States “Will Be Expected To Comply” With Pentagon Policy On National Guard ID Cards For Same-Sex Spouses

File this story under ‘tail wags dog’.

It would be laughable if it were not true to know that the state of Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia are attempting to defy the United States Defense Department.

And Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is not going to stand for it.

The issue is one that relates to pure bigotry as the nine states are defying the Pentagon by refusing to allow National Guard facilities to issue ID cards that enable same-sex spouses of military members to claim benefits.

In no quarter can this be seen as anything other than a pure violation of federal law.  And Secretary Hagel intends for corrective actions to be made to remedy the hardship this causes gay couples who serve our nation.  There are 114 Army and Air National Guard sites in those nine states that are not providing ID cards to eligible same-sex spouses.

In case the loose cannons in those nine states are not yet privy to the news starting on Sept. 3rd same-sex spouses of military members were eligible for the same health care, housing and other benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex spouses. I know news travels slow for conservatives in the south but even by now they should have heard the rumblings about the ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court  concerning the Defense of Marriage Act.

In some states same-sex married couples have had to travel to federal facilities to get ID cards, instead of going to the local National Guard location.

Hagel has made it clear he wants the adjutants general from the nine states where the ID cards are being denied at state facilities to get in line, march straight, and cut the crap.  The Defense Secretary wants it made known to the adjutants general who operate in each of those states to know they  “will be expected to comply” with Pentagon policy on this issue.

Tail wags dog, my rear-end!

Snap too, boys!

I Found Proof That Ted Cruz’s Father Is Lying About President Obama Never Saying “Under God” When Reciting Pledge Of Allegience

Senator Cruz’s father made many racist and defamatory remarks over time about President Obama.  One of them included among the many was that President Obama never says “under God” when saying the pledge of allegiance.

That is utter rubbish.  And so is Rafael Cruz, the father of Sen. Ted Cruz.

Gay Rights, Wisconsin Style

A great article by Jack Craver.  In part he writes the following.

The first state law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation was  signed by a Republican. Wisconsin Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus approved the landmark  legislation after it had passed the Democratically-controlled Assembly and  Senate in 1982.

“The Democrats passed it to embarrass him,” recalled former Dreyfus aide Bill  Kraus in an interview in August. “They didn’t think he’d sign it. But he signed  it in a minute.”

It seems to defy political logic that in 1982, when mainstream attitudes  about homosexuality were not nearly as positive as they are today, Democrats  perceived gay rights as an issue they could use to their benefit. More  confounding is that a Republican governor decided to support the initiative  himself.

But Kraus said that the interest groups that turned many Republicans into  culture warriors over the next two decades were not yet a factor in Wisconsin  politics when Dreyfus.

“The Evangelical movement was just getting started,” he recalled. “Social  issues were not on the table.”

He and Dreyfus perceived a great danger in the religious right. He thus went  to great lengths to distance his boss from the movement.

“Jerry Falwell was coming to Madison and I made sure the governor was in  Superior,” he said.

We’ve almost come full circle since. The political influence of the religious  right grew throughout the 1980’s and ’90’s, forcing many Republicans to take a  hard line against homosexuality, only to back down in recent years as an equally  vociferous gay rights movement began winning majority support. A Marquette University Law School poll shows a majority of  Wisconsin registered voters (53 percent) support gay marriage today.

Nasty Racist Remarks About President Obama From Ted Cruz’s Father

This is stunning.  Not surprising, but still stunning.

Rafael Cruz, the father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), is speaking on behalf of his son during his Senate campaign last year, calling President Obama an “outright Marxist” who “seeks to destroy all concept of God,” and urging the crowd to send Obama “back to Kenya.”

One can not make this stuff up… read it here.

The elder Cruz is a North Texas-based pastor who directs a small outfit called Purifying Fire Ministries.* Rafael Cruz’s inflammatory remarks and fundamentalist views have recently started to attract increased media attention. A few weeks ago, he sparked headlines when he told a gathering of Republicans in Colorado that Obama has vowed to “side with the Muslims,” that Obamacare mandates “suicide counseling” for the elderly, and that gay marriage is a plot to make “government your god.”

Where Does Religious Expression End In The Workplace?

The dialogue on matters such as the one presented today from Justia is the type that we should engage in more often.  Today the topic was religious liberty.

Too often there is a cry that religious expression is being denied for this or that reason.  What might we do with what seems like an ever-expanding list of demands from those who adhere to a wide array of varying beliefs?  From a longer piece I post the following segments.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that religious discrimination claims in the workplace claims are on the rise.  The article included stories of employees who made the following demands: (1) a claim to the right not to use biometric hand-scanning technology, made by a Christian evangelical who believes that Satan will place his mark on people’s hands or foreheads according to the Bible; (2) a claim to the right to wear a hijab, or full headscarf, by Muslim women working at Abercrombie and Fitch; and (3) the right not to transport liquor by Muslim drivers.   Add to this the perennial claims for Sabbath observance and for a right to wear other articles of clothing, such as turbans for Sikhs, and long skirts by various religious believers.

Such claims against private employers are brought through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or its state counterparts.  The standard in such cases is whether accommodation places an “undue hardship” on the business.   As the story points out, religious claimants don’t always win, but employers must litigate the cases, and more cases are being brought.

This same worldview has infected debates over religious liberty, where individuals are now demanding the right to construct their workplaces, communities, and schools in the image of their personal religious viewpoint.  This is religious narcissism.  While there are serious reasons to be concerned about the Me Me Me Generation’s work ethic and its future, and to be annoyed with its self-centeredness, which is doing millennials no favors in the workplace or at home, the attitude that is being urged on religious believers poses a the more significant threat, in my view. –

The problem of religious believers expecting the world to reflect their religious viewpoint is not just a characteristic of employees.  As I have written in this recent column, employers like Hobby Lobby and other for-profit companies are demanding the “right” to shape their health care plans to fit their personal religious worldview, regardless of the religious beliefs of their employees.  The companies are asserting a right to exclude medications for women from the company’s health plan according to their religious worldview.

As the Wall Street Journal’s article discussed above portends, I fully expect employees to respond to such claims with their own EEOC claims against such employers for discriminating on the basis of religion and gender in their health care plans.  For-profit companies with over 15 employees, who are therefore subject to Title VII, can’t distribute salaries based on religion or gender, so why should they be able to distribute health care on those parameters?   So far, the employees’ religious viewpoints and needs have occupied the background as Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood, and the Catholic bishops have loudly beaten their religious chests in public and their lawyers have pontificated about their “rights” to make the workplace in their religious world view.   This is, again, religious narcissism.

Enough of the battle lines being drawn by religious believers in the United States.  It is time to shift back to talking about two-way accommodation—accommodation by both believers and those in power, whether it is the state or the private marketplace.  That will require a change from narcissism as the primary platform for arguing for religious liberty, to a position that requires believers to be good faith members of the larger society.

Will Yellowstone National Park Be Shaken By Earthquake Or Spewed With Molten Lava?


There are so many serene and breath-taking places to visit in the Western United States.   Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and the list, thankfully, can go on and on.  Though I have traveled the ones listed I still have the fondest recollections about Yellowstone National Park as it was there I first experienced the epic world of the Rockies and the awe Mother Nature produces.  I ventured in Yellowstone as a teenager with my parents and it was the start of a love affair with mountains that has only increased with the years.

So when I saw a headline about the latest science discoveries underground at the place that first introduced me to the west I was most interested.  The internal dynamics at work over the span of time that allows for the beauty we enjoy today continues churn and roil.  New wonders are still in production!.  There is a joy in not only seeing the powerful sight of a mountain peak or getting near the geothermal areas but also knowing the work never ends at creation for these national parks,

The reservoir of molten rock underneath Yellowstone National Park in the United States is at least two and a half times larger than previously thought. Despite this, the scientists who came up with this latest estimate say that the highest risk in the iconic park is not a volcanic eruption but a huge earthquake.

Yellowstone is famous for having a ‘hot spot’ of molten rock that rises from deep within the planet, fuelling the park’s geysers and hot springs1. Most of the magma resides in a partially molten blob a few kilometres beneath Earth’s surface.

New pictures of this plumbing system show that the reservoir is about 80 kilometres long and 20 kilometres wide, says Robert Smith, a geophysicist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. “I don’t know of any other magma body that’s been imaged that’s that big,” he says.

Yellowstone’s last mammoth volcanic eruption took place 640,000 years ago. Since then, some 50 to 60 smaller eruptions have occurred, with the most recent of these about 70,000 years ago. A much more likely risk than volcanoes, says Smith, is posed by earthquakes of magnitude 7 or greater like those that have struck the region in modern times. “They are the killer events which we’ve already had,” he says. For instance, the magnitude-7.3 Hebgen Lake earthquake that hit near Yellowstone in 1959 killed 28 people.

This area of the western United States is being stretched and thinned by geological forces, causing the crust to fracture in large quakes. The risk of more of these quakes occurring remains high, says Smith, making them a much bigger problem than any chance of a mammoth eruption.

NSA Allegedly Spied On The Vatican

Now here are some calls that I bet had juicy offerings and gossip that would make for headlines.  No word on how many cardinals might have used the ‘Ex-Benedict’ joke.

US secret services allegedly monitored the phone calls of Pope Benedict XVI, as well as those of his successor.

Italian magazine Panorama claims that among the 46 million phone calls intercepted by the NSA in December 2012 and January 2013 were communications to and from the Vatican.

The NSA allegedly eavesdropped on cardinals before the conclave in March 2013 to elect the new Pope, including calls between them and Cardinal Bergoglio, who became Pope Francis, succeeding Benedict. 

A Vatican spokesman said the Vatican had nothing to say to the claims of eavesdropping story “as far as we know”.

“In any case, we have no concerns about the matter,” a spokesman said.

The claims were made by Panorama, which said the NSA eavesdropped on the calls of many bishops and cardinals at the Vatican in the lead-up to the conclave, held amid tight security in the Sistine Chapel.

The information gleaned was then reportedly divided into four categories — “leadership intentions,” “threats to financial system,” “foreign policy objectives” and “human rights.”


Farm Bill Needs To End Direct Payments, Add Environmental Requirements


Readers of Caffeinated Politics have long seen a widget on the right-hand side of the blog alerting them to a site that showcases how too many farmers wind up farming the government treasury.  It is interesting to note that I have had conversations with real farmers who decry the abuse that happens with agriculture subsidies, and see a need for real reform when Washington crafts a new farm bill.

For instance a Monona man who farmed thousands of acres in three Wisconsin counties received  $32,000 in subsidies in 2010 and more than $1 million since 1995, according to  the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that tracks subsidies.  That is simply outrageous considering, as this editorial notes, that same Monona man lives in a $1.1 million home on the lake, begging the  question of need.

Members of the house and senate are sitting down and starting work at  creating, and hopefully passing, budget related bills that will address national requirements.    They are working on the farm bill and I am most pleased that there is movement towards a more sane approach to direct payments.   

Direct payments, farm subsidies that cost the government almost $5 billion annually, would be phased out in both bills, with the savings split between other subsidy programs and deficit reduction. Direct payments have been controversial because they are paid out every year regardless of crop prices or crop yield. The Senate bill would eliminate the program immediately, while the House bill would phase it out over the next two years for cotton farmers who rely on the program.

Meanwhile I am very interested in the proposed requirement that environmental standards be imposed for those who get crop insurance.

Both bills would increase subsidies for federally subsidized crop insurance and create a new crop insurance program that covers small revenue losses on planted crops. This revenue protection program favors Midwestern corn and soybean farmers and would be more generous in the Senate bill. The Senate bill also includes language that would lower government crop insurance subsidies for the wealthiest farmers — an amendment added on the Senate floor over the objections of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. In addition, the Senate bill includes language that would require farmers who get crop insurance to comply with certain environmental standards. House Agriculture Committee leaders are firmly opposed to that provision.