Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

Photo courtesy of iStock

Photo courtesy of iStock

It’s hard to choose which was the bigger shock: a federal judge ruled Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, or the founder of a Republican gay-rights group quit the Republican Party. What could have ever driven a gay advocate from the GOP? Was it something they said?

Jimmy LaSalvia, the founder of the conservative gay advocacy group GOProud, recently changed his party registration to unaffiliated, writing on his blog, “I am every bit as conservative as I’ve always been, but I just can’t bring myself to carry the Republican label any longer.”

Why? It was the “tolerance of bigotry in the GOP. The current leadership lacks the courage to stand up to it — I’m not sure they ever will,” wrote LaSalvia.

Maybe that’s not fair. After all, when is the last time we invited Republican leaders to condemn anti-gay discrimination? And if we are going to invite the world’s worst law firm of Cruz, Boehner, Christie, Ryan and McConnell to do this, we should offer them recent examples of what their silence is tacitly accepting.

To wit, of sorts.

On his radio show, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said that “basic biology” dictated that acceptance of homosexuality would lead to the end of the human race and not, for example, floods, famine, plagues, or war.

“Its logical conclusion would be if it were normal it would be extinct, the human race would be extinct within time if it were normal,” said Perkins. “Biology says that only we exist as human beings is that a man and a woman come together and we procreate. That’s the reason that government has long recognized marriage is because it is the place in which children are born.”

When the Republican leaders rush to condemn this pestilent prejudice, I would appreciate it if they could answer a serious question: If marriage is for procreation, and my wife and I decide not to have children, do I still have to take out the garbage?

Not wanting to miss the crazy train, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Clown Car), scolded the federal judges who’ve been on the equality kick to get some “basic plumbing lessons.” He summed up the legal reasoning behind recent rulings striking down gay-marriage bans in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Utah thusly: “Basically, we haven’t seen any biological evidence to support marriage being between a man and a woman.”

Most Republican bigotry against gays ignores the whole “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights” and goes right for the fascination about what part goes where. Not so with Dave Agema, a former member of the Michigan House and a current member of the Republican National Committee, whose extremism in the defense of bigotry recently spilled over our borders when he took to Facebook to defend Russia’s “common sense” anti-gay laws.

Here’s what Agema calls “common sense”: Russia’s law outlaws gays from public displays of affection, including holding hands, expressing positive messages about LGBT people, broadcasting or printing news stories that feature gays or lesbians, and treating gay and straight relationships as the same. Also, the rainbow flag is illegal.

This defense of Russia’s legally enfranchised disenfranchisement finally drew censure from one Republican official.

“This is outrageous that a leader of the National Republican Party, my political party, is siding with an autocratic regime that believes in arresting political opponents, censoring reporters, jailing dissidents and eliminating free speech,” said Dennis Lennox, a precinct delegate in Michigan.

On his way out the door, LaSalvia credited this tolerance of anti-gay bigotry with why a recent Gallup poll showed that only 25 percent of Americans called themselves Republicans, an all-time low. It’s not that Americans are less conservative, he wrote, but that they were “too embarrassed to formally affiliate with a party that’s lost its way.”

Republicans can find their way back into the greater American family when they start speaking up about abhorrent comments such as those made by Agema, Gohmert, and Perkins. By remaining silent about anti-gay prejudice, Republican leaders leave the impression that they agree with a position that most Americans equate with not letting blacks or women vote. So here’s your chance, GOP.

Speak now, or forever hold your peace

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Jason Stanford

Jason StanfordJason Stanford is a Democratic political consultant and opposition researcher based in Austin. He served as 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell's campaign manager and chief spokesman. As the head of Stanford Research, he leads opposition research for various candidates and interest groups across the region.

Stanford moved to Texas in 1994 to work as a Deputy Press Secretary for the Ann Richards Committee. Jason and a former colleague founded Stanford Ryan Research & Communications, Inc. in January 1997. The firm became Stanford Research in 1999.

He’s the co-author of “Adios, Mofo: Why Rick Perry Will Make America Miss George W. Bush”, and has a degree in Russian from Lewis & Clark College.

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back with the iPhone

Photo courtesy of 123RF

Photo courtesy of 123RF

The Huffington Post is onto something.

In a recent report, the website listed seven things that the iPhone, first released to the public only seven years ago, has made obsolete — though there are surely plenty more than seven.

Up first, says the website: roadmaps. Thanks to Google Maps, which anyone can use on his or her cellphone, nobody uses paper maps anymore.

I can’t begin to imagine how much stress this is saving vacationing families.

Pre-Google-Maps horror stories were legend when I was a kid in the ’70s: Neighbors who thought they were heading east to the beach unwittingly headed west and had no idea of their error until they hit Indianapolis.

I remember being lost for hours in our station wagon, several maps sprawled across the dashboard and front seat, my father grumbling to my mother, “I knew we should have hung a Louie at Breezewood!”

Yeah, good riddance to paper maps.

That brings us to another item made obsolete by iPhone innovation: the alarm clock. Every cell phone has an alarm app now. I use mine all the time — particularly on the road.

Though the website didn’t mention this one, the wristwatch has also been made obsolete. Since I always have my cell phone nearby, clearly displaying the time and date, I stopped wearing watches years ago.

In fact, the only time I missed having a watch was last week. I was out of the country on business and deactivated my cellphone for the week. Lacking a clock of any kind, I was perpetually late, or way too early, for the bus I took from my hotel to my client’s office.

Cellphone technology has also made obsolete most cameras and music devices, such as the iPod, which made CDs obsolete just a few years ago. Many phones can store thousands of songs and come with high-resolution cameras — which, in my opinion, are making modesty, compassion and good judgment obsolete.

Hey, just because your cellphone has a camera doesn’t mean you have to use it — you don’t have to take “selfies” while drinking adult beverages without your shirt on. And you know who you are, seemingly-90-year-old Geraldo Rivera.

The selfie is enabling human nature to display its ugliness at never-before-imagined depths— such as the lady who included in her selfie a distraught suicide victim about to plunge from a bridge, or the coy student who selfied himself as his pregnant teacher was having contractions in the background.

Our attention spans have also been made obsolete by iPhone innovation, says the website, and isn’t that the truth. Why, that reminds me of, um — oh, never mind, I can’t remember what I was going to say.

One thing I can remember is that it’s impossible to have a serious, face-to-face conversation with anyone under age 30 without him or her obsessively pressing both thumbs against a small keypad while making intermittent eye contact with you. That is because, says the website, another victim of the iPhone is table manners.

How much longer will it be before entire extended families gather for Thanksgiving dinner — three or four generations sitting side by side — and nobody is talking, but each is texting someone at somebody else’s Thanksgiving table in some faraway city or state?

How did we so quickly descend from the invention of the typewriter keyboard, a grand 19th-century advance that efficiently transfers thoughts to paper using multiple fingers, to bastardizing the English language using only our thumbs?

That’s the odd thing about human invention. For every step we take forward, we seem to take a few backward at the same time.

As much of a visionary as Apple founder Steve Jobs was, I wonder if he doubted his own inventions at times — which he surely might have, had he still been alive when Geraldo Rivera tweeted his selfie.

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Tom Purcell

Tom PurcellAfter an eight-year tour in Washington, D.C., where he worked as a writer and communications consultant, Tom Purcell returned to his home town of Pittsburgh, PA, land of friendly, down-to-earth people. He spends his days in blue jeans pecking away on his laptop in a coffee shop. Purcell's weekly column, now in its 15th year, is syndicated by Cagle Cartoons to hundreds of publications and Web sites nationally and internationally. It has been featured on the Rusty Humphries Show, the Laura Ingraham Show and the Rush Limbaugh Show, as well as other radio programs in Canada and the U.S.

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LBJ’s ‘Great Society’ at 50: Ensuring a Nation’s Safety Net

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty,” no one can reasonably argue that the government’s massive effort didn’t help.

It’s more a question of how much it helped. And today, it’s a question of how to make these essential programs more effective and sustainable for a new generation.

In his watershed speech, coming just about six weeks after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, LBJ promised to “cure” poverty. By that measure, of course, he failed. Four in 10 children remain impoverished. And in the hill country of Appalachia, where the new president launched his effort in the spring of 1964, poverty remains stubbornly entrenched.

At the same time, Johnson’s policies widened the fault line between Americans over the role of government in their lives — between those who want limited government and those who look to government to solve problems. This widening of the Republican-Democrat split created by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal is a legacy of Johnson’s vision.

In time, the Great Society would include an array of new initiatives: Medicare and Medicaid, the first direct federal aid to school districts, Head Start, food stamps, environmental legislation, the Job Corps to provide vocational education, urban renewal programs, national endowments for the arts and humanities, civil rights legislation and an expanded Social Security program.

The combined effect of these programs drove poverty down significantly from 1967 to 2012, according to a recent study by economists at Columbia University. Researchers found that if government transfers are included in the mix, poverty fell from 26 percent to 16 percent. As The Washington Post’s Wonk Blog pointed out last week, government intervention is the only reason there are fewer Americans living in poverty now than 45 years ago. In 2012, about 4 million people were spared from poverty by food stamps alone.

But persistent poverty in both urban and rural America remains a significant problem. So does income inequality, which is the widest it has been since the 1920s.

We favor raising the minimum wage on the federal level — not piecemeal at the local level. We favor any reasonable effort to encourage the creation of new businesses, which leads to jobs. The yawning gap in income has much to do with a lack of good-paying jobs.

The biggest of the entitlement programs must be set right for future deserving recipients. Medicare should be means tested so that wealthier recipients pay more of the bills. Social Security’s solvency could be ensured by either raising the age for drawing benefits or increasing the cap on the payroll tax. Democrats should be open to changes in entitlements to make them sustainable. Republicans should be open to increased taxes to shore them up.

It was notable that House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) didn’t go anywhere near entitlement reform during the recent budget agreement. That small-bore deal was an accomplishment after months of wrangling, but it also was a reminder of just how far the nation needs to go.

Finally, we believe something else is required of every American: a sense of responsibility for those in need. Poverty is different from the other “wars” fought on social battlefields in this country. Unlike the “wars” against drugs and crime, it is relatively easy for the comfortable to remain unaware of want in their own communities, easier sometimes to show compassion for those thousands of miles away when the real work is five minutes from our own backyards.

The anniversary of Johnson’s grand experiment is a good time for both parties to commit themselves to an honest debate over how best to preserve the American safety net and relieve income inequality. The answer is not shredding programs. The answer is fixing them.

Republished from the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentine. Distributed by Creators.com.

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That Rising Tide Has Lifted Only the Luxury Yachts

Photo courtesy of 123RF

Photo courtesy of 123RF

As a new year dawns, life in the land of opportunity isn’t what it used to be for many Americans.

Today, our nation is marred by growing inequality, constricting opportunity, and declining social mobility- it has become a place where record-setting corporate profits do not translate to increased compensation for workers or even enough jobs for our legions of unemployed.

We live in a country where the wealthiest citizens often have lower effective income tax rates than many in the middle class; one where the villains who brought on the financial crash received bloated bonuses and had their firms rescued by government bailouts even as ordinary taxpayers received nothing but foreclosure notices, upside-down mortgages, and pink slips in return.

Our pain, their gain. The rising tide has lifted the private luxury yachts and left the rest of us drowning underwater.

Today, working families in America are receiving a raw deal.

This shouldn’t surprise us. Economic and political inequality are linked. The former inevitably leads to the latter as wealth becomes heavily concentrated and gains influence that it uses to secure additional advantages. Money talks and our politicians listen. Put simply, it is far more lucrative to make the rules of the game (or influence those who do), than it is to break them. Recognizing this, the rich have rigged the economic and political rules in their favor, producing a system that is increasingly unfair from the perspective of most Americans.

The result is systemic capture- a government run primarily by, and for the benefit of, the richest members of our society that prioritizes their interests and concerns.

Here, the hollowing out of the middle class, the financial crash, the recession, and the anemic recovery are all the products of a broken and dysfunctional system. Their lesson is clear: systemic capture is a dangerous and destructive phenomenon. What’s good for Wall Street firms and those that run them isn’t necessarily good for America. Put another way, the interests of the wealthy and those of the rest of the nation are not aligned; indeed, in many cases they are at odds. Moreover, inequality and political exclusion are expensive- they impede economic growth and impose huge costs on society.

Sadly, public policy choices that we have made- particularly the deregulation of the financial sector, the movement towards a less progressive federal income tax system, and the preferential tax treatment given certain types of investment income, such as capital gains and carried interest – helped fuel the rise of the rich and have contributed significantly to growing inequality in our society. However, if public policy has played a role in exacerbating inequality, then it can play a role in stopping or reversing these trends too.

Government has an obligation to intervene in the economy in defense of the common good. When the private interests of particular persons or industries clash with the general welfare of society as a whole, it is private interests that must yield. More broadly, we have a right to demand that the rich pay a fair share in taxes to support the costs of public goods like roads and infrastructure, education, and social protection programs such as food stamps, unemployment insurance, and retirement security. We have a right to demand an economy that generates adequate numbers of jobs that pay living wages. And we have a right to demand policies that produce a broadly-shared prosperity open to us all- to insist that our political and economic systems actually deliver on the promises of the American dream.

There is ample kindling for the fire of reform. America is dry tinder- legitimate grievances exist across a wide spectrum of our society. They are the common ground from which, despite all their differences, both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement emerged. In the end almost all of us, regardless of our race, religion, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation are steadily losing ground to the wealthy and being victimized by a captured system. We can either passively accept more of the same, and a future of diminished horizons for our children, or we can free ourselves from the tired partisan narratives foisted on us to divide and distract us, and demand fairness- a better deal- with a single voice.

The great task that has been set before us in the coming years is simply this- to break the power of the wealthy and make America’s government one run by and for the people once again.

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Michael Stafford

Michael Stafford is a 2003 graduate of Duke University School of Law and a former Republican Party officer. He works as an attorney in Wilmington, Delaware. He is the author of the book "An Upward Calling" on the need for public policy and politics to advance the common good.

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So Much More Going On at the 2014 Winter Olympics

Photo courtesy of 123RF

Photo courtesy of 123RF

Hundreds of millions of people will be following the 2014 Winter Olympics, even though the underwhelming motto (“Hot. Cool. Yours.”) sounds less like a paean to athletic excellence than the sort of progression that accompanies a court-ordered paternity suit.

Of course some people will be more keenly interested than others. According to Wikipedia, this 22nd Winter Olympics is on track to be the most expensive Olympics in history, with cost overruns more than quadrupling the original price tag. Perhaps the planners merely underestimated the cost of venues, transportation infrastructure and power supply infrastructure — but political opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin accuse him and his cronies of embezzling tens of billions of dollars.

An indignant Putin told reporters, “I will hold a televised speech to deny these scurrilous charges just as soon as Bill Gates gets through polishing my shoes.”

NBC, of course, has a lot at stake. The network hopes the Olympics will help launch Jimmy Fallon as the new “Tonight Show” host and boost their midseason series. Long-term, the network of “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago PD” hopes the Olympic momentum will catapult next fall’s “Chicago Lenin’s Tomb Guard” into the Nielsen ratings stratosphere.

Network executives and Olympics fans are mourning the fact that gold medalist skier Lindsey Vonn and other marquee stars have been sidelined by injuries. “How will their compelling PERSONAL STORIES ever be known now?” they ask. (“Well, if they’ve ever made any phone calls…,” offers new Russian resident Edward Snowden.)

Advertisers are hoping for a huge worldwide audience of people watching disciplined athletes stretching the limits of human skill and endurance. Then those viewers are supposed to buy a new SUV for driving around the corner to buy junk food. Only in Amer —well, only on Planet Earth.

Certainly terrorism is a specter hanging over the Games. Putin dreads hearing those horrible sounds. No, not bombs or guns… SHOW TUNES. He wants to make Russia a safe and welcoming place for athletes/tourists from all nations — as long as their national dress does not involve looking like a Native American, cowboy, construction worker, motorcycle cop, leather guy…

Many chide Putin for certain restrictive policies in Russia, but he’s merely trying to uphold the grand tradition of the Russian nesting doll. He likes to see people in a closet inside a closet inside a closet inside…

Rush Limbaugh is concerned that “activist Olympic judges” will start awarding medals of Gold, Silver and Trojan. He also fears the implementation of the “morning after” triple Lutz. (“I sort of regret what I did last night. Let’s have a do over of that event.”)

Pope Francis sees the Winter Olympics as a way to further his human rights agenda. Did you know that, although three continents have been home to the Winter Olympics, a country in the southern hemisphere has never been selected as host? Pope Francis will apply pressure to spread the wealth a little more. But there is no truth to the rumor that he promised Australia he would petition the Almighty to “throw another capitalist on the barbie.”

I’m sure many cheers will be heard during the Games. I just hope they aren’t drowned out by President Putin’s shouts of, “Hey, Oprah — do you have my vodka swimming pool filled yet?”

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Danny Tyree

Danny TyreeInspired by Dave Barry, Al “Li’l Abner” Capp, Lewis Grizzard, David Letterman and “Saturday Night Live,” Danny Tyree has been taking a humorous look at politics and popular culture since 1998. Tyree has written on topics as varied as Rent-A-Friend.com, the Lincoln bicentennial, “Woodstock At 40,” worm ranching, the Vatican conference on extraterrestrials, violent video games, synthetic meat, the decline of soap operas, robotic soldiers, the nation’s first marijuana café, Sen. Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” outburst at President Obama, Internet addiction, “Is marriage obsolete?,” and electronic cigarettes.

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Employers Can Take ‘Personal Responsibility’ For Poverty Wages

Photo courtesy of 123RF

Photo courtesy of 123RF

Brace yourself America—Republicans have discovered poverty!

Right here, right under their noses, 48 million Americans are, as Senator Marco Rubio puts it, “soon-to-haves.” Because nothing says you understand institutional and generational poverty like using corporate-ese to describe it.

Now that Republicans have acknowledged one-fifth of the wealthiest country in the world is impoverished, they’re debating whether this is a viable issue for them. This doesn’t always work out for the Party of Saying “Reagan.” Notably the Grand Old Party tried to curry favor with religious groups but ended up calling Sandra Fluke a slut, launching the War on Women. In hopes of capturing the Latino vote, they brought out Cuban-American lawmakers to denounce amnesty for undocumented Mexican immigrants… a policy we have for undocumented Cuban immigrants. So Republicans are in need of a nice new signature wedge issue to transform them from the losing Severe Conservatives back into the winning Compassionate Conservatives.

This we-want-to-fix-poverty weather balloon could endear Republicans to people who find them to be the party of Mitt Romney (whom Jon Stewart once described as “the guy who just fired your dad”) and Newt Gingrich (the guy who thinks “child labor laws are stupid!” and then thinks, “I should say that out loud”). The party of assuming working people don’t want insurance but the government is forcing it on them. The party of drug testing welfare recipients. The party of voting to cut food stamps while funding corporate farm subsidies. The party whose party line has been being poor in the U.S. is pretty sweet because poor people have air conditioning and higher rates of obesity.

Poverty tone-deafness coupled with dismissive poor-shaming has been the GOP platform. Or as Congressman Stephen Fincher and other Republicans put it when voting to cut food stamps, “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”

But let’s give the GOP the benefit of the doubt. Let’s not just assume this is a cynical attempt to try to appeal to a swath of people they’ve vilified for three decades because they’re now bankrupt of ideas and thin on voting blocs. Let’s not just assume this is an “Extremist Makeover; Poverty Edition.” Let’s assume they’re sincere in their empathy for Americans who have nothing in this land where six people own as much as the bottom 42 percent.

Republicans will use the term “personal responsibility” to tell those with no hope that they’re on their own. That they should have planned better—worked harder—not lived in a flood zone. Had better insurance. Had savings. You get the picture. It’s not the government’s job to save you from yourself. That’s what we pay the police and fire departments for. (Cough.)

And Republicans believe corporations are people. So how about corporations live up to the GOP’s panacea of personal responsibility when it comes to poverty? Republicans are looking for market-based solutions to poverty. Let’s look at poverty’s market-based roots:

Of the 48 million Americans living below the poverty line, 16 million are children and 10.5 million are the working impoverished. Meaning they are not lazy, drug-addicted parasites—they work. The issue is their jobs don’t pay them enough. Corporations employing the working impoverished have decided, as a means of policy, their workers don’t need to earn enough to take care of their families—the government will step up. You want a picture of a Welfare Queen? Get a portrait of any of the Walmart heirs.

In Senator Rubio’s much-hyped War on Poverty cut-and-run speech he floated wage subsidies to tackle poverty. We already do that.

Here’s a better idea: Companies pay their workers enough to live on. Employed yet welfare-dependent is a byproduct of privatizing profit and nationalizing loss.

Marshalls, TJ Maxx and HomeGoods CEOs are paid $21.8 million annually but pay their sales associates less than $8 an hour. Those are poverty wages. Starbucks could take personal responsibility and pay their baristas more than the average $9 an hour. There are others which could make an impact on poverty in America just by giving their Bob Cratchits a much-needed raise: Macy’s, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Sears, Kmart, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Kroger, Target, McDonald’s and the biggest private employer in the country—Walmart.

These companies’ boardrooms get treated to executive compensation and the backbone of these companies get treated by Medicaid.

These American mainstay brands could lift more than 10 million Americans and their dependents out of poverty, but they choose not to.

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Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy Tina Dupuy is a native New Yorker born in exile.

The daughter of biblical brimstone hippie revolutionaries, her parents were members of a splinter sect so fringe it makes normal cult apologists shudder. This has given her a rather unique take on life. “My parents were missionaries, not to be confused with ‘mercenaries’ because that would actually be cool.”

Tina’s childhood was spent as glorified luggage, living in several countries on two continents and eventually attending nine elementary schools. The most stable home she had was an adolescent all-girls group home in Northern California where she made few friends by being an (alleged) stuck up nerd who “thought she was better than everyone else.”

Tina’s life long ambition of being a paleontologist was thwarted by the siren call of freelance journalism. An irreverent yet unassuming humorist, Tina is a natural for the work. ”Prostitutes are known for their hearts of gold, you never hear anyone say that about satirists,” she laments.

Sometimes a reporter, sometimes a comedian – always a wedge-issue enthusiast and devout skeptic – Tina is anaward-winning writer, investigative journalist, the former managing editor of Crooks and Liars . Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC, and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The PointThe Stephanie Miller Show and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Mother JonesThe AtlanticSkeptic, Fast CompanyAlternetLA Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Newsday among many others. Her weekly op-ed column is nationally syndicated through Cagle Cartoons.

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There Is a Double Standard for Robertson and Kluwe

Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe posing for the NOH8 campaign. Photo courtesy of Joe Bielawa.

Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe posing for the NOH8 campaign. Photo courtesy of Joe Bielawa.

A reality TV star speaks out about gays and loses his job, albeit temporarily. Meanwhile, a professional football player speaks out about gays and loses his job, apparently permanently. Some conservatives argue that tolerance means what’s good for Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson is good for ex-Viking punter Chris Kluwe, even though the former denigrated homosexuals and the latter advocated for their equality. But to equate the cases of Robertson and Kluwe equates tolerance for an unthinking acceptance of prejudice.

“When we heard about Phil Robertson from progressives, we’d hear, ‘that it was his right to say whatever he wants, but everyone’s right to not watch or employ him.’ In the Kluwe instance from the same crowd we hear, ‘it’s his right to say whatever he wants and it was disgusting to fire him.’ There’s a double standard,” said Tim Young, director of marketing for the Liberty Alliance, a conservative new media venture. “The message is a hypocritical one from progressives. They’re only cool with your opinion if they agree with it. Otherwise you should lose your job.”

I should point out that Tim Young, despite his right-wing tendencies, is my friend, but he and I disagree when it comes to politics. That is, he’s wrong and I’m right. I tolerate his abject wrongness in matters political because I value his intelligence and humor, but tolerating his views does not mean that I accept them. Tolerance and acceptance are two different words because they are two separate concepts.

When Robertson’s views about gays, blacks, and women drew liberal censure, some conservatives such as Young saw the blowback as evidence of a lack of tolerance. Tolerance, for fans of dictionaries, does not require agreement. In fact, disagreement means that someone treated Robertson’s remarks seriously instead of ignoring them as the half-mad rantings of a reality TV star.

So when Young says that liberals are being hypocritical by defending Kluwe, he misses the point. If you’re not aware, Kluwe was the punter who alleged in an article for the sports blog Deadspin that he was cut from the Vikings because of his outspoken activism for marriage equality. Kluwe wrote that his position coach became so frustrated with his opinionated punter that he told a stunned players’ meeting, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”

For the record, the Vikings say that anti-gay prejudice has no place in their organization, and the team has hired outside counsel to investigate.

For his park, Kluwe doesn’t see any double standard in how he and Robertson were treated.

“I think that both Phil Robertson and I have the right to speak our minds, but we also have the right to the consequences of speaking our minds,” Kluwe said. “The Vikings were well within their rights to cut me if they wanted to, but I also get to tell my story and let society judge whether or not we want to live in a world where speaking out on behalf of other people costs you your job.”

If liberals and conservatives reacted differently to Robertson and Kluwe, said the latter, it’s because people applied the same standard, not different ones.

“I think the key difference between me and Phil is that he was speaking out against a group of people, while I was speaking out for a group of people who are being denied their freedom,” said Kluwe. “It’s a subtle distinction, but it’s very important.”

It’s not that subtle. Robertson has said that gays are “ruthless” and “full of murder,” an opinion he derives from a version of the Bible I was never taught in Sunday School. Kluwe took the radical view that we are all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Where he got that idea, I’ll never know.

If there’s a lesson to be drawn from Robertson and Kluwe, it’s that we live in a country where it’s easier to get fired for fighting prejudice than for expressing prejudice, at least when it comes to gays. If you’re looking for a double standard, there it is.

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Jason Stanford

Jason StanfordJason Stanford is a Democratic political consultant and opposition researcher based in Austin. He served as 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell's campaign manager and chief spokesman. As the head of Stanford Research, he leads opposition research for various candidates and interest groups across the region.

Stanford moved to Texas in 1994 to work as a Deputy Press Secretary for the Ann Richards Committee. Jason and a former colleague founded Stanford Ryan Research & Communications, Inc. in January 1997. The firm became Stanford Research in 1999.

He’s the co-author of “Adios, Mofo: Why Rick Perry Will Make America Miss George W. Bush”, and has a degree in Russian from Lewis & Clark College.

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The President’s Political Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Official White House photo courtesy of Pete Souza

Official White House photo courtesy of Pete Souza

Despite what some called “Obama’s worst year ever” and what everyone agreed was terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Obamacare rollout, Barack Obama’s job approval rating has bounced back out of the 30s and into the mid-40s—not great, but neither the inexorable slide into oblivion that many predicted. Once again, the reports of Obama’s political death have been greatly exaggerated, begging the question as to why pundits seem so eager to pronounce his last rites.

On ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos, Matthew Dowd was the latest to eulogize the Obama presidency.

“A year ago today he was winning a 50 percent-plus victory, first person since Eisenhower to win two terms over 50 percent, everything seemed so great,” said Dowd. “Ever since the start of the second administration, it’s all gone downhill. His presidency, in my view, and the credibility of his presidency and the relevancy of his presidency is dramatically in question today, and I think he can’t recover from it.”

Dowd, whom I worked for briefly almost two decades ago when he was a Democrat, wasn’t making a partisan attack. Despite him later becoming a Republican who helped elect and re-elect George W. Bush, my disagreement with him here is neither personal nor partisan. I like Matthew but suspect he could be wrong.

Without ever earning a cool nickname like “the Comeback Kid” or a reputation for resiliency, Obama has made a habit of bouncing back. We turned our backs without checking for a pulse after Hillary Clinton won in New Hampshire, when Rev. Jeremy Wright god-damned America, and when Obama said “The private sector is doing fine” amid 9% unemployment. Pundits called him a dead man walking after his last “worst year ever” in 2011 when he tried to negotiate with congressional Republicans. We asked ourselves whether he could recover from his first debate with Mitt Romney, forgetting that Obama has rebounded more times that Dennis Rodman.

Yet here he stands, the president who plays his best when he has backed himself into a corner but who never gets the reputation as a clutch performer. We should respect someone who is always proving the naysayers wrong and repeatedly beats the odds. But here’s the thing with Obama—and the reason why I suspect the insiders always seem eager to attend his political funeral: Winning has never felt worse.

Obama has the bad luck to be a serious man in trivial times (Birthers, and truthers, and deniers! Oh, my!), to seek common ground with a party devoted to trench warfare, and to preside over an era of disruption that never feels like peacetime or wartime. He passed landmark laws to reform Wall Street, to make student loans cheaper, to create a new G.I. Bill, and to save the U.S. auto industry. He ended wars, torture, and Osama bin Laden‘s life. He recapitalized banks, repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and nearly doubled fuel efficiency standards. But instead of ticker-tape parades we feel cheated of both justice and satisfaction.

When Obama won in 2008 by putting red states such as Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia into his column, he dangled the possibility of a post-racial, post-partisan peace. Instead, he has had to defend the White House against a political war of attrition. We thought we were getting a Democratic Ronald Reagan and a long spell of feel-good transformation. Instead, we got the black Lyndon Johnson, leaving behind an impressive list of achievements as well as a country exhausted from tension, obstruction, and fighting.

We only feel good when he explains the world to us, but by now we’ve become conditioned to the disappointment that inevitably follows one of his speeches. He hasn’t lost his gifts. It’s just that we know they won’t change our lives.

Instead, those who make a living watch this White House swing wildly from Obama’s political victories (“everything seemed so great”) to congressional obstruction. An improving economy is likely to continue Obama’s recovery, but bad things will happen, both real (Benghazi) and manufactured (BENGHAZI!!). And the grand marshals of the Beltway parade will ask each other whether Obama could possibly recover, ignoring the fact that he always has.

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Jason Stanford

Jason StanfordJason Stanford is a Democratic political consultant and opposition researcher based in Austin. He served as 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell's campaign manager and chief spokesman. As the head of Stanford Research, he leads opposition research for various candidates and interest groups across the region.

Stanford moved to Texas in 1994 to work as a Deputy Press Secretary for the Ann Richards Committee. Jason and a former colleague founded Stanford Ryan Research & Communications, Inc. in January 1997. The firm became Stanford Research in 1999.

He’s the co-author of “Adios, Mofo: Why Rick Perry Will Make America Miss George W. Bush”, and has a degree in Russian from Lewis & Clark College.

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GOP Needs to Focus on Winning

Photo courtesy of truthout.org

Photo courtesy of truthout.org

Will Republicans ever learn?

Will they get their own house in order in time to take control of the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016?

Will they stop fighting with one another in public over internal family matters and focus the GOP’s collective eye on those crucial political prizes before it’s too late to save the country?

It sure doesn’t look like it.

Republicans proved once again they’ve learned nothing from their past mistakes during the recent squabbling over the bipartisan Ryan-Murray budget deal.

The GOP managed to do two things, both of them bad for the battered Republican brand.

The party again showed the public how dysfunctional it is. And it proved how little its leaders and internal wings and factions have learned in 2013.

Last week House leader John Boehner made headlines by blasting the fiscal hardliners at Heritage Action, Club for Growth and FreedomWorks for denouncing the Ryan-Murray deal before they even saw it.

Then Boehner accused the tea-party wing of the GOP of “misleading their followers” and destroying their credibility.

It’s hard to fault Boehner’s outburst. For the entire year the GOP has been more interested in shooting down its own rising stars than breaking the Democrats’ chokehold on Washington.

Conservative principles are great. But to little-tent conservatives who’d rather win Republican primaries in May than win general elections in November, it’s still all about ideological purity in the short run and not about winning the war in the long run.

To the GOP’s tea-party minority, Paul Ryan has gone from GOP poster boy to sell-out. Ditto Marco Rubio for his impure thoughts on immigration reform.

Ditto Chris Christie, first for embracing the president and second for not being sufficiently conservative while racking up a big win in the blue state of New Jersey.

One of these days the Republican Party is going to find out that it is not the Conservative Party.

There are liberals, moderates and conservatives in the GOP — and conservatives are going to have to understand that they are in fact the minority.

Meanwhile, here’s a radical idea for my good tea-party friends and soulmates.

If you want to see a federal budget you can abide, or if you want to have a smaller, kinder, gentler federal government that runs the way you want, I suggest you do what the Democrats do — win.

Winning isn’t easy. When Republicans only have the House, and not the Senate or the White House or the courts or the media, we’re starting from ground zero.

We can’t afford to throw rocks at each other in public or nit-pick at each other’s ideological purity.

Winning back the Senate and the White House has to be the GOP’s master plan, and it can’t be sabotaged by things like intramural budget fights.

Budget fights? In the real world, the federal budget is never going to be 100 percent of what anyone wants.

Is a budget fight to the death by hardliners really worth another government shutdown that causes future Ken Cuccinellis of the world to lose and makes the GOP look like the party of dumb bad guys?

I don’t think so.

Once Republicans win back the White House and the Senate, conservatives can make all the budget changes they want.

Until then, if Republicans in Washington are going to attack each other, they should learn to do it behind closed doors.

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Michael Reagan

Michael ReaganMichael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan and a political consultant. He is the founder and chairman of The Reagan Group and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Look for Mike’s books and other information at Reagan.com.

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It’s Still Time for a New Republican Party That Talks Like Adults

gop likesHeckuva job with that rebranding, Republicans. They started 2013 hoping to rejoin modern America but ended it once again on the wrong side of history. By embracing Phil Robertson’s prejudice against gays and blacks and rebuffing Pope Francis’ call for economic justice, Republicans have made it clear that they would rather hold onto unchristian religious views than make the changes needed to win national elections again.

Almost a year ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal smacked his own party upside the head.

“We’ve got to stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults,” he said at the Republican National Committee’s winter convention. “We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that.”

Republicans quickly made it clear that they had not had enough of that. Apparently expressing views abhorrent to most Americans has become a bedrock Republican value. Jindal has since walked the “stupid party” comments back. He’s walked so far back, in fact, that he has reached a time when open expressions of prejudice were not considered socially unacceptable.

In his interview with GQ, Robertson debated the comparative sexual merits of different orifices, called homosexuality a sin, and predicted that equality for homosexuality will lead directly to a broader acceptance of bestiality. That, and he remembered all the happy black folks picking cotton during segregation.

About the same time, Pope Francis criticized the “idolatry of money” and called “trickle-down” economics an “opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, [that] expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.”

If you think that your religion teaches you that homosexuality leads to bestiality, I question your relationship to your God and to your horse. And I don’t have time to teach remedial economics to those who still believe cutting taxes for the wealthy leads to greater tax revenue, job growth, and shrinking income disparity. Homophobia and supply-side economics are political faiths with no basis in science or the Bible I studied in Sunday school.

Republicans think otherwise. Noted moral exemplar Rush Limbaugh called the Pope’s views “pure Marxism.” Sarah Palin, whose Nobel Prize for Economics got lost in the mail again this year, said the Pope’s analysis was “kind of liberal.” And Rep. Paul Ryan, who was raised on Social Security survivor benefits before he proposed turning Medicare into Groupon for Grandmas, condescendingly said, “The guy is from Argentina, they haven’t had real capitalism in Argentina.” Yes, he called the Pope “the guy.”

Republicans have to attack the Pope’s views lest anyone notice that they have just cut off long-term unemployment insurance when there are three applicants for every job. What would you rather do? Call the Pope names, or explain why you cut food stamps for 47 million Americans—that’s 1 out of every 7 of us—during the worst long-term unemployment crisis since World War II?

Instead of taking a clue from a recognized churchman, Republicans treated Robertson’s anatomical analysis as if it were an expression of religious doctrine. When A&E briefly suspended Robertson, Republicans treated L’Affaire Duck as if U.N. troops had barricaded church doors. They compared him to Rosa Parks and hailed Robertson “as a hero for courageously revealing his self-truth and Christian ideals.”

“If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson,” said Sen. Ted Cruz on his Facebook page.

And Jindal, the oracle who inveighed against stupidity at the beginning of this year that celebrated it, completed his redemption when he said, “The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with.”

Robertson can say whatever he wants, and Republicans are free to say that a reality TV star—and a fried chicken franchise, for that matter—represent their religious views better than the Catholic Church. But Republicans will never rebrand their party until they become more like Pope Francis and less like Phil Robertson

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Jason Stanford

Jason StanfordJason Stanford is a Democratic political consultant and opposition researcher based in Austin. He served as 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell's campaign manager and chief spokesman. As the head of Stanford Research, he leads opposition research for various candidates and interest groups across the region.

Stanford moved to Texas in 1994 to work as a Deputy Press Secretary for the Ann Richards Committee. Jason and a former colleague founded Stanford Ryan Research & Communications, Inc. in January 1997. The firm became Stanford Research in 1999.

He’s the co-author of “Adios, Mofo: Why Rick Perry Will Make America Miss George W. Bush”, and has a degree in Russian from Lewis & Clark College.

More Posts - Website