Saturday, January 22, 2011

Justice Clarence Thomas Caught in Another Ethics Scandal

I have to wonder why this info came to light on a Friday.  The Friday "news dump" is in full swing as far as revelations of the financial impropriety of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.  By law Supreme Court Justices are required to give full disclosure of their spouse's income sources.  This is to prevent them from being unduly influenced by monitary considerations.

Well, Thomas has some explaining to do.  Between the years 2003 and 2007 his wife, Virginia Thomas earned $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.  This income went unreported on his Supreme Court disclosure form and in fact Thomas lied by checking the "none" box on the form.

This clear violation of ethics comes on the heels of another ethical dilemma involving Thomas' fund raising activities with Charles Koch.  These problems show a clear conflict of interest especially when the court has just ruled on major corporate political fund raising issues.  The appearance and I would argue the "fact" is that Thomas and Scalia (also implicated in the Koch scandal) are in fact on the corporate payroll and should step down.  If not it would not be out of the question to impeach both justices.

HUD Proposes New Non-discrimination Rules Protecting LGBT Citizens

After a lackluster two years for LGBT folks, the Obama administration is finally delivering on some promises made during the campaign.  I applaud the passage of the DADT repeal and the provisions for LGBT partners in health care, and now comes this.  HUD, the Housing and Urban Development Secretary has proposed new rules that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in several of the federal agency's programs.  These include government backed mortgages and public housing.

No in case you are among those who figure this doesn't affect private sector housing, well think again.  Allow me to relate a story from my own experience regarding HUD. Quite a few years ago, I lived in a high-rise apartment on Turtle Creek, a pretty tony neighborhood to be sure here in Dallas.  My building was fr a time managed by HUD because the developers had defaulted on the financing and the government had backed the construction.

So for three years, I lived in high-rise splendor managed by HUD.  Luckily I never suffered any discrimination from the landlords, after all it was Turtle Creek and walking distance from the Gayborhood.  So, the point is HUD has some far reaching ties and this is a big deal towards anti-discrimination for LGBT Americans.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Keith Olbermann and MSNBC Split, Immediately!

Tevatron Will Shut Down This Year

The Tevatron, the Fermi National Laboratory accelerator will shut down in September of this year due to lack of funds.  The accelerator located in Batavia, Ill. was funded by the Us Department of Energy and was racing to gather details of the elusive Higgs boson, the origin of mass in physics.  Now that task falls to the Large Hadron Collider in at CERN. 

Once again the US had dumped a valuable scientfic project because of budgets and politics.  First was the Super Colloder in Texas, a project characterized as "pork" by opponents of basic scientific research, and now the Tevatron.  As these landmark projects move to Europe and perhaps elsewhere, the US continues to lose its lead in scientific research.

Basic research, like the space program and partical physics have paid off in long range rewards in the past, it is a pity that short sighted politicians and the public can't see the benefits. So next time you glance at your digital watch or use your GPS or communicate on the internet, thank basic research.  Then go out and start learning Chinese so you can keep up with the rest of the world as we let our country fall behind.

More Guns = More Gun Deaths, Duh!

I recently wandered through the Violence Policy Center's web site and it is an eye opener when it comes to gun-related violence.  I support the Second Amendment but I also feel there are way too many guns floating around our country.  I have been a gun owner in the past, so if any NRA folks read this and flame me, get over it!

I am a strong advocate of gun control.  Here's why:

In states where gun ownership is lowest, gun deaths are lowest.  Pretty easy equation and yet too many folks just can't make this connection, so here is a simple chart to give you the idea in sound figures.

States with the Five Highest Gun Death Rates
States with the Five Lowest Gun Death Rates
Household Gun Ownership Gun Death Rate per 100,000 Rank State Household Gun Ownership Gun Death Rate per 100,000
1 Louisiana 45.6 percent 19.87 50 Hawaii 9.7 percent 2.82
2 Mississippi 54.3 percent 18.32 49 Rhode Island 13.3 percent 3.51
3 Alaska 60.6 percent 17.62 48 Massachusetts 12.8 percent 3.63
4 Alabama 57.2 percent 17.55 47 Connecticut 16.2 percent 4.27
5 Nevada 31.5 percent 16.21 46 New York 18.1 percent 5.07

Note from the VPC: The VPC defined states with "weak" gun laws as those that add little or nothing to federal restrictions and have permissive laws governing the open or concealed carrying of firearms in public. States with "strong" gun laws were defined as those that add significant state regulation in addition to federal law, such as restricting access to particularly hazardous types of firearms (for example, assault weapons), setting minimum safety standards for firearms and/or requiring a permit to purchase a firearm, and restrictive laws governing the open and concealed carrying of firearms in public. State gun ownership rates were obtained from the September 2005 Pediatrics article “Prevalence of Household Firearms and Firearm-Storage Practices in the 50 States and the District of Columbia: Findings From the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2002,” which is the most up-to-date, comprehensive source for state gun ownership rates.
So now, let's see...less guns means less death, sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Toowoomba Flood Video - Amazing Footage

For those who aren't aware of the devastation floods in Australia, take a look at this footage of a small creek turning into a roaring rapids in just a few minutes, washing away dozens of cars. We often forget that tragic events lie this happen in developed nations as well as third-world countries.

The videographer posted this link for donations for Queensland relief efforts.
Queensland Government Appeal at:

Come on folks it's "Queensland" for Pete's sake, donate!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Creeping Threat of Sharia Law" - Louie Gohmert

Rep Louie Gohmert - Sharia Hunter!
So in another case of political theater, much like the bogus repeal of health care reform, we have Louie Gohmert, a Texas Representative, a Republican and a certifiable idiot.  Not to be outdone by Oklahoma, Gohmert wants hearing in the House on the "creeping threat of Sharia law".  In November, Oklahoma became the first state to ban the threat of Sharia law, though no cases exist where it has been used as precedence and it has no legal standing in the US or any state.

Gohmert is using the new found strength of the GOP in the House to waste taxpayer money and valuable legislative time by holding hearings on non-existent threats.  Way to go Louie!

Next he will want to have hearings on the insidious pollution of our precious bodily fluids.  Life is imitating art.

Jon Stewart Reads Palin's Beads

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Petty Woman
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

Anderson Cooper Puts Dr. Laura on "Ridiculist"

Dr. Laura now blames CNN for the problems she had using the "n" word.  Ah, another public figure claiming to be a victim of their own fame.  Oy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Vatican Letter Called "Smoking Gun" in Pedophile Priest Scandals

A letter from the Vatican in 1997 997 cautioned Ireland's Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police.  Victims groups are already calling it "the smoking gun" in the connection between the Church in Rome and the abuse scandal.

According to a report in Huffington Post the letter documents the Vatican's rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests. The document could have very far reaching implications.
"The letter is of huge international significance, because it shows that the Vatican's intention is to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities. And if that instruction applied here, it applied everywhere," said Colm O'Gorman, director of the Irish chapter of human rights watchdog Amnesty International.
 Joelle Casteix, a director of U.S. advocacy group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, described the letter as "the smoking gun we've been looking for."
More here.

New Hospital Visitation Rules Go Into Effect For LGBT Patients!

Today, the new rules prohibiting hospitals from discriminating against visitors based on sexual orientation and gender identity went into effect.  Though a quiet change, it represents a big deal to LGBT families who have previously been discriminated against in these settings.

Last year President Obama issued the directive including this statement, “Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides — whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay,” to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department in April.

It's a big deal and should not be overlooked as a major promise fulfilled by the administration.

Tea Party Jumps In With Big Earmarks Of Their Own

After squawking about "earmarks" the Tea Party folks jumped into the Washington Pork Barrel with both feet.  Tea Party Caucus members requested more than $1 billion in earmarks in the 2010 fiscal year.  Though head Tea Bagger, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn did not request any earmarks, her colleagues in the caucus managed to squeeze in 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150.

So next time you hear someone complain about "earmarks", show them it's not a Democratic exclusive, the Republican Party has long been steeped in the same kinds of earmarks as the Dems.  Now that's some kettle of tea!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Miss Arkansas and Her Dummies

The annual Miss America pageant has fallen from grace because of slipping ratings and a general unease with the whole event. No matter what you say, you just can't beat the talent competition. The new Miss Arkansas for 2011 is a ventriloquist and how can you beat that for a classic weird variety act?

NOTE:  I erroneously reported that she had won Miss America, Miss Nebraska won the title.

Apologies to Jay Johnson.

It's Martin Luther King Day

Though my office is still working today, I always take a moment to reflect on the Martin Luther King legacy. 

One of my favorite documents of this period in our history is the "Letter from a Birmingham Jail".  Particularly resonating is this passage:
"But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists."
 The entire text of the letter is here.

Fallwell's University Pushes "Gay Cure" Classes on iTunes

The "good" folks at Liberty University's iTunesU have posted "Healthy Sexuality, Homosexuality: the healing journey of personal redemption."  Once again the far-right is trying to wrap a "gay cure" in the guise of science.  It's not happening.

The alleged science in this case is the same debunked junk that has been used over and over by the fundamentalists.  Now it's in a slick video format you can download and watch on your iPod.  The ghost of Jerry Falwell lives on.  Thanks to "Good as You" for the find!