Saturday, March 09, 2013

More Saturday Male Beauty

Queen Elizabeth II Makes Historic Pledge Against Discrimination

As the U.s  Supreme Court gets closer to hearing oral arguments in the DOMA and Proposition 8 appeals,  another development across the Atlantic Ocean suggest that the United States is falling further behind to curve on gay equability.    Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom - who can hardly be depicted as a flaming liberal - has signaled that she is about to sign a historic pledge against discrimination which seems to include a pledge for LGBT equality.   As previously noted on this blog and else where the British Parliament is close to passing gay marriage legislation  The Daily Mail has coverage.  Here are highlights:

The Queen will tomorrow back an historic pledge to promote gay rights and ‘gender equality’ in one of the most controversial acts of her reign.

In a live television broadcast, she will sign a new charter designed to stamp out discrimination against homosexual people and promote the ‘empowerment’ of women – a key part of a new drive to boost human rights and living standards across the Commonwealth..

In her first public appearance since she had hospital treatment for a stomach bug, the Queen will sign the new Commonwealth Charter and make a speech explaining her passionate commitment to it.
Insiders say her decision to highlight the event is a ‘watershed’ moment – the first time she has clearly signalled her support for gay rights in her 61-year reign.

The charter, dubbed a ‘21st Century Commonwealth Magna Carta’ declares: ‘We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.’ 

The ‘other grounds’ is intended to refer to sexuality – but specific reference to ‘gays and lesbians’ was omitted in deference to Commonwealth countries with draconian anti-gay laws.
Sources close to the Royal Household said she is aware of the implications of the charter’s implicit support of gay rights and commitment to gender equality. 

In her speech, the Queen is expected to stress that the rights must ‘include everyone’ - and this is seen as an implicit nod to the agenda of inclusivity, usually championed by the Left

A diplomatic source added: ‘The impact of this statement on gay and women’s rights should not be underestimated. Nothing this progressive has ever been approved by the United Nations. And it is most unusual for the Queen to request to sign documents in public, never mind call the cameras in.’

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay and lesbian rights group Stonewall, said the Queen – who he called ‘a feminist icon’ – had taken ‘an historic step forward’ on gay rights. He said: ‘This is the first time that the Queen has publicly acknowledged the importance of the six per cent of her subjects who are gay. Some of the worst persecution of gay people in the world takes place in Commonwealth countries as a result of the British Empire.’

Homosexual acts are still illegal in 41 of the Commonwealth’s 54 nations. Penalties include the death sentence in parts of Nigeria and Pakistan; 25 years jail in Trinidad and Tobago; 20 years plus flogging in Malaysia; and life imprisonment in Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Bangladesh and Guyana.

David Cameron suspended British aid to Malawi over the persecution of gay people – homosexual acts carry a 14-year jail term there – and has threatened to do the same to Uganda and Ghana.

Gay Marriage Goes Upscale: Plaza Athenee - New York

Years ago when I was in-house counsel for an oil company my favorite hotel to stay in when in Paris was the understated yet opulent and glamorous Plaza Athénée located 25 Avenue Montaigne (other hotels we sometimes stayed at were the George V and the neighboring Prince de Gaulle).  I was told by a senior partner of a Parisian law firm that the Plaza Athénée was where old European money stayed and at the time among the shops in the lobby were  Harry Winston and  Bulgari  boutiques.  Wikipedia reports that famous guests who have stayed at the Plaza Athénée over the years include Mata Hari (who was arrested here), Josephine Baker, Rudolph Valentino, Grace Kelly, Jean Harlow, Gary Cooper,  and Jackie Kennedy.

My glory days of traveling like the very wealthy ended when I left the oil company and moved back to Virginia from Texas, but years ago, the Plaza Athénée opened a branch in New York City, the Plaza Athenee - New York which captures much of the the magnificence and elegance of its larger sister in Paris.   And now, the Plaza Athenee-New York is marketing wedding packages to the LGBT market.  The image above is from the March issue of Out Magazine (it appears following page 44) and shows that savvy businesses and retailers recognize the viability of the LGBT market despite the nay saying and threatened boycotts by gay-hating Christofascist groups such as AFA.

I am glad that New York State and the folks at Plaza Athenee - New York believe in marriage equality.  Now that my brother has an apartment in New York, we may not stay at the hotel, but we will certainly stop by for a drink or more.

One of the ironies of Virginia's anti-gay extremism is that the state - which includes tourism as one of its biggest industries - is losing huge amounts of money from the LGBT market.  Why visit a state where one is clearly not welcomed or deemed equal.  And compounding the problem is the flow of money from LGBT Virginians who leave the state to marry(many of our friends have married in New York and Washington, DC) and vacation.  As noted many times on this blog, bigotry does have a high price.

The photos below are of the wonderful hotel in Paris:

Front Facade
Patio Courtyard

Murder of Black Gay Mississippi Mayorial Sparks Old Civil-Rights Fears

I have held off weighing in on the story of the murder of gay Clarksdale, Mississippi mayoral candidate Marco McMillian (pictured above) whose body was found late last week near a levee after being reportedly dragged, beaten, and burned.   The alleged killer is another young black man, 22-year-old named Lawrence Reed, who is in police custody.  Some reports indicate that Lawrence may use a "gay panic" defense, but something just doesn't seem to add up in the whole sad story.  As a result, the FBI is monitoring the situation.   Having lived in Alabama and seen small rural towns in both Alabama and Mississippi first hand, when a young black man, especially one who s openly gay, is murdered, it is hard not to wonder what the real story might be and whether Lawrence is telling the truth.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the unfolding story.  Here are highlights:

When Marco McMillian decided to move back to his home town and run for mayor, the 33-year-old aspiring candidate knew he needed the blessing of the silver-haired oligarchy that ruled quietly from church pews. It was familiar turf for McMillian, who grew up singing in the choir at New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church a half-mile from his small house near the railroad tracks in this grindingly poor city in the Mississippi Delta.

A week and a half after McMillian’s body was found in the mud on an isolated stretch of levee outside Clarksdale, his death remains a mystery. It has roiled old suspicions and fears from Mississippi’s dark history of racial brutality, although both McMillian and the man charged with his murder are African American. McMillian was also gay, adding fire to demands by civil rights groups for the killing to be investigated as a hate crime. The FBI said this week that it is “monitoring” the investigation.

The Coahoma County Sheriff’s Department has charged Lawrence Reed, 22, in the crime. He told police that he killed McMillian and where to look for the body, according to two people familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss its early findings.
Reed’s family has yet to address publicly the allegations against him. The sheriff’s department has released almost no information on the case, adding to conspiracy theories and guessing over what exactly happened the night McMillian and Reed, who worked at Domino’s Pizza, were together.

McMillian’s bid for mayor was an audacious move. He had lived away from Clarksdale for 10 years, graduating from Jackson State University, working as the executive assistant to the president at Alabama A&M University and until 2011, serving as the executive director of Phi Beta Sigma, the black fraternal organization headquartered in Washington. 

He moved back to Clarksdale late last year. Known as the birthplace of the blues, the city of 18,000 has a 38 percent poverty rate. Tourists from around the world pour in to visit Muddy Waters’s shack and listen to the music of Pinetop Perkins. But black Clarksdale has existed in a separate realm from the New Bohemian South the city wants to be.

Little of what happened that night is known. On Tuesday morning, on a rural highway out near the Tallahatchie County line, McMillian’s sport-utility vehicle was involved in a collision with another vehicle. A distraught Lawrence Reed was driving the SUV alone.  

McMillian’s body was found the next morning near the levee between the communities of Sherard and Rena Lara. The spot was completely isolated. A steep embankment of pasture dropped down to the barbed-wire fence that went along the water, and that is where the body was, shoved partway under the wire.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marco McMillian, one of the 1st viable openly #LGBT candidates in Mississippi,” tweeted the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a national political action committee.  It was a bombshell on top of a bombshell. 

Three days later, frustrated by a lack of contact with the Coahoma Sheriff’s Department, the Ungers released a statement saying McMillian had been “beaten, dragged and burned (set afire),” and that his death could not have been a random act of violence.

There's more in the story.   Hopefully, with more time answers to the swirling questions and speculation will be found.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

I'm not typically into formula racing, but Jules Bianchi could make me a convert. :)

GOP Schizophrenia On Health Care Reform

At times I wonder if some of the GOP leadership suffers from schizophrenia.  On the one hand we have Marco Rubio ranting that a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year must include provisions to defund Obamacare in its entirety.  Meanwhile, a group of top House Republicans have written a letter to President Obama asking him to preserve a temporary program included in the law that provides health care coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.  Obviously, one cannot have it both ways.  Here's what Rubio was saying during an interview via Think Progress:

Rubio parroted the usual litany of wild — and widely debunked — conservative hysteria about the dire consequences that Obamcare will have on American businesses and the U.S. health care industry, asserting that he would only vote to avert a government shutdown if Obamcare implementation is halted completely:

HEWITT: Senator Rubio, the continuing resolution is headed your way. How is this stacking up as Act III of the spending drama?

RUBIO: Well first of all, I don’t think anyone is in favor of shutting down the government, but I think that’s where we’re headed ultimately here, unfortunately, if we don’t fix our debt problem… But here’s what I’ve said about this continuing resolution. Senator Cruz from Texas is offering this amendment to defund Obamacare. If that gets onto the bill, in essence, if they get a continuing resolution and we can get a vote on that and pass that onto the bill, I’ll vote for a continuing resolution, even if it’s temporary, because it does something permanent, and that’s defund this health care bill, this Obamacare bill, that is going to be an absolute disaster for the American economy.
One can only assume that Rubio has not bothered to have a chat with his GOP compatriots in the House of Representatives where something quite different is underway.  Think Progress reports this:

In another sign of the growing political support for health reform — or the sense that opposing its most popular elements has become politically perilous — a group of top House Republicans have written a letter to President Obama asking him to preserve a temporary program included in the law that provides health care coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

The so-called Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) was designed as a bridge to the exchanges for families and individuals who don’t have an offer of coverage from an employer and cannot find insurance in the individual market. The $5 billion program, which covers only sick people is incredibly costly, and will soon stop processing new applicants. 

Republicans however, are incensed, and are demanding that the White House shift funds from prevention or comparative effectiveness research to keep the PCIP running. 

“Your administration’s action will leave thousands of Americans with pre-existing conditions without access to health care,” the group of House Republicans write in a letter first obtained by the Talking Points Memo’s Sahil Kapur. The letter reiterates the GOP’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act as a whole but notes, “to allow PCIP to continue to accept new enrollees, we urge you to support efforts to transfer the funds necessary from other PPACA programs, such as the Prevention and Public Health Fund, the Secretary’s transfer authority to assist with state based exchanges, comparative effectiveness, planning, or another similar program to PCIP.”

 The letter to Obama was signed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Energy & Commerce Chair Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee Chair Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX).
The truth is that this country desperately needs health care reform and the reality is that the Affordable Health Care Act went nowhere near far enough in fixing the problem.   I for one support a single payer program because nothing else is going to rein in exploding hearth care costs - my firm heath plan premiums are going up over 11% even though we have had no major claims filed - and end the monopoly games being played by hospital systems.

The other irony is that the House GOP leaders are suddenly worried about those with pre-existing conditions while seeking to kill Obamacare and leave millions totally uninsured.  For a political party that claims to so supportive of Christian values, kicking millions to the curb as disposable garbage is the height of hypocrisy.

REEL IT OUT - Hampton Roads Queer Film Festival

As yet another sign that things are changing in Virginia despite the efforts of virulently anti-gay folks at The Family Foundation and their puppets in the Republican Party of Virginia, next weekend ACCESS AIDS CARE is sponsoring a Hampton Roads Queer Film Festival, called REEL IT OUT.   The festival will run from March 14th through 21st and feature nine, full-length feature films, along with several short-film screenings across the area. Several of the films will have panel discussions and after-party events to follow. The festival proceeds will benefit The LGBT Center of Hampton Roads a program of ACCESS AIDS Care.  What makes the event more significant is that three of the regions universities are involved in the effort. HRBOR, the local affiliate of the NGLCC is a sponsor of the event.  I hope local readers will make an effort to attend some of the screenings and receptions.  For more information on the festival, please go to and  Here are some details from the press release on the effort:

The festival’s chief visionary has been a personal friend, Connor Norton, a theater production and business management student at Old Dominion University and the president of ODU Out Student Alliance.  “I wanted [Reel it Out] to do two things; to create a sense of community bonded not simply by sexuality or gender identity, but by our human emotions to love, laugh, cry and feel. The second was to commemorate those who had the courage to break the status quo. Before our time, films with LGBTQ themes had very little to no attention or recognition in the professional movie making world.”

The festival will kick off on Thursday, March 14th with a special screening of STRUCK BY LIGHTENING, written by Chris Colfer (Glee). The film will be held at Naro Theater, followed by discussion featuring Director Brian Dannelly (Los Angeles) and reception to follow at The Green Onion. The Naro Theater will also host closing night, March 21st with a screening of JUDAS KISS, followed by discussion with featured guest Director Carlos Pedrazza (Seattle) and actress Julia Morizawa (Los Angeles). A closing after-party will be held at Night of the Iguana.

There will be a series of university screenings, including PARIAH and THE WORLD UNSEEN, which will be held at Norfolk State University at The New Student Center, Room 149 and hosted by NSU’s LGBTQ student organization, Leading the Education of Straight and Gay Individuals (LEGASI). There will be a discussion to follow, hosted by Dr. Charles Ford, Professor and Chair of the Department of History at NSU.

Old Dominion University’s gay student association, ODU Out, will host a screening of STONEWALL UPRISING at The Monarch Theater on Hampton Boulevard. After the movie, there will be a panel discussion with several members of the ODU academic faculty and Hampton Roads residents Mitch Rosa and Melissa Morrissett, who were both in Greenwich Village during the Stonewall Riots.

Christopher Newport University will touch on the subject of homosexuality and the church, with a screening of PRAYERS FOR BOBBY at The Ferguson Center Studio Theater (Black Box), located at 1 Avenue of the Arts, Newport News, Virginia, 23606(-3072). Five university clubs, including the Gay-Straight Student Union, the Communication Club, the Film Club, Unitarian Universalist and United Campus Ministries (UCM), host the film. A discussion and reception will follow the film.

Other films on the agenda include THE SENSEI (The LGBT Center of Hampton Roads), WERE THE WORLD MINE (TR Dance) and IMAGINE YOU AND ME (The Commodore Theater). There will be a screening of selected short-film entries at TR Dance at 325 Granby Street, prior to the screening of WERE THE WORLD MINE.

As noted above, the event will benefit The LGBT Center of Hampton Roads, a program of ACCESS AIDS Care. The Center provides services such as mental health for gay, lesbian and transgender youth and adults, support groups for youth, military personnel and the transgender community and a variety of social outlets for area high-school gay student associations, and over 50 group and weekly yoga sessions. Free HIV testing and youth outreach is also held in the center, which is partially funded through a grant from the Elton John Foundation. 

Saturday Morning Reflections

While I generally seem to dislike winter more each year, one of the real positives is that with the leaves off the tree our bedroom gets a view of wonderful sunrises across Hampton Roads towards Norfolk and the Naval Base such as the view above.  Once the trees across the street leaf out the views are largely lost again late fall.  Despite losing the amazing sunrises, I am happy that spring is nearly here as the daffodils are starting to bloom with their promise that warmer weather is almost here.

It's one of those mornings where I have a pleasant sense of well being despite recent family drama with one of brother-in-laws who was nearly killed a week and a half ago when an idiot driver ran into his car at 60 mph on I-64 while he was stopped in traffic (he's still seriously injured but recovering slowly) and the always present stress of running a solo practice law firm.  Last night the boyfriend and I went to "Steak Night" at the gay club, The Wave, in Norfolk where we met one of my daughter, her husband and my 3 month old granddaughter pictured below for a pleasant evening.  The food was good as always, as were the cocktails and some of the other customers, including several local TV personalities.

Today - which thankfully is sunny and beautiful though chilly - will involve an afternoon party at the home of one of the boyfriend's clients and then a birthday party/dinner for a friend over in Suffolk, across the harbor and to the west of the view at the top of this post.   The honoree has been with his partner for over 30 years thus dispelling the Christianist lie that gays cannot have stable, long enduring relationships.  Many of our circle of friends will be there as well.  It should be a good day overall and is an example of how gays endure even in horribly anti-gay states like Virginia.  And here at home, the usually sun worshipers are having a relaxed morning:

Friday, March 08, 2013

More Friday Male Beauty

Can The South Be Trusted On Voting Rights Yet?

Racial polarization in the 2008 presidential election: A comparison of states covered by Section 5 with the rest of the nation

Having lived in different parts of the South - Virginia, Alabama, Texas and back to Virginia - since early 1970's, the answer to the question posed in the caption of this blog post is, in my opinion, a resounding NO!  The Alabama of 2013 strikes me as more reactionary than the Alabama of 1977 and Texas outside of the large cities seems to be another example of going backward in time.  And then there's Virginia where the Republican Party of Virginia and its Christofascist and Tea Party puppeteers who seem to wan to take Virginia back to circa 1850.  Racism is alive and well in conservative circles and, as it is losing more and more of the sane voter pool, the GOP seeks to disenfranchise as many minority voters as possible to make up the declining numbers of the Christofascist/Tea Party base.   Despite this frightening reality, conservative justices on the U. S. Supreme Court seemed to suggest that the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed.  A piece in Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball - Sabato and I were classmates at the University of Virginia - looks at why the Voting Rights Act may be needed now more than ever (candidly, here in Virginia GOP efforts to disenfranchise minority voters is a case study in why the Voting Rights Act is still greatly needed).  Here are highlights:

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the latest challenge to what many consider the most important civil rights law of the past century — the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The challenge involves Section 5 of the law, which requires nine states — all but two in the South — to obtain prior approval from the Justice Department before implementing any changes in voting laws, regulations or procedures.

The Voting Rights Act, including Section 5, was last renewed in 2006. At that time, overwhelming majorities of Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate voted to renew the law for 25 years based on extensive evidence of continued attempts to suppress or dilute the votes of racial and ethnic minorities in the states covered by Section 5.

Despite this legislative record, the justice’s questions and comments during last week’s oral arguments suggest that there is a good chance that the court will vote to strike down Section 5. The five conservative justices on the court, including Chief Justice John Roberts, were clearly skeptical about the continued need for federal supervision of the states covered by Section Five. At one point, Roberts asked whether “the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North.”

There is no doubt that old-fashioned racism has greatly diminished over the past 40 years throughout the nation and in the states covered by Section 5. However, there are good reasons to be concerned about how a decision to overturn Section 5 would affect the voting rights of African Americans and other minorities in these states — for reasons that are more political than racial. That’s because regardless of whether white political leaders in these states hold racist views, they have substantial political incentives for engaging in actions to suppress or dilute the minority vote.

[A]nother key difference between these two sets of states is that the covered states are now dominated by the Republican Party. All nine covered states currently have Republican governors and Republican majorities in both chambers of their legislatures. This means that political leaders in these states have a powerful incentive to suppress or dilute the votes of African Americans and other minorities because these groups make up the large majority of the Democratic electoral base in their states. Moreover, as the majority party, they also have the ability to enact laws and regulations to accomplish these goals.

Recent history shows that Republican leaders in the states covered by Section 5 have frequently attempted to suppress or dilute the minority vote through actions such as enacting voter identification laws, changing voting dates, changing poll locations, replacing partisan elections with nonpartisan elections, switching from district-based to at-large elections and changing district boundaries. While such actions have occurred in other states, the evidence collected by Congress in 2006 showed that they occurred much more frequently in the states covered by Section 5. In numerous instances, only the power of the federal government to block such discriminatory laws and regulations has prevented their implementation.

The nonwhite share of the electorate in the states covered by Section 5 is expected to increase over the next few decades. Given the racially polarized pattern of voting in these states, this trend is likely to pose a growing threat to the dominance of the Republican Party in many of them. As a result, the political incentives for Republican leaders to pursue changes in election laws, rules and regulations in order to suppress or dilute minority voting strength will almost certainly increase in the future, making continued federal review of proposed changes crucial in order to ensure fair elections. Far from being outdated, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act may be needed more than ever in the coming decades.

Sadly, the GOP has become a party of open racists, white supremacists and religious fanatics all of whom view blacks and other racial minorities as less than human - a view similar to how they view gays - and whom they would like nothing better than to bar from voting entirely.   It is yet another reason of why I left the GOP long over a decade ago.

The Best and Worse Places in the World to be Gay

Click image to enlarge
Each year Spartacus International Gay Travel rates all of the Spartacus destinations listed in the Spartacus International Gay Guide based on 14 categories, including the laws and local customs of each country. The categories range from gay-marriage to death penalty for homosexuals.  The top rated countries are shown above, while the most anti-gay nations are shown at the end off this post. 

So where does the United States rank?  Sadly, the USA comes in 38th in the rankings, far behind most of Europe, Canada and these other western hemisphere nations: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, St. Maarten, Guadeloupe, and Martinique.  South Africa likewise comes in well ahead of the USA.  For a nation whose founding documents declared that all men are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and equality under the law, ranking 38th is beyond pathetic.  It shows the lie promoted by hubris filled Americans who proclaim that this is the land of liberty and religious freedom when, in fact, it is not.
Click image to enlarge

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Bill Clinton: It’s Time to Overturn DOMA

One of the blights on President Bill Clinton's legacy is that he signed the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA") into law back in 1996.  To be candid, he displayed cowardice and put equality under the U.S. Constitution beneath what he perceived to be political expediency at the time.  Fortunately, and unlike bigots in the Republican Party who continue to prostitute themselves to the Christofascists, Clinton has recognized his error and has authored an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for DOMA to be Overturned.  Here are column excerpts:

In 1996, I signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Although that was only 17 years ago, it was a very different time. In no state in the union was same-sex marriage recognized, much less available as a legal right, but some were moving in that direction. Washington, as a result, was swirling with all manner of possible responses, some quite draconian. As a bipartisan group of former senators stated in their March 1 amicus brief to the Supreme Court, many supporters of the bill known as DOMA believed that its passage “would defuse a movement to enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would have ended the debate for a generation or more.” It was under these circumstances that DOMA came to my desk, opposed by only 81 of the 535 members of Congress.

On March 27, DOMA will come before the Supreme Court, and the justices must decide whether it is consistent with the principles of a nation that honors freedom, equality and justice above all, and is therefore constitutional. As the president who signed the act into law, I have come to believe that DOMA is contrary to those principles and, in fact, incompatible with our Constitution.

Because Section 3 of the act defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, same-sex couples who are legally married in nine states and the District of Columbia are denied the benefits of more than a thousand federal statutes and programs available to other married couples. Among other things, these couples cannot file their taxes jointly, take unpaid leave to care for a sick or injured spouse or receive equal family health and pension benefits as federal civilian employees. Yet they pay taxes, contribute to their communities and, like all couples, aspire to live in committed, loving relationships, recognized and respected by our laws.

When I signed the bill, I included a statement with the admonition that “enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination.” Reading those words today, I know now that, even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, the law is itself discriminatory. It should be overturned.

Americans have been at this sort of a crossroads often enough to recognize the right path. We understand that, while our laws may at times lag behind our best natures, in the end they catch up to our core values. One hundred fifty years ago, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln concluded a message to Congress by posing the very question we face today: “It is not ‘Can any of us imagine better?’ but ‘Can we all do better?’ ”

The answer is of course and always yes. In that spirit, I join with the Obama administration, the petitioner Edith Windsor, and the many other dedicated men and women who have engaged in this struggle for decades in urging the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

Ken Cuccinelli Summarized in 47 Seconds

I'm no fan of Virginia Attorney General and would be governor of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, a/k/a Kookinelli or Cuckoo.  The man symbolizes all that is wrong with the Republican Party of Virginia and the GOP nationally.  The proud embrace of ignorance, racism, homophobia and religious extremism in general are now prerequisites to being a Republican.  My former GOP colleagues try to convince themselves that such is not the case, but they need to take a good look at themselves in the mirror and listen to what GOP elected officials like Kookinelli/Cuckoo are saying.  MSNBC summarized Kookinelli succinctly in less than a minute:

As Blue Virginia notes: 

Ken Cuccinelli is: "pro life, anti gay, and a climate change denier...[he's] equated Medicare to mugging the sick and elderly...he has sued the EPA, he has suggested that gays are not protected by the 14th amendment, and he has said your Social Security number is being used to track you." What a guy, huh? 
It is frightening that Kookinelli is running for governor rather than being carted off to an insane asylum where he belongs.

Eighth State in Brazil Approves Gay Marriage

As American gays ponder what the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor during oral arguments later this month and ultimately in June, in other jurisdictions in the Americas equality under the civil laws continues to advance.  Now the Brazilian state of Ceará - which has a population larger than Virginia - has joined the states of Alagoas, Bahia, São Paulo, Piauí, Sergipe, Espírito Santo and the Federal District in approving full same sex marriage rights.  Here's the information passed on to me by Dutch readers of this blog in Amsterdam:

The State of Ceará (North East Coast of Brazil) has just approved a law allowing sex same marriage. Since March 06, 2013, same sex couple can officially register their relationship and directly after that they can convert their same sex registration into Marriage.  

They must present the following documents: Birth certificate, State ID, and proof that they are not married to someone else. Once they have registered their relationship,  they can apply directly at the Central Registration Office to convert their registration into marriage.

It may sound a bit complicated but the right to Civil Marriage is no longer a dream but a reality in Ceará, Brazil. Please publish this amazing good news on your blog.
Here's a link to a story in Portuguese:,3018765/casais-poderao-converter-uniao-estavel-em-casamento.shtml

As I have noted numerous times on this blog and elsewhere, who would have thought in years past that the United States would be in the rear guard of those allowing religious based bigotry  to deprive citizens of their civil legal rights.  America is no longer a leader in freedom and liberty but instead, certainly in anti-gay states like Virginia, an example of what many of the original colonists sought to flee in Europe.   It is a very sad commentary on America.  The Tea Party crowd and Christofascists in their hubris believe they are superior to others, yet it is they who are the backward thinking Neanderthals.  Here's are images of Fortaleza, the capital of Ceará:

Thursday, March 07, 2013

More Thursday Male Beauty

Ebracing Christianism - A Political Dead End for the GOP

Despite the changing views on religion sweeping across America, including a wholesale exodus of the under 30 generations for institutional religion, the Republican Party for the most part remains locked in an embrace of the Christofascists that will ultimately prove fatal.    The elderly ranks of the Bible beaters are dying off and not being replaced by similarly unthinking/believing younger ranks.  Indeed, as the study cited in an earlier post found, outside of white evangelical Christians, every Christian denomination is trending towards acceptance of gay marriage.  But it is not on just the issue of gay marriage where the GOP is courting political suicide.  Contraception, climate change, the acceptance of scientific fact and objective reality - modernity itself - all are gaining growing acceptance and recognition by a majority of Americans.  Meanwhile the Christians and the GOP remain in a shrinking bubble.  Andrew Sullivan has a post that is a follow up to a debate that he had with a hard core Christianist that looks at the dead end the GOP is racing towards.  Here are highlights:

Last week, as regular readers know, I went to the University of Idaho to debate whether civil marriage equality was good or bad for society as a whole. My interlocutor was and is a fundamentalist, a believer in Biblical morality .  .  .  .  . My hosts sincerely believe that there can be no solid separation between church and state and no basis for social order or “truth” other than Biblical morality as strained through the New Testament. And so purely pragmatic political arguments can quickly become problematic for them. Peter Leithart, who attended the debate, wrote it up on First Things and admirably homed in on the core divide:
Sullivan demanded that Wilson defend his position with secular, civil arguments, not theocratic ones, and in this demand Sullivan has the support of liberal polity. Sullivan’s is a rigid standard for public discourse that leaves biblically-grounded Christians with little to say … That leaves Christians with the option of making theologically rich, biblically founded arguments against gay marriage.  .  .  .  . If that’s a hard case to make, it’s even harder to make the case that homosexuals are in any way a threat to our civilization.
 The traditional Christian moral arguments depend on a metaphysical understanding that is no longer widely shared, not even by Christians.
This is why Christianism cannot win a majority – and is fast becoming a smaller minority. If your agrument is that God says so – and your fellow citizens don’t believe in that same God – how can you even engage in secular debate? New analysis (pdf) of polling and the last election results on the gay marriage question, for example, reveal that only one major religious group now opposes marriage equality across the board: white evangelical Christians, who are pretty close to synonymous with the Tea Party. Even every other Christian population supports it [gay marriage]! From white non-evangelical Christians to Catholics, clear majorities favor the reform.

The GOP’s problem is that this is their base; it cannot compromise because God’s word is inviolable; and yet it is also losing the argument badly. You either stick with this base and lose – or you fight them and lose. Which is why so many in the GOP are now just not talking about the issue.

In Idaho, the crowd was largely white and evangelical. They voted overwhelmingly against marriage equality at the start and after a debate in which my opponent conceded that his argument was ultimately rooted totally in Biblical truth and not secular consequences, and who declared the state of heterosexual marriage as in crisis. In other words, that night mirrored the last twenty years. The longer this debate has gone on, the more the opposition has withdrawn to claims of simple Biblical authority. That is not an appeal to the center of the American polity.

The theo-conservative response to this was an attempt to revive “natural law” arguments against gay marriage, derived from updating Aquinas.  .  .  .  .  Aquinas didn’t know, for example, that humans were conceived by a woman’s egg as well as a man’s sperm. He couldn’t possibly have known what Darwin and his followers have unfolded: a vast, constantly shuffling of DNA, designed to generate diversity in order to survive the challenges of subsistence through time and environment. He couldn’t have known that the animal kingdom is full of homosexuality .  .  .  .

Personally, I care nothing about the slow eventual death of the extremist white evangelical denominations.  But I do care and am troubled by the fact that one of America's major political parties seems trapped in the grip of a dying and increasingly irrational segment of the population.  A segment that sadly views everyone who doesn't look and think just as they do with hatred and contempt.  They will be the death of the Republican Party and their rabid homophobia is hastening the move of many younger Americans from Christianity itself.  The irony is that the Christofascists claim that gays will destroy western civilization yet it is they themselves who are destroying Christianity.

New Study: Opposition to Gay Marriage Narrow and Concentrated

A new study that focused on exit polls and other date from the 2012 general election indicates that the opponents of gay marriage are increasingly concentrated in three groups of voters: (i) older people, (ii) white evangelical Christians and (iii) non-college-educated whites.  Which, along with the Christofascist take over of much of the grass roots organization, explains why the Republican Party continues to be homophobic and fighting a long term losing battle, especially as older voters literally die off only to be replaced with younger, more gay friendly voters.  Here are excerpts from the Washington Post on the study findings:

Exit polls and other surveys from last year’s election suggest that resistance to same-sex marriage is shrinking and mainly concentrated among certain segments of the population: older people, white evangelical Christians and non-college-educated whites.

That is the analysis of a new study of the data by two pollsters, one a Democrat and the other a Republican.

“Significant opposition to the freedom to marry is increasingly isolated within narrow demographic groups while a much broader and more diverse majority are ready to let same-sex couples marry,” wrote Joel Benenson, who led President Obama’s polling operation in 2008 and 2012, and Jan van Lohuizen, who did the same job for former president George W. Bush.

Voters age 65 and older expressed opposition to allowing such unions in their states by a 21-point margin, with 37 percent supporting them and 58 percent opposing. Those younger than 65 favored them by eight points, 52 percent to 44 percent.

The disparity was even greater among religious groups, broken down along racial lines. White evangelical Christians opposed same-sex marriage by nearly 3 to 1. But every non-evangelical group — other white Protestants, white Catholics, Hispanic Catholics, African American non-evangelicals and Jewish voters — expressed support for such unions by double-digit margins.

Meanwhile, African American voters who described themselves as evangelical or born again were narrowly divided, with 45 percent saying their state should recognize same-sex marriage and 47 percent saying it should not.

Another “pocket of opposition,” the pollsters said, is white voters who do not have a college degree. Only 40 percent of them supported same-sex marriage, compared with 56 percent who opposed it. Other groups supported such unions: by 54 percent to 38 percent among non-white, non-college graduates; 56 percent to 41 percent among white college graduates; and 58 percent to 35 percent among non-white college graduates.

In an interview, Benenson said the study suggests that lawmakers and candidates who embrace such unions are not likely to be punished politically, because “the American people are already there.”  “Demographics is a big part of it,” Van Lohuizen added, “but I also think there is a lot of rethinking going on.”

However, David Lane, who organizes conservative Christians nationwide, said the more than 65 million Americans who identify themselves as evangelicals are feeling increasingly alienated from electoral politics. If GOP leaders embrace same-sex marriage, he predicted, “it will lead quickly to the collapse of the Republican Party,” causing a core constituency to leave for a third party or to renounce politics.

In sum, the opponents of marriage equality are the elderly and senile, religious extremist and the uneducated.  As for the frothing at the mouth by the Christofascists' spokesmen, I discount Lane's statements which evidence the Christofascists' effort to retain control of the GOP and to remain relevant as the rest of society and the world move onward.  I believe the GOP has more to lose from its unholy alliance with the Bible beaters than it does from embracing marriage equality.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Personhood Mississippi Seeks Second Statewide Vote

I am beginning to think that the water is tainted in states like Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana where the Christofascists continue to be obsessed with ending all abortions and pat themselves on the back for being "pro-life" even as they support draconian GOP policies that slash aid to poor children and the nation's most needy.  It seems that once one is no longer a fetus, one becomes disposable trash to these folks.  Now, Personhood Mississippi is striving to have another statewide ballot in Mississippi that would amend the state's constitution to grant all the rights of citizens ship to fetus from the moment of conception.  I'm not pro-abortion by any means, but these people are crazy not to mention complete hypocrites given their contempt and hatred for the already living.  Here are highlights from Raw Story:

Opponents of abortion in Mississippi on Tuesday filed paperwork to place a so-called “fetal personhood” amendment on the state’s ballot in 2015, according to the Associated Press.
Les Riley of Personhood Mississippi said voters were “confused” when they rejected a nearly identical proposal in 2011.

The proposed ballot initiative seeks to outlaw abortion by declaring that “the right to life begins at conception.” The initiative also states, “All human beings, at every stage of development, are unique, created in God’s image, and shall enjoy the inalienable right to life as persons under the law.”

Once the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office finalizes the ballot title and summary, the sponsors of the initiatives will need to collect nearly 108,000 signatures within 12 months.

Critics of the proposed amendment alleged in 2011 that it would not only outlaw abortion, but would likely also prohibit common forms of birth control, the treatment of ectopic pregnancy, in vitro fertilization treatment, and stem cell research. The amendment would also contradict the Supreme Court’s key Roe v. Wade ruling.

It also goes without saying that the folks at Personhood Mississippi have no problem depriving gays - and probably blacks and Hispanic - civil rights that they seek to reserve to themselves and fetuses.  Here in Virginia virulently anti-gay Del. Bob Marshall has continued to push a personhood amendment which to date has been killed in the General Assembly.  Like his Mississippi counterparts, Marshall doesn't give a damn about large portions of already living Virginians.

Ken Cuccinelli’s Arrogant and Untenable Position in Virginia

Despite a tradition that traces back to after World War II, Ken Cuccinelli has refused to resign as Virginia Attorney General as he campaigns for the Governor's mansion this November.  In the process there are serious questions as to his use of salaried state employees in his campaign which, combined with his own salary, add up to his forcing every Virginia taxpayer to subsidize his campaign.  But that is only the beginning of the problem as Kookinelli as he is best called works to politicize every issue possible in an effort to aggrandize himself and win points with the delusional Neanderthals and religious fanatics that now comprise the base of the Republican Party of Virginia.  Am article in the Washington Post looks at the continuing problem which in many ways is tantamount to Kookinelli telling the majority of Virginians to go f*ck themselves since he views himself as above the law and decades of precedent.  Here are article highlights:

SINCE WORLD WAR II, 10 of Virginia’s 11 attorneys general have run for governor. Nine of those 10, Democrats and Republicans alike, resigned to do so, and for good reason: They were loath to politicize an office whose effectiveness and prestige depend on making legal judgments untainted by politics.

Despite that wise precedent, Virginia’s current attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli II (R), has refused to follow suit. He has clung to his position even as he angled for his party’s gubernatorial nomination, bringing a cloud over his office and casting doubt on its ability to act impartially as the state’s legal counsel.

An unfolding example is Mr. Cuccinelli’s maneuvering over Virginia’s landmark transportation bill, awaiting Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s signature after the General Assembly approved it last month with bipartisan support. Mr. Cuccinelli, a darling of the tea party and an unyielding conservative, opposed the bill because it raises taxes. It’s unfortunate, and irresponsible, that he attacked a bill that he now may be called on to defend.

Although Mr. Cuccinelli has not yet identified constitutional or legal problems with the transportation bill, others have. Writing in The Post last month, Paul Goldman and Norman Leahy argued that the measure violates Virginia’s constitution by imposing surtaxes in two congested regions — Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads — that would not apply statewide.

If that or another alleged flaw becomes grounds for litigation, then Mr. Cuccinelli, already on record as opposing the bill, will be called on to defend it in court. How vigorously can Virginians expect him to do so? If Mr. Cuccinelli himself identifies a constitutional problem, how would anyone believe that his legal opinion has not been colored by his political thinking?

This sort of quandary is precisely why previous attorneys general chose to resign before running for governor. By refusing to do the same, Mr. Cuccinelli is doing Virginians a disservice and subverting the integrity of his office.

Of course, besides being the darling of the Tea Party forces, Kookinelli is also the darling of the Christofascists at The Family Foundation - something which likely explains Kookinelli's lack of integrity.  In Virginia there are few organizations that lie and spread deliberate falsehoods more than The Family Foundation and its "godly Christian" followers and water carriers.

Sex, Lies and the Vatican

If one wants an evening soap opera like plot complete with lies, scheming, criminal conspiracies, illicit sex and much more, then one need look no farther than the Vatican according to a new book entitled Vatican Diaries released a little over a week ago.  Yet somehow the nasty old men that inhabit the Vatican's halls and palaces think they are fit to be the moral arbiters to over a billion Catholics even as the are the epitome of un-Christian conduct.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the new book and the snake pit that lies behind the lavish exterior of the Vatican.  Here are some excerpts:

Vatican insider John Thavis always had a hunch Pope Benedict XVI would retire. But he had no idea it would coincide with the release of his book Vatican Diaries, which was published on February 21. “I’d like to say I had planned it that way,” he told The Daily Beast in the Vatican’s press office days after the papal resignation. “But it was just a happy coincidence.”
Thavis’s book is a notebook dump of sorts gathered from 30 years working as a Catholic News Service Vaticanista—the official term used for Rome journalists who have personal cellphone numbers for cardinals and high-ranking Roman Curia prelates. While his book would have been interesting for Church watchers before Benedict’s resignation, it will surely become a veritable handbook on all things Vatican now that the world is watching who the cardinal electors choose as a new pope. 

On one papal trip, the Vatican press spokesman actually reworded a statement Benedict made on abortion and excommunication that Thavis felt crossed the line. “Editing Pope Benedict’s extemporaneous comments had been a com­mon practice from the very first day of his pontificate,” Thavis writes.  .  .  .  .  The idea of a midlevel bureaucrat fine-tuning Pope Benedict’s language may sound strange, but it reflects a deeply entrenched conviction that the actual words a pope pronounces are not definitive until the ‘official version’ is published. Usually the editing was merely annoying, but in this case it was an attempt to rewrite reality.”

Thavis wastes no words on his condemnation of the Vatican’s handling of the various sex-abuse scandals that have rocked the church in the 30 years he has been covering the Vatican beat. He dedicates several chapters to the unsavory sex-abuse cases the Catholic Church has been involved in, and manages to explain in laymen’s terms the very complicated Legions of Christ scandal by walking through a series of investigations and interviews by high-ranking church officials including the Vatican’s promoter of justice. He focuses on the lurid life of Legions founder Father Marcial Ma­ciel Degollado and paints as vivid a character profile of the disturbingly strange man as has been written to date. Father Marcial, as he is referred to, was a favorite of Benedict’s predecessor Pope John Paul II, despite a myriad of allegations of sexual improprieties and financial corruption. Benedict, as pope, finally put an end to Marcial’s reign amid his apologies to seminarians he sexually abused and his admission that he had fathered several children with different women. “Nowhere was there any hint that the order itself bore any responsibility for a cover-up; on the contrary, the Legion’s highest officials were portraying themselves as victims of Maciel’s duplicity,” Thavis writes. “And while the Legion was admitting to the founder’s extramural heterosexual affair—he was human, after all—it re­fused to touch the more serious allegations that Maciel had turned his own seminary into a pedophilia camp.”

Thavis may not have known that his book would coincide with Benedict’s sensational resignation and a historical conclave when there is still a living pope, but he certainly was prophetic in his last chapter, which is a succinct and unapologetic tribute to the former pope. He wades through the various incarnations of Benedict’s papacy, from his gaffes to his more meaningful moments, painting a human portrait of a man who shocked the world with his resignation.

The more I learn of the lies, deceit, and abuses overseen by the Vatican, the more saddened I become that I remained a Catholic as long as I did. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

More Wednesday Male Beauty

GOP Amnesia: U.S. Wasted Billions Rebuilding Iraq

With the Congressional Republicans whining incessantly about the budget deficit which they try to hang on Barack Obama, they conveniently have amnesia when it comes to the billions of dollars squandered on the Iraq War and the so-called nation building that followed (they also have amnesia on the role that the Bush tax cuts played in exploding the deficit).  Countless needless deaths, waste, corruption and incompetency seem to be the main hallmarks of the Iraq fool's errand launched by Chimperator Bush and Emperor Palpatine Cheney.  An article in Think Progress looks at some of the sums of money that might just as well have been heaped in a pile and set afire for all that they did not accomplish.  Here are some highlights:

As the 10th anniversary of President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq approaches, the body charged with overseeing Iraq’s reconstruction has issued its final report, capping a tale of spending far too much money for very little results.

Appointed in Oct. 2004, over a year into War in Iraq, the Special Inspector-General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) was charged with being a watchdog over the use of funds provided for rebuilding the Iraqi state after the downfall of Saddam Hussein. Those reconstruction and stabilization efforts wound up costing nearly $60 billion — or about $15 million per day — with up to $10 billion of that amount wasted, according to SIGIR Stuart Bowen.

The examples provided of fraud and abuse of the system are staggering both in number and nature. Among the most telling boondoggles is an $108 million waste-water treatment facility in Fallujah, Iraq that will be completed eight years over schedule. Once finished in 2014, it will only service 9,000 homes and require an additional $87 million from Iraq to provide service to the rest of the buildings in the city.

In terms of outright abuse, Iraqis and Americans alike were culprits, with one former Iraqi Defense Minister’s squandering $1.3 billion.  .  .  .  . former U.S. Army Major John Cockerham was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison for siphoning off millions of dollars from reconstruction projects by accepting bribes from various contractors.

The majority of Bowen’s lessons learned provided to Congress deal extensively with the completely unprepared way in which the United States chose to rebuild Iraq.  Bowen gives seven ways to better perform rebuilding operations in the future.  .  .  . 

Many of those suggestions belie the cavalier attitude struck by Republicans at the beginning of the war in 2003, despite a near complete lack of planning by the Bush administration to provide for rebuilding Iraq. “Each day it gets better,” then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said in May 2003 of the reconstruction efforts. Rumsfeld also insisted that “the bulk of the funds for Iraq’s reconstruction will come from Iraqis” in October of that year. $60 billion later, Iraq has proved to be nowhere near the “cakewalk” predicted by George W. Bush adviser Kenneth Adelman predicted in 2002.

The GOP lies about the real sources of the nation's deficit are brazen to say the least.  The GOP voted for and approved all of the Bush/Cheney disasters that continue to haunt us to this day.  Yet the GOP demagogues now pretend to be the GOP is party of fiscal restraint that will save the country.  Would that they had shown some fiscal restraint and not taken the country to war needlessly a good portion of the nation's debt would not now exist.

GOP Smackdown: Wonks vs.Politicans

Bill Kristol, Peggy Noonan, Newt Gingrich and John Boehner

As noted any number of times on this blog, the remaining rational Republican/conservative pundits are increasingly distressed with the GOP's refusal to reform itself and face a changing political landscape.  Instead of reform and innovation, elected officials in the GOP continue to listen to the same religious extremists - e.g., the Family Research Council, the U.S. Catholic bishops, and other Christofascist groups - and anti-tax groups such as Grover Norquist's outfit that helped settle the stage for the 2012 election debacle.  A debacle that would have been complete at the national level but for the gerrymandering of Congressional districts.  A piece in Politico looks at the intra-party infighting.  Here are highlights:

The latest front in the battle for the future of the Republican Party: the wonks versus the pols.  Conservative thinkers are increasingly agitated that, four months after a second straight presidential drubbing, GOP officeholders are not taking bold steps to bring a 1980s-style Republican platform into the 21st century.

Almost daily, there is a fresh op-ed or magazine piece from the class of commentators and policy intellectuals urging Republicans to show a little intellectual leg and offer some daring and innovation beyond the old standbys of cutting income taxes and spending. It’s not that the eggheads are urging moderation — it’s more like relevance. The standard plea: The GOP will rebound only when it communicates to working-class and middle-class voters how its ideas will improve their lives.

But there is virtually no evidence that these impassioned appeals for change are being listened to by the audience that matters — Republican elected officials.
With few exceptions, most of the GOP leadership in Washington is following a business-as-usual strategy. The language and tactics being used in this winter’s battles with President Barack Obama are tried-and-true Republican maxims that date back to the Reagan era or before. And that, say the wonks, spells political danger and more electoral decline.

Some of the conservative thinkers allow that the politicians are lagging indicators and have time before the next election. But the volume of the grumbling is ratcheting up as the party’s poll numbers continue to fall and the GOP’s fixation on austerity — and only austerity — appears increasingly out of tune.

“The problem with the deficit as an issue is that people care about economic growth more, and the problem with spending cuts is that people like them more in the abstract than in reality,” wrote National Review editor Rich Lowry in a POLITICO column last week, adding: “At times, it seems as if ‘we have a $16 trillion debt’ is the sum total of the party’s argumentation.”

Criticizing GOP inaction on the sequester, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol lashed Republicans in the current issue of his magazine for being “complicit in the failure of political responsibility and national seriousness we’re now witnessing.
As long as the GOP remains beholden to the Tea Party lunatics and religious extremist who have taken over the party base, the pundit and wonk class can rant and complain all they want, but no real change will occur.  Change and innovation do not occur when elected officials are pandering to those detached from objective reality and those who want to turn time back by at least a century.

Bradley Manning: Traitor or Hero?

As the prosecution of Bradley Manning continues to unfold for his alleged crime of aiding the enemy, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and other high ranking officials of the Bush/Cheney regime should be on trial for war crimes.  Among the things that the documents traced to Manning indicate that torture and repeated violations of the Geneva Conventions occurred - i.e., the same things that led to imprisonment and execution for some of the leaders of the Nazi and Japanese governments after World War II.  And as Andrew Sullivan notes the credit for the exposure of these crimes is because of Manning.  Indeed, Andrew notes:

How did we find all this out? Bradley Manning’s leaks. Sometimes a whistleblower is not only a traitor. He can also be a patriot, uncovering war crimes. 
I for one view Manning as a patriot.  And the fact that the military and the Obama administration are so hot to crucify Manning shows that Manning's real offense was to document just how morally bankrupt the Bush/Cheney regime really was.  If Obama had any guts, he'd open the door for criminal prosecutions of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others who committed nothing short of war crimes.  Naturally, much of the investigative work on these crimes is being done by the foreign media.  Here's more from Andrew's post:

The Guardian, in a 15-month investigation, has unearthed the fact that Donald Rumsfeld brought veterans from the dirty wars in Latin America, Colonel James Steele and Colonel James H Coffman, to empower sectarian warfare against the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. He set up detention centers for Sunni insurgents that were run by Iraqis but monitored and checked on by two men, one of whom reported to Rumsfeld, the other to Petraeus. So we have the first solid evidence that Petraeus, the golden mediocrity of Washington, was also an abetter of the worst forms of torture imaginable:
“Every single detention centre would have its own interrogation committee,” claimed [Iraqi General Muntadher] al-Samari, who worked with Petraeus’ and Rumsfeld’s designated men on the ground] … “Each one was made up of an intelligence officer and eight interrogators. This committee will use all means of torture to make the detainee confess like using electricity or hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails, and beating them on sensitive parts.” There is no evidence that Steele or Coffman tortured prisoners themselves, only that they were sometimes present in the detention centres where torture took place, and were involved in the processing of thousands of detainees.
But reporters witnessed horrifying war crimes in US-occupied Iraq, under the authority of those reporting directly to Rumsfeld and Petraeus:
Samari claimed that torture was routine in the commando-controlled detention centres. “I remember a 14-year-old who was tied to one of the library’s columns. And he was tied up, with his legs above his head. Tied up. His whole body was blue because of the impact of the cables with which he had been beaten.”
Gilles Peress, a photographer, came across Steele when he was on assignment for the New York Times, visiting one of the commando centres in the same library, in Samarra. “We were in a room in the library interviewing Steele and I’m looking around I see blood everywhere.”
The reporter Peter Maass was also there, working on the story with Peress. “And while this interview was going on with a Saudi jihadi with Jim Steele also in the room, there were these terrible screams, somebody shouting ‘Allah, Allah, Allah!’. But it wasn’t kind of religious ecstasy or something like that, these were screams of pain and terror.”
And we wonder why America's image has fallen abroad.   I would argue that those who authorized these crimes deserve to be on trial far more than Bradley Manning.  Oh yes, the Republicans would scream and shriek.  But as the evidence was rolled out, I suspect that the American public would be repulsed by what the GOP rubber stamped during the Bush/Cheney years.  It's truly ugly, but Americans need to know what was done allegedly in their name.

The Continued Moral Bankruptcy of the Catholic Hierarchy

One can only hope that O'Brien gets what he deserves in the end.  What is more troubling is the likelihood that there are many others like O'Brien in the Church hierarchy and the main efforts of the institutional Church will be to protect them even as normal, well adjusted gays continue to be attacked by the bitter, self-loathing old queens in Rome. 

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the Black Church

Here in Virginia, among the most reliable water carriers for the anti-gay agenda of The Family Foundation are black pastors who are cynically manipulated to further the agenda of the white Christianist elements in the state.  Ironically, these same white elements are the ones fueling the Republican Party of Virginia's efforts to disenfranchise black and minority voters in the state.  And meanwhile HIV/AIDS is an epidemic in the local black community largely as a result of the black churches' animosity towards gays and continued social stigma even as blacks on the "down low" are disproportionately represented in gay hook up sites.  Sadly, many black pastors refuse to connect the dots and admit their own responsibility.  As a story in the New York Times reflects, the continued inability of black churches to let go of purportedly anti-gay Bible passages continues to do damage.  The irony is that they take these passages literally yet have no problem ignoring the passages in the Bible that support slavery and direct slaves to obey their masters.  It is time for the black church to throw aside its homophobia.  Here are story highlights:

As I sat across from him at the kitchen table, drinking mint tea, I turned on my recorder and took a breath. Has the Christian church adopted a don’t ask, don’t tell policy? I asked. 

“I would have to say yes,” he answered, shifting in his seat a little nervously, it seemed to me. He noted that many black churches like his own had made concessions to accommodate the growing acceptance of same-sex lifestyles. “There is a compromise because there is such a prevalent hard-core view on what’s considered right and wrong. People are feeling that in order to even retain a certain amount of membership, you can’t be very dogmatic about any of their sins.” 

Said another way: If a minister is too rigidly homophobic, it could scare away members, which would decrease contributions and might ultimately be the end of a family-owned church. 

I’d watched the minister try to balance the old and new in many ways big and small; he now permits young women to wear pants to services, not usually allowed in Pentecostal churches. 

He explained that for many years his policy was clear: The church was open to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, to come for fellowship and worship, no judgment passed. But if you were openly gay, you could not become an official member. “I would never turn anyone away,” he said. “But I do preach that homosexuality is a sin.” 

When a young member of the church came out two years ago, the pastor was forced to re-evaluate his policy. The man, in his 20s, had been baptized in the church and shared a father-son bond with the pastor. “Since he grew up in the church, you understand how you can love a person and still hold firm on your beliefs,” he told me. 

Growing up in the church, I’ve sat through many sermons on homosexuality, where pastors preached the words of the Apostle Paul.

The pastor told me he worries about how his sermons sound to the gay loved ones in his life. “My conflict comes in that I don’t want to treat persons as if they are not welcomed in the church, because then they may never come back or go to anybody’s church,” he said. “At the same time, I categorize homosexuality with everything else that is sinful.” 

I know that the black community is considered a more homophobic culture than most; how we resent the comparison between the gay rights and civil rights movements; how we are more likely than other groups to interpret the Bible — and its condemnation of homosexuality — in a literal fashion.  And then there’s fear of H.I.V. infection, which plagues black neighborhoods at a disproportionate rate.

Silence on the issue of HIV and a "don't ask, don't tell" policy are not solutions.   The only real solution is to throw the anti-gay passages of the Bible on the trash heap of history along with so much else in Leviticus that no one takes seriously nowadays.