Mojo - April 2011

MAP: Has Your State Banned Sodomy?

| Tue Apr. 19, 2011 11:29 AM EDT

Last week we reported on the debate in the Texas state legislature over whether to repeal to the state's ban on "homosexual conduct." It's been eight years since the Supreme Court officially knocked down anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas, but Texas' state legislature has thus far refused to remove the law from the books—in large part because most Texas Republicans still support it. In 2010, the state GOP made defense of the anti-sodomy statute part of its platform, calling for the state to effectively ignore the the law of the land: "We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy." Gov. Rick Perry, meanwhile, dismissed the Lawrence decision as the product of "nine oligarchs in robes" (never mind that it was a 6–3 decision).

But Texas isn't the only state that's still legislating bedroom activity. Fourteen states currently have laws on the books outlawing anal sex between two consenting, unrelated adults—referred to variously as "deviate sexual conduct," "the infamous crime against nature," "sodomy," and "buggery." And it's taken a concerted effort to keep those laws on the books. Since Lawrence, efforts to formally repeal laws in Montana, Kansas, Utah, Louisiana, North Carolina, and, most notably, Texas have all faced resistance before fizzling out in their respective state legislatures. Conservatives in those states know they can't enforce the laws, but by keeping them in the code, they can send a message that homosexuality is officially condemned by the government. So which states still outlaw butt sex? Here's a map:

All Sodomy Outlawed: Idaho, UtahMichiganVirginiaNorth Carolina, South Carolina, FloridaAlabama, MississippiLouisiana

Just for gays: MontanaKansas, OklahomaTexas

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Dems: GOP Will Make Grandpa Strip for Health Care Cash

| Tue Apr. 19, 2011 11:06 AM EDT

Democrats haven't wasted any time using Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget as a political bludgeon after all but three House Republicans voted to pass the plan on Friday. This week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched an attack ad campaign in more than 24 GOP-controlled swing districts, focusing on the Ryan plan's radical overhaul of Medicare and Medicaid. Since the GOP unveiled the budget, the party's refrain has been that Republicans want to "end Medicare as we know it." In the new DCCC campaign, that’s now been shortened to "Republicans voted to end Medicare"—full stop.

The Dems have also resorted to less, uh, conventional messages to drive the message home. The DCCC has released an ad on Tuesday as part of its new Medicare campaign, showing an elderly man who's forced to do menial labor to pay for health care under the Republicans' budget plan. The ad's crowning moment? Grandpa shows up as a Chippendale-style stripper at a bachelorette party. "Did someone call the fire department?" he asks. "Because it’s about to get hot in here!"

Will Americans think it's funny? Outlandish? Gross? It will depend on whether the Democrats can convince Americans that the GOP is pushing a plan that’s even more over the top.

Supreme Court to Uighurs: No US for You

| Tue Apr. 19, 2011 6:27 AM EDT
Palau: It doesn't look so bad. (In fairness, it's not all this pretty. And just because you might want to visit somewhere doesn't necessarily mean you'd want to live there.)

On Monday, the Supreme Court said it would not hear an appeal from a group of five Chinese Muslims held at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. The men, who are members of the Uighur minority group from western China, fear that they may be tortured or executed if they are returned to their home country and therefore seek to be released in the United States. Both the Bush and Obama administrations determined long ago that the Uighurs are not a national security threat, and pretty much everyone agrees that their continued detention is unlawful. So these guys should be released, right? 

Unfortunately for the Uighurs, there's a catch, and it's why the Supreme Court declined to hear the case: the government has already offered to resettle the men in the Pacific nation/future climate change victim/onetime Survivor set of Palau, but they have refused. (Another group of Uighurs was resettled in Palau in 2009.) As Justice Stephen Breyer explained in a statement joined by Anthony Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "under present circumstances," there is "no Government-imposed obstacle to petitioners' timely release and appropriate resettlement." Breyer also noted that even though the Uighurs declined the Obama administration's first resettlement offers, the government says it's willing to "discuss the matter with the government of Palau," and is still working to find other countries willing to take the five men.

It seems like the most obvious thing to do here would be for the court to order the Uighurs resettled in the United States, as they desire. But the liberals on the court probably don't have the votes for that. While Kennedy joins the liberal bloc on many terrorism-related cases, the liberals would be without Elena Kagan, who was disqualified from ruling on the Uighur case because she worked on it in her previous job as solicitor general. As Breyer noted, the court was eager to resolve whether a court could order the release of an "unlawfully held prisoner" into the US "when no other remedy was available." Unfortunately for the Uighurs, they have another remedy available (namely Palau), and this time around, that made all the difference. So this decision ends up as just another reminder that not everyone wants to leave Gitmo. The war on terror sure produces some odd moments.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 19, 2011

Tue Apr. 19, 2011 5:30 AM EDT

1st Lt. Andrew McKinley, a logistics officer with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, high-crawls through a mud pit obstacle as he and his team of officers complete a testing course or “lane” during a Prop Blast, a traditional team-building event that welcomes new officers to the division, April 8, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. Following a seven-mile run, participants completed four lanes of two hours each. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

Texas Dems Tap Iraq General for Senate

| Mon Apr. 18, 2011 5:21 PM EDT

The Democrats think they're within striking distance of a Republican-held Senate seat in Texas, and they think they've found their man: retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, a cantankerous San Antonian who oversaw the Iraq War effort in 2003 and 2004. "It's the one candidate that will cause John Cornyn some heartburn," a Dem state politico told McClatchy last week.

But Sanchez comes with obvious baggage, and Wired's Danger Room marshaled the opposition research today, calling Sanchez a "disgraced three-star" and launching into quite the denunciation:

Congratulations, Texas Democratic Party: you are on the verge of a new level in cynicism. Sanchez's tenure running the Iraq war saw a humiliated and cashiered Iraqi military metastasize into an insurgency that killed and maimed thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Under pressure from the Pentagon, he approved abusive detention and interrogation practices for Abu Ghraib that resulted in the U.S.' most damaging wartime scandal since Vietnam. What could possibly interrupt Sanchez's deserved fade into obscurity? "He's the one guy who could unite the Hispanic vote," former Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes told McClatchy. "He'll get the conservative Hispanic businessman." Amazing...

Really? A "new level" in military and racial cynicism? In congressional politics? (Hello, Allen West? Ilario Pantano?)

Do Democrats Prevent Gay Teen Suicides?

| Mon Apr. 18, 2011 4:00 PM EDT

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual (LGB) teens who live in communities with greater proportions of Democrats may be less likely to commit suicide. That's according to a new study from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

The study looked at a survey of about 32,000 11th graders in 34 Oregon counties, about 4 percent of whom were LGB. It found that LGB youth living in supportive social environments were 25 percent less likely to try killing themselves. In order to measure social support, the study looked at a community's political party affiliation, as well as the prevalence of schools' anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies and Gay-Straight Alliance groups.

Suicides among gay youth have received a lot of attention in recent months, particularly after a spate of deaths last fall. (The most dramatic, perhaps, was the Rutgers University freshman who leapt off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate streamed a video online of him in an encounter with another man.)

Researcher Mark Hatzenbuehler, who conducted the study, said in a press release that the results would provide a "road map" to reducing suicides. But he expressed concern about the lack of progress in some communities. In Utah, for instance, Mormons have strongly opposed Gay-Straight Alliances.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among all 15- to 24-year-olds and even higher among LGB youth (PDF).

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(Part of the) DOD Clears McChrystal (Kinda)

| Mon Apr. 18, 2011 1:36 PM EDT

Nearly a year and untold taxpayer dollars later, the Department of Defense's inspector general (DODIG) has finally released its findings (PDF) on the Rolling Stone-documented antics of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his Afghanistan staffers. Their conclusion: Meh. Whatever.

McChrystal, you'll recall, fell on his sword and was replaced in Afghanistan by Gen. David Petraeus after the "runaway general" was documented flipping subordinates the middle finger, drinking Bud Limes, and holding forth over a court of subordinates that called official functions "fucking gay" and badmouthed their seniors, from the US ambassador in Afghanistan up to Vice President Joe "Bite Me" Biden and President Obama. The military's findings on l'affaire McChrystal came last week in the form of a short memo to Army investigators, quietly dropped on the DODIG's website. In it, military inspectors write that "the evidence was insufficient to substantiate a violation of applicable DoD standards with respect to any of the incidents on which we focused...None of the matters we reviewed warrant further investigation."

Lobbyists: Obamacare’s Awful! (But Take Advantage of It Anyway)

| Mon Apr. 18, 2011 11:06 AM EDT

The right's opposition to health-care reform is riddled with contradictions, as their recent flip-flop on Medicare cuts has made plain. The latest example comes from the National Federation for Independent Businesses, a right-leaning lobbying giant that has opposed the Affordable Care Act from the start—has become the only trade association to join a lawsuit to repeal it. In advance of Tax Day, the NFIB has sent out a memo explaining six ways that the law's health insurance tax credit for small businesses will be hard to obtain and not helpful anyway, Politico reports

But the NFIB concluded the memo on a very different note, admitting that it could benefit those businesses who qualify: 

Despite our concerns with the structure of the credit and the criticisms written above, NFIB urges any small business to consult with an accountant to determine whether filing for the credit is a good idea. If they determine that filing is beneficial, then by all means the business should file and get whatever dollars the law will offer.

The NFIB’s caveat is a telling admission that federal health care reform does, in fact, have benefits for small businesses, some of which are available immediately and others—like the insurance exchanges—which will be available further down the line. Such benefits have convinced other small business advocacy groups and trade associations to split from groups like the NFIB. As I reported in January, local members have also pulled away from the Chamber of Commerce and its fierce opposition to health reform for the same reasons. 

Unfortunately, many Americans still don't know what's actually in the federal health law. But if even the fiercest opponents of reform are willing to admit some of the benefits, it's a sign that support for the law could grow further down the road.

Koran Scholar Chuck Norris Warns Of Creeping Sharia

| Mon Apr. 18, 2011 9:17 AM EDT

Happy Holy Week! This year, Walker Texas Ranger star and Internet meme Chuck Norris is celebrating things a little differently—by writing a special week-long series at WorldNetDaily on the dangers of creeping Islamic Sharia law in American society. Norris, who wants to make clear that he is absolutely not an Islamophobe, warns that "where Muslim religion and culture has spread, Shariah law has shortly followed":

Of course, many Americans watch on video a Middle Eastern woman allegedly caught in adultery, buried in the ground up to her head and being stoned to death, and think, "That could never happen in America." But they fail to see how Shariah law has already been enabled and subtly invoked in our country, and that any such induction like it is brought about by understated lukewarm changes, like a frog boiled in a kettle by a slow simmer.

As proof of the slow boiling of the American frog, Norris cites three examples: A Florida judge ordering two Muslim parties to settle their dispute through Islamic arbitration, per the terms of their mutually agreed-upon contract; the push by various state legislators to ban Islamic law from state courts; and an Obama adviser telling a British audience that Sharia has been "oversimplified." And that's just in the last few months! Of course, each of these points has its self-refuting flaws. Judges turn cases over to pre-selected religious arbitrators all the time, for instance, and not just for Muslims. None of the state legislators in question have produced a single example of Sharia being forced upon their states. And as for the argument that Sharia has been "oversimplified," I would just point you to the fact that a quasi-mulleted martial arts actor from the mid 1990s feels qualified to explain to a national audience what Sharia is.

Read the full piece here. Norris promises four more articles this week on Sharia (and yes, because it's the Internet, one of those columns will appear in the form of a top-ten list). While you wait patiently for part two, Norris recommends that you read David Gaubatz's novel expose Muslim Mafia, in which he exposes the Muslim Brotherhood's attempt to infiltrate Capitol Hill with interns.

Anyway, this is part of a trend for Norris: In 2009, he challenged President Obama to produce his birth certificate—promising that if he did, the entire birther controversy would "fade away like the pains of childbirth"; he also warned that the Copenhagen Climate Conference was merely an excuse to bring the globe closer to a "one world order." That prophesy came two years after he single-handedly disproved the theory of evolution.

County GOP Official Depicts Obamas as Apes

| Mon Apr. 18, 2011 6:06 AM EDT

Last week, Southern California's Orange County showed why it's a haven for people who don't find the Old South racist enough. Tea party activist Marilyn Davenport, a member of the central committee of the Orange County Republican Party, sent her fellow conservatives an email that read, "Now you know why no birth certificate." Attached was an image (at left) depicting the Obama family as apes.

"Everybody who knows me knows that I am not a racist," Davenport told the OC Weekly when questioned about the email. "It was a joke. I have friends who are black. Besides, I only sent it to a few people—mostly people I didn't think would be upset by it."

Orange County already sports considerable expertise in birtherism and racist Photoshopping. Its residents include birther queen Orly Taitz and a mayor who gained national infamy in 2009 for sending out a photo showing a watermelon patch in front of the White House. Scott Baugh, the chairman of the OC Republican Party, called Davenport's email "despicable," but added that Davenport would not be ousted from her post. The party's bylaws prevent a vote to force her to resign.