fort Pillow where confederate soldiers murdered surrendering black Union troops.

"When the blacks surrendered...they slaughtered them on the spot. I mean, ISIS-like atrocities: they skinned 'em, they burned them alive, the buried 'em, they drowned 'em, the drug 'em, they hung 'em. These were guys who surrendered, they were prisoners of war."

David Barton telling it like it was.

"The Confederacy had a standing order that any black that you capture is to be killed on the spot. That's not similar values to the north, we're not talking the same value base here."

This was a shock but I give the man credit for having the courage to speak the truth. I can't wait to hear all the right wing whack jobs accuse Barton of "Cultural Cleansing."

Monday, July 20, 2015

A New Republican Poll

An ABC News/Washington Post Poll shows Trump still on top of the heap. As a matter of fact he appears to have gained some. It should be noted however that the poll was taken before his criticism of John McCain's war record.

The poll shows nine candidates. The plus or minus indicates the change from the last ABC News/Washington Post Poll in May.

#1 - Trump - 24% (+20%)
#2 - Walker - 13% (+2%)
#3 - Bush - 12% (+2%)
#4 - Huckabee - 8% (-1%)
#5 - Rubio - 7% (-3%)
#6 - Paul - 6% (-5%)
#7 - Carson - 6% (-2%)
#8 - Cruz - 4% (-4%)
#9 - Perry - 4% (+2%)

I assume the remaining 16% are divided up among the other seven candidates but with no one getting at least 4%.

I'm still convinced that Bush ends up with the nomination. Trump can't help putting his foot in his mouth. Maybe he can be convinced to run as a 3rd party candidate? That might pretty much sink any Republican chances.

Trump can't win a general election and the Republican Party brass knows that. Jeb Bush can win a general election and probably has the best chance of doing so. The Republican Party brass knows that as well. I think Marco Rubio has the 2nd best chance of winning a general election.

On the Democratic side it looks like Hillary Clinton all the way.

#1 - Clinton - 63%
#2 - Sanders - 14%
#3 - Biden - 12%

Saturday, July 18, 2015

So who will be the Republican Nominee?

It's going to be Jeb Bush.

Jeb has amassed a $114 million dollar war chest and is capable of drowning all the other candidates in greenbacks. Let's go through the list. The order is my order of preference. * = has officially declared. (x%, y%) = 1st and 2nd percentages of most recent poll I saw.

#1 - George Patacki* (0%/0%) - At 0% in the polls should be closing down shop any time now.

#2 - Jeb Bush* (11%/7%) - Given his war chest and name, barring some catastrophe, should win the nomination sooner rather than later.

#3 - John Kasich (2%/2%) - Should be dropping out about the same time as Patacki.

#4 - Donald Trump* (15%/12%) - Trump is a flash in the pan that neither the Republican Party nor the country can afford. His recent criticism of John McCain's war record should speed his decent to the trash heap.

 #5 - Marco Rubio* (9%/7%) - I expect Rubio to be around for a while but will ultimately lose to Bush.

#6 - Chris Christie* (6%/8%) - He'll hang around 6%-8% for a while but will quickly disappear once things get serious.

#7 - Rand Paul* (11%/7%) - Probably has more staying power than Christie but has no chance against Bush.

#8 - Carly Fiorina* (3%/5%) - Should be done after Iowa and possibly before.

#9 - Rick Perry* (3%/5%) - In the same boat as Fiorina.

#10 - Lindsey Graham* (0%/1%) - Has no realistic chance of even making the 1st debate cut.

#11 - Ted Cruz* (4%/7%) - Expect Cruz to hang around to the bitter end.

#12 - Scott Walker* (9%/8%) - Same with Walker. He's going to be around for a while if for no other reason than the Koch brothers appear to like him.

#13 - Bobby Jindel* (2%/4%) - Should disappear about the same time as Fiorina if not before.

#14 - Rick Santorum* (2%/4%) - Like an unwanted house guest will probably outstay his welcome just like 2012.

#15 - Ben Carson* (7%/7%) - Gone after New Hampshire as he should get about 4 votes in that state.

#16 - Mike Huckabee* (9%/6%) - Will be on the same bus out of town as Carson if not sooner.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Nuclear Deal with Iran

I read through the summary and the deal looks reasonable to me but, and this is the big but, this isn't my area of expertise so I'll be curious to hear from more knowledgeable folks over the next couple of days.

Of course just about every Republican candidate is criticizing the agreement but they're criticizing it as a matter of policy in broad generalities not as a matter of substance. I've yet to hear anything about any specific issues.

Of course if you're convinced Iran should remain permanently economically hobbled then no agreement is a good deal.

The problem is that such a position is very short sighted and very dangerous. We need to get Iran back into the community of nations and we need them to get more involved in the fight against ISIS.

Of course we can expect Netanyahu to go ape shit over this regardless but I doubt he'll do anything beyond whine and cry persecution. See why he gets along so well with Republicans?

Religious Freedom and the Law

Religious Freedom doesn't mean your religious beliefs trump the law. As a matter of fact, if there is a conflict, the law usually wins.

For instance, Deuteronomy 22 says you should stone to death brides that can't demonstrate their virginity. The law says nah, you can't do that. That is not a violation of your religious freedom.

Of course that doesn't mean laws that directly impact religion always win. The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) restricts government from interfering with religious freedom. The key section states “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability."

However even then it's not absolute. There is an exception if two conditions are met.

(1) The burden must be necessary for the "furtherance of a compelling government interest."

(2) The rule must be the least restrictive way in which to further the government interest.

This why clerks who are claiming that issuing marriage licenses to gay couples because of religious objections are wrong. The law both meets a "compelling government interest," equal protection under the law, and using the same procedures in place for currently issuing marriage licenses is about the simplest way to implement it.

My "religion" disagrees with the law is not a valid exception as long as the two conditions are met. This is why clerks which tried to claim a religious exemption from issuing licenses to inter-racial couple got absolutely no where.

This is just another demonstration that conservative evangelical Christianity is an ignorant, bigoted and hateful philosophy that deserves neither adherence or respect.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Two Events, One Day

In New York City the first ticker tape parade was held for a women's sport team as the city turned out for the US Women's National Soccer team, the 2015 Women's World Cup champions.

I didn't do much with the women's world cup because, OK I admit it, I'm a terrible male chauvinist when it comes to women's sports.  Still, I did follow the final. Congratulations for a victory hard won and well fought.

In South Carolina they lowered the Confederate Flag that had flown on the capital grounds either above the statehouse or on the lawn for the last 50 or more years. I didn't say much about this either because it struck as a case of what the hell have we been waiting for? Congratulations for a victory hard won and well fought.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

The Republican Menagerie

Chris Christie and Bobby have officially announced and John Kasich, governor of Ohio has joined the fray. Plus, we have one of the first broad polls run by The Economist/YouGov. I've put the percentages the candidates was selected at the 1st or 2nd choice in parentheses.

Key: * = declared, (x%,y%) = most recent poll 1st and 2nd choice percentage, Italics = I consider them all but out of the race based upon the poll numbers. Elmer Fudd Line = People below this line I consider loony toons.

#1 - George Patacki* (0%/0%) - The man is actually sane and did a pretty good job as governor of New York. I don't see how the hell he's going to win a Republican primary but you never know. This might be the guy the money can combine behind.

#2 - Jeb Bush* (11%/7%) - Apparently Jeb thinks the way to grow the economy if for people to work longer hours. After being pinged on that he sort of revised it to earn more income. Florida survived him as governor and he couldn't possibly be as bad as brother Dubya. But the man needs to learn that he's not Hispanic as he claimed once. Jeb doesn't really seem to understand what's going on in Iraq either. Still, after thinking about it I think I prefer him over Rubio.

#3 - John Kasich (2%/2%) - this is a very preliminary positioning but given his fiscal conservative abd business background this guy might actually be interesting to consider.  I don't go for his abortion position but he doesn't strike me as completely crazy. For a Republican he might actually be acceptable.

#4 - Donald Trump* (15%/12%) - I've moved Trump up because he's starting to grow on me. If nothing else he stands by what he says. The man may not have any political experience but he knows his way around finances. He has a tendency to say some strange stuff but he's not loony toons. It's a toss-up between him and Fiorina but she at least has run a political campaign.

 #5 - Marco Rubio* (9%/7%) - I don't agree with Rubio on a lot but he doesn't strike me as completely crazy like a few of the others in this field. One big problem with Marco is he seems to be intent on avoiding difficult questions rather than addressing them. Not a terribly encouraging trait for a potential president.

#6 - Chris Christie* (6%/8%) - Anything to get him out of New Jersey. Besides, Christie would at least be entertaining as hell. If it weren't for his idiotic deal with Exxon-Mobil, I might even list him higher.  

#7 - Rand Paul* (11%/7%) - Like his dad, not only does Paul not have any solutions, he doesn't even understand the questions. This is a man that wants to eliminate Meals on Wheels because seniors that can't afford food should depend upon charity. His stand against the Patriot Act however moves him ahead of Cruz.

#8 - Carly Fiorina* (3%/5%) - There's a reason she's an ex-CEO. Aside from missing all sorts of earning goals while at HP she was known as a divisive factor and laid off thousands of workers while sending jobs overseas. Eventually the HP board had enough and booted her ass out. But I had to move her above the Fudd line. She's just incompetent and probably not crazy.

#9 - Rick Perry* (3%/5%) - OK, look, Perry sounds loony toons but I don't think he's really that crazy. He's certainly not as crazy as Cruz or Santorum so I'm sliding him in pretty low but above the Elmer Fudd Line. Perry thinks the Charleston shooting was an "accident." How did Texas survive having this yahoo as governor?

#10 - Lindsey Graham* (0%/1%) - I can go with about 50% of what I've heard this guy say which is much better than most of these turkeys. Unfortunately Lindsay thinks the Confederate Flag is part of "who we are" even though it's been used in a "racist way." I can't condone that sort of attitude so Graham drops big time.


#11 - Ted Cruz* (4%/7%) - Cruz is hopeless but most of the others are even worse! Even so he continues to slide rapidly.

#12 - Scott Walker (9%/8%) - Talk about scrapping the bottom of the barrel. The more this guy opens his mouth the more of a clown he makes himself out to be.

#13 - Bobby Jindel* (2%/4%) - Undoubtedly the worst of the people that might actually be considered qualified. Look what a "great" job he did in Louisiana where the economy is in a shambles. Why would anyone vote for this turkey? The legislature refused to pass an RFRA due to pressure from the business community so Jindel issued an executive order to accomplish essentially the same thing. The mayor of New Orleans promptly issued a counter executive order. Nothing like a little chaos on the Bayou.  

#14 - Rick Santorum* (2%/4%) - Yes, incredible as it may sound, there's someone even worse than Walker and Jindel. He's worse because I don't even consider this ass wipe qualified for the job. Santorum also side stepped the Confederate flag question. Yes Rick, it's an issue for the state but you must have some sort of personal opinion.

#15 - Ben Carson* (7%/7%) - This man is utterly delusional. I seriously believe that he has mental problems. I hope he gets regular brain scans just in case there's something growing up there. Supposedly Carson won a straw poll in South Carolina which goes to show you how dumb they are in South Carolina. However, Huckabee had the poor judgement to appear in Janet Porter's latest anti-gay propaganda film. Carson at least isn't that dumb.

#16 - Mike Huckabee* (9%/6%) - Mike has gone seriously down hill in the last eight years or so. He's dropped in my list because after thinking about who might be at least qualified to be president from this list, I can't honestly say I consider Huckabee, despite his stint as governor of Arkansas, to be qualified. Huckabee has at least posted his positions. Wilson had 14 points, God had ten commandments but Huckabee's got 18 pledges. To be honest I don't agree with many of them. Huckabee's latest nonsense is refusing to express an opinion on the Confederate Flag issue. Yes Mike, it's an issue for the state but you must have some sort of personal opinion.

So the top five would be considered to be:
#4 - Donald Trump* (15%/12%)
#2 - Jeb Bush* (11%/7%) 
#7 - Rand Paul* (11%/7%) 
#12 - Scott Walker (9%/8%)
#5 - Marco Rubio* (9%/7%) 

Then we have Mike Huckabee an eyelash behind at in 6th #16 - Mike Huckabee* (9%/6%). However it should be noted that early polls are primarily based upon name recognition. Even so I think it's safe to say that Patacki and Graham look to be toast. So I'm going to put them in italics.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Sweetcakes by Melissa Decision

Sweetcakes by Melissa, a bakery that specialized in wedding cakes and owned by MK and AK, refused to supply a wedding cake to a lesbian couple in January of 2013 citing their religious convictions.

The bakery had been approached by one of the women, RBC, and her mother, CM. because the bakery had supplied a cake for the mother's wedding and they had also been recommended by the venue where the wedding was to take place. However, after a cake tasting session, when one of the partners, AK, asked for the name of the bride and groom, and was informed that it was two women, he refused to supply the cake because they didn't make cakes for same sex ceremonies.

At the refusal RBC began crying and her mother escorted her to the car outside. The mother then returned to the store to try and change AK's mind. In response the store owner apparently implied to CM that "her children were an abomination unto God." Or at least he quoted a passage from Leviticus that said as much.

Ultimately RBC's partner, LBC, filed a complaint against Sweetcakes by Melissa with the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) for discrimination. The final decision was handed down by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI).

That's the 30,000 foot level and apparently the facts as stated above are not in dispute.

But other things happened.

The DOJ, following standard procedure, sent a copy of the complaint to the bakery and, observing that there were always two sides to every story, asked that they send a response to the complainant and send a copy to the DOJ.

The next day AK posred a copy of the first page of the complaint, which contained names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mails of both sides but not the details of the complaint, on his facebook page with the comment "this is what happens when you tell gay people you won't do your wedding cake."

When LBC was informed by friends of the facebook posting, she called her lawyer and the posting was taken down later that day.

It was apparently also AK and MK that first went to the media about the case including an interview on CBN where a picture of a note pinned to the store was shown which read in part:

"Closed but still in business...The fight is not over. We will continue to stand strong. Your religious freedom is becoming not free anymore. The LORD is good and we will continue to serve HIM with all our heart."

CM let the wedding venue, because they had recommended the bakery, know of the refusal so they wouldn't steer other same sex couple to the same place. She also posted a warning on the Sweetcakes facebook page.

Finally RBC filed a complaint with BOLI in August of 2013 that Sweetcakes by Melissa had discriminated against her because of her sexual orientation.

Ultimately AK was found to have violated ORS 659A.403 which prohibits discrimination based upon sexual orientation and both AK and MK were found to have violated ORS 659A.409 which prohibits posting or publishing a statement to the effect that services will be denied to someone based upon sexual orientation.  Since they were partners in Sweetcakes for Melissa, they are equally responsible for the damages awarded which amounted to $135,000.

When I originally heard the number $135,000 my immediate reaction was that this sounded a bit extreme. However, after reading the decision and the issues caused over this nonsense, I'm not sure it is too extreme.

To people who continue to argue that they were just refusing to participate in a same sex wedding gay and not discriminating because the couple was gay, allow me to explain that legally there is no difference as stated in the decision.

"Respondents claim they are not denying service because of Complainants sexual orientation but rather because they do not wish to participate in their same sex wedding ceremony. The forum has already found there to be no distinction between the two. Further, to allow Respondents, a for profit business, to deny any services to people because of their protected class, would be tantamount to allowing legal separation of people based on their sexual orientation from at least some portion of the public marketplace. This would clearly be contrary to Oregon law as well as any standard by which people in a free society choose to treat each other."

The decision also explains the rationale for the decision beautifully.

"Within Oregon’s public accommodations law is the basic principle of human decency that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, has the freedom to fully participate in society. The ability to enter public places, to shop, to dine, to move about unfettered by bigotry. 

When Respondents denied RBC and LBC a wedding cake, their act was more than the denial of the product. It was and is, a denial of RBC’s and LBC’s freedom to participate equally. It is the epitome of being told there are places you cannot go, things you cannot do...or be. Respondent’s conduct was a clear and direct statement that RBC and LBC lacked an identity worthy of being recognized. 

The denial of these basic freedoms to which all are entitled devalues the human condition of the individual, and in doing so, devalues the humanity of us all."

In other words Sweetakes by Melissa was not only discriminating against a gay couple, they were discriminating against all of us. You'll excuse me, but that's not part of religious freedom.