As fighters affiliated with the self-declared Islamic State roll across the porous Turkish border into Syria, the United States has a problem: It has no ambassador to Turkey.
As the Ebola virus rages in Sierra Leone, the United States has no ambassador there. And as North Korea poses a nuclear threat, the United States has no ambassador in South Korea.
The same is true when Turkey demands an answer for US spying.
Nominations for the posts are among dozens languishing in the Senate, many for months. The would-be ambassador to Sierra Leone, for example, has been waiting more than 400 days for an up-or-down vote. Veteran diplomats say the Senate’s persistent gridlock over domestic matters is hurting the United States on the world stage.
The number of nominees awaiting confirmation now stands at 55 out of 226 positions, about one-fourth of all ambassador-ranked posts. For the vast majority of nominees who have been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and are awaiting a full vote in the Senate, the average wait has been more than seven months, according to State Department statistics…
Unlike years past, when political clashes have held up small groups of nominees for brief periods, the current stand-off is more widespread and long-lasting, preventing all but a trickle of nominees from getting a vote.
“It really makes a joke of us abroad,” said Charles A. Ray, a former ambassador to Cambodia and Zimbabwe who spent 30 years in the foreign service. “Having the Senate literally block ambassadorial positions really sends a negative signal to countries we have relationships with. It makes them think that relationship doesn’t matter to us much.”
Cripes. I think half the backwater Neo-Confederate Republicans in Congress don’t even care about a relationship with the rest of the United States. As long as NASCAR keeps trundling around in a circle and state courts are allowed to enforce 19th Century rules about women – they’re as happy as can be.
Just keep those contributions coming in from coal companies and military-industrial gun-thugs.
The Republican party of Texas has toned down anti-LGBT rhetoric in the party platform, replacing outright condemnation with a softer endorsement of the “value” of reparative therapy.
The “reparative therapy,” alluded to in the newly-unveiled party platform, is the controversial process of subjecting a homosexual to clinical and psychological treatment with the goal of “turning” the patient heterosexual.
“Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values. We recognize the legitimacy and value of counseling which offers reparative therapy and treatment to patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.”
It is illegal to subject children to so-called “reparative” therapy in New Jersey and California, as those states say it constitutes child abuse.
While still extreme by traditional standards, the new language is significantly less incendiary than the previous platform, which condemned the LGBT community on both historic and religious grounds.
“We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of our society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders and shared by the majority …”
Like I said in the headline – Texas Republicans think they’re appealing to reason by invoking the kind of junk science so beloved of dorks like Michelle Bachmann and her hubby.
Frankly, even a state like Texas – full of folks who vote the way they do because that’s the way they did it in the Confederacy – has to absorb enough watered-down good sense over time into their black-and-white standard-definition minds to understand crap science fixes nothing, nada, nuttin’ honey.
A liquor store in Moore, Okla., advertised a sale on champagne to coincide with the death of Fred Phelps, the founder of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church.
The owner of Moore Liquor, Bryan Kerr, posted a sign outside his store Tuesday reading “Fred Phelps 1929-2014, Champagne 10 percent off! Not a coincidence…”
Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church are known for their virulent anti-gay sentiment and protesting soldiers’ funerals. Phelps died Thursday after having been excommunicated from the church.
[He was excommunicated in a power struggle - won by a dude who campaigned that Phelps wasn't loud enough supporting an inferior role for women in marriage and society]
Kerr said he’s gotten positive feedback about his sign, which suggests celebrating Phelps’ death.
“People have really responded positively to it,” he said.
“Champagne is a celebratory drink and so that’s why we gave 10 percent off,” Kerr added. “If they choose to celebrate the passing of a little hate from this world, they can do so and we’re happy to oblige here at Moore Liquor.”
“That kind of hatred and that kind of twisting of biblical principles needs to be exposed and talked about people need to know that’s not how real Christians act,” he said.
As my old acquaintance Willard Uphaus said during his years as a defrocked Methodist preacher – “Ain’t nothing wrong with old-time religion if it’s old-time enough!” He forgave his church’s cowardice, blindness. Eventually they reacquired sufficient courage to reinstate him after decades as a peace activist.
The idjits any progressive activist encounters, fools who think they are the only True Christians in the world are an embarrassment to normal folks who trust their religion to lead them to a life of peace and understanding. Trouble is, gang, it’s time for you to speak up and differentiate yourself from fundamentalist bigots.
Two women were the first gay couple to marry in Michigan on Saturday, one day after the state’s ban on gay marriage, approved by voters in a landslide in 2004, was scratched from the state constitution by a federal judge.
Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 51, both of Lansing, were married by Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum in Mason just after her office opened at 8am Saturday. Byrum said it was an honor to marry same-sex couples who have waited too long for this day.
“I figured in my lifetime it would happen,” Caspar said. “But now, when it happens now, it’s just overwhelming. I still can’t believe it. I don’t think it’s hit me yet.”
DeJong and Caspar have been together for 27 years. DeJong called it a day of “sheer joy,” adding that Michigan should not “waste taxpayer dollars and cause more turmoil” by pursuing a stay on gay marriage as Attorney General Bill Schuette did immediately after Friday’s ruling.
Clerks who handle marriage licenses in Michigan’s 83 counties said they would start granting them to gay men and lesbians – at least three as early as Saturday. DeJong and Caspar first learned the courthouse would be open after Byrum tweeted about it early Saturday morning.
At least 50 people had lined up in the Oakland County clerk’s office in Pontiac, on the outskirts of the Detroit metropolitan area, when clerk Lisa Brown arrived to open it at 8am local time, carrying a heart-shaped balloon. Brown’s staff handed out paperwork to couples who were undeterred by the Michigan attorney general’s immediate appeal…
Not that the state’s Republican-dominated legislature cares about all love and marriage.
It isn’t known when a federal appeals court in Cincinnati will respond to Attorney General Bill Schuette’s request for a stay while an appeal is pursued…”A stay would serve the public interest by preserving the status quo … while preventing irreparable injury to the state and its citizens,” he said…
The historic decision by US District Judge Bernard Friedman, who said the ballot box is no defense to a law that tramples the rights of same-sex couples, followed a two-week trial that explored attitudes and research about homosexual marriage and households led by same-sex couples…
He praised April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, two Detroit-area nurses who are raising three children with special needs. They filed a lawsuit in 2012 because they’re barred from jointly adopting each other’s children. Joint adoption is reserved for married heterosexual couples in Michigan.
“In attempting to define this case as a challenge to ‘the will of the people,’ state defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people,” the judge said…”It is the court’s fervent hope that these children will grow up ‘to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives,'” Friedman said, quoting the Supreme Court.
Bigots have always quoted the “will of the people” when they live in a state backwards enough to endorse bigotry. If not, there is no shortage of sophistry to generate appeals against progressive change, modernizing of 14th Century morality.
UPDATE: 300 couples manage to get marriage licenses before judge responds to Republican government of Michigan and stops gay marriages. Conservative homophobes can rest easy this morning. Second-class citizenship is restored to Michigan at least temporarily.
The Arizona legislature sent a bill to the Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk Thursday that would carve a massive hole into state law allowing business owners to turn away gay and lesbian customers, employers to deny equal pay to women, or individuals to renege on contract obligations–as long as they claim to be doing so in the name of religion.
Brewer, a Republican who vetoed similar legislation last year, has not said whether she will sign the bill.
“With the express consent of Republicans in this Legislature, many Arizonans will find themselves members of a separate and unequal class under this law because of their sexual orientation,” Anna Tovar, the state senate Democratic minority leader, said in a statement Wednesday after the bill cleared the state Senate. “This bill may also open the door to discriminate based on race, familial status, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.”
The Arizona bill is one of several bills across the country aimed at providing legal protection to those who wish to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. As of Friday, however, it’s the only one to actually pass, with similar bills in Idaho, Tennessee, and South Dakota being defeated and a bill in Kansas being held up in the state Senate.
While the bills vary in scope, Arizona’s is among the most broad, expanding that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act to make it easier for individuals and for-profit businesses to bypass neutral state laws or regulations as long as religion is the reason for doing so…
I presume by now the Arizona legislature includes a line item in the state budget for “funds to be wasted defending unconstitutional laws which make bigots feel happy about who they elected”.
Utah tried civil rights for a week or two – and turned their backs on love
The Obama administration on Friday made the latest contribution to a fast moving legal battle over same-sex marriage rights, as the Justice Department said that the federal government would recognize as lawful the marriages of some 1,300 same-sex couples in Utah even though the state government is largely refusing to do so…
“I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages,” said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in an unusual video announcement on the Justice Department website. “These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds…”
On Wednesday, Gov. Gary R. Herbert announced that the ban, an amendment to the Utah Constitution, was back in legal force while the litigation continued, something that could take years. During that time, he said, the state would not recognize or confer new marital benefits to those same-sex couples who had married.
But with Friday’s announcement, same-sex couples in Utah who married will be able to file joint federal income tax returns and will be eligible for other spousal benefits, like health insurance for the families of federal employees and the ability to sponsor a noncitizen spouse for a family visa…
In Utah, gay couples and supporters of same-sex marriage cheered the federal government’s move. Many were disappointed and angered by the state’s decision not to recognize their new marriages, and have argued that, despite the continuing legal battle, their nuptials are just as valid as any other in Utah.
“It feels like a little victory after the last couple days with our governor,” said Austin Vance, who married his partner last month at the Salt Lake County clerk’s office, with hundreds of other gay couples. “It definitely raises spirits a little bit. It was disturbing that our governor would make those assertions that we wouldn’t be recognized.”
“We’re going to continue to file and act as if we’re married,” he added. “Some people have said that’s an act of civil disobedience. If it is, so be it…”
Sooner or later, Utah – like other backward states – will have to move into the 21st Century. They may not wish to recognize science trumping superstition, reality taking precedence over bigots and know-nothings. But, so far, our Constitution is still recognized as giving superior rule by law for our federal Union over States Rights and the hypocrites that invoke them whenever convenient to their need to have some Americans declared second-class citizens.
A new poll indicates as Congress returns to session, an overwhelming majority of Americans rated lawmakers’ job performance in the cellar.
A Rasmussen Reports poll indicated just 8 percent of likely voters think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Sixty-six percent rate its performance as poor.
While both numbers represent a marginal improvement from voters’ sentiments at the end of 2013 — the good/excellent rating was 6 percent and the poor rating was 75 percent — the numbers are still near historic lows.
They’ve been out of town a few weeks. We haven’t had a recent chance to see how backwards Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats can be.
Congress as an institution has long proved unpopular in opinion polls though voters tend to express more optimism when asked about their local congressman or senator, though Congress’ positive rating bottomed out at just 5 percent in December 2012.
Making matters worse, nearly seven in 10 Americans (69 percent) agreed with the statement no matter how bad things are, Congress can always find a way to make them worse…
Got that one right!
The Civil War might be long over, but a battle about putting a monument honoring Union soldiers at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park in Florida is still underway.
The proposal to install a monument at the park — the site of the biggest Civil War battle fought in Florida — was met with opposition on Monday night during a public hearing…
Each year, Olustee hosts a reenactment of a four-hour battle in which Union forces were routed by Confederate troops…
A descendant of someone who died at the Battle of Olustee, Mike Farrell, proposed the new memorial because of his experience serving as an historical exhibitor at the park.
“I always have the visiting public approach me and ask me where the Union monument is on the battlefield, and I often tell them, ‘There isn’t any.’…What I’m talking about is a battlefield monument,” Farrell said.
Republican state Rep. Dennis Baxley…proposed halting the monument from within the state house. “I can do a very simple proposal to the Legislature that we protect all monument sites,” he said.
Racists have grown more practiced in the semantics-based lies they use to answer questions about bigoted proposals. I guess that in itself is recognition of growing understanding among Americans still dull enough to be suckered into rightwing politics. They don’t care to admit publicly how much of their craptastic chicanery is proposed to satisfy racism, justify slavery.
They’re only kidding themselves. The rest of the nation looks and nods – “Yes, these are the village idiots who continue to think they weren’t defeated by the strength of the Union. They believe the South will rise again and Jim Crow laws will be reinstated.”
Illustrating once again how easy it was for Nixon to decide on the Southern Strategy, just how easy it was for Republicans to lock up the bigot vote.