It was a week that began with a yawn, thanks to one of the most boring, least gay, and least political Oscar shows in memory –then rapidly descended into ugly days rife with hate speech and hate groups, free speech and lies, racism and anti-semitism. And throughout it all, I kept having to remind myself that oddly, as a writer chronicling the politics of equality, this is supposed to be all about love and marriage.
In an historic first amendment free speech case, the Supreme Court this week ruled that the “God Hates Fags” folks — also known as the Westboro Baptist Church — have the right to picket at or near funerals and say anything they want, including â€œGod hates fags,â€ â€œThank God for 9/11,â€ â€œThank God for AIDS,â€ and â€œU R going to hell.â€
(The Westboro Baptist Church may have the right to say whatever they want, but sinceÂ Anonymous took down their Internet sites almost two weeks ago, they’re having issues saying it online. But have no fear; they are promising to quadruple their anti-gay protesting.)
Just because no one likesÂ what the “God Hates Fags” folksÂ have to say, they have the right to say it. As do you. In America, we pay a steep but necessary price for free speech, even when it’s hate speech.
Compare that to Europe, where those who practice hate speech pay a steep price for it.
Especially anti-semitic speech.
The gay, now-former head designer for Christian Dior, John Galliano, wasÂ fired after saying in a bar last week, â€œI love Hitlerâ€ â€¦ â€œPeople like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers would all be fucking gassed,â€ which wasÂ reportedly followed by, â€œDirty Jewish face, you should be dead â€¦ Fucking Asian bastard, I will kill you.â€
Mr. Galliano has apologized, but is facing possible jail time for his anti-semitic hate speech.
Back in America, not facing jail time, but reportedly facing a $10 million defamation lawsuit is anti-union, anti-left and anti-IslamÂ blogger Pamela Geller, and John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council. Geller is now wearing proudly a self-described “badge of honor” –theÂ designation of her organization, Stop Islamization of America, as a hate group, thanks to the good folks at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The lawsuit against Geller and Stemberger has motivated Stemberger to join forces with none other than (“exploratory”) GOPÂ presidential candidate, the twice divorced, three-time married serial adulterer and anti-gay politician (and Pope film maker!) Newt Gingrich, along with Southern Baptist ordained minister and liar-about-anything-about-Obama, the devoutly anti-gay GOP presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee. If that weren’t enough theocrats for you, joining them is the intensely homophobicÂ gay-bubble fearing GOPÂ possible presidential aspirant Michele Bachmann.
Gingrich, Huckabee, Bachmann — along with Republican Governor Haley Barbour, and Tony Perkins, president of theÂ certified hate group the Family Research Council (FRC),Â along with a cast of other extreme right-wing anti-gay conservatives — are hosting a church-based fundraiser for Stemberger that proclaims it will help you â€œRediscover God in America.â€
Curiously, (perhaps they’ve rediscovered God?), another anti-gay hate group this week actually acknowledged that DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional!
Pat Vaughn, general counsel for the American Family Association â€” aÂ certified hate group â€” who describes itself as â€œa Christian organization promoting the biblical ethic of decency in American society with primary emphasis on TV and other media,â€ said,Â â€œthe Defense of Marriage Act is probably unconstitutional, particularly â€¦ if you attempt to apply it so that to say that a marriage conducted in one state is not in effect in another. That clearly violates the Constitution.â€
But guess who’s not saying DOMA is unconstitutional? That’s right, liar-about-anything-about-Obama, the devoutly anti-gay GOP presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee, and GOPÂ possible presidential aspirant, the former reality TV show star, former Republican Vice Presidential candidate, former Alaska Governor, former chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, former Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, former â€œMiss Congeniality,â€ (seriously,) former sportscaster, and former head of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Sarah Palin.
Not only did Huckabee lie about Obama growing up in Kenya (he did not,) surrounded byÂ Madrasas (he was not,) he, along with Sarah Palin, lied about then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s stance on DOMA.
Obama, who last month announced he will enforce — but no longer defend — DOMA in court, has been consistent (except for that 1996 letter in which he claimed to support marriage equality,) in his position on DOMA, including in August 2007, when Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said, â€œHe supports the complete repeal of DOMA which is the same position he has held since early 2004.â€
But Palin told NOMâ€™s Maggie Gallagher this week,Â â€œItâ€™s appalling, but not surprising that the President has flip-flopped on yet another issue from his stated position as a candidate to a seemingly opposite position once he was elected.â€
And Huckabee last month said Obama â€œhimself didnâ€™t take this position [against DOMA] when he ran for president. I think if he had, he wouldnâ€™t be president,â€ adding,Â â€I think he owes the people of America an explanation â€“ was he being disingenuous and dishonest then, is he being dishonest now, or did he change his view and if he did, when and why?â€
Um, no. Just no.
You know who else lied about Obama’s DOMA position? Pat Vaughn, general counsel for the American Family Association, who clearly said Obama “lied to people [about DOMA] when he ran.”
As I said in the beginning, this week has been filled with ugly days. And anti-semitism. And charges of it. (And don’t get me started on Charlie Sheen!)
Earlier this week, celebrated Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev came to America to discuss, all across the country, the state of the LGBT equality movement in Russia. Alekseev is best-known for suing for, and winning, the right to hold gay pride parades in Moscow. But a discredited detractorÂ claimed that Alekseev made comments that could be seen as anti-semitic.
(You can see Alekseev deny the charges in a speech he made at Columbia University in New York City this week, and hear his interview with veteran writer and radio host Michelangelo Signorile.)
Anti-semitism, like racism, is ugly, and an ugly charge if not true, and all deserve to be examined and discussed.
But the folks on the west coast who were sponsoring Alekseev’s trip didn’t want much of a discussion, and canceled his appearances. Long story short, Alekseev denied the charges several times. And probably isn’t too keen on some of his American counterparts now.
Just when you thought the marriage equality debate in Maryland was over, and the House was ready to vote (the Senate already did, and this should be the final step,) one Maryland state delegate, Sam Arora, flip-flopped his position on marriage equality.
Arora ran on a platform of full equality, and took a lot of money from the LGBT community. Needless to say, they were non-too pleased, and this became a national event.
Fortunately, Arora at the last minute has changed his mind. A bit. He now says he will vote for the bill, but wants a public referendum on marriage equality in Maryland. (For the record, civil rights are inalienable. No one should ever be allowed to vote on your rights.)
In response to an op-ed by veteran Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, Maggie wrote,
â€œI have two reactions to reading this WaPo columnistâ€™sÂ comments.
â€œFirst, if Sam Arora is wavering under this media firestorm, he must be hearing from hundreds of constitutents who do not want him to vote for gay marriage.
â€œSecondly, as someone married to an Indian-American, I find it interesting that the gay marriage machine appears to be re-focusing its attacks from Black Democrats who oppose gay marriage to an easier target: Indian-Americans.â€
Now, who knew (I certainly hadn’t) but it seems that Arora is Indian-American. What difference that makes on anything is unbeknownst to me. Not did I know anyone was attacking Black Democrats. Nor did I know there was a “gay marriage machine.” (Where does one buy that?)
This entire situation came to light when well-known columnist, LGBT activist, and Media Matters guy Karl Frisch — who happens to be a friend of Arora — wrote an open letter demanding his campaign contribution back.
Evidently, a very effective tactic, especially when it’s that personal.
Others followed. Many others. And then word got out and comments on Arora’s Facebook page went into overdrive.
As I’ve said, it’s been an ugly week. But change is sometimes ugly. Battles can be ugly.
But it’s all for a good cause.Â Love, and marriage. And the civil right to have both. Whatever bumps we feel along the way, no other reward, no other success, will be as sweet.
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Ethics Complaint Against Sinema Urges Investigation Into Staffers’ Duties and Her Possible ‘Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars’
If you are hired to work in Senator Kyrsten Sinema‘s office on Capitol Hill there is a 37-page memo you’ll want to read detailing all the responsibilities her staffers are required to perform, from getting her groceries, calling Verizon and going to her D.C. home to wait for a repair person if the internet goes out, scheduling massages, and ensuring her very detailed airplane requirements are met.
“It is your job to make her as comfortable as possible on each flight,” the memo says, as The Daily Beast first reported in December.
But now a group of 13 non-profit organizations have joined to file an ethics complaint against Senator Sinema (I-AZ), a new Daily Beast report reveals Friday, including details from that 37-page memo which the newly-independent lawmaker directed to be drawn up. Dated Thursday, the complaint is titled: “Letter to Senate Ethics Committee Regarding Reports of Sinema Abusing Taxpayer Dollars.”
“Senate Ethics guidelines stipulate that staff should not be asked to perform personal errands for members. This is an unambiguous ethical boundary,” the group’s complaint reads.
It also points to that 37-page memo, which it says, “indicates that staff are required, as a condition of their jobs, to carry out numerous tasks that are outside the scope of public employment, including doing personal errands for the Senator, carrying out household tasks at her private residence, and advancing their own funds for her personal purchases. It makes unreasonably precise scheduling demands, and former staff have confirmed some of the allegations.”
The allegations continue.
“And, most troubling, it calls on staff members, who are employed and paid by the public and explicitly barred from campaign activity, to schedule and facilitate political fundraisers and meetings with campaign donors, presumably during the workday while they are on the clock and physically on federal property.”
“Senate staff are prohibited under your guidelines from engaging in political activity ‘on Senate time, using Senate equipment or facilities.’ While you have not prohibited campaign activity outside work hours, the plain language of the memo clearly implies that Sen. Sinema expects her staff to carry out these scheduling tasks during the workday. And these tasks may separately violate Senate Rule 41.1, which explicitly prohibits Senate employees from ‘solicit[ing]’ campaign funds.”
The complaint also alleges that “Sen. Sinema required her staff to schedule three physical therapy and massage sessions a week related to her training for athletic competitions, and to tightly manage her dietary schedule — while allotting only a 30-minute period on Wednesdays for meetings with the constituents she represents.”
The carefully-worded complaint adds, “the allegations paint a picture of a Senator who is not only unresponsive to her constituents, but also disrespectful and even abusive to her employees and wholly unconcerned about her obligations under the law.”
The Daily Beast has posted a copy of the complaint here.
You can read The Beast’s full report here.
Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report
When he left for Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. George Santos also appears to have left a string of unpaid traffic violation fines and fees in two states, including red light, double parking, and overtime parking citations totaling thousands of dollars.
The embattled serial liar and freshman New York GOP lawmaker “may owe more than $3,400 in unpaid citations, according to records from New York City and Florida,” CBS News reports.
Included in that total is $1,299.10 from Florida for toll violations that “racked up late fees and were ultimately sent to collections agencies.”
It appears that in November of 2016, as soon as he got his New York driver’s license after having one in Florida, a car previously ticket via a red light camera whose plates match one registered to Santos “began piling up citations in New York City — 29 in the next two and a half years, according to city government records, which do not identify the drivers of vehicles being ticketed.”
“More than $1,800 in payments were made for 17 citations, but another 12 remain unpaid, with $2,142.61 still due, according to city records.”
CBS News also points to a New York Post report from January revealing “a Nissan Rogue driven frequently by Santos in recent months had been issued speeding tickets at least five times since he was elected on Nov. 8, ‘including four times in school zones.'”
Santos is under numerous state and federal investigations that span the gamut from campaign finance to allegedly stolen charity funds donated to save the life of a veteran’s service dog. The dog died after the vet could not afford to pay for the operation.
‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer is pushing baseless conspiracy theories about the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon floating over the United States – currently, over Montana – that the Pentagon is tracking, and he’s being widely mocked for his unfounded fear-mongering.
Fox News host Harris Faulkner set the stage perfectly for the far-right Republican from Kentucky, declaring the balloon is “the size of three buses” and that “China says was taken by wind – wind that we can’t substantiate.”
The Kentucky congressman who has falsely described President Biden as “compromised,” and stated he is going to target and investigate him, told Faulkner, “I have concern this is going to be another example of the Biden administration’s weakness on the national scale.”
Comer, 50, a former agriculture commissioner, lamented about Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, claiming it hurt the reputation of America’s military and Commander in Chief.
The balloon, he said, should “never have been allowed” to cross over into the United States.
“My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” he asked, pushing unfounded theories while echoing the far-right’s false claims the COVID-19 virus was developed as a bioweapon and escaped the lab in Wuhan, China.
After suggesting it might have bioweapons, he then said it was “very concerning” the balloon was not shot down before reaching the U.S. – which could have spread the alleged bioweapon.
Faulkner, seen by some as a propagandist, then jumped in to exhibit her surprise that “people on Capitol Hill were not briefed” about the balloon.
“Calling for the president to ‘shoot down’ the craft,” The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona adds, “some in the GOP called the president ‘Beijing Biden’ while claiming this is further proof that ‘Communist China’ doesn’t ‘fear or respect’ Biden.”
House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer to Fox News: “My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” pic.twitter.com/0r9JmBl4zo
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) February 3, 2023
“Honestly,” communications strategist Doug Gordon noted, “just surprised he didn’t find a way to include Hunter’s laptop into that conspiracy theory.”
“Actually, he did later on,” Baragona replied.
National security expert Denver Riggleman, the Republican former U.S. Congressman from Virginia who assisted the Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, tweeted: “Bioweapons? FFS”
Referring to Comer’s unfounded bioweapons claim, one Twitter user observed, “Isn’t that more reason not to shoot at it? I’m not saying I know what to do, but logic would dictate ‘don’t shoot at balloons full of bioweapons.’ Right?”
Another noted that the Oversight Chairman should have been listening to the Pentagon’s briefing “taking place now instead of running to get on Fox to talk about something he has no expertise in.”
Another, mocking Comer, noted: “If they were sending a bio weapon, why would they park it over sparsely populated Montana? *rolls eyes*”
Watch the video above or at this link.
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